Neither of them will thank me for saying this, but there’s no reason on this earth why they couldn’t share the same organisation.
Hear me out now, folks.
One of the real complaints that you always hear from people who consider themselves on the left, but who won’t join one left group or another, is that they are sick of seeing people refusing to work together because of ostensibly petty disagreements on specific issues. There’s then a corollary push-back from the left groups, who insist that the disagreement over the class nature of the (now non existent) Soviet Union is the biggest deal on this earth, and that besides, Comrade XYZ, the guru of ZXY group that they simply won’t join with, was always an arsehole, as was shown by his attitude on the Buggins’ Fishworks dispute of 1962. Whilst I do find the intra-left disputes tremendously amusing from an anorak point of view, I must confess that the non aligned are largely right on this one.
For instance. The AWL and the Socialist Party formally disagree on the issue of the Labour Party, for all sorts of historical reasons. Both in the 1980s saw the Labour Party as (to use Leninist terminology) a “bourgeois workers’ party”, which to translate to English, meant that they saw it as an organisation torn between bourgeois inclinations and a working class base, a terrain on which leftist organisations could fight to win class-conscious working people. The Socialist Party changed its view shortly after – in its previous incarnation as the Militant Tendency – it was booted out of the Labour Party. The AWL has also loosened its ties with Labour, but less so, and retains the same class analysis of the Labour Party that it previously held. The two organisations also disagree about particular issues, for instance specific union disputes.
Oh, and they disagree about the class nature of the Soviet Union as well. But then, senior figures within at least one of the two groups disagree amongst themselves about that. And besides, who gives a toss?
But… on every other major contemporary national or international issue that I can think of, not counting differences of public tone and tenor, they agree. About the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. About the NHS. About the education system. About immigration and asylum. You name it.
I remember when I was a 19-year old student, a member of the AWL telling me that “if the SWP allowed us to organise openly within a joint organisation, and let us freely express our ideas in the public press, we’d join with it.” Or words to that effect. That’s the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty talking about the Socialist Workers’ Party.
So, AWL and SP, what the hell’s your excuse for not doing exactly that sort of merging, into one democratic, joint, socialist organisation? Or are your mutual historical antipathies more important to you, than the ideal of the left speaking to the people of the UK with one voice?
I’ll tell you one thing; if those old intra-left wars are more important to you, then neither one of you deserve to call yourselves decent advocates for working people in this country.