Socialist unity was an issue which deeply occupied Morris in the last years of his life. On 9 March 1892 he wrote to John Bruce Glasier, ‘I sometimes have a vision of a real Socialist Party at once united and free’. In early 1893 he tried to put that vision into practice, chairing a Joint Committee of Socialist Bodies (comprising Hammersmith Socialist Society, Fabian Society and Social Democratic Federation members); Morris, Hyndman and Shaw worked on the Committee’s behalf on a joint, but anodyne, Manifesto of English Socialists which was published on 1 May. Morris clearly realised how unsuccessful this particular venture had been, since he confessed in a letter to Emery Walker in October: ‘More and more at any rate I want to see a due Socialist party established’. On 25 October 1894 he wrote to Robert Blatchford’s newspaper The Clarion again urging ‘the necessity of the formation of a definite and united Socialist Party’; and his very last lecture in the Kelmscott Coach House, delivered on 5 January 1896, was entitled ‘One Socialist Party’.
So we in the UK should certainly welcome the ‘Left Unity’ initiative which has emerged in the wake of socialist film-maker Ken Loach’s appeal for a new political party to the left of Labour. Given the ferocity of the Cameron-Clegg Coalition’s attack on the welfare state, and the abject failure of the now neo-liberal Labour Party to offer any serious opposition to it, unity of Left forces in this country could hardly be more timely or necessary; and the current disarray in the Socialist Workers Party means that there may be possibilities of new thought and alignment on the Leninist left too. Left Unity groups are springing into being up and down the country (see their website leftunity.org for details of activity in your own area), and while the difficulties here should certainly not be underestimated, as Morris himself painfully discovered in early 1893, the prospect of a serious new national working-class party is a glittering prize indeed. If I could but see a day of it!