Building Left Unity: where to begin?

workers power

A contribution to the discussion on a new party by Kady Tait of Leeds Left Unity and Workers Power,

The terrific response to Ken Loach’s Appeal proves this is an idea whose time has
come. So how can we achieve the potential that 8000 signatories and more than 80
local groups present for the formation of a new party ? And what are the pitfalls we
need to avoid?

The economic crisis of the capitalist system has thrown millions out of their jobs,
increasing poverty and insecurity on those still in work while the party of the
billionaires and their Liberal-Democrat partners demolish the welfare state,
decimate jobs in the public sector and freeze the wages of those who remain.

The central idea raised in Ken Loach’s inspiring film The Spirit of ’45, and his
Appeal – that we need a new party to defend the welfare state, created by the
Clement Attlee’s post-war Labour government, and abandoned by his successors – has
found an echo well beyond the organised left.

As we go to press, more than 8000 people have signed up to support Ken’s call, 85
local groups have already been formed. And the numbers grow daily.

Millions are waking up to the realisation that the NHS, state education, welfare for
the sick, disabled and jobless, face destruction in the last two years of the
Coalition’s life and that “waiting for Labour” would allow this to happen.

The desire for a serious political force willing and able to stop the cuts is also
prompted by the feeble opposition of Labour to this onslaught and the failure of the
post-Gordon Brown leadership to really break with “New Labour”. Ed Miliband’s
endorsement of the One Nation slogan, and Harriet Harman’s emulation of the Tories’
war on the ‘undeserving poor’ show how little have changed. Blair’s policy of aping
the Tories and Lib Dems to attract the voters of ‘Middle England’ still grips the
party’s leaders in parliament.

They have refused to oppose outright the destruction of the welfare state or even to
sound the alarm bells that it is happening and Miliband has repeatedly criticised
workers who strike to defend their jobs, pay and pensions. Labour councils have too
easily done the Tories’ dirty work by closing local services and cutting jobs.

The positive response to Ken Loach’s appeal also reflects a growing realisation that
the current piecemeal character of union resistance to the cuts and the existence of
several rival national anticuts campaigns is a totally inadequate response to the
onslaught.

The crisis in the Socialist Workers Party and the stagnation of the Socialist Party
at such a time underlines the fact that neither of the small far left organisations
is offering an effective strategy.

A new fighting political party, with thousands of members rooted in the communities,
is what is needed. But if it must not be a sect neither must it be a repetition of
Old Labour, let alone of New or Blue Labour. It must be a party capable of
democratically working out a strategy and then implementing it by unleashing a tidal
wave of popular resistance.

A party to unite the struggle against the austerity government

Opposition to austerity has seen millions strike, walkout and protest. The will to
fight back clearly exists but the Labour Party, the leaders of the big unions and
the far left groups have all failed to develop a united resistance able to deploy
the huge collective power of the working class.

Labour has absolutely no will to summon working people to revolt but neither do many
of the right wing union leaders. They are hoping that the Coalition’s unpopularity
will lead to a shoo-in for a Labour government, despite the fact that the party
won’t even promise to stop – let alone reverse – the cuts.

The left union leaders continually promise coordinated action – some even talk of a
general strike – yet somehow nothing effective comes of all this. The far left on
the other hand continues to compete with each other in rival anti-cuts campaigns.

Amongst the youth the movements of 2010-11- the student revolt, the UK Occupy
Movement, after initial successes failed to generate or sustain the mass movement
needed to get real results. This has led to a certain disenchantment with the idea
of “leaderless” struggles.

This frustrating impasse has led people to realise that only a political
organization- a party – can resolve this paralysis. This idea has been reinforced
by the emergence in Greece of Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left), which in
2012 nearly blocked the imposition of the Troika’s savage austerity programme. It
shot from 4.6 per cent in the elections of October 2009 to 26.89 in those of June
2012, becoming the second party in parliament. For many this re-raised the question
of taking power and the importance of parties as weapons of resistance.

A new working class party in Britain must set itself the task of building a united
working class resistance to Cameron and Clegg. This is not just a matter of
passively listening to radical speeches – whether in a People’s Assembly in Central
Hall Westminster or even at the end of a monster demonstration in Hyde Park – if one
is called.

It will come from the direct involvement of thousands of today’s anticuts, student
and union activists in working out a strategy to unite every local, regional and
national struggle. It means bringing them together to discuss concrete policies and
how to put them into practice. It means taking this debate into the workplaces; the
communities, the pubs and clubs; everywhere people meet and discuss politics.

Avoiding the pitfalls of Labourism

But we should not forget the lessons of the rightward turn of the Labour Party under
Blair and Brown, till its policies shadow those of the Tories, nor of the crushing
of the left and the remnants of party democracy under Kinnock in the 1980s and
1990s.

