Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why can't y'all just get along?

You know, I've been thinking about the Alliance for Workers' Liberty and the Socialist Party.

Neither of them will thank me for saying this, but there's no reason on this earth why they couldn't share the same organisation.

Hear me out now, folks.

One of the real complaints that you always hear from people who consider themselves on the left, but who won't join one left group or another, is that they are sick of seeing people refusing to work together because of ostensibly petty disagreements on specific issues. There's then a corollary push-back from the left groups, who insist that the disagreement over the class nature of the (now non existent) Soviet Union is the biggest deal on this earth, and that besides, Comrade XYZ, the guru of ZXY group that they simply won't join with, was always an arsehole, as was shown by his attitude on the Buggins' Fishworks dispute of 1962. Whilst I do find the intra-left disputes tremendously amusing from an anorak point of view, I must confess that the non aligned are largely right on this one.

For instance. The AWL and the Socialist Party formally disagree on the issue of the Labour Party, for all sorts of historical reasons. Both in the 1980s saw the Labour Party as (to use Leninist terminology) a "bourgeois workers' party", which to translate to English, meant that they saw it as an organisation torn between bourgeois inclinations and a working class base, a terrain on which leftist organisations could fight to win class-conscious working people. The Socialist Party changed its view shortly after - in its previous incarnation as the Militant Tendency - it was booted out of the Labour Party. The AWL has also loosened its ties with Labour, but less so, and retains the same class analysis of the Labour Party that it previously held. The two organisations also disagree about particular issues, for instance specific union disputes.

Oh, and they disagree about the class nature of the Soviet Union as well. But then, senior figures within at least one of the two groups disagree amongst themselves about that. And besides, who gives a toss?

But... on every other major contemporary national or international issue that I can think of, not counting differences of public tone and tenor, they agree. About the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. About the NHS. About the education system. About immigration and asylum. You name it.

I remember when I was a 19-year old student, a member of the AWL telling me that "if the SWP allowed us to organise openly within a joint organisation, and let us freely express our ideas in the public press, we'd join with it." Or words to that effect. That's the Alliance for Workers' Liberty talking about the Socialist Workers' Party.

So, AWL and SP, what the hell's your excuse for not doing exactly that sort of merging, into one democratic, joint, socialist organisation? Or are your mutual historical antipathies more important to you, than the ideal of the left speaking to the people of the UK with one voice?

I'll tell you one thing; if those old intra-left wars are more important to you, then neither one of you deserve to call yourselves decent advocates for working people in this country.

19 Comments:

Blogger Southpaw said...

I agree with all this post (except why just the AWL and SP?). It prompted me to finish a draft blog entry I had been working on about this very issue - why can't we all just get along! It can be read on my blog as to long to publish here.

6:57 PM  
Blogger ajohnstone said...

Sooner they merge , sooner this so-called "Socialist Party" stop usurping the the party name the Socialist Party and become the Workers Party or whatever the next re-branding will be .
As well you know , in the UK , there is only the Socialist Party of Great Britain .Those Johnny -come-latelys of Militant showed their depth of political integrity by endeavouring to hi-jack the Socialist Party name .
Meantime ,it would be helpful if all could keep calling Militant SPEW ( an appropriate acronym ) and with the emphasis on England and Wales

8:32 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I thought the Socialist Party meant social democracy.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Max said...

This page has an interesting attempt to quantify the left-wing groups in the USA. Imagine if they all grouped together into one massive party?

The same applies in the UK. All of these minute groupsicles ought to come together.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Why? a number of reasion...
Firstly (and the worst reasion, but still a reasion for a number of ppl), theres a history of not getting along....

Secondly, We have different ways of working, if the AWL and SP merged then as the SP is bigger than the AWL, our ways of working (our tactics) would over-run the AWL's tactics this would piss them off (since they like us think there way of working is the best way), take for example RESPECT, now both us (the SP) and AWL think RESPECT is a dead end, however we think slaging RESPECT off all the time alianates throses who look at it as a brake thro. the AWL however think that not slaging them off leads other's down the wrong path (thats a very breife overview of the issue)

Thirdly, persptives, the SP see's the Labour party as a dead end, the AWL see the Labour party as something you have to fight in and split the good lefts out off it, again this is a simplyfied version of the views of the two orginisations, however the effect of merging the two together would be the same as point 2.

