A raft of solid left wing policy – conference report

Tom Walker looks at the policies passed at Left Unity conference.

Left Unity’s national conference on Saturday saw delegates come together in Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry to make decisions about the policy of this new party.

The party’s founding conference in November set Left Unity’s broad direction as a new party of the left and set up its constitution. This conference looked in more detail at policy areas including economics, health, housing and anti-racism, based on months of work put in by those who volunteered for the party’s policy commissions as well as many submissions from branches. (You can see the motions booklet here.)

The conference was buoyed by being held in the immediate aftermath of an article by Ken Loach in the Guardian and Salman Shaheen’s TV appearance on the BBC. As Left Unity national secretary Kate Hudson reported, this media exposure had seen more than 200 people join the party – an increase in membership of over 10 percent – in two days. Kate talked about Labour voting last week for the welfare cap, and said, “What clearer example do you need of the case for a new party?”

Economics

After the results of Left Unity’s internal elections, the conference moved into debate on economics policy. The economics document is a clear plan for an immediate end to austerity cuts as well as a wider strategic vision of a different kind of society, based on public and mutual ownership and full employment.

Pete Green, moving the motion, pointed to the importance of its call for “an extension of the publicly owned banking sector to embrace all the major British owned banks, building societies and insurance companies”. The document also includes measures to raise the minimum wage to a living wage and a major programme of green jobs and ‘purple jobs’ (jobs in the care sector). On tax, it calls for a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on banks’ financial transactions, measures with real teeth to stamp out corporate tax avoidance, reversal of corporate tax cuts, a land value tax… and more.

A series of amendments passed including, by a narrow vote, the immediate abolition of VAT (as opposed to it being phased out). A proposal to campaign for a 21-hour working week with no loss of pay, however, was rejected in favour of campaigning for a 35-hour week with no loss of pay in the first instance. After a serious debate a proposal for a universal basic income or ‘citizens’ income’ fell, with speakers against arguing it is better to provide what people need through a comprehensive welfare state than to hand over cash and risk leaving some essential services in the hands of the market. Other votes in what was easily the section with the most motions included scrapping zero-hours contracts, abolishing destitution and opposing the US-EU transatlantic trade treaty.

Health

There was a high level of agreement on health policy, with conference backing the health policy commission’s “10 point plan to re-instate, protect, and improve the NHS”. This includes repealing the Tories’ NHS privatisation law, the Health and Social Care Act, a moratorium on closures, and a focus on the “social determinants of health”, meaning that we must tackle poverty and inequality in order to improve health.

Amendments added calls to cancel the expensive PFI debts that hospitals have been burdened with, reverse the decline in health workers’ wages and replace Big Pharma with non-profit pharmaceutical production. A composite from Islington, West London and Barnet added a campaigning edge, committing Left Unity to “support and work within broad based campaigns to defend the NHS in a non-sectarian way”.

Housing

Felicity Dowling from Liverpool branch moved the main motion on housing with a well-received speech calling for Left Unity to be “the party of housing”. The main planks of this policy are a call for publicly-owned and democratically-controlled housebuilding – council housing and cooperative housing – as well as backing the campaign to end the hated ‘bedroom tax’.

Other measures in the detailed policy include housebuilding being eco-friendly, removal of housing benefit caps, rent controls on private landlords and provision for LGBTQ people. An amendment saw a discussion around the level of rents: it was decided they should be affordable for all.

Europe & migration

The conference took a strong position on migration, opposed to the scapegoating of migrants, calling for Left Unity to be a “strong pro-migrant voice” against the likes of UKIP and defend people’s right to move across borders. Luke Cooper, moving the motion, pointed out that there is “no voice in the political mainstream” putting the case that migrants are welcome here – and Left Unity “needs to be the party that is prepared to make the argument”.

Left Unity’s approach to Europe and the EU was more controversial, with a wide spectrum of views put forward. After the discussion most of these motions were remitted for further debate. Motions passed from Crouch End to back the European Left Party’s call for a “refoundation of Europe” on a socialist basis, and Milton Keynes in favour of European unity on a more democratic basis than the existing EU. Left Unity is not standing in this year’s European elections, as it is generally considered too early in the party’s life to do so. A motion saying the party should not support any other candidates fell, though it was pointed out that there are currently no plans to do so apart from supporting the anti-fascist campaign in north west England.

