“Left Unity” a New Radical Political Party of the Left

December 13, 2013

The result of the ballot at our Founding Conference on the name of our new party was as follows. This means we will be “Left Unity” as a new radical force on the left in the UK.

We are “Left Unity” a new political force on the left.
Result of party name:
Left Unity Party 47
Left Party 122
Left Unity 188
Democratic Voice 44

Second ballot
Left Party 139
Left Unity 235

71 Responses to “Left Unity” a New Radical Political Party of the Left

  1. Philip P
    November 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Is Left Unity organising in the six counties? I hope not.

    • kate
      December 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      It voted yesterday not to.

      • Sean
        December 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm

        And so Northern Ireland is left bereft of a left wing movement. Great.

    • Johnny Yuma
      December 2, 2013 at 7:27 am

      I find it disgusting that we have barred Irish people from joining Left Unity.

      • Terry
        December 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm

        Johnny you are mistaken. Irish people are not barred from LU. I am Irish, though living in England, and I intend to be an active member and I know of a number of other Irish LU members resident in the UK.
        However operating in Ireland is another matter. Even the UK Labour party does not campaign there. To do so is to reinforce the imperialist claim that the 6 counties are part of Britain and that Irish interests can best be represented by a British political party.
        This is why the Republican movement refuses to participate in the British parliament.
        The job of LU is to work in solidarity with Irish socialists and socialists of all countries, but not to usurp their role

      • Philip P
        December 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

        How so? Irish people resident in Britain are free to join Left Unity and there are all-Ireland socialist parties for people resident in Ireland.

  2. Robert Brenchley
    November 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    I thought the Conference went well, considering the bulk of uninspiring stuff we had to wade through. We broke the mould of British politics, doing everything democratically!

  3. Jon Read
    November 30, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    This is great but when are you publishing the manifesto?

  4. Ray G
    December 1, 2013 at 6:53 am

    Just felt like saying “well done” to everybody who attended the conference yesterday.

    Predictions of a left sectarian bun fight were proved utterly wrong. The important business was got through and everybody (almost) was friendly and reasonable. Sorry to disappoint all the cynics and disaster-mongers. Not.

    We have a party, a name, two (complementary) statements of our main ideas and approach, and a democratically agree constitution with a national structure and a short, pithy aims section.

    The hard work starts now!! Let’s get a) campaigning and b) get some more detailed policies to put some flesh on the bones.

  5. steve
    December 1, 2013 at 10:36 am

    does that mean 374 people were there?

    • kate
      December 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Probably more than that because not everyone voted. The number of participants will be announced when all the registrations have been counted.

  6. Onomarchos
    December 1, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Do it like SYRIZA!!!
    Become a BIG flag under which all flags fighting the same enemy will be united!
    Become “the sand in their cogwheels”…the sand in the system’s gears!!
    All the best from Greece! :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrUTVX7lkoY

    • Mark
      December 2, 2013 at 10:00 am

      No, doing it like SYRIZA is exactly what needs to be avoided.

      SYRIZA (also know as ‘New PASIO Lite’ ) support NATO and the neoliberal agenda of the EU, and are content to appease the capitalist system and its existing structures.

      SYRIZA are radical in name only and will simply succeed in subverting a true left vote and ensuring that there be no real systemic change – just like (old) PASOK did before them.

      • Mark
        December 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

        * ‘New PASOK Lite’

      • Robboh
        December 2, 2013 at 11:04 pm

        Is Syriza right wing now? blimey.

  7. John Penney
    December 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    A very good series of outcomes from the Founding Conference I thought. an exhausting day for everyone – but particularly for the two chairs and the Conference arrangements people – an incredibly difficult, complex , task done superbly.

    Outside commentators have sneered at how “boring it was”. Unfortunately in the world of grown up politics , establishing a Constitution in particular, IS boring to do , but is also absolutely vital. The two convenors of the internal Democracy Policy commission deserve a big commendation for the work they have done – and those who helped them, a wee pat on the back.

    With the Constitution we can now move forward as a structured organisation. A word of warning though; the Party will live to regret the amendments that ;

    a) allowed individual members with just one seconder to submit motions to future conferences. We can expect every member of the Far Left sects currently cynically manoeuvring around the Party, to submit ten of the usual nitpicking and “general strike now !” motions to the next Conference . Oh yes they will !

    b) allowing factions of Left Unity to publicly campaign against the aims and policies of the Party. Democratic ? Yes. Gullible acceptance of endless future disruption by ultraleft wreckers ? Yes again . A number of the supposed “supporting political groups” participating in the Left Unity project are of course in reality merely engaging in a completely short term cynical “political raid”, on what they see as a counter revolutionary bourgeois reformist party. Especially now that our new Constitution’s highly appropriate “Aims” doesn’t demand a General Strike NOW ! or indeed the formation of workers militias- and actually recognises that the surrounding economic reality facing any future conceivable Left Unity government would continue to contain a sizeable private business sector.

    At some point down the road , when the expanding branch network of Left Unity has been sufficiently disrupted by the endless revolutionary posturing and sloganizing of the inveterate splitters and wreckers of Far Left politics, the growing membership of ordinary working people will demand an end to this disruption. For the foreseeable future however it will be a major barrier to our expansion out of the sterile inward-looking UK Left Bubble into the mainstream working class.

    For now though, Founding Conference achieved as much, indeed more, than it could reasonably have been expected to do. We are established as a radical democratic socialist Party, with political aims that are tactically and politically appropriate to the current era of struggle against the Austerity Offensive .

    Next stage – the vital Policy Conference.

    • Geoff Halliday
      December 1, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      I largely agree John. I’d also add my concerns over the removal of a minimum age for membership. It seems to me that this is ripe for abuse. For £1 a month I could use my young children to triple my voting power.

      But my biggest concern is the requirement for just one seconder for motions, and with it the sidelining of branches. Perhaps branch motions could be given priority over individual motion. Or perhaps branches, as well as being able to submit amendments to motions, should be able to indicate their priority of motions to be discussed. Some form of prioritization will always be needed, and this could enable the process to be largely democratic. The success of the party depends on a strong and active branch structure. Without this a few loud voices will have too much say.

      On a positive note, I am quite confident that when problems do arise we will manage to deal with them.

    • colin piper
      December 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Well done John, What an inspiring, comradely and positive contribution this is!

      For the record, the only acrimonious contributions in yesterday’s entire conference were from comrades supporting the leaderships position on 50% quotas for women. Those opposed to this policy were accused of “introducing the politics of the far right into Left Unity” and being “apologists for rape”. I thought I’d got stuck in a time machine and carried back to the Labour Party of the 1980′s. There were also some amusing (to me anyway) claims that the Left Party Platform stood for inclusivity in a debate in which they were the only speakers!

      Thankfully the vast majority of those there appeared to have a far warmer and more fraternal attitude towards those with whom they disagreed than you do. The left has to grow up. We are never going to agree on everything and, in any case, if we did it would be a disaster. We can however discuss our differences in a fraternal and mutually respectful way. The “far left” are not “splitters and wreckers” John, they are just people with a different opinion to you that is all.

    • Richard Murgatroyd
      December 2, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      John Penney’s analysis is sound. There were some real positives that we should celebrate, but an enormous elephant was let out its pen and is now sitting full-square in the middle of the room.

      The decisions to allow ultra-left sects and factions to campaign against the party and give individual members the right to move motions, amendments etc will, taken together, have far-reaching consequences for the internal life of LU. In addition to the points made by John – all of which are obviously correct, there are potentially other perverse outcomes:

      1. The agenda and discussions at national conferences/NCs will be swamped by motions and even the most robust prioritisation system will be very hard-pressed to deal with this. This will act as a barrier to ordinary people who simply can’t be arsed to wade through the resulting verbiage, most written in those special language codes beloved of hyper-activists on the sectarian left. Ordinary people find the current revolutionary left unattractive as evidenced by their churning turn-over, tiny and aging number of supporters. Many of us joined LU on the promise that the terms of discussion, language and policies of the new party would be fundamentally sensible and different from that of existing groups.I’ll leave it up to you to predict what happens next…

      2. This is relevant to the second potential problem. When LU was founded most of us got involved on the explicit premise that it was NOT going to be a federation of existing left groups. That had been tried in the Socialist Alliance and we all knew wouldn’t get anywhere. So if, as now appears, the constitution any ‘party within a party’ to operate without any let or hindrance we are drifting towards a federal structure by default.

      3. The constitutional and policy making significance of the branch has been seriously weakened. Yes, branches still retain their right to move motions amendments etc. If you’re motivation is to genuinely build LU it will be the focal point. But, what if your primary aim is to build your sect or score ideological points? To intervene effectively all that will be necessary will be to get a few ‘cadres’ to start bunging in the motions and amendments to conference which, remember, is sovereign. No need to bother with attending branch meetings at all or seeking to build the branch. After all, your real aim is to build your own sect and LU just happens to be a place you are passing through on the way to Year Zero.

