Communist Platform statement on the candidacy of Steve Freeman

1. Steve Freeman has announced that he is a parliamentary candidates in Bermondsey and Old Southwark for the May 7 general election. He is standing as a Republican Socialist. He is therefore opposing Kingsley Abrams, a candidate jointly backed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity. Politically this amounts to sabotage.

2. Comrade Abrams is a former local councillor and was the official Labour candidate in the 2001 general election. He lost to Simon Hughes, but got 30% of the vote. Comrade Abrams fell foul of the Labour Party machine after speaking out against austerity. He describes himself as old Labour and recently resigned from the party after 30 years of membership. Comrade Abrams then offered to stand under the banner of Tusc and LU – an offer that was eagerly accepted at both a local and national level. Southwark LU officially endorsed him on February 25.

3. Though comrade Abrams is not a member of LU, he is without doubt the right candidate to back. He is not only challenging Simon Hughes once again, but mainstream Labour hopeful Nick Coyle. His central slogan is ‘No to austerity’.

4. Comrade Freeman is a member of Left Unity. Till recently he was in charge of its constitutional commission and put himself forward for its national council in internal elections. His criticisms of old Labour and Tusc are well founded. The idea of a Labour Party mark II is illusory and doomed to fail. However, comrade Freeman’s ‘republican socialism’ amounts to little more than a leftwing version of English nationalism.

5. Even if he advocated a politically principled socialist programme comrade Freeman would be wrong to stand. The left in Britain is woefully weak and dividing of our forces in the general election can only but damage our cause. Political criticism is perfectly legitimate – indeed it is required. But when it comes to the May 7 general election our motto should be ‘Unity in action’.

6. We urge comrade Freeman to behave in a responsible manner and immediately step down as a candidate. If he refuses then it is clear that the national council is duty-bound to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him under clause 18(a) of the constitution.


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12 comments

12 responses to “Communist Platform statement on the candidacy of Steve Freeman”

  1. John Penney says:

    It is not necessary to be a supporter of the Communist Platform (I’m not) to agree with every word of this article. The obsessive petty Left nationalism masquerading under the innacurate title of “Republican Socialism” as espoused by the Republican Socialist grouping around Steve Freeman has nothing whatsoever to do with socialism and everything to do with divisive petty Left Scottish, Welsh and English , Nationalism – of a most peculiar, almost 18th century bourgeois radical, kind. The highly credible TUSC candidate for this seat, , Kingsley Adams , is undoubtedly the candidate socialists should support and vote for.

    If Steve Freeman does not stand down from this divisive, competitive, candidature, he will bring Left Unity into disrepute, as a splitter of the radical anti Austerity Left vote (as the peculiar petty Left Nationalist politics of the “Republican socialist” grouping does anyway by their very nature – as anyone who has waded though the ahistorical nonsense produced by Mr Freeman for the LU Constitution Commission can testify.), and should be subject to the disciplinary procedures of Left Unity.

  2. John Tummon says:

    The Constitution section on Tendencies states that “Tendencies have a right to be heard, to organise meetings, to produce literature, to distribute materials at LU meetings and, in general, to try to influence and/or change party policy, but must not do so in the name of LU or any of its constituent bodies”. At the initial conference, it was made clear from the acting transitional leadership body, in response to either the CPGB or some other group, that this included the right to criticise LU from the outside. This surprised me, and many others, at the time

    Since Steve’s candidature is aimed solely at bringing to the rest of the Left and the wider public the argument for incorporating socialist republican principles into policy and practice, his campaign is therefore one of critical support for the LU candidate.

    The history of Left participation in elections shows that the chances of either candidate getting more than 1% of the vote are slim indeed, so in what way will LU be harmed by this? At this stage in LU’s growth, electoral participation is purely about raising the profile of socialist arguments against neoliberal orthodoxy (austerity, war, smashing the public sector, etc) and there is no reason whatsoever to imagine that Kingsley Abrams’ campaign will be harmed in respect of his or the LU branch’s ability to raise an anti-capitalist profile. Kate might argue that the electorate will be confused by both Steve and Kingsley standing as rivals, but the same is the case in all of the seats where LU / TUSC are standing as rivals to the Greens, which is why I voted against LU standing in Stockport (In the event the vote went against me [3 for standing, 2 against and 2 abstentions]. The reality is that confusing the electorate only matters when a party has a chance of making a political breakthrough, which is plainly not the case in Bermondsey.

    Section 3d, as Kate has interpreted it, could be used against any LU member who, like me, reserves the right not to support an LU / TUSC candidate under the circumstances of a very split local vote.