Electoral strategy

A motion from West London set out Left Unity’s electoral strategy, saying that “Electoral support for a new left party will only advance to the extent that it is genuinely representative of working class communities, has no interests separate from theirs, and is an organic part of the campaigns and movements which they generate and support.” It calls for only fielding candidates where the political support and resources exist for a real campaign.

Rugby’s motion saying we should move towards bringing in smaller left groups into ‘One Party of the Left’ narrowly fell. Pete McLaren, moving the motion, said, “The clue is in our name… we are about uniting the left.” However Joseph Kisolo from Manchester, speaking against, said we “shouldn’t be looking to unite the already existing left”, which is too white and male. Bianca Todd added that we should look to “the wider movement” while still working alongside other groups. An amendment from Rugby saying Left Unity candidates should be able to stand in elections under other electoral names also fell, but a further motion calling for the party to “avoid electoral clashes” with other left candidates passed.

Scotland

The position the conference took on Scottish independence has been the subject of some discussion online – not surprising as it saw one of the closest votes of the day. Steve Freeman spoke for a pro-independence motion calling for a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, backed by Southwark and Worcester branches, but this fell by two votes (with 22 abstentions). The motion passed from Glasgow branch, after amendments from Cardiff and West London, does not take a position on the referendum.

Trade unions

This section saw Left Unity discuss its approach to the unions. Motions calling for full support for trade unions passed without controversy, as did policies of opposing the anti-union laws and working at the grassroots of the unions to build the party.

An amendment from Lambeth putting forward criticism of left wing trade union leaders for being “prone to compromise”, and calling for Left Unity to stand against them in internal union elections, fell. Speaking against, Eve Turner from West London called for a “reality check” and said “there are good left wing leaders and there are good left wing officials” who Left Unity needs to reach out to if we want to build a mass working class party.

Anti-racism

The motion passed from the anti-racism policy commission put forward a detailed analysis of the roots and nature of racism in Britain today, including the atmosphere of attacks on migrants and Muslims against the backdrop of austerity, and how Left Unity should organise to counter it. Richard Seymour from Barnet branch, moving the motion, said, “The fascists aren’t the only racists – we’ve seen this with UKIP, we’ve seen it with the Conservative party, we’ve seen it with the Labour frontbench… we need to be the ones who are standing unified against that.”

Environment

By this point the conference was running out of time, and more motions on the environment will be taken at the next conference. But delegates made sure to make space to hear a motion on fracking from Stockport and Manchester branches – as Stephen Hall from Wigan pointed out, Left Unity branches across the north of England are “getting stuck in” to the anti-fracking campaign. The motion means Left Unity has a policy of banning fracking “and all other types of extreme energy extraction”, and instead backs renewable energy and a million climate jobs.

Conclusion

All in all there were many motions to get through and time was tight as ever, but the conference saw many serious debates and passed a good set of policies that will shape Left Unity’s campaigning in months to come. Another conference is planned later this year to discuss other policy areas and motions not reached this time.

Full record of conference decisions.
Video of the conference debates.


32 comments

32 responses to “A raft of solid left wing policy – conference report”

  1. Scott Jennings says:

    I’m sorry but the Citizen’s Income debate was nowhere near satisfactory. That proposal needed a solid half hour analysis of what the actual idea is so people can understand what it is and how it can be implemented. Instead we had a member of the economy commision calling it a “right wing ideal/policy” and scaring people off with no serious debate occuring.

    There should be a full commision into Citizen’s Income and an open transparent debate around the idea rather than what the economy commision did which was politically charged and shut down any debate. Nobody was given the chance to make a socialist argument for Citizen’s Income, the debate was totally one sided.

    • Micheline Mason says:

      I completely agree as one of the people who was given exactly 60 seconds to try and make a case for a citizen’s income and was, not surprisingly, voted down along with a comrade from Leamington Spa. This was not a serious debate at all.I think a full commission would be a great idea.

