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Open Letter to the left responses: How we can join together

This article is over 12 years, 7 months old
Michael Rosen welcomes the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) open letter to the left and discusses how he thinks unity can be achieved. Plus responses from Gill Motion and Kumar Murshid
Issue 2156
 (Pic:» Tim Sanders )
(Pic: » Tim Sanders)

The open letter to the left is a good move. We desperately need to make the things that unite us count more than the things that divide us.

The simplest way to do this would be to create some kind of federation or umbrella organisation.

At this stage, a federation need be no more than an electoral pact – an agreement to not contest candidates from each other’s groups or parties. This could also mean that we could put out some kind of joint platform, with shared publicity.

Obviously this kind of thing isn’t easy. There are long histories of mistrust and splits, and there are some big disagreements over ways of interpreting the past and the present.

The question in front of us now though is whether we would gain more or less by staying divided? I think it’s clear – the answer is less.

This is not only a matter of developing a more effective way of organising. It’s also a matter of political wisdom and thought. None of us has a monopoly on that.

We all have insights and we all make mistakes – but in the long run we have to acknowledge that it is only the collective minds and deeds of like-minded people that can change the world.

What we have to work out is how best to pool and mix those words and deeds.

My own view is that a federation or umbrella is one way of doing this. The years of analysis and organisation that each group or party has worked out wouldn’t be thrown away. No one is being asked to give anything up.

However, in the act of co-operating, we will come up against different ways of working, different analyses.

There will be local and sectional knowledge that might not have been shared, but would be in a federal structure.

So, for example, I’ve just been in Dagenham. The British National Party (BNP) has a whole bunch of their people on the council. When you walk about the area, you see devastation. Ford’s pulled out, and more than 25,000 jobs have gone.

Right next to the deserted factories and car parks, the government is putting up a brand new prison. The politics is clear: who closed Ford? Ford. It wasn’t any of the groups that the BNP target that closed the factory. And what’s the New Labour response? Lock people up.

Now, this situation may or may nor prevail elsewhere. What we know is that this has to be fought in the locality dealing with the conditions on the site.


In a federation, it may be that one or other of our groups or organisations has done the most work in that locality. Then we should be grown-up enough to give that organisation pride of place and the rest of us do what we can to support them.

Across the country, this is likely to even out – more or less. If it isn’t absolutely even Stevens, so be it.

It will be more important to make the effort to unite than to get too worked up about perfect divvying up of electoral battlegrounds.

Four key names have emerged over the last few years who have strong local bases of support. In alphabetical order – George Galloway, Michael Lavalette, Dave Nellist and Salma Yaqoob. There are others all over the country.

It would be great if we could create a network and give it time to develop.

I wouldn’t want to prejudge anything more than that. Let’s leave that to our dreams and hopes. In the meantime, let’s be simple, practical and strong.

Gill Motion, Dundee

I was beginning to think that the left had fallen asleep! But I’m more than heartened to read the SWP’s open letter calling on the left to unite.

I couldn’t agree more but do not want to see a repeat of what happened in Scotland with the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) where personalities became the sole voice and bigger than the party itself.

This is said as a current member of the SSP but with an allegiance to the SWP.

The only way to stop the rot in British politics is to have a united left offering a viable but uncompromised left alternative to the working class of this country.

I sincerely hope that past differences can be put aside in order to achieve this.

Kumar Murshid, community activist, Tower Hamlets, east London

Here we are pursuing yet again the holy grail of left unity.

The difference is that the objective circumstances demand this unity as never before.

We cannot allow the march of the BNP to continue, and it cannot be stopped by small groups working in isolation from each other.

A serious long term alternative to Labour can only be constructed by a united left committed to a collective electoral platform.

The entire political establishment is in crisis and people have nowhere to turn. It falls upon us to act.

There is a red, black and green platform crying out to be created. We must respond to that cry and come together.

Our country needs us, our world needs us! Count me in.

Read the open letter » Left must unite to create an alternative

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