May 4 witnessed local government elections in several parts of the country, including London. Although the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Mayoral election in the metropolis attracted the most media attention, for reasons which are by now obvious to everyone, the local government elections in their entirety – London included – need to be analysed and interpreted, for they have sent some important signals
The first thing that strikes one about these elections is the dismally low turnout, with only a third of the electorate bothering to cast its vote. In London the turnout was 33.65% – with only 1,714,162 out of the total London electorate of 5,093,464 voting. This low turnout, despite the media hype exhorting people to cast their votes, is indicative of the cynicism with which the public treat, and correctly so, the promises of the various bourgeois parties. Elections come and go, but nothing changes the lives of the ordinary folk for the better. That being the case, why should they waste their time voting for any one of these outfits? Besides, over the past 20 years, local authorities have been denuded of all meaningful powers to such an extent that they are unable, even if they were willing, to provide any additional services to people within their administrative boundaries
Collapse of the Labour vote
The second remarkable fact about these elections is the haemorrhaging of the Labour vote. Labour’s share of the vote plummeted to 29%. This is a staggering 18 points below its share of the vote in the general election of 1997. In comparison, the much-discredited and hated Tories’ share of the vote went up by 10 points to 37% compared with their performance in 1997. The Liberal Democrats’ vote, at 27%, edged pretty close to Labour’s. As a result Labour lost hundreds of Council seats and control of 14 Councils, while the Tories gained 600 sets and control of 16 extra Councils.
In the election for London Mayor, Labour was relegated to a poor third place. Ken Livingstone, standing as an independent, received 38.96% of the vote on the first count and 57.92% on the second count. Tory Steven Norris and Labour’s Frank Dobson respectively secured 27.09% and 13.06% on the first count and 42.08% and 15.84% on the second count. As for the Assembly seats, Labour and the Tories won 9 each, with 4 seats going to the Liberal Democrats and 3 to the Greens.
Labour’s abysmal performance is solely attributable to its failure to deliver on state pensions, the NHS, education and employment. If this pattern of voting were to be repeated at the next general election, it could produce a House of Commons with 55 Lib-Dems (as compared to 46 at present), Labour 290 (down from 418), Tories 282 (up from 165) and others 30. Not all the spin and presentational skills could avert the electoral disaster that befell Labour. The party of spin is well and truly out of spin. No one believes a word of what the representative spokesmen of this Party and government have to say on any question – from health, education and transport to the European Union and foreign policy.
Troto-revisionist defence of social democracy
The discrediting of the Labour Party in the eyes of working people creates a space for political intervention by revolutionary socialists (Marxists), which the latter must exploit with consummate skill and determination, dedication and perseverance in their efforts to provide leadership for the struggle of the working class for its social emancipation. This task can only be performed by those who are fully conscious of the counter-revolutionary role of Social Democracy (the Labour Party in Britain) and who make every endeavour to expose and discredit it, and who help the process of its disintegration. Those who act as the appendages of Social Democracy, as its left apologists in the working-class movement, are unfit for and unworthy of this task. In the run up to, and during, the May 2000 local government elections, the Troto-revisionist cliques – from the revisionist renegades of the CPB and NCP to the Trotskyites of the SWP and several such other counter-revolutionary outfits, acted in one way or another, directly or indirectly, as the purveyors of social-democratic filth among the working class.
They all supported the notorious war-mongering stock exchange ‘socialist’, Ken Livingstone, in the London Mayoral contest. As for the GLA, the SWP cobbled together the London Socialist Alliance (LSA), composed of various Trotskyite groups, one more counter-revolutionary than the other, to fight both in the list system and the individual constituencies, firmly grasping the coat tails of Ken Livingstone. Its Vote Ken, Vote LSA posters were all designed to give the impression that Ken Livingstone and the LSA formed part of a single slate, and that the Assembly vote was merely a natural follow-up to the vote for Mayor – this notwithstanding the fact that Livingstone, for his part, was calling upon the electors to vote for the Greens and not the LSA. The NCP, while backing Livingstone in the mayoral contest, supported Labour in the election to the GLA as well as in local government elections elsewhere. Taking ‘freedom of choice’ to its extreme absurdity, the CPB put up its own slate on the top-up list, supported Livingstone for Mayor and Labour in the individual constituencies in London. Some principle there!