Hope that helps.

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Simon B said...

Scott,

The first reason shouldn't matter. A socialist organisation shouldn't be a social club. It's good if people get on, but it's not the point.

I think the difference over Respect is diplomacy.
In my experience, many SP members are very keen to have a go at Respect as a whole, or Galloway or the SWP separately, individually or privately but not so much in their publications. I think this is due to wanting to establish and maintain "non-agression" pacts over elections etc.
Solidarity will usually have, at most, a small article or column about Respect, only publishing something bigger if there's a good reason for doing so.
Given that the SWP and Respect are much bigger than the AWL, if we don't spell out where we disagree, people would just say we should join Respect. We have a duty to explain the differences.
For instance, marching with placards saying "we are all hezbollah" is vile, bankrupt politics.

I agree with your third point. We have very different perspectives in the British Labour movement.

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Simon B said...

A Johnstone,

Change the record.

2:29 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Simon B,
I agree 100% with you on the first point, it shouldn't make a diffrence. Unfornatulay however it does.

intresting point on the whole "we are all hezbollah" thing, in this weeks Weekly worker. Chris Harman critised the french SWP three years ago for doing the same type of thing.

I may comment on it on my blog later...

2:39 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

The difference in perspectives on the labour movement is actually only with specific regards to the Labour Party - and to be honest most members of both groups were expelled from it anyway.

Shouldn't be a dealbreaker, should it?

4:08 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

Alan J,

Simon B is right. Change the record and whilst you are at it, get yourself a petition.

It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with revolutionary socialism, but it does mean that you will be able to sell your quota of papers. ;-)

4:19 AM  
Anonymous Simon B said...

Volty,

Actually, very few of either group were expelled.

Most SP members left voluntarily.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Simon B's right most SP'ers did leave of there own accord.

However Volty it is a dealbraker because the SP has the CNWP and the AWL has the . However it's not just on the Labour party, we also disagree on the questron of Isreal Palastine (thro again this is more a disagreement on tactics) the sovit union (thro not as big a questron as before the wall fell it still relates to things like china and cuba).
However of course this doesn't stop us working together on the 90% we do agree on (for example a resent NHS demo in Leicester was mostly built by the SP and AWL working together (N.B. Workers power also helped due to there size in Leicester it was mostly the SP and AWL)), But they do stop us merging.

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Oops
that should read "the AWL has the LRC".
Not just "and the AWL has the . However"

5:26 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

Darren;

Stop arsing about talking to Trots and get back to the 400 year project of convincing 50%+1 of the world's population to join the SPGB. This is no time to tarry - 35 down, 6.1 billion to go! ;-)

6:51 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

VP,

come clean, you aren't a trot. As there isn't a branch of Labour Left Briefing in your area, by default you have to cosy up to the local vanguard to drink the cheap wine with. ;-)

If you were a bona fide vanguardist, you wouldn't be entertaining such fanicful notions as Sean M. and Peter T, co-existing within the same "democratic, joint, socialist organisation".

"400 year project"?

Do you know something that I don't? I always had it down as a 700 year project. Thanks for giving this jaded old cynic a boost of optimism on this sweltering Friday morning.

Now, I wonder if anyone can tell me where I need to go in Brooklyn to catch a bus for Speakers' Corner?

7:08 AM  
Blogger voltaires_priest said...

And here was me thinking you were trying to convice New Yorkers of the need to build the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Quite a task.

No worries, I'll send that Danny feller over from Hyde Park to give you a hand :P

7:21 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

Once they get past my accent, I'll be sorted. ;-)

7:39 AM  
Anonymous janine said...

Too tired to give my full thoughts on the subject, but there's a bit of an omission in this thread ... The AWL and the SP are in the same socialist coalition, called the Socialist Green Unity Coalition. Sadly, one reason you might have failed to notice this is that the SP rarely mention it.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous janine said...

And one other thing that's missing in your short list of differences between the two groups - the fact that in the unions, the SP has supported some of the bureaucracy's sell-outs, notably on pensions.

Now, I don't think that precludes AWL and SP being in the same broad socialist group, but it does preclude us merging, and it does mean that any socialist group that included both of us would have to include the right to criticise actions like selling out workers!

2:41 PM  

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