Towards a new left party

July 20, 2013

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In the run-up to Left Unity’s founding conference in November, it’s clear that we need the fullest possible debate and discussion about what kind of party it is that we all want to establish. At its meeting in June, Left Unity’s National Coordinating Group decided that platforms of ten or more people can put resolutions to the founding conference on the same basis as local groups.

Following that decision, a number of Left Unity supporters have drafted and agreed a short statement and longer background document to establish a Left Party Platform, clarifying and establishing a common position arguing for a broadly-based new party of the left as we move towards the founding conference.
The Platform and its documents are a contribution to Left Unity’s ongoing discussion about the nature of a new party and we welcome comments on our perspectives over the coming months. The Platform welcomes new supporters who share our vision of a broadly-based new left party – if you are interested please contact us at: Leftpartyplatform@gmail.com

We look forward to the contributions and views that all local groups, other platforms and supporters of Left Unity will put forward before joining together to found the new party on a democratic basis in November.

 

The following is a background document proposed by the Left Party platform in conjunction with the proposed Left Party platform statement.

 

Towards a new left party

Five years since the near-collapse of the global financial system, we continue to face economic and social catastrophe. Trillions of dollars have been poured into the private banks to stave off disaster and the result has been to transfer their debts onto the books of national governments causing an immense sovereign debt crisis. The response of governments, led by the Troika of European institutions, has been to adopt extreme and far-reaching austerity policies. In this way they have sought to make the poor pay for the current crisis whilst simultaneously attempting to deal with the systemic crisis of capitalism by reverting to the form it had in the 1930s, without social protections, which meant a visit to the doctor was to be dreaded because of the cost, and every knock on the door could be another debt collector.

That face of capitalism was superseded – temporarily as is now clear – after 1945, as humanising reform elements were adopted under the pressure of the strengthened post-war labour movements and the social democracy that they gave rise to across much of Western Europe. Following the pattern adopted in the Global South where post-colonial reforms were destroyed by the structural adjustment policies of the IMF and World Bank, resulting in poverty, environmental destruction, intra-state conflict and increasing violence against women, Europe’s post-1945 social gains are now being brutally reversed. Governments use the excuse of ‘paying off the deficit’ to cut public spending and redistribute society’s wealth in the interests of the ruling class, by reducing wages and destroying the ‘social wage’ of health, education, social services and welfare. The result is that whilst we see the rise of poverty, homelessness and unemployment, the wealth of the richest in our societies continues to grow at an exponential rate. We have entered the age of austerity where in a topsy-turvy world those who are responsible for the economic crisis are making the vast majority, who are not responsible, pay for their greed and profligacy and for the fundamental flaws in their system.

Everything which makes life worth living is being eroded. Hospitals and GP surgeries, schools, welfare systems, libraries and community leisure provision – all have to be closed or privatised to feed the insatiable demands of the debt. All that was fought for and won in the post-war period is now under attack as the ruling class takes the opportunity to turn back history to the 1930s.  In Greece, which is the test case for the most extreme version of these austerity measures, the entire health system is being dismantled. Children are no longer vaccinated for the most common diseases. Youth unemployment there has reached 65% and millions rely on food hand outs just to live. Malnutrition is evident. Here in Britain, one of the richest countries in the world, more than half a million rely on food-banks just to feed their families every week. This is a situation which can only worsen. We are, as yet, only in the early stages of this austerity programme with the majority of the cuts still to come.

The urgent questions that faces us are, first, how to stop this offensive by the rich and defend the welfare state and, second, how to extend the social gains, making them permanent and using them as a basis from which to build a fully democratic society – not just political democracy, but social and economic democracy, run by the people for the people. In the past, working people in this country relied on the Labour Party to represent them. Despite its many shortcomings, in some respects the party upheld the interests of ordinary people and for many years worked to advance their standards of living. However, since then, social democracy – whether in Britain or in Greece, Spain or France – has moved sharply to the right. Rather than defending the people who vote for it and support it, it no longer plays its traditional role of ameliorating capitalism.  Instead social democracy defends the barbarism of capitalism and justifies the attacks on the living standards of the majority.

