Not Waving, RA Vol 4, Issue 1, June/July '99

Left Candidates for the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies

"THE ELECTION results in Scotland show enormous disenchantment with Labour. But they also saw a breakthrough for the Left, and hugely encouraging signs of the potential to build a socialist alternative to Labour", Charlie Kimber. "These results show that the Left is back on the agenda and there are great opportunities ahead", so said Dave Sherry, election agent for the SWP in Glasgow Cathcart (both, Socialist Worker May 14). His comments were partly about Tommy Sheridan of the Scottish Socialist Party winning a seat in the Scottish Parliament, but also about the SWP's vote in the same election. This was surprising as Sherry's candidate, Roddy Slorach, had just come bottom of the poll with 920 votes (3.41%).

Using Sheridan's vote as evidence of a swing to the Left is dubious anyway, given his high public profile, the long years of standing for seats in the same area and his recent conversion to Scottish Nationalism, it would have been a surprise if he hadn't been elected. The two comments are even stranger as Slorach got the highest vote polled out of the SWP's five candidates, all of whom brought up the rear in their respective constituencies .

In Wales, where the SWP stood on the United Socialist joint slate along with the Socialist Party and Cymru Goch, the results were exactly the same as in Scotland, around 2% or under.

So why does this pretty abject list of results lead to the SWP thinking the tide is turning in their favour. The answer is to be found in the same issue of SW: 'Socialist Worker supporters report hundreds of copies of SW sold door to door during the campaign, dozens of recruits to the SWP and some new branches established'.
However there is another, more serious, reason for them talking up the election results. Immediately after the General Election, Socialist Worker spoke of Blair's majority leading to a crisis of expectations amongst the working class and ever since have spoken of the 'growing anger' leading to a new opposition to Blair. In International Socialism no.82, the SWP's 'theoretical' journal, Central Committee member Lindsey German declared that Labour was in crisis 'in every major area of government policy' and that just 'one major national strike or an all-out strike in one city would lead to a rapid crisis of Blairism and Labourism as society polarised along class lines'. Heady stuff indeed.

In an effort to find the elusive breakthrough, they point to every little spat within Labour of being the harbringer of revolt. "I can no longer defend the indefensible. There is no alternative for me but to stand up and be counted". 'These are the words of Mark Irvine, a leading full time Scottish official for public sector union UNISON. He resigned from the Labour Party last week'; runs a recent piece in SW.
Now this quote doesn't tell us anything apart from the fact one individual has realised Labour is no longer the party of the working class. Plenty of working class people have realised this already despite the SWP's auto-Labourism over the years, particularly in the Rhondda where Labour lost 31 of their council seats. This doesn't mean much more than they've lost all faith in the main establishment parties. In protest, they voted Plaid Cymru.

In light of the above, it probably comes as no surprise then that the SWP have bottled out of standing in the Euro elections, giving the implausible reason that they don't want to split the Left vote because Scargill's SLP is standing. If all their rhetoric about the party booming and the working class champing at the bit were true, you'd think they'd relish giving a bunch of half-dead Tankies a pasting. But of course it isn't and they don't. While explaining away recent election results may have seemed easy enough, coming a poor second to the SLP (reduced to barely 200 members) might have proven a bit of a challenge even for the legendary grip of the SWP's central committee.

Colin O'Brien

Reproduced from RA Vol 4, Issue 1, June/July '99