It’s Time To Create A Socialist Alternative

An open letter to the left from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP)

Dear comrade,

Labour’s vote collapsed to a historic low in last week’s elections as the right made gains. The Tories under David Cameron are now set to win the next general election.

The British National Party (BNP) secured two seats in the European parliament. Never before have fascists achieved such a success in Britain.

The result has sent a shockwave across the labour and anti-fascist movements, and the left.

The meltdown of the Labour vote and the civil war engulfing the party poses a question – where do we go from here?

The fascists pose a threat to working class organisations, black, Asian and other residents of this country – who BNP führer Nick Griffin dubs “alien” – our civil liberties and much else.

History teaches us that fascism can be fought and stopped, but only if we unite to resist it.

The SWP firmly believes that the first priority is to build even greater unity and resistance to the fascists over the coming months and years.

The BNP believes it has created the momentum for it to achieve a breakthrough. We have to break its momentum.

The success of the anti-Nazi festival in Stoke and the numbers of people who joined in anti-fascist campaigning shows the basis is there for a powerful movement against the Nazis.

The Nazis’ success will encourage those within the BNP urging a “return to the streets”.

This would mean marches targeting multiracial areas and increased racist attacks. We need to be ready to mobilise to stop that occurring.

Griffin predicted a “perfect storm” would secure the BNP’s success. The first part of that storm he identified was the impact of the recession.

The BNP’s policies of scapegoating migrants, black and Asian people will divide working people and make it easier to drive through sackings, and attacks on services and pensions.

Unity is not a luxury. It is a necessity. If we do not stand together we will pay the price for a crisis we did not cause.

The second lesson from the European elections is that we need a united fightback to save jobs and services.

If Cameron is elected he will attempt to drive through policies of austerity at the expense of the vast majority of the British people.

But the Tories’ vote fell last week and they are nervous about pushing through attacks.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne told business leaders, “After three months in power we will be the most unpopular government since the war.”

We need to prepare for battle.

But there is a third and vital issue facing the left and the wider working class. The crisis that has engulfed Westminster benefited the BNP.

The revelations of corruption, which cabinet members were involved in, were too much for many Labour voters, who could not bring themselves to vote for the party.

One answer to the problem is to say that we should swallow everything New Labour has done and back it to keep David Cameron, and the BNP, out.

Yet it would take a miracle for Gordon Brown to be elected back into Downing Street.

The danger is that by simply clinging on we would be pulled down with the wreckage of New Labour.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil service workers’ union, has asked how, come the general election, can we ask working people to cast a ballot for ministers like Pat McFadden.

McFadden is pushing through the privatisation of the post office.

Serwotka proposes that trade unions should stand candidates.

Those who campaigned against the BNP in the elections know that when they said to people, “Don’t vote Nazi” they were often then asked who people should vote for.

The fact that there is no single, united left alternative to Labour means there was no clear answer available.

The European election results demonstrate that the left of Labour vote was small, fragmented and dispersed.

The Greens did not make significant gains either. The mass of Labour voters simply did not vote. We cannot afford a repeat of that.

The SWP is all too aware of the differences and difficulties involved in constructing such an alternative.

We do not believe we have all the answers or a perfect prescription for a left wing alternative.

But we do believe we have to urgently start a debate and begin planning to come together to offer such an alternative at the next election, with the awareness that Gordon Brown might not survive his full term.

One simple step would be to convene a conference of all those committed to presenting candidates representing working class interests at the next election.

The SWP is prepared to help initiate such a gathering and to commit its forces to such a project.

We look forward to your response.

Yours fraternally.

Socialist Workers Party

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The following should be read alongside this article:

» Time to fight back together

For more information or to show your support email openletter@swp.org.uk

See also:

Open Letter to the left responses: How we can join together

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What Would A Socialist Alternative To Capitalism Look Like?

What would a socialist alternative to capitalism be like?

The following documentary on the social change taking place in Venezuela gives us an insight into the type of changes that would follow if a socialist government were ever to be elected.

Videos Reveal G20 Police Aggression And Assault On Man Who Died

Exclusive footage obtained by the Guardian shows Ian Tomlinson, who died during G20 protests in London, was attacked from behind by baton–wielding police officer

Dramatic footage obtained by the Guardian shows that the man who died at last week’s G20 protests in London was attacked from behind and thrown to the ground by a baton–wielding police officer in riot gear.

Moments after the assault on Ian Tomlinson was captured on video, he collapsed to the ground and despite attempts by fellow protestors was pronounced dead shortly after*.

This was not an isolated incident. The police operation on 1st April was a disgrace.

Watch this short film of the police operation in Bishopsgate where the police attacked peaceful protestors demonstrating against climate change measures.

The footage clearly shows the campers calling out “this is not a riot” and holding their arms in the air, while riot police surge forward wielding batons and shields in an unprovoked attack.

Bikes, tents and personal belongings were damaged and lost in the attacks. Several people were injured.  There were reports of several arrests. At one point a small group of people are trapped between riot police coming in from a side entrance on the east, and more pushing up from the south.