The fixation of the party on the mirage of winning a majority by chasing the
“floating voter” or the “squeezed middle” meant sacrificing a socialist programme
and pro-working class policies to this goal. Likewise the old system of union block
votes in the hands of a few general secretaries was usually a force to crush the
left. And in office a Labour prime minister and cabinet were always free of any
serious control even by their MPs, let alone by the party membership or annual
conference.

These sources of disappointment and betrayal were always in the genetic code of Old
Labour and they only came to full fruition under Blair and Brown. Any new party we
build must avoid them by a creating a powerful rank and file democracy and adopting
a bold socialist programme developed and understood by its membership – one whose
road to power is not based on parliament but on mass direct action.

The real power in society is not found in parliament or in the town halls – it is in
the hands of the capitalists who pay poverty wages, sack workers to protect profit,
dodge taxes – and the bankers who trousered the £trillion taxpayer bailout in the
forms of bonuses and golden handshakes.

The “right” of these people to plunder us is defended by unelected judges who ban
strikes, the unaccountable police who harass and murder, the sexist justice system
which refuses to challenge rape and sexual violence, the millionaires’ media which
promotes the rulers’ ideology of racist and sexist division between ordinary people
who have in common their common exploitation by a system which works to the profit
of a few not the needs of the many.

Elections do however play a role in communicating what the programme of a working
class government would be – it shows the existence of an alternative. But an
electoral replacement of the Coalition by Labour will not by itself end the attacks
on living standards. If we say that standing and electing MPs and councillors is the
only or the prime measure of an organization’s effectiveness, then this will
inevitably lead to trimming our programme and policies to win elections.

What sort of party?

We need a party that can mobilise real, active, mass forces not create a passive
membership turned out for only for election campaigns, but a party of the working
people, a party for every campaign, a party of resistance to every injustice. A
party that is built from deep within every struggle – built from the inside out not
brought from the outside in.

To do this effectively it must be a mass party whose base units are rooted in
workplaces, housing estates and become bodies to which people will bring their
problems. But unlike Labour it will be a party that offers a solution in which they
will play an integral role. Our principal aim must be to build a campaigning and
fighting organization – to struggle to overcome our divisions and unite the maximum
forces around a democratically agreed strategy to resist the vicious measures that
are raining down on us. Ultimately it must develop a perspective for turning the
defensive struggle into the struggle for power.

Democracy in the party is key to achieving all this; it is informed both by periods
of thorough discussion and free and open dissent leading to a decision and then
determined action in pursuit of the agreed aim.

A party without policies or a programme is no party. The party will have to develop
its own programme. This requires a serious process of democratic debate culminating
in a truly representative conference, where all trends of opinion can freely express
their views. From early on the new Party should adopt as its project developing a
full strategic programme – a programme for political power.

This should be democratically discussed and developed by the whole party, in
branches, city or regional conferences, specific drafting commissions, before its
final adoption by a delegate conference. This is a process similar to that adopted
(but not completed) by the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. It has been
used by SYRIZA in Greece.

Undoubtedly if we succeed in attracting large numbers of working class people,
former Labour supporters, rank and file trade unionists, then many will retain a
reformist or old left Labour perspective. Others will believe a revolutionary
programme is necessary. All should express their opinions openly and these should be
discussed and debated in a fraternal way – avoiding the disruption of agreed common
action and campaigning. No one current be it reformist or revolutionary should seek
to pre-empt or predetermine the outcome of such a programmatic discussion.

A Programme for Action

But in the short term the embryonic party needs an action programme or platform
limited to the burning issues we need to fight for in 2013-14.

This limitation reflects the fact that the proto-party in its formative months or
even years will have something of the character of a united front between different
left tendencies that currently operate separately.

What might this initial platform contain? In the view of Workers Power it should at
least be a party that fights to:
Halt the privatisation and destruction of the welfare state – the NHS, public
education, social services and pensions, culture – by all means necessary including
direct action, strikes and occupations, up to and including a general strike to
bring down the coalition government.
Unite the rival national anticuts campaigns at the People’s Assembly – drawing in
the many local anticuts committees and campaigns. Together we must formulate a
national plan of action. We support the call for a huge demonstration of February 15
2003 proportions to launch mass action.

A party that:
Supports the building of anti-bureaucratic rank and file movements in every union to
deliver action with the union leaders if possible but without them where necessary.
Supports the creation of autonomous movements of the unemployed and youth and a
working class women’s movement.
Opposes all imperialist wars and occupations abroad and state repression of civil
rights at home in the name of the ‘war on terror’ or of delivering ‘humanitarian
aid’.
Supports the Arab revolutions and the fight of the Palestinians to return to their
homeland.
Opposes the savage austerity imposed by the rulers of the European Union on Greece,
Cyprus and other countries and calls for Europe-wide actions in solidarity with all
those fighting the cuts.
Fights against racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia and all forms of social
oppression.
Fights against the capitalist destruction of the environment.