      4. The constitution stipulates that we move to a delegate structure for annual conferences once we hit 2000 members. With the 1,200 members that is already in sight. How this will fit with the individual rights of members to move motions and amendments is not clear.

      5. Some other decisions taken on Saturday on the constitution will also have inevitable knock on effects on the constitution and build in contradictions. But to be honest I just don’t have the heart to list these – they will become apparent. Anyway, we are where we are as my old dad likes to say.

      Thanks for your kind words John P on the drafting of the Aims and Constitution – I’d like to return the compliment by thanking you personally for all your help and contributions on the Internal Democracy Commission which were consistently useful – I tried to find you on Saturday to shake your hand but was too hard-pressed. I would also mention in dispatches James Youd, Sean Thompson, Hoom, Mike Scott, Geoff Gay, Geoff Halliday, Guy Harper, elainemc, I Sovlin, Joe Barr and of course everyone else who contributed to what was intended to be a genuinely transparent, inclusive, consensual and democratic approach.

      Finally I am now stepping down as convenor of the IDPC to spend more time with my family – my kids have spent the last 6 months complaining that I am always on the computer doing the constitution! If the NCG decides there is a need for the Commission to continue and a new convenor is required please don’t forget the 50% representation rule – she will have to be a woman!

      Best

      Richard

  8. Philip P
    December 1, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    I’m glad the Party is finally up and running. We need to see the parties/sects involved to dissolve themselves within Left Unity to make it a truly united left-wing party.

    If this doesn’t happen I fear that platforms will operate as proxy sectarianism for groups that continue to exist.

    • Justin
      December 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Phil P, actually the reverse of what you say is true. If Left Unity demanded ‘sects’ dissolve, LU will end up not only sectarian, but also DIVIDED. It is through caucusing and airing our differences that we will achieve unity, to argue for the left of Left Unity groups to dissolve is to argue for pettiness. That would condemn LU to disunity in other words, just look at Syriza as a current example.

  9. December 1, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    I hope these fears don’t come to fruition but they may well do. As a teller, I noticed how a group of people in the rows at the front left of the stage always seemed to vote as a bloc. They made sure, among other things, that the Wigan motion on regionalism went down the pan, so I guess they were mostly Londoners, so, yes, once out branches are more evenly spread throughout the country they will be marinalised!

  10. December 2, 2013 at 10:43 am

    John Penney,

    “At some point down the road , when the expanding branch network of Left Unity has been sufficiently disrupted by the endless revolutionary posturing and sloganizing of the inveterate splitters and wreckers of Far Left politics, the growing membership of ordinary working people will demand an end to this disruption.”

    I see that JP is a born-again Stalinist, eager for a witch-hunt. I’m confident that the majority within LU will reject the authoritarianism outlined above and embrace democratic openness and free speech.

    • Robboh
      December 2, 2013 at 11:02 pm

      They should never have allowed the trots in in the first place, thats first cardinal error of this movement. Just ban them, be pragmatic.

    • John Penney
      December 3, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      Nope, Danny, not a “born again Stalinist” – but a worldly wise old ex-trot who has endless personal experience of the mind set of most (but undoubtedly not all ) Far Left Groups when confronted by a project to build a broad, radical, democratic and non-revolutionary socialist party.

      The sole aim for a number of the tiny Far left “revolutionary” groups is to “expose the reformists”, gain an audience for their usual revolutionary “General Strike NOW !” rhetoric , split the reformist party and hope to recruit a few members from the wreckage. That’s it. Purleeeeese, don’t tell me that isn’t your aim, Danny. Sorry, I’ve been there mate. I’ve played that game.

      On the upside , some of the revolutionary groups within Left Unity are exhibiting a real political maturity and an understanding of the tactical/political appropriateness of the radical but reformist Left Unity “model” at this stage of building a broad popular fightback against the Austerity Offensive – based on radical but reformist Transitional demands. Well done them. The participation of a politically sophisticated , tactically acute, revolutionary Left within Left Unity is in my opinion absolutely vital to the long term success of our radical project.

      The other, tiny disruptive, Far Left Groups just inside Left Unity as a cynical wrecking “raid” however. No, those can leave ASAP.

      • Ray G
        December 5, 2013 at 12:54 am

        JP – As you know I am not a supporter of any party or group other than the new PARTY (hurray!!)we founded on Saturday and the majority policies that were agreed.

        But just in the interests of fair-play I should point out that the CPGbies spend a great deal of their time ATTACKING the “general strike NOW” rhetoric of the far left and the absurd bureaucratic centralism of many such parties.

        Small points, but still, let’s all play nicely. :)

    • January 30, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      Well said Danny O’Hare. At last, a breath of fresh air on the largely fetid LU website. Do not worry too much about the likes of Mr. Penney. His hatred for real Socialists is a petit-bourgeois reflection of the hatred felt by the bourgeoisie towards their real enemies. When the tidal wave of working class revolt that is building all over this poverty-stricken, super-exploited country finally hits Britain, peanut brained middle class Reformists like Mr. Penney will be swept aside like so much flotsam and jetsam. Forward to the British Socialist Revolution, and the Socialist Republic of Britain!!

  11. Ray G
    December 2, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Sorry that some commentators feel so negatively about the constitutional decisions.

    Luckily, if bits of it prove to be unwieldy or just plain unworkable then we can change them at a future conference (on a 50% majority Richard!)

    Speaking as someone on the Standing orders committee for this conference, it is clear that having motions from potentially every member could be a nightmare of organisation, and I would not have voted for it if I had had a vote. However, it is absolutely common practice in Union conferences, and the old Labour Party Conferences before they were gutted, that many resolutions just don’t make the agenda. A political/tactical decision is taken to prioritise debates and to merge motions together (so-called ‘compositing’) and those that are deemed low priority or just of interest to very few are just not discussed. Each conference accepts this if they vote on the standing orders committee report at the very beginning of the conference.

    It is true that as we grow and establish more branches with a more even coverage of the country, and as we get past 2000 members and move to delegate conferences this can and probably will be revisited. I think the reason people voted for it is because so many of our members are isolated and have no branch anywhere near them, and felt left out of the decision making process.

    On platforms and/or factions. Guys, it is going to happen anyway.I wish it was not so but it is. My own loyalty is to Left Unity – end of, but if you ban factional activity then you have to have a mechanism for catching people at it and expelling them. No-one really wants that do they?? I was in Militant in the 80′s during that pointless witchhunt (I left Labour before they got to me). Is that kind of internal discipline really what you want? That is what happens INSIDE the left parties that many of us have fled from.

    As said many times on this blog, going back to last May, – if we stay small we will be taken over by the far left groups, and we will deserve it. On Saturday a very large majority voted against that style of left politics. Why? because there were almost 500 people in the room and we already have over 1200 members.
    OK – if one of the bigger left groups (SWP, SP) decide to jump in we could be in trouble but there is no evidence of that just yet and they show no signs of wanting to.

    • John Penney
      December 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      It’s quite true, Ray, that I was thinking more of the “Class Struggle Platform’s” priceless objective number one ; ie ” Campaign for a mass strike to bring down the Coalition………”. However Danny’s CPGB “Communist Platform” was similarly completely disconnected from the real world immediate issues facing the Left in attempting to build a mass Left party of resistance to the current Austerity Offensive – in favour instead of the usual ringing , but utterly strategyless ,calls for the “end of capitalism”.

      There are undoubtedly revolutionary groups within Left Unity that do indeed politically “geddit”, in terms of the “Transitional” political demands approach appropriate to today. The others though ,like Workers Power and the CPGB are simply temporarily inside Left Unity to gain an audience for the usual irrelevant ultraleft sloganizing , hoping to recruit a few members to their version of the true revolutionary party, and wreck what they actually see as a counter revolutionary reformist party in the process . Hoping it aint so, and hoping “they’ll play nice if we all do” , doesn’t change that

      I know this “entryism” (as distinct from the serious political participation by some other Far left groups – like Socialist Resistance ) will never go away as long as we are a growing political movement. Indeed, if we get to about 10,000 in size I have no doubt the SWP itself will consider a major “intervention”. Then we would have problems ! We mustn’t be naive though, our new party will always have very real problem elements within it, from the opportunist careerist reformist right of course just as much as from the ultraleft, each trying to shift us from a genuinely radical socialist Left course to build a serious mass party with the potential to not just issue slogans against “capitalism” but actually mobilize , eventually, millions of people electorally and in direct action, to actually stop the Austerity Offensive in its tracks.

      Like Melanie Griffiths , I fear that the amendments made to the Constitution at Founding Conference allowing individuals, plus a mate as seconder, to submit any number of motions, and the acceptance of unlimited public campaigning by factions against party policy, could make the forthcoming “Policy Conference” a sterile ideological shambles . As the same old ultraleft slogans are allowed to strut their stuff again. When what we now need are a broad bundle of believable, relevant, popular, politically useable “Transitional” key Left policies to campaign on around the country.

