Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How to Create a Broad, Mass Socialist Party(?)

Have a look at this article on the Socialist Unity Website. I'm not sure what I think about it (and obviously I disagree with the writer's implied argument that Respect has ground to a halt/can't reach out to a wider constituency), but there are certainly a few interesting ideas. Michael Murray is absolutely right to suggest that the key to building a socialist party which reaches out beyond the current sphere of the far-left is to attract the thousands of socialists who exist to the left of New Labour, but who (for various reasons) are not attracted to the existing revolutionary left groups. There are thousands of socialists out there, as Murray says, who want to join an organised group, but are wary of existing ones. Murray suggests that a new mass party could be developed around the broadest of principles (he suggests picking up and dusting off the Labour Party's abandoned Clause 4 as the organising set of core principles). Crucially, the party, however, would not come into physical being until a certain number of people had signed up (10,000) - it would exist only in potential as it were, on the web (as a membership form I suppose) until this point. This, Murray suggests, would mean that none of the existing left groups would be in a position to dominate it (whether intentionally or whether unavoidably through sheer weight of numbers). Murray argues that previous attempts at broad alliances have necessarily relied on the organisational backbone of an existing left group and so have not appeared attractive (rightly or wrongly) to left Labour types. Launching the party with 10,000 members already signed up would mean that non-partisans of existing revolutionary parties would be in the majority and everyone wins - the independents have a party which isn't dominated by left groups and the left groups get the mass party they've always wanted. The left groups simply act as minority currents or tendencies within the broad left party.

Hmmm. My position is that Respect remains the best vehicle for attracting ex-Labour members and independent socialists. It needs a kick start, however, something that will truly put it on the political map as a serious player - ie a couple of seats at the General Election. Murray's plan should be put on hold - hopefully we won't need it.

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