The New Left party should campaign to unite workers, students, welfare claimants and
youth around the replacement of crisis-wracked capitalism with a democratically
planned, ecologically sustainable, socialist system. The means needed to achieve
this goal – whether by a social revolution or by a process of social reform – will
have to be democratically debated and discussed by the members of the new party
before this is finally established in a programme.


32 comments

32 responses to “Building Left Unity: where to begin?”

  1. Ben McCall says:

    Wow, this is really exciting! I’ve never seen anything written quite like this before, it’s really new and inspiring.

    And I’ve just got it, the curvy bit in the ‘5’ is like a sickle, so with the hammer it makes a ‘hammer and sickle’ – clever!

  2. Mrenwick says:

    I think this article is almost completely wrong and if taken as a blueprint for attempting to bulid left unity would lead to complete failure. At its heart is a misrepresentation of the political situation that we are in. Ordinary people are facing massive cuts. The Lords have voted through the privatisation of every aspect of clinical practice in the NHS. People are not only left in precarious employment their benefit entitlement is now precarious too. Education, welfare, social care, health care, every aspect of the public sector is being opened up to neo-liberal privatisation. The coverage of the Thatcher funeral gave a sickening summation of the situation we are in: her death gave me no grounds for celebration: it reiterated the Thatcherites victory. We do have campaigns that are popular and are getting people involved but remember: the bedroom tax campaign is a campaign to defend the poorest people in society in an attempt to stop them being evicted. The campaign in the NHS is to stop private companies taking over our hospitals. These are defensive campaigns desperately trying to defend basic parts of the welfare state and housing. We are being attacked and beaten. The NHS has probably just been privatised. This is not a position of strength. It is not a situation where in reality we are in a place to build mass opposition from the rank and file. Opposition to cuts from the unions is in the iron grip of the bureaucrats. Talk of the need for left wing programs only serves to disorientate and demoralise. They offer us no real insights into how we might build. These sects have been arguing these positions for years. They have failed to find an audience. They are welcome to continue to build tiny irrelevant groups but please do not try to impose these failed politics on us. I think building left unity will be a long and difficult project and welcome any one who wants to be part of it. The point is that left unity is not for me about amalgamating the failed far left groupings but about developing a coherent force to the left of labour that can begin to argue in the defence of the welfare state. The last thing we need is a tick box program of policies and positions we agree or disagree with. I expect to work with people who do not agree and that is the joy in this project.

    • Dave Edwards says:

      Your words are a bit harsh; and I think Kady makes some valid points; but essentially I agree with you

    • Mrenwick says:

      Re-reading both Kady’s article and my own comment I probably do think my response was too harsh. This reflects, I think, a legitimate concern regarding the motivation of small organised revolutionary groups in their response to the Left Unity appeal. However Kady’s description of the reality of austerity and the response of New Labour, the Trades Unions and the existing Left is a powerful and accurate one. However I do think that Left Unity is still in a fragile and embryonic state. I do think that local and regional groups need longer to form properly and to discuss what Left Unity is and can be. I am sure we will develop a more coherent understanding of where we stand in both defending the welfare state, fighting cuts and creating a fairer economic system. Where I still disagree more fundamentally with Kade is in his (and Workers Power) prescription of how we might go about this. The spectacular failure of the far left in confronting austerity and responding to New Labour suggest our old formulas do not work well. We have to listen and learn more – lecture less. The National meetings coming up are one opportunity for more discussion but whatever formulations are agreed at these; they need bringing back to the local and regional groups. The experts in how we work in Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Hull or Doncaster are probably the people who live in those communities.

  3. ed1975 says:

    Welcome to Left Unity. I agree with much of what you’re saying but I do have a couple of point I’m not convinced on. It’s clear that a lot of people involved in Left Unity will have very different approaches. Some people will be very keen on winning local council seats and European Parlimant seats. Others will be much more interested in direct action, getting involved with unions etc.
    I see this as something that is very important to preserve. If we want anything vaguely resembling unity we must allow for differences. Anarchists may have no interest in canvssing and others will certainly not be keen on occupations. Each member should be allowed to determine their own level and type of commitment.
    The only “periods of thorough discussion and free and open dissent” I’m interested in are all the time.

    • John Penney says:

      Kady Tait’s article may well be a bit too detailed in it’s prescription of the base principles and issues on which Left Unity should build and campaign – but at least she has put up a set of clear principles and an overall political approach. Your approach,however, ed1975, is a recipe for a short-lived unprincipled shambles ! It simply will not work to have innumerable people ” just doing their thing” – regardless of the necessary constraints of a democratically agreed set of objectives and a Party Manifesto of what Left Unity is “For” and also what Left Unity is “against”.

      For instance, we all know what an ever deepening mess the Green Party is getting into when , as in Brighton, it is in a position of holding local Council “power” (in office , but totally constrained by central government imposed budget limits). It is no use at all Left Unity winning local council seats , (or MEP seats, or Parliamentary seats) unless there is very clear Party policy on what the aims of holding such positions are, ie, to resolutely oppose all budget cuts , with no permission under any circumstances to collaborate with cuts as the Greens always will – ie, to provide a platform for building broader mass struggle against the cuts – far beyond the very tightly constrained opportunities for radical action within local government itself.

