Meet The Neighbours

blogThere is  a rich discussion taking place in Left Unity and beyond about the sort of new party of the left that needs to be built in this country. Here Jay Blackwood of Bristol Left Unity makes his contribution.

On the day of Thatcher’s funeral I was struggling home from the shops with my groceries when I was accosted by one of my neighbours. Me and Pete had only exchanged the odd greeting up till that point. But that particular day he was fuming. The fawning and the eulogies had driven him to distraction. He needed to let off steam, and was pottering about in his front garden when I turned into our street. After quickly checking that I wasn’t “a bloody Tory”, he let rip. We talked for thirty minutes. It was instructive.

Pete’s an ‘Old Labour’ man. He retired from his job on the railways many years ago, but he’s kept up to date with the fine detail of the rolling disaster that privatisation of the service has brought about. He’s livid about the profiteering, the corruption, and the deterioration of the service he used to feel proud of. He’s always been a member of the Labour Party, but he hasn’t had any time for it since the days of the Blair government. He still pays his subs, but he has contempt for what his old party has come to stand for. He feels betrayed, and he feels helpless as he watches everything his generation fought for turn to shit around him. Politically he feels he has nowhere to go.

Pete’s an old-fashioned socialist. He believes in the welfare state and the NHS. He believes in the right to be in a trade union, and the right of that union to fight for its members’ interests. He wants to keep the profit motive out of the utilities, the education system and the public sector generally. He believes in a society where people in need are cared for and valued, and where community and cooperation are held as core values.

On the other hand, he probably holds lots of opinions that I would take issue with. He’s what some of our comrades would write off as a ‘reformist’. But to my mind, he’s part of the wide range of different people that I would like Left Unity to reach out to. I’d like him to sign up, come to meetings, engage in political debate, and help to build an alternative to the party he feels has sold him out. I’d enjoy arguing the toss with him on things we disagree on.

Pete’s not a convenient fiction invented for the purpose of polemics. He’s a real human being. And it annoys the hell out of me to see a founding statement being proposed for Left Unity that would prevent him, and a myriad of other ordinary people sick to death of the way society’s being run, from feeling that they could get involved.

I am, of course, talking about the  Socialist Platform statement published yesterday. It has been analysed in forensic detail elsewhere, and compared to the broad-based Left Party Platform, by Tom Walker. Put briefly, the ‘Socialist’ Platform requires anyone signing up to the new party to commit themselves to a number of key propositions. These include (to take just a few examples) the following:

i) The new party’s aim “…is to bring about the end of capitalism and its replacement by socialism”. So just being committed to fighting austerity, privatisation, war and racism isn’t enough. Only people already convinced of the need to abolish capitalism wholesale would be able to join. The vast swathe of people who find themselves to the left of Labour but don’t identify as revolutionaries would not be welcome.

ii) Not only must new members already be revolutionaries, but they must hail from one particular revolutionary tradition: “We reject the idea that the undemocratic regimes that existed in the former Soviet Union and other countries were socialist.” Apart from the fact that this will simply bemuse many of the younger generation, it will also exclude anyone who might have felt that these states did include elements of socialism.

iii) Not only will applicants to Left Unity have to be committed internationalists, they will also have to sign up to one specific formula for how that plays out on the European stage: “It [Left Unity] will work with others across Europe to replace the European Union with a voluntary European federation of socialist societies.”

Iv) In case any potential joiners have missed the point the first time around, the platform statement repeats its insistence that only those dedicated to smashing capitalism are welcome: “The [Left Unity] Party aims to win political power to end capitalism, not to manage it.”

v) As for the many potential supporters coming from the women’s movement and the environmental movement, what’s in the platform document for them? It assiduously (and deliberately) avoids any use of the ‘F’ word, and only briefly acknowledges the need to “protect the natural world on which we depend”.

As others have pointed out, most of this document could have been written at any time in the last fifty years. It comes out of, and primarily relates to, one particular Trotskyist tradition. In putting it forward as the founding statement of our new party, intended to apply to all members of that party, it clearly defines the audience it’s aimed at – the existing far left.

Needless to say, this represents a complete break from the original basis on which Left Unity was floated, and which quickly garnered over 8,000 signatures. As a document it contains much that I personally could happily sign up to. But it has almost nothing to say to the people I meet in day to day life. For most of the people on my street, on my estate, in my workplace, it would represent an insuperable barrier to membership. Its rhetorical posturing and maximalist demands are designed to make ‘us’ feel good but alienate everyone else.

