Friday, 18 January 2008

Alliance for Workers Liberty: lesser evils and collective class action


Readers may or may not be aware that the Searchlight publication and associated organisations 'Hope Not Hate' and ‘Stop the BNP’ split from Unite Against Fascism in 2005. This has raised a series of questions about how the existing left interacts with the fractured anti-fascist movement. Alongside this debate emerges a series of issues of relevance to anti-fascist work.

Charlie Salmon of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty (AWL) treats us to his ruminations on the nature of Fascism in the article For A Working Class Campaign against Fascism in the latest edition of Solidarity.

Salmon characterizes Unite Against Fascism group as “a political coalition of the Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Action” utilized when politically expedient for the purpose of “protests or conferences” (1). The extension of an invite to Sir Iqbal Sacranie as a headline speaker to UAF’s 2006 national conference, despite Sacranie’s well-documented reactionary and homophobic politics, is correctly noted as reflective of this opportunist political trend.

The article does fall short on a number of levels; the conclusions drawn remains deeply flawed. While the suggestion of a political alternative in the work of Searchlight, albeit one about which it remains mildly critical, is problematic to say the least.

The features of the UAF are contrasted to the “work towards major mobilisations of trade union members”, seemingly characteristic of the Searchlight organisation, alongside the latter's focus on “very successful, grass-roots responses” (2). The AWL limits the criticism of the Searchlight’s 'Stop the BNP' produced campaign material to an endorsement by millionaire Alan Sugar. An individual, who, readers will be amazed to find, apparently has "nothing to say about poorly funded public services and the attacks on the working class".

Searchlight suggested that the prime reason for their departure was because "it is incompatible for us to be in an organisation that is pushing a different strategy to our own" (1). A view seemingly collaborated by Salmon's article. That the reasons for the split amount to anything more than a desire to better pursue its particular brand of Labourism remain less than clear.

The role of anti-immigration as a characteristic feature of both Blair and Brown's premiership is a topic that receives scant attention in the pages of Searchlight. Any mentions of the Labour Party are confined to examples of the successful electoral 'fight-backs' of the kind Salmon touches upon as exemplary examples. The superficial analysis of the politics of Searchlight would seem to operate in contrast to suggestions made elsewhere within Solidarity that “eulogising Labour’s triumphs” with the use of a “single leaflet through the door a week before an election” simply won’t cut it (4).

This is perhaps reflective of the potentially divisive nature of the AWL’s call for a vote for Labour “in almost all the areas where the BNP is standing” in which no other ‘independent working class candidates’ are standing (5). An approach that while conducted under the ruberic of ‘collective working class action’ would seem to lend itself to ‘polemics’ of the kind Salmon provides.

While the article provides very little in the way of new information, it does provide something of a surprise with its use of the old, treating us to a good three paragraphs on Trotsky's views on the united-front tactic.

While providing quotes highlighting a series of entirely correct statements made by Trotsky on the nature of the united front, a correct integration of these views are far from evident by the AWL’s politics. Indeed this politics operates in direct contrast to the most perfunctory of understandings of this tactic. For Marxists, the question is not decided by a quotation, but by means of the correct method.

While Solidarity notes the need while utilising this tactic to “break ideologically and organisationally with the reformists and the centrists” (2) the extent to which this remains an abstraction far from concrete application remains evident within the pages of Solidarity.


(1) http://www.searchlightmagazine.com/index.php?link=template&story=146
(2) http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/01/13/working-class-campaign-against-fascism
(3) For a Workers United Front Against Fascism
(4) http://www.workersliberty.org/node/9691
(5) http://www.workersliberty.org/node/8256

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