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A response to the SWP – yes to principled unity

By KD Tait

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) has published an appeal for the left to discuss the formation of a united electoral challenge at the 2015 General Election.[1]

Our answer is yes – we should present a clear socialist alternative to capitalist austerity in as many constituencies as possible.

The entire left, especially Left Unity, the Socialist Party and the RMT, should come together to plan a joint meeting. The left should use the election as a platform to prepare the resistance to whichever government in formed in May.

Opportunities and obstacles

There is no need to impose preconditions and ultimatums which would block a necessary step forward.

They would get in the way of the potential for cooperation to go beyond limited coalitions and lay the foundations of a new mass party of the working class.

We know that some groups will want to refuse because of the SWP’s track record in the Socialist Alliance and Respect– arguing that they will always put the short term interests of their organisation before the long term interests of the working class.

We agree that the SWP is guilty on this score but we do not think this makes them unique. The SWP’s concentration on building party fronts instead of a real united front against the cuts has seriously obstructed the development of a united fightback. But we think their political mistakes can best be overcome through honest and open debate in the course of a common struggle.

The SWP’s cover-up of rape accusations against a leading member will be cited as a reason for rejecting any collaboration with them. We condemned this cover-up and supported those who criticised the SWP and fought to bring those responsible to account.

But if the crimes of organisations are a barrier to unity, then meaningful unity in action becomes impossible in a working class movement dominated by Stalinist and Social-Democratic parties who have repeatedly betrayed the working class.

In short, to refuse the SWP’s offer would be inept; it would not only set back unity, but pass up the opportunity to engage its members and supporters in a deep going discussion about women’s liberation and socialism.

The splits and crimes of the SWP in the last few years mean it is no longer able to dominate the process of seeking principled unity, as they did in the Socialist Alliance. Therefore we should take up their offer with the confidence that we can prevent bureaucratic manoeuvres and challenge wrong ideas.


The six points proposed by the SWP in its appeal are acceptable as the initial basis for discussion of a joint campaign. But the General Election manifesto must not be a reformist programme which limits us to the terrain dictated by those parties who accept the capitalist consensus.

The manifesto should be the strategy for rallying the most radical youth and militant workers to revolutionary socialist solutions sharply counterposed to the timid reformism of the Greens and reactionary policies of Labour.

It should therefore address the immediate tasks of the working class – to defend and extend the postwar social gains – and set out the policies that an anticapitalist workers’ government would carry out. A government which relies for its strength on the democratic fighting organisations the working class. One that procedes to socialise the key sectors of the capitalists’ economy and nullifies their power to resist.

Towards a new party

The method of TUSC, an electoral pact, which grants each organisation the right of veto over policy, is not a way to build a mass, fighting party that campaigns and builds up organisations of struggle between elections.

But this is not an argument against pooling our resources in a coalition.

The proven weakness of TUSC is an argument for using a coalition to lay the foundations of a new party rooted in the working class.

We think that an initial agreement starting with the socialist groups, could be massively extended through organising local assemblies and committees. These should aim to bring together people from beyond the existing left to discuss and agigate for socialist policies during the election.

This opens the door to the missing ingredient in any project to build a new workers’ party – a whole new generation of people crying out for change and looking for a way to make it happen.

Such methods have rallied big forces in Greece (Syriza) and in Spain (Podemos). Many have talked of the need for a ‘UKIP of the left’. This could be the way to do it.

Therefore we propose:

  • that the entire left accepts the SWP’s offer of a meeting to discuss the basis of a coalition
  • that local meetings be organised to discuss the nature of the coalition and its election manifesto
  • that backroom stitch-ups are avoided by convening a national conference of delegates elected from local meetings to democratically agree the coalition’s manifesto

Yes to unity

The left has been hamstrung by its failure to articulate a clear political alternative or build the organisations that can resist the concerted attacks of the ruling class.

Therefore we urge all socialist organisations and individuals to accept the SWP’s offer and use it to overcome these problems. Individual organisations may feel they have something to lose by closer collaboration on the left – but the working class does not.

The 2015 election presents us with a chance to achieve practical unity on a principled basis.

If we can do that then we will have taken an important step towards building a genuinely credible, fighting party of the working class, one that can organise and lead the struggle for working class power and socialism.


KD Tait

Secretary, Workers Power political committee

[1] After Rochester: a call for the left to unite

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One Response to A response to the SWP – yes to principled unity

  1. Brian Carter

    January 3, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    It is great that we are trying to unite on the left,as I’ve said before.

    We should try to avoid political & policy differences but the same time we should accept no reforming of the Capitalist System.A complete Revolution should be our ultimate ambition,a complete break away from Capitalism.

    Trotsky was right we need to break away in several countries at a time so we keep completely out of trade with the Super Rich blackmailing parasites.

    No kind of reform is good enough,reform,no matter how good,would only lead to the Capitalist Super Rich filth transferring their huge Capital Resources abroad to try to bankrupt any emerging radically reformed Socialist pseudo Socialist country back towards full Capitalism again.

    I’ve long held the idea that perhaps launching a Campaign called “The Campaign For True Democracy” would prompt and ask a lot of questions in the heads of the general public at Election Times.

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