Sunday, April 17, 2005

From Clapham to Brixton

Yesterday was the first weekend of socialist election activity in the constituency since the general election was officially anounced. Some comrades stayed in Clapham High Street to distribute leaflets (in competition with the Labourites and Tories) outside Sainsbury's and to do a stall outside our offices at No 52. Others ventured to Brixton to hand out leaflets. They did so with some trepidation in view of Bill's description of what it was like a month or so ago, expecting to find the exit from Brixton tube station blocked by massed ranks of paper-sellers chanting "Defend the Russian Revolution" and "All Power to Trotsky". As it turned out, the only people there were from a group calling on people to boycott Coca-Cola for something they were doing in Colombia (from where presumably coke comes from).
It is true that on the other side of the road there was a stall run by the "Workers Revolutionary Party" to promote their candidate in the nearby Tulse Hill constituency. Being readers of the only local paper, the South London Press, which thinks that only three or at most four political parties exist, we didn't know of this. In fact, we suspect that when nominations close the journalists on the South London Press are going to be shocked by the extent of their ignorance and the extent to which they kept their readers in the dark.
The WRP programme of "policies for the General Election" was rather negative to put it mildly, "end ... defend ... no ... scrap ... stop ... restore ... repeal" being the keywords. The only things they said they were "for" were "nationalise MG Rover and all firms threatened with closure", "renationalise the railways", "nationalise the banks to provide decent pensions for all" (?), "a decent future for youth and not one of debt, hardship and war", "one socialist secular state of Palestine", and "a workers government to implement socialist policies".
We know the WRP of old. When they were called "the Socialist Labour League" they used to have their office just up the road from us, at 180 Clapham High St (now a greengrocer's, also about to close). In those days, by "workers government" they used to mean a "Labour government". They probably still do since they're not putting up enough candidates of their own to be able to win a majority in the House of Commons and form a government. If so, which planet are they living on if they expect a Labour government to implement their list of reformist and state-capitalist policies that they erroneously label "socialist"? Erroneously, because of course there's nothing socialist about a society where there'd still be "students grants", "pensions", "average wage rises" or "trade union rates of pay". And nationalisation was just state capitalism, and would be again.
As we said in the leaflet we were handing out, socialism is a society based on:
"* The common ownership of all resources by the whole community, not just a rich minority.
* Democratic control of the community by everyone, without distintion of age, race or sex, instead of rule by unelected company directors or state bureaucrats.
* Production purely to meet people's needs, not profit.
* Free and equal access to all goods and services -- and end to the market and to money."
A young French bloke told us he agreed with this (his father had been in the Communist Party), but that it was a too utopian for the people around us on the street. He suggested we should be advocating practical measures they could understand and which would improve their situation today, as put forward for instance by the people across the road (pointing to the WRP stall). We pointed out that a decent education and a decent health service for all such as he said he wanted were not possible under capitalism as inequality and austerity were built-in to the profit system. And we denied that socialism was too complicated for people to understand. Besides, we added, the WRP no more believed that a decent education or health service for all was possible under capitalism than we did; their "practical measures" (or "transitional demands" in Trotskyese) were just bait offered to attract followers with the ultimate aim of seizing power and establishing the rule of their vaguard party. Fortunately, this is never going to happen but, unfortunately, thanks to Trotkyists of all hues, this is what many people think that socialism would mean. If socialism did mean this, then we'd be against it too. But it doesn't, which is one of the things we want to get across in contesting this election.

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