In some ways, this places the Socialist Platform firmly within our comfort zone. After all, we have become used to honourable failures, to abortive vanity projects, to unity initiatives that swiftly collapse into farce. I think we can do better. I think we can learn to relate to a wide layer of people politicised by the austerity drive and by privatisation. But to do that we have to be prepared to engage with people’s concerns in the real world. And we have to do that without presenting them with a list of maximalist demands that they’re expected to sign up to before our dialogue with them has even begun.

I’m planning to lend Pete my copy of The Spirit of ’45. I’d like to get him along to a meeting once we’ve got our new party up and running. I’d like to be able to talk to some of my other neighbours too, and explain that Left Unity is all about fighting austerity, and pauperisation, and oppression – fighting them  in the here and now. If we take the direction suggested by the ‘Socialist’ Platform, I think I can kiss any realistic chance of that goodbye.



27 comments

27 responses to “Meet The Neighbours”

  1. Baton Rouge says:

    What we should be arguing with the likes of Pete about is not some Socialist Platform statement (the sectarian take) or the Left Party nonsense (the opportunist take) but programme. The Bolsheviks won the battle for the hearts and minds of the working class and behind them the peasantry with their programme for Peace, Bread and Land all of which everybody wanted but none of which, they explained, could be secured this side of socialism. People like Pete need to be told why The Spririt of 45 was doomed from the start not pandered to but neither do they have to be turned into a member of the Borg by signing up to a hundred and one platitudes before they join. Agreement on the major programmatic demands such as full employment by sharing the work on the minimum of a trade union living wage; national bank with a monopoly of credit to stop the private financiers ripping us off by printing their own money. A bank that can lend to small business at base rate and facilitate social investment according to a democratic and sustainable plan; worker-elected managers and leaders to replace shareholder fat cat placemen and Old School Tie piss takers; the renegotiation of the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles, anti-fascist militias to defend meetings, communities, picket lines; defence of all necessary and desirable public spending with sufficient income tax raised to pay for it etc.

    • Abu Jamal says:

      Baton Rouge I don’t feel that ” People like Pete need to be told…” anything… we should be listening to Pete and engaging with them.
      I roughly agree with your caricature of the Socialist Platform as the [sectarian take] – I have more sympathy with the Left Party platform but feel it misses out on the chances to be even more opportunistic. There are opportunities opening up which we should not be afraid to orientate towards. So I feel we need an even vaguer and broader perspective on the type of party we found in November – so that we can draw in more forces and test in practice what this new Unity can achieve. I also feel we should give our new party a very radical anti establishment edge and unique selling point by stressing English Republicanism our opposition to the British State and our preparedness to establish volunteer units to defend our party and our communities from fascist and state threats… these proposals are contained in the People United Platform available here https://www.facebook.com/notes/left-unity-worcestershire/people-united-platform-statement/362995620492767

  2. Baton Rouge says:

    Yes indeed LU has arrived at a fork in the road. To the right is the Left Party option leading to opportunism and liquidation into the swamp of careerists much like the road taken by the people who went on to found New Labour. To the left is the Socialist Platform leading to sectarian irrelevance and decay. What LU really needs to do is plough straight on and reject these false paths. The principled way forward is via a manifesto/programme for the transition to socialism. If we are going to fall out with each other it should be over policy not a competition to see who is the hardest lefty or the most annoyingly liberal both those options will be recruiting under false pretences. I’m not prepared to see LU destroyed by sectarians but neither am I prepared to put in a load of work just to see a bunch of opportunists forge a political career for themselves by not standing for fuck all except meaningless drivel – I’ve got that t-shirt.

  3. Abu Jamal says:

    Jay – A Brilliant explanation of why we need to establish a new party on a basis that encourages and empowers people like your neighbour Pete to Join.
    I hope that we do not get bogged down in abstract discussions about the merits of competing Platforms… and can maintain a unity of purpose that can help thousands of individuals like Pete taking the huge step of ending decades of loyalty to Labour and actually joining our new party.

    In the bizarre fragmented would of virtual reality I have had longstanding facebook ‘friends’ who are online campaigners for a myriad of radical causes describe Left Unity as somehow being ‘afraid’ to call itself “socialist”… so it would appear the false polarisations that the Socialist Platform encourages are filtering through the web creating distorted perceptions and promoting cynicism.