  2. ben madigan says:

    i think this is a very good starting point- some people were undoubtedly disappointed about lack of time to debate some issues but Tom’s report shows that on the whole a lot of solid policies were agreed upon. well done conference!!

  3. Simon Jacobson says:

    “By this point the conference was running out of time, and more motions on the environment will be taken at the next conference.”

    Good start, but I’m worried about whether such a faux pas–for it’s not only the conference that’s running out of time–augurs well for the future. Unity means equal time for the question of planetary survival and the fate of the poor in the majority world.

    • tomwalker says:

      Hi Simon –

      It’s not a question of not making time for the environment motions, any more than any other motion that wasn’t reached (for example, war/foreign policy is very important to many of us but wasn’t reached). The conference was always conceived of as having two parts, with more policy areas discussed at the second conference later this year. That doesn’t mean that any issue we will discuss later in the year is seen as being lower priority.

  4. John Penney says:

    Comrades, come on now ; the Citizen’s Income/UBI project has been debated for many, many months by LU supporters and others online . There was a discussion/debate on the subject ALL morning at the special Economy Policy workshop in London on 2nd March – to which all LU members were invited to attend. Only 18 turned up to do so !

    Those of us on the Economy Commission who have indeed investigated the Citizen’s income/UBI concept in considerable depth, including its roots in the very politically dodgy, eccentric ,”Social Credit” Movement of the 1930’s, and its more current solid base amongst the most right wing neoliberal “abolish the provision of any state provision of welfare services – just give every citizen a small equal cash handout instead – regardless of either their personal wealth or personal needs” libertarian free marketers.

    We stand by what we said at Conference – Citizen’s Income, in its “leftish version” is an ideological con – a diversion from the struggle to create an all embracing Welfare State on a socialist basis. It would not protect disabled people in particular – but indeed, beyond the small Citizen’s Income “survival ration” leave them totally bereft of support from a gutted welfare state. In an all embracing Welfare State, a Citizen’s Income, is simply unnecessary – as support would be provided on the basis of NEED – regardless of the personal income of the individual requiring support.

    It is quite understandable in the present circumstances of vicious attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable in society , particularly the “capability assessment” ATOS assaults of recent years, the Bedroom tax, etc, that those most under attack, particularly the disabled, are attracted to concepts like Citizen’s Income. Looked at in depth however it should quickly become clear why this concept is most popular on the libertarian capitalist Far Right as a means to destroy universal unlimited welfare provision. When carried over into Left politics it is simply a distracting red herring to our task of rebuilding and deepening our Welfare State , and fighting for the wide raft of radical transformative policies detailed in our now adopted LU Economic Strategy.

    The Citizen’s Income concept WAS debated, investigated in depth, considered by the Conference – and rejected outright. And quite rightly. We should leave it as a dodgy project to the Lib Dems, Greens, Blue Labour ,Tories, and the neoliberal Far Right. It is a fundamentally non-socialist concept – and one which simply wouldn’t WORK in pure economic terms either.

    • Joseph says:

      What a dumb comment. Firstly, it has been tried and successfully, in Quebec in the 70s, it was found to be wildly successful, and can be done in combination with a welfare state, but the state isn’t always the answer. Big government will drive people away from supporting this unless they see themselves being better off under left unity. Second, how is it not a socialist ideal, to equally divide the proceeds of production between the populace without discrimination sounds like an excellent idea. And with an increasingly mechanised industry that is only going to keep cutting people from the workforce, it seems a sensible policy for tackling the progressive unemployment of the years ahead.

      • John Penney says:

        Dearie, dearie, me , Joseph. Where to start with your misconceptions. The “Quebec experiment” (and a few others always cited by enthusiasts – often in semi peasant African villages) was very limited in scope – meaningless for wider , national context, long term, extrapolation. A better, long term, example of some obvious negative effects, is the programme of regular handouts from the Libyan Gaddafi regime to all Libyan Citizens over many decades – alongside free education and healthcare. The result was the creation of a super exploited sub-proletariat of non citizens from sub Saharan Africa to do all the menial jobs – alongside huge numbers of voluntarily unemployed passive citizens (for 40 years anyway – till it all exploded) . Of course in the Libyan case, being funded from boundless state oil wealth the usual impact of adopting a Citizens Income-style handout regime, a scrapping of most needs-based welfare systems to pay for it, was absent.

