Left Unity – class struggle, resistance and elections

blogA contribution to the discussion from Left Unity supporter Simon Hardy and member of the Anti-Capitalist Initiative

Left Unity is taking shape. Several local groups have now been formed and a delegate conference will lay the basis for building the organisation in the coming months. The electoral successes of UKIP and the inevitable swing to the right in British politics as the mainstream politicians try and outdo each other in terms of xenophobia and immigrant bashing is a warning to us all. The incredibly low vote for TUSC and the Greens failure to fight cuts where they have councillors shows that there is no credible left of Labour challange at the moment. Left Unity is the only credible show in town to make the break through.

But we have a long way to go. Only now we turning to a discussion on politics, and there is clearly a  variety of views on the way forward. This article is a contribution to some of these debates.

Resistance

A common argument against Left Unity from people who should know better is that it is “electoralist”. This is strange since no statement has been passed by Left Unity in any form stating that elections are our primary or only concern.

Nevertheless, the fear around electoralism is an important one. It is the problem that the Green Party have, and this is why once they are in any position of local power, they end up sucked into the logic of the state and the economic interests of the bosses. We can see how the Green Party acted in Germany when it was in coalition government with the Social Democrat Party where it ended up acting much as the Lib Dems have done in Britain.

Left Unity must avoid this fate by focussing most of its energy and activist time on actual resistance to the cuts, to neo liberalism and the austerity offensive. The first time people come across Left Unity members should be on the picket line, the protest and direct action campaigns, not door knocking for an election.

Left Unity needs to become the party of the resistance. This is not to say that we don’t want a united anti cuts campaign or to work with people outside of Left Unity like the Greens or left wing Labour people. Of course we do. But only Left Unity has the potential to play a principled and leading role against the cuts in a way that no other political party in Britain can do.

If we do well in the campaigns, if we make a name for ourselves as serious and dedicated activists supporting every strike and building every protest, then and only then can be build the crediblity we need to turn that support into votes. In other words the elections are a secondary area of work that flows from our general activism. This means we are not chasing after votes, we are establishing ourselves as serious fighters against the government to the point when people are telling us they want to vote for us, that we should stand in the local or general elections.

Even then we must beware of trimming our politics to get votes. We have to be principled on unpopular questions around immigration for instance. Either we are anti-racists who stand in solidarity with those facing persecution by political parties and the media or we are nothing.

Politics

If we can get a good strategic orientation as an activist party then we will be on the right track. But we also have to consider our political statements and positions. The draft statement for the delegate meeting, based on the about us section of the website, is a good start but it can be improved. When we talk about an economy that works in the interests of the majority we have to be clearer about what that means. We will lack credibility unless we can convince people that we have a solid proposal for how to run things differently. The Tories have credibility at the moment among large sections of the middle classes because at least they propose a clear strategy, austerity, cuts and reducing the role of the state to create space for the private sector.

What is our alternative to this? A programme of tax and spend is a step in the right direction but it doesnt go far enough. We have to tackle the question not just in terms of tax and finance but around issues of property, owership and who has the “right to manage”. But simply, we have to raise the question of who has power in society and what they do with it. These debates need to be started, even if they aren’t concluded yet.

However, it is quite clear – and this is a good thing – that Left Unity will involve both reformist and revolutionaries in its ranks. The important thing is to embrace that pluralism and make it work, allow it to create a dynamic pressure to push us outwards as an organisation. In order for that to work we have to pass statements and platforms which don’t drive out either wing. What we musn’t do is start forcing reformists to adopt revolutionary slogans they don’t agree with or force revolutionaries to accept reformist solutions simply because “that’s what most people agree with”. This means we have to keep it open on key questions – at least for now. We can deal with bigger strategic questions as and when the class struggle throws them up.

