Jan 17 2014

REPUBLICAN SOCIALISM AND LEFT UNITY

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance in England spoke, along with Bernadette McAliskey and Mary MacGregor (RCN) at the ‘break-up of the UK’ session at the Radical Independence Conference on 23rd November in Glasgow. The following week on November 30th in London Steve spoke at the Left Unity Party founding conference putting the case for a socialist republican strategy which recognised the significance of the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum. In this article Steve analyses the various political forces to be found at this conference.

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Aug 12 2013

THE SOCIALIST PLATFORM

The RCN has been chronicling attempts to achieve Left unity in England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland. These attempts have included the formation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance, then the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliance and Respect in England and Wales, Forward Wales, the all-Britain Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and No2EU, and the United Left Alliance in Ireland.

All of these initiatives have faltered. One common element has been the sectarian practices of the SWP and the Socialist Party. Another has been dependence on celebrity politicians such as Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway. However, the political problems go deeper than that. The multifaceted crisis capitalism now faces, highlighted by the Credit Crunch, means that capitalism can offer the majority of humanity no way forward. Trying to revivify capitalism by social democratic style neo-Keynesian reforms, particularly on a national basis, represents  a political dead end. It means arguing like those late nineteenth century radicals,  who, when confronted by the New Imperialism, still believed an earlier Victorian ‘free trade’ world could be restored .
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Jul 15 2013

THE PERILS OF UNITY

Eric Chester (RCN) takes a critical look at the proposed Left Unity Party.

Eric Chester

Eric Chester

The Crisis of Capitalism has led to a polarisation of political viewpoints, as a widening segment of the working class feels the devastating impact of the downturn in decreasing wages and benefits, and the rapid deterioration of social services. The Labour party has failed to meaningfully respond to the crisis,  having become yet another electoral machine, tacking and manoeuvering with no goal beyond taking power,  and distributing patronage. As the disillusionment with the Labour Party deepens, a substantial number of working people are ready for an alternative to mainstream politics.

The right wing has already gained support, as can be seen in terms of a sharp rise in the UKIP vote with its populist appeal to nationalism and xenophobia. In this context it is understandable that there has been a push toward left unity. The most salient case in point, the creation of Left Unity, sparked by Ken Loach’s nostalgic documentary chronicling the welfare state of the late 1940′s.  Left Unity does not claim to be a Socialist organisation.  Its claim is to reform capitalism by reviving the welfare state, a goal to be attained by pressuring the establishment.  In many respects, left Unity is a throw back to the early days of the Labour Party.  In the 1890′s, the Independent Labour Party made the conscious decision to submerge their perspective of a gradual road to socialism into a broader party, promoting Social reform, one that would not be socialist, but would have links to the trade unions.

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Jun 10 2013

SOCIALIST UNITY

In the aftermath of the collapse or declining support for recent socialist unity projects in Scotland, England and Wales, and Ireland, there have been renewed discussions throughout these islands about the possibilities of achieving socialist unity.

The negative role of organisations like the Socialist Party and Socialist Workers Party in the Socialist Alliance, Respect, the Campaign for a New Workers Party, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, Scottish Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance (Ireland) have figured prominently in these discussions.

However, one of the shared features of the Socialist Party and SWP has been to confine their wider united political alliances within social democratic political limits. The Socialist Party, whilst being prepared to use the term ‘socialist’ in its favoured wider political alliances, views its ‘socialism’ as being based on the creation of a Broad Left-led trade union based, Labour Party Mark 2.  This is very much a social democratic view, albeit dressed up as ‘socialism’.  Where the SWP has more influence, it rejects the use of the term ‘socialist’ altogether, e.g.  ‘People Before Profit’, an openly social democratic conception.

Ken Loach's Spirit of '45 encourages social democratic nostalgia on the Left

Ken Loach’s Spirit of ’45 encourages social democratic nostalgia on the Left

Now that we have a Tory government, social democratic nostalgia has gained even wider traction. Danny Boyle took us on a social democratic trip down memory lane, in his Isles of Wonder. Ken Loach’s recent film, The Spirit of ’45, draws upon a lefter version of this social democratic nostalgia. However, the The Spirit of ’45 does not even mention Blair and New Labour’s part in dismantling this social democratic legacy.

Other sections of the Left, including those who have made, or are in the process of making a break with the SWP and SP, have been drawn into the social democratic slipstream. Many argue, in effect, for social democracy today, socialism tomorrow. The RCN has been involved in these debates in Scotland, and has argued against the notion of a social democratic road to socialism.

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