        Think about it Joseph. Why would a fixed Citizen’s Income handout be at all necessary in a socialist comprehensive Welfare State ? All genuine basic needs would be met, whether medical, housing, educational, or material requirements. That’s what a comprehensive Welfare State means, But it is based on NEED, not wasteful giveways to those who have no need. What is sensible or progressive or even rational about handing out a basic Citizen’s Income to the well off and superrich in society as well as the needy ? It would just be clawed back via taxation anyway. But then you fear “Big Government” apparently – so you favour handing out cash to individual citizens instead to use as they see fit in a free capitalist market place – rather than creating a democratic socialist state-run universal Welfare System for all I think most of us “get” where your politics are coming from , Joseph. It’s not from the socialist tradition.

        Critically, you simply ignore the fact that Citizens income hand outs make no difference to the grossly unequal distribution of the productive wealth in society – owned and controlled by the 1% capitalist class. As long as this fundamental resource and source of all wealth creation is held by a tiny class of capitalists the “proceeds of production” that you blithely assume can be “equally divided between the populace” via a small citizens income handout (or “National Dividend” to go back to the old Social Credit Movement source concept), can never be distributed equally. The owners of the means of production, distribution and exchange will ALWAYS secure the lions share of national income. Even steeply progressive taxation has to cope with their endless ingenuity in hiding it away in tax havens. The point is to take these vital productive wealth resources off the capitalist class via a programme of nationalisation. Something Citizens Income enthusiasts are totally uninterested in – obsessed as you all are by the important but nevertheless totally dependant bi-product of this grossly unequal productive wealth distribution – individual income.

        Your pessimism that full employment can ever be achieved is typical of the pessimism throughout the “leftish” variants of Citizens Income/UBI about any collective, class-based, political action based progress being possible. Of course full employment will possible in a socialist planned economy. We have a nation, and a wider world, to rebuild for heavens sakes ! The Left Unity Economic Strategy for a massive public works/housing , regional and sectoral restructuring programme will require all “able hands to the wheel” for a long, long, time. Forget all the nonsense about “mechanisation means there wont be enough work” – that is under capitalist market conditions only – there will be plenty of work – “Purple” caring sector jobs, and housebuilding and construction jobs, by the millions for a start. Our problem will be a labour and skills SHORTAGE, not a difficulty in finding people good jobs to do. You really can’t think outside the current capitalist status quo and neoliberal conditions of the last 30 years Joseph.

        You really don’t understand how capitalism works, Joseph – and how socialism radically differs. Which is why you have such illusions in Citizens Income.

  5. Ben Lucas says:

    Seems like a solid start!

    I agree Universal Citizens Income is a complex idea for people to get their head around and understand how it would actually work in practice! I think a commission would be really useful to investigate the intricacies and nuances of how this would be applied to society.

  6. Stuart says:

    I’m glad (in a way) to hear that the debate over the basic income was inadequate. I guess that means that people can think again and get it passed at a future conference. Disappointed to hear that yet again debates are being swung by the silly and offensive old left tactic of declaring the opposition in cahoots with fascists and Tories, as with the shameful women’s quota debate last time round. This is not in accord with our declared intention of doing things differently. It’s actually true that some on the right support a basic income – but then there are equally plenty of Tories who would be in full support of “full employment”, as would Stalinists. I hear gulags were working at their full economic potential…

  7. Pete McLaren says:

    Just to remind those of you who do not keen on implementing they LU agreed aim of “uniting the diverse strands of radical and socialist politics in the UK including worker’s organisations….”, the successful motion Tom refers to above on avoiding electoral clashes also included that we “move towards electoral pacts – with the initial aim of creating the largest ever left challenge in the 2015 General Election”. Now I think that is something we should now all unite around and makes sure happens if we don’t want the far right, through UKIP, to be seen to be the answer to austerity and the fact that you can’t fit a cigarette paper between the policies of the three main parties. Time for the left to get its act together, albeit in electoral terms!

