This was in the letters page of last week's Weekly Worker (I hope 
neither the paper or comrade Biddulph mine my circulating it). I 
thought it might be useful as it is a first hand account of what is 
going on in London.

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

LSA and Livingstone

 The recent London Socialist Alliance rally certainly left
 its mark in terms of enthusiastic campaigning for
 socialism. But what kind of political mark will it make?

 The rally was predominantly left social democratic in
 political tone, which was set by the Socialist Workers
 Party. In Paul Foot's speech, the implicit and explicit
 theme was that socialism was easy: no problems - it is the
 most simple thing in the world. There are homeless; there
 are empty houses - what is easier than to put them
 together? We are all on the same side - forget about the
 details and sectarian squabbles. Let us all stand as
 socialists with Ken Livingstone. All we need is activists
  to encourage workers to have the confidence to act.

            We have to transform ourselves to transform capitalism.
            For the working class to become hegemonic in society
            entails immense difficulties, which can be overcome, but
            only if we address the problems and raise our political
            culture and theory to overcome the obstacles. A fighting
            mood is not enough. The devil is in the detail and
            debating our differences is not necessarily sectarian. We
            need agitators, but in the ideological sense of the Putney
            debates in the English Revolution.

            Anne Murphy was the only speaker to raise the problem that
            Ken Livingstone and his slate might not be on our side -
            if Ken chooses rich, liberal Tories and less rich liberals
            or a rainbow coalition rather than a working class slate.
            The meeting ignored the possibility of "keeping the Trots
            out of sight", as the Evening Standard advised. This was
            to avoid debating complicated tactical and other political
            differences. But this was surely just the meeting where
            such debates should take place, to raise not just the
            mood, but the consciousness of the movement.

            Pat Stack, the SWP chair, had ruled out any open
            debate from the floor at the outset of the meeting. So
            comrades could not discuss how a rainbow coalition might
            effect the politics of Ken as a symbol of working class

            Another implicit theme of the meeting which surfaced in a
            number of speeches was an emotional nostalgia for a lost
            workers' party (old Labour). The naive sentiment that
            before New Labour the Labour Party was to some extent
            vaguely socialist or somehow belonged to us. So those who
            considered themselves old Labour and those outside the
            Labour Party who had similar values could all get together
            in non-sectarian unity against New Labour.

            This non-aggression pact between the SWP and old
            Labour meant that the wider political issues of the
            direction and character of the LSA and the need for a new
            mass communist party were fudged. The new workers' party
            could be a resurgence of old Labour and the ousting of the
            New Labour leadership - with a little help from the far

            Piers Corbyn, one of the carefully pre-selected speakers
            from the floor, was a symbol of this mood. He told the
            meeting he had resigned. Not from the Labour Party, but
            from his post of New Labour campaigns officer in
            Southwark. He could not bring himself to campaign for
            Dobson, but then again he could not bring himself to
            resign from the Labour Party. Candy Udwin also struck an
            emotional social democratic note when she said her New
            Labour personnel manager - who is her rival candidate in
            the elections - should not even be in the Labour Party,
            let alone its candidate. But New Labour is exactly where
            this personnel manager, who supports privatisation and
            witch hunts against trade unionists, should be. Where else
            would she be politically?

            The vague emotionalism about the Labour Party being
            gradually stolen from us is another example of the fact
            that organisational independence does not mean political
            independence from Labourism. Anne Murphy was arguably the
            only speaker to systematically present a political
            perspective that went beyond the spontaneous politics of
            the mayoral campaign. Most of the speeches simply repeated
            points about undemocratic stitch-up and so on, which had
            already been made in the bourgeois media and the House of
            Lords. It was pitiful for those who describe themselves as
            the revolutionary left. But, as a leaflet outside the
            meeting put it, what could you expect from organisations
            which voted for New Labour in 1997? A fighting mood in the
            workplace, or rather a small number of workplaces, does
            not transcend the bourgeois separation of politics from

            We need unity based on political clarity obtained from
            open debate, not just emotional unity based on blurring
            differences or reducing revolutionary politics to
            confidence or the lack of it. If the LSA is not to leave a
            left social democratic mark (which will not facilitate a
            new workers' party) then there must be no ideological
            truce with the SWP.

            In this connection, I was surprised to see the CPGB
            return to its previous critical view of Livingstone. Jim
            Blackstock has rediscovered Ken's ambition, speculating
            that his slate will be dictated by this (Weekly Worker
            February 24). As Jim says, the political make-up of the
            slate will be crucial. We should say, with the CPGB,
            "Judge Livingstone on his slate." It is most unlikely that
            the SWP will do the same.

            Barry Biddulph 
            South London 

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