Monday, May 02, 2005

Yesterday was May Day

We only went to the starting point of the WRP's march in Kennington Park because it was something happening in the Vauxhall constituency. Frankly, it turned out to be a pathetic affair. Not more than 30 people. We did give out some leaflets and talk to a few people, including Sanjay Kulkarni, the WRP candidate in Camberwell & Peckham. Their other candidate (in Streatham), John Colvill, wearing a big red rosette (how these Trotskyist groups which accuse us of "parliamentary fetishism" really play the vote-catching politicians when they contest elections), made it clear that he resented our presence, possibly because on Saturday in Brixton our candidate had denounced him to his face as a Vanguardist who wanted to come to power on the backs of the working class. But he ought to have welcomed us since our presence swelled the numbers by over 13 percent. We were never going to go on their march of course, so we left, leaving the 30 of them to march to Brixton with a police escort of one copper for every two marchers.
After calling in at 52 Clapham High Street to pick up a paste table, we headed for Trafalgar Square where the official TUC rally was taking place. The first thing that struck us was the absence of the usual paper-sellers from the SWP and Militant. Presumably, they were all out trying to win support for the candidates of, respectively, RESPECT and the "Socialist Alternative Party". Anyway, this cleared the ground for people with other ideas such as "action not ballots" (anarchosynicalists), "withhold your vote" (some sort of Maoists), and of course us with "cast a write-in vote for socialism (except in Vauxhall)".
The theme of the rally was "unite against racism" and the official stewards were handing out a leaflet saying "use your vote against the BNP". The basic idea seemed to be to get a high turnout by voting for "any of the democratic parties" so that the percentage (if not the actual)vote for the BNP would be reduced. A high turnout is generally thought to favour the Labour Party, so this advice might not have been so innocently naive as it seemed. In any event, the organisers clearly saw the rally as a pro-Labour (though not a pro-Blair) exercise since speakers such as Jeremy Corbyn MP and Tony Benn were unlikely to urge people to vote for any other party (and didn't). But, to give them their due, they didn't go as far as one of the other speakers who declared that a vote for any small leftwing party would be a vote for the Tories. This was greeted by a chorus of boos, some no doubt from people who thought that a vote for Labour was the same as a vote for the Tories.
Although our main aim was to hand out free leaflets and Socialist Standards, we did sell a number of pamphlets, the best-seller being "How The Gods Were Made" by Keracher. We don't know why. Perhaps it had something to do with a neighbouring stand, from some Leninist group from Iran, playing Lennon's "Imagine there's no heaven . . ." Not something RESPECT is likely to encourage. We must confess to changing the words and singing "Imagine there's no leaders", but are not sure if our Leninist neighbours got the point.
The afternoon ended in the nearby "Sherlock Holmes" put where we went through the leaflets we'd been given and discussed with a former SWPer how the SWP worked internally as a top-down organisation. And we understood why there were hardly any people there trying to sell "Socialist Worker" (now headed "Vote Respect"). They had been ordered to be elsewhere, preparing to return George Galloway to Westminster.
Somewhat disappointedly our ex-SWP drinking companion, a GMB shop steward, said he was considering voting for the Lib-Dems. To tell the truth he hasn't been the only person who has told us this. It seems that ex-street fighting man Tariq Ali's call to "vote Lib Dem without illusions" is finding some echo, but of course a Lib-Dem government would be no more able to make capitalism work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers than have Labour and Tories ones and would end up, like them, managing capitalism in the only way it can be: as a profit system in the interests of the profit-takers (for the record, the last Liberal government, before the first World War, was the last government to shoot down striking workers. See "Remember Tonypandy"
A vote for the Lib-Dems is just as much a vote to hand over political power to the capitalist class and keep capitalism (and its problems) going, and so should be out of the question for anyone who wants to see established a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production so that things can be turned out and services run just to satisfy people's needs and not for profit. OK, there's only one candidate in the general election standing for this. But, as our leaflet said, if you don't live in Vauxhall you can show you want socialism by writing the word "SOCIALISM" across your ballot paper. That's a far better gesture than voting Lib-Dem in a bid to give Tony Blair a bloody nose.

No comments: