No doubt we were disappointed and it would be wrong to suggest otherwise. However, in the cold light of day, it probably was not unexpected, given that people in a general election want to elect a government (or at least influence who they don’t want) and we were certainly not planning to form a government in a hurry!
Words like “socialism” and “trade unionist” are also widely perceived as negative and there is a serious job to do to rehabilitate them and give new meaning to them in the 21st century. I do think however, given this context, that many peole would have liked to vote for us, but in the end voted for Labour, albeit very reluctantly, in order to keep the Tories out. Our support was therefore larger than the votes suggest – but by how much is very difficult to judge.
The question of votes aside, was the campaign useful in terms of developing roots, making contacts and spreading socialist ideas?
Yes, it was useful, but again limited. We mounted a campaign over a 4 week period and this is bound to have limited effect. But we were there on the ballot paper (and the “S” word was there!), we presented an alternative and every household in the constituency recieved our leaflet and some people heard our “voice” at hustings or during our street activites in Wellingorough and Rushden.
What lessons should the left draw from this election?
The left is incredibly weak and we need to recognise this. TUSC was unknown, and was formed only to fight the general election. Its title hardly inspired and was really unknown outside of very narrow left circles. Talk of forming new parties (whether a new “Communist” or a new “Workers” party) are, frankly, naive and unrealsitic in the foreseeable future. The Left needs to jettison its sectarianism, and narrow programmes that only appeal to a small number of people, and work for unity around community and workplace campaigns that bring people together to resist the onslaught that is about to hit us.
We need to think in terms of respectful and diverse alliances or “coalitions” on the Left, including working with the Greens, left Labour, non-aligned socialists. We need to defend public services, jobs and continue to present an alternative to the concensus that was apparent from all the main parties in the election. We need to present a positive vision of the kind of socialist society that is possible, but not be dogmatic about what this might “look” like in the 21st century. We ned to engage with new sections of the community – young people in particular – in ways that can excite and inspire. We also need to make left politics fun – as well as being serious in our intent to change society for the better!
Shortly our local group – Independent Socialists in Wellingborough – will be assessing where we go from here and I am looking forward to the debate. There is also a TUSC national conference in early June, with candidates and TUSC national trade union sponsors/supporters, to discuss the future. Interesting times? Optimism of the will. Pessimism of the spirit – or is it the other way round?
From the outset you were clear that this election would be followed (whoever won) by increased attacks on the working class. Where do we go from here?
I don’t think the attacks will just affect the “working class” (although no doubt they will suffer the most – particularly the poorest and most marginalised). We need to look to develop broad alliances of resistence – drawing in a wide spectrum of people into progressive politics. Also, see my previous answer.