  8. jon fanning says:

    I am a Marxist economist and can assure you my model of a citizens income is not neo liberal and it is offensive to say otherwise. Argue with the economics do not call me a Trotsky facist, or anarcho capitalist or some other such term of abuse.

    A citizens income does not relace welfare provision it replaces tax alowances and basic benefits such as housing benefit both of which actual give far less to the poor worker than they do to the rentier landlord and corporate institutions.

    • Stuart says:

      I would warn anyone interested in the citizens income idea to ignore Mr Penney. He’s just a loudmouth spraying abuse and dogma. Although as I’ve said before the idea does (interestingly) win support from the libertarian right and from those hoping to save capitalism, most of those who support and write about the idea – and there’s been a vast amount, both in the mainstream press and academia, as well as on the radical fringe – are of the libertarian Marxist and anarchist left. Google it – you’ll easily find plenty more interesting reading than you’ll find in the daleky pronouncements of the dinosaur left.

  9. Jamie says:

    Well said Stuart. I think for some the change of culture which I hope Left Unity embodies will come as a shock, but there are lots of signs to suggest this really can be a new beginning.

  10. sandy says:

    “The motion passed from Glasgow branch, with an amendment from Cardiff, took a neutral position on the question, saying “Individual members will be free to campaign both for and against Scottish independence in advance of the 2014 referendum.”

    the Glasgow motion 36 was amended by 36a and 36B so the section quoted in the above report was not passed but deleted by 36b

    the debate on motion 36 does not seem to be included in the videos on this site

    sandy

    Glasgow left unity member

    • tomwalker says:

      Hi Sandy – you’re right! My apologies. I’d noted the amendment 36a made changes to point 3, but failed to notice that it then gets deleted altogether in 36b. I’ve corrected the report to remove the quote. However this still means we don’t have either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ position on the referendum.

      • sandy says:

        thanks Tom

        any idea why the debate on the Glasgow motion 36 is not included in the videos of the policy conference? The video of Steve freeman’ moving motion 37 on Scotland is there plus contributions but a video of the Glasgow motion on Scotland moved by me and the ensuing debate is not available. Makes things seem a bit one sided in my view. Surely the motion submitted by the Scottish branch on Scotland should feature in the coverage. Only featuring a motion from an English branch on scotland could stir up Scottish nationalist sentiment up here -)

        sandy

      • tomwalker says:

        I know there were some technical problems on the day and there are other bits of other debates missing from the videos as well – don’t worry, it’s nothing intentional. I’ll ask around and see if there’s anything we can do.

  11. My Swans make believe party took heart from the Switzerland referendum that is bringing in a £21,000 Automatic Citizen Wage to all its adult citizens.

    What an Automatic Citizen Wage does is end all welfare admin altogether, saving billions in funding, and pump money into the economy, after long years of Austerity in a recession when government’s role is to spend in a recession, not withdraw even more money. So a heck of a lot of jobs were lost and are still being lost.

    The Left Unity Party might just reconsider that vote between its Executive and organising membership. As Gandhi observed, People’s Politics Are Their Daily Bread.

    Because with the Citizen Wage you just might get Tory and UKIP voters coming to vote for you.

    You certainly with about the state pension being linked to the average wage of £26,000 a year.

    Raise the Income tax Threshold to above that, and you get a huge rise in local employment in high streets, as it is the poor and pensioners who come into the town centre to shop.

    And without all the admin for welfare payments, you get more basic grade people redeployed to frontline services to the community, including the daily soup kitchens as run in Europe that provide a daily free cooked meal and hot meal.

    Pension Bill and Flat Rate Pension leaves women pensioners especially destitute: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/state-pension-at-60-now

    If you promote my petition, then more people will be aware that they face nil income in old age with all the current political parties and will encourage them to vote Left Unity Party.