  12. Ray G
    December 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Oh and by the way, ADMINSTRATOR PEOPLE.

    *CAN WE NOW PLEASE LOSE THE FISTS AND FLAG AND STAR!!!*

    Lets’s have the three colour triangle and our clear name at the top of this blog.

    If we want to be different – let’s look like we mean it.!!

    All the best Ray G.

    • December 2, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      Ray, don’t you like 1930s Communist Realist imagery, then? Just because Fascists and just about every other political group during that period also had stylised fists and flags on posters and newspaper logos, to emphasise male and industrial power? Has the world changed since then, or something? Are there women in the workforce or something? Do people do work other than with their hands?

      Yours

      General Secretary Joe of the United Peoples Jargon Party.

      • Chris Mckenzie
        December 2, 2013 at 10:37 pm

        That’s funny, brilliant… keep the jokes about the old school coming. Yes, new graphics and less loaded jargon for a modern party of the left!

      • Ray G
        December 2, 2013 at 11:07 pm

        Tee hee

    • Robboh
      December 2, 2013 at 11:05 pm

      Good idea Ray, get rid of the Communist bollox. Its a step in the right direction.

  13. December 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Maybe when we move to delegate conferences, which might be in February or March, if we get to 2,000 quickly, motions which come just from individuals should be given an earlier deadline, have to clearly state the reason for not going through a branch or commission, and then electronically balloted a fortnight or so before conference, with a set number, not a proportion, going through to conference, either as amendments, composited motions or motions in their own right. That would involve the membership, not a committee, weeding out the ones that are purely sectarian, so a sect cannot claim discrimination on their way out of LU – they leave because their views have shown no traction!

    • Hoom
      December 2, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Implementing an e-democracy system for the prioritisation of motions is definitely the way forward with this. I don’t see why you’d restrict it to individual motions though- it seems a sensible way to deal with the issue in general. We would need an online space for communication and debate though- I’m not sure either the website or the forum are currently set up for that.

      In the long term, I’d like to see this implemented for voting on motions as well. Even supporters of a delegate conference surely wouldn’t deny that they’re moving away from the principle of OMOV.

      But I accept that some people are against this kind of extensive use of e-democracy and others are unsure. For the latter, starting with prioritisation would give us a chance to see how the system would work in practice for a bit before looking at more radical possibilities.

      In the interests of transparency, I’ve always been in favour of individuals being able to propose motions. But only with a number of supporters, not with two people. That strikes me as unworkable. But we shall see.

  14. Melanie Griffiths
    December 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    The conference was successful in several respects. The most important was in agreeing a set of radical aims. Potential supporters can now find out what we stand for and see that we are a party serious about working for a more equal and democratic society. We are for cooperation and against the “chaotic competition of capitalism”. We are different from the mainstream parties because we are against austerity and we are different from the far left parties because in order to join and work to make a difference to ordinary people’s lives you don’t have to be a revolutionary but you can be. If we are to build the party these are the aims we must unite behind because they are just that, uniting.
    As others have said the afternoon session was not quite as successful as a certain amount of damage was done to the constitution before it was finally passed. This damage does need to be rectified. The main issue is the rule which allows any member with the support of a seconder to put forward a motion to conference. I can only think that this was passed because on the surface it looks more democratic. Others have pointed out why this isn’t the case so I won’t go into that. However the rule needs to be reversed as quickly as possible and in order to do that in a democratic way we need a serious discussion about it at all branches and on any other forum members use.
    Ray and others have suggested it might not be such a problem because we can use the prioritisation procedure used in the labour and trade union movement and of course we can, and should be introducing that process in any case. However, a prioritisation procedure is complicated even when motions have to be submitted through branches and takes place over a protracted period of time. The NUT conference is at Easter and we have already submitted motions for prioritisation. We need to start the prioritisation process for our next conference ASAP. It also means that a group of people have to administer this, voluntarily. In the NUT this is done by paid officials – it is a big job.
    The other issue here is that a lot of people find the process dull and difficult to follow, especially if there is motion after motion put in by members of sects on special interest issues of their own party, or as is likely, attempts to change our broad uniting aims into the aims of the party where their real loyalties lie. The problems that now exist with the constitution have to some extent been caused by the fact that many of us did not engage with it before hand, and as one article about the conference said ” I know I wasn’t the only one who, at a certain point in these discussions, began to check out. There is a reason God made the smartphone, people, and this is it.”
    We do have to engage with this problem if the party is to function in the way most of the people at the initial conference earlier in the year wanted – the contributions there were overwhelmingly against the new party being dominated by sectarian groups and factions who don’t even agree with our aims. Similarity people seemed to be against a federalist structure but the constitutional changes made on Saturday have given us both. I am still optimistic that we can build a new radical party but in doing this we must engage with these problems and get together to do something about them

    • Ray G
      December 2, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Mel

      I am sorry but I don’t understand why the structure is “federalist”. Unless you mean the regional structure and the reps they will send to the National Council.

      There are no more or fewer rights for organised groups on the left to influence us. None of these groups can join us or get any representation on the National bodies as of right. We still operate one person one vote. You could argue that the change to individual moving motions gives more power to individuals to resist influence by other established parties, although I agree it needs to be changed soon.

      By the way, we did not have any aims for people to disagree with until Saturday. And do you really want a party where you are not allowed to challenge aspects of the policies. Are we going to police the internet to ensure this does not happen, and then have complicated expulsion procedures? You are in danger of arguing for a “democratic” centralist party, although I am sure you don’t actually want that.

      And one last point. I thought the really wonderful thing about the conference was the friendly and co-operative spirit that was shown on Saturday in getting through all the business. I was uniquely well placed to notice it, on the main table throughout the constitution debates and in the pub afterwards. I am, I can now admit, chuffed about the political direction we decided on, so I am with the majority opinion, but can we drop all this talk of “sects”.

      There are “sects” inside all platforms and opinion groups in LU. It is wrong to use this term just about those you disagree with. The Left Platform includes more than one Trotskyist party. Would you deny them the right to meet (even in secret)? The core of the Socialist Platform is a group of independent far-lefties (the Independent Socialist Network). I disagree with their approach, as did the majority of the conference, but let’s leave out the unnecesary shorthand, dismissal of other people’s viewponts.

      And most of all – lets put more energy into building the party and winning more recruit than on fretting about what other members are getting up to.

      • Melanie Griffiths
        December 4, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        Ray,
        I too have been a member of a democratic centralist party and am obviously not arguing for that. However, I am being realistic to how the posturings of ultra left, “revolution now” sects come over to our potential supporters. Yes,you are right there is no formal federalist structure in LU but what we have done is given small parties and factions within our party an opportunity to dominate the agenda of conferences. Having said that I think, as others have stated, this can be solved in the short term by agreeing a robust prioritisation procedure. We have to avoid the next conference, which we have billed as a policy making conference, being hijacked by those who want to change the aims (or for that matter the constitution!). I agree with you,as the effects of the cuts are being felt more and more we all need to work on caimpaigns locally and publisise ourselves as a real alternative to Labour. The policy conference will be an important event to show people what we really stand for.

  15. Robboh
    December 2, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    All I got to say is reading all this non-sense is that I’m voting Labour, yeah thats right Labour. I’m going out campaigning leafleting in a swing seat come the next election. There is just no way in hell LU will ever replace the Labour party in its current form. Who is going to vote for you? This is not an offensive question, seriously, which part of British electorate will vote for you?

    • Hoom
      December 3, 2013 at 10:42 am

      You’d already said you were voting Labour, so pretending it’s a new development isn’t great for your credibility.

    • Miguel
      December 3, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      You have a right to your position and good luck with your political work but its time to respect that this is the website of a new party and posting such comments is pointless. If you are so sure that the LU have no chance then fair enough but why post on our website and interfere in a process and a space which has every right to exist. Criticise us and challenge us but respect our autonomy and right to organise. Post on the Labour Party website if it allows you to.

      • Robboh
        December 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm

        Actually Miguel, my comments have a very important point which is “reality check”. It wonderful to see all this enthusiasm for a new political force and I am sure there are some ordinary people who work very hard for LU. But really with all the extreme slogans on here, who is going to vote for you? LU was a good idea but its been hijacked right at the start by the usual pathological personalities. I hope you manage at least to get hold of a council somewhere and run it efficiently, then that might give you some credibility. After all I’m just some deluded public sector fool that hopes people like you could defeat this criminal government.

  16. December 3, 2013 at 7:50 am

    I think those who organised the Conference and the Standing Orders Committee deserve our thanks. The spirit in the room seemed friendly and set on looking for points of unity. I don’t envy those trying to construct a workable constitution but we are starting from scratch and trying to do things openly and democratically. And well done to us, too!

  17. Jara Handala
    December 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Can anyone in an official position help those amongst us who are confused: does the Constitution that was passed by Conference currently lack an aims section? If that’s the case, did Conference make a decision about whether there will be aims, &, if so, how this will be done?

