Left Unity: Meeting Three

left unity 6Twenty seven comrades came to the third Left Unity meeting, for the majority this was their first meeting. The meeting was introduced by Gioia Coppola, an communist from Italy who gave a report on the recent Italian elections. She was despondent about the prospects for the left and saw little positive in the vote for Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. Toby Abse is writing an article on the Italian elections for Left Unity which will appear shortly. Nick Wrack from the Independent Socialist Network spoke to the main theme of the meeting, Why is there no party to the left of Labour? What sort of organisation do we need? Below we reproduce his notes which were circulated during the meeting. They are, as Nick says, not fully formulated or exhaustive but are reproduced here them as a contribution to the ongoing debate about these issues.The discussion on this question did not ignore the very real problems and actual experiences that comrades had gone through in previous Left Unity projects and although one of two questioned the validity of continuing the debate the majority opinion was to push forward and agree a joint statement that would be a basis for future work.

Kate Hudson presented the enlarged Left Unity statement around which there was a great deal of consensus. A three person working group was established to incorporate the changes that comrades suggested. The draft, still to be worked on this group, is included at the end of this report.

Fred Leplat reported on preparations for the People’s Assembly. More than 300 people have already registered for the Assembly which is now supported by all the trades unions together with dozens of campaigning groups from around the country. Recent signatories to the Assembly

planning meeting for the People's Assembly

planning meeting for the People’s Assembly

statement include Unite Community Portsmouth, Queers Against the Cuts, Bring Back EMA Campaign, Yorkshire CND, Enfield Alliance Against the Cuts, Poets in Defence of the Welfare State, Sussex Student Occupation and many more. The first organising meeting for the Assembly took place the day after our meeting – it was attended by more than 45 people from all sections of the movement. The Assembly is generating enormous enthusiasm and Owen Jones and Mark Steel are launching a nationwide speaking tour to build support for the Assembly.

 

Is a new left party possible and what should it be like? Nick Wrack

Why is there no party to the left of Labour?

1. Clearly, there is a need for such a party.
Austerity. Cuts. Destruction of the welfare state. Education. Health. Housing. Pensions. All gone.
2. Objective reasons – strength of Labourism, defeat of the w/c over last 30 years, retreat of the ideas of socialism – i.e. ‘there is no alternative’ (Thatcher).
3. Having said that, there could and should have been a party, even if it may have been difficult to build and sustain at this stage
4. Subjective reasons – sectarianism, rivalry, hostility and egotism of various left groups and individuals.
5. Opportunism – a belief that there’s a short cut to building the sort of party we need. Patience, hard work, consistency.

What sort of organisation do we need?

6. A political party to represent the interests of the working class. One that engages in political activity. Participates in all aspects of working class life and struggle. Including elections.
7. It cannot be built solely on elections – must be day-to-day work, all struggles – workplace, community, in education, in retirement etc.
8. But a working-class party cannot abstain from electoral activity, as though it doesn’t matter.
9. One that defends what we have – line in the sand
10. One that attempts to extend what we have – militant action. Is there room for reforms – only when massive class action forces them from ruling class.
11. One that fights for a new society. Classless society, no class rule. Means the working class fighting for power, for socialism – common ownership of the means of production, production for need not profit – laying the basis for humanity to flourish, for history to really begin.
12. The individual development of each is dependent on the development of all.
13. This present system tramples not only on us each economically, but on our souls, on our very being, degrading us and squeezing humanity out of each of us.
14. The organisation has to be based on these principles – fighting here and now, but pointing out that if we want to put constant struggle into the rubbish bin, to the history books, we must link each fight to the ultimate goal of a new socialist society. Only then can we wake up in the morning without having to worry about food, warmth, shelter and our future. Only then can we begin to really develop as human beings – enjoying the world and our neighbours and developing fully our own potential.
15. So, the party has to be socialist.
16. That also means that it must be internationalist. W/c has common interest across the globe. Here in UK it means that it must have a European-wide perspective. Not a defender of the EU (capitalist programme built into treaties and laws) but a proponent of genuine European integration, utilising Europe’s vast resources for the benefit of all.
17. No national solution to the crisis. Pan-European w/c actions, including electoral engagement. To transform whole of Europe.
18. It has to be democratic – self-evident. It has, as much as possible, to prefigure the new society.
19. It has to be mass – an army of persuaders.
20. Socialism will only come about democratically – i.e. by the will and action of the mass of the w/c – i.e. the majority in society.
21. Not a bureaucracy, or an elite, a parliamentary majority acting on its own from above.
22. The emancipation of the w/c is only through its own act. Acting together to achieve political and economic power. Will liberate humanity.

28 February 2013

Massive demo against austerity in Portugal September 15th 2012,

Massive demo against austerity in Portugal September 15th 2012,

Left Unity Draft Statement

Europe is plunging deeper and deeper into crisis. Its governments are continuing with their failed austerity policies which are destroying the social and economic gains working people have made over many decades. The economic crisis has increasingly become a social and political crisis as people face poverty, hunger and even death, as a result of the catastrophic and government-imposed failure of health systems and social services. A further manifestation of this crisis is the rapid development of fascism in Greece, in the shape of Golden Dawn.

