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Since the socialist unity conference last year Socialist Democracy has been carrying regular inserts on Socialist Unity. To many this seems foolish. That was then and this is now. The general election is a new story.
In our view the question of unity was always a task of recognising the issues on which a recomposition of the working class could take place. It would never be easy for disparate organisations to agree what these were, but at least there could be fraternal discussion and the possibility of joint campaigns. Most of the left showed no appreciation of this, swinging between sentimental hymns to unity for its own sake and the rawest opportunism and sectarianism.
The Socialist Party pulled out right away. Their perspective was to get a second TD by careful constituency work and avoiding big ideas that might unsettle their base – they seem to avoid the ‘S’ word outside its inclusion in the Party title. The Socialist Workers Party showed utter contempt for the unity it espoused, setting up a series of gerry-built fronts, constantly retreating to opportunism and avoiding any political discussion. Eventually they pulled out to stand themselves on a platform heavy with the gas-and-water socialism they had earlier condemned.
The results are what we see – a collapse of the opposition in the election with the left incapable of taking a lead in the building of a new working-class movement.
What we have to remember is that these positions by the SP and SWP were consciously chosen in the face of critical debate. As organisations they seem incapable of facing up to the political tasks that face them.
This does not yet to have dawned on SP supporters – perhaps because their expectations are set so low by the party. In the case of the SWP the constant changes of line have resulted to two splits which we report on inside.
We are also able to report on developments in the republican left and in the trade unions. Not all of these are positive – the news from the ATGWU is bad – but they do show life outside the SP and SWP – a life in which they will become increasingly irrelevant unless they find the will to honestly engage in debate about political programme and a willingness to present that programme to the working class.