    We live in strange times and I have had people on discussion threads on this website ask me “are you an ex member of the Communist Party” in response to my proposal that our new party is called People United. This question which in this context posed ex membership of the old British CP as some sort of problem is based on the classic knee jerk response of many supporters of the Socialist Platform to pigeon hole and label comrades who are critical of their stance as er being from some sort of alien ‘Stalinist or Popular Frontist’ tradition.

    We really do need to move away from such false polarisations and adversarial approach to discussions… a keep our eyes on the prize and that is the creation of a genuinely mass and vibrant democratic party of the working class and all the oppressed that can be a save political home for all those who actually are prepared to act in the here and now together in the fight against austerity.

    If a Grumpy Old Trot in Bristol can find common ground with an even Grumpier and Older Bevanite then Days of Hope are Dawning in the Grumpy Community of Bristol… It is that spirit that we need to spread up and down the country.

    [PS. Just for the record so that comrades who support the Socialist Platform stop asking Questions about my political background: I joined the LP in 1977 the same year I also joined the long defunct Big Flame [Lotta Continua inspired libertarian Maoist Group] from 1978 -1991 I was active in the International Marxist Group/Socialist Action. Since then I have not been a member of any ‘marxist’ organisation.]

  4. Edd Mustill says:

    Argh.

    A few points:

    I don’t want to speak for the comrades who wrote and signed up to the Socialist Platform, but I’m sure no-one is proposing that ALL members of the new party would have to agree with ALL the points in its programme. Just as I hope the Left Party Platform wouldn’t expect all members to agree with all their ideas. It’d be nice if people stopped making out that comrades were saying that.

    Of the points you’ve picked out:

    i) I think it’s important that a new party is socialist in the sense of wanting to replace the capitalist system with a system of co-operation. Otherwise what’s the point? Why not join the Green Party, or Respect, or, etc etc. There’s plenty of social democratic alternatives already kicking about. Why be ‘left’ and not be ‘socialist’? It’s worth remembering that within revolutionary and radical socialism there are rich traditions and ideas – it’s not as uniform as people make out.

    ii) Disavowing the USSR will “will simply bemuse many of the younger generation”? Well thanks, but speaking as a member of the younger generation, I’m aware of what the USSR was and the horrors it committed. If anything, distancing from it will be welcomed by young people who see an old left tainted with association to those regimes. It’s bizarre and patronising to say this will put people off.

    “…it will also exclude anyone who might have felt that these states did include elements of socialism.” Good. They’re Stalinists (soft or hard) and theirs is exactly the sort of political baggage the left needs to get rid off.

    iii) Why shouldn’t we be committed internationalists? And doesn’t a left party need a pretty worked-out position on Europe in the current situation? Isn’t that pretty important? At least the Socialist Platform comrades are proposing a basic starting point for that.

    iv) Do we think capitalism can be managed successfully in the interests of the left? Doesn’t the past century of the failure of the Labour Party give us a clue here? This is a BIG discussion and its important to have it, let’s not be scared of it.

    v) I agree any left party worth the name should consciously define itself as feminist and environmentalist as well as socialist. But would you lay the same charges at someone who formed a platform to argue for that? Would that be too narrow and prescreptive? Or is it just socialism that’s too narrow and prescriptive?

  5. Carlus says:

    Hi Jay,

    I’m speaking as someone who is more inclined to support the Socialist Platform as it’s a more frank statement of what I’m looking for in a political party, but I do completely understand where the Left Party Platform is coming from (having done my share of street-corner paper sales, interventions, putting up with more-revolutionary-than-thou attitudes etc. when I was a member of one of the already existing organisations on the Left).

    That said, from my own experience I don’t think there’s a problem talking about whatever party emerges from this debate as explicitly socialist or anti-capitalist. It’s not an either-or between talking about defending the NHS and dismantling capitalism, and unless you’re making an immediate call to take to the barricades, I don’t think any harm can be done by raising the question of capitalism with people in political conversation. I wouldn’t expect (or even want) to convert anyone to 100% of the details of how I’d expect capitalism to be dismantled or what exactly I’d replace it with, but it’s important to – as an organisation through its public stances – talk about socialism and take an anti-capitalist viewpoint in an effort to shift the debate. As Terry Eagleton put it, you can tell capitalism is in crisis when people talk about capitalism. Anti-capitalism and socialism encompass a wide range of groups and viewpoints, not just the stereotypical ‘you’re wrong, here’s why, come join our little sect’ (can’t remember where I heard this line) image and sometimes reality of the Trotskyist Left that almost monopolises the connotations of socialism and anti-capitalism and needs to be reclaimed from them. I’ve heard the argument that if people want an explicitly revolutionary socialist organisation they should join the SP/SWP/CPB/etc., but you could also say that those who want a Leftist but not ‘Socialist’ organisation should be in the Greens or Labour Party. I don’t think either are a particularly helpful way to think about the issue at hand.