The signs are good for Left Unity, and there is a real energy to make it happen – to get it right this time. We have to put away cynicism and preconceived polemics from yesteryear and come together to build a progressive, left wing opposition to the mainstream parties and the looming ogre of  UKIP. If we don’t do it now then the next few years will be ones of defeat and misery – but they could very well be the beginning of a new phase of renewal and hope.

 

 


16 comments

16 responses to “Left Unity – class struggle, resistance and elections”

  1. RedShift says:

    I’m sorry but the whole ‘electoralism is bad’ argument is daft and is part of the reason the far-left struggle. You end up failing to understand how you effectively communicate with normal, de-politicised people.

    e.g. knocking round a council estate during the elections – how do you respond to a white, working class, ex-Labour voter who starts talking about their concerns about immigration, sometimes in a fairly hostile manner?

    Many on the left would be defensive and hostile in return, dismissing them as a bigot or racist or even a fascist. Often, this isn’t the case. These people are normally depoliticised not BNP members.

    Actually, you can normally get somewhere with these people. They’ll usually have an instinctive hatred for the Tories for a start. They’ll probably hate bankers. When it comes to their views on immigration, this is often them accepting The Sun’s analysis rather than genuinely thinking about other issues they know far more about – unemployment, undercutting of wages, agency firms, casualised labour, zero-hour contracts, the fact the construction sector in particular is on its knees, the decline of manufacturing and more. If you don’t knock on doors, if the only people you ever speak to are politicised people on your email lists or people you speak to on town centre stalls, you’ll simply never get through to these people. Both because you aren’t attempting to talk to them and because actually your language will be alien to them.

  2. Peter Burrows says:

    I believe resistance can embrace both those who support workers on a picket line in dispute with their employers ,but also on a electoral basis ,both involve people (sometimes the same people),who see their community as well as their workplace under attack ,are we to address one need to the detriment of another i believe nobody would do so.

    Its important that local LU groups have strong positive links with local/regional unions & gain credibility & trust as labour carries on distancing itself from working people.

    Its equally important to acknowledge that politics effects all aspects of peoples lives it would be folly to believe otherwise .

    LU as a grassroots bottom up organisation ,will naturally organise at a local level working with Youth groups,women’s groups,ethnic minority groups, tenant/resident groups etc ,thus gaining trust within all sections of the community .

    It would be all to easy to sit back & snipe from the political sidelines, or you use the trust & respect you have built up locally into the local political arena ,with local people knowing who you are ,what you are & that you stand up for local people ,public service ,pledged to a proper living wage .

    There is a vast swathe of the population out there who have no sense of belonging ,believe that both in the workplace & their local community nobody is prepared to work with them ,nobody is listening & they would want a working peoples grassroots political representation . I believe LU must be an organisation capable of delivering on both fronts .

    Peter………….

  3. Ed Lewis says:

    Good piece Simon. On this: “The first time people come across Left Unity members should be on the picket line, the protest and direct action campaigns.”

    What do you think about Mark Perryman’s idea that people might encounter LU through cultural institutions, which could have a permanence that actions don’t, and potentially serve communities directly in a different way from activism?

  4. Simon Hardy says:

    Hi Redshift,

    Just to be clear I am not knocking elections per se, I am criticising people on the left who make good election results their priority. It is really a question of where we focus our energies and i think that LU will only succeed in breaking the mould if it is a fighting, class struggle party that actively gets stuck into the movement and resistance to the government. The elections are a secondary tactic, a way of measuring our success in other areas, but should not be the primary goal.

    And I am not against knocking on peoples doors, I just don’t think that should be the first way that people come across us or hear about us. Some apparently random left group turning up at election time to ask you to vote for them (and people will think, “Goodness, why do the same leftists turn up every election time just claiming to be from a different party? Socialist Alliance, then Respect, then Tusc, now Left Unity!”).

