Newsletter 6 – First national meeting

leftunity3 - cropped

Tomorrow, Saturday, is Left Unity’s first national get-together. Local group representatives from more than 80 towns and cities will come together to take the first important steps towards the national conversations Left Unity needs to have: What do people in local groups think, and what have they been doing locally? What are our politics – or our basic principles? Should Left Unity become a party, and if so what kind of party? How do we all see Left Unity developing from here?

 

The meeting will be an opportunity for the local group reps to meet each other and start making links across the geographical divides. Whatever happens on the day, nothing will be set in stone and discussions will continue in the local groups, but it will nevertheless be a milestone day for the project. There will be reports from the meeting on the website.

 

Election of national coordinating group

The day to day organising group is proposing that the Saturday meeting elects a national coordinating group, made up of:

1. Local group reps, elected by the local group, one per group, elected by the local group, where the group has at least five members and has had at least one minuted meeting (as groups develop they will be added).

2. Ten people to be elected by the meeting tomorrow (11th May) following an open nomination process (see below).

3. An equal number of men and women to be elected in the second category.

 

This proposal obviously needs to be agreed by the meeting, but we are asking for nominations for the ten people in advance. We suggest that people can nominate themselves or others. We ask for people to submit name, area and up to 100 words supporting statement about themselves. We are also asking people to please state if they are a member of any political party or organisation. Please send nominations to content@leftunity.org.

 

Financial appeal

Starting to build up Left Unity costs money. In these early stages, every pound helps – we have paid for rooms, printed thousands of leaflets, helped people with transport costs and more. Click the Donate button at http://leftunity.org/

 

Thanks – we look forward to meeting many of you tomorrow!

 

The Left Unity team


25 comments

25 responses to “Newsletter 6 – First national meeting”

  1. Ben McCall says:

    This is getting silly.

    First a meeting in London; then to agree a Statement before some groups have met and sent people, then a hasty nomination process less than 24 hours before the meeting.

    As one of us here said: we haven’t even met yet in Doncaster it would be impossible for any form of representation at a national meeting at this point in time, so making any statement would be presumptuous at best and at worse an imposition.

    Not a good start, still time for a last minute rethink …

    • Ray G says:

      Point taken Ben – it is messy, but there has to be some kind of statement, the more inclusive the better, provided it clearly distinguishes from Labour – otherwise why not just join the Labour Party.

      Provided all the ‘elected’ bodies see themselves as strictly provisional and that there is no organised, sectarian attempt at a takeover at this early stage before we have chance to properly grow, I am relaxed. However, as Jonno says the non-Leninists (to use a crude shorthand), MUST be on the lookout for a plot.

      R

  2. tim says:

    best of luck for meeting tomorrow

    presumably a founding conference will be needed to adopt policies, strategy, elect a leadership, determine some structures etc etc… so am i right in thinking this this is just an iterim national committee to run things until such a future conference?

    tim

    • Guy H says:

      That’s right Tim, the reason is that the organising group so far have had no democratic mandate and this is a chance to be able to produce at least a partially democratic body which can decide things in the next 3 or so months.

  3. Jonno says:

    “We are also asking people to please state if they are a member of any political party or organisation. Please send nominations to content@leftunity.org.”

    Eternal vigilance please Left Unity, already there are rumours of groups caucusing

  4. Bev Keenan says:

    I appreciate that there are pragmatic reasons why we need a decision making body in order to get things moving. However, I am rather alarmed that the role of the person sent to London was simply report back and that it has now shifted to representation for 3 months. We have met once it was minuted, but the person coming to London was not at that meeting and has not been elected by the majority of our actual membership. This is simply because we were unable to organise a full meeting in the time available. Hopefully, this situation will be acceptable as I would expect that the person will be accountable through their activity and participation on the ground.

    Please can you explain why we need the extra 10 people and what their role will be? The open nomination process seems very rushed, to the extent that it is not really that open.

    • julie forshaw says:

      I agree whole heartedly with bev keenan. This process seems hasty and I was not in full agreement with who was chosen to represent us and not given full facts of what was to be set up at this meeting, it seems most undemocratic and echos the same faults as every other party we have in this country. We need this to be organized and structured in a better more democratic way.

  5. Ben McCall says:

    “partially democratic” – that’s the good old left!