    To be perfectly honest though, I don’t think it’s possible to generalise that much on this issue. Some people I’ve talked to respond better to talking about defending the NHS, others to the bedroom tax, others to nuclear weapons, others to the state as an institution, and others still to the capitalist system in general, which is why I’d be perfectly happy if something between the two platforms emerges in November as our founding principles.

    On another note, if there is a problem with the Socialist Platform not being environmentalist or feminist enough, declaring themselves as such more explicitly won’t help that one bit, but I don’t think that’s the case as I don’t think omitting one label or another is a useful way of deciphering someone’s beliefs or prejudices. The Left Party Platform has, for example, not made an explicit reference to discrimination against disabled people or discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but it would be ridiculous to then conclude that the Left Party Platform is homophobic or ablist. In reality, both platforms have stated that they are opposed to all forms of discrimination, and both do refer to the environmental damage caused by capitalism/neoliberalism/whatever you want to call it. Discrimination and the environment are issues which, as far as I can tell, both platforms are in total agreement on. I’d be very worried if they weren’t!

    Carlus, from Left Unity Exeter

  6. Paul Swift says:

    Another well argued piece that echoes my own hopes for LU. However, I am increasingly worried that the embryonic new party is already in danger of being turned into two opposing factions, rather than seeking to develop a unified programme. In my opinion we need a broad programme that can attract a wide spectrum of people with left of centre views who are angry about economic austerity but feel let down by new Labour. Waving a pure socialist programme in the air and waiting for the masses to join it would be a repeat of the failures of the Bristol left over the past 50 years or more. The last thing we need is yet another small socialist sect disconnected from the everyday struggles of ordinary people!

  7. Adam Roden says:

    Can’t we have both? Isn’t that what all this was supposed to be about, a broad coalition of the left that can start work on repairing the damage caused to our communities and society over the past 40 years? There’s much I agree with in both statements, but can’t we start broad and get more specific later, rather than trying to frame the specific objectives now? Surely we need to retain some sense of fluidity so we can respond to how things change (cos you never know, as we move through this we might come up with something better than either capitalism or socialism, and I’d rather we kept our options open!). By forming and maintaining a broad front we can all feel part of – from old Pete through to Karl Marx himself – we also stand a much better chance of the electoral success needed in order to start implementing any changes we want.

    Plus… yes a vaguely leftist platform does admittedly have the danger of sliding towards New Labourism, which is precisely why hardliners need to stay on board to act as a sea-brake on that danger, keeping us firmly within the left. I’d rather there were not two platforms, I think it’s polarising and damaging at this point.

  8. Dave Parks says:

    Paul, I just want to address the point about factions. We all want Left Unity to become a mass party. I am a supporter of the Socialist Platform but I welcome both platforms and any others that may arise. Why? If there is a substantial minority in the party that has a differing perspective on the way forward then I think it is important that perspective is debated even if I disagree with it – the formation of platforms ensures that such debate does happen. This is healthy! I don’t think this should be confused with the factionalism that is differing democratic centralist mini-parties jostling for position and trying to recruit from each other. This is about ideas not sub-organisations within Left Unity.

    I want Left Unity to be a mass party encompassing much the same people as Jay. When I organised the public meeting that we held in Exeter I spoke to all sorts from a diverse range of backgrounds some old-Labour, some current or former Greens, some vaguely anarchist and some new to politics. It sounds to me that Jay’s neighbour would self-identify as being socialist and would not be put off because a new party is explicitly socialist – indeed may be the reverse could be true and he would be put off it was a pale non-socialist liberal party – why not just join the Green Party or remain in the Labour party which at least has the merits of being the major opposition party in parliament. Are we offering something different or not?

