Guest post from Alan Johnson:
In 1987 I helped to run Lol Duffy’s general election campaign in Wallasey. We achieved the biggest swing to Labour in a Tory-held seat in England and increased the Labour vote by 40% coming up just 279 votes short. We built up the membership of the local party and the women’s section, supported local strikes, recruited the strikers to the party, and won the backing of the local trade unions. Tony Woodley, now General Secretary of the TGWU was a big help at Vauxhall, I recall, along with the senior stewards such as Kenny Murphy. In fact the local party ran such a left-wing campaign, with Dennis Skinner and Tony Benn in attendance, that Frank Field, the neighbouring Labour MP denounced Lol Duffy as a ‘Marxist’ in the local press on the eve of the poll. Without doubt Field lost Labour the seat.
I wrote a little pamphlet about the Wallasey campaign called ‘Back to Basics’ and it is still in print, being sold by my ex-comrades at the Alliance for Workers Liberty. For what it’s worth I still think that Wallasey campaign something of a model of how to combine building the party base, winning votes, and building support for socialist ideas. After our campaign the local council was won by Labour along with parliamentary seat in 1992.
Anyway, the point is this. I remember the Socialist Workers Party would hang around the edge of the big election rallies in Wallasey back in 1987. They would denounce me for not running on a ‘true revolutionary socialist campaign’, abuse me for ‘hiding my revolutionary politics’, and demand I come clean and ‘talk about the Socialist Revolution!’.
Now, fast forward 18 years. In 2005 the SWP are running an election campaign for George (Free Tariq Aziz!) Galloway and the Respect Coalition in Bethnall Green and Bow. Are we hearing about the socialist revolution? Er, no. Turns out the comrades can’t bring themselves to make clear whether they stand for any kind of socialism. In large parts of Bethnal Green and Bow the comrades do not even make a stand for elementary human rights. According to Hizb Ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic Fundamentalist group, “Respect has removed references to being a ‘Socialist’ party from material distributed in Muslim communities. It has obscured its views towards rights for homosexuals”.
I am reminded of the lines from a Pink Floyd song. ‘Ha!Ha! Charade you are!