No concession to Labour

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

Socialist Alliance’s electoral fiasco on 1 May (see Roundup FRFI 173) has not dimmed the enthusiasm of the left for building an electoral alternative to what it describes as New Labour. In Socialist Worker, Lindsay German describes possible models that a ‘credible electoral alternative’ could take, and after discussing the model of the SSP suggests that ‘There’s another model – the original Independent Labour Party (ILP) which Marxists were central to founding in 1893 with Keir Hardie. It had Marxists, trade unionists, Christian socialists and was an attempt to bring together the components of what had been a mass movement. It failed partly because it was formed after the high tide of New Unionism in a period of defeats and partly because Hardie held to a form of Christian socialism which lacked political clarity.’ Such an assessment glosses over many crucial facts. The founding conference of the ILP rejected the title ‘Socialist Labour Party’ in favour of the title ‘Independent Labour Party as ‘a signal to the Liberals that there were no fundamental political disagreements between the two parties, at least none that might that prevent them arriving at electoral agreements, open or otherwise’. (Clough, Labour: A party fit for imperialism p22). The ILP organised almost exclusively amongst the skilled and better-off sections of the working class and drew its ideology from the Fabians and middle class liberalism – Marxists had no influence. In other words the ILP was to the Liberals what the Socialist Alliance is to the Labour Party today. This might explain why German is now touting it as an example for the SA.

Such an assessment would find support from the Stop the War activists’ conference on 18 June which FRFI supporters attended. Tony Benn – like Keir Hardie a committed Christian – gave the keynote speech. No criticisms of the Labour Party were offered; typically, the SWP’s John Rees omitted to mention the responsibility of the Labour government for the war on Iraq. Others expressed their racist contempt for the Palestinian people by describing Hamas as the mirror image of Zionism. Nothing here, then, to upset future electoral alliances, or to challenge Labour imperialism. Nor was there on 17 July when FRFI comrades attended a meeting in Newington Green, North London; Lindsay German described Jeremy Corbyn and George Galloway as ‘wonderful’ and said that ‘without these two MPs the campaign would have been much smaller and had less political clarity’. A very wealthy MP arrived late as usual to milk the adulation of the audience with the staged entrance that is his trademark. George Galloway (estimated minimum annual income £200,000, owner of three houses) then quoted Rosa Luxemburg on socialism against barbarism, but wouldn’t answer as to whether his endorsement of this great revolutionary meant we shouldn’t vote Labour in the future.

In contrast, FRFI is fighting to build a genuine anti-imperialist movement which makes no concessions to the Labour Party. In London, members of FRFI/Victory to the Intifada group have stepped up action in support of the Palestinian people by reinstating Thursday evening pickets outside Marks & Spencer at Marble Arch. Comrades are organising a day of action, ‘Oxford Street Intifada’, on Saturday 2 August against all those corporations who support the
illegal occupation of Palestine. The day will involve actions, occupations and street meetings to highlight the role of companies such as M&S, Selfridges, Caterpillar and Starbucks. VTI also joined the picket of Downing Street on 21 July when Ariel Sharon met Tony Blair – a convention of war criminals.

In Manchester, weekly pickets of Market Street M&S are attracting more abuse from Zionists. Provocations are regular; one picketer is facing a charge under the Public Order Act whilst others await a court hearing on summonses issued by the City Council. The City Council has also summonsed Stop the War activists; one has been charged with police assault. The Zionist Jewish Telegraph has been weighing into the M&S picket; in a recent
letter from Israel, a Zionist who had seen the picket complained that ‘public opinion in Britain is so anti-Israel’ – so we must be having some impact!

FRFI supporters also contributed to the Northeast Social Forum in Durham at the end of June, speaking on Cuba and Palestine. Meanwhile in London, members at LSE held a very successful public meeting featuring the investigative journalist Greg Palast. Ninety people listened to a lively discussion on corporate corruption and imperialism.


FRFI/Victory to the Intifada Group
Saturday 2 August ‘Oxford Street Intifada’ Day of action and occupations against the main corporate sponsors of Zionism: Marks & Spencer, Caterpillar, Starbucks and Selfridges. Meet at 12 noon outside Marks & Spencer, Oxford Street (Marble Arch end)

Wednesday 20 August
Victory to the Intifada campaign meeting Discussion: Palestine and the Middle East Come and organise anti-imperialist solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada. 7pm, Room G1, London School of Economics, Kingsway, WC2 (Holborn tube)
For more details call 07815 617 746

Pickets of Marks & Spencer, Marble Arch: Every Thursday evening 6 - 8pm

For further details, contact
07949 256 477
Victory to the Intifada! Picket of Marks & Spencer, Market Street, Manchester City Centre, 12-3pm every Saturday. For more info contact, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 07816 547 066

For information on other activities of Manchester RCG over the summer, contact, manchesterfrfi@revolutionary or phone 07816 547 066.

FRFI Readers Group meeting: Thursday 28 August, 7.30pm, Govanhall Neighbourhood Community Centre, 6 Daisy Street, Glasgow G42 8JL

FRFI Student Society meeting: Thursday 2 October, 7.30pm. Debates Chamber, Strathclyde University Students Union, John Street Glasgow.

For more details on Scotland FRFI activities and weekly stalls and events call 07779 785 529


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