UAF; SWP and G20; Labour Party democracy call.
UAF: bungling and popular frontism
In Leeds on the 14 March around 50 attended Unite Against Fascism’s Yorkship regional conference. It was meant to be a discussion of the strategy for the Euro elections. What actually happened was 14 speeches from the platform by regional secretaries of major unions, the regional secretary of the Islamic Society, Labour MEP Linda McAvan, Sheffield University women’s offier Fiona Edwards (a member of the Stalinist sect Socialist Action), and five UAF full-timers including Weyman Bennett of the SWP.
Being told six times in a row that the “BNP is racist”, “we need unity” and to “vote Labour to beat the fascists” was too much for some of the more militant UAF activists and when the chair told us there was no time for discussion in the first session some took issue.
In the second session, meant to be on the “campaigning priorities”, we got more platform speeches from some of the same speakers. But the speeches were contradictory: should UAF prioritise getting the vote out in areas were the BNP are weak, or should it prioritise the areas were the BNP were stronger? In the 25 minute discussion half of the people with their hands up didn’t get to speak. Of those who did many were arguing for more militant no-platform action. The chair cut this short.
Talking to young UAF activists I was got a picture of their struggles in UAF and what they thought were problems with its strategy in the Euro elections. One comrade was particularly incensed at UAF’s near silence on the fascists’ homophobia. We also discussed how UAF regarded the counter-demonstration against the British People’s Party in Leeds city centre last October as a “distraction”; the UAF leadership did not help mobilise for it at all.
We went to Rotherham that evening to demonstrate against Nick Griffin who was speaking at a pub. This demo was poorly organised by UAF and the Unite official who declared himself in charge. I think the poor planning could potentially have put the activists in harm’s way several times. If it the protest had gone on any longer, I am pretty sure there would have been a direct clash between us and Griffin’s goons, who nearly matched us in numbers.
In the current economic crisis the BNP are poised to make a breakthrough both in elections and on the streets. UAF’s leadership is stifling any attempt to build a militant working-class strategy to defeat the fascists. We should call UAF to account in our unions for this disastrous strategy. We also need to fight alongside the many people around UAF willing to oppose the BNP on the streets and argue for socialism as the only answer to the despair the BNP feeds off.
The SWP and the G20
“Demand the G20 puts people first” reads the main headline on the SWP's website.
The accompanying short article puts forward no political analysis, simply noting that “trade unions, NGOs, climate campaigners and anti-war activists are gearing up for a week of protests.”
The longer, linked article in Socialist Worker rightly explains that “the ultimate aim of the G20 world leaders is to protect profits and rule of the wealthy”. So why promote illusions that such a body can be won to “put people first”? Because in the “global justice”movement, the SWP has long since abandoned a class analysis for a populist one.
The policies of the G20 governments, in fact, put some people first — the bosses and the rich. At their summit, they will be seeking to do so at the expense of the working class and poor people in every country.
Only the organised working class in struggle, leading a mass popular movement behind it, can challenge the priorities of profit in the name of solidarity and human need and ultimately overthrowing the bosses system and replacing it with a society based on workers' power. Nothing else will stop the jobs massacre, abolish poverty and halt dangerous climate change. These are the ideas Workers’ Liberty will be promoting in the G20 protests.
There is nothing wrong with putting concrete demands on existing governments. “We demand the Brown government abolish tuition fees” has some grip; “we demand that Brown puts people before profit” is just ludicrous.
Such class-struggle ideas are currently accepted by only a small minority in the movement around the G20 summit — but that is all the more reason for socialists to champion them loudly and clearly.
But Socialist Worker coverage does not mention class struggle or the working-class as an organised force. Instead it talks about “ordinary people” and calls on “the people of the world to join together” to build a “united, radical and effective movement”. They wind up endorsing the subordination of the workers' movement to the middle-class NGOs whose politics dominate the G20 protests.
Labour Party democracy call
The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy is asking unions and Constituency Labour Parties to submit a constitutional amendment for Labour Party conference 2009 to restore the conference’s right to debate and vote on motions on current political issues.