“Red” Ken Livingstone’s campaign for re-election is being supported with a high profile statement signed by... trade union militants? left activists? anti-cuts campaigners? No, instead we have a statement of the great and good, launched by that oh so radical organisation Compass.
Its signatories include Sir Jeremy Beecham of the Local Government Association, former Unison gen sec/sell-out Rodney Bickerstaffe, NUS president/sell-out Gemma Tumelty, NUS president/sell-out-in-waiting Wes Streeting, various Blairite MPs and the head of the Cooperative Party. To be fair, it does include a few trade union general secretaries and lefties like Hilary Wainwright, Lynne Segal and Tony Benn who should know better. But, overall, this is a statement of the Brownite establishment’s left fringe.
Which is appropriate really, since that is exactly where Livingstone is — despite his maverick comments, left rhetoric and support for Cuba and Venezuela.
There’s really nothing much to add, except to quote one paragraph from the statement: “Of course, like all of us, Livingstone operates in the here and now. For London that means the domination of the Square Mile in the form of financial capitalism. He cannot be expected to address such forces at once or alone. He has set up a Living Wage Unit for which he gets a big tick. He would get a bigger tick if he talked about the policy more. Trying to ensure everyone shares in success is difficult. But Livingstone is trying. Boris Johnson would just make everything worse.”
Left-wingers with an ounce of self-respect, left-wingers who don’t believe you can grovel to the City and still call yourself a socialist, should join the AWL in (critically) backing Lindsey German for mayor.
• For the full statement see:
This stance isn't logically consistent unless the AWL would deny electoral support to the Labour Party in any circumstances. After all, New Labour is essentially a party commited to a neoliberal project in continuity with Thatcherism, centred on abasement towards finance capital. If it is permissible to back other New Labourites - some of them with political pasts more radical than Livingstone's - why make an exception in his case?
And what purpose would be served by a tactical vote for German, anyway? Wouldn't it be more beneficial to the overall political sanity of the far left for the SWP to learn a few lessons from its escapades in recent years?
Dave: huh? We do, in fact, have a totally consistent policy of backing socialist candidates against New Labourites. This is not a one off or something new.
As for the idea that we should want German to do badly so that the SWP learns its lesson, that's classic sectarianism: putting a desire to chastise the SWP before the demands of the class struggle. "To the mouse there is no bigger animal than the cat."
Arthur: we backed Labour against Respect in Bethnal Green (King vs Galloway) because at that point Respect was a popular front between socialists and religious reactionaries and businessmen, with a right-wing Stalinist demagogue as its candidate. Now there's been a split, and Respect is essentially the SWP plus a few allies - a not very good socialist group, but still socialist, and a hell of a lot more socialist than Livingstone.
You imply that this is motivated by some sort of personal animosity against Livingstone, which is bizarre. *Look at his record*. Embracing the City and property developers, privatising bits of the Tube, union-busting, backing the police over anti-capitalist demonstrators and Jean Charles de Menezes, supporting Gordon Brown for Labour leader... on all these issues and many more, Lindsey German and her comrades are on the opposite side from him, and the same side as us. (Plus Livingstone's positions on eg political Islam are hardly exemplary!!)
Why wouldn't we back her candidacy - except anti-SWP sectarianism or automatic and unthinking support for Labour no matter what?
a) We don't back the Campaign for a New Workers' Party because of its *politics*, ie its abstract propagandism (and the fact that it doesn't really exist as a campaign), its sectarianism towards the struggle in the Labour Party and its crap, Socialist Party-inspired line on industrial issues, softness on sections of the union bureaucracy etc. But we *do* support Socialist Party candidates in local and parliamentary elections, not just on paper but actively when we can. In fact, we are part of a formal electoral alliance with the SP (and others) called the Socialist Green Unity Coalition. So your accusation is simply wrong!
b) I don't know enough about Hackney Independent to comment - can a comrade from Hackney help? - but to make the principle clear, we did support a 1st preference vote for the IWCA candidate in the last mayoral election.
c) When and where, in recent years, have you seen AWL members campaigning for right-wing Labour candidates against left-wing Greens? Details please! One or two possible free-lancing members aside, we don't campaign for right-wing Labour candidates, certainly not against left-wing Greens. We haven't decided for definite yet whether to positively back some Greens who are clearly socialist eg Peter Tatchell - our EC voted against, but it's still under discussion - but we don't campaign for Labour right-wingers, even when we passively support them.
d) It's not that we're becoming less Labourite. We were never Labourite. It's just that reality is changing, and we're trying to respond rationally.
a) "So the SWP had nothing at all to do with that Popular Frontism then??" Of course they were responsible. But what sense does it make to call on a workers' party/a group like the SWP to break with the bourgeois elements of a popular front if the fact that they were involved makes them forever untouchable, regardless of changes in position? Why did Trotsky raise the slogan "Break with the Radicals" for France? Why did the American comrades fight within the SP against the popular front line of Norman Thomas et al? Why advocate a vote for Labour when in 1945 when Labour had been in a coalition government with the Tories?
