Dave Hill of Brighton Left Unity argues Left Unity and TUSC need to have an organisational relationship, not simply an electoral relationship.
Well done to all TUSC candidates standing in the local elections, with more than 68,000 votes gained last week, and well done to Left Unity candidates also. I am speaking as a keen TUSC supporter (and candidate in various local and Parliamentary elections) and a member of Left Unity.
A key task for the socialist Left is to work out a way of coming together for future elections. But more than this, to come together organisationally. Both TUSC and Left Unity have strengths. The first embraces the main parties of the Marxist left, plus a radical trade union, plus various trade union `tops’/ leaders. Left Unity has the vibrancy of a new organisation plus democratic one-member on vote intra-party decision-making.
I am talking here of the need for Left Unity and TUSC to work out a modus operandi. In my view it should go beyond an electoral pact. This will be anathema to many in both Left Unity and to many in TUSC, but it’s got to happen. Otherwise, in cities and town up and down the country we will see at the next local elections (and even possibly at the general election) TUSC and LU candidates standing against each other. And at local elections, in cities such as mine, Brighton, at the local elections, some candidates standing for TUSC, others for Left Unity. Even if (as is quite probable) there might be electoral pacts at local government level for the two not to stand against each other.
Now it is hugely probable that both TUSC and LU will both say to the other, `well, you can join us’, TUSC might say LU can affiliate at its federal (and local federal) structure level, and LU could say, `well, individual TUSC members can join LU’.
But it’s got to be more. TUSC and LU have to join in some organisational way – as I say, anathema to many on both sides.
I am a member of both. I happen to prefer the policies of TUSC and the involvement they organise of a leading trade union, plus (with very different degrees of enthusiasm) the three leading Trotskyist Marxist parties active in Britain… Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party, and Socialist Resistance, with the Socialist Party dominating.
But I prefer the individual membership bottom-up organisation of LU, even if not some of its `Broader left’ policies (as opposed to socialist Left – within LU I am a supporter of the Socialist Platform).
I have no solutions. But LU and TUSC have got to come together, even if loosely, and present joint slates/candidates nationally and locally.
I don’t underestimate the difficulties of bringing Left Unity and TUSC together. There is, within both organisations, considerable hostility to, and sectarianism on the part of some members. But I also do not underestimate the desire for a unified socialist formation, socialist, left of Labour, wishing to replace capitalism rather than manage it. TUSC includes the major Marxist parties (the SWP and SP probably comprise around 5,000 activists), Left Unity is a growing (2,000 plus members) party supported by a number of Marxist and anti-capitalist grouplets (SR, ACI).
In common with this latter group – `Unity on the Socialist Left’, I urge both TUSC and LU to consider and discuss moving towards an electoral coalition with a permanent and ongoing presence and identity with a future development as a united party with distinct platforms.
Models of Party Organisation
There are a number of possibilities, including the following:
1. Fratricide/electoral combat between the two left of Labour avowedly socialist organisations.
2. Local Electoral Agreements, with a carve-up of parliamentary constituencies and local elections seats between LU and TUSC. In Brighton this could mean, for example, TUSC and LU fighting 10 or 11 wards each out of Brighton and Hove’s 21 electoral wards. Both organisations having completely separate existences (other than meeting(s) to decide which organisations stand where).
3. An electoral coalition: TUSC and LU fighting under a joint electoral name (eg `Left Party’) but remaining separate organisations. An example would be the Front de Gauche in France of the PCF-French Communist Party, the Parti de Gauche of Jean-Luc Melenchon, plus various other tiny parties. All parties kept their own organisation and identities. Exactly like TUSC, where the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Resistance, the Independent Socialist Network, the RMT union maintain totally separate organisations and identities, but come together as an electoral coalition. Other than a few isolated attempts, such as in Rugby, Lewes, Brighton, for periods of time, TUSC has operated nationally and locally solely at election times.
4. An electoral coalition with a permanent and ongoing presence and identity. Examples are Antarsya in Greece, until recently Syriza in Greece, in Turkey the HDP (Peoples Democracy Party). All of these (Syriza until around a year ago) are permanent coalitions, their banners evident on marches and demonstrations. They each include a number of parties which retain their own organisations and identities. Thus there were banners and leaflets on marches and demonstrations both for the Coalition (Syriza) but also for its constituent parties.
5. A united party with distinct platforms. This is what Syriza has decided to do in Greece at its 2013 party conference. Syriza was, was until fairly then, a coalition, as in Model 4 above. Now it is a party. On a much smaller scale, it is also the Mandelite tradition within the Fourth International.
6. A monolithic party with no established platforms allowed (except during a pre-conference period), like the Socialist Workers Party in Britain.
Dave Hill is a former Labour Group Leader and Parliamentary candidate; former TUSC and NO2EU candidate, member of the ISN (Independent Socialist Network) within TUSC, member of Left Unity (and of its Socialist Platform), and member of OKDE-Spartakos, the Greek Section of the Fourth International, and thereby of Antarsya. He has fought 12 elections in Brighton at local, Parliamentary and European levels. He has written/edited 22 books on education, politics, neoliberalism, Marxism and Education, and is Research Professor of Education at Anglia Ruskin University.
Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.
Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.
Sat 2 Mar, 9.30-17.00
Confronting the Rise of the Far Right, European Conference
Organised by Transform UK.
Bloomsbury Central, 235 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8EP.
Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.
Get the latest Left Unity resources.