Reds and Greens Unite!
IN THE list section of the London Assembly vote on 4 May, reds and greens won a combined 16.41% of the poll – a sixth of the total turnout, and nearly 2% more than the Liberal Democrats. The Green Party polled 11.08%, and 5.33% was won by the London Socialist Alliance, myself, the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation, the Socialist Labour Party and the Communist Party of Britain. If all those votes could be united in a broad electoral alliance, the green left would be the third force in London politics – pushing the Lib Dems into fourth place.
There are two lessons to be learnt from the London elections. First: unity is strength. Second: a radical, broad-based political alliance to the left of Labour is electorally viable. The priority must now be the construction of a grand alliance of radical, left, alternative and green political forces – including single issue campaigns and groups representing minority communities – along the lines of the successful Alliance 90 coalition in Berlin.
The Alliance 90 model is instructive and inspiring. It did not call itself socialist, although socialist-inspired parties were central to its organisation and programme. It won seats precisely because it reached out and united nearly all radical political constituencies, including many greens and others who did not traditionally identify with the left.
In the UK, the red-green project will likewise only succeed if the radical left is willing to give up vanguardist, hegemonic politics and dare to enter an alliance of equals. This means broadening its "pure" socialist agenda and sharing power with other progressive political forces outside the orbit of the traditional left, such as roads protesters, campaigners for the legalisation of cannabis, anti-GM food activists, and organisations fighting on behalf of women, the elderly, lesbians and gay men, black people and the disabled.
In particular, no serious, successful green-left realignment will work without the involvement of the Green Party which, in the London election, did more than twice as well as all the socialist forces combined. Are left groupings like the LSA willing to work with the Green Party? This is a very pertinent question, because on the basis of the 4 May result the Green Party can arguably claim to be the major radical/progressive force in London politics. Is the LSA prepared to give up a bit of its power and autonomy to be a part of a bigger, broader alliance? Or does it see itself as the alliance, to which everyone else must subscribe? I hope not, because that would be a recipe for the continuing fragmentation and marginalisation of the left and other progressive political parties and social movements.