Socialist Worker

Is there an alternative to the Labour Party?

Millions of workers hate Ukip and the Tories, but don’t see Labour standing up to them. Socialist Worker has argued that the left should present a united challenge at the election. We asked activists what they think

Issue No. 2432

‘The Left must get its act together’ 

Gill Kennett, “Red Labour” councillor in Hull

I’d prefer Labour to get elected—getting the Tories again doesn’t bear thinking about.

But they should be challenged from the left. Otherwise it’s like there’s no alternative.

You can’t oppress people and expect them to put up with it.

Sooner or later they will turn somewhere, and if not to the left then to the right. 

That’s how Ukip con some people into blaming the Polish fruit picker for their problems instead of the real culprits.

But people are more socialist than we often realise.

They might not call it socialism, but they want a fair and decent society. 

Two of us were kicked out of the Labour Party for refusing to make cuts, and everyone we’ve spoken to in our ward gets it.

We’re not there to be bailiffs for the government. 

The media tells people they are powerless and everyone fears for their jobs.

If only they knew what power they have!

We need to galvanise people. That’s why the left has to get its act together. The right loves to see the left arguing about trivial things.

We have to put up a united front. 

‘Labour’s ours—let’s take it back’ 

Rod Thompson, Unite union convenor at DSG Bovington, Dorset

I’d voted Labour all my life, but I voted Green in the last European election. We don’t have a left wing Labour Party any more. 

Now it’s run by PR monkeys and spin doctors.

They say to win elections we should forget about standing up for working people and socialist ideas, and try to be like the Tories.

They blame immigrants, and I can’t stand that.

I backed Ed Miliband for leader and I still have faith in him, but he needs to get off his arse.

The problem is he’s surrounded by Blairites who are pulling the strings. 

It’s not enough just to be better than the Tories.

We want what’s best for our class.

The unions built the Labour Party. We have to take it back. 

Maria Brabiner, campaigner in Salford, Greater Manchester

The local Labour Party was shocked when I explained the impact of the bedroom tax.

Within weeks Labour was giving out leaflets with my words on them. 

I joined the party and I think it’s good I’m giving people a voice.

When Ed Miliband said a future Labour government would scrap the bedroom tax, it was down to our campaigning.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with lots of things.

I’m no fan of Tony Blair and what he did in Iraq, and I thought Gordon Brown deserved a kicking. 

But I never thought I would see people relying on food banks in Britain like I have under this government.

If they get in again there will be suicides. We’ve got to get them out first.

Then take it up with Labour after the election.

‘We could make a breakthrough’ 

Oliur Rahman, PCS union rep and a Tower Hamlets First councillor in east London

By-elections have shown there are right wing people who want a change from the main parties, and Ukip is attracting them.

But people on the left want change too. 

Take Tower Hamlets—we have Lutfur Rahman, an independent mayor who has won two elections, along with a significant number of councillors.

It shows people are fed up with the mainstream parties, especially in the working class.

And when they see a credible alternative standing up for ordinary people they go for it.

My experience of ten years in politics is that people are genuinely looking for change.

They are crying out for an alternative.

The problem is that a number of different movements and parties on the left are not uniting.

If we all got together we could make a breakthrough for the working class. 

‘I won’t vote for austerity’

Sam Byth, student at King’s College London

I recently joined the Green Party, although I’m not totally won to it.

I think leader Natalie Bennett could win in my constituency, and its policies are so good it would be dogmatic to oppose them.

But if I lived somewhere else I might vote for Left Unity. And I understand the idea behind TUSC. 

But it’s not worth voting tactically for Labour.

Why would you vote for a party that’s pro-austerity and refuses to renationalise the railways?

I don’t want to vote—it feels like it makes you complicit in a system you’d rather get rid of. But I’m going to.

If left wing people withdrew their votes the right would get in. 

And voting alone isn’t enough.

‘I stood to show up their system’

Lynne Chamberlain, stood as a Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in Greenwich, south east London

Standing in an election is a chance to talk to people and expose the system. 

We went to every house in the ward twice. I promised not to take all the expenses that other councillors take.

I argued that there’s money for the rich and war, and we want it—there shouldn’t be hunger and cuts.