However the people of Europe are fighting back. There is a continual mobilisation on the streets to oppose these policies, together with strikes and diverse forms of direct action and resistance. European-wide cooperation is increasing as the movement opts for greater political coordination in solidarity and action. In Greece, France, Germany and elsewhere, new political formations have emerged, drawing together a range of left forces, posing political, social and economic alternatives, and challenging the capitulation of social democracy to neo-liberalism. Here in Britain, a successful response to the rightwards move of Labour has not yet taken place, yet we have equal need of a new political formation which rejects austerity and war, advocates a greater democratisation of our society and institutions, and poses a new way of organising everyday life.

Such a new left formation would present an alternative set of values of equality and justice; socialist, feminist and green, informed by Marxism but not defined by it. Its politics and policies would stand against capitalism, imperialism, war, racism and fascism. Its urgent tasks would be to oppose austerity, defend the welfare state, fight to restore workers’ rights and advance alternative social and economic policies, redistributing wealth to the working class.

Its political practice would be democratic, diverse and inclusive, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working; the mutual respect and tolerance of differences of analysis; the rejection of brutality and distortion of traditional left structures and their frequent reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society.

International solidarity is fundamental to the success of any resistance and the achievement of any political progress; such a new political formation will work with other left organisations and movements in Europe and internationally, to build coordination, strategic links and common actions.

The need for cooperation amongst those forces in Britain which seek to bring change to our society is vital. The need for unity is paramount as attacks on the living and working conditions of ordinary people intensify, and the very fabric of our welfare state is being destroyed. A dialogue of the left is being opened, to ensure that this political perspective receives adequate expression and that we do not remain outside of the political developments in Europe and beyond. The situation is now so urgent that sectarian attitudes and interests must be abandoned.

A new political movement of the left is necessary. We call on all those willing to tread this path to support this Appeal, so that this essential discussion can make progress.


5 comments

5 responses to “Left Unity: Meeting Three”

  1. Peter Rowlands says:

    Matt Wrack does not mention the most important reason for there not being a left party in the UK, namely not having PR, which all the countries with left parties have, and without which it is doubtful whether a left party can be successfully launched.
    The danger in the proposal is that it might attract sufficient numbers of left wingers from the Labour Party to allow the Blairite right to take over again.If the price of this was a successful newleft party then fine, but it won’t be, for reasons given above. Think again, comrades.

    • Nick Wrack says:

      Hi Peter, It was Nick Wrack, not Matt, who wrote the notes. I agree that the absence of PR has made it more difficult for a left alternative to obtain parliamentary representation but, in my opinion, that is not a good reason for us not to stand candidates. We clearly need to lay the groundwork first, through campaigning, but we cannot continue to allow only a choice between three or four versions of the same inedible dish.

  2. David Pavett says:

    I have an objection to your proposals which is additional to the one given by Peter Rowlands.

    You use words like socialism as if they had a self-evident meaning. They do not. What is socialism? What measures are needed to get from where we are to such a radical restructuring of society? What to do with the banks, with international corporations. What about SMEs? And how is all this to be accomplished on the international scale that you imply is necessary?

    The simple fact is that you give not a hint of an answer to such basic questions. In those circumstances to you have the right to expect to be taken seriously? As someone who does want to see a new party of the left I have to say that the answer to that question, for me at least, is “no”. For now it makes more sense to put up any ideas you have within the Labour Party. If they have the effect of arousing that Party from its politically comatose status then all well and good. If not then at least ideas will have been developed and clarified in a way that makes clear than an alternative forum is required.

  3. Chris says:

    I believe that a real left alternative party is required
    However, unless PR is introduced, the current FPTP system could allow a near-permanent tory government while a left alternative is being created
    Therefore, PR should be actively campaigned for, but until then any new left movement should take the form of a Syriza-style coalition
    This could use the electoral force of the Labour Party, and have real left-wing policies
    Obviously, other parties (maybe Respect?) could also be included

  4. Jerry Spring says:

    We have had over a 100 years of the working class being mislead,firstly, by the Evolutionary Social Democratic ideology of the Trade Unions struggling, sectionally, to get the best deal for their members within the constraints of the imperialist United Kingdom and, secondly, the consequences of that reformism being further advanced through the formation by the Trade Unions of their own Labour Party to represent them in Parliament.

    The subsequent reformist process came to its fullest development in 1945 when the Labour Party ousted the Liberals to become the ‘progressive‘ pillar of the political establishment of the United Kingdom.

    Any alternative must therefore adopt the basic ideology of ‘1848’ Revolutionary Social Democracy which, in accordance with Marxism, will be internationalist in its outlook while focussing, first and foremost, on achieving the unity of politically advanced workers within the imperialist United Kingdom.


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