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Discussion Bulletin No. 5
Editorial: New Labour in Crisis
The results of the local elections show New Labour in a crisis. They gained 26% of the vote nationally on a 36% turn-out, compared to the Tories 40% and the Lib-Dems 27%. They lost 319 Council seats and control of 18 Councils (including 9 boroughs in London).
Blair’s reaction to the results was to sack one third of his cabinet replacing them with super-loyalists. John Prescott loses his Deputy Prime Minister’s Department but retains his salary, houses and perks — he gets £135,000 a year for doing virtually nothing. Roy Hattersley commented in his interesting essay for The Guardian: “Tony Blair now believes in nothing except hanging on in the hope of regaining some of his lost reputation. Not even the present LP will tolerate that for long.” There does seem to be a growing anti-Blair movement in the parliamentary Labour Party as MPs begin to worry about their seats – rather like the anti-Thatcher movement in the Tory party which eventually booted her out.
In this situation some people, particularly TU leaders, are suggesting that Gordon Brown will be to the left of Blair. But as George Galloway graphically put it: “Brown and Blair are two cheeks of the same arse”.
On the left, Respect gained 12 seats in Tower Hamlets, 3 in Newham and 1 in Birmingham, though no SWP members were apparently amongst this 16. Four SP members were elected, two in Lewisham Telegraph Hill and one in St Michael’s Coventry and one in Huddersfield on the Save Huddersfield NHS ticket. The IWCA gained another seat in Oxford.
From my own experience in canvassing and leafleting this time around, the election seemed a very low key affair with not much interest from the public though a definite disenchantment with Blair. We also have to be aware that local government has had most of its powers stripped from it and the electorate are aware of this. At the count I noticed how friendly the different parties were with each other and I heard rumours of people being asked to change parties. The parties are so close to each other, I suppose it’s just a question of where the power lies and where the careerist can get a seat. One point to stress for the Left is that it is vital to be working week in week out in the area we want to win – to build trust and to learn from the experience. Putting one leaflet into people’s homes a few weeks before the election and hoping for the best is generally a waste of time; it is gesture politics.
The need for a new workers’ party is becoming ever clearer. The March 19th Conference organised by the Socialist Party launched their initiative, the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party. They plan to have a speaking tour throughout this month and next and to gain 5,000 signatures by the end of the year. The problem is that the SP are for a federal structure of separate groups and not a pro-party structure. At the same time they have a left reformist programme and voted down the DSA’s and the CPGB’s resolutions calling for a Marxist programme for the new party. The bulletin includes some letters on the CNWP and the article by Phil Sharpe is based on his contribution in the discussion at the CNWP Conference. My report of the DSA Day School on “People Before Profit” is also relevant because we discussed similar themes.
The Critique Supporters’ Group have called for a Conference on the need for a Marxist Party this autumn and I have written 10 points as a possible basis for this discussion. It seems to me that the struggle for a new workers party, how it is organised and on what political programme will take up much of our time this year. Contributions and reports are most welcome.
Page 2 DSA motion to conference of the Campaign for a New Workers Party, 19 March 2006
Page 3 Editorial
Page 4 Report on DSA day school, ‘People Before Profit’ – party and programme – Dave Spencer
Page 5 Letters on the Campaign for a New Workers Party
Page 8 The principle of socialism from below – Phil Sharpe
Page 13 The logic of substitutionism : Lenin’s organisational plan of 1902 – Barry Biddulph
Page 17 On forming a Marxist Party. Some principles for discussion – Dave Spencer
Page 18 Letter from Uganda