      Your concept of a “party” (more a spontaneous “happening”) is a recipe for potentially fast growth around crude, generalised “feel-good” slogans and a completely correct disenchantment with New Labour – quickly degenerating into unfocussed opportunism and an equally rapid collapse. I agree Left Unity has to break out of the Leninist/1917 Revolution obsessed mould of the existing Far Left – but a clear party manifesto and democratically agreed strict operational principles and strategy are also essential for a new radical broadly based party of the Left with a future.

  4. Bazza says:

    Dreary lecture -by The Tooting Popular Front.! All the answers without working out solutions WITH working people. Poor communication like plenty in the ‘left’. Could you saycwhatvyou believec simply and in 100 word?. I just want to stand by working people and work out things TOGETHER -Though w class I also recognise that many of the progressive m class may also be on our side. Throw away ready made plan s – could be empowering buiding an alternative from below. The best thing we all bring to the table is critical thinking.

  5. ed1975 says:

    No where did i say we should have a set of objectives or agree what we are for or against. I think on the left it will be pretty easy for a large range of people to unite around a set of principles and goals. In fact i stated that I agreed with most of the article.
    Where the left struggles to unite is how best to achieve those goals. if people have to take part in activities they don’t agree because they lost the vote they won’t carry out those activities anyway they will leave. That is not a recipe for unity.
    I know of no section of the left that can claim much sucess over the last thirty years. No one can claim to know the answers. If we want to genuinely try and create something new then we need to be open to experimenting and unusual ideas.
    If an organisation is going to be genuinely built from the bottom up different Left Unity groups will have different ways of doing things. I think that will be a strengh as we can learn from each other. If I’m going to have to stand on the high street and sell a paper I think is crap because the central commitee told me to I’m afraid I’m out.
    Having a strict operational strategy is a recipe for alienating virtually everyone except the few hundred people who all exactly agree. We have dozens of those organisations already.

  6. ed1975 says:

    Sorry. First sentence should be: No where did i say we SHOULDN’T have a set of objectives…

  7. CWitter says:

    Unfortunately, unlike Ben, I have heard all of this before. It’s achingly similar to the platform of, e.g., the SWP.

    I’m particularly confused about how and why Left Unity must “Support the Arab revolutions and the fight of the Palestinians to return to their homeland.” Are we pro-military intervention in these places? How would such ‘rescue missions’ accord with the opposition to imperialist and “humanitarian” aid, wars and occupations? More, where do we draw the line between condemning Israeli military aggression and its murder of Palestinian civilians and calls for the destruction of the Israeli state? Indeed, why is it imperative to focus on Israeli abuses, as though they constituted some kind of special exception to the general pattern of capitalist exploitation, expropriation and imperialism?

    On the other foot, my sympathy for the Palestinian people is there, but I certainly find it difficult to cultivate a proper sense of Palestinian nationalism, which is something of a block to my transforming sympathy into solidarity. In the UK we certainly see capitalist forces destroying the livelihoods of ordinary people, destroying the environment and propogating violent and cruel crimes. But, I struggle to draw a meaningful comparison between the struggles of the urban proletariat in Europe and that of olive farmers in the West Bank. In truth, I feel the situation of the palestinian people has become an empty reference point for most UK leftists. It is certainly emotive, but we are not able to offer any real theoretical or practical insight or strategy.

    As for the rest, I agree very much that it is important that Left Unity does not simply confine itself to the narrow straight-jacket of parliamentary politics. However, how do we intend to do what the SWP could not do: build a rank and file union movement? This is not in any way answered here. On another feed I have made the argument that what is necessary is an attempt to organise the mass of workers (75%?) who are not unionised, particularly focusing on precarious, part-time and temporary labour, and on the unemployed. This could then become the basis for an assault on the union bureaucracies. It’s an idea.

    Of course, we will not get anywhere if the constituency Left Unity attracts is limited to leftish individualists who have no serious analysis beyond a “yeah!” for the vague leftish slogan and an “Errr… But, isn’t the word ‘capitalism’ rather far-left and alienating?” when it comes to concrete plans and strategies. At the moment that appears to be the case. Political consciousness is the UK is so utterly non-existent that we seem only to be heading towards a repeat of that Occupy St. Paul’s debacle, where the platitudes of a Left that’s forgotten how to think (e.g.’Capitalism is Crisis’) are substituted for a hollow, conventional, middle-class moralism (e.g. ‘Stamp Out Usury’ and even ‘What would Jesus do?’). Thus the debate over revolution vs. reformism is repeated as farce.

    • CWitter says:

      *”are substituted by”, i.e. ‘replaced by’.

    • Ray G says:

      There is no need for Britain to invade Palestine. We (Britain) started the disaster off in the first place.

