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The Left Must Unite, by Tommy Sheridan Print E-mail

Calls for left unity are not new in Scotland, and they are not the property of one party or group. All of the major political developments and alignments in Scottish politics in recent years have been born out of a desire to harness the popular vote to the left of Labour into a coherent electoral force for change.

We can all disagree over why one project or another failed, or didn't progress in the way we thought it would, but we can surely all agree that they were genuine attempts to create a party to the left of Labour. Most of us still believe that our party or coalition IS the one that will bring these forces together.

However, realistically, there is no single party capable of taking on that role at the moment. Fortunately there are independent trade unionists, outside of the political parties, who are willing to take up the task of uniting the left for the purposes of forthcoming elections.

A call from Solidarity or any other party to join under our party banner would, quite rightly, be rejected by those who believe that their party is the vehicle of left unity. Likewise, our members would also reject the idea of joining another party outright at this time.

For that reason I am calling on Solidarity members, and all the other left parties, to get behind the independent initiatives, and provide an alternative for the voters of Scotland.

Solidarity and Left Unity

At the end of last year, the National Steering Committee of Solidarity (NSC) passed a motion that committed the party to "where possible seek left unity and to maximise left votes during elections.".

Since then, and before, a number of initiatives have taken place with varying levels of uptake and success. It is now our party policy to pursue all of the options and to seek an independent leadership in these initiatives, not dominated by one party or an empty call for all of us to unify under the banner of the Labour Party, the Greens or any other existing party.

A call for left unity based on other groups "surrendering" is a hollow call aimed at one group controlling the united forces of the left, not at uniting those people behind a progressive, socialist movement.

Currently there are several projects progressing ideas towards the next UK General Election. We welcome these initiatives as genuine attempts at left unity. Our members have taken part in talks and conferences with Trade Unions, left parties and individuals looking at ideas from a basic call for a charter to potential electoral projects. And Solidarity have now agreed to take part in the No2EU/Yes to Democracy electoral campaign for the EU elections.

The Peoples Charter

There are now several 'charters' floating around, all sharing key points and a series of demands based on socialist reforms. Solidarity are signed up to the 'People Before Profit' charter, which orginated from our comrades in the Socialist Workers Party. Last week in London, Tony Benn joined left Labour MPs and leading trades unionists like Bob Crow (RMT) Matt Wrack (FBU) and Mark Serwotka (PCS) to launch 'The Peoples Charter', something that I support. But charters are only propaganda tools and we should be looking at taking these charters as a set of demands to unite into an electoral challenge.

There is a very big difference between the position we are in now and the chartists movement two centuries ago - WE HAVE THE VOTE!

The Peoples Charter can be the basis for left unity at the next general election. Rather than gathering a million names on a petition, let's gather a million votes and more. There would be no need to give up on our individual parties, no need for a new group. All individuals and parties who sign up for the charter must pledge to fight for these demands in parliament, no matter what party they belong to. An independent or balanced group could monitor the overall picture to make sure we only see one 'charter' candidate in any consitutency.

No2EU/Yes to Democracy

Solidarity has welcomed the launch of the No2EU-Yes to Democracy electoral alliance led by the RMT union.  At our NSC last week (21st March) we agreed to offer candidates and full support to this campaign.

The initiative is a historic attempt by a union in the front line of resisting attacks on their members pay, conditions and jobs to offer voters a working class alternative to the pro big business agenda of the main parties or the xenophobia, racism and hate peddled by the far right BNP.

This is the first time a national trade union has taken the decision to stand in a national election as a challenge to Labour, and it could have huge implications for the emergence of a genuine mass working class party at a later stage. We believe this initiative gives us the opportunity to see left unity in action at the European Elections.

I appeal to Trades Unions and union branches, the Socialist Labour Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Scotland, Trades Councils to sign up in support of this courageous initiative led by the RMT. This is an important left unity project and it deserves our support and support from all on the left.

Unite to Fight

We realise that these initial attempts to achieve left electoral unity will result in some level of disagreement between the groups involved.

Anyone reading this will know that my wife and I face allegations that will result in another courtroom battle featuring some high profile members of both Solidarity and the SSP. That will make certain meetings difficult or even impossible for some individuals. But we simply have to put that to one side for the sake of the voters, and in support of the brave trade unionists who are leading these initiatives.

Socialists in both parties already work together, whether it is on the campaign to save schools in Glasgow, anti-war and pro-Palestine events, or in trade union activity. We have to treat the next election campaigns in the same way, a campaign where we share aims, where our opinion of individuals is less important than their politics.

 Capitalism IS in crisis, the working class need a channel for their anger, a voice in parliaments, we must put aside our differences for the time being to ensure we dont miss this opportunity.

Tommy Sheridan is National Co-Convenor of Solidarity, Scotland's Socialist Movement. 

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