Across Europe, however, people are fighting back. In Greece there have been more than 23 general strikes. In Portugal, Spain and elsewhere there have been demonstrations of hundreds of thousands. Portugal has seen the biggest movement since the revolution of 1974. In Britain in 2011, half a million people marched against austerity. On 14th November 2012, millions of workers throughout Europe took coordinated strike action and millions more demonstrated in their support. The young people of Europe have occupied the public squares, direct action has grown and many campaigns to defend the welfare systems have been built. However, despite these movements the avalanche of austerity continues to crash down on the peoples of Europe. There have been few victories. In some countries there have been temporary retreats by the ruling elites but nowhere yet has the system been fundamentally shaken by the action of the people.

A third element has emerged alongside the strike wave and the struggles of the youth and the anti-austerity campaigners: the development of new parties of the left throughout Europe. As the ‘socialist’ parties like PASOK in Greece, PSOE in Spain and the Parti Socialiste (PS) in France have moved to the right so left parties have been strengthened and have won substantial support from working people. The situation is most advanced in Greece where PASOK was, until 2012, the party of government receiving 40% of the popular vote. It voted for austerity and made the cuts; now it stands at only 5% in the polls and is a thoroughly discredited political formation. Its place has been taken by Syriza, an anti-austerity party that seeks to form a workers’ government. In Spain the social democratic PSOE is travelling the same path as PASOK, and Izquierda Unida, the United Left – sister party of Syriza – is now at 17% in the polls.

Despite the fact that the Labour Party, like PASOK, PSOE and the PS, has betrayed the labour movement and embraced neo-liberalism over the past twenty years, many find it difficult to imagine the emergence of a new mass left opposition in Britain. Some argue that the political forces which gave rise to the left parties in Europe don’t exist here; that the union link with Labour is too strong, that ‘reclaiming’ Labour is the only possibility. These are factors which need to be considered, but the self-destructive turn by the Labour leadership against the union link must lead to a reassessment by the trade unions of their political location and the necessity of their supporting a new party of the left.

For the reality is that the people of Britain need political representation; they need a party which will fight to defend and advance their interests rather than standing idly by or siding with ruling class attacks. There is a limit to how long working class people can wait for Labour to stand up for them. The welfare state needs defending now. For many, that limit has already been passed. Labour supports the government’s spending cuts and fails to oppose the attacks on the poor and most oppressed groups in society. Its failure to pledge to reverse iniquities like the bedroom tax when in office is reminiscent of the failure of the Labour government after 1997 to reverse Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation. Its concessions to racism and xenophobia in the form of anti-immigration policies are the worst form of vote seeking and tailing of far right policies. It is based on craven pandering, both to the government’s scapegoating culture which obscures the reality of the disproportionate impact of the cuts on black people and to its condoning of Islamophobia and refusal to recognise the role of its foreign policy in giving rise to terrorism. Nothing any longer inspires any hope or confidence in the Labour Party to meet the people’s needs, to defend our civil liberties or to fight for policies based on peace and justice. A new left party would stand unequivocally against racism and Islamophobia.

The Labour Party’s support for austerity is not the only reason for founding and building a new party of the left. Throughout its history Labour has backed war and foreign intervention, as well as Britain’s exploitation of other countries for economic gain. Tony Blair’s championing of the Iraq war was in keeping with much of Labour’s historic foreign policy role and the duplicitous way in which he took the country to war – in spite of strong opposition from many within the Labour Party itself – served to underline the moral degeneration of the party leadership; the subsequent parliamentary expenses scandal further eroded trust not only in parliamentary political standards generally but in Labour in particular. This degeneration and abandonment of the core values of the labour movement, together with the failure to champion the needs of ordinary people, is in part responsible for the rise of UKIP.  A new party of the left is needed to stand against war and military intervention, for a drastic reduction of military expenditure for the benefit of social spending, and for a foreign policy based on peace and equality.

The political conditions exist for the creation of a new left party in Britain. In their specifics they are not the same as those that have given rise to new left parties elsewhere in Europe. But the fundamental facts are the same: ordinary people need a party to represent their interests, to defend the welfare state and the past gains of the working class. They also need one that will take those gains forward and work to transform society in a new way, which the Labour Party only ever partly embraced: the full democratisation of politics, society and the economy, by and for the people.

A new left party will stand for an alternative set of values of equality and justice: socialist, feminist, environmentalist and against all forms of discrimination.

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.