    Thinking about it, was there anything else in the draft constitution that was not put to the vote?

    Not everything on the agenda was got through. What’s happening about that?

    Finally, does anyone know when the LU site will show us what was decided on by Conference, both the Constitution & a list of all the things voted on (what was accepted, what was rejected)? – I suppose, formally, I mean publishing the minutes of the Founding Conference. Also having an article would help those of us who might find it difficult to interpret the bare minutes.

    Thanks.

    • Robboh
      December 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      Oh dear, starting well then…

    • Ray G
      December 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      Jara
      a) The aims section is as it was in the draft (section 2), apart from an additional paragraph added by an amendment from Leicester about culture and art and so on. The LPP platform was passed as well as a statement from Hackney/Tower Hamlets and these form the basis of our policy now, but are not part of our constitution.

      b) the Safe Spaces Policy was remitted entirely, ie sent back for more consideration to be re-presented at a later conference.

      c) the whole section detailing specific policies fell off the end of the agenda. However, a conference had always been planned for March, which was intended to deal with such detailed stuff. The founding conference was only ever intended to outline main policy priorities.

      d) A couple of amendments to the constitution were remitted because the broad intentions were accepted but the wording was wrong or too complex to be considered in a one-day conference. None of these are vital questions.One is what we do with any money left over after the median wages that we allow our elected politicians has been received. I wish that was an urgent question but it obviously is not!! Others include how we ensure we are not London-centric and the details of a proportional election system for our officers etc.

      e) A lot of work has been done to record all the decisions and these should be on the website very shortly, and a little later there will be a full, definitive, constitution as amended by conference.

      Hope that helps. Ray G (SOC)

      • Jara Handala
        December 5, 2013 at 11:38 am

        Thanx a lot, Ray, especially for replying so swiftly, & thanx to everyone for all the hard work they put in on the day – & the many before.

        Just one thing, about your note (a): so the Constitution, as it stands today, has a list of aims, & these are (i) the draft section 2, which hasn’t been altered, with the addition of (ii) the Leicester amendment on culture? So that’s 3 + 1 = 4 aims?

        So is this what the Constitution says?

        “The aims of Left Unity are:

        a) to unite the diverse strands of radical and socialist politics in the UK including worker’s organisations and trade unions; ordinary people, grass root organisations and co-operatives rooted in our neighbourhoods and communities; individuals and communities facing poverty, discrimination and social oppression because of gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality, unemployment or under-employment; environmental and green campaigners; campaigners for freedom and democracy; all those who seek to authentically voice and represent the interests of ordinary working people

        b) to win a mandate to govern and introduce radical and fundamental changes in British society based on our belief in the benefits of cooperation and community ownership instead of the chaotic competition of capitalism; universal human rights, internationalism and peace; social, political and economic equality for all in the fullest sense, without which true democracy and mutual respect cannot flourish; a democratically planned economy that is environmentally sustainable, within which all enterprises, whether privately owned, cooperatives or under public ownership operate in ways that promote the needs of the people and wider society; an inclusive welfare state which operates on the principle that each will contribute to society according to their ability to do so, and society will in return meet their needs

        c) to above all promote grass roots democracy in the understanding that fundamental and radical change can only come with the support and active involvement of the majority of people and that the way we organise today is a pointer to the kind of society we want to see in the future

        d) to organise and campaign in ways that recognise and promote alternative and new forms of popular political culture that are creative and educational, that can move and empower people through hopes of a better and realisable future, and that delight, inspire and provoke thought.”

        http://leftunity.org/left-unity-founding-conference-documents-part-two/

  18. kettzia
    December 5, 2013 at 10:52 am

    It is my view that Left Unity must focus absolutely on the type of people that the Labour party have ignored and have turned to UKIP etc.
    While this may be uncomfortable to those used to recruiting in middle-class and academic circles, for this party to be successful we must reach beyond the typical remit of the Left and hit-running local communities, deprived wards, football terraces, prisons and colleagues in the private sector to name but a few.

    if this doesn’t happen I’m afraid it will fail and we will have lost the disaffected and new working-class majority to the Right.

    • John Penney
      December 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm

      You are absolutely correct, Jara, that is indeed what the specific general “Aims” of our new Party now are.

      But you also need to add in to the overall mix the much more specific radical socialist objectives in the Left Party Platform Statement and the Hackney/Tower Hamlets Statement , also both specifically agreed by Conference, to get the full picture of the political “line of march” of our party. This line of march is a radical democratic socialist reformist one – as opposed to a revolutionary socialist one. The various “Platforms” pushing this much more Hard Left agenda , representing the revolutionary groups currently involved in the left Unity project, were all decisively rejected by Conference.

      • Jara Handala
        December 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm

        Thanx, John. I just spelt it all out in the way I did so there would be no misunderstanding for anyone visiting the site – as trying to follow the vids on YouTube isn’t that easy. (Guess Saturday really was a case of that cliche, ‘you had to be there.’)

        Once a readable, detailed report of what was accepted by Conference is on the site then the vids will make more sense. (And thanx so much to all those who did the livestreaming, & got vids uploaded onto YouTube within a few hours. That was *real* socialist efficiency, the sort we can be proud of.)

  19. Jara Handala
    December 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    (This is a new point, so I hope it isn’t intented.)

    1) Again, if someone in a national official position could comment, does the National Council have to be at least 50% female?

    I’m trying to understand this coz clause (4d) says, “As part of our overall commitment to gender equality, at least 50% of those elected to regional and national party bodies should be women”, but how can that be satisfied given that there are so many different parts of the party electing people to the Council, & doing so independently of each other without any coordination? What’s the mechanism ensuring that the many elections end up with this result of at least 50% females?

    (I say ‘female’ as there’s no minimum age now & we shouldn’t assume the ages of those elected.)

    2) Just noticed the “should” there, which doesn’t mean ‘must’ or ‘have to’: ‘should’ is an aspiration, an aim. That’s right, isn’t it?

    http://leftunity.org/29248/

  20. Miguel
    December 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    There needs to be a further refining of the rules of Left Unity but we also need to start thinking of policy briefs, action guides, a party journal and/or magazine, more public meetings, high profile newsletters and the policy commissions moving to create a series of timed public statements. The internal discussion needs to be paralleled with a greater external effort as we have arrived at a key point.

  21. kettzia
    December 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Unfortunately whilst I agree with the theory of the 50% m/f split, in practice it seems wholly inappropriate and could potentially be discriminatory itself. As it stands, it seems men could be ousted if they alone make it 51/49 and the consideration of that person’s ability, the fact they were voted in etc is ignored and they are ruled out based on their gender.
    As long as equality is at the heart of the party and that women have this equality from the outset, I don’t see the need for this rule.

  22. Pete b
    December 7, 2013 at 6:51 am

    My experiance of regional committees is that they can become turgid and representative of the most active, that can committ the time for another internal meeting.
    The branches should be sovereign and the regional committee a resourse to support smaller branches and initiate new branches.
    I dont think its a great place to make decisions.

    Im hopeful that drawing activists together around work in the unions, building rank and file groups, promoting bullitins and producing some would be a good way yo ground our new party and to recruit. I am amused that the profits of doom concerning the danger of open political differenced hindering left unity. For many left unity has to work. For many the extending list of socialist unity type projects is getting too long already. This includes activlistd of far left groups themselved. The rev left groups are failing to organise any real quantity of the vangaurd. Left unity shows how small proportion if the legt is actually in these groups.
    The dynamic of left unity is for those groups in left unity to unite / regroup. Better to build left unity and better to replenish their groups problems of size.
    Left unity needs to be positioned, and its rev left wuthin it, to respond to the crisis in the swp.
    We should welcome further members from the swp. Another wave of anti cc comrades from the swp are likely to be leaving the swp after the third stitched up swp confrtence in a year.
    The cc has stated that after this conference discipline will be imposed against any minirity comrade publically criticising the swp, yet the swp leadership refuse to accept their faults in dealing with two casesof rape by leading comrades against women comrades ( it had been documented).
    So further splits and people leaving the swp is enevitable in the next period.
    Left unity should be making specific attempts to win these people to working with ys and joining left unity.
    Pete b

  23. Jara Handala
    December 10, 2013 at 7:59 am

    I’m confused somewhat about Left Unity’s gender equality rule, & I hope my queries can be cleared up by those of you in the know. I’m also interested in whether others are in the same boat, given some of the comments here.