      What we can and must do is offer solidarity, by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, as Palestinian civil society has asked us to do. I have my own views about Palestine, as it is the main focus of my activity, and has been for a few years, but I don’t need to impose them on Left Unity.

      Simple solidarity and support for the resistance of Palestinians in the face of ethnic cleansing, military occupation and torture and death is the starting point.

  8. Ray G says:

    Oh God, I’m stuck in a time warp.

    The very last thing I want is a united front of existing ‘left’ (meaning Leninist) parties. I’ve come round to the idea through discussions on this site that members of the little grouplets can join as individuals, mainly because if we stay small enough to enable them to take over, as they always want to do, then we will already have lost. Don’t misunderstand me. I am happy to work with anyone from any tradition, but for me Left Unity is building a new PARTY – one that commands the loyalty of its members. If those in those parties are OK with that then fine. If not they should continue to plough their own highly principled furrow. A federal cobbling together of various sections or various 4th (or – God save us – 5th) Internationals would be a pointless disaster.

    I don’t want to attack any individuals. The Trotsyist left has provided many good class fighters over the years and led some temporary good campaigns. I was a member of Militant (now the Socialist Party) for many years myself, and have worked with many others since, most notably around the Miners’ Strike in 84-85, However some uncomfortable truths need to be said.

    The democratic centralist model of the Leninist vanguard party has failed. Not just failed temporarily, or going through a bad patch, but has failed spectacularly for decades, failed beyond the wildest imaginings of satire.

    Nor has the failure been simply good ideas ahead of their time, or parties being ‘in advance of the class’ but these parties have BY THEIR OWN ACTIONS set back many worthwhile campaigns and resistance attenpts by their trivial and shocking sectarianism and authoritarianism, their total absence of doubt or their toleration for opposition.

    No. You are all welcome – but come to learn, rather then teach

    • Ray G says:

      I meant, of course, LACK of toleration for opposition

      • Ben McCall says:

        Ray G you are an utter gem! I am not being ‘funny’ now. This is one of the best contributions to the whole site and from someone who has been through the vanguardist mincer.

        Nice one Ray. I hope to meet you one day and give you a comradely hug. I very much look forward to LU developing with Ray’s words in mind.

  9. Peter Burrows says:

    As we all see the three main establishment parties make a political sprint towards the same political ground,never before will there be a large gaping void on the left of british politics & given the perilous state we find the condition of many of our services within the public sector ,coupled with the assault upon working peoples lives both in their communities & in the workplace ,its essential the left find “common purpose” in terms of unity .

    The thin political veneer that is now (one nation) Labour is yet more branded sloganism ,not unlike Blairs new labour ,both being project based & with a limited shelf life ,so the working people so desperate for political representation ,need LU not to complicate things ,not to (at the outset) delve into a large political shopping list of detailed policy .

    People want to know our core values & principles ,how they relate to them in their local areas where they live & within there workplace .

    Its clear by the growing network of groups evolving up & down the country that is a process thats developing day to day ,week to week ,month by month .

    As that process & community engagement gathers pace each area will identify how best to work for & with their respective communities ,flowing from the groups will come development of ideas on both a regional then national theme .which i assume would filter into any policy making bodies ,that will be put in place in due course.

    There are many people out there in OUR communities wanting the radical left of politics to look out to THEM ,in there tenant/resident association ,womens groups ,youth organisations ,local trade union branches etc etc .

    They want a movement /party that looks outwards ,is progressive & intent on the needs & aspirations of working people & not contemplating its own navel.

    The political stakes are to high. The establishment parties of the centre & the right will mobilise & come together sooner rather than later ,the question for us on the left do we have both the political will & the political maturity to do the same ,we know what history tells us ,do we now tear up the history books ?. The choice is ours !

    Peter…………..

  10. Bazza says:

    I spoke at a public meeting on a council estate with about 100 w class people present – I said I am from a small democratic w class socialist party and how can we help? The other speaker was from I think Workers Power and said exactly the same as the beginning of this post. At the end of the meeting he was chaired on the residents shoulders out of the room and I was shocked! It was only on leaving the buiding that I noticed him climbing out of the nearby skip! (This is a joke). There has never been a socialist society from Trotsky to Lenin to mass murderer Stalin we had top down ‘socialism’ what Rosa Luxemburg I think called a ‘bourgeois dictatorship of the proletariate’ – an elite central committee, secret police etc. perhaps what LU needs to be is grassroots-led, bottom up, democratic, peaceful,socialist and we should stand by working people locally, nationally and internationally. The pure m class SWP and parties like the SP (uncritical Trotskyist sects) and possibly WP seem to believe in the banking concept of political education – all they need to do is deposit their ideas and programme into the heads of the w class then their cadres and elite central committee will lead us all to the promised land! Yet progressive education follows the ideas of Paulo Freire and we engage with people, draw from them and their reality and experiences and work things out TOGETHER. My 3 influences are Paulo Freire, the music of John Lennon and Paul Frolich’s biography of Rosa Luxemburg. Perhaps people need to bring ideas to LU but as someone said perhaps we also need to learn. There is hope!