    Otherwise, if you give old people a £26,000 state pension, there will be jealousy with young people not all getting the Automatic Citizen Wage for all adults from 18 to 59. Are you serious about winning the next 2015 general election?

    • John Penney says:

      The reason that profoundly politically right wing countries like Switzerland are interested in “Citizen’s Income” is because it cons citizens into believing a finite fixed state handout will solve al their problems – distracting them with a short term individual bounty whilst the collective provision of welfare/health services is scrapped. As soon as the individual or family is faced with severe illness, long term unemployment , or other expensive setbacks they soon find that the “citizen’s Income handout is severely inadequate to cover costs. A basic course of Chemotherapy and radiation treatment costs hundreds of thousands of £pounds – the citizens income doesn’t go far in that situation – as many a US citizen has quickly discovered once falling ill long term.

      Citizen’s Income is when argued for on the Left, actually an escapee ideology from the most extreme market-oriented neoliberal concept of each “citizen” as a totally isolated utility maximising “consumer unit” in the capitalist market place – supposedly provided with marketplace bargaining equality by the provision of a fixed Citizen’s Income handout- regardless of individual need or individual wealth/income. So the 1% of superrich who own all the productive wealth in a capitalist society get their fixed citizens income jut the same as the unemployed single mother with two disabled children. We are asked to suppose that the small citizens income grant has made these grossly unequal groups (classes) equal in their bargaining in the market place !

      As socialists we have a radically different vision – recognising the profound inequalities in wealth and power in a capitalist society – and the class basis of that inequality. We side with the vast majority, the working class in its collective struggle to wrest the crossly unequal power and wealth from the 1% – and see collective action to create an all encompassing socialist Welfare State, as the way to provide all citizens with a good quality of life – support being provided not according to some finite Citizens Income ration handout – but on the basis of “To each according to their needs” – irrespective of how large that need is. So in healthcare – if a person NEEDS medical treatment costing the society hundreds of thousands of pounds – then that is what is provided.

      Another con about “citizen’s income”, particularly evident in Switzerland where most nasty, low paid, dirty jobs are done by non-citizen migrant workers with few rights – is that it creates a super exploited non citizen “sub-proletariat”. We aim instead to achieve full employment through a radical public works and employment creation programme, the rebuilding of a dynamic and powerful trades union movement to defend workers rights, and collective wage bargaining – and we would implement and enforce “living Wage” minimum wage laws.

      Lastly the idea that a Citizen’s Income handout would boost consumer spending and hence end the recession, a crude neo Keynsian “demand management” concept – dating right back to the dubious CE Douglas’s “Social Credit Movement” 1930’s roots of Citizens Income – is to profoundly misunderstand the root causes of the global capitalist crisis. The worldwide capitalist crisis is NOT caused by inadequate demand, either consumer demand or capital goods demand. The roots of the global crisis is the falling rate of profit right across the system – arising from the fundamental internal cyclical dynamic of capitalism itself. This cannot be resolved by a bit of pseudo neo-Keynsian money creation or re-distribution .

      For Socialists the Citizen’s Income concept, as it was eventually similarly decided by the labour movement in the 1930’s, is a defeatist invitation to give up on full employment as an objective, to lose faith in collective class-based socialist solutions to the Austerity Offensive and the capitalist crisis, in favour of individualist , totally market-oriented , “state ration handout” fake panaceas.

      • John Penney says:

        When , in the first paragraph I referred to US citizens and the disastrous impact of unexpected long term healthcare costs , I wasn’t suggesting a Citizens Income set up exists in the USA, but was making a parallel between the short termist attraction of a citizens income handout , to the short termist aversion to paying taxes to pay for a collective healthcare system of the average American – and the harsh wake up call for individuals who were so keen on the short term benefits of low taxes – when the gigantic private healthcare bills started rolling in.

      • Jon Fanning says:

        “To each according to their needs” – here is your error, you are trying to leap from capitalism to communism, defined as “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

        What Marx actually argued, and this has been pretty much proved in the years since, is we need an interim phase, called socialism, which Marx Defined as “From each according to their ability, to each according to their contribution”. If you accept this model then a citizens income, to replace benefits and tax allowances, supplemented by free health care and practical help for the disabled, which gets rid of absolute poverty, encourages shorter time working, stimulate demands and negates the effects of inflation on those of a lower income fits in perfectly. Your mention of the US is just reaching – irrelevant to the argument but tries to in introduce the fear of the big bad wolf onto your side of the argument.

