The Socialist Alliance launched their local election campaign last week. Safe in the knowledge that there are no deposits to lose in contests for council seats they have named 160 candidates. Unfortunately it seems they may need to change their publicity. The SA website offers PDF downloads of their campaign leaflets with the following disclaimer:
PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE ARE DRAMATIC EVENTS GOING ON IN BAGHDAD AND BASRA AT THE MOMENT THAT MAY (OR MAY NOT) AFFECT THE RELEVANCE OF THE LATEST NATIONAL ELECTION LEAFLET WE PRODUCED LAST WEEK.
It will be interesting to see whether the liberation of Baghdad was deemed to have ‘affected the relevance’ of their critique of the “bloody and unnecessary” war. But it is certainly very revealing to see the line that the Alliance have taken as they seek to turn their anti-war stance into votes.
The SA, like the Stop the War Coalition is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party, but the ‘Victory to Iraq’ line supported by the SWP and many of the Alliance’s affiliated groups is, of course, completely absent from the publicity – even Trots realise that one isn’t likely to be much of a vote winner. Instead the line taken is summed up by the much more populist “Welfare Not Warfare” slogan.
“We believe the billions of pounds being wasted on war and the billions the rich and the big corporations have received in tax breaks over the last 20 years, could be used to raise the state pension and to renationalise the rail and give it the investment it needs. This money could be used to abolish student tuition fees and restore student grants, to invest in state education and reverse the rundown of the NHS. It could be used to end low pay for nurses, firefighters and other public servants….”
The list goes on – “swimming pools and sports fields” also get a mention as causes more worthy of support than Iraqi democracy. Of course the whole idea that there needs to be a choice over resources like this is in itself dishonest and demagogic but what is the core message to voters? It is essentially this – why is Blair wasting British taxpayers money on Iraqis when we could spend that money on you and your family? It is a cheap and nasty nationalist message rooted in selfishness. Lets look after the British public sector and sod the poor and oppressed of the world. And they claim it is the pro-war left who have ‘given into jingoism’…..
There have been some intelligent arguments made against the war. There are serious people who believe that we have made a mistake in invading Iraq. I don’t happen to agree with those views, but I can respect people like Peter Tatchell and others who clearly wish there was another way for us to have got rid of Saddam. But for supposed internationalists and socialists to make a case against war based on imagined lack of resources in one of the most wealthy countries in the world is simply sick. It is also dishonest, because the SWP and co are opposed to the war for entirely different reasons.
In addition to this the SA leaflets reveal a typically condescending approach to working class voters from the middle-class ultra-left. You can imagine the committee of ‘human rights lawyers’, thespians and civil servants that deliberated over the SA local election manifesto patronisingly thinking that such an appeal to material instincts is the best way to ‘win over workers’.
Thankfully most ‘ordinary working people’ are well aware of the real debate over the war and more than capable of addessing the moral and wider political issues that have been raised. As the polls now show clear backing for the war, there is good reason to be confident that the voters will reject this nationalist garbage.
The SA claim to be the only party who have consistently and fully opposed the war who are standing in the local elections. They are wrong on that as well. The fascist British National Party also opposed the war and like the ‘socialists’ their message is a nationalist one, attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
Lets hope that neither of them get any joy on May 1st – it is after all International Labour Day, a day of global solidarity for working people’s rights and freedoms – celebrate the chances now avaliable to Iraqi workers by making sure their British nationalist enemies get no joy at the polls.