What’s this got to do with the SWP? Well, according to employment minister Chris Grayling, it’s all the fault of “a small group of long-standing militant activists from the far Left… (running) a big internet campaign that is being run by an organisation that is a front for the Socialist Workers Party.” At one point, the preposterous Grayling even accused the SWP of hacking his email – an allegation he has since had to withdraw.
The claim that the campaign is simply a handful of SWP’ers is repeated in more detail in today’s Sunday Telegraph, which names SWP full-timer Michael Bradley, party member Julie Sherry and Right To Work chairperson Sam James, as key figures.
Now, I have not been personally involved with the present incarnation of the Right To Work Campaign (it’s a relatively recent revival of the original 1970’s campaign), but it’s obvious that it is being largely run, financed and directed by the SWP. You could even, perhaps, call it a “front”: in principle, what’s wrong with that? In fact, congratulations to them – it’s by far the most useful and progressive activity the SWP has been involved in for many, many years. But I can also guarantee you that people other than SWP’ers are involved, and even the Torygraph acknowledges that the Socialist Party’s Youth Fight For Jobs and the non-aligned UK Uncut are part of the campaign.
Regardless of whether it’s fair to call Right to Work a “front” for the SWP, the dramatic success of the campaign (Tesco, for instance, have now abandoned the unpaid work experience scheme and announced its own programme paying £7 per hour) proves that a determined, well organised campaign focussing on an issue of immediate relevance to working class people, can achieve real results – something we perhaps tend to forget after years of defeats and setbacks.
Sadly, at yesterday’s Unite Against Fascism (UAF) national conference, the SWP were back to their usual form:
“There has been quite a bit of fuss, including inside the SWP, about the lack of democracy in UAF, and so this year – for the first time since the campaign’s founding in 2003, believe it or not – there were elections for the national committee. However even this small step was largely a formality or, to be blunt, a fake. Rather than a proper open election for a multi-member committee, candidates had to be nominated for a variety of individual positions (chair, vice chair, secretary, assistant secretary, parliamentary officer and so on).
“Obviously this will have discouraged people from standing – and, lo and behold, there was only one candidate for each position. (Many of them were nominated by “Love Music Hate Racism” and “One Society Many Cultures” – “organisations” which decide these things how, exactly?) However this was only achieved by excluding Justin Baidoo, a young socialist and trade unionist from South London wishing to challenge SWP full-timer Martin Smith for assistant secretary, on a technicality. (See here.) The chair of his union branch had sent in the nomination, but failed to send in the reaffiliation form.
“Given this is the first time UAF has held elections, and given there were no other contested elections, you might think something could be done? Wouldn’t it have been positive to have a real election? But no, rules are rules – that is, when they allow the UAF leadership to carve out opponents. I guess it would have been particularly embarrassing for the SWP to have Martin Smith attacked from the left by a young, black socialist. (I should say that Justin chose not to get up on the floor of the conference and demand a vote on his exclusion – which I think was a mistake.)
“Nonetheless, surely the election still went ahead, with participants having the chance to vote for ‘Re-Open Nominations’? Don’t be silly! The ‘candidates’ were simply declared elected. I wondered if some SWPers cringed at this total absence of democracy.”
Read the rest here.