We are feminist because our vision of society is one without the gender oppression and exploitation which blights the lives of women and girls and makes full human emancipation impossible. We specify our feminism because historical experience shows that the full liberation of women does not automatically follow the nationalisation of productive forces or the reordering of the economy. We fight to advance this goal in the current political context, against the increasing divergence between men’s and women’s incomes, against the increasing poverty among women, against the ‘double burden’ of waged work and unshared domestic labour, and against the increasing violence against women in society and in personal relationships, which is exacerbated by the economic crisis.

We are environmentalist because our vision of society is one which recognises that if humankind is to survive, it has to establish a sustainable relationship with the rest of the natural world – of which it is part and on which it depends. We recognise that an economy based on achieving maximum profits at the lowest cost in the shortest possible time is destroying our planet. The current operation of industry and economy is totally incompatible with the maintenance of the ecosystem through the growing loss of bio and agro diversity, the depletion of resources and increasing climate change. The future of the planet can only be secured through a sustainable, low carbon industrial base designed to meet people’s needs on a global basis.

We are opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether on the basis of gender, race, impairment, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, religion, age or politics. The current economic onslaught disproportionately affects already disadvantaged groups and we oppose their persecution and oppression. We support the free development, opportunity and expression of all, without impinging on the rights of others, and the introduction of legislation and social provision to make this intention a reality. No society is just and equal while some people remain without the support needed to achieve their full potential.

The political practice of the new left party will be democratic, diverse and inclusive, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working. We are committed to mutual respect and tolerance of differences of analysis. We seek to work now in the ways that we wish to see established in a transforming society, which is moving from the brutality of capitalism to a society based on socialist principles. We start from our common humanity and thus the importance of creating the conditions in which everyone is able to develop their full potential within our communities. We reject the corruption of conventional political structures and their reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society, from which the left thus far has not been exempt. We will redouble our efforts to eradicate these practices from our politics and recognise that the achievement of equality in social relations is a continual struggle which cannot be deferred until a later date.

The new left party will campaign, mobilise and support struggles on a day to day basis, recognising the need for self-organisation in working class communities. We recognise that support for a new left party and its electoral success will only advance to the extent that it is genuinely representative of working class communities, has no interests separate from theirs, and is an organic part of the campaigns and movements which they generate and support.  The new left party will engage in the national and local electoral processes, offering voters a left alternative, while understanding that elections are not the only arena or even the most important arena in which political struggles are fought.

The new left party will be an internationalist party. There are no national solutions to the problems that humanity faces. Capitalism is an international system, highly organised and globalised and its defeat requires not only international solidarity but the linking up and coordination of struggles across Europe and the world. The new left party will seek international links and work to establish active coordination with like-minded movements such as the new European left parties currently organised in the European Left Party, including Syriza, Bloco de Esquerda, Izquierda Unida, Die Linke, Front de Gauche and others. We will also seek to learn from the experience of those parties in Latin America which have challenged and rejected neo-liberal economic policies and are establishing a social and economic alternative in the interests of the majority of their peoples.

We recognise the urgency of the task before us in founding this new party on a basis which will enable it to grow and develop, to be a party of the people and for the people. The rise of the far right across Europe is a stark warning of what may come to pass if the left in Europe fails to be effective and combat the barbarism of capitalism and fascism. Here in Britain we must take our part in that struggle and make our contribution to the full liberation of humanity.