    1) Last week in this thread I asked about the aims of LU, and Ray G & John Penney were kind enough to sort that out. On Thursday, 5 Dec, I asked two things about the erroneously labelled gender equality principle: (a) what’s the mechanism ensuring that the many elections end up with this result of at least 50% females?; & (b) as the Constitution says “As part of our overall commitment to gender equality, at least 50% of those elected to regional and national party bodies should be women”, rather than ‘must be’, ‘has to be’, or ‘will be’, this means that “at least 50%” is an aspiration, an aim, so it isn’t something mandatory, is it?
    http://leftunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Constitution-as-of-7-12-13.pdf (clause 4d, page 2)

    (I say ‘erroneous’ because, first, & perhaps less importantly, the Constitution says ‘not less than 50% female’, rather than 50%, & second, as I said, it says “should be women”, so maybe it’ll happen, maybe it won’t. Also I have said ‘females’ because with no minimum age no-one should presume that a girl will never be elected.)

    Unfortunately no-one in authority has responded to these questions, matters that lie at the heart of what LU is or hopes to be. After all, Don Milligan in his article last Tuesday, 3 Dec, said, “. . . women will, from the get go, make up at least half of all Left Unity committees, councils, and delegations. This is a significant departure from all previous left initiatives and is the single measure most likely to give the workings of the new party and its public profile a radically different character.” But is this true? It’s not guaranteed by the Constitution, is it? Members may vote that way for candidates, but it all depends on the voting, doesn’t it?
    http://leftunity.org/left-unity-cuddling-up-for-warmth-or-striking-out-in-a-new-direction/

    2) The thing is, Don is not alone in having this view. I would think a lot of people, perhaps a majority, have thought it was mandatory. After all, look at this in the Constitution:

    “If insufficient male or female candidates are nominated for positions requiring 50% gender representation, nominations will be re-opened once only, with an appeal for male or female candidates, as appropriate, to come forward. Pending the by-election, the female/male candidate, as appropriate, with the second highest vote will sit as an acting representative on the National Council. If no further male/female nominations, as appropriate, are received then the acting representative will be deemed to be elected for that year.”
    http://leftunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Constitution-as-of-7-12-13.pdf (clause 14f, page 10)

    Well, that’s pretty detailed, spelling things out, that’s definitive. Well, not really. And why? In a constitution, if there is a contradiction, general principles override particular clauses, & that’s what we have here: 4d trumps 14f. The aspirational “should” wins out over the “requiring 50%.” No ifs, no buts.

    3) I want to elaborate on my question 1a) above, “what’s the mechanism ensuring that the many elections end up with this result of at least 50% females?” Here, of course, I’m assuming what Don & others have taken as gospel. (So on a nine-person committee you *have* to have five females & four males, given “our overall commitment to gender equality”, “at least 50% . . . should be women”, so four is too few, & “requiring 50% gender representation”, so three men is one too few.)

    In the Constitution, other than 14f, I can’t find anything about what to do if the members vote the ‘wrong’ way. The difficulty in 14f is the slippage from “candidates” to ‘after the vote.’ So we end up with talk of the need for a by-election. Just one problem, a big problem: where will the by-election(s) take place, whose election will be held up? Or is the whole side ‘offside’, be it TeamFemale or TeamMale, meaning there has to be a mass re-run? (It’s quite reasonable to mix metaphors as no-one here cares about the ball, what used to called BallSocialism.)

    So consider these two scenarios. Again, assume nine seats. Assume the problem (perhaps because of our patriarchal capitalist society) is finding the five females.

    Scenario #1, to explore the candidates problem. Assume only four females are candidates. Nominations are re-opened (for the one & only time), but no-one else steps forward. What happens then? Are males barred from standing against them, rather than running the risk of an all-male committee? Given “our overall commitment to gender equality” that might be thought reasonable, but perhaps not so by these male candidates. Anyway, in the detail needed here the Constitution is silent.

    Scenario #2, the voting problem. Assume five males win in the nine constituencies. Which one will face a re-run? Or is it all of them? If it’s not all five, is it the one with the smallest (proportional) majority over a female, or the one with the smallest (proportional) vote given either the turnout or the size of the constituency, or the one (or those) who didn’t have to run against a female, or does something else happen? On all this, you guessed it, the Constitution is silent.

    In both scenarios there’s the possibility that members will get seats without having won an election. That isn’t healthy – for anyone.

    4) A number of secondary, but not irrelevant, remarks on clause 14f:

    a) at the beginning, talk of “insufficient male . . . candidates” isn’t irrelevant because, as noted, LU has an “overall commitment to gender equality” (4d)

    b) concerning “insufficient . . . females candidates”, the first sentence of 14f only makes sense if it’s referring, say, to there being four female candidates for nine seats

    c) I’m sure I’m not alone in being perturbed that a socialist organisation says it has seats reserved for “gender representation”, members representing the alleged interests of a gender (antagonistic to another gender?), rather than being decision-makers acting in what they see as the best interests of the party & those the party believes it serves; a socialist is capable of arguing for gender presence, but representation, never

    d) another slippage, from the “at least 50%” being women (4d) to “50% gender representation” (14f)

    e) there won’t be a relevant person with “the second highest vote” in a constituency if it was a single-sex candidate list

    f) although this section, #14, is for national elections, this clause, 14f, only refers to the National Council, so how can this clause apply to *all* national bodies, such as the Executive Committee, a body with members being elected from many constituencies, namely, each English region, Wales, Scotland, the sections, & the National Council?

    g) the last two sentences of 14f refer to the incumbent staying in post but that doesn’t address where we are now, awaiting our first elections

    h) I should also add that the Constitution is silent on the adjudicatory mechanism(s) used in voting in the English regions, Wales, & Scotland (section 8). Also note that 8a calls Wales & Scotland “nations”, 8b calls them “countries” (neither saying that England is a nation or a country), which to be consistent means LU should re-name the bodies-to-be as the International Council & the annual International Conference. It means the Constitution is saying Left Unity considers Britain to be a three-nation society, & therefore although Britain (perhaps like the UK) is a society, Britain is not a nation.

    I really do hope these queries can be addressed because what they refer to isn’t going away any time soon.

    • Ray G
      December 10, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      Jara – you think too much.

      You have constructed elaborate confusions where none really exist.

      The ‘Should’ is regarded as mandatory. That is the clear intention of the constitution. If it ACTUALLY causes real problems then we can reword it.

      We have already had an election on this basis and it is not impossible. Members cannot vote ‘the wrong way’ because it is clear from the beginning what the system is. In a vote for ten national members the vote is counted and at least the top five women are elected. If, as actually happened before, more than five are elected – fine. If only four are elected, the man with the fewest votes loses out to the next woman, and so on. In a body elected by different sections of the organisation, each section will aim to elect at least 50% women.

      If a woman leaves a committee and needs to be replaced, the replacement must also be a woman. If there are nine places, five need to be women. If that really proves impossible, then hey – we have a problem, but it probably won’t be impossible.

      Yes, there may well be problems detailed implementation, on this occasion or the other. We will just have to live with it. The principle was the important point for those who supported it, and I broadly support the aim of at least 50% women. Common sense will be needed – and I am glad to report that the founding conference seemed to have enough common sense to cope.

      On your substantive point about whether such a strict rule for gender equality is necessary or desirable, I have some sympathy, but you need to argue that case rather than paragraph after paragraph or pedantic quibbling.

  24. John Penney
    December 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I wouldn’t worry about this too much, Jara. The best one can say on a number of your identified potential operational problems with this part of our brand new Constitution, is that as was stated a number of times at the Conference , such a very complicated Constitution, with such high ideals, was bound to be a “work in progress.

    Hopefully when bits turn out simply not to work we’ll have the good sense to amend those bits – by a simple 50%+ majority decision. The underlying political/philosophical basis for the attempts to create gender balance by “positive action” in the decision making structures of the party is the well recognised all pervasive structural disadvantages women still face in all aspects of UK life. Unfortunately because, so far , women are much underrepresented in active political participation in all political parties compared to men – we could have a real problem in filling some of the posts essentially reserved for women. However if we can create a genuinely anti-sexist “women friendly” political party it is hoped more women than is the general norm will join and actively participate in our party.

    Early days yet – if it doesn’t work we are surely grown up enough to make the required modifications.

    On the “regions/countries/nations” terminology thing there is a lot of terminological confusion in the brand new Constitution about this undoubtedly – partly just down to the impact of umpteen amendments both before and at Conference – but also because there are a lot of underlying political agendas surrounding this use of “labelling”. Some participants in the LU debates think Cornwall is a “nation”. I certainly think “Britain” is a “nation” if the term has any meaning at all at this late stage of the globalised capitalist society – with the capitalist Big Bourgeoisie increasingly specifically connected to no patch of land or group of inhabitant in particular at all.

    The term “nation” always depended on a very subjective (if people think they are a “nation” then they are”) element , once the much clearer classic 17th to 19th century bourgeois capitalist national revolutions were out of the way – with a few more latecomers like Poland , and Ireland, in the 20th century. Whether the concept of “nationhood” many on the Left wish to attach to Scotland and Wales, and by default, England, has any useful operational political traction on the Socialist Left as a route to building worker solidarity in an increasingly globalised world, is, in my firmly internationalist opinion, a matter for debate.