  12. Georgina Moles says:

    I would be more than interested to hear how the ‘open borders’ policy passed at conference will work. With migration/immigration from anywhere on the planet being allowed into the UK. I was unfortunately not able to attend conference due to ill health so not able to hear the debate.

    • tomwalker says:

      Hi Georgina – you can read more detail about the policy here: http://leftunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/LU-Anti-Racist-Commission-Migration.pdf

      • Melanie Griffiths says:

        I was at the conference and there was no lengthy debate on this issue. Those who spoke from the policy commission explained why totally open borders was an anti racist policy but not how it would work in practice. I have read the document and am still non the wiser. It would be useful to have someone from the policy commission (or anyone) explain how we can make a policy of totally open borders work in one country under the present capitalist system. These are a couple of the questions that people will inevitably ask: How can you plan an economy when the number of people you are planning for not known and could be constantly changing, how can you plan the provision of services given that under even the most socialist of governments there would be an element of scarcity. We need convincing answers these questions or this policy will be seen as ideological posturing and totally unrealistic by the vast majority of people. I am not hostile to this policy I would just like some guidance to explain how it will be workable.

    • Simon Hardy says:

      There is a very good book by Pluto called “Open Borders: The case against immigration controls” by Teresa Hayter which goes into the details of all the arguments.

      I don’t start from the position of “open borders” I start from the position that we should support freedom of movement for anyone, not just the super rich. The UN declaration of Human Rights supports the position of free movement, and the right to leave your country, though of course it does not make the case that every other country should welcome you. But surely if you have the right to leave your country you should also have the right to travel to another one?

      Most studies indicate that people coming to the country increase economic activity and they normally only stay for a few years (saving up money) and then go back home, that is certainly the case for most Eastern European migrants to Britain.

      People who say that it will put a strain on the health service and so on are looking at it from the wrong perspective – surely we need to be fighting for massive investment in health care, schools and urban infrastucture anyway?

  13. Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko says:

    My experience of the confere was a bit mixed, I thought that we passed some *really good* foundational policy that will give us a good grounding to start building a base in our communities and workplaces,however I was disappointed with the general feel of the conference.

    I thought that the economic text managed to find a reasonable path through the maximalist/minimalist quagmire, and that it, as amended, set out a number of proposals that are immediately challenging to the current mainstream political conversation.

    I disagreed with the rejection of 21hr/wk as a goal to start working towards. I think proposals like this are an important way to place ourselves on radical post-work/labour ground and that we should ditch any stuff about full employment (the Tories now claiming to be all for full employment maybe belies the small-c conservative nature of that demand).

    I am still unsure/confused about the citizens wage thing and would like to hear a lot more argument from both sides.

    I like the whole green and purple jobs thing is excellent; both in content and as a great way to present the issues.

    I would have liked a bit more on pushing for the open sourcing of intellectual/informational products as part of our vision for changing production.

    I missed the housing stuff as had to take my daughter to get some lunch but it sounds like it was really good.

    So, that stuff is all grand, *but*
    I also think we *really* need to talk about the atmosphere of what was too much an old, white, male dominated conference.

    It was encouraging that the trend to it feeling like a real question which way the votes would go was continued – most people there seemed prepared to be listen – and potentially be convinced – on a range of issues (save for those in the homogeneous ‘communist’ bloke vote who I think are undermining the framework of each individual having a voice).

    However, the way in which the debates took place & the way in which many presented their arguments felt stale.

    Imagine being someone new to politics who entered that room: would you have felt empowered to take part? Would you have felt that there where exciting new ideas being discussed?

    I realise some might feel that the key point is to get good motions passed and that it is necessary to use complicated procedures to ensure fair play, but honestly I think that we need to realise that no one outside the bubble really gives a fuck about the dots on the i’s and the exact wording; sure the general flavour/direction of the passed policy is really important but we need to think much more carefully about the process, I think there’s a case for saying that the process is even more important than the exact outcome right now.