Document of the Left Party Platform

July 2013

Kerry Abel, Richard Abendorff, Gilbert Achcar, Anam Ahmed, Len Arthur, Aidan Barlow, Andrew Bebbington,  Patrick Black, Jay Blackwood, Pamela Bowhill, Jack Brindelli, Charles Brown, Andrew Burgin, Katie Buse, Duncan Chapel, Andrew Collingwood, John Connolly, Lesley Connors, Terry Conway, Gioia Coppola, Merry Cross, Kieran Crowe, Anne Marie Cryer-Whitehead, Mark Cryer-Whitehead, Anya-Nicola Darr, John Dickie, Felicity Dowling, Pippa Dowswell, Sheila Dunsby, Flo Jo Durrant, Jon Duveen, Maria Esperanza Sanchez, Sam Feeney, Mark Findlay, Eleanor Firman, Nick Foster, Ed Fredenburgh, Suzanne Gannon, Suzy Gillett, Nik Gorecki, Liz Gray, Winmarie Greenland, Lynn Gregory, Jake Hall, Joe Hallet, Guy Harper, Louise Harrison, Phil Hearse, Mally Henry, Annie Higgs, Joy Holland, Laney Holland, Jim Hollinshead, Jade Hope, Kate Hudson, Chris Hurley, Stuart Inman, Rick Jewell, Paul Johnson, Nick Jones, Philip Kane, Dave Kellaway, Jane Kelly, Jim Kelly, Rosalie Kelly, Elizabeth Keen, Dan Kettlewell, Stephen Kettlewell, Joe Kisolo-Ssonko, Martin Leonard, Fred Leplat, David Lane, John Lister, Joe Lo, Nick Long, Alison Lord, Kathy Lowe, Simon Lynn, Mike Marqusee, Rob Marsden, Sharon McCourt, Chris McKenzie, Liam McQuade, Stephen Miller, John Mooney, Sheila Mosley, Piers Mostyn, Ben Neal, Oliver New, Larry O’Donnell, Valerie O’Riordan, Duncan Parker, Ian Parker, Steven Parry, Susan Pashkoff, Peter Pinkney, Stewart Pluck, Roland Rance, Marc Renwick, Andy Richards, Adam Roden, Ed Rooksby, Jenny Ross, Penny Schenk, Gemma Schneider, Mike Scott, Barbara Segal, Richard Seymour, Salman Shaheen, Steven Shakespeare, Jenny Slaughter, Andy Smith, Ciara Squires, Ian Stewart, Paul Stygal, Sean Thompson, Alan Thornett, Doug Thorpe, Bianca Todd, Jasmin Todd, Jean Todd, Peter Todd, Simone Todd,  Mike Tucker, Eve Turner, Chris Vincent, Subira Wahogo, Tom Walker, Tony Walker, Stuart Watkins, Godfrey Webster, Roger Welch, Jake Whitby, Bob Whitehead,  Sam Williams, Bob Williams-Findlay, Carla Willig, Richard Willmsen, Julian Wilson, Roland Wood, Lynn Wright.

 

 

 

 

27 Responses to Towards a new left party

  1. July 20, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    We also need to change the electoral system. FPTP only serves the 3 main parties. Without some form of PR (AV is not PR), it will be difficult to win seats.

    • Graeme Kemp
      July 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      I agree fully. It’s only with PR (or some system of ‘fair votes’) that a new left party could ever make an impact, beyond one (or maybe two) M.P.s

      Sadly, the whole fiasco over the AV referendum probably means that P.R. is off the agenda for a while.

      • Peter Morton
        August 2, 2013 at 1:50 am

        Yes; but we would have to win power in the first place, to be able to change the voting system. How are we going to do that? The ConDemLab neo-liberals aren’t going to give us this.

  2. Baton Rouge
    July 20, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    So you would break up the political unity of the class behind labour by using bourgeois methods simply so you can get a few seats. Anybody caught mentioning PR in LU should be expelled to join the Lib Dems.

    As for this statement it is just one long list of platitudes. It would make no difference to anybody or anything if this got passed or not.

    What is really needed is a manifesto with a programme for the transition to working class power and socialism that addresses actual issues: what you going to do about jobs, bankrupt banks, the credit crunch for small business, social investment, planning, tax, Europe, Britain, the monopoly corporations sucking the life out of the econoomy, democracy at work? I have outlined a popular programme of five or six points that cover all the above and with a short introduction and conclusion added I will put it forward for adoption at the November conference if ten people want to sponsor it. Only on the basis of such a manifesto can LU grow and avoid degenerating into a sect in which the leadership far from having to uphold and promote the democratic will of the party can opportunistically make up policy on the hoof and then sell it to the rank and file as a fait accompli.

  3. John Penney
    July 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Baton Rouge is, I’m afraid, quite right that the above article is just a bland statement that surely most radical socialists could agree with ? I certainly can. He is also right that Left Unity now desperately needs, not more bland statements, but a set of basic priority policies which it intends to pursue – an outline draft Manifesto indeed.

    A “Left Party Platform” should surely by now be in a position to propose such a thing, from its particular Platform perspective. Plenty of others, including myself, have already proposed such a basic “What we Stand For” set of key policies on other threads .

