The bulletins for the SWP’s conference, to be held on 4 -6 of January 2013, have just appeared on-line. Although there are no big surprises there are a number of things worthy of comment, even at this late stage writes Alan Thornett.
The first thing to note is the absence of anything on the environment. The main perspectives text from the Central Committee (CC) does not have a single reference to the environment. In fact the only reference to the environment (in the entire 135 pages of the three bulletins) a very useful piece by Martin Empson on climate jobs which reflects the excellent work he, and a number of other SWP comrades, have long carried out in the Climate Change Trade Union Committee.
The second thing is Greece and the rise of Syriza. In both the CC perspectives and in the international report the decision of the SWP’s Greek sister organisation to reject the call from Syriza in June for the unity of the left anti-austerity parties and for a government of the anti-austerity parties is strongly supported. Its decision, as a part of the Antarsya coalition, to stand against Syriza in the June elections, thus splitting the left vote and opening the door to the current reactionary pro-austerity coalition, is also strongly supported.
The most important thing we have to understand, we are told in the international report, is the “solidly reformist thrust of Syriza’s politics. Syriza is, it is stressed, one of a number of left reformist parties, such as Die Linke in Germany and the Left Party in Holland, which have spring up in Europe and which, although striking a chord with the working class and wining good votes (spectacular in Syriza’s case), will inevitably compromise and therefore represent a threat to the revolutionary process.
Yet Syriza is one of the most left-wing parties in Europe of those which can genuinely be called broad and pluralist. It is also a party which has mass support and is deeply involved in the mass movements. Its election manifesto in June included: a moratorium on debt payments; a radical redistribution of income and wealth; the nationalisation /socialisation of the banks under social and workers’ control; the nationalisation of all public enterprises of strategic importance based on social control and democratic planning and the ecological transformation of the economy including energy, manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture.
It also called for the restoration of the minimum wage and collective agreements, no lay-offs, universal unemployment benefit, a guaranteed minimum wage, the social inclusion of immigrants, the restoration of the pensions and the universal system of social insurance, a free health service and universal, public and free education and an end to tax avoidance and tax havens, disengagement from NATO, the shutdown of the foreign military bases and support for the Palestinians.
It concluded with a declaration that the current economic and social system has failed and must be overthrown: “We are calling for a new model of production and distribution of wealth, one that would include society in its totality. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.”
This is not to say that there are no weaknesses in Syriza’s politics, it is not, of course, a revolutionary party. But the idea that the main thing to understand about it is its “solidly reformist thrust” is to loose sight of reality. If Syriza can be lumped together, in this regard, with Die Linke and the Dutch Socialist Party the terminology is rendered meaningless.
This is not to say that Syriza will necessarily stand the test if it forms a government and then comes under heavy attack from the European elites and international capital. But who could guarantee to stand such a test, including the revolutionary organisations? It would be uncharted waters, at least for many years. In any case the best way to ensure that an anti-austerity government (which was and is entirely possible in Greece) survives such a storm and take the working class forward was not (and is not) to denounce it from the side lines and predict its demise but to join it and be a part of shaping its politics and it line of march.
When it comes to the British situation the conference documents also fail the test on the unity of the movement, at least as far as the cuts are concerned. Instead of calling for a united campaign against the cuts the stress is towards building Unite the Resistance. Reasons are found for keeping the other campaigns at arms length. There is no appeal, moreover, for a united campaign against a faltering coalition which is nevertheless forcing through swinging cuts.
On TUSC and election interventions the approach of the documents are a bit more inclusive. It makes a sober assessment of the possibilities of TUSC stressing that the question of working call representation remains far from solved. There is some information as to some of the debates which have taken place in TUSC. The SWP appears to have argued that the priority should be to stand candidates with a record who can get a credible vote rather than standing the maximum number of candidates.
It is also made clear that the SWP is in favour of opening up TUSC to other sections of the left, something which has been shown in practice with their support for Socialist Resistance’s application for membership. On the other hand the perspectives text plays down the electoral work by saying that elections are not at the moment at the centre of the SWP’s work, and no mention is made of the need for a broad pluralist party of the left (or to change TUSC into such a party). It might not be so easy to play down the significance of the electoral field when its gets close to the next general election with the left still having no credible vehicle for a serious intervention.