  11. Jonno says:

    Great debate, this is what is needed, we won’t get unity until we thrash out what we are for, but it must be soon, the poor, marginalised, disabled claimants, etc, want to work with you and although I can’t speak for them are ready for the fight.

  12. Jonno says:

    Oh, and yes we could learn a lot from the ideas of Paulo Freire

    no more teacher-student relationships on the Left, look at what happened in the SWP when these hierarchical structures are imposed.

  13. Mark Perryman says:

    ” Nor has the failure been simply good ideas ahead of their time, or parties being ‘in advance of the class’ but these parties have BY THEIR OWN ACTIONS set back many worthwhile campaigns and resistance attenpts by their trivial and shocking sectarianism and authoritarianism, their total absence of doubt or their lack of toleration for opposition.”

    Ray. Thanks and well said! This is precisely why it is entirely legitimate to express reservations about the intent of those wo come to Left Unity from the pre-existing organised Left, as groups who maintain their own organisation and inner structures. They are welcome to buld their own parties (good luck with that) but not at the expense of ours.

    This isn’t a smear, ban, or witch-hunt. Its the experience many of us share and if it is repeated in Left Unity then it won’t be the party for us. Les be absolutely clear about this from the start to avoud the tears later.

    Mark P

  14. Nick J says:

    This article us typical if the ‘here’s one I made earlier’ model of working. Old left- same old, same old. As a member of Left Unity Leeds I urge KD to come to a meeting in Leeds and talk to some of the new people who are inspired by the appeal for Left Unity. Also, help lealfet for our meetings and the launch 22nd May. It is only when you begin to talk to others in the group that you get a feel for what they want to see develop. The habit of turning up with a ready made framework before the group has even started to develop is not healthy- we need to lecture less and listen more. Get to know a wide range of supporters. The broad statement and appeal is a good start to draw people together- we now need time for discussion and activity. The left has never been so weak- we have just witnessed the crime of the century- the NHS is being privatised and the welfare state is being dismantled at an alarming rate. The social democratic movement was based upon this and proudly won the security net many rely on. This is going fast- we need maximum unity in action We need to win support by being active in our communities- not just bore them or lecture them with the ‘we know more better’ approach.

  15. Tom says:

    Mark Perryman says of socialist, “They are welcome to buld their own parties (good luck with that) but not at the expense of ours.” The problem is, Mark, that Left Unity is not YOUR party. you have made it abundantly clear that you don’t want socialism. Like Neil Kinnock before you, you want to witch hunt socialist out of Left Unity. Well, I don’t think this is what Ken Loach has in mind. The SWP, SP, WP Socialist Resistance and others need to embrace a party project and that means the kind of federal structure that TUSC has been toying with alienates far too many potential activists and voters. It is not going to work, and the rise of Left Unity proves that. Left Unity has the potential to galvanize many who have drifted into Labour’s orbit for lack of any alternative pole of attraction. The big battalions of TUSC, including one important trade union have to be embraced by Left Unity. The SWP, SP and others have to be free to form factions to fight for their policies and get their candidates selected, just as Mark Perryman should be free to work with other like minded people to get his fellow travelers selected. I don’t fancy his chances though since he is not offering anything that will inspire anyone who thinks Labour has betrayed the left. The model for Left Unity has to be pre-1912 RSDLP or the SSP before in its early years, but with rights for everyone to sell their literature, including the SWP. Another useful model might be the pre-WWI German SPD. But the Rosa Luxemburg wing should be organised as it was inside the pre-1912 RSDLP. Luxemburg never called for Lenin’s Bolsheviks to be expelled by the RSDLP and no socialist should call for Workers Power, the SWP or SP to be banned from Left Unity. Isn’t this obvious?

    • John Penney says:

      I partly agree with you, Tom, to the extent that if Left Unity gains some membership traction in the next few months or so, the existing Far Left groups will all want a share in it. The “big battalions” of TUSC you are referring to though, are hardly a major building block , as the Far Left in total probably accounts for about 4,000 activists at present, Certainly not many more. How meaningful limited trades union affiliation to TUSC has been in boosting its credibility and impact so far is hard to judge – it hasn’t added up to much really has it.

      I personally accept that the Far Left groups will be part of Left Unity, but those of us who have been around the political block a few times also accept , with considerable shudders, that the motivation of most Far Left groups in “entering” what they see as “centrist” or “reformist” parties is usually to “expose the leadership and politics” through constant bickering and disruption. I well remember the impact of Workers Fight (forerunner of Workers Power) on “joining” with the International Socialists (now SWP) in response to Tony Cliff’s then Left Unity Appeal in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Workers Fight were so disruptive inside the IS that in 1971 they all had to be expelled ! In fact the ,tiny but then fast growing IS, was bedevilled with numerous “entrist” groups on “smash and grab entry missions” during the early 1970’s. Their “mission was clear – cause mayhem through endless , fruitless” raising of all the usual Trotskyist political issues, and try to grab a few members before being chucked out . I was there, it seriously got in the way of real political activity – and certainly made local branch life unliveable in for ordinary people just wanting to fight the Tories.

