As tends to be the case in the run-up to general elections, many have developed a sudden interest in the Labour left. They might have noted the emergence of the unambiguously named 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 AWL, with signatories including Labour left stalwarts such as John McDonnell and Hull’s ‘Red Labour’ councillors, Gill Kennett and Dean Kirk.
As Stan Keable of Labour Party Marxists noted, the AWL has, in all likelihood, for contributed 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 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 makes no difference – voting recommendations from the AWL and other such groups are unconditional.
How, then, will their wishes come to fruition? And is Labour more likely to move to the left or to the right if it forms a government? At a public meeting in London this week, the assembled SCLV comrades – almost exclusively AWLers – argued it would all depend on post-election pressure by the workers’ movement ‘from below’. After all, the trade unions still have the power to ‘put pressure’ on Labour governments. Everything else is up to rank and file lefts campaigning hard and harder still.
It’s that familiar combination of auto-Labourism and economism again: once favourable political conditions are created, all else depends on mobilising through the unions and on the streets. 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. Moreover, left governments tend to leave disillusionment in their wake instead of ‘dialectically’ provoking upsurges of proletarian militancy. 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.