    • Guy H says:

      I agree Ben, it isn’t sufficient and I hope a solution is proposed tomorrow. Personally I think there are definitely better ways of doing it

  6. Tom says:

    The idea that Left Unity can exist by witch hunting groups makes no sense. It is wrong on principle, replicates the worst excesses of the SLP and is wrong as strategy as it gives no incentive to the debris of previous left unity initiatives not to stand candidates against Left Unity. The idea that those comrades who manage to get past the bouncers can be prevented from caucusing is naive in the extreme. The question is whether comrades will be free to ‘fess up to the fact that they are indeed going to organise together to win votes for their perspectives or whether they are going to do it and then be forced to pretend they didn’t simply to avoid being expelled. The idea that comrades are going to be asked if they belong to a group smacks of McCarthyism: are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Socialist Workers Party? If Left Unity intends to behave like this, then it is the very opposite of left unity. It will end up as just one more sect, but one crushed between those that already exist on the one hand and the Labour Party on the other, which has a left wing like Owen Jones who has better politics than some of the anti-Leninists posting on this website. And the prospect of securing financial support from anyone who is going to be refused entry to the party is kinda ludicrous too. If the groups represented at the meeting constitute a tiny fraction of those who have signed the on-line petition, then this fact needs to be flagged up so as to let us know the extent to which the meeting does or does not reflect these supporters. If delegates reflect a small minority of the 8,000 no one can draw up plans to exclude groups when we know that this 8,000 will include many who belong to existing groups.

    • Alan Story says:

      Tom has written:
      “The idea that comrades are going to be asked if they belong to a group smacks of McCarthyism: are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Socialist Workers Party?”

      My quick response: at first glance, analogies may appear to be compelling. But
      when examined more closely, they may not be. The analogy to MacCarthyism does not convince me. Apples and oranges, etc.

  7. Nick Wrack says:

    Here is a procedural motion that Simon Hardy & I will be proposing to the meeting.

    Procedural Resolution for the Left Unity meeting on Saturday 11 May 2013

    Motivation
    There has been a very encouraging response to Ken Loach’s call for people to discuss and debate the need for a new party of the left. So far, over 8,000 have responded to that appeal.
    The task now should be to try to increase that number and to ensure that everyone who has responded feels included in the debate and discussion. The debate has to be genuine and inclusive. It must aim to involve everyone who has expressed an interest. This will take time but our patience will be rewarded.
    It is only nine weeks since the appeal was launched. It would be premature to take decisions on the precise political nature of the project at such an early stage, especially when there are differences of opinion and when those differences have not been discussed fully by all those who have signed up to the process.
    It was reported to the co-ordinating group on Thursday evening (9 May) that only half of the representatives attending the meeting today have been elected by local groups; the other half are individuals who have volunteered to be points of contact for their area. Members of the co-ordinating group, which lacks a real democratic mandate at this stage, will also be attending with voting rights.
    This is a very undeveloped democratic basis to be taking serious decisions on statements of intent, principles or general politics.
    We need to allow time for the issues to be discussed in the local groups; for new local groups to be set up; and for the local groups and all individuals to participate in the discussions and to express their views.
    None of the statements presented to this meeting have been circulated for longer than eight days. Most have not been seen until today. Most groups will not have had any opportunity to discuss any of the statements. None will have been able to discuss those resolutions and amendments that have only been seen today for the first time.
    Even where there are local group representatives attending, some if not most will not have had the benefit of a local discussion to guide their vote.
    In short, any votes taken today will be unrepresentative and would be open to criticism as short-circuiting the process that people thought they had signed up to.
    We must not allow anyone who has signed up to this project feel that they have been ignored or by-passed.
    Resolution
    This meeting resolves not to take any votes on any of the statements, resolutions or amendments except for those, or those parts, which deal with: (1) the election of the new national coordinating group; (2) the process of debate and discussion; (3) the dates of the next national meeting and the founding conference.

    Nick Wrack & Simon Hardy

    • david le peuple says:

      Quite flabbergasted that only half of the representatives attending the meeting today have been chosen by group meetings.

      In Greenwich, Lewisham and Deptford we have had 3 meetings so far as one group of 20 odd people. We could have split ourselves into 3 groups and sent 6 reps rather than the 2 we are sending. We did not want to be seen to gerrymander the system.

