The chance for a powerful socialist challenge to New Labour was given a major boost at a 1,300-strong rally in London last week when a new coalition representing the spirit of struggle and resistance set its sights on key elections due on 'Super Thursday', 10 June 2004
I AM ready to stand on a unity list in next year's elections.' That announcement from George Galloway MP brought a crescendo of cheering and applause from 1,300 people who packed into a historic meeting in central London last Wednesday evening. Galloway had been expelled from the Labour Party a week earlier for his stance against the war on Iraq.
But he and all the speakers at last week's meeting threw down the gauntlet to Tony Blair, by signalling their clear determination to set up a campaigning electoral alternative to New Labour.
Galloway spelled out that such a 'unity coalition' should be one 'which opposes the Bush-Blair axis plans for endless war and stands against the idea that the only way we can run our economy is on the basis of exploitation'.
Alongside Galloway on the platform were Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union, columnist and activist George Monbiot, filmmaker Ken Loach, chair of Birmingham's Stop the War Coalition Salma Yaqoob, London firefighters' FBU union treasurer Linda Smith and the Socialist Alliance's John Rees.
As people filled the hall on Wednesday there was a buzz of excitement in the air, a sense that it was to be a more than ordinary meeting. Veterans of left wing movements were there, alongside many activists brought into politics for the first time through the great stop the war movement.
Students from schools and colleges enthusiastically scrambled to find good vantage points.
Also there were trade union delegations-council workers, rail workers, teachers and many more-all hoping the evening would answer their hopes. Every speaker was listened to intently. At the midpoint of the evening the already electric atmosphere flared to new heights when a delegation of striking postal workers was introduced.
The surge of applause brought people to their feet across the hall. By the end of the meeting the feeling was clear, with a shared sense that an important milestone had been reached, that the job of building an alternative to New Labour had taken a real step forward.
Many details and discussions are yet to be had on the road to building such an alternative.
But as people filed out into the night they knew one thing: on 10 June next year, when vital local council, European and London Assembly elections all take place, there will be a united challenge to New Labour.
John Rees of the Socialist Alliance echoed what everyone there thought, urging people to go back from the meeting and 'tell people this-the left has got its act together'.