    I think it also points to a debate about what we should be doing in 2015. Frankly I think most people will vote Labour simply because they want to get the Tories out. I think LU should stand in a few key seats where we can get a good vote, but it is unlikely that a left of Labour party will be able to do well in the elections when so many people will just want to do anything to get the coalition out. We should bide our time, build up support in a few key areas, make the case for the new party and really try and cut out teeth on local council elections in a few areas.

  5. Dave Edwards says:

    I am writing to disagree with several points in Simon’s posting. The model of activity that he is presenting would differ very little from that undertaken (on their good days) by the SWP and SP. OK minus perhaps the command-and-control mentality.
    A significant weakness in the strategy of the left has been its raison dêtre of ‘doing something’, is equated to attending demo’s, protests, being on the picket line etc. Simon does, of course, add that we should also participate in elections, but this is very much his sub-text.
    I would argue that this is the politics of people coming from the outside, who want to “prove themselves” through the participation in the above activities, and then assume that ‘the people’ will flock to them. Unfortunately this has what has been happening. So what would be different?
    I see this as a fools paradise (although ‘purgatory’ would be a better term). It is a fools game because of its one-sidedness, which amounts to the gesture politics, in this form.
    To say this is not to say that we should not participate in, organise and support such actions. Rather that these should flow from having established a political base in communities. Then such participation is a process of representation and not a gesture. A knife can be used to cut the vegetables for your evening meal or stab someone to death – the context of how you use the same instrument is what is critical. Activity on demo’s etc., in the absence of building support in communities, is a quick headline and little more. Where actions do have a tangible outcome (some occupations etc), they are limited to the issue and radicalise mainly only those involved. Again we are left with a small handful of ‘lefties’.
    All this is not to discard such actions, but to highlight strongly the limitation, if they are one-sided, without the balance of support amongst the working class within their communities.
    Quite frankly I am uninterested in the use of the term ‘electoralist’, or other such terminology. People can throw names about as much as they want – and we have all seen far too much of that. I am interested in a concrete strategy that moves out of the zone that the left has been trapped in for decades. You cannot build a large movement by going on demonstrations and supporting pickets. These are activities that you undertake, as-a-follow-on, from your main activity of building support.
    Now how can you develop support in communities? For a start you do have to [a] go around door-to-door, all year round (more or less), asking how you can help people and taking up issues that they raise. This might be a ‘small and insignificant’ as dog shit on the pavement. Can ‘left unity’ help them or not? If this issue is important to them and you start talking about nationalisation or the ‘need for socialism’, I venture you will not get very far. The anvil of this all this would be standing for election. Otherwise, what you promise you can do will be empty phrases (at least to the ear of the person you are talking to). You can go away feeling warm that you ‘raised socialist ideas’, but that’s about it.
    It is from a base of being champions for the community, for the working class, in a real concrete sense that a broad base for left policies can be built. But to run, must first learn to walk. Or in the case of the left in the UK, to crawl.

    • Simon Hardy says:

      Dave I think building up a base in communities is essential and I don’t think”Activism” that is limited to the kind of shallow “interventions” that the left usually does is going to work. I wasn’t just referring to strikes – I also said we needed to be involved in campaigns and struggles more generally, the bedroom tax is a good example.

      However, what I am against is a party that is built primarily to deliver votes around election time. That is the main thrust of what I am saying, if you agree with that then I don’t see how you can be disagreeing with “several points” in the rest of the article.