    I think we should take some care how we debate this. The presumption that being explicitly socialist will put people off is actually a rejection not only of the Socalist Platform but also of the Left Party Platform. The LPP supporting document states:

    “We are socialist because our vision of society is one where the meeting of human needs is paramount, not one which is driven by the quest for private profit and the enrichment of a few. The natural wealth, productive resources and social means of existence will be owned in common and democratically run by and for the people as a whole, rather than being owned and controlled by a small minority to enrich themselves. The reversal of the gains made in this direction after 1945 has been catastrophic and underlines the urgency of halting and reversing the neo-liberal onslaught.”

    However, the LPP statement barely mentions socialism which is why I support the Socialist Platform because I think a new party should be explicitly socialist.

    This is also about political honesty. As I see it climate change threatens to make parts of the globe uninhabitable – run-away climate change is looking more and more likely. The scientists are telling us that we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2030. A significant minority of scientists are saying this will be too little too late – it needs to be more like 90% reductions. I do not think it is possible to resolve this problem from within capitalism. Surely it is therefore my duty to argue for a socialist alternative to capitalism. Incidentally, if anyone thinks this climate change can be resolved from capitalism then it is URGENT that this information be shared! I’m not being facetious here – I would rather a “reformist” solution than no solution.

    • Astyr says:

      Good point. The ‘gains’ of 1945 *never* reversed private power on a structural level and it’s utterly disingenuous for Ken Loach to imply that they did. We need to go further.

  9. James Youd says:

    Jay,
    Once again you have made a straw man argument in order to dismiss the woeful lack of adequacy that the LPP draws. You have been personally aggressive towards a comrade in all but name in one of the posts on your blog.
    I am a socialist and want to convince people that only the destruction of capitalism with socialism are we going to truly emancipate the billions that are suffering as slaves of capitalism, but I am not straight-jacketing anyone that may not call themselves socialist into not being allowed to join.
    I am an eco-socialist as is my comrades Dr Joseph Healy who has also signed, I am in a minority in SR signing the Socialist Platform and Joseph is an independent.
    What I see when I read the LPP document is a wishy washy all things to all people social democratic document that arise from the likes of European Social Forums. I have been to one and I guarantee they will never change anything concretely.
    If we are as we are, with our back to the wall as the capitalists hold a gun to our heads then the material conditions are so bold so must our solution.
    Social Democracy has failed and anyone trying to kid themselves really needs their head examining. If you want to fight for that then I think you will be more successful in joining the Labour Party and fighting within that.
    If Left Unity wants to be a social democratic party then it will go the way of all social democratic parties and that is to the right. I don’t want to be any part of that I can change the world in ways that will be well worth while.
    Also, when attacking people I ask, who is the greater sectarian Jay? When your leadership seek to be secretive about their meetings and take 3 weeks to publish minutes, who is the more sectarian? When a motion is passed to allow observers to speak after delegates if time allows, then an observer is prevented from doing so even though the meeting finished within plenty of time, who is the more sectarian? When another of those leaders then misuses safe space policy to accuse that person of sexism, who is the more sectarian?
    Its alright I have been called sectarian plenty of times for challenging leaders of the left, the failures that our Counterfire love doing it to me.
    It is sad you have to write accusatory articles like this rather than making actual arguments in a comradely fashion.

  10. Baton Rouge says:

    `Another well argued piece that echoes my own hopes for LU. However, I am increasingly worried that the embryonic new party is already in danger of being turned into two opposing factions, rather than seeking to develop a unified programme. In my opinion we need a broad programme that can attract a wide spectrum of people with left of centre views who are angry about economic austerity but feel let down by new Labour. Waving a pure socialist programme in the air and waiting for the masses to join it would be a repeat of the failures of the Bristol left over the past 50 years or more. The last thing we need is yet another small socialist sect disconnected from the everyday struggles of ordinary people!’

    Much to agree with there Paul except a programme has got to be truthful not concocted to attract a certain demographic. Lying to the people that somehow we can return to 1945 (who wants to) and that capitalism has not become a deadly threat to the very existence of our class is not a good way to start. We don’t need a broad programme we need a principled one. In any case anger at austerity is a luxury. Anybody angered by it is not feeling it. For young people today they are facing an existential crisis which is giving rise to fear not anger. An entire generation has no jobs and no propsects of any jobs. We need to address that not pander to a bunch of angry people. Left Unity needs to promise that all school and college leavers that cannot find their own job will be bought into the workforce on the minimum of a trade union living wage. We must share the available productive work for a regime of full employment. It’s time for workers and the young to put some manners on capital and insist: you will give me a job! If LU cannot even address this basic fundamental issue endangering our youth and with them our future then it is good for nothing.

