Socialist election campaign
No time to lose!
AS TONY Blair prepared to fire the starting gun for the general election campaign last week, socialist campaigners were already out of the blocks. Across Britain they are organising to ensure that the socialist message reaches as many people as possible in the coming weeks.
SCARBOROUGH: Socialist Alliance supporters were out last weekend campaigning against the decision by the TransBus firm to shut down its Plaxton's bus factory with the loss of 700 jobs. Scores of people signed the Socialist Alliance petition demanding the nationalisation of the factory and pledging backing for whatever action workers take.
NORTHAMPTON: The Socialist Alliance was out leafleting the British Timkens roller bearing factory, which is threatened with closure. Some 900 jobs could be axed as the multinational owners seek to "increase profitability". Socialist Alliance members and shop stewards from the factory are helping organise a public meeting over the closure threat.
BRISTOL: The Socialist Alliance has turned to poetry to help its campaign! They have been out across the city petitioning against bus privatisation. "After being given a chance to sign our petition demanding the return of the buses to public hands, weary bus users are being given a poem to cheer them up," says a local Socialist Alliance member. "People are fed up with the paltry service offered by First Group, the current operators."
YORK: Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate Frank Ormston addressed a march through the city centre last Saturday against George Bush's "Son of Star Wars" plan. Protesters collected signatures in the town before marching with a banner bearing a bullseye and the slogan "York-bullseye." It highlighted the fact that the city is near both the Fylingdales and Menwith Hill radar stations which will play a key role in the Star Wars project.
REGENT'S PARK AND NORTH KENSINGTON: Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate China Miville was manhandled out of a west London council chamber by police last week. He had joined a parents' protest against a plan by the local Tory council to close a nursery.
LEYTON AND WANSTEAD: Socialist Alliance supporters in east London got a brilliant response when they were out last week campaigning against privatisation in local schools. "A dozen parents joined the Socialist Alliance after signing the petition," says Ben. "It was easy. When we asked, 'Do you want to join?' they said, 'Where do I sign up?'"
POPLAR AND CANNING TOWN: Prospective parliamentary candidate Kambiz Boomla is at the centre of a campaign against racism following a recent murder. He was among those who spoke at a 100-strong mainly Bengali meeting last Sunday. Socialist Alliance supporters were also out on May Day marches around Britain last weekend.
NORWICH: Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate and local bus driver Dave Manningham addressed a 300-strong march through the city.
HULL: Socialist Alliance prospective parliamentary candidate Roger Smith addressed a 100-strong march, the first May Day demonstration in the city for more than ten years. Fundraising for the socialist election campaign is also under way in most areas.
LEEDS: A sale of books belonging to recently deceased local socialist Audrey Farrell last week raised 1,300 for the Socialist Alliance.
PORTSMOUTH: Around 50 people attended a "Celebrate May Day" event organised by the Socialist Alliance and addressed by Raphael Rowe, one of the M25 Three victims of a miscarriage of justice, who spent years in jail. Over 100 was raised.
HARINGEY: Over 500 was raised at a 100-strong Socialist Alliance meeting in the north London borough last week. The meeting was addressed by John Hendy of the Reclaim Our Rights campaign against anti-union laws and Pat Sikorski of the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation, as well as candidates Louise Christian and Weyman Bennett. BRADFORD: Over 450 was raised at a benefit gig attended by 200 people.
More resign from Labour
THE SOCIALIST Alliance is winning over a growing number of Labour Party members.
SKELMERSDALE: The Socialist Alliance was launched last week, and among its members is Frank Riley, former deputy leader of West Lancashire District Council.
BOLTON: The Socialist Alliance meeting last week was chaired by Nick Hallet, who has just resigned from the Labour Party after more than ten years membership.
CHERTSEY: Former Labour councillor Chris Lovibond says he now "supports the Socialist Alliance", and is asking if Labour Party leaders "will do me the honour of expelling me".
Unity makes a big impact
THE MERGER of the Scottish Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party in Scotland has given the socialist election campaign a boost. United socialist contingents were a lively presence on the traditional May Day marches in both Glasgow and Edinburgh last weekend.
Around 2,000 people marched in Glasgow and over 1,000 in Edinburgh. Dozens joined the SSP, and the Scottish Socialist Voice, the paper of the SSP, went down a storm, with hundreds of copies sold. In Glasgow the united Scottish Socialist Party formed the largest single contingent on the May Day march.
The rally in Glasgow Green gave a very supportive welcome to asylum rights campaigner Mohammad Naveen Asif, a refugee from Afghanistan. His call for an end to the racist lies of many politicians and newspapers was echoed by the main speaker, Tony Benn.
To massive applause, the veteran left wing MP called for support for refugees to be at the top of the socialist agenda. Other campaigns represented on the platform included that for Surjit Singh Chhokar, the young Asian man killed by racists in Lanarkshire, and the dispute of striking photographers at the Scotsman newspaper. For many activists, disillusionment with Blair is turning to excitement about the prospects for a united left in Scotland and beyond.