Ken MacLeod's comments.
The title comes from two quotes:
“Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”—Alasdair Gray.
“If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed or the dry lies of an aweless god.”—Graydon Saunders
So the other day over dinner I say to Mrs Early, 'What do you think of Respect: The Unity Coalition?' And she says 'What?' and I say, 'Exactly.' A bit later in the conversation she says, 'Oh God, the SWP ...'
With the media frenzy over tuition fees and the Hutton report, you can be forgiven for not noticing the launch in the same week of a new British political party called simply RESPECT.
The launching of RESPECT, also known as the Unity Coalition, was the brainchild of a layer of people disillusioned with Blair who wanted to form a left alternative to New Labour. The new party, if you can call it a party, has the backing of the Muslim Association of Britain, the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Workers Party and the Stop the War Coalition. It also has the support of film director Ken Loach, author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot and expelled Labour MP George Galloway.
All the attempts to build a new alternative to the Labour Party, as history has shown, will come to nothing. Various attempts, of an ultra-left or opportunist variety (they are head and tail of the same coin), all ended in shipwreck. The different sectarian groups on the fringes of the labour movement have been attempting to build the revolutionary alternative to Labour for decades and achieved nothing. That is why, having burned their fingers, they jump from ultra-leftism to opportunism and back again. Why should this venture be any different? It will not.
Despite the fact that it has a shallow programme that does not go beyond the framework of capitalism will not save it. On the contrary, forces are already gathering within the trade unions to take back the Labour Party for the working class. In the coming period, the edifice of Blairism will come crashing down. The Labour Party will take a sharp turn to the left as in the 1970s (after decades of rightwing domination) as the unions press for working class policies. All the sects, including RESPECT, will be left with their mouths open.
While initiatives like RESPECT can pick up a few disgruntled votes here and there, they will never attain a mass base or be able to break the hold of the Labour Party, or Blairism, from the outside. They are whistling in the wind. Only by organising a struggle, with the rest of the trade union movement, within the mass organisations of the working class, can Blairism be defeated and the Tory carpetbaggers driven out. All other routes are doomed to fail.
Of course, there were a few sceptics present at the meeting - this writer for one - who experienced the weary feeling that we had seen it all before, having sat through almost identical rallies organised first by the Socialist Labour Party and then by the Socialist Alliance. There we had heard the same emotional denunciations of Blairism, at the expense of any objective assessment of the relationship of forces within the labour movement or the level of political consciousness among working people, and the same confident but baseless predictions that the new political formation would attract widespread popular support. Both these previous attempts at launching an electoral alternative to Labour were dismal failures. But instead of facing reality and drawing the necessary political conclusions, the anti-Labour left seems intent on going through the same pointless exercise over and over again, each time in an only marginally different form. By the end of the Friends House rally I was beginning to feel as though I was trapped in far left version of Groundhog Day. George Santayana’s observation that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it had never seemed more apposite.
Speaking for myself, I'm gobsmacked at what the SWP is up to these days. I mean, I know they used to go in for opportunist stunts, but this one takes the biscuit. It's like a Popular Front without the popularity. RESPECT is such a stupid project that I find it hard to believe there won't be a revolt by members who remember what Marxism is. I have too much respect for some of the SWP members I know and have known to think they're happy with it.