socialists and elections

The crisis in mainstream politics presents a challenge for the left

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There is a strong tradition of intervention in elections from the revolutionary left. Charlie Kimber learns from the experiences of Marx, Engels and Lenin, while confronting the reality of today.

In six months time Britain will go to the polls for a general election. The Socialist Workers Party believes we need a serious left intervention in the election.

The first question is whether revolutionaries should bother with elections and parliament at all. After all, we understand that real power does not lie in parliament. It exists in the wholly unelected sphere of the ownership and control of the offices, factories, call centres, transport hubs and so on.

Why read 'Left Wing' Communism

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In August 1914 the Second International grouping of socialist parties failed its most important test with catastrophic consequences.

Nearly all the leaders of European socialism collapsed into chauvinism, supporting their own nations' interests in an imperialist war which cost the lives of tens of millions of workers.

One of the few parties to remain against the war throughout was the Bolsheviks in Russia. The experience of war and disillusionment with their leaders led to the radicalisation of workers and soldiers.

Letter From Argentina

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A strong showing for Trotskyist currents in the elections provide a golden opportunity for revolutionary forces, but they must overcome historic weaknesses, argue two Argentinian socialists, CM and ICB.

On the 30th anniversary of the return of democracy in Argentina, a coalition of Trotskyist parties won over 5 percent of the vote (1.15 million in total) in legislative elections at the end of October last year.

The coalition, Front of the Left and the Workers (FIT according to its Spanish initials), did even better than its overall 5 percent in some key areas.

A revolutionary Brand

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The call for revolution by the comedian and actor Russell Brand in his interview with Jeremy Paxman has had a wide reasonance. Amy Leather looks at what this tells us about the radical mood in society today.

Most readers have probably seen the Youtube clip of Russell Brand taking on Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. With over 10 million hits it has both resonated with the feelings of many people and sparked further debate.

It was refreshing to see someone not only challenging the mainstream consensus that there is "no alternative" to cuts and austerity but actually talking about the need for revolution on mainstream TV.

The Labour debate

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Working class people are angry at Labour, but at the same time they are fearful of the prospect of a Tory government. Judith Orr responds to the arguments about Labour and the election

The debate we are having on the pages of Socialist Review about whether socialists should call for a vote for Labour where there isn't a left alternative reflects a very real debate happening across the wider working class movement. After 13 years of Labour in government the bitterness against it among workers is intense.

Polls Apart...

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Elections are one thing - the revolutionary party is another.

'You can't mean we need a Bolshevik party in Britain in 2005?' The point was put to me by a veteran socialist activist, someone who joined the Communist Party at the time of the Spanish Civil War, left after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and remains a bitter opponent of Bush and Blair today. Some 70 years of struggle did not make him feel that revolution was imminent in Britain today or that the left should be organised accordingly.

Election: The Verdict on the Blair Project

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Respect's national secretary John Rees explains why 5 May is so important to the further revival of the left in Britain.

If Respect is successful in this election it will break the entire policy on which New Labour has been fashioned. It borrowed the idea of 'triangulation' from Bill Clinton. Triangulation means that New Labour doesn't worry about its core support - it takes them for granted on the basis that they've got nowhere else to go. That leaves it free to chase the middle ground. Labour follows the Tory agenda, adopting policies it thinks will be favourable to the right wing press, to the middle class voter, and it ignores the values of the people who built and sustained its organisation.

Election: Hey There, Wait a Minute Mr Postman

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More people than ever before are planning to vote by post in the general election - but how secure are postal votes?

In the key battleground of Bethnal Green and Bow, where George Galloway is taking on Oona King MP, 5,050 people (at the time of writing) are registered to vote by post compared with 494 at the last general election. This figure is likely to increase further, as voters have until the end of April to register. The election office told me that they are working round the clock processing applications. The neighbouring constituency of Poplar and Canning Town has seen a similar expansion of postal voting: from 1,537 in 2001 to 4,111.

Elections: Standing on the Left

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Since the Chartists, the left has often debated mounting electoral challenges, writes Keith Flett.

Ralph Miliband, in his classic 1961 commentary on Labourism, Parliamentary Socialism, noted that the British Labour Party had always been obsessed not about socialism, but about parliament and elections. That remains the case under Blair. However, that is not the only tradition of the British left. There is also a thread of those who have stood for election as part of a wider strategy of achieving social change.

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