Socialist Worker

A response to John Rees

Issue No. 1863

IN HIS assessment of the left after the war, John Rees writes, 'The Blairites have so marginalised the left that it is difficult to see how the Labour Party can be easily reclaimed. 'Even the 175-strong selection meeting for the Brent East by-election, open to all Labour Party members, chose the pro-war, pro-Blair MEP Robert Evans.' This ignores two rather inconvenient facts.

Firstly, while Robert Evans is certainly no Corbyn or Galloway, he voted against the war in the European Parliament. Secondly, that being the selection for a by-election, the national Labour Party imposed the shortlist of four candidates from which Brent East Labour Party members could 'choose'.

The fact that only 14 percent of those present voted for the two uncompromising Blairite candidates might give a better indication of how they feel than Rees's rather distorted interpretation. Perhaps a pointer to what has upset Rees is in the previous week's Socialist Worker, where Rob Hoveman wrote, 'The Labour Party has narrowly selected the Blairite MEP Robert Evans instead of Shahid Malik as their candidate for Brent East. Malik had the support of Brent's sizeable Pakistani community.'

It is interesting that Hoveman says nothing about Malik's politics. Although he claimed to be against the war on Iraq at the hustings meeting, Malik sits on Labour's national executive and not once joined those opposing the war against the leadership.

Nor did Malik join them in attempting to get the suspension of George Galloway overturned. In fact, at last year's Labour conference, Malik was a keynote speaker against a resolution opposing war on Iraq.

Surely Hoveman isn't saying Malik should have been selected simply because he is black or had the support of an 80-strong meeting at the Pakistani Community Centre?

If the SWP and the Socialist Alliance really want to engage with the Labour left, then a good start would be to relate to the reality-reality such as the fact that Brent East Constituency Labour Party opposed the war.

Involve young in movement

THE NEED to involve more young people in the movement cuts across every aspect of what we do and what we stand for.

Young people were of massive importance in building the anti-war movement. The school student strikes illustrated a new politicisation among Britain's youth. People knew that the anti-war argument was right, both morally and politically, and this gave it a fashionable dimension that appealed to young people.

However, to assume that school and college students opposed the war because a 'Don't attack Iraq' badge had become a teenage fashion gimmick is to misunderstand the political awareness of young people. When protesting school students were challenged by ignorant bystanders they had a cutting level of political analysis.

Teenage school students are able to quote the arguments of Chomsky and dissect the flaws of neo-liberal globalisation. This was about more than street-cred. This mass politicisation of young people should have been channelled further into the anti-war movement.

Whilst many of these young people will never forget their experiences, it is now unfortunate to observe that many Stop the War groups have returned to an older demographic. The school students have filtered away from the edges of the movement they were such an integral and invaluable part of. The Stop the War Coalition's school students' forums have not been developed with the impetus they needed. Britain's young workers are among the most under-unionised in Europe.

In 1998 just 14 percent of British workers aged between 20 and 24 were members of a trade union. For workers aged 16-19 the figure was 6 percent. The under-unionisation of Britain's young workers represents a fundamental failure on the part of the trade union movement.

Several unions have tried to develop initiatives to attract young workers. However all too often these are decorated in simplistic and patronising gimmickry. For me the future of the socialist movement is dependent on a robust trade union movement with strong organisation at the grassroots. To do this the trade union movement must develop a youthful edge that is about much more than recruitment figures.

The future advancement of socialism needs input from young activists. To ignore the views of young people, or not to seek them, would be a travesty. It would undermine the design of any strategy to take socialism forward. I am confident that the movement has no intention of doing that, but this is something that we cannot afford to get wrong.


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Sat 9 Aug 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1863
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