Thursday, May 17, 2012

Electoral shenanigans in Manchester Central

So let's get this straight. The biggest (by far) political force in Manchester, the SWP, puts out a call for a single unified left candidate to stand in the upcoming Manchester by elections. Some leading trade unionists agree and decide to call an open and democratic selection meeting that they will organise, to ensure the neutrality of the political forces.

In response to this, George Galloway announces from afar that Respect is in a two horse race with Labour in the byelection and that there candidate, Clive Searle, 'is in it to win it'.

*sigh* now there is not necessarily anything unusual in this self serving announcement but the political context of our times is different and makes this betrayal more cutting than many.

What Respect has done is try to hegemonise an anti-cuts movement in the City in which it has very little involvement. Indeed, its numbers on the ground are pitiful and its implantation in the organised working class almost non-existence, relying as it does on one or two individuals. The result of this has been the wasting of a potential for a mass involved, open and high impact campaign around the cuts. Galloway's announcement is designed to turn those of us active in Manchester into passive supporters of his project.

But Galloway's own victory, Melenchon's campaign in France and Syriza's victories in Greece show that there is a serious mood for a unified, anti-austerity left of Labour alternative in these elections. How do we make that a reality? We do it by having an open campaign, based on the points of agreement that many working people have at the moment (no NHS cuts, no fees, no war, no pension cuts, better wages, decent jobs, no racism). It is not good enough for Respect to claim it has all the answers and it can do it by itself because it doesn't and it can't. What we need is a mature discussion about a way forward for the entire movement, and that means not putting your electoral project before the needs of the class.

That is why I would urge Respect supporters and their current candidate, Clive Searle, to come along to selection meeting. You never know, if he is that good, the meeting may well endorse him and I will happily put hours into his campaign. November will see another monster TUC demo and more strikes against the Government - in that context it would be criminal for the left not to get its act together.

The current strategy of far off Youtube proclamations isn't going to wash. So get involved in building a local anti-austerity alternative to Labour and the Tories.

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