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Why the Communists Won’t Join in Respect

Communist Party of Britain

On 17 January 2004 a special congress of the Communist Party of Britain rejected a proposal that the party should participate in the Respect Coalition formed by George Galloway, the Socialist Workers Party and others. This statement explaining the decision was published in the 22 January issue of the Morning Star.

THE COMMUNIST Party’s electoral strategy is the servant of our general perspective for transforming the labour movement into the main instrument and rallying-point of all those seeking progressive social change.

Any electoral policy adopted by communists in Britain today must he based upon our overall strategy of defeating the new Labour clique and winning a united labour movement for socialism.

Our existing electoral policy supplies sufficient scope for opposing right-wing Labour candidates where circumstances require, but still retains the party’s traditional Leninist position of winning the trade union movement and, through it, the Labour Party for socialist policies.

This is predicated upon the assumption that it is possible to reclaim party formed by the trade unions 100 years ago and for which Lenin urged support.

Consistent with this strategy, the present electoral policy adopted at the 46th Communist Party congress provides full scope for a flexible response to the current political situation in which the new Labour clique have taken control of the party and are pursing reactionary policies at home and abroad.

This policy does not preclude voting for individual left candidates who have captured the popular support of the masses and who, by their standing in the movement, are able to advance the cause of social justice.

We are prepared to back candidates who command the support of the labour and democratic movements in their area but who have been denied the right to be official Labour Party candidates by the dominant right-wing faction.

In the London mayoral elections, in line with our previous and existing policy, we should support Ken Livingstone whether or not he is readmitted to the Labour Party.

Where the party’s executive committee believes that local or special circumstances require it – on recommendation of the relevant local branch or district committee – we are open to working alongside others on the left in the electoral field, provided there is agreement on strategic perspectives for the labour movement.

If, at any time, the Communist Party agrees to enter into electoral alliances, the manifesto of any such alliance must go before the executive committee for agreement.

The Communist Party will continue to stand its own electoral candidates where this can help to contribute to a strong left challenge within the labour movement to the policies of the Blair clique and raise the case for working class struggle and socialism.

We remain committed, however, to the return of a Labour government and to support for Labour candidates in elections where these conditions do not apply, to unity to defeat the Tories in all fields and to winning the Labour Party for socialism.

In no circumstances, therefore would we join an electoral alliance that seeks to establish itself as an alternative to the Labour Party. We are opposed to the formation of any new national coalition that stands in elections against the Labour Party. Any electoral alliances that are not supported by the movement are doomed to failure or destined to repeat the past mistakes of social democracy. It is democratic accountability and control by the movement that will determine which path any future "left" government takes.

In particular, we reject participation in the Respect coalition proposed by George Galloway and others. It is a narrow-based front for the SWP which has emerged from the remnants of the failed Socialist Alliance and is likely to divide not only the labour movement but the anti-war movement as well.

Its main constituent organisation holds quite different views to those of our party on the role and potential of the trade union movement and its leadership, on the national question and the nature of imperialism and on the socialist countries, past and present.

Our party rejects participation in any alliance which might weaken our influence and role in the struggle to unite the labour movement around the perspective of defeating the Blair leadership in the Labour Party and building the fight for socialist policies in the labour and trade union movement.

Participation in an electoral alliance that opposes the Labour Party in all seats would severely damage the ability of our party to argue for our overall strategy in the labour movement. This would be the case even if our direct participation was only for the 2004 European parliament and Greater London Assembly elections.

Such a departure from our long-standing policy would be interpreted, whatever our statements to the contrary, as indicating that the Communist Party has abandoned any hope that the Labour Party can be reclaimed.

Such a message would do great damage and be counter-productive in a political situation where new Labour is in deep crisis and greater opportunities exist for changing the balance than has been the case for a decade.

No less seriously, it would also make much more difficult our fight to maintain the unity of the trade union and labour movement as the ultimate vehicle for socialist political change in Britain.

Thus, the Communist Party will not participate in the Respect alliance, while recognising that debate on the character of the Labour Party and, the way forward needs to continue.

This does not mean that we should call for a Labour vote in all circumstances. In the forthcoming European parliament and Greater London Assembly elections, we will put maximum pressure on Labour candidates on, for example, the question of the war on Iraq, their support for a referendum on the EU constitution and opposition to privatisation, the euro and to racism.

Where Labour candidates refuse to take a progressive stance on these issues, Communist Party organisations will determine who they should support in the local circumstances.

The question of the European Union is one that causes major confusion in the labour movement. The role of a Communist Party standing in the European parliament elections is to expose the EU as a product and a tool of transnational corporations.

The EU cannot be reformed and serve the interests of the European working class. It will also, by its nature, continue to distort the economies of Third World countries and further impoverish their populations by the use of unfair trade deals etc.

The Communist Party will not form electoral alliances with organisations that do not see withdrawal from the EC as a major weapon in fighting imperialism. The essential campaigns on the euro and the proposed European Union constitution are exceedingly important.

However, maintaining the status quo is not a long-term option either because, even without the euro and the EU constitution, the EU may appear acceptable. Nothing could be further from the truth and the undemocratic nature of the body as a whole will still continue intact.

There is no short-term solution to the problem of right-wing Labour. There can be no real solution until the labour movement is united and provides active leadership for social change. This will require a vast amount of political education for the leading class forces. This is one of the main roles for the Communist Party.

Our party needs to increase its detailed work in communities and the trade union movement to rally support for the left and to reclaim the Labour Party for its original objectives as a democratically organised party representing the labour movement.

This is an essential complement of our electoral strategy and is made ever more important by current developments in the trade union movement.

The Communist Party will also continue our existing policy of forming the broadest campaigning alliances on issues such as peace, Star Wars, the EU constitution, anti-racism and anti-union laws.