Not Waving, RA Vol 4, Issue 10, Mar/Apr '01


When posters advertising a public meeting organised by the Oxfor Socialist Alliance (OSA) appeared, the IWCA decided it would be prudent to go along on the night to investigate.RA member, C. Stewart reports

It was felt that the IWCA should attend for two reasons: Firstly because the OSA has declared that it intends to stand candidates in East Oxford, which is the neighbouring ward to the IWCA’s Blackbird Leys base, making them political rivals.

The second, equally legitimate reason for attending, was to i.d. any non-aligned working class people that may turn up to the meeting who might be persuaded by IWCA arguments.

The leaflet advertising the meeting had the dominant organisation in the OSA, the SWP, stamped all over it. Under the hackneyed title "It’s time for a socialist alterna-tive to Blair", the target audience is quickly identified... "More and more pensioners, students, trade unionists, anti-racist campaigners and Labour voters are fed up with Blair". Pensioners (not all of whom are working class of course) were only recently elevated to the top of the list in an attempt to capitalise on the Pensioners Action Group’s recent media exposure. Leaving pensioners aside then, the striking thing about this opening sentence is that it manages to exclude the mass of the working class, whom it is a safe bet would, when presented with the OSA wish list, tick none of the above.

The meeting hadn’t even got underway before IWCA activists were approached by an individual asking if they wanted to sign up for a subscnption to h s party’s magazine. "Have you heard of a man called Trotsky?’ was his alluring chat-up line. Once this character had finished his rounds the proceedings began.

The speeches were standard Lefty waffle, leading up to the inevitable call for all in attendance to sign up to the OSA. The fun only began when the audience were asked if they had any questions for the panel. First up was a representative from the Pensioners Action Group who wanted to know whether the SA would support the pensioners if they got into power. Not a difficult one you would think, but it soon became apparent that the panel had no party line worked out for this one. Rather than admit as much, they played safe and used a classic SWP set-piece. This consists of ignoring the question altogether while a ‘comrade’ in the audience asks another on a completely different subject, the answer to which they had prepared earlier. The PAG delegate was getting impatient, no doubt not relishing the thought of having to sit through the meeting until the very end. "Excuse me? I asked you a question. It is very rude of you not to answer me". "Too right, answer the man’s question" an IWCA member interjected. The answer was however unforthcoming. The next two questions came from the IWCA... "If you are serious about building in working class areas you have to address issues that are seen as important to people in those areas: grassroots issues such as anti-social behaviour, drug dealing, lack of community facilities etc. What strategies does the OSA have to deal with such issues?" Even more straightforward was question number two... "We’ve heard New Labour being slagged off all night and now you say that you intend to stand against them at the polls. Are you not embarrassed by the fact that at the General Election it was you who told people to vote for them?" Both questions were well received by the non-SA members, the second question eliciting a loud "That’s a bloody point!" from a council refuse worker in the third row.

Again, as expected, no answers were offered from the panel. One SWP member at the back of the hall did get up to make a speech about drug dealers being ‘victims of capitalism’, etc. He opened his defence of dealers with the hilarious (well he thought so anyway) "Seeing as alcohol and tobacco are the biggest killers in the country, then the comrade must surely be referring to people who sell these when he says drug dealers". It was pointed out quite firmly by a by now seriously irritated audience member, that the speaker was well aware that what was being talked about here is the dealers of heroin and crack cocaine and that he should stop trying to be a clever cunt!’ The whole SWP/OSA attitude was summed up in his statement that drug dealers are a symptom of capitalism that must be tolerated

The next person to speak was another Trotskyist, th one trying to flog his magazine before the meeting. He directed his attention to the IWCA members. "What you need to do comrade is read Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, then you will understand.’ Under their collective glare he started to falterStuttering, he trie to bale himself out but plunged even deeper. "What you need is for us intellectuals to come onto your estate and educate you". "Fuck off you patronising wanker" came the response, at which point the OSA knew that it was too late to pull the mask back up, as their potential new recruits drifted over to the IWCA. (The Pensioners Action Group delegate actually stood up, walked over and shook the IWCA delegates hand, to exchange contact numbers. His parting remark being. "These people are idiots!" Afterwards others joined the IWCA group down the pub for a fruitful discussion over a few pints).

The meeting was brought to a close, leaving the questions unanswered despite constant haranguing of the speakers. Alan Thornett, by no means the worst panelist. even summed up with the obligatory ‘Refugee’s welcome here’ chant (complete with victo-rious punching of the air), inspite of the fact that the issue hadn’t been raised anywhere else in the meeting. All the while the SWP speaker, mortified by the IWCA dominance of the evening, sat staring down at his desk wishing he were elsewhere. As far as Oxford IWCA is concerned, the Socialist Alliance must be watched closely. The IWCA has no fear in its own Blackbird Leys ward, but it has neither the finance nor the resources to take on the OSA in other constituencies at this moment in time. The concern is that they will stand candidates in these wards doing more damage than good. The worst case scenario being that the OSA with typical Trotskyist tact, will bulldoze through working class communities making such a ham-fisted job of delivering Leftist ideas, that they roll out the red carpet to more reactionary forces.

The thoughtless incompetence and political naivete is perfectly illustrated in the aforementioned offer to visit council estates to spread the teachings of Lenin and Trotsky If these people had any real desire to affect social change they would accept the fact that it is they who should be looking to us. the working class for education, not the other way around. Lenin and Trotsky we’ll leave to their disciples in the SWP et al. But in the tradition of Left wing polemic, I shall leave you with the words of another crestfallen old tyrant. Uncle junior Soprano, the Victor Meldrew of the New jersey Mob, recently hit the nail on the head with this statement that describes the leading lights of a Oxford Socialist Alliance perfectly... "Some people are so far behind in the race, that they actually believe they are leading"

Reproduced from RA Vol 4, Issue 10, Mar/Apr '01