  6. Tom says:

    When Simon says, “I think most people will vote Labour simply because they want to get the Tories out,” I’ve got to ask myself if this is less what he thinks will happen so much as what he is desperately keen on happening. The reality is that Ed Miliband wants to sabotage working class resistance to cuts imposed on our class because his priorities are those of the capitalist class: austerity for us, to bail out the profiteering parasites, turning his back on the scapegoats of capitalist austerity. UKIP exploit the alienation of the masses because all the established parties are whistling while the global economy burns. In this context, the task for socialists has to be to expose the megaphones of the ruling class, that being the broadcast and print media, as well as the parties that defend surplus value for the owners of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The political climate within which class struggle activists will thrive depends to a considerable extent on our gaining access to the mass media. Without exposing the liars who tell us that Nigel Farage is the future because workers are actually enthusiastic about his flat taxes and love the scapegoating of poor foreigners, then we are all fucked. Marxism is not a dogma, but a guide to action. One and a half centuries of practical activity by scientific socialists has proven the indispensability of enfranchising the working class. Syndicalism, which is pretty much what is on offer from Simon, is no solution. It goes without saying that Left Unity should not spread its human and financial resources too thinly. If we can’t find the candidates, then we can’t stand. If there is a decent socialist standing for Labour, SNP, Greens or one of the smaller socialist groups who refuse to join Left Unity, then we may want to stand down. However, to the extent the resources are there and there is no alternative candidate worth backing, Left Unity must try to stand, certainly when there is no first-past-the-post problem, and very often when there is: by-elections; safe Labour seats, etc. Bringing in TUSC as partners helps that process.

  7. Nick Jones says:

    One of the strengths of Left Unity is going to be the vast wealth of experience and ideas that members will bring. I know people who have a lot of experience fighting elections and campaigning in parts of Leeds. Some have had relative success- I want to learn from them. Others have organised and campaigned on issues such as the NHS, Bedroom Tax, Poll Tax (!). We have experienced trade unionists- a lot of people who are new, some who are young and bring with them a fresh approach and are willing to confront issues the left take for granted in a new way. I want to listen and learn from everybody. I was recently chatting with a daughter of very experienced and committed socialists in Doncaster- she is 17/18 and asked- why the left has so many meetings but a lot of the people go away and do not organise. They tell people what to do, but aren’t good at doing it themselves. She was referring to a loud mouth full time union officer in UNISON. The union officer always said what ‘we should’ be doing. This time it was booking a coach to the People’s Assembly. As ever when he said ‘we’ , he meant someone else. The left has had far too much of this- ‘should/ could/ would’.
    I want Left Unity to be a place people come and try new ideas and projects- and feel able to be discuss and disagree. We have to learn how to cope with this. I want people to bring examples of problems and how they solved them or didn’t. Instead of saying ‘we should’ encounter people on the picket line- talk to people about your success on the said picket line and show people what you have done. If you are active in your community and focus your work their talk about it too. If we are to create a stronger left we need plurality, maximum discussion- but one thing I want an end to is people telling me what some thing should be like- show me how you did it.
    In Leeds we recently had disagreements about the approach to take towards the EDL protest in Leeds. Not all agreed that we should march onto the white estate where people did not really know us. They thought we needed to build up more community involvement and put an alternative to racism- one even talked of standing in elections, another wanted mass petitioning and leafleting but with a focus on arguing against the racist lies. In the end people who wanted to protested, and I’m sure we will be continuing the argument about how we undermine fascist groups through our work in the future. This is healthy.
    So, I think if people want to shift the organisation towards activity- then we need more examples of what you did, how you did it and what success or failure was encountered.

  8. John Keeley says:

    Simon strikes the right balance.

    We cannot ignore elections. To not give people an anti-capitalist choice at the ballot box is to leave the path open for capitalists of varying degrees of reaction. But as Simon stresses, the state can corrupt. Party politics will attract people who want power & prestige, even in Left Unity. So we need to remember what we are all about – giving people power & taking it away from the capitalist state.