As soon as the elections were over, the CPB reverted to its usual position of asserting that the arena of struggle for socialism lies solely within the confines of the ‘labour movement’, i.e., the Labour Party and its trade-union affiliates. Writing in the
of 12 May, Andrew Murray, one of the leading lights of the CPB, insists that
“the sharpest edge of the struggle against new Labour is the battle within the labour movement itself. Fighting Blair outside and against the movement is a recipe for marginalisation and futility. The defeat of the new Labour clique must, …, be the work of the working class itself, through the medium of its own historically formed organisations”
(‘The left that time forgot’).
Even a cursory glance at the above-quoted remarks, and a moment’s reflection on them, makes it painfully clear that the struggle for the emancipation of the working class through the overthrow of capitalism has absolutely no place in the thinking of this writer. The furthest limit to which he is prepared to go is to wage a struggle against the Blair clique WITHIN the Labour Party – presumably to install in its leadership people subscribing to the policies of ‘old’ Labour, which, notwithstanding the vociferous assertions to the contrary of various innocent dupes, were imperialist through and through. Thus all the efforts of the CPB luminaries boil down to, not a struggle for socialism, but for the strengthening of the Labour Party, which has faithfully served British imperialism for a whole century and betrayed the British working class, to say nothing of the people abroad, during the same period.
The NCP’s cretinous support for Labour
The NCP’s position is even more cretinous, if such a thing is possible. Ken Livingstone, who had promised to abide by the results of Labour’s electoral college, rigged and undemocratic though it was, for the selection of a Labour mayoral candidate, in the end decided to break his undertaking. Announcing his decision to stand as an independent, in a letter dated 6 March, Livingstone explained that it had become clear
“that those taking the decisions within the Labour Party have no intention of listening to the views of party members or Londoners on the basic issues at stake in the London elections”,
in view of which he had
“been forced to choose between the party for which I have worked for the last 31 years and the democratic rights of Londoners.”
He added that
“defence of the principle of London’s right to govern itself”
required that he
“stand as an independent for London mayor on 4 May.”
He did not want anybody
“to leave the Labour Party”.
Instead, members who had been horrified by Labour’s selection process
“should stay and fight”
to prevent any repeat of such conduct. He assured his supporters that he would not be setting up a new political party and that he still hoped
“one day to be able to return to the Labour Party”.
In other words, Mr Livingstone had no difference of principle with the Labour Party. He merely wanted at any cost to be the London mayor. He would have been very happy to have been the Labour candidate, which was precisely why, knowing fully well in advance the rigged nature of the process, he subjected himself to Labour’s selection procedure. And when that procedure produced a result not to his liking, he announced his candidature as an independent – all in the name of the democratic rights of Londoners and London Labour Party members!
The following day the
which had not yet decided to support Livingstone, in its editorial pointedly reminded Livingstone of his promise not to contest as an independent, and of his advice four years previously to Arthur Scargill when the latter left the Labour Party and established the SLP, in the following terms:
Mr Livingstone apologised yesterday for breaking his often stated pledge not to stand as an independent mayoral candidate.
But he is also going against his advice to others who have quit the Labour Party in frustration at the right-wing, undemocratic-centralist stance of the leadership.
Just over four years ago, he criticised Arthur Scargill for leaving the Labour Party and setting up the Socialist Labour Party, asserting the potential for change in ‘the three main components of the Labour Party’ – the unions, local Labour parties and the Parliamentary Labour Party.
He said: ‘The struggle for socialism is going to be fought within the next Labour government and Scargill has opted out of that’.
What has changed since then, other than one individual’s single-minded determination to become London mayor?