This footage must be seen by the justice committee on ‘policing protests’. Almost every one of their recommendations are broken.

The Guardian is preparing to hand a dossier of evidence to the police complaints watchdog on the death of Ian Tomlinson.

It sheds new light on the events surrounding the death of the 47-year-old newspaper seller, who had been on his way home from work when he was confronted by lines of riot police near the Bank of England.

The submission to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) includes a collection of testimonies from witnesses, along with the video footage, shot at around 7.20pm, which shows Tomlinson at Royal Exchange Passage.

The film reveals that as he walks, with his hands in his pockets, he does not speak to the police or offer any resistance.

A phalanx of officers, some with dogs and some in riot gear, are close behind him and try to urge him forward.

A Metropolitan police officer appears to strike him with a baton, hitting him from behind on his upper thigh.

Moments later, the same policeman rushes forward and, using both hands, pushes Tomlinson in the back and sends him flying to the ground, where he remonstrates with police who stand back, leaving bystanders to help him to his feet.

The man who shot the footage, a fund manager from New York who was in London on business, said: “The primary reason for me coming forward is that it was clear the family were not getting any answers.”

The Guardian’s dossier also includes a sequence of photographs, taken by three different people, showing the aftermath of the attack, as well as witness statements from people in the area at the time.

A number of witnesses provided time and date-stamped photographs that substantiate their accounts.

Some said they saw police officers attack Tomlinson.

Witnesses said that, prior to the moment captured on video, he had already been hit with batons and thrown to the floor by police who blocked his route home.

One witness, Anna Branthwaite, a photographer, described how, in the minutes before the video was shot, she saw Tomlinson walking towards Cornhill Street.

“A riot police officer had already grabbed him and was pushing him,” she said.

“It wasn’t just pushing him – he’d rushed him. He went to the floor and he did actually roll. That was quite noticeable.

“It was the force of the impact. He bounced on the floor. It was a very forceful knocking down from behind. The officer hit him twice with a baton when he was lying on the floor.

“So it wasn’t just that the officer had pushed him – it became an assault.

“And then the officer picked him up from the back, continued to walk or charge with him, and threw him.

“He was running and stumbling. He didn’t turn and confront the officer or anything like that.”

The witness accounts contradict the official version of events given by police.

In an official statement on the night of Tomlinson’s death, the Metropolitan police made no reference to any contact with officers and simply described attempts by police medics and an ambulance crew to save his life after he collapsed – efforts they said were marred by protesters throwing missiles as first aid was administered .

The force said officers had created a cordon around Tomlinson to give him CPR.

“The officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles – believed to be bottles – were being thrown at them,” it said.

Yesterday, the IPCC began managing an investigation by City of London police into the circumstances of Tomlinson’s death after the Guardian published photographs of him on the ground and witness statements indicated he had been assaulted by police officers.

The IPCC commissioner for London, Deborah Glass, said: “Initially, we had accounts from independent witnesses who were on Cornhill, who told us that there had been no contact between the police and Mr Tomlinson when he collapsed.”

“However, other witnesses who saw him in the Royal Exchange area have since told us that Mr Tomlinson did have contact with police officers.

“This would have been a few minutes before he collapsed. It is important that we are able to establish as far as possible whether that contact had anything to do with his death.”

The IPCC added that Tomlinson was captured on CCTV walking onto Royal Exchange Passage.

“This is the aspect of the incident that the IPCC is now investigating,” it said.

It was here the video was shot. A post mortem carried out by a Home Office pathologist last Friday revealed Tomlinson died of a heart attack.

Prior to seeing the dossier of evidence, Tomlinson’s family said in a statement: “There were so many people around where Ian died, and so many people with cameras, that somebody must have seen what happened in the Royal Exchange passageway.

“We need to know what happened there and whether it had anything to do with Ian’s death.

“We know that some people who were at the protest may not feel comfortable talking to the police.

“People are putting pictures on the internet, writing on blogs and talking to journalists. But we really need them to talk to the people who are investigating what happened.”

The attack and subsequent death of Ian Tomlinson is an attack against every man and woman in the country. It could have been any of us in that position at that time. It is an attack that must be responded to.  This is another example of how the  government will behave when the people speak up or raise their voice.  It cannot be swept under the carpet. Make no mistake, the signal from Downing Street was clearly to come down hard on protestors.

The Metropolitan police had contacted a number of protest groups in the week before warning that the main day of protest, Wednesday, 1 April would be “very violent”, and senior commanders made clear that they were “up for it, and up to it”, should there be any trouble.

Make no mistake, this was a public display of brutality and aggression aimed at getting a message across.  The majority of protestors were peaceful but were met with pent up aggression and organised violence.  A  pumped up mob of testosterone fuelled officers in riot gear that had been given the green light to go and smash some skulls. I am amazed their is only one death to report.

R.I.P IAN TOMLINSON 2009

*It is now known that the cause of death was as a result of internal bleeding caused by the blows from the police officer’s assault. The officer has now come forwards and is being charged with manslaughter.