As is always the case in the run-up to general elections, many comrades will have developed a sudden interest in the Labour Party left during the past months. They might have noted the emergence of the unambiguously named the Socialist Campaign For A Labour Victory. Or rather, its ‘re-emergence’ for the first time since 1979. Today it’s being promoted mainly by the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, with signatories including Labour left stalwarts such as John McDonnell and Hull’s ‘Red Labour’ councillors, Gill Kennett and Dean Kirk.
As comrade Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists noted, the AWL is, in all likelihood, responsible for contributing some political demands – including the democratisation of the state – to the campaign’s very supportable wish list. I say ‘wish list’ because the link between theory and practice remains somewhat nebulous. After all, the SCLV argues for a blanket vote for all and any Labour candidates. Whether they agree with the demands, the Michael Meacher statement, or indeed anything else at all makes zero difference – for the voting recommendation from the AWL and other such groups is unconditional.
How, then, will their wishes come to fruition? And is Labour more likely to move to the left or right if it forms a government? When asked these questions at a public meeting in London this week, the assembled SCLV comrades – almost exclusively AWLers – argued that it would all depend on post-election labour movement pressure ‘from below’. After all, we were told, ‘the trade unions’ still have the power to ‘put pressure’ on Labour governments. All else is up to rank and file leftists campaigning hard and harder still.
Yes, it’s that old combination of auto-Labourism and economism: once supposedly favourable political conditions are created, everything depends on what activists can mobilise through the unions, on the streets, etc. Sadly, it isn’t the case that Labour governments have been more susceptible to working class pressure than any other governments in modern British history. What’s more, rather than ‘dialectically’ provoking upsurges of proletarian militancy, left governments regularly leave disillusionment in their wake. By the time a puppy-eyed Ed Miliband announces ‘tough decisions’, or a smitten Alexis Tsipras makes his ‘I could have been a contender’ speech, the working class has been well and truly demobilised.
For a rather different perspective, read the aims and principles of Labour Party Marxists.