Views in brief

February 15, 2008

Can broad left parties succeed?

THE VIEWS and Voices article regarding the crisis in Respect in Britain raised a number of questions ("What happened to Respect?" December 7). While it is obvious that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) made many mistakes during this controversy, the article presented a simplistic account of the split.

Clive Searle argues that the origins of the split lay solely in the paranoid and manipulative actions of the SWP. Undoubtedly this analysis contains a kernel of truth. But it does little to advance our understanding of the more important political implications of the split and fails to draw out lessons for the left.

The roots of the Respect fiasco lie not just in the choices of the SWP, but in the "broad party" strategy adopted by much of the international revolutionary left in recent years. Socialists in Italy, Scotland, Germany and other countries have tried to develop broad left-wing electoral coalitions as a political counterweight to neoliberalism.

Formations like Respect, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation) in Italy are attempts to organize the discontent of workers and youth into a fighting political force by uniting revolutionary socialists with those who place more emphasis on reforming the existing system. Across Europe in particular, they have scored some more or less modest electoral gains.

But as the debacle in Britain demonstrates, these coalitions are inherently fragile and tenuous. Not only Respect, but also the SSP have suffered damaging splits. In Italy, Rifondazione has asserted its thoroughly reformist character, betraying the principles of working-class internationalism by supporting the call to send Italian troops to Afghanistan.

For revolutionary socialists, there are no short cuts to building resistance to capitalism and winning the support of working people. As the founder of the SWP, Tony Cliff, once wrote, "After years of isolation and torment under Nazism and Stalinism, the Trotskyists suffered from the psychological need to believe in miracles. Cut off from the working class, they turned to various 'get-rich-quick' schemes to win influence in the broader movement."

Unfortunately for our comrades in Britain and elsewhere, broad left parties have become the latest of these miracles. Almost without fail, they have ended in disaster.

Across the world, workers and young people are radicalizing under the impact of war, racism and inequality, but not--at least in Europe and North America--at a quick enough pace to build new, mass left-wing parties. We have to be patient in building revolutionary forces that will be able to lead the fight in the future.
James Illingworth, Santa Cruz, Calif., and Anonymous, London

Immigrants driven by desperation

IN REGARD to Flor Crisóstomo ("New round in the fight against deportations," February 1): This is a crime done by the rich and greedy of our country, and it should be labeled "globalization."

If only we had concentrated on our neighbors, we would not be in this situation. Nobody stops the rich taking all their business and manufacturing far, far away when our neighbors are hungry. Now it has become like a rich and greedy house in a poor neighborhood. We need to take care of our neighbors as this affects us in some way or another.

This poor lady only came here so she could feed her kids--not to destroy America. Please, where is America's heart? Something needs to be done about this now, or this will affect us more in the future.
Rosario Fernandes, North Lauderdale, Fla.

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