    Your very bland statement above doesn’t really move us forward from the perfectly acceptable abandoned basic “Statement” of the 11th May meeting as far as I can see. By now an organised “Platform” , which presumably has been doing some serious thinking about these core issues, should have more detail to propose. You certainly haven’t told me enough about your particular positions and policy objectives to persuade me to join your Platform yet .

  4. David
    July 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    I think a focus on smash the capitalist system will put off UK voters. The language of class struggle is boring and dysfunctional in electoral terms. Assuming that Left Unity is to be a party which seeks election what is needed is a general statement of belief in a very simple straightforward form and then some policies which voters can support. The policies to be set in a truly democratic and representative framework which people can trust and value and in a longer term path to socialism. There is more to a party than policies however and there should also be actions to help and support people in their daily lives now. Left Unity can work to develop trust and to root itself in working communities through its policies and its work in communities.

  5. tony walker
    July 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    David theres nothing i can add and you managed to do it one paragraph. Surely we have to be aware of practicalities and temporary realities though not be enslaved by them obviously. People on the hard left are used to not listening to so called reformists but this will not work in a party that is supposed to be broad left because people have to learn to work together and to compromise to achieve democratically agreed goals and policies.

  6. Frank b
    July 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    The problem is the whole political end legal system are all about which side has the most money for the best election campaign or legal people. No qualifications or character profile is required. You have to have a police check if working with childre. wouldn’t it be logical to have something similar for being and mp of any level so you don’t end with with sociopathinc theiving murderers like the ones we have now? This whole system is why with have our own Nazis in charge. Also isn’t about time that some party finally recognised the the unemployed are treated like Jews in the 1930s germany and have less rights than an criminal awaiting trial. Sanctioning is a blatant human rights violation. The unemployed are not in any way to blame for it and the way to solve unemployment is to create jobs. rebuild industry. become self sufficient and strong rather than spending billions of tax payers money chasing the unemployed into non existant jobs. recreating industry could not only solve industry but also give us a stronger position in europe.

  7. Lloyd Edwards
    July 21, 2013 at 2:29 am

    We need to plan for the future, from where we are. What do we want to be able to do?
    I will forcefully argue that imposing some kind of socialism is way down the list, in any practical sense, for many years. The Heritage foundation published the current neo-liberal path in 1983, and the neo-liberals are still working on it, from a Tory start. We are hampered by expending our very small resources on either pulling a tiny minority ‘right’, or countering Trade Union ‘entitlement’.
    Let us all work leftwards from where the country is, or fail. The first thing needed will be some honest auditing and a return to properly gathered statistics to work from. Accepting human physiology, and have that as a base for policies and practices – rather than denying humanity to embrace neo-liberalism, communism or any other variant of kleptocracy.

  8. Geoff Barr
    July 21, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Baton Rouge says, “Anybody caught mentioning PR in LU should be expelled to join the Lib Dems.” That is perhaps a model of what is wrong with the left. He denounces PR as a bourgeois method. But the bourgeoisie has used hundreds of methods for elections. If they are all outlawed we are a bit stuck in deciding issues. This kind of dogmatic set of statements keeps most of the hundreds of thousands of our potential supporters away.

    It is better to have a statement that looks a bit bland but draws people together to have the discussion and prepare to do something rather than continue in the traditional leftist manner of working out who of those close to us we need to denounce.

  9. Doug
    July 21, 2013 at 9:13 am

    For the Left to make any headway electorally – at least in the short/medium term – PR would be extremely useful.

  10. Hoom
    July 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Anybody who thinks people should be expelled for supporting a policy they disagree with should consider whether they would, just perhaps, be happier in a ‘democratic’ centralist party.

  11. Baton Rouge
    July 21, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    THe use of PR to smash the political unity of the working class albeit behind an opportunist New Labour leadership is pure opportunism in its own right and is likely to open the class up to extreme right provocation. LU should be looking to win the working class as a class on the basis of programme and united front not by formal bureaucratic method. Yes those who propose PR should be sent packing off to the Lib Dems. All electoral methods are bourgeois methods in a capitalist state and represent the Ass’s Gate indicated for fools as the way to power but that is far from the end of the question Geoff Barr.