  11. Astyr says:

    “Pete’s an old-fashioned socialist. He believes in the welfare state and the NHS. He believes in the right to be in a trade union, and the right of that union to fight for its members’ interests. He wants to keep the profit motive out of the utilities, the education system and the public sector generally. He believes in a society where people in need are cared for and valued, and where community and cooperation are held as core values.”

    He’s not a socialist then – because he’s not an anti-capitalist. Defending a few crumbs the elites have thrown down to keep everyone silent is not ‘socialism’. Socialism is *anti-capitalist* – ‘Pete’ is a Social Democrat/Social Liberal. The fact that he comes from the labour tradition is only testament to how neutered many of the ideas of the labour tradition became when follow 1945 the labour party began it’s long slide towards the right. We only *got* the postwar settlement in the UK because there were tens of thousands of people wanting another deal – one that would be far, far worse for the elites – the abolition of capitalism; something that poses *an existential, structural threat to capital* is the only thing that will scare the elites enough to even get a social welfare state restored – Marxism and Anarchism have been the only ideologies that have done that on a mass scale in modern history (granted, many of them were subscribers to the dead end of Marxism-Leninism, but the point still stands).

    With the hour getting very late in terms of the resource and demographic pressures and environmental situation on earth, fool on us again if another new deal is thrown our way (which will only come if labour organises on a supra-national level that is able to oppose multinationals globally) – laws can be bought, representative ‘democracy’ easily subverted and jobs outsourced. When the anger has died down, they can get back to returning to business as usual and dismantle the oragnisations that scared them into making concessions. It will be too little, too late now – we need another way. We need a post-capitalist economy.

    I would sincerely recommend that people in left unity have a look at the libertarian socialist philosophy of ‘ParEcon’ – Economic democracy. Direct Democracy. Real democracy.

    • Adam Roden says:

      …and Todd May’s ‘The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchy’ – just reading it now, and it’s a cracker.

    • Ray G says:

      I agree completely with your analysis of the Attlee government and of the shoddy history of the Labour Party.

      But…..Is Pete, a ‘social democrat/social liberal’ welcome in Left Unity, or does he have to find and commit himself to a fully-rounded socialist programme?

      I think Pete should join us and we can have the discussion.

  12. David Stoker says:

    ” In putting it forward as the founding statement of our new party, intended to apply to all members of that party, it clearly defines the audience it’s aimed at – the existing far left.

    Needless to say, this represents a complete break from the original basis on which Left Unity was floated, and which quickly garnered over 8,000 signatures. ”

    This.

    One of my main aims in getting involved in Left Unity is to save it from the old Socialist nutters and make it more mass appeal.

    The best way I can explain my somewhat dismissive attitude is, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.

    Here’s for a leftist party that doesn’t scare off ordinary people by crying for revolution.

    Speak plain English, give up the fetish for history and we’ll get somewhere.

  13. Heather Downs says:

    Jay’s statement correctly points out the need for a clear commitment to (eg) ending women’s oppression and to ecological sustainability, but his concern to ‘not frighten the workers’ would put Left Unity somewhere to the right of the Labour Party pre-Blair.

    The appealing sentiments of Clause 4 echo those expressed in ‘Spirit of 45’, so influential in starting this project.
    The 1974 Labour manifesto talks about an ‘irreversible shift in the balance of power’ and describes itself as unashamedly Socialist
    Clause 4 aimed for ‘the common ownership of the means of production’

    Naked Bolshevism red in tooth and claw – which people supported in their millions

    We all know Labour didn’t really mean it. I was hoping Left Unity might.

  14. Jay Blackwood says:

    Apols for not responding to people’s comments earlier – my PC ‘blew up’ last week and I’ve only had intermittent net access since. Good to see the wide range of views expressed here, all of which I think belong firmly inside Left Unity.

    Re Heather’s point, which is echoed elsewhere, two counter arguments:

    I) There are already a shed-load of Left groups which start from the positions argued in the Socialist Platform and the Workers Power Platform. It seems to me that we either learn something from their lack of success or we add LU to the pile of noble failures.
    II) I’m always open about my own politics (revolutionary socialist) when I talk to people, as fellow members of my LU branch can confirm. But I don’t want to build an organisation where everyone has to agree with my politics in their entirety before they’re “allowed” to join. See (I) above!

