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Links 23: Editor's introduction

Challenges in uniting the left

Previous issues of Links have frequently discussed internationalism and internationals, or the question of how socialists should collaborate on an international scale. This issue is devoted to the closely related matter of left regroupment, or how socialists can collaborate at the national level. It discusses the challenges of left regroupment through concrete experiences in Australia, England, Scotland, France and Brazil.

In Australia in 2002, the Socialist Alliance, grouping nearly all the far-left organisations, was able to overcome difficult electoral registration requirements in several states and attract as new members a significant number of activists who were not members of any of the component groups. In September, the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), the largest member organisation of the Alliance, proposed to spur the process of left regroupment by becoming an internal tendency within the Alliance and carrying out all its public political activity through the Socialist Alliance.

In the following pages, we present two articles and two documents relating to the Socialist Alliance and the DSP's proposal. Peter Boyle's "Steps toward greater left unity in Australia" presents the background and rationale of the DSP proposal and the response to it within the Socialist Alliance and the Australian left more generally.

"What we proposed", Boyle stressed, "was not an abandonment of Leninism but a tactic to build a bigger revolutionary vanguard in this country … The current political situation is creating new openings to collect a bigger revolutionary vanguard in Australia, and the proposal is a response to new conditions." Accompanying the article are the DSP's proposal, as contained in a letter to the Socialist Alliance National Executive, and a resolution on further steps adopted by the congress of the DSP in January 2003.

John Percy, the National Secretary of the DSP, then examines the history of the party in order to extract some of the key lessons it has learned and which the DSP relied on in its proposal to strengthen the Socialist Alliance and the process of left regroupment. He concludes that "our Leninist party perspective will still guide us, whether in the DSP, or as a Democratic Socialist Tendency, or as a strengthened Socialist Alliance party, or as a United Socialist Party. We have to be able to withstand bourgeois pressures, swim against the stream, to be critical and creative, but not reject the methodology and strengths that got us to where we are."

Five other articles in this issue constitute a discussion about the forms and content of regroupment between members of the Socialist Workers Party and the International Socialist Movement in the Scottish Socialist Party.

The first of these articles, by Murray Smith of the ISM, examines the evolution of the SWP's attitude to left regroupment, welcoming what he regards as important changes, but calling on the SWP "to question some of its assumptions and deepen its analysis, on the Labour Party and above all on what kind of parties we need to build in the coming period".

Alex Callinicos of the SWP then outlines his party's view of the question, situating it in an analysis of the rise of the anti-globalisation movement and the war drive of US imperialism. He debates the idea of the "bourgeoisification of social democracy" as used by Smith and the ISM, and argues that "The future of left regroupment depends heavily on how well revolutionaries address [the] tricky task" of "know[ing] how to work with forces to their right without capitulating to them".

Next, Nick McKerrell of the ISM takes issue with the SWP's use of the term "united front" in regards to formations such as the Socialist Alliance in England and with its characterisation of the Scottish Socialist Party.

This draws a rejoinder from the SWP's John Rees, and Murray Smith in turn replies to Rees. We trust readers will find it useful to have these contributions to an ongoing discussion all within the pages of a single issue.

This Links concludes with two more experiences that bear on questions of left regroupment. Francois Duval of the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire describes the LCR's campaign in the French presidential election, after an unsuccessful attempt to form a united far-left ticket. And Ben Reid examines the Brazilian Workers Party's implementation of one aspect of its program, the "participatory budget" in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Our usual feature, "International workers movement news", has been omitted because of lack of space.

The production of this issue has been delayed by the pressure of other political events, in particular participation in the movement against the imperialist aggression against Iraq. Consequently, issue number 24, which would normally have been dated May-August, will appear with the cover date September-December.

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