      Now to hear, if correct, that half are self appointed and that some people that have signed up for a group have not even been contacted it is astonishing.

      I think the conferance today can only be but advisory and should not be empowered to take any decisions.

  8. Ray G says:

    Tom

    Caucusing is fine. No-one is suggesting a ban or a witch-hunt. This has been made clear over and over again.

    But a cynical plot to take over, split and poach is a different thing. Those who are not in existing centralist left groups just need to be vigilant and organise ourselves as well – or risk the party being stolen from us and destroyed before it has chance to flourish.

  9. Tom says:

    It does the moderators of this website a lot of credit that they allow harsh critics leeway to make those criticisms, from those who want to strangle it at birth to supporters like me who defends positions that are not the majority opinions of those who post here. I believe that Left Unity can play a key role in galvanizing the left in the extra-parliamentary sphere partly by uniting all the genuine left in a party that will challenge Miliband’s Labour Party, and by giving the trade unions an alternative voice. I am very keen on winning the SWP, SP and other groups on board. I am equally sensitive to the anxieties of critics of these groups and of the need to protect the rights of the minorities who don’t act as monolithic tendencies within Left Unity. But negotiations should be possible that keeps everyone happy. All socialists at any rate. I do not blame the leadership of Left Unity exclusively for the fact that the SWP et al are excluded from today’s meeting. Blame has to be shared. However, just because we have not got it right this time doesn’t mean we can’t learn lessons and not ossify this dangerous situation for genuine left unity. There are two points I would like to make. Even if the ISN, Counterfire, Socialist Resistance and the ACI volunteered to liquidate their respective organisations into Left Unity, who would believe them? Not me. Even if some left the groups, others would maintain a set of parallel structures and lie about this, with new factions forming. And given that the ISN’s existance is owed to their refusal to allow the SWP to stop them forming factions, and being caught lying about their own factional behavior, who seriously believes they will wind themselves up? Given that they are producing publications, and have groups they want to negotiate with and others they refuse to negotiate with, there clearly is an organisation that has zero intention on dissolving themselves. The anti-group individuals in Left Unity will, presumably, demand that the ISN have to be kept out too. Unless Left Unity faces up to this, those who are coming to Left Unity from a perspective of an hysterical paranoia about groups will create tensions inside Left Unity that will from day one mirror what we find inside the Tory Party today: a war of all against all. Such disharmony will prove deeply unattractive to those we want to recruit, and to those we want to vote for us. One final point. Left Unity would never have formed in the first place had TUSC agreed with the ISN that there had to be a vibrant membership component of TUSC, in addition to the two most important groups and one trade union. Left Unity and TUSC badly need each other. However, if the sectarians in Left Unity managed to win votes to exclude the SWP, SP and the rest of the left, Ken Loach et al has to anticipate what this will mean. Left Unity will have voted to become a sect itself by denying the rest of the left any option but to split the left vote. And Left Unity should not be in the least surprised if TUSC finally decides to open itself up to a membership component itself, to give socialists the freedom to build a broad workers party that Left Unity will have decided it does not want to be.

    • Ray G says:

      Tom

      It is not caucussing, or organising as a faction that is the problem. I am relaxed about the SWP, SP or anyone else doing that. I might want to do it myself on some issue – who knows? The problem may be HOW they act as factions. Are they genuinely interested in building Left Unity or are they just out to poach and split and build their own party at LU’s exprense.

      What we can’t allow is LU to become a formal coalition or existing left parties. Individual membership is a red line for me.

    • John Penney says:

      You INSIST in every single one of your posts in elibrately confusing a POLITICAL PARTY, which Left Unity needs to be, with some varient of loose UNITED FRONT. TUSC having an individual “membership component” is still just a united front, a vehicle of convenience for a group of Left oranisations to use around a few single issue campaigns and election campaigns.Any “individual members” would soon discover their every decision manipulated by the tightly organised Left Groups who actually control TUSC. There is no chance of such a united front body building a loyal, committed local membeship.

      Sorry, United fronts on single issues can work. United Fronts to combat the entire breadth of the austerity offensive, and build a mass movement beyond the current Left’s tiny membership, will just produce a bear pit of competing Left groups, an environment ordinary people will run a mile from !