It is not difficult to understand Mr Livingstone’s frustration at being cheated out of a position, but he should accept the advice that had has doled out to others.
If he had confidence in the various wings of the movement to change matters four years ago, he should restate that view now and work together with them in the long-term struggle rather than bail out on an issue of individual opportunism
” (7 March 2000).
Who should come to Livingstone’s defence but the NCP! In its editorial of 10 March, the
in an attempt to rebut the
asserted that the two situations were
“Scargill was forming a new party in permanent opposition to the Labour Party and was hoping to recruit members, including members of the Labour Party into the SLP ranks,”
Livingstone on the other hand was not setting up a separate party. In other words, it is perfectly possible for someone like Livingstone, with absolutely no differences of principle with the Labour Party, standing against an official Labour candidate in an election, to secure NCP support and plaudits. However, the moment that someone like Scargill leaves the Labour Party on the grounds that the latter had irrevocably become a capitalist party, incapable of serving as an instrument of working-class advance, the mummies of the NCP rise up in arms. Nothing could furnish better proof of the NCP’s commitment to the defence of social democracy and its shameful attempts to reconcile the revolutionary proletariat to the bourgeois Labour Party.
NCP’s idea of working-class unity
After Livingstone’s victory, a
editorial exultantly declared that the vote for mayor had
“shattered the myth rammed down our throats by Blair’s spin doctors, of the death of ‘Old Labour’ … In the wider arena Livingstone’s election marks the first victory in the fight-back against Blair & Co within the Labour Party. The next stage must be the demand for his readmission to Labour’s ranks”
(12 May 2000).
Thus the NCP’s idea and vision of socialism narrows itself down to preserving the imperialist Labour Party, maintaining the organisational links and structures between the trade unions and the Labour Party in the interests of
“working class unity”,
although, we are told, none of this signifies the achievement of working-class unity for
“both the trade unions and the Labour Party leadership are dominated by class collaborators”,
“influence only encourages the passivity of the working class and the perpetuation of capitalism at the expense of and to the detriment of the working class”
! (see Eric Trevett,
‘The fight is back on’, 19 May 2000). In other words, ‘working class unity’ to destroy working-class unity with the aim of rendering the working class passive and perpetuating capitalism! This is, and always has been, the sole meaning of NCP’s defence of the Labour Party and its idea of working-class unity. If we add to this the NCP’s demand for the readmission of Livingstone to Labour’s ranks, we get a pretty complete picture of the NCP’s entire ideological and political stock-in-trade. All the references in their literature to the struggle for socialism, the need for working-class state power, their alleged allegiance to the ideological and organisational principles of Marxism-Leninism are noting but sanctimonious and hypocritical humbug.
NCP’s attempts at justifying the unjustifiable
In the same article from which the self-annihilatory rigmarole cited above is taken, Eric Trevett of the NCP says, without the least embarrassment or sense of shame:
Since his election Livingstone hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet. He has appointed a black radical activist Lee Jasper, a Brixton community leader, to be responsible for race relations and liaison with the Metropolitan Police.”
This fits in with Eric Trevett’s, and the NCP’s, notions of ‘working-class unity’ extremely well. It is well known that Mr Lee Jasper is a notorious black separatist, who believes that white people are inherently racist. Such a person can hardly be relied upon to promote working-class unity and represent the interests of proletarians, be they black or white. He is an opportunist petty bourgeois careerist who long ago made a deal with the ‘socialist’ opportunist, Ken Livingstone. This deal was sealed in the Anti-Racist Alliance.
We have exposed for years the opportunism of, among others, these two unpleasant characters, as well as ARA’s black separatism (see Harpal Brar’s book,
Bourgeois Nationalism or Proletarian Internationalism?
). Eric Trevett’s proclivity for such offal can only be explained by his total commitment to the defence of Social Democracy and his notions of the type of ‘working-class unity’ which
Further, why does Mr Trevett confine himself to just one appointment? Livingstone has made a host of appointments to his Cabinet and the four London bodies – Transport for London, the London Development Agency, the Metropolitan Police Authority and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. The list of these appointees reads like a Who’s Who of the world of business and the City. It includes Tories, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party members. Why ignore these?