    Left Unity supporters need to be thinking very clearly about the message we want to send out. Some will want us to be simply ‘Old’ Labour, promising to nationalise the commanding heights & doing a bit of redistribution. They don’t appreciate that capitalism cannot afford social democracy. Not because their not enough wealth, but because capitalism only produces for profit, not need. We must avoid merely trying to reform capitalism. Also, we must also avoid being branded a ‘looney left’ who only care about giving ‘hand-outs’ to minorities. This is what the right-wing media did to Ken Livingstone’s GLC & the Labour left of the early 1980’s, & it still resonates with many of today’s white, working class. Most importantly we mustn’t be yet another group of political wanna-be’s. What we must be is something different: a vision of a society without capitalism & without the division of labour. A society where we have direct, collective control of our lives. Where people, not professional politicians make the decisions. The internet gives us the ability to let every one participate in politics. Participation as equals. Furthermore to demonstrate this by organising ourselves in the same way we want society to be. Giving all equality of decision-making & not having any kind of central committee making the decisions & issuing the orders downwards. This means allowing diverse strategies. Some will be more at home canvassing for votes, some on the picket line, some organising demonstrations, some taking direct action. We need to collectively show the solidarity that we want our post-capitalist society to have. This is historically important, we’ve a world to change.

    • Simon Hardy says:

      I don’t want us to be old Labour at all – but I appreciate that in the initial stages we will have to algebraic in our formulations in order to keep the project united and forward moving. This means I think it is inappropriate for people to force a Marxist programme on it – when so many LU members aren’t Marxists – or likewise to force an explicitly reformist programme on it.

      But for now I think that the programme for power is secondary – we are nowhere near state power and aren’t in a revolutionary crisis which raises the question immediately. What is more important is what the party does; how it involves people, brings them together and the way that it organises struggles. We need a party of mass direct action against austerity and neoliberalism – something to break the consensus and pull things to the left. It is within that context we can clarify strategy.

  9. arran james says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the tone of this article. The most important element of what Simon is saying, and it is the part of calls for left unity that are ignored or thrown away most quickly it seems, is the need to remain open “at the moment”. This is a moment of tactical openness; that is, an openness to tactics and an openness that is itself tactical. By the first, I just mean that we can’t simply import this or that way of organising, this or that ideologically driven policy, excluding this or that group or person simply because of ideological and/or historical differences. This is not to suggest that such differences should be obliterated by a pretence that everyone involved with LU is the same. As Simon says, pluralism is part of the democratic mode that LU must embrace. In the second meaning, I’m talking about realising that this openness to all is a decision made on pragmatic grounds. If the left is ever going to compose itself in such a way as to provide credible resistance, and if it is ever to look like it could threaten the capitalist organisation of society, then we must first of all realise that we have to work with what is to hand, rather than with figments of theories or hopes. There is no stepping outside the situation; if we’re going to build it has to be from the wreckage of what exists.

    Alongside this notion of tactical openness must be the strategic vision that Simon is also asking us to think about; an it must be thought about. Strategy is the horizon within which our tactics make sense, so we can’t be too limiting on the possible extent of that horizon. What do we eventually want to see society become? I’d echo John’s comment above: that we should not be afraid to discuss the question of ownership, of control and management, of power and participation. To echo John again, a unity of strategic vision allows for a diversity of tactics to be deployed by those who have specific strengths or preferences. Why should we decide between this action and that when they are all possible. Is it impossible to make use of elections whilst also making use of protest? All of this is to say that what is required is an anticapitalist pragmatism. None of these questions (ie: ownership etc) have to be expressed in theory laden language. Coming from a background working in mental health, I very rarely ever use psychiatric terminology in talking to patients. This isn’t because I assume they will be stupid or turned off instantly, but because if there is a way to express something simply and clearly then that is the way it should be expressed.

    I have been involved in talking to some American’s online about their own call for a project of left unity and that conversation has very quickly turned into denunciations and caricaturing. Left Unity ought to mean a unification of those people who identify with the left; we should not make the mistake of thinking that we begin from a position of unity or of harmonious agreement, even with ourselves. It isn’t that I think people on here believe we have such a oneness, it is more that I am cautious that we don’t attempt to short-circuit to that state or that we mistake the work of unifying, which always involves disagreement and internal negotiation, with being already united if only such and such a group/tendency could be excluded. The shape of LU will come through the political work of deciding how to decide and of organising ourselves on those things that Simon point out.