  15. Jota says:

    Prior to the dumping of Clause 4, the Labour Party had an explicitly socialist aim. It didn’t preclude mass membership for Labour – not sure why it would for the Left Party / Unity.

    While no guarantee against opportunism, i think the Socialist Platform is trying to root the new party to protect against compromises and coalitions. We have seen the reality of of a more ‘pragmatic’ approach from the Greens in Brighton, Ireland, Germany and elsewhere.

    The idea that an explicitly socialist programme will put people off was the justification for the SWP to wind up the Socialist Alliance, setting back left unity by a decade.

    Perhaps, Jay, it might be worth asking whether your neighbour would support a fighting, anti-austerity, anti-privatisation, anti-racist party or if he only would if it wasn’t explicitly socialist. I do not imagine he would affirm the later, which makes your argument a false one.

  16. Jay Blackwood says:

    Jota, the Left Party Platform IS explicitly socialist:

    “Many agree that we need a new left party which will present an alternative set of values of equality and justice: socialist, feminist, environmentalist and against all forms of discrimination. Its politics and policies will stand against capitalism, imperialism, war, racism and fascism.”

    What is ISN’T is the kind of document exemplified by the Socialist Platform and the Class Struggle Platform, which fetishise a particular brand of socialism and effectively imply that if you’re not prepared to sign up to it in all its detail then you’re not welcome in LU!

    I believe the only platform declared so far that is capable of forming the basis of a mass party is the Left Party Platform. The others, however well intentioned, will simply build another tottering tenement in the ghetto of far left politics. Frankly, why bother?

  17. Greg Ryall says:

    I agree with this article entirely. When I first got interested in Left Unity I had lots of hope for opportunity for Lefties to come together and actually make an electable party, which the Socialist Platform doesn’t. Although I agree with most of it, it sets us up for nothing but failure. There are so many people who want a change from the current narrow range of parties but claiming to overthrow capitalism is ludicrous at this stage if you ever want any chance of interesting a wide range of people.

    • Ray G says:

      Greg – I share your opinion of the ‘Socialist’ Platform (they don’t have a copyright on the word).

      However, those of us who do not follow their approach DO need to answer the following point – how can we hugely improve the living conditions of ordinary people, run the country in the interests of the majority, turn back the neo-liberal agenda (which is really just the traditional ruling class agenda, reheated), and take wealth and power from the rich and powerful WITHOUT fundamentally challenging their right to rule the state and the economy.

      Those with state and economic power will not just hand it over, so we need to accept that ordinary people need to organise ourselves to take it away from them. If you don’t want to call this ‘overthrowing capitalism’ then I can live with that. But it has to be done, what ever you call it, or whatever strategy you adopt to bring it about.

  18. Jay Blackwood says:

    Ray G: “Those with state and economic power will not just hand it over, so we need to accept that ordinary people need to organise ourselves to take it away from them. If you don’t want to call this ‘overthrowing capitalism’ then I can live with that… ”

    I think the question is whether we say to potential members, through our founding statement, that accepting that capitalism needs to be “overthrown” is something they must sign up to before they join. If we do that we’re making a clear statement that LU is for convinced socialist revolutionaries only. I disagree with that approach when it comes to trying to build a new broad party of the Left. It’s a much-traveled road that leads into the political ghetto. Let’s have an inclusive founding statement to help us build a broad party – and within that let’s have a serious discussion about what needs to be done!

    • Ray G says:

      I was not suggesting that the overthrow of capitalism is put in the constitution or aims!! I merely said that those, like me, who don’t subscribe to the SP platform need to think of our response.

      I DO think the aims can refer to the need for ordinary people in campaigns and organisations outside Parliament to support the left government. We could also make it clear that a new society will be built by ordinary people themselves, not just by electing MP’s.

  19. Jay Blackwood says:

    Fair enough Ray, sorry – I misunderstood what you were saying. I completely agree with what you’ve written in your latest comment.

    • Ben McCall says:

      And so do I – as do I feel a non-platform Left unity (but not that name) movement stirring…


Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.

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Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.

Sat 20 Oct, 10.00-17.30
How Do We Defeat The Rise Of Fascism & Racism? International Conference

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Sat 20 Oct, 12.00
People’s Vote March

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9-11 Nov
European Forum of Progressive Forces, Bilbao

To debate, build and act to ward-off current threats.

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Reclaim Social Care Conference, Birmingham

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National Unity Demonstration Against Fascism and Racism

Central London. More info on Facebook

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