    I think she would have a hard time proving a breach of the LU constitution, because a) there is a contradiction between the section she wants to use and the section on Tendencies and b) because section 3d of the constitution has nothing to say on circumstances in which a candidate is standing for an electoral alliance that includes LU and an outside organisation; you would have to convince the Disputes and Appeals bodies that 3d was clearly meant to cover electoral alliances as well. Good luck with finding evidence for that!

    The fact is that many LU members have felt uncomfortable about LU standing on a joint electoral platform with TUSC for a variety of reasons, including its dubious commitment to gender equality and its economism. Basically, you are asking the organisation to privilege LU’s relationship with an external organisation over its relationship with an internal tendency.

    Now the CP says the RSA comes down to English Nationalism, backed up by the usual Trotskyist hack, John Penney This is the CP’s analytical conclusion after reading through a statement which makes several references to the need to bring the lessons of Scotland to England; i.e. the Scottish democratic revolution.

    Which part of the dictionary did they use to reach this, I wonder?

    As a member of Left Unity, the Republican Socialist Tendency and the Republican Socialist Alliance and who has argued for months that my local branch should not be standing against the Greens, I find myself in agreeing with the suggestion of Dave Church, who told the last RSA meeting that no organisation on the Left should stand candidates anywhere unless and until they know through polling that their local, grassroots work has built up at least 5% of the vote.

    For months now I have been challenging Trotskyists within LU to show me the strategic political arguments for electoralism and the silence is deafening – there is clearly nothing but habit & hope (both misplaced) that this will miraculously ‘increase our profile’. It never does – you can count on one hand the number of times more than 1% has voted for a Left candidate. LU has degenerated into one not so big ball of internal wrangling around the leadership’s consistent attempts to expel people with whom it disagrees or whose actions it finds disagreeable. The 10,000 who signed up for a new party of the Left have, as Mark says, taken a look at LU and gone with the Greens. LU has missed the boat in recruiting the people who have been politicised in the course of this parliament; the project of left unity has instead become a paper exercise of a joint venture with the suddenly well heeled SP and SWP; crucially, it does not involve having made any sustainable inroads into the mass of people.

    As John Pearson has shown on the Unoffical Left Unity Facebook page, the case against Steve is thin at best but, behind it, lies a much more important issue – the culture of puffed up leftist wrangling over things that will not matter within months and don’t matter at all to the people we need to be attracting to create a socialist movement. Electoral initiatives are mostly a diversion, anyway, and one that always takes the left back to square one. What irony if this turns out to be the issue that buries LU. For the umpteenth time, can anyone tell me the political theory behind the left participating in elections, how it fits into political strategy and the evidence that it does this?

  3. TimP says:

    Clause 18) a) is procedural. You need to have grounds on which to make a complaint. If Kingsley Abrams was adopted as the Left Unity candidate before Steve Freeman, then it could argued he is breaching 3) d) of the Membership clause, namely that members are required to support Left Unity candidates in elections. Standing against an official LU candidate would seem to be a fairly clear-cut infringement.

  4. Nick Long says:

    I would storngly urge comrade Steve Freeman to standown in Bermondsey. His explusion will be a set back for Republician in the party.

  5. John Tummon says:

    Kingsley is a TUSC / LU candidate, not an LU candidate. Kingsley is not a member of LU and Steve made his candidature known before both the LU national decision on an electoral pact with TUSC & the branch decision. As Steve had said he would stand as a Republican Socialist, he did not require his branch’s backing. The purpose of his standing is to enhance the Left wing message by rounding it out by giving a proper airing to republicanism and why it is of vital, not marginal importance, to the socialist struggle. What exactly is he splitting? – a vote of a few hundred for both of them, which will have no impact whatsoever on the result, unlike some of the places where LU is contesting the Greens. There is a culture of witch-hunting in LU which is unsavoury and this is but the latest manifestation of it. The leadership and some of their followers like John Penney are at its epicentre.

  6. John Penney says:

    John Tummon, the entire Left Unity project , is built outwards from the clearly enunciated original call by Ken Loach to build a broadly based , mass, radical party of the socialist Left – to the Left of Labour . This is not, and has never been intended to be, some sort of revolutionary party . Significant ongoing participation in the electoral process, at all levels, along with community and trades union and single issue campaigning against the many aspects of the Austerity Offensive in particular, and capitalism in general, is the core activity area for our party. This has all been agreed democratically at Conference

    If you disagree with our significant (but by no means sole) focus on electoral campaigning , John, quite frankly you shouldn’t be in Left Unity. It is in fact very hard to work out why you are. Your repeated clearly stated support for the theocratic Caliphate ideology and claims for the supposed “anti imperialist credentials” of Islamic State has already gone all around the world blogosphere, bringing our party into serious disrepute. By any interpretation of our rules you yourself should have been expelled long ago for that disgraceful episode alone. And now you choose to support the divisive , competitive candidature of Steve Freeman against a very good , highly credible,radical Left , anti austerity candidate in Bermondsey , Kingsley Abrams, who is jointly supported by TUSC and Left Unity.