b) "Respect was not actually a front organisation for the SWP???" Actually, no, not simply. In some respects, eg in the student movement, it was. But at a national level it was not simply a front, as the split by Galloway et al indicates.
c) "Presumably, their was no foundation whatsoever to the infinite column inches the AWL gave to denouncing the SWP for being in alliance with Political Islamists, they were not at all responsible for supporting meetings organised by such people, and supporting the principle that women had to be in separate rooms from the men???? Are you telling us now that you fabricated all that!!!! Or what about the SWP and Left anti-semitism. What about the SWP's attack on Searchlight essentially accusing it of being a Zionist conspiracy over Bradford!"
Erm, no, of course not. But we need to separate out the issues here. i) The people who we denounced the SWP for allying with (Islamists, petty bourgeois communalist elements) are no longer in Respect, but in Galloway's organisation or operating on their own account. Respect now *is* essentially an SWP front: the SWP plus a few fellow travellers (or, in the case of the student movement, quite a few fellow travellers). ii) Yes, the SWP is still guilty of many political crimes, eg left anti-semitism. But why does it automatically follow that we can never vote for them - especially when the alternative is as bad as Ken Livingstone and the Labour GLA slate?
d) "As for whether this might be motivated by animosity to Livingstone a look at your coverage might give the clue. Or what about looking at your position in relation to the previous time he stood, and you were going to oppose him until some of your comrades convinced you that to do so might look just an incy bit sectarian?"
Not animosity, in the sense of personal hostility, but *political* hostility - yes, absolutely. We backed him actively in 2000 because we thought his campaign might represent some limited element of labour movement self-assertion against the Blair machine, with the unions mobilising around a broadly independent labour campaign for their candidate who had been blocked. (In fact, Livingstone ran such a crap, right-wing, popular front, media-driven campaign, that it didn't, but we couldn't have known that.) In 2004, we backed him quietly as the Labour candidate, but did not campaign for him. Get your facts right! What was position in 2000 btw? Support for Frank Dobson?
e) "But as I said this is not a beauty contest between Livingstone and German - God forbid - but a contest between two organisations that claim to represent workers, one that actually does, and the other a sect with reactionary politics"..."of course socialists vote for the real workers Party and not the nasty little sect."
Ah, so the Labour Party actually represents workers, does it? It's a real workers' party? Wow.
f) "in fact soem time ago as I recall Jim Denham was quoted as saying that the SWP itself were clerical-fascists."
If Jim said that, then he was obviously wrong. Of course the SWP aren't clerical fascists, any more than the French CP were fascists when they flirted with the French fascists for a popular front against Hitler. (And of course the SWP are a lot less degenerate than mid-30s Stalinism.)
e) "the logic of it leaves you in the position of calling for support for the LibDems in a number of such contests where on paper they have more radical politics."
More classic Bough logic. The SWP and a huge, conservative bourgeois party, the only one in fact which gets a majority of its funding from business. Clearly the same thing! No way for us to distinguish between them now we're on this slippery slope...
To the best of my knowledge Norman Thomas never advocated anything amounting to a Popular Front during the 1930s. The CPUSA did, but not Thomas.
"a) sure, but you could object - although on different counts - to the '*politics*' of the SWP as well. But you've chosen not to focus on those here."
But the point is that we DO support SP candidates in elections - roughly as critically as we're supporting SWP/Respect here (though with different criticisms, yes). If there was an election in which big bits of the left were jumping on the bandwagon of a Labour fake-left like Livingstone and the left opposition was the SP, we'd approach it in a similar way.
I think the CNWP is essentially a campaign for building the Socialist Party - which is fine, they have every right to do that, but let's not pretend it's something else. The unlikeliness of it ever moving beyond propaganda is shown by the fact that in PCS, which the SP and its allies control (with all the bad consequences for the class struggle on pensions, jobs etc in the civil service), they have never proposed even a debate about supporting the initiative. Why? Because it would make them unpopular, I imagine.
"Oxford East. I'm not attacking the persepective of the comrades who did so, I'm just saying that it's inconsistent with the one being advocated here."
Do you mean in the last general election? Do you mean our comrade Mike Rowley? Well, if he campaigned for Andrew Smith, he wasn't doing it under our instructions; hence the inconsistency. Our emphasis in that election was on campaigning for our comrade Pete Radcliff as an independent socialist in Nottingham East.
"d) Doesn't mean you weren't labourist, or that you're not becoming less so. Of course you think you adopt your positions for rational reasons. Everyone does. I'm not even arguing that you're not being rational, I'm just saying it's an interesting change."
Yes, but I'm saying it's reality that's changing, and we're responding. We haven't changed our minds, decided we were previously wrong etc etc.