An Open Letter to the Left
from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Labour’s vote collapsed to a historic low in last week’s elections as the right made gains. The Tories under David Cameron are now set to win the next general election.
The British National Party (BNP) secured two seats in the European parliament. Never before have fascists achieved such a success in Britain.
The result has sent a shockwave across the labour and anti-fascist movements, and the left.
The meltdown of the Labour vote and the civil war engulfing the party poses a question — where do we go from here?
The fascists pose a threat to working class organisations, black, Asian and other residents of this country — who BNP führer Nick Griffin dubs “alien” — our civil liberties and much else.
History teaches us that fascism can be fought and stopped, but only if we unite to resist it.
The SWP firmly believes that the first priority is to build even greater unity and resistance to the fascists over the coming months and years.
The BNP believes it has created the momentum for it to achieve a breakthrough. We have to break its momentum.
The success of the anti-Nazi festival in Stoke and the numbers of people who joined in anti-fascist campaigning shows the basis is there for a powerful movement against the Nazis.
The Nazis’ success will encourage those within the BNP urging a “return to the streets”.
This would mean marches targeting multiracial areas and increased racist attacks. We need to be ready to mobilise to stop that occurring.
Griffin predicted a “perfect storm” would secure the BNP’s success. The first part of that storm he identified was the impact of the recession.
The BNP’s policies of scapegoating migrants, black and Asian people will divide working people and make it easier to drive through sackings, and attacks on services and pensions.
Unity is not a luxury. It is a necessity. If we do not stand together we will pay the price for a crisis we did not cause.
The second lesson from the European elections is that we need a united fightback to save jobs and services.
If Cameron is elected he will attempt to drive through policies of austerity at the expense of the vast majority of the British people.
But the Tories’ vote fell last week and they are nervous about pushing through attacks.
Shadow chancellor George Osborne told business leaders, “After three months in power we will be the most unpopular government since the war.”
We need to prepare for battle.
But there is a third and vital issue facing the left and the wider working class. The crisis that has engulfed Westminster benefited the BNP.
The revelations of corruption, which cabinet members were involved in, were too much for many Labour voters, who could not bring themselves to vote for the party.
One answer to the problem is to say that we should swallow everything New Labour has done and back it to keep David Cameron, and the BNP, out.
Yet it would take a miracle for Gordon Brown to be elected back into Downing Street.
The danger is that by simply clinging on we would be pulled down with the wreckage of New Labour.
Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, has asked how, come the general election, can we ask working people to cast a ballot for ministers like Pat McFadden.
McFadden is pushing through the privatisation of the post office.
Serwotka proposes that trade unions should stand candidates.
Those who campaigned against the BNP in the elections know that when they said to people, “Don’t vote Nazi” they were often then asked who people should vote for.
The fact that there is no single, united left alternative to Labour means there was no clear answer available.
The European election results demonstrate that the left of Labour vote was small, fragmented and dispersed.
The Greens did not make significant gains either. The mass of Labour voters simply did not vote. We cannot afford a repeat of that.
The SWP is all too aware of the differences and difficulties involved in constructing such an alternative.
We do not believe we have all the answers or a perfect prescription for a left wing alternative.
But we do believe we have to urgently start a debate and begin planning to come together to offer such an alternative at the next election, with the awareness that Gordon Brown might not survive his full term.
One simple step would be to convene a conference of all those committed to presenting candidates representing working class interests at the next election.
The SWP is prepared to help initiate such a gathering and to commit its forces to such a project.
We look forward to your response.
This open letter was published in Socialist Worker on 9 June 2009.