For the benefit of our opportunist Mr Trevett, let us mention that the London Development Agency for the capital’s regeneration is to include such ‘radicals’ as Lord Paul (head of a world-wide business empire), Tamara Ingram (chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi), Judith Mayhew (a Tory from the Corporation of London), Honour Chapman (of the Jones Lasalle property group).
While making the odd radical-sounding remark, intended to please and keep on board his following among the ‘left’ – the dupes from the Troto-revisionist fraternity – Livingstone is going all out (as he always has done) to help safeguard the interests of the City, to wit, the interests of British imperialism. He has repeatedly promised to fight to preserve the City’s status as Europe’s leading finance centre.
“I will work with the City Corporation and major City institutions to ensure London remains the financial centre of Europe”
10 April 2000)
he says quite openly and in plain language.
On 2 May he made a keynote speech at London’s first awards ceremony for bankers and lawyers involved in leading European acquisitions and mergers. At this awards ceremony, organised by Caspar Hoggs, chief executive of Mergermarket.com, Livingstone assured his influential corporate and financial audience that
“safeguarding the continued success of London as a premier global financial centre would be one of his key responsibilities should he win.”
of 5 May reported him as saying:
“London contains Europe’s financial centre and some of UK’s poorest boroughs. The job of the mayor is to represent all London…”
In a class-divided society like ours, anyone who says that he will represent the rich and the poor alike, the city financier and the unemployed on meagre state benefits, such a person is either a charlatan or a scoundrel, who cannot but end up representing the tiny exploiting class. In view of this, ‘our’ captains of industry, kings of finance and suchlike robber barons can afford to ignore Livingstone’s odd remark which seemingly gives succour to the anti-capitalist demonstrators in the City, and support him as their man.
“I had many meetings with business during the campaign and one of the things that pleased me was the high level of support among employers that all the polls showed me enjoying.”
Knowing his stance, this can hardly come as a surprise to anyone except to the Troto-revisionist appendages of Social Democracy in the working-class movement. We can now see how foolish was the author of the editorial in the
of 10 March this year when s/he wrote the following lines in response to Blair’s remark that Livingstone would be a
“disaster for London”
Livingstone could well prove to be a disaster for the City sharks impatiently circling around London’s Underground waiting for fresh picking from tube privatisation.
But Livingstone is no disaster for the majority of Londoners who don’t want the tube privatised and who are still angry and dismayed about the government’s response to the Paddington rail crash.”
The new mayor has said,”
wrote Peter Kellner in the
of 5 May,
“that he intends to work as a ‘London nationalist’ who works with business, rather than as a left-wing socialist.”
“Mr Livingstone is
[take note, Mr Trevett]
strongly pro-European and keen for Britain to join the single currency.”
Besides the City sharks, Livingstone received warm support from the Metropolitan police, correctly reprimanded not so long ago for being
by the Macpherson report following the Stephen Lawrence murder at the hands of some racist youth and the subsequent police bungling.
On the Metropolitan Police our liberty and security depends. One of the greatest pleasures of the campaign was meeting the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and his senior staff – because there was only one goal discussed: how to ensure that every Londoner lives equally in peace and security.”
So wrote Mr Livingstone in the
of 5 May. The man who is the darling of the imperialist bloodsuckers of the City, the darling of ‘our’
police force, and still manages to be the darling of the various Trotskyite and revisionist groupings which fancy themselves as revolutionary, has to be given credit at least for his ambi-dexterity. His popularity with the City and the Metropolitan Police, far from damaging his reputation among the so-called left, has only served, it would appear, to enhance it!