It’s easy to talk to people about these things, and it’s worth the effort.

And if we win, we get a voice who will say these things in the council and in parliament. 

The important thing is to be rooted in the area. For years we’ve got stuck in on every issue.

We’ve beaten greedy developers four times.

Getting everyone involved was central to our success.

When the college threw a £10,000 party for the principal we picketed it and got in the local press.

We’ve campaigned around deaths in custody and the bedroom tax, and we’ve been to strikers’ picket lines.

There’s still a lot of loyalty to Labour. But now people know us, and trust us.

‘People are flocking to the SNP’

Aamer Anwar, criminal defence lawyer who recently joined the SNP

In Scotland the Scottish National Party (SNP) now offers an alternative to the corruption of Westminster.

Labour offers nothing other than cuts at a slower pace and people want to give them an absolute kicking.

The referendum produced one of the greatest social movements we’ve ever seen and pulled the SNP to the left.

The 60,000 new SNP members haven’t joined to be passive.

Waiting for the revolution is not one for me—I want to see what’s going to happen for my children now.

There’s no point in the left conning itself saying we can stand candidates and we’re going to win. That’s why people have flocked to the SNP.

But they have to deliver. I’m under no illusions—there are big battles ahead.

We can’t just wait for independence.

Angela McCormick, prospective parliamentary candidate for TUSC

it was grassroots community resistance that was key to building a working class Yes vote—ensuring that movement moves to the left is crucial to fight against austerity.

There is a desire to punish Labour for its role in saving the British state but it is a mistake to think all Labour members are like Blairite Jim Murphy.

Everything won’t be alright if we just vote for the SNP.

We can’t accept cuts and sacrifice services until we get independence—we must fight austerity now, whichever party implements it.

Building this mass resistance can help combat racist ideas too.

We need an alternative to Labour and the SNP that prioritises this.

We can demand the Scottish government uses its powers to stop attacks on public services, not reassure the rich that they have “nothing to fear”.

What We Think:

We must join forces to make an impact

At next year’s general election we’ll be offered a choice between parties pledging cuts and scapegoating migrants.

By-election results can make it look like this is what people want.

But millions of people have stopped voting. Others hope that Labour, the Greens or the Scottish National Party can offer an alternative.

Lots of people are willing to stand up for something different. We can see it in the NHS strikes and the mass protests for Gaza.

And whoever wins the election, these struggles will be crucial.

But for many the election will be the only time they are asked to have a say. And the bosses and politicians will set the terms.

If no candidate makes the case for working class solidarity, against cuts and in defence of migrants, that debate will be dragged further to the right.

Putting forward a credible socialist alternative in the elections won’t be easy. And it won’t be enough to stop austerity and racism. But it is necessary, and possible. Division on the left makes it much harder to make an impact. 

The Socialist Workers Party will stand as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), along with the Socialist Party, the RMT union and others.

But there are many other forces out there. To create an alternative people can believe in, we must bring them together.

A call for the left to unite

Last week Socialist Worker printed part of a statement from the Socialist Workers Party calling for the left to unite at the election. Here are some of the  responses:

I joined the Socialist Party a year ago and the first thing that hit me was the lack of cooperation and unity among left wing thinkers. I wish you could see that if you came together to fight capitalism you would be a force to be reckoned with. Getting your letter calling for a unified left is the most sensible thing I have heard to date from a left wing party—and yes, I agree.

Dawn Searle

It’s great to suggest the left comes together. But how do we make sure it is properly democratic and not just another mix of left groups out for their own interests? I want what people have done in Spain and Ireland—got together a movement that can win elections and challenge for government. Well done to the SWP for this initiative but there are lots of questions still to answer.

Mary Hurd, Manchester

I want a united left. But I am not sure we should stand in elections. It just lets in Ukip in some areas.

Helen, Birmingham

I am a Unite trade union member. We support Labour (we fuss about Labour, but only in a nice way). It has to end. I can’t stand Ed Miliband. He won’t change anything. I really agree with what you say. Let’s strike together, march together and vote together.

John Hamilton, West London

Read the statement. If you agree or want to discuss further, please email [email protected]

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