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Rallying for Socialism

(March 1981)

From Militant, No. 543, 13 March 1981, p. 16.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At a 2,000-string Labour rally in Brighton last Saturday, the Party’s activists and supporters gave their unmistakable answer to Labour’s enemies who have been furiously attacking the party’s “swing to the left.”

The Party leader, Michael Foot, was greeted with an ovation by the packed audience in the Dome.

Most significant, however, was the overwhelming and enthusiastic endorsement of Rod Fitch as Labour’s new parliamentary candidate for the Brighton Kemptown constituency.

Rod [a well-known supporter of ‘Militant’] as well as the local party itself, has come under a barrage of criticism from the party since his recent selection.

The former Labour MP for Kemptown, Councillor Dennis Hobden, was greeted with tremendous applause and cheering when he said:

“When I was an MP, Michael Foot often came to speak at meetings for me, and when Rod Fitch is the MP, Michael Foot, I’m sure, will speak on platforms with him also.”

“The press have rushed to publicise our two defectors. But they have not mentioned the number who have joined the party in the last three weeks alone.”

Clive Walder, of the Labour Party Young Socialists and Regional LP Executive, also referred to the press campaign against Militant supporter Rod Fitch. To deafening applause, he said, “I for one am glad that the Labour Party has selected Rod – it is returning to its working class roots!”

Clive really caught the mood of the rally with a fighting speech urging the need for socialist policies, for the implementation of Clause IV, with the nationalisation of the big industrial and financial monopolies under democratic workers’ control and management. Labour must campaign, Clive said, for a 35-hour week, an £80 minimum wage, and a job for all. There should be a programme of useful public works as part of a socialist plan of production.

The two local defectors to the ‘social democrats’ referred to by Councillor Dennis Hobden were Councillor Tom Forrester and his wife.

Another councillor attracted to the social democratic party which Forrester is trying to establish locally is Councillor Ray Searle. His only claim to fame in his time as a Labour councillor was that he played “good cricket” with the Tories in the council team.

But are the social democratic defectors a serious threat to Labour in Brighton? Last week’s Stanmer by-election shows that we have little to worry about, provided Labour continues to campaign energetically on socialist policies.

Tom Forrester, as self-appointed leader of the local Social Democrats, issued a statement urging people to vote Liberal in the election. The Liberals took up the defectors’ attacks on the alleged Trotskyist and Militant ‘domination’ of the Labour Party.

In spite of these “red-scare” tactics, the Labour candidate won with a majority of 7000 votes – more than all the other candidates put together.

The most bizarre candidate was one Ian Cameron, known in Brighton as a member of the fascist National Front, who appointed himself as representative of the “New Centre Party for Social Democracy”. He got a mere 38 votes. The official NF candidate got only 22 votes.

The Tories didn’t even put up a candidate.

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Last updated: 17 August 2016