    Similarly though, the idea of asking people what they want is crucial. I’m not sure this requires going door to door. We live in an age of a seemingly exponential growth of communicative technologies in which most people are online. This asking people what they want and the concomitant building of support can take the form of community organising; and doing so not in order to have what is being organised dominated by LU members or by LU images, but more simply in order to extend the ability of the class to organise itself. If we are an active part in helping people to help themselves- because, shock horror, we aren’t separate from the mass of the people at all!- then that is definitely one way to build local support.

    I also want to agree with Simon’s statement that

    ‘Either we are anti-racists who stand in solidarity with those facing persecution by political parties and the media or we are nothing’.

    Left Unity needs to be able to express itself in a popular language and to make use of popular culture and technologies; it should not confuse being popular with being populist.

  10. Mark Perryman says:

    This is an important contribution. It goes to the core of an issue Left Unity must sort out at the start, to put it off for the sake of niceties wll get us nowhere and end in tears.

    Simon is a leading member of the group Anti-Capitalist Initiative, that nunbers in tens, it is a split from an only slightly bigger group called Workers Power (no this isn’t a joke). He is, as he makes refrshingly clear, what’s called a revolutionary socialist.

    Left Unity has attracted all sorts of people, some come from groups like Simon’s. Simon calls those of us who don’t entirely subscribe to his idea of so-called revolution, ‘reformists’. Or in other words ‘the rest of us’.

    Admiringly Simon calls for us all to work together. But I don’t want to be in a party that treats this so-called revolution as equally important as winning elections. One has next to no presence or influence in society despite the ultra-activism of the small groups who call themselves revolutionary. The other is what most people think of politics, thats why UKIP has had such a massive impact.

    Does that mean Left Unity won’t be involved in extra-parliamentary activities. Of course not, but these won’t be about preparing for Simon’s revolution but about creating a new common-sense about how society can be organised, ideas and practice, shaped decisively by 1945 not 1917.

    Simon’s idea of ‘Left Unity’ treats his version of revolution on an equal basis as this reform movement. Thats nonsense. Left Unity is a party of reform, revolutionaries can choose to support this and be very welcome but if they want revolution to be treated as an equal partner the project is a non-starter.

    Again this is why the signatories audit is vital. If out of the 8,000 the overwhelming proportion who respond and want to sign up share Simon’s revolution viewpoint then what we have is Revolutionary Left Unity and I’m completely wrong, and no longer interested. But we’ll all know where we stand. If on the other hand the overwhelming proportion share the Spirit of 45 and simply want that vision back in politics, in the same way UKip want their Thatcher back, then Left Unity is the kind of party I’m talking about. This shouldn’t be decided by committees or delegates its what will give us our purpose and identity its too important for such a narrow involvement. E-mail makes maximum involvement possible, it is such a basic question, before any kind of constitution and the like is agreed on, let all 8,000 be surveyed and provide the answers.

    Mark P

    • John Keeley says:

      Mark,

      Do you really think that capitalism can be reformed?
      That we can recreate some mythical Swedish-style social democracy?

      The post-war ‘golden era’ of capitalism that was experienced in the West was a result of the huge capital devaluation & destruction of the 1930’s Great Depression & WWII, restoring the rate of profit, with the harnessing of cheaper, more productive energy, in the form of oil & gas & the automation that came with it, & alongside this, least we forget, the exploitation & plunder of third world resources & their labour. Yes this gave some of us in the West a national health service, free education, a shorter working week, good pensions, etc. along with greater equality, but those days are long gone.
      The material conditions have changed. Cheap energy is history. Capitalism has been living on debt (the creation of credit money) for decades now, trying to keep the recorded rate of profit positive. That game is now up, yet the capitalists still try to delude themselves by printing more & more money.
      The crash & depression are still to come. This is why we need, in my opinion, to be overtly anti-capitalist. Capitalism is the problem.