  25. Jara Handala
    December 12, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Thanx for your responses, John & Ray.

    John, I simply found some of the Constitution confusing, not least because it didn’t describe how elections will always give a certain female-male result. As you say, it can always be amended.

    Ray, I doubt that your attempt at a sexist put-down was much appreciated by visitors to the site, it certainly wasn’t by me. Women have been told for centuries that they think too much, that at best they onIy have half-formed ideas, & that their opinions are largely worthless. So your comment comes from a rich tradition.

    I thought Left Unity was trying to leave all that behind, in the Dark Ages. I also hope that a ‘safe spaces’ policy will apply to the website because we don’t want an air of intimidation, we want people to feel at ease, as that encourages participation, draws people in. Sexist put-downs are not the way ahead for Left Unity. Neither is an adversarial, testosteronal commentary style. It alienates people, especially newcomers & occasional visitors. What is welcoming & conducive to discussion is good old-fashioned courtesy. No doubt for some it’s bourgeois, but it’s a basic, not a luxury; moreover, it should be part of the better way of living that Left Unity stands for. Let’s hope politeness doesn’t prove too difficult for us, otherwise we’re already sunk.

    The other thing that struck me about your comment was that you didn’t cite any evidence. I had gone to the trouble of identifying where I saw a difficulty so that any reader could easily see what I was referring to. But your response had key phrases which were left hanging in the air, leaving the reader wondering what you were talking about. So you say, “The ‘Should’ [sic] is regarded as mandatory. That is the clear intention of the constitution”, “We have already had an election on this basis”, & “it is clear from the beginning what the system is”, but then, instead of describing this election, you start talking about a hypothetical one.

    So on this, to help me & anyone else understand what you’re saying, please let me ask you some questions.

    As I said on Tuesday, 10 Dec, in my point #1, the drafters of the Constitution could have chosen imperative words, ‘must be’, ‘has to be’, or ‘will be’, but they didn’t, they chose the prescriptive, & I quote, “should be women.” Conference accepted this wording. My point concerned the ordinary meaning of all these words – from an early age we all know there’s a huge gulf between wanting something & having to do something. The Constitution does not tell the membership to ensure that “at least 50% of those elected to regional and national party bodies” are women, it just says they “should be women.” The former, ‘ensuring’, is a command, a requirement, whereas the latter, ‘should’, is an aspiration, something to be aimed for, which also means it is already known that it can’t always be achieved now.

    1) You say, “The ‘Should’ is regarded as mandatory”, so what is the source justifying your assertion?, regarded by whom?, which decision of Left Unity are you referring to? When did the members of Left Unity change the ordinary meaning of words, when did we dress up as Humpty Dumpty?

    2) Again, “The ‘Should’ is regarded as mandatory. That is the clear intention of the constitution”, so what is the source of your assertion concerning this “clear intention”? (A ‘clear intention’ has to clear quite a high bar of unambiguity.)

    3) “We have already had an election on this basis”, so would you please direct us to the website report so we can read about it?

    4) You say, “it is clear from the beginning what the [electoral] system is”, but it obviously wasn’t clear to me, & maybe others, so would you please direct us to where on the website both members & the public can read what this electoral system is?

    Let me say, it’s perhaps surprising that given the micro-detail in parts of the Constitution there’s hardly anything in it on the electoral process, & certainly no general principles like there are for Left Unity as a whole (section 4).

    Concerning your last paragraph, thanx for the advice, but what you mention was not the purpose of my comment; hence I made the comment I did, presenting evidence in enough detail to make plain what I wanted help on.

    As far as the second name-calling goes, ‘pedantic & quibbling’, you can imagine what I think of trying to rubbish someone, rather than addressing their evidence & arguments. I carefully cited the sources that puzzled me, & I developed my thoughts as best I could. Trying to rubbish an attempt to glean understanding simply tells the reader something about the person doing the disparaging, nothing more, nothing less. Rubbishing only obstructs our attempts to discuss & clarify; it’s also a big turn-off, not just for Left Unity supporters but perhaps more importantly for the general public. We don’t want a reputation that harms our ability to be politically effective.

    Finally, this voting business is no trivial matter: British political parties have been taken to court over elections. In this, as in other political areas, attention to detail & anticipating difficulties is both part of the work of an involved membership & part of the duty of care owed to the membership by Left Unity’s staff & elected officials. Muddling through may appeal to some, but we can do better. We must do the best we can, &, in this, good sense is often uncommon sense.

    I look forward to your response, especially to reading the sources you can cite as evidence for your assertions.

    • Ray G
      December 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      Well, I am sorry that you have interpreted my comments as a “sexist put-down”. In fact, I do not know you at all and had no idea of your gender. The comments were regarded as light-hearted banter, but I am sorry if they caused offence. I am on record often on this site trying to rein in some of the more extreme polemical styles of other contributors, and I must therefore accept your telling-off with good grace.

      The overall point I was, maybe clumsily, trying to make is that it will indeed be difficult to ensure in every case that 50% or more of the national bodies are female and but that with goodwill and a commitment to the principle of gender equality a way will probably be found. The aspiration is a basically sound one, even if, as you rather thoroughly demonstrate, various anomalies might be thrown up.

      The election of the current nationally elected section of the National Co-ordinating Group (in May, I think) was elected under these rules although in fact the special gender provisions were not required, as 6 of the 10 elected were female in any case.

      In the case of electing single position national officers, such as Secretary or Treasurer, it is, of course, possible that most of the victors are men, which would thus unbalance the National Council, but in a party like LU that would be a little bizarre. I feel that we would seek as a party to ensure that enough women stand for the positions. Equally, the NC members elected by the Youth, LGBT and BME sections could be mainly men, but I suspect that they won’t be.

      So, is is not as though the challenges you describe are not real, simply that I feel we need to go with them and see if they work. If they prove not to work, then we can reconsider the details.

      The point that I think is more important is whether it proves to be the case that the makeup of the leadership of the party becomes politically unrepresentative, ie. that men who represent the majority politcs of the party are displaced by women who may not. That would be a serious issue that would entail a more fundamental re-examination of the 50% principle.

      For now though – let’s just get on with it, test it, and see how it goes.

  26. Pip
    December 13, 2013 at 12:13 am

    “This line of march is a radical democratic socialist reformist one – as opposed to a revolutionary socialist one.”

    I think you will find that a large proportion of the members of Left Unity are revolutionary socialists – albeit many of us are not sectarian ‘old Trots’ so perhaps you are overlooking us.

    Replacing the current destructive capitalist system with one that takes account of everyone’s interests isn’t going to happen by some natural evolutionary process. Under the current system we can’t even hold on to any gains we make – right now our society is being taken apart & put back together by the privileged in their own interests & to the detriment of everyone else.

    Revolution doesn’t necessarily mean blood in the streets but to change the system will take a massive battle using every means at our disposal, of which gaining political representation is just one. Please don’t think the word revolution scares people – I use it when I talk to colleagues at work, in shops or wherever about the grim situation we are all facing & they agree!

    On the other hand I haven’t met one person who was at the conference & agreed with the wording of the aims that we ended up with by default because of the dodgy motion on platforms which was pushed through without even a recount.

    • John Penney
      December 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Most decidedly Au contraire, Pip, I think you’ll find that the majority of the existing members of Left Unity AREN’T actually “revolutionary socialists” – and even most of those that are have decided that , tactically, to build a mass movement of working class resistance in a distinctly non “revolutionary” era of capitalist offensive, requires building a mass radical reformist party.

      It’s called “a Transitional Programme”. The revolutionary Marxist ,Leon Trotsky, advocated it. Though of course by your broad, loose definition of “revolution” (really nothing more than radical social transformation) – we indeed all ARE “revolutionary Socialists” . However I think though that most of us understand the tactical and political differences between the avowed “revolutionary socialist Leninist” groupings, and the tactical and political position of democratic radical Left reformism.

      Why otherwise didn’t any of the essentially “revolutionary socialist” sponsored Platforms win the vote ? blaming a suppose dodgy vote (completely untrue), and ignoring the fact that neither the Left Party Platform nor the Hackney and Tower Hamlets Platforms passed by Conference are by any stretch of definitions “revolutionary” socialist statements – is simply to escape into self delusion ,to deny the decisive defeat of the various ultraleft positions offered at Conference.

      I’m afraid you need to widen your social and political circle , and look at the hard , voting, evidence, comrade. I was at Conference and I certainly agree with our new Aims – I helped write them. And it is absolutely the case that if we are ever to break out from the tiny hothouse political “bubble” of the current activist Left , the overwhelming majority of our new members won’t be avowed “revolutionary” socialists either !

      • Neil Darby
        December 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        I was also at the conference and would support what John Penney says. The ‘revolutionary’ motions were clearly defeated by the majority of conference. I would consider myself a revolutionary – although I’ve left my Trot (SWP) days behind me. And to be honest, at this moment in time I’m not sure how useful the revolution/reform dichotomy really is. I have no idea how many people at conference, or in the new party, see themselves as revolutionary, but I hope it’s a minority. If we are going to become a large, relevant party we need to attract people beyond the revolutionary left. I would like to see a principled radical left party in this country, and this is the most promising attempt I’ve seen in my many, many long years of political activism.