  12. Baton Rouge
    July 21, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    David/Tony Walker et al this one’s for you:

    http://www.inquisitr.com/428836/bono-only-capitalism-can-end-poverty-video/

    You know what we should really do David is avoid politics altogether. Buy into the whole depoliticisation of our class and reap the no doubt substantial rewards of offering nothing but platitudes. My god even New Labour feel obliged to come up with some sort of policy on things however crap.

    The reason the Lib Dems want PR is because they know it would allow the sects to tear the Labour movement apart on an unprincipled basis just as the Tories are being attacked by UKIP and the BNP from the right leaving them as the only unified party in the centre. PR is an anti-working class policy which was rightly rejected by working class voters decisively in a recent referendum. Where it exists because it doesn’t matter such as in the Euro elections we should take advantage of it to push our programme if we had one. Naturally if it is bought in by the next Lib Dem coalition we should take advantage of it when appropriate but we should not be advocating it. We are not the destroyers of working class unity for our own self serving and sectarian reasons.

  13. David
    July 22, 2013 at 11:01 am

    One thing I would like to add to my earlier comment is this. For a new party to achieve electoral success it must offer a clear vision to voters. What is the vision for Left Unity? I think it needs to be something more than attack this and smash that. So…. what is needed is a vision to offer people hope and something to aim for, a clear and simple statement of purpose/belief, policies for an election manifesto and action in communities now. By action I mean real on the ground help and support for people – not just political rallies and
    demonstrations.

    Discussion of theories of class struggle are interesting and useful but mainly for those of an academic disposition. For now what is needed is action on the ground to build community support for a transition to socialism.

  14. Andrew Crystall
    July 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I find some people – are you old comrades, for reference? – fighting against PR to be sad. FPTP is a system which disenfranchises much of the country, and makes voting for many of the left utterly pointless. It creates a massive barrier against representation.

    There are systems with far more sensible types of barrier, such as the German system – which frankly I advocate using as-is. A % boundary for representation will mean that the left are represented fairly.

    Does it mean the far right will also have representation? Yes. But the fact is, the far right have failed and failed again (as the BNP councilors did), and rapidly faded out.

    And no, “PR” was most definitely NOT rejected in the recent referendum, as single-constituency AV is not in any way PR. In polls which allowed PR it got twice the votes AV did.

  15. Roy Wall
    July 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    If it can be taken that the Labour Party no longer bases itself on the working class and oppressed thru the trade unions, the task now is to build a new broad workers party, not a party of The Left.

    Sure, we need a party that is to-the-left-of the pro-austerity parties, including the so-called Labour Party, but to call it, say, Left Unity, would unecessarilly put some people off.

    I’ve used this quote from Marx before, but I’ll repeat it. In the context of building a broad, united German workers’ party, he wrote:

    “EVERY STEP OF REAL MOVEMENT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A DOZEN PROGRAMMES. If, therefore, it was not possible … to go beyond the Eisenach programme, one should simply have concluded an agreement for action against the common enemy.” (Marx emphasis)

    In other words, what we certainly don’t want is a socialist programme, as many here wrongly seem to want. As Tony benn pointed out, The Labour Party has never been a socialist party. We need a broad party which, unlike the Labour Party, allows factions of far-left and other groupings/parties to exist within democratic structure.

    • Andrew Crystall
      July 23, 2013 at 5:09 am

      Indeed. Believe me, I’m far from the only mutualist who’s fed up with Labour, and I think there’s a decent chance the movement as a whole could disentangle itself – so long as we’re not told we need to be socialist first.

  16. Ray G
    July 22, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    I feel this statement is a little bland and we could be beefed up, but it represents the views of one section of LU. Those who don’t like it should simply write a statement of their own.

    PR would be an invaluable tool to help us break the stranglehold of Labourism over the left-inclined voters. New Labour opposed even AV and would never support PR. First past the post is exactly a ‘bourgeois’ formulation designed to tie working class people into the two party system of tweedle dee-tweedle dum.

  17. gerryc
    July 23, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    I sympathise with the point-of-view expressed in the paper and appreciate the work taken – thanks. Similar to the Kilburn Manifesto. But I also sympathise and have heard from so many members re the call for a shorter agenda we can more easily relate to / publicise and find identity in, challenge neo-liberal individualism and materialism. Something like:

    *** PHILOSOPHY ***
    Use the best old and the best new ideas and techniques to create and maintain a caring sharing community that strives toward a happy/fulfilling life for current and future generations – people and planet.