      But I understand your concerns about revolutionaries. The way they have conducted themselves is enough to put anyone off socialism. Behind the fig-leaf of ‘democratic centralism’ we’ve had central committees substitute themselves for the party & the party substitute itself for the working class. Elites have made the decisions & pass their orders down. In some cases the elites have retained power using a slate system that has resulted in some spending the best part of their lives on the central committees. No wonder many people view Leninism as leading to one-party dictatorship.

      What we need is equality in decision-making. It also requires a tolerance for diversity. As Arran James says different people will use different tactics. But as Tom points out we need this with a central direction, or shared vision. This shared vision is still to be thrashed out, but it does require some form of governance or leadership. But we must be careful that we don’t allow an elite to form. That we don’t have some who are more equal than others. Elections will attract those who want to get elected. Those who want power or get corrupted by power. If they end up in Westminster they will not want to go back to their boring jobs or life on the dole. We want people in positions of governance for fixed periods, say 5 years maximum. During which they should be passing on their knowledge & developing others. We should govern ourselves as we would govern a future socialist society. That means a lack of hierarchy & a sharing of tasks, both the empowering ones with the mundane ones.

  11. Joseph Kisolo - ssonko says:

    I expect that no one would disagree that just turning up knocking on doors is a bad thing (where this has been done its generally been because of lack of numbers and coherent strategy rather than *as a plan*). In a similar vein, I doubt whether anyone getting involved in leftunity thinks that *never* knocking on doors for elections is the way to go.

    Beyond these straw men though there are real differences in statergy that Simon Hardy does a good job of starting to tease out: the revenant debating point isn’t really ‘electoralism’, rather it is the question of what kind of activism is most effective.

    While I agree with Simon that picket lines are great places to engage people in visions of a new way of organising the world sadly there just are not enough strikes to make it viable that even a *tiny* percentage of people will meet us first on a picket line. More may meet us on national or large regional demonstrations but even these are relatively marginal activities. So we need to think about also including activism that meets people *where they actually are at*.

    I’m sure we all agree with local campaigns to save library’s etc. though perhaps there is disagreement around how much to stress this kind of activism against more exciting (for the activists) national/regional forms. More debate appears to exist over the possibility of cultural type activism and I guess even more would exist around the value of solidarity street work of the dog poo/litter-pick viarity suggested by Dave Edwards in comment above. Im open to all these ideasa and I’m sure 100 other different nuancés of strategy exist within our ranks.

    We’re not going to conclude these arguments with abstract discutions about electoralism, but maybe if the embryonic leftunity party allows space for different types of activism and (most vitally) honest reporting, aprasial and openness to change about successes and failures we can work things out in a concrete fashion.