        For those (mainly outside critics) who say the conference was boring, well yes it was at times. It did sometimes feel like a rather long trade union conference. But it was the founding one, and there was a lot of boring, but essential stuff to get through. If people want excitement they should stick to a rally or demonstration. I didn’t agree with all the decisions, but that’s democracy for you. And I share some of the concerns on here regarding the far left, but as someone else has stated they will be there anyway so we may as well accept this and stay as democratic as we can. And I think those that organised, and chaired the day really do deserve a pat on the back. All in all I think it can be regarded as a successful first day for the new party.

      • Hoom
        December 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm

        The revolutionary vs reformist debate is utterly pointless theoretical squabbling. We simply aren’t in a situation where the definition is relevant.

        At the moment, we have to, by necessity, be a defensive formation. The seriousness of the attacks allows nothing else. If we can resist, then halt, then reverse those attacks, then yeah, at that point we can talk about where to go next. But before that, it’s simply fancy talk.

        Mind you, I’m not sure that terms like “democratic radical Left reformism” are any less jargon. I’ve certainly heard nobody outside the “bubble” use that kind of language. Perhaps JP drinks in different pubs then I do.

      • January 9, 2014 at 2:35 pm

        Mr. Penney thinks of himself of some sort of “theoretician” of the left liberal or Left Party faction in the newly born Left Unity.

        Personally, I wouldn’t offer him a penny for his thoughts as it is transparently clear from his ridiculous comment on Trotsky’s Transitional Programme that the penny hasn’t dropped with him – and probably never will.

        He likens his left liberal reformist politics to Trotsky’s Transitional Programme, which was written in 1938 to launch the Fourth International, an avowedly revolutionary organisation rooted in revolutionary Marxism.

        I cannot think of a more inappropriate analogy. It is like saying that a sheep is really a tiger in disguise.

        I very much doubt if self-styled Professor Penney has even read the Transitional Programme, and, if he has, he clearly wasn’t paying attention whilst he read it. This programme was written at the time – 1938 – when the Second World War was looming, and the working class were being misled into catastrophe by cowardly Social Democratic Parties on the one hand, and by counter-revolutionary, corrupt Stalinist Parties on the other.

        The Programme was designed to win the vanguard of the proletariat from these two giant obstacles in the path of a genuine revolutionary party to the ranks of the Fourth International and its avowedly revolutionary parties. The winning of the vanguard is a necessary precursor to winning over the bulk of the working class to a revolutionary socialist programme.

        Unfortunately, Mr. Penney’s political and historical ignorance of Trotskyism is replicated by others on your website. The most vitriolic of these deluded spokespersons are invariably ex-members of one ultra-left sect or another whose understandable disillusionment with their former grouplets transmutates into a hatred of what they mistakenly perceive as “Trotskyism” or revolutionary socialism.

        Typical of this breed of malcontents is Mr.Neil Darby who tells us he “left my (his) Trot (sic) (SWP) days behind me (him).” I shall disregard his childish and abusive use of the term “Trot” for “Trotskyist” and focus on two wholly false assumptions that underpin this throwaway remark.

        Firstly, the Socialist Workers Party is not, never has been, and most probably never will be a “Trotskyist” Party in the sense that it follows the theoretical and political views of Trotsky. This organisation is built on the flatly non-Trotskyist and non-Marxist standpoint that the former Soviet Union, China, and all the former Stalinist satellite states in Eastern Europe, South-East Asia, and in Cuba too are or were “State Capitalist” systems. Trotsky dealt definitively with this petit-bourgeois revisionism in his major works “The Revolution Betrayed” and “In Defence of Marxism.”

        Secondly, since Mr. Darby is deluded in thinking the SWP is or was a “Trotskyist” organisation, it follows that in abandoning this ultra-left petit-bourgeois sect Mr. Darby was not abandoning “Trotskyism” as he wrongly suspects. In fact, he has never been, and, as I suspect from his other comments, never will be, a “Trotskyist” in the authentic sense of the word.

        Periods of political reaction like the one through which we are living, but through which we will assuredly pass, are invariably characterised by theoretical disintegration and a contempt for the lessons of history, as the latest discoverer of the “philosopher’s stone” steps forward to stake a claim as the fresh source of all wisdom. All such gurus are as pygmies alongside the giants of the working class movement – Marx, Engles, Lenin, and Trotsky – and they have nothing new to offer. In fact, when we analyse what they are saying, with the invaluable tool of Marxist analysis, we find what they are serving up as a new dish is, in fact, the warmed-up remains of some pre-Marxist or pre-Leninist gruel, completely indigestible and of no practical or political use whatsoever.

        To all these haughty “experts” who know little or nothing about Marxism, but pretend otherwise, I would advise a little more humility, and a lot more personal study, assuming of course they have it in them to learn anything at all.

      • John Penney
        January 30, 2014 at 9:10 pm

        |Such a lot of jargon from Mr Jimmy Roberts ! I’ve really gotten up your political nose, mate, and no mistake. Unfortunately for Jimmy many of us have not only ourselves imbibed an awful lot of Marxist (and “Trotskyist”) theory and history over years of socialist struggle, but we’ve actually UNDERSTOOD it too.

        Jimmy simply doesn’t understand the relevance of Trotsky’s Transitional Programme and its Transitional Demands to today’s situation of mass working class retreat in the face of a new worldwide capitalist Offensive. Which is , to quote a passage from Wikipedia on the Transitional Programme:

        “The “transitional” idea of this program, roughly, is the following. The working class is not acquainted with the necessity of embracing the revolutionary ideas of the Fourth International due to “the confusion and disappointment of the older generation, the inexperience of the younger generation”. Hence

        “ It is necessary to help the masses in the process of the daily struggle to find the bridge between present demand and the socialist program of the revolution. This bridge should include a system of transitional demands, stemming from today’s conditions and from today’s consciousness of wide layers of the working class and unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.
        Classical Social Democracy, functioning in an epoch of progressive capitalism, divided its program into two parts independent of each other: the minimum program which limited itself to reforms within the framework of bourgeois society, and the maximum program which promised substitution of socialism for capitalism in the indefinite future. Between the minimum and the maximum program no bridge existed. And indeed Social Democracy has no need of such a bridge, since the word socialism is used only for holiday speechifying.

        — (The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International p114) ”

        I rest my case – In Left Unity we need to follow precisely the spirit of the tactics of the Transitional Programme- if we are to have any chance of connecting with real workers , and building a mass movement of the working class to start a concerted fightback against the Austerity Offensive – and eventually, capitalism.

        I’m afraid you are forever lost in that isolated , jargon-filled, ultraleft bubble, Jimmy – quoting jargon and false historical evidence aplenty – but understanding nothing of use in the present day.

  27. Coolfonz
    December 13, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Robboh might be going to campaign for a bunch of war criminals but a lot of his criticisms stand up.
    What is with the logo? What is with the constant definitions and redefinitions of `revolutionary` `reformist` `radical` etc? Do you think anyone cares?
    Hasn’t anyone learned the lessons from the right about how to use language and imagery? Words that end in `ism` are defined by the user, don’t use them.

    Secondly, who are the people on the policy commissions? Where are they? Why aren’t they present on the discussion forums? Why this lack of transparency? What is the timeframe for policy discussion? Why is none of this clear?

    Please don’t end up another group with its head in the 1950s and the same old tired activists scaring off new ideas and smart people with pigeon holes, labels and self serving definitions…

  28. Jara Handala
    December 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Thanx for your comment, Ray (14 Dec 2013, 3:24 pm). (This comment was first submitted Thursday, 19 December, but for some reason has only now been approved for publication on the website.)

    Let me say I think it’s a pity you didn’t respond directly to my points, not least presenting some evidence for the assertions you had made earlier, on 10 Dec. I say that because it’s not clear to anyone what you think of my arguments & the difficulties I went to the trouble to identify & describe as best I could.

    My four questions to you, & to anyone else, 12 Dec, were to help someone either involved in Left Unity or interested in it to try to make sense of what happened at our Founding Conference. Anyone coming to this site can not only be confused by the gender equality rule but, perhaps more importantly, also go away thinking no-one considers it worthy of being clarified.

    But given your response 14 Dec it seems:

    1) There is no reason to believe that the ‘not less than 50% should be female’ clause in the Constitution is anything other than an aspiration, i.e. it does not mean 50% or more of seats have to go to females.

    2) The clear intention of the Constitution (assuming a constitution can have an intention rather than simply stating what is) is that words have their ordinary meaning & no other, so ‘should be’ is never a synonym of ‘must be’, ‘has to be’, or ‘will be’.