    Those who by their peculiar politics simply disrupt the long term, very difficult, project of building a broad, radical Left democratic socialist party which can compete credibly with Labour for the mass of left leaning voters, need to go off and set some other party up, more attuned to their politics – and leave our new party all the more attractive to the many tens of thousands of ordinary socialists and left leaning voters desperate for a serious party to lead the anti austerity fight. That so many people have currently jumped on the opportunist contradictory ramshackle political bandwagon that is the Green Party (and the SNP, and Plaid) just shows the sheer level of desperation currently driving a breakup of the old style political system. Old Politicos like you, John, and Steve Freeman, have irrelevant marginal politics which are quite simply standing in the way of Left Unity projecting itself as a serious Left alternative to Labour.

  7. Mick Hall says:

    Sadly from where I sit, this looks like the far left at its worst, just more navel gazing and attacking comrades who do not follow the true path of the old beards, what ever that may be and to hell with the pressing needs of the working class.

    Steve is using the election as a propaganda opportunity and he admits it, nothing more nothing less. As I aforementioned the same old, same old. Fuck the immediate needs of the working class, it basically sums up too, what he has to say is all that is important, presumably he believes down the road it will benefit the class, in his dreams perhaps?. Facing political reality it ain’t.

    He then has the cheek to use the silly insult of parliamentary cretinism, yet if by some miracle of absurdity he was elected to parliament, he would jump at the chance and not regard his presence in parliament as cretinism, now would he. He should stand down and continue the work he does around a republic within LU and the wider labour movement.

    Tail ending Scottish comrades in the general election campaign carries little weight down here, and I believe serves little useful purpose, solidarity yes but imitation no! In case some folk failed to notice there has been no storming of the winter palace by Scottish far left comrades. They have undoubtedly made progress but they remain on the outside looking in.(This is not a criticism, far from it in fact)

    I presume and hope we all believe a new party of the left is needed, if so pray tell me how splitting away from Left Unity, or setting oneself up for martyrdom advance that ambition?

    Its time we all understood the only way our cause will advance will be within a party which includes people whose politics we may disagree with at times, which makes it almost inevitable when we cannot win them over with debate and argument, decisions will go against us. (I’m referring to members in general here)

    In a democratic socialist party of the type I believe we need, we will just have to accept that and bow to the majority decision, learn lessons and fight on another day.

    On whether to stand in elections: It is not the number of candidates standing which is important but the quality of the candidates, the depth of Left Unity Party support in the constituency and the local roots of the candidate standing. When we stand candidates it must be because having been democratically selected they intend to win the seat, or at the very least increase LUP support in the constituency, not for ultra leftist propaganda reasons, which incidentally have failed so dismally in the past.

    By the way someone mentioned the Green party in this thread, I would have thought if comrades have not joined the GP yet, to join now is just more tail chasing, something similar happened a decade or so ago when the greens did well in the EU elections.

    Mick Hall

  8. John Tummon says:

    More finger-pointing & lies about my political views from our dear old unrehabilitated Trot in a desperate attempt to render my contribution about Bermondsey as irrelevant on the basis that it was written by me. If he had any counter arguments he would have set them out, but demonisation is easier; it hides his inability to answer the points I’ve made.

  9. Steve F says:

    Hi John,

    I may not agree with you on Iraq but I will defend your right to say it because you are a comrade. We should listen to what you have to say respectfully and if we feel you are wrong point out what we might feel is wrong. I have noticed a tendency to try to vilify and humiliate you. It is disgusting. Talk about safe spaces, there is no safe space in LU if witch hunters have free reign unchallenged. There are some right wingers in LU whose eyes are fixed firmly on a seat in parliament and are scarred you might queer their pitch. Feel sorry for them.

    Regards

    Steve

  10. John Tummon says:

    John Penney

    Get your Bolly out – I have resigned from Left Unity. You are one of the reasons why!

  11. John Penney says:

    I heartily commend your sensible decision, John. . Key aspects of your current politics are simply not compatible with the democratic socialist/feminist politics of Left Unity. I have friends considering joining Left Unity in Stockport who will now be much more comfortable in doing so.

  12. Tony Free says:

    It is rich TUSC making statements like this. They have been controlled by the RMT in Bristol West who now support the Green candidate. This made TUSC withdraw support for the LU candidate. I believe that members of TUSC should decide whether they are in TUSC or LU but not both.


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