      The determination of the usual Left sects to prevent Left Unity moving forward to building a broadly based genuine political Party , based on individual membership , predictably turned todays first natonal gathering into a bit of a shambles in my opinion. Progress was still definitely made, but the metaphorical sound of all the various sects present grinding their political axes was almost overpowering at times. I’m an olde Leftie so I was very much back in all too familiar territory, unfortunately. I think someone new to politics must have been tempted to run out screaming !

      Can we agree by the way that as evidence of the “massive growth” of the Labour Left, it isn’t enough to constantly just cite “Owen Jones”. He’s just a young journalist,currently doing well prsonaly in the mass media as the “voice of the Left”, but with no personal history of struggle whatsoever. I think we need a bit more evidence of this “growth ” before it can be counterposed to the need to buld a new radial Left Party to compete with New Labour for the working class vote. The truth is that the claimed growth of the Labour Left is a complete myth. The field is clear for a new radical Left party able to attract ordinary people – but only if we can escape the dead hand of the self-obsessed Far Left sectlets. Today’s useful but shambolic meeting showed that all too clearly !

  10. John Keeley says:

    What about those of us who have given our e-mail to be contacted by the local group, in my case Folkestone, & not heard anything?
    If there is someone going claiming to represent Folkestone they are not representing me.
    You are in danger of many feeling excluded from the democratic decision process.
    Not a good start.

  11. Dave Edwards says:

    I think Tom is somewhat over stating his case (if indeed my last words are not an understatement). For example, clearly the concern is about current members (not the ‘every have been’, which he quotes. Tom seems to disregard the concerns of people about the previous experience of command-and-control of left organisations by organised groups. Such concerns need to be discussed intellegently, not disreguarded. For myself, I have an open opinion on this specific question. I am not necessary opposed to ‘other’ political parties affliating, for example. At least the issue is clearly in the open. More problematic is grouping sending in members, who’s primary affiation is not the organisation they are joining, but act under the command of a central authority elsewhere.

  12. Hi y’all

    I respect and admire what you’re trying to do, there’s already enough disparate opposition to the system to overthrow it, we just need to rally. Thing is, we need to think outside the box, to quote Einstein: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

    Okay, we haven’t created the problems, the 1% did it all themselves and, as per usual, it’s the 99% who are suffering.

    I met Gordon Brown on 26th April 2010, 2 days before he described Gillian Duffy as “that bigoted woman” and I think it was this comment that lost him that little bit of support that Labour needed to form a coalition with the LibDeads. I asked him what he thought about everyone using the Internet to vote on everything – and getting rid of politics. He hummed, he hahed, he gurned a bit, then said 10-20 years.

    How about doing it a bit quicker than that? Here’s how: http://www.facebook.com/groups/112594442103428

  13. Dave K says:

    The key question about the participation of groups is that this should not be a federal structure a la TUSC. Members of organised groups should be allowed to join as individual members and like any member should be expected to build and contribute to it within the extent of their time and commitment. Tom is right to say that it is silly and indeed impossible to ban or restrict current of political thought. However there is the history of other unity projects that have been destroyed by the methods and way in which political currents have operated. The nub of the question is how you work as a political current so that your organised resources do not artificially shift LU because you are able to mobilise at a certain meeting. Aggressive caucussing particularly at this stage would be counterproductive. I am sure if we build LU in a constructive way we can find ways of ensuring the normal discussion between political currents and any individuals or groups in LU is handled in a sympathetic and positive way. One suggestion some of us have talked about is how left currents can allow freedom of their members to debate as LU members taking different positions on particular questions – in other words against a strict whipping to the line. Obviously you have to accept that on the very big questions this would not be the case but if you look at the real history of previous revolutionary organisations like the early Bolsheviks there were many occasions where there were public differences between leading comrades. So far in local groups I think there has been a good balance between people honestly saying where they come from and being sensitive to people who are not in an organised group. Ideally if this thing is going to be something with a mass impact we need new and non-aligned people to be in a majority. Much of the debate around the various statements relates to these questions of methods rather than great principled programmatic questions.

  14. Bev Keenan says:

    Please can minutes from today’s meeting be posted on this website, as soon as is practical. This will facilitate democracy, participation and communication across Left Unity at a local level and enable people to make their own minds up, about what they want Left Unity to be like.