    Community and democracy centric, supporting individual liberty, effort and enterprise while recognising that no man is an island, totally responsible for her or his own actions, successes or failures. Striving toward a secure and sustainable material habitat that enables a decent life for all, whatever gifts they inherit, without threat or harm from others. Let us make no war on anyone for material gain. Let us not suffer to know others suffer without making every effort to help and to remove the cause of that suffering.

    *** POLICIES ***

    1. Community provision of universal services:
    housing
    health
    education
    travel
    energy
    research.

    1. Minimum wage 18K, maximum 216K (Maximum differential 12).

    3. Employment for all – using all of the following when and if necessary:

    state investment / intervention in selected industries
    part-time work (work sharing without differential loss)
    state invested research and development.

    4. Contribution-based welfare ensuring basic standard of living for all, as follows:
    ‘unable to work’ fully supported
    ‘prefer to work less’ supported with low end differential
    ‘prefer to work more’ supported with higher differential
    success in generating efficiencies/advances supported with higher
    differential
    elderly prefer to work /not work, full supported.

    5. Personal Liberty
    Freedom of speech/expression fully supported
    Freedom of action supported except actions agreed by the community to be
    harmful to others/the planet
    Private ownership supported
    Private capital accumulations supported with appropriate tax rules that
    mandate reinvestment of company earnings into the business, cap non-business
    accumulation / offshore banking / financial tools used.

    6. Political reform
    Business funding of political parties illegal.
    Personal funding of political parties capped to % of earnings.
    Politicians paid by the state only.

    I leave out for now re our relationship with other groups and HOW we go about LEFT UNITYing.

    ATB, Gerry

    • David
      July 24, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Good basis for discussion here. I could support this pretty much as it stands.
      I think this is the policy element of a Left Unity statement. Now we need a vision, a simple statement of beliefs and plans for immediate community action to offer support and help to people.

  18. Stuart
    July 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Don’t understand the criticism that this is a statement that everyone can support. Surely that’s a good thing?! More detailed policies and manifesto and what not are for slightly further down the road, and are anyway in process.

    I think this is a good statement and I support it. What is it saying in a nutshell? That, in the very near term, we oppose austerity, the attacks on the working class, and the destruction of the welfare state, and will support efforts to halt or ameliorate or reverse these. In the medium term, we stand for the reversal of the privatisation of essential services and utilities, and to bring them back into public ownership. In the medium to long term, we stand for the democratisation of all the social, political and economic institutions of society.

    Is it, and are we, socialist? Well, all that is exactly what socialism means as far as I’m concerned, whether you choose to call it that or not.

    • Peter Morton
      August 2, 2013 at 3:21 am

      Stuart; I think you give a good appraisal of the statement. And I think the statement is superior to the Platform; it says more and it says it better.

      But it’s not the content that concerns me here. I also agree with the content of the Socialist Platform published yesterday (1st Aug’). I want to know what the Left Party Platform is for.

      The Left Party Platform (LPP) is a description of what I thought the Left Unity project is all about, starting from Ken Loach’s appeal for a new party to the left of Labour, which we all signed up to. Surely we could all sign up to the LPP.

      The question is,; is the LPP intended as a platform (faction?) within a party, or the platform on which the party is to be founded? If it is the latter, why advance it as a platform? Why not put it as a resolution to the founding conference in November?

      In comparison with the LPP, the Socialist Platform is an innocent attempt to promote the idea of a socialist party. And you can take it or leave it, but I hope we would persuade Left Unity to go some way towards this goal.

      I am told, and I believe, that the originators of the Socialist Platform were unaware of the LPP when they decided to draft their platform. But now, with the Left Unity mainstream character of the LPP, it makes those of us who signed the Socialist Platform look like oppositionists.

      It could look like the LPP was put forward as a manoeuvre to cohere a faction around certain groups and cliques, to shore them up in controlling positions in the new party of the left we all want to see. At the same time, it could create reluctant oppositionists, and seek to marginalise those of us the LPP leaders disagree with.

      I say; it could look like this. But I want to know. What we need is for those leading this process to stick their heads above the parapet and provide some clarification of the situation.