    3) Left Unity seems to have had an election which involved some application of this ‘not less than 50% female’ principle but Left Unity prefers not to be transparent but to be opaque about this, i.e. it prefers that members, supporters, & anyone else remain in the dark about how this principle was applied electorally. (I ask again: where on the website is there a report of this election that discloses the basis on which we proudly conducted this novel election? And which Left Unity meeting approved this as our electoral rule?)

    4) More generally, Left Unity prefers, regrettably, to be opaque about the principles & rules of its electoral system which is why it has nothing on the website that describes it.

    5) Obviously the above four points are the questions I asked more than a week ago, on 12 Dec. I’d like to raise now a new point, a crucial one, a surprising one, your talk of elected people being “politically unrepresentative”, & “the majority politics [being] displaced.”

    This is your passage: “The point that I think is more important is whether it proves to be the case that the makeup of the leadership of the party becomes politically unrepresentative, ie. that men who represent the majority politcs of the party are displaced by women who may not. That would be a serious issue that would entail a more fundamental re-examination of the 50% principle.”

    This strikes me as a really strange conception of politics, & a disconcerting one for democrats, especially for professed socialists. I thought the democratic principle is that what is representative of people is whatever they vote for, what they go to the trouble to declare to themselves & others. Otherwise we have an essence that may or not be acknowledged by the voters, meaning sometimes we end up with a crew who are “politically unrepresentative”, & so lack legitimacy, perhaps because the voters were deluded or tricked, acting according to some false consciousness or something.

    I would argue instead that “the majority politics” is always whatever the last election showed, nothing more, nothing less. There’s no “majority politics” that the electorate somehow missed. Politics moves on, the “majority politics”, its content & form, simply changes. If the discriminatory electoral rule overrides one-person-one-vote, so that those with less votes end up meriting election, then we simply have a disjuncture between what the electorate wanted & who gets elected. That’s all. It’s just a mismatch. It is a mistake to speak, as you did, of the elected being “politically unrepresentative.” A political decision had been made not to have one-person-one-vote, so what results can never be “unrepresentative.”

    You call this “a serious issue” requiring a “fundamental re-examination of the 50% principle”, but that outcome is precisely the point of the rule: it is only applied when the voting electorate violates the rule. When the rule is applied it *always* creates a disjuncture between what the electorate wanted & who gets elected: that’s its point. That’s why it’s called a discriminatory rule: it discriminates, discriminates against some at the expense of favouring others. It is not a rule of equality – as is one-person-one-vote. In this discriminatory rule some votes, here those for a female, count for more than they do for a male, so there are two rules, one on each side of the ballot paper as it were, one-voter-gets-more-than-one-vote-while-another-voter-gets-no-vote, & one-(female)-candidate-gets-more-than-one-vote-while-another-(male)-competitor-gets-no-vote.

    Now an attempt may be made to argue that this is fair, but it can never be an exercise of either equality or one-person-one-vote, be it concerning the voter or the candidate. It means that if this rule is applied then Left Unity has stopped being a one-person-one-vote organisation.

    This discriminatory rule, by valuing votes for female candidates more than those for males, applies itself to a single constituency of voters, transforming it in two ways, creating not only two constituencies of voters but also two constituencies of the elected. It’s a politics of applying the principle of inequality to ensure an equal or near-equal gendered outcome. So Left Unity would practise political inequality to achieve apolitical gender equality. (I leave aside the matter of those excluded by the gendered male/female binary, a point made both in my 5 Dec sexism comment on Don Milligan’s 3 Dec article, & in Chris Stafford’s 17 Dec article.)

    Applying any discriminatory rule will necessitate that it overrides one-person-one-vote: if the voting doesn’t go ‘the right way’ then the discriminatory rule is applied to get the ‘right’ result. It means some votes end up, in effect, not being counted because that male candidate, say, was too popular, got too many. Some voters become privileged, their votes warrant an excess of acknowledgment, value, & worth, because other voters become deprived, their votes suffer, they’re ignored, de-valued, deemed less worthy. And all this in a party declaring itself to be socialist: some of our fellow socialists are deemed less worthy, they are disenfranchised, their ballot papers are thrown away. If only they had voted the right way they would be fully valued within the organisation, but they voted the wrong way so their vote isn’t counted, what they did was worthless.

    Guess the virtue of all this is that their ‘mistake’ now encourages people to vote the right way next time round. Then they can join the fold, enter the embrace of the party, then they can feel themselves worthy, not worthless. The party exercises a discipline with a smile, it always holds out its arms, it truly wants to be inclusive. Just meet it half-way, just vote the right way. Don’t bring ostracism upon yourself. It’s up to you. Be all Spikey about it, do the right thing.

    6) You end by saying, “For now though – let’s just get on with it, test it, and see how it goes.” That’s blind activism, here electoral activism. My reasoned questions simply ask, what is this ‘it’ we are supposed to be getting on with?

    No reasoned argument has been presented in support of the claim that the Constitution permits discriminatory elections. Instead some people have assumed it is simply the case. This is crucial. It means it is not only reckless to run such an election but, moreover, it is dangerous.

    7) My final point is of great import: our discussion, the evidenced arguments shared, makes one thing plain: there is nothing in the Left Unity Constitution justifying the usage in elections by officials of any discriminatory rule, one such as ‘females will not be a minority in this Left Unity body.’

    In Left Unity we need to act constitutionally. Discriminatory elections are not permitted within Left Unity. They can only occur if the Constitution is changed to allow them.

    I would suggest that this topic is so important that it justifies being an article on the Left Unity website.

    I hope you can reply to the questions I have asked you.

  29. Jara Handala
    December 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I would add this as a separate point, after #4:

    No evidence has ever been offered of systematic sexist anti-female behaviour within Left Unity. If such a discriminatory state of affairs were to exist some might argue that in the interest of fairness it would warrant, as a remedy, discriminatory procedures & practices in favour of females: an argument that equity requires inequality. This would make Left Unity a political party not of equality but of fairness. Left Unity would be a political party supporting inequality in an attempt to be fair, to right the wrong of systematic anti-female behaviour practised by its members, both female & male, behaviour that is presumably largely unintentional, involuntary, the result of living in a sexist patriarchal Britain. But the evidence has not been produced, & neither has the argument been made. This makes it irrational for Left Unity to have any gendered discriminatory rules, be they electoral or otherwise.

  30. jcrsq
    January 1, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Just skimmed most of posts, and speaking as a Quebec citizen and member of the left regroupment party Quebec solidaire, I think this initiative is incredibly interesting and important, and has a lot of potential. The gender parity question is also one we have dealt with, and it has evolved. We started with 50% minimum female on all elected bodies down to local association coordinating committees. That was in fact fairly easy to achieve, though it poses challenges on the local level where critical mass may be inadequate to ensure a large enough coordination. Recently we added 50% minimum requirements for delegations to national meetings and for the total number of electoral candidates by region. There are obvious practical questions about how to implement these requirements, but we are working through them collectively because as a whole we are committed to feminism. But our deliberations have also been marked by patience on all sides and an awareness that we won’t get it right immediately. Thus our party programme has been in incremental development since our founding in 2006, to allow for a really broad and vast, more democratic and bottom-up development process. This might seem unbearably slow to some, but it is crucial to doing politics differently. We also do regular member development training on all manner of issues as well as the obligatory workshops to prepare for elections. Further, QS is a “party of the street and of the ballot box” and our lack of a finished programme has not meant we cannot mobilize in support of such movements as the Quebec student general strike of 2012, campaigns against the government’s anti-Muslim charter of so-called values, etc. QS is conceived as pluralistic, and so collectives (“factions” if you want) can exist and campaign openly, but we decided not to allow motions from them as full party entities. Many were not sure of the wisdom of this, but I can state that the collectives have a lot of influence despite that and are basically respected by the active membership. We have gone from 3000 members in 2006 to about 18,000 members now, largely due to our visible support for all campaigns and movements against austerity and clear stances for feminism and ecology. On the other hand I don’t see QS as a replacement for revolutionary organisation – that is still necessary in my opinion, but it absolutely must not be considered a separate task from building QS – and is really not even feasible.

  31. Jara Handala
    January 2, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I first submitted this comment last Saturday lunchtime, 28 Dec.

    I would add as a separate point after #4:

    No evidence has ever been offered of systematic sexist anti-female behaviour within Left Unity. If such a discriminatory state of affairs were to exist some might argue that in the interest of fairness it would warrant, as a remedy, discriminatory procedures & practices in favour of females: an argument that equity requires inequality. This would make Left Unity a political party not of equality but of fairness. Left Unity would be a political party supporting inequality in an attempt to be fair, to right the wrong of systematic anti-female behaviour practised by its members, both female & male, behaviour that is presumably largely unintentional, involuntary, the result of living in a sexist patriarchal Britain. But the evidence has not been produced, & neither has the argument been made. This makes it irrational for Left Unity to have any gendered discriminatory rules, be they electoral or otherwise.

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