    Nick and Simon, identify time as a key factor, I agree, you cannot build a different and new form of democracy, without taking the time to let it happen. I do not favour a situation where who ever is most vocal or has the greatest number of ‘friends’ or contacts takes over. There should be a provision for immediate recall at a local level of any of the delegates who are elected/co-opted onto this co-ordinating group today.

    At the moment, I am not in favour of groups or ‘political parties’ affiliating separately and being given a quota of places on any committees.It seems that this would automatically create poles of opposition within LU, leading to more division. Is the idea to prevent groups from ‘flooding’ positions of control? This is probably an overestimate of their numbers and not a true reflection of the numbers of non-aligned individuals who have joined LU, who also have opinions and views.

    Nor would it be good to refuse members of LU the right to join other groups, where would the line be drawn? Who would police it?

  15. Bazza says:

    Not too worried, in beginning usually some chaos. As a w class independent socialist I belive problem Trotsyists/Lenninists (usually m class) et al (and I won’t waste space here on the middle class ideology of anarchism) is that they all PROMOTE A BOURGEOIS DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETERIATE. Translation – they belive in top down socialism run by their elite central committee telling us all what to do – when we should be grassroots-led, bottom-up. LU will keep w class people like me if it is HONEST WITH WORKING PEOPLE .. For example I have a lot of community organising ideas but it is at the back of your mind that new w class recruits may get secret visits from those seeking cadres for their organisations which have all the answers. Will sectarians be involved just to recruit but perhaps it may be them that gets the education as we turn them back into independent socialist critically thinking human beings. IT’S SIMPLE LANGUAGE, GRASSROOTS-LED, BOTTOM-UP, HONESTY,HONESTY, HONESTY STUPID!
    I wish the co nference success!

  16. Ben McCall says:

    If socialist effectiveness was measured in either numbers of words, dedicated activism or working class spirit, we would be nearer to achieving our goal; but some of our debate makes you laugh and gladdens your heart (sorry to take things out of context comrades, I hope I don’t misrepresent you):

    John “the radical left wander a wasteland and some of it is their own making … The good thing about LU to me is freshness, honesty and spirit. How do we build on it by getting more and more people involved?”

    Ray G “The democratic centralist model of the Leninist vanguard party has failed. Not just failed temporarily, or going through a bad patch, but has failed spectacularly for decades, failed beyond the wildest imaginings of satire. Nor has the failure been simply good ideas ahead of their time, or parties being ‘in advance of the class’ but these parties have BY THEIR OWN ACTIONS set back many worthwhile campaigns and resistance attempts by their trivial and shocking sectarianism and authoritarianism, their total absence of doubt or their toleration for opposition. No. You are all welcome – but come to learn, rather then teach”

    Mark Perryman “We need a progressive and radical common-sense language … three or four messages but with imagination and creativity not the slogans of planet placard.”

    Jasmin Al Haddaq “we need to move away from any hammers, raised fists, soviet style emblems … people are scared when they hear socialism and the destruction of capitalism because they assume we will all live poor lives … No talk of communism or even socialism. UKIP do not market themselves as right wing populist xenophobes – but that is what they are and who they appeal to … The working class, including myself, is sick of being told what I am, how I am, how I should think … We need to stop talking about the working class as an “other” … we ARE working class … if we can agree to declare a party, then we can come together and decide how it should look, feel, behave etc. … party by workers for workers that is a million miles away from anything on the left that already exists today.”

    In my humble opinion, we need a Left Unity (or whatever it will eventually be called) that is often fun, which involves a growing number of people, learns from its mistakes, is open to new ideas and where activism actually takes us ever closer to our goals of peace, equality, common ownership and sustainability.

  17. Anya-Nicola Darr says:

    Oh dear come on folks give the guys a chance. If they has waited until every single area had a group those of us that have already been going would start to get restless and feel isolated! It is inevitable that at the start there will be a bit of healthy debate about how we represent ourselves and what our position on various issues is. However, I BEG anyone who is not in the mood for compromise or cannot see that uniting under a bigger banner is the only way the Left will have any kind of serious voice in politics to leave now. We surely need to be able to attract the 3 million people who have deserted Labour since 1997 as well as presenting a broad unified front or we will just be another tiny party in the Left wing ferment twinkling away pointlessly!


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