  19. Julian
    July 26, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Here’s a draft statement I am bringing along to tomorrow’s meeting – any suggestions?[I've posted this elsewhere on this website. I'm not sure where it should be placed to be considered] I don’t think we need anything longer or more detailed at this stage, do we? The point is to be doing things now and building from that, rather than uttering statements of principle which amount to no more than labels.

    Throughout most of the world governments are at various stages of a war against their own citizens. Even ‘left’ parties offer no protection. All the ‘respectable’ political parties are prepared to attack their own and foreign populations in order to safeguard corporate profits. To their people, everywhere they spread the lie that there is no money.

    Capitalism has been going for some 200 years. What became of all the wealth? Today the 7 richest people in the world sit on more money than 567 million of the poorest. Nearly 10 million people a year die of starvation or malnutrition. And inequality is growing by the day. In the UK the richest 1000 could pay off the national deficit without touching their bank accounts. Every morning they wake up £100 million richer.

    It is not only a question of monstrous injustice. All this is a sign that the market system is not functioning – even on its own terms. In Britain, for example, £770 billion is lying unused in the banks simply clogging up the works.

    A recent study revealed that a core of just 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

    When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies….. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

    Not only have they bought political parties and governments. They have their own special institutions for exploiting whole populations: the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, etc.

    The days when individual entrepreneurs came up with grand ideas – borrowed the money and transformed the world are gone. Today, profits from productive investment are hard to come by. Capitalism is no longer fit for purpose. The great technological innovations of recent years have come despite not because of capitalism.

    The world’s rulers have mostly taken to gambling. Up to $3 or 4 trillion a day changes hands 24/7 in London’s city foreign exchange trading centres. In the ‘real’ economy’, the need to turn populations into customers pushes millions into ruinous debt, causes ever new frauds and ways to cheat their staff, their customers and one another.

    They are depleting the soil, ruining the oceans, destroying the forests, poisoning the air. They are in perpetual readiness for new oil wars and ever prepared to maintain the means to destroy continents for cheap labour and new markets.

    They could not survive a day without raids on public property. They have the land [and get subsidies off us to so nothing to it]: they have grabbed gas, coal, steel, water, telecommunications, transport and they are in the process of seizing education, social care and the health service itself.

    Our fight to save hospitals, old people’s homes and libraries is the fight for another way of running society – nurses, teachers and librarians work for people and not for profit. There is no reason why a whole society cannot be run that way. It is a fight for the future of human society.

    LEFT UNITY [or whatever it is to be called] is first and foremost a body of activists. Wherever we are, we are part and parcel of a wonderfully varied and contradictory global fight-back movement – and nothing more. On the streets, in the workplace, and also in the town hall and in parliament – wherever the struggle takes us, we will be there fighting for real victories.

    But we also know there can be no lasting victory – no solution without removing the cause. There are countless millions un- or under-employed. Fully one quarter of europe’s youth is without a future under capitalism. But there is a tremendous surfeit of resources and wealth. We have the people, the technology, the expertise and the motivation to use it.Once we have access and possession to our collective heritage we will be able to run our affairs without the need for a decrepit, corrupt, vicious and unnecessary class.

  20. Luke
    July 31, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I think the statement is good, though I want to see emphasis on monetary reform as a means of democratising the economy. In my opinion this is a far more important issue than people realize.
    I sympathize with the desire for something more tangible in terms of simple policy outlines, but in my opinion that is premature. Various factions of the left want to lay claim to a diagnosis of exactly how we ended up in the position we’re in, and these diagnoses don’t align precisely. In some ways they’re quite different. There’s a varying degree of rigour in the views of all those who see the importance of a party like Left Unity, and these views need to be addressed in a rigorous way before arriving at hard policy statements.
    We should be inviting economists such as Steve Keen, Richard D. Wolff, Michael Hudson, Ben Dyson (of Positive Money), to debate policy ideas and to offer critiques of the proposals of Left Unity members.

  21. Ray G
    August 3, 2013 at 12:48 am

    The statement says the Labour Party (and other European left parties) ‘has betrayed the labour movement and embraced neo-liberalism over the past twenty years’.

    This is not true. The Labour Party has betrayed the Labour Movement for 100 years. It betrayed the General Strike of 1926!!, the dockers in the 60′s, the miners in 1984-5.

    I agree with much of the content and the tone of the statement, but we should not sleepwalk into calling for a return to ‘good old Labour’. They were always happy to play the role of selling ‘