On 3 May, when voters in Scotland, Wales and some parts of England go to the polls to elect local councillors and regional assembly members, most will face a very limited choice. In many council seats, the only choice will be between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems; in only a handful will there be independent working-class or socialist candidates standing.
Wherever there is a broadly working-class alternative, like the Scottish Socialist Party or in the small number of English council seats which will be contested by the Socialist Party, Solidarity advocates support for it. We stress the word “broadly”, because we do not believe the record of these groups in the class struggle is at all adequate. (Witness the SSP’s embrace of a “left” version of Scottish nationalism, or the SP’s total capitulation wherever it was in a position to influence the struggle to defend public sector pensions.)
Nonetheless, these socialist candidates represent an opportunity for workers to express their class opposition to the New Labour, Tory and Lib Dem agenda of privatisation, attacks on democracy and war.
The same cannot be said of Respect — the populist lash-up between the Socialist Workers’ Party, George Galloway and a variety of Muslim communalists. The Respect adventure means that thousands of people are denied to chance to vote for an independent workers’ candidate which they might have had if the Socialist Alliance had continued and been developed, instead of destroyed by the behaviour of the SWP.
Where there are no socialist candidates standing, we advocate a vote for Labour. We do so not on the basis of calculating the “lesser evil”, the idea that “you have to vote for someone”, but because Labour is still a party with structural links to the British workers’ movement. Over the last decade and more, these links have been systematically downgraded and eroded; the party is dominated by a neo-conservative clique qualitatively worse even than the labour movement bureaucracy of “Old Labour”. However, this process of transformation is not complete.
A vote for Labour, even though in most places it means voting for an apparatchik fully committed to Blair and Brown’s anti-working class policies, can be part of the fight to force the unions to assert themselves in politics — including in the Labour Party structures, by pushing union policies, fighting the Blairites and supporting John McDonnell’s bid to become party leader.
Where you can, vote socialist on 3 May! Everywhere else — vote Labour.