July 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard
No socialist could support the Labour Party because it is a capitalist party. When in government it runs the profit system at the expense of the working class, for that is the only way it can be run. In every election since 1906 the Socialist Party, which was formed two years earlier, has opposed Labour: we have shown consistently that a vote for Labour is a vote for capitalism.
Those who urge workers to vote Labour are anti-socialists who deserve our unreserved hostility. The pseudo-Communist Party of Great Britain has repeatedly told workers to waste their votes on Labour mis-leaders and are partially responsible for the suffering which resulted. The so-called Militant Tendency encourages workers to vote for and join the Labour Party.
The Socialist Workers' Party is also not slow when it comes to confusing workers at election time. In 1974, when Harold Wilson was offering to do a better job of looking after the interests of the bosses than Edward Heath, the SWP ran the following message in their pre-election issue of Socialist Worker:
. . . every socialist, every worker must spend all the days before the polling day shouting two simple slogans, at work, in the home, and whenever anyone will listen: DEFEND UNIONS - VOTE LABOUR
The striking firemen, NUPE workers, Grunwick pickets and numerous other trade unionists who came into conflict with the viciously anti-working-class 1974-9 Labour government can judge for themselves the wisdom of the SWP's advice.
But did the SWP learn the lesson? On 4 June 1983, just before the last general election. their leading confusionist, Alex Callinicos, made a prediction about the election result with which socialists could agree (we assume he arrived at the conclusion by accident and will endeavour to avoid such clarity in future): "Labour in office would attack the living standards of its own supporters in an effort to restore profits".
The headline of Socialist Worker the following week stated: "STOP THE TORIES — VOTE LABOUR".
Although the various Leftist sects all urge workers to vote for capitalism at election time, they all claim to be divided from one another by deeply held principles. The Communist Party calls the SWP and the Militant Tendency "ultra-Left" and the latter two groups have spent years telling those who will listen how wrong the other is. Now, the SWP has decided that it is time to patch up its differences with the Militant crowd (differences which are invisible to the clear eye) and in Socialist Worker of 11 May a full-page "open letter" is addressed to the editorial board of Militant. (Note that it is not addressed to the Militant followers, but to the leaders.) Now, socialists do not give a damn whether these two anti-socialist Leftist sects remain apart or unite; the only benefit to the workers would be if they ceased to propagate their confused ideas altogether. But we are sure that readers will want to study this rare gem of political stupidity:
Our attitude is clear. We are for a Labour government. Not because we believe it will be a government in the interests of workers, but precisely to test in practice again the reformist road.
We believe a future Labour government will not act in the interests of the working class. On the contrary, it will act like every previous Labour government — in the interests of the bosses' class.
And. since the crisis of British capitalism is deeper now than in the seventies, a new Labour government will be more vicious, and more reactionary, than the Wilson-Callaghan governments — the first since 1945 to succeed in cutting wages, while increasing unemployment and savaging the welfare state. (Their emphases.)
Their attitude is clear, alright — clearly round the bend. Vote Labour in the next election in order to test the reformist road? And then they go on to tell workers, on the basis of previous test-runs, precisely what damage a Labour government would do.
The trouble with the SWP is that they treat politics as a game and waste the time of those who take them seriously by offering half-baked riddles rather than the clear advice socialists give: do not vote Labour because "it will act like every previous Labour government — in the interest of the bosses' class”.