So here we are again, another election and another set of promises of austerity, militarism and xenophobia from the big three parties. It’s looking increasingly likely that it will end in tears for Cameron and the Tories. Miliband’s Labour has lost the Scottish branch office but may be able to form a minority administration sustained by nationalist votes of confidence courtesy of a rampant Scottish National Party.
Framing the election is the economic rebound sustained by low wages, punitive measures against the unemployed and the disabled and severe cuts to crucial services. The Scottish independence referendum of 2014 still looms large with the SNP hoovering up the mass movement into an anti-working class party that has donned the mask of social democracy for the time being. We have the crisis of the NHS that is being propped up by foreign nurses and doctors who are in turn scapegoated by an increasingly xenophobic political establishment who have followed Nigel Farage into the sewer in the so-called immigration debate. The surge in Green Party membership has left some socialists feeling under the weather and in their delirium opting to throw their support behind the Greens.
What has marked out this election is not that there are no differences between the two main parties but that neither have stepped beyond an extremely narrow political centre: to Labour’s detriment in Scotland and to the Conservative’s in the South East. Both are committed to austerity – give or take a few pounds – and both have stirred up mistrust and even hatred of migrants and those seeking asylum and refuge in Britain. We know that things could be marginally better under a Labour government and that millions of workers will be voting on 7 May for Labour as a lesser evil. Alongside the attacks on benefits claimants, migrants and the unemployed, Labour is also offering jobs guarantees, the renationalisation of social care and a reduction in tuition fees. So we have a Labour approach that is constantly looking over its left shoulder and seeing the Green Party and the SNP eat into its base. Yet Labour is still committed to the market and austerity and there seems to be no prospect of a shift away from the narrow political centre.
Scotland looks set to return an almost entirely SNP set of MPs, effectively demolishing any chance of an outright Labour majority. The collapse of Labour in the post-referendum ferment has stunned the media, the left and the Labour Party. It still doesn’t seem to have sunk in for Scottish Labour which looks like a punch drunk fool unsure of what to say or where to go. The only thing they are sure of is that they won’t do a deal with the SNP. Some on the left have lent their support to the SNP (along with Rupert Murdoch and Brian Souter) for the elections. We think this is a fundamental mistake as nationalism, even with a social democratic mask, divides workers on national lines and will be detrimental to the struggle against austerity and for socialist change in Britain where Scottish, English and Welsh workers have forged a common history through struggle, through the unions and through Labour and the defunct Communist Party. A step towards the nationalist camp is a further step down the road of disunity and weakness.
Despite this bleak picture there is a stirring to break the capitalist consensus and ensure socialist ideas and arguments are heard. Along with others, the Independent Socialist Network has fought tough and nail for the strongest and broadest socialist challenge at the election. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has presented the widest field of socialist candidates outside of the Labour Party at a general election for generations with 135 parliamentary candidates and 619 local council candidates. This is a real achievement and it is to the credit of all its constituent parts that millions will have been exposed to anti-austerity and socialist arguments that are so sorely lacking in British politics. Left Unity also fielded a modest intervention which has marked a step forward, not least because so many of Left Unity’s candidates are running on a joint ticket with TUSC, overcoming mistrust and the sectarianism of a small minority.
We feel that both Left Unity and TUSC have a role to play in building a socialist alternative over the coming years. For those in TUSC we urge them to be brave and take the step to call for a new socialist party and for Left Unity we urge patience and openness to the rest of the left in building a new party. We know that neither TUSC nor Left Unity are finished articles and that neither are without faults but they can be the stepping stones to the mass party we need. The leaders of TUSC and Left Unity must not squander the good work of socialists on the ground with a lack of vision moving forward. Our approach has always been to push forward all opportunities to build a credible socialist alternative in Britain. This journal will continue to be a space for the key debates in our movement and a place for analysis from voices across the left.
For us, this issue of The Project marks another step forward as the journal has now been in existence for a year. Over that time we have built up a growing readership and sought to address and intervene in the debates that are taking place across the left whilst ensuring our eyes are not taken off the real movement. From August Nimtz on Marx, Lenin and democracy to Neil Davidson on the Scottish independence referendum to Ghada Razuki on working conditions for airline staff we have attempted to cover as many angles as possible. As we go into our second year you can expect more of the same commitment to having serious debate and for us to be unflinching in discussing hot topics. The post-election period will be one of the most confused and politically intense for a while and out of this we need to cut a path for genuine socialist politics to shine through. That requires space to think, debate and assess, and that is the role The Project will continue to play.
We would like to extend our thanks to all of the supporters and writers who have helped us over the last year.