Further by way of emphasising the socialist credentials of Livingstone, Trevett refers to the new mayor’s opposition to the privatisation of the London Underground as being of
. Leaving aside the question that financing the London tube by issuing bonds, as proposed by Livingstone, is also privatisation by another name, and that only 18 months previously Livingstone had gone through the division lobbies in support of the government’s legislation to privatise land transport, Mr Trevett forgot completely Livingstone’s enthusiastic support for the genocidal war of aggression waged for 78 days by the neo-Nazi NATO alliance against tiny Yugoslavia. Obviously, to the NCP, as to the other shameless Troto-revisionist coteries, it matters far more how London Transport is run, and who owns it, than the fate of millions of victims of imperialist aggression and brigandage in places such as Yugoslavia and Iraq. There is not a trace of socialism in such conduct.
This is opportunism pure and simple, whose economic roots lie deep in the exploitation by a tiny handful of imperialist countries of the hundreds of millions of peoples in the oppressed former colonial countries. Out of these vast profits the bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries is in a position to bribe, and does bribe, the upper layers – the labour aristocracy – of the working class in their own countries.
These bribed sections of the working class for their part serve as the
“principal social support of the bourgeoisie in the labour movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, the real carriers of reformism and social chauvinism”
(Lenin, preface to the French and German editions of
Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,
The function of this bribed upper stratum is to act as an instrument of class collaboration and as a purveyor of bourgeois corruption into the ranks of the proletariat. In Britain, the Labour Party was formed to defend, and has always defended, the interests of this privileged minority. And this it could not do without defending the interests of British imperialism, for the privileges of this privileged stratum depended on the continued flow of loot from the Empire and the extraction of imperialist superprofits from abroad. He who says A must also say B, as the saying goes.
Those shameful ‘Marxists’, who defend the imperialist Labour Party as the party of the British proletariat, who do everything in their power to preserve and perpetuate its influence among the working class, must end up, wittingly or unwittingly, whether they like it or not, defending the privileges of the upper stratum of the working class, on the one hand, and the extraction of imperialist superprofits, on the other hand.
This is precisely the fate which has overtaken the NCP, the CPB and the Trotskyite groupings. Anything likely to cause disintegration of the imperialist Labour Party is truly painful for this gentry to contemplate. Eric Trevett, in his mindlessly meandering, not to say utterly reactionary, article, stresses the need for demanding the readmission of Ken Livingstone into the Labour Party, for it is essential
“in countering moves by understandably disgruntled members from leaving the Labour Party unless they join us.”
The last three words are simply hilarious and plainly stupid. Why should anyone join the NCP, if on joining they are simply to be told that the Labour Party is THE party of the British proletariat, something they won’t in the least be inclined to listen to since they left the Labour Party on the grounds that it did NOT represent the interests of the working class. But that kind of logic can only be expected from ordinary mortals with normal powers of reasoning – not from the demented and fossilised revisionists of the NCP, who have sold themselves body and soul to Social Democracy.
SLP – the only socialist party
The only Party which emerged with honour, principles and support up and down the country is the Socialist Labour Party. It alone stood on an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-racist platform. It alone put forward a socialist programme. And, most important of all, it alone refused to compromise with the imperialist Labour Party, unlike the CPB and the NCP, who called for a Livingstone as well as a Labour vote, and unlike the London Socialist Alliance (LSA) – the Trotskyist hodge podge – which expressed its congenital proclivity for Social Democracy indirectly by working itself into a lather in support of Livingstone’s campaign to be mayor of London.
Although the SLP candidates recorded an excellent series of results across the country, the result in London, where the SLP received 0.82% of the poll, was down on its vote in the European parliamentary elections when it polled 1.7% of votes cast. Several factors combined to reduce the SLP’s share of the vote: whereas during the European Parliamentary elections, the SLP benefited from a Party Political Broadcast and the free delivery of its election address to 1.9 million homes, no such facility existed during the local government elections. The SLP did not contest in the individual constituencies, nor did it run anyone for mayor, which must have prevented people with a preference for voting for the same party across the board from voting for the SLP. In addition, the SLP was deliberately ignored by the bourgeois media: for the latter, the SLP might just as well have been living on another planet. With the solitary exception of a piece in the
two days before the election, the bourgeois paper and electronic media shunned the SLP. The reason for this is not difficult to guess: the media perceived, and correctly so, that the SLP was the only socialist party participating in these elections and must, therefore, be denied the oxygen of publicity.