      The Far Left groups will undoubtedly cause some degree of mayhem in Left Unity – and may kill it stone dead before its even achieved anything. Individual membership requirement will at least calm this down a bit compared to Left Unity merely being a conglomeration of existing groups and campaigns – but not by much. Sadly, the more the Far Left insists on expounding the ” Leninist tracts and the lessons of early 20th century Social Democratic/revolutionery Left history , and the October 1917 Revolution ” at every turn, the less attractive Left Unity will be as a vehicle for masses of ordinary people to fight the Austerity offensive – and hence Left Unity could be yet another failed “Unity” project which never achieves a critical mass of size to keep the Far left interested in entrism for very long.

      It would be better for everyone if the Far Left just accepted that there is a deep groundswell wish amongst former Left Labour supporters and other Left radicals for a party that at THIS STAGE of the struggle needs to fight on a radical, resistance oriented, — rather than revolutionery, platform of struggle. The important issues of Reform versus Revolution, will only have any significance at all if the essentially reformist but radical demands for the reversal of the privatisation of the NHS and the Austerity Offensive, start to seriously worry the capitalist class – via direct action, rent strikes, civil disobedience campaigns ,mass demonstrations, and electoral advance by an avowedly anti-austerity Party. To get to that point, from the current position of outright retreat on all fronts, we need to build a radical movement which AT THIS STAGE is not avowedly revolutionery. But as a neo Trot yourself you should be prepared to see this as part of a “Transitional Demands” led stage of struggle – ie, making demands of the capitalist state that in normal times are just reformist, but in the context of today’s world capitalist crisis, could be in the longer term ,revolutionery.

      • Jim Davids says:

        Just for info,

        Workers Fight were the forerunners of today’s Alliance For Workers’ Liberty (AWL).

        Workers Power were and are a separate organisation who originated in the Left Faction of the International Socialists who were expelled in 1975.

    • arranjames says:

      I have essentially one point that I keep coming back to on this website. It is simple and it is this: this is supposed to be a rethinking of mass political organising on the left. A re-thinking. Does anyone actually know what it means to re-think something? It means that, while not forgetting history, you don’t simply trot out statements like ‘the model for Left Unity has to be pre-1912 RSDLP or the SSP before in its early years’; this isn’t re-thinking, it is re-turning.

      Also, Mark Perryman (who I neither no nor care about, I simply see you replying to almost everyone of his posts) explicitly stated he was not calling for a ban. He said that the SWP etc. can build their own parties but not at the expense of a Left Unity party. That is to say, all are welcome until they start to undermine the point of such a party…isn’t that a proposition the SWP also operate according to?

      Speaking as someone who has never before been tempted by “political politics”, I would simply say that the idea that I am here because I have a craving for a centralised party, over a federated system, is nonsense. I am here, and I can speak only for myself, because Left Unity represented a desire to discuss the formation of a new party… but more importantly, to discuss the idea of a united front on the left. I might be naive, I might even be willfully naive (it stops you getting bitter) but to me the call for unity is one that should be taken seriously. So far all I can see is in-fights and denunciations coming from you.

      On the off chance, just on the very off chance, that anyone who is not behind Left Unity but could potentially be (or people who are but could easily not be) this is exactly the kind of thing that could be disastrous for them to come across and read. This is a public website that the entire UK, and beyond, has access to. Perhaps you might remember that?

  16. Dave Edwards says:

    Kady makes many fine points. However, the article tone is black and white (two stark colours) in approach. Something is, or it is not. Human societies and people are, however, more complex; they may also hold contradictory ideas. Each person is also not a singular economic-man (or woman). But is a multiple person with different interests. For example, they may be employed ‘as a worker’, but also be a home owner. They may be a parent and have an aging parent. They may be very concerned about the progress of their football club. Their immediate and overriding concern is the dog-shit on the pavements – as this affects their lives.
    In consequence a party that is part and parcel of communitities also has to reflect this complexity. Kady implies that the party will be a party of protest and ‘campaigning’. But if it is only this, it will be a party of a few thousand committed and angry ‘rrrevolutionaries’. Rather it needs to be a broad party that represents communities in their day-to-day lives, as well as challenging the structure of the capitalist system. In consequence, it should include people who want to ‘clean up the pavements’ as well as those who want a modern version of the Paris Commune. BOTH are important and are tied together in a symmetry that can change society. Taking only one segment or part will simply mean that the chemistry of social change will not work.

  17. Ray G says:

    Tom. Come on now.