  12. Tom says:

    I agree with almost everything John Keeley says. Having said that, I think he underestimates the need for some kind of central direction.
    Left Unity will not flourish if it reduces itself to a loose network of individuals unconcerned with how the behavior of each of us impacts on the rest of the organisation. Left Unity does need democratic accountability, and spokespersons capable of singing from the same hymnsheet, albeit with a degree of autonomy. Ignore this need for some centralisation and each and every one of us will be held responsible for mavericks bringing the entire project into disrepute.
    Let me repeat: I do agree with the thrust of John’s argument, but we need to be careful about things like direct action. Left Unity doesn’t want to be heavy handed. We need to welcome initiative and creativity by individuals and local groups. However, we need to appreciate what can go wrong if central authority evaporates completely.
    When Rupert Murdoch had to face his accusers live on television when summoned to give evidence by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, one individual protestor took an individual decision to place a pie in his face. This fed his need for attention, but proved counterproductive for the rest of us. Nasty creep that he is, Murdoch was an old man in an extremely stressful situation. For all the pie man knew, Murdoch could have had a heart attack. Had he discussed his stunt with others, they should have told him this was a bad idea.
    On demonstrations things can get out of hand, and individuals can get carried away and end up with serious criminal records for doing things the rest of us would not dream of supporting. The leadership of Left Unity needs to give guidance to the rest of us what is and what is not acceptable: occupations – good; dropping heavy objects from building with no regard to public safety – very bad indeed.
    Left Unity has to be more than a hangout for collections of local activists from a variety of single issue campaigns, who don’t care if the resources they win comes out of the pocket of other single issue campaigns: pensioners and students, for example, attempting to pinch each others pockets.
    Left Unity clearly become a beacon for rejects from Labour who do not want socialism anymore than Tony Blair does. These sectarians want to keep socialists out. Socialists need to fight back against those attracted to the politics of Eduard Bernstein and Neil Kinnock.
    The only way for Left Unity to make any progress at the ballot box (which is essential whatever Simon thinks) is to explain where we will find the resources for the things we fight for. Ed Balls and all the other Keynesians want to borrow. That is a rather anti-socialist strategy. Global capitalism is drowning in debt. Doesn’t Holland’s inevitable betrayal reminds us yet again that we can’t control what we don’t own?
    If Left Unity doesn’t care about where the money is coming from, voters will treat us with contempt, and rightly so. Voters know that our election promises will be as meaningless as those of the Lib Dems and Holland unless we can explain who pays for our reform programme.
    UKIP has only came under serious scrutiny for the massive black hole in its manifesto in the last few weeks. Due to its having been promoted as the establishment’s one and only safe non-of-the-above protest vote receptacle for months, it turned out to be far too late for the broadcast and print media to damage UKIP in the week or so running up to last Thursday’s elections. First-past-the-post electoral system has now created a massive problem for the Tory establishment, and that is the silver cloud that they left has to cling to.
    But this scrutiny of UKIP will start now, and they will be forced to downgrade their promises. Left Unity cannot rely on the kind of favorable media promotion of the establishment. From day one, we can only make head way by explaining that we are not going to trade off the legitimate demands of one section of society against the legitimate demands of another.
    If borrowing on the markets won’t work, what will? We need to explain that, as was always implicit in Clause Four prior to Tony Blair’s ripping it up, profits do indeed derive from surplus value exploited from the wage slaves. That is why Left Unity has zero problem taking back the means of production, distribution and exchange, and we have no problem with diy expropriation by the workers themselves, occupation of factories, offices etc, closed down by the capitalists.
    Left Unity is not going to allow the mass media (owned lock, stock and barrel by the richest one percent) to continue to act as a noisy megaphone for the profiteering parasites.
    If capitalism can no longer afford the 99% (and it cannot), then we cannot afford it. Transitional demands are our bridge between the demands popular with the none-of-the-above majority today into substantial votes by Left Unity for a radical redistribution of wealth and power from the haves to the have-nots.

  13. Ray G says:

    I agree with the thrust of this article. Simon is not saying, it seems clear to me, that we should not stand for election, but simply that standing in this or that place should flow from a local base in workplace AND/OR community based struggles, rather than being ‘purely’ electoralist.

    We should concentrate now on recruiting a wide variety of people from those who have turned away from Labour and want to fight back, to those elements of the revolutionary left who are able and willing to work in an organisation where they won’t necessarily get their own way, and who won’t split and destroy it whenever they are outvoted on some aspect of their programme.

    In the middle somewhere, once these elements are brought together and discuss and develop a proper understanding of each other, and see each other in ACTION, they may well settle on a more subtle interplay between electoral work, fighting cuts NOW and thinking more and more how society needs to be really, fully transformed, hopefully moving towards a recognition that mass, ‘revolutionary’ action will be essential to to secure such radical changes and defeat the economic and armed power of the ruling class. Most people don’t just sign up for fully developed revoltionary programme but come to understand the need for it through a PROCESS of struggle, learning lessons and thinking through the options.

    Can’t wait to get this process started!


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