Unity: from wishing to do

Submitted by Matthew on 5 November, 2014 - 11:07 Author: Rhodri Evans

Socialist Worker on 14 October called for unity on the left. The two articles in SW, one an editorial and one a comment by Alex Callinicos, suggested that the call was really aimed at Scotland.

The SWP hopes to reknit the fragments of the old Scottish Socialist Party split apart by Tommy Sheridan (with the SWP's support!) in the row over his libel case.

But how to move from a wish to appear as people who want unity, to actual progress?

One SW article says that what's missing is “a strong voice challenging neoliberalism [in] the electoral field”. A strong voice is possible, it says, because “the social democratic ideas that the SNP under Salmond has successfully appealed to are... strong in popular consciousness”. They fail to find expression in a “strong voice” only because of “the extreme fragmentation of the radical left” and “the petty narcissism of our different projects”.

So the job is to unite the left around SNP-style social democratic ideas? But another article (rightly) rejects Tommy Sheridan's call for the left to vote for the SNP in 2015.

One article argues for unity round the call that “the Yes campaign [for Scottish independence] should stay on the streets”. Others argue (rightly) that socialists must move on to unite “yes” and “no” voters on class issues.

Elsewhere SW poses unity as unity of “the left outside the Labour Party”, and mostly in “the electoral field”. We had a united class-struggle socialist left in the electoral field in 2001-3 — the Socialist Alliance — and then the SWP trashed it in favour of vain hopes of getting rich quick through Respect.

The Socialist Party went for a different get-rich-quick effort with No2EU in 2009 and 2014, and the TUSC coalition between times.

Now left-of-Labour candidates rarely present themselves as boldly socialist, or much more than “anti-cuts”, and yet they get much poorer votes than in 2001-3.

Solidarity and Workers' Liberty propose — and consistently work for — left unity in action to save the NHS, to resist cuts, to win free education, to aid the people of Kobane fighting ISIS, to support the right to self-determination of the people of Ukraine.

At the same time we propose, and work for, dialogue and debate on the left, which could enable us to make progress on the many issues we disagree about, such as Scottish nationalism, political Islam, and Russian imperialism.