    Mark is not, explicitly not, calling for a witch-hunt. He, and I, are simply saying that if you are in a party, your primary loyalty must be to that party. If you organise as a faction or any group of like-minded people who want to change party policy – fine. However, that is not the same as one party entering another party as a tactic to poach members ready for a future damaging split. Tom, you know that is what some (though by no means all) the established Trotskyist parties will want to do. It is a question of loyalty to the party and respect and trust between members. I have some knowledge of this. I spent eleven years as a Trotskyist mole inside the Labour Party. I had absolutely no loyalty to the party or its members whatever and saw it simply as a feeding ground to recruit members of my vanguard party (Militant, at the time – now the Socialist Party). It is not even as though the far left can hold up a fantastic model of success to the rest of us, just decades and decades of failure, division and missed opportunities to unite properly and really do something important. The behaviour of the different revolutionary parties would simply be ridiculous if it were not so tragic.

    I hope that many of the best members of such parties DO join. I guess that many will caucus and sell their own material. Fine – provided they help to promote the main party as well, and distribute its literature and sell (maybe) its paper. The situation has to be monitored for good intentions and respect. If I feel that people are coming to meetings and activities just to raid or poach, or stitching things up in separate meetings then I will not be happy. As I said above, however, if we are small enough to be taken over then we probably deserve to be.

    By the way, asserting that Mark is not a socialist because he does not share your view or your party model is a good example of why some of us are concerned. Who gave you the copyright or patent on socialism?

    In fact there is not such a terrible divide between us. You accept that a federation of far-left parties is an inadequate model. You accept that our Party has to be a bottom-up full democracy, and not a centralist party. Mark, I believe, and I are OK with individual membership from other left parties, while expressing our reservations, born of previous unhappy experiences, of how they might organise and act. But let’s see how it goes. We might all end up as smiley happy people working hard to build a great, fun new party that can seriously challenge Labourism for the first time.

  18. Ally MacGregor says:

    Well, last night, I went to see the Spirit of ’45. It gave me some lessons that I think were un intended. It reinforced my belief in the devolution of power, all the way down to the individual, such that ideas are allowed to flow up. The film included comments that struck me quite hard.

    Left Unity, in my view should not just be a party (organisation, other than Coalition, call it what you will) that sits to the left of the current Labour Party, let’s face it, that isn’t difficult, is it? It shouldn’t either, seek to be a re-creation of the 1945 Attlee Gov’t, Labour Party. Although that Labour Party, when in power, did some pretty amazing things in a short space of time and had the support of the masses, they stepped back from creating a ‘Socialist’ community, choosing instead to implement some Socialist ideas, NHS, Nationalisation programs etc but continued to run the country as a Capitalist Social Democracy. We cannot repeat this, for we will be right to where we are now not so far in the future.

    People, ordinary working people have to be encouraged to take part in the society that they want. Left Unity, in my view needs to bear this in mind. However, we can still learn some lessons from that ’45 Labour party. For example, on the film there was a clip showing a Labour politician standing on something raised talking to hundreds of people who were surrounding him. Perhaps, we could get some of those that appear to already be grabbing positions at our head, to do likewise, perhaps we could ask people from the floor, as it were, to speak of their hope and dreams, their anguish at what is currently happening, perhaps someone would get up there and explain that it was the failure of the ’45 Gov’t to fully pick up the baton to set up real socialism which finally landed us here. Already the project appears to be taking a swing towards a Top-Down organisation, reminding me of Stalin’s quote that he had to do the thinking of the peasants, for they were not capable. There appears to me, an element of that, amont the left groups and also a smidgeon here too.

    I have to say here, that I don’t like the restrictions being placed upon this inaugural meeting of Left Unity, I want everyone to be involved. I want the organisation to be set up such that all local groups have clear communication lines and autonomy to set their own agendas, rules, terms of references etc, according to their own circumstance. If we have to have a co-ordinating committee, then that is what it should be. To facilitate the close communication of groups, branches etc and not as TUSC has, a Steering Committee that acts more as a Braking Committee. I want the groups to flourish and to develop independently whilst focussing on common aims and advising and assisting each other through fraternal inter-relationships, thus allowing ideas to not only flow up, though that will be the general direction but flow across, naturally, rather than being either, stopped in their tracks or imposed downwards from a small echelon of self perceived ‘elite’ thinkers.

    Whilst we are talking about our ‘politics’ i.e. what we are for or against, I feel that we have to also place great importance upon how we organise ourselves and to not allow ourselves to be hemmed in, to becoming just another electoral ‘front’ for the left. I think it would/will be a catastrophe if we were to become either, a Centralist Democratic or a Federalist organisation.

    LET THE SUN SHINE UPON OUR THINKING!!!

    Ally

  19. Jonno says:

    Hi, I don’t post on FB, but I would like to ask the mods could they put more on the page about basic issues?, benefits, bedroom tax, ESA, people are dying here as a consequence of these changes and others are living on 3 pounds a day DWP emergency loans.

    in fact, it would be great if like Respect for the Unemployed FB site and others, lots of info was posted.

    tx


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