Notwithstanding these difficulties, the SLP used these elections to good effect. Through meetings, leafleting and canvassing it took its programme to as many working people as it had the capacity for. In so doing it has laid a firmer basis for consolidation and further advance, which will become evident in the months to come.
SLP’s noisy opponents in the LSA have been croaking over the SLP’s reduced vote and predicting its imminent demise. Far from it. This is wishful counter-revolutionary thinking. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride, runs an old saying. If the wishes of the LSA gentry were horses, counter-revolution would ride triumphant in perpetuity. Mercifully, world history in its forward movement takes little note of such wishes.
The LSA have also accused the SLP of being sectarian for not agreeing to be part of the LSA. The SLP would have to have been overcome by a death wish to join these shady characters, whose only agreement with each other is their total commitment to the defence of counter-revolutionary Social Democracy, and their total opposition to Marxism and communism. Being a socialist party, firmly based on the philosophy of Marxism, formed by people who had correctly decided that the Labour Party was a capitalist party – just like the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – it could hardly be expected to join in bed the dodgy Social-democratic groupings in LSA in their campaign for the election of an imperialist warmonger, to wit, Ken Livingstone, as mayor of London. The SLP leader, Arthur Scargill, quite correctly dismissed these LSA pleas by saying that since Livingstone supported capitalism, the SLP would not support him even for the mayoralty of Toytown.
Besides, the LSA had only been formed to oppose the SLP – not the Labour Party. For 20 years the SWP’s line rejected bourgeois parliamentary elections, while continuing to work for a Labour vote at successive elections, including the General Election of 1997. Its sudden conversion to participation in parliamentary activity, for which it so superciliously denounced the SLP not so long ago, is entirely motivated by its desire to check the advance of the SLP. Other than their total commitment to the defence of Social Democracy, their total opposition to socialism, and their opposition to the SLP because it is socialist, there is very little to unite these groups.
To realise the utter reactionary nature of the various groups that comprise the LSA, one needs to remember that the biggest group in it, the SWP, is only a reincarnation of the International Socialists, a group which had its origin in support for the American barbaric war of aggression against the DPRK; that during the US imperialist war of aggression against the people of Vietnam, while pretending to oppose the war, it ceaselessly attacked the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and frequently denounced Ho Chi Minh, the great leader of the Vietnamese people; that the SWP has consistently refused to support the struggle of the people of Ireland for reunification and self-determination. The other groups in the LSA are second to none in their counter-revolutionary credentials. The Alliance for Workers Liberty is so fiercely pro-imperialist that it gloated over the murder of Chris Hani, the South African communist leader. It also warmly supported the suppression of the Soviet Communist Party by the conter-revolutionary Yeltsin regime. The so-called Provisional Committee of the CPGB – a dozen Trots pretending to be the Communist Party – apart from being rabidly anti-Soviet, a characteristic which they share with every other group in the LSA – oppose British withdrawal from Ireland, oppose Irish reunification and demand the repartition of the 6 Counties between the Protestants and the Catholics. In the same vein, this group opposes the seizure of land from the white farmers in Zimbabwe and its redistribution to black farmers. Along with many other Trotskyist groups, it showed its pro-NATO credentials only too well during the recent Balkans war waged by the NATO war-mongering alliance against tiny Yugoslavia.
The SLP was right not to entertain the idea of any electoral pact with this collection of incurable counter-revolutionary Trots. This unholy alliance, reminiscent of Trotsky’s reactionary August bloc against the Bolsheviks, is sure to fall apart in the not too distant future. The SLP, on the other hand, is poised to take some pretty strong strides forward.