    Perhaps controversially, I’d rather have twenty people getting up and singing awful songs then one person raising a quibble about whether conference can or can’t remit a motion. Or better yet, a bunch of people getting up and trying to relate their support, or opposition, to the spirit of a motion to real people real lives and the stuff in them.

    I spoke against a motion which would have had us orientate towards uniting with other left-bubble groups because I think that it would move our focus away from the goal of bringing in the diversity of the wider disenfranchised and engaging with their eclectic dreams of a better world – that should be our main aim.

    • Ray G says:

      Joseph – you raise many important points. Fair enough. However, it is only fair to point out that many of the policy commissions, (economy, health, housing, foreign policy and anti racism) have been having much more inclusive discussions for MONTHS,both online and in meetings. Any member is free to take part and contribute to the final documents. One day national conferences simply have to be places where deciding takes precedent over discussing.

      Yes, it is annoying when unnecessary points of order are raised, or there is some fine argument over procedure but let me tell you – it is far more annoying when the democratic rights of members are routinely disregarded by “leaders”. Most of the far left parties have been burned by that. The standing orders of the conference protect the democratic rights of all members.The jargon is irritating and old-fashioned and should be either dropped or properly explained, true.

      Finally, as an oldish, white, sort-of-working-class gay man (earning less than the average wage), could I ask you to be a bit nicer to us old-folk. Yes it is clearly wrong if the whole membership is dominated by people like us, but “people like me” (though not me, in fact, as I had a long inactive period)have kept the left in existence during the most depressing period of almost total defeat for decades. It’s not as if we actively discourage young people from participating. We are like old Jedi knights looking for new padwans. I would love to put my feet up and take a back seat as soon as the torch can be handed over to the new generation.

      • Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko says:

        Hi Ray,
        Just to clarify I’m not trying to have a dig at any individuals on the basis of their caresteritics, in fact as someone working in Higher Education sector I am also part of an over represented group in LU. Just as we have positive discrimination to make sure women are represented (& just as that is not a denigration of male activists); we need to think about positive measures to ensure diversity across the board.

  14. Rob Kenyon says:

    Whatever the merits of the proposals passed and rejected, I can’t feel impressed by what I’ve seen so far.
    To have any hope, a new progressive party has to address genuine concerns effectively. UKIP has done that. Rather than merely mount an Anti-UKIP Front, perhaps ‘Left Unity’ should examine its strategy in depth and learn.
    And incidentally. The term ‘left’ is as confusing as it is possible to be. As a political word it deserves burning. It only serves to fog the difference between progressives and reactionaries – plus conferring ‘sinister’ and ‘dextrous’ qualities as a side effect. Right?

  15. Bazza says:

    Agreed most of these policies but re a citizens income as Foucault may have argued you may just be playing with words. As a democratic socialist I think what is needed is collective provision giving individuals who can”t work enough to live on (and not just exist like he present system) backed up by collective provision such as health. I would have gone for the 20 hour working week – it is also a symbol about freeing working humanity but by sharing the work out you also create millions of jobs for young people. Of course it would help free working humanity by having democratic control of technolgy.
    You will be attacked on your open door immigration policy – should offer sanctuary to refuges and asylum seekers, have fair policies for migrant workers and trade unionise this group so they cannot be used by unscrupulous employers to undercut wages but what do you do about the tiny international lumpen proletariate (criminal gangs)? Although my heart was with this, head not so sure.
    I have always been unafraid to dream but at the same time I always try to imagine democratic socialist ideas in actual practice.
    LU seems to be making progress and I guess for those in Labour trying to build Progressive Labour it’s -may the best democratic socialists win!

  16. Stuart Mack says:

    Can someone clarify what Left Unity’s energy policy is? Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t it entirely based on solar, wind and hydroelectric power? Would this generate enough energy to both keep the lights on and provide enough energy for industry?

    This is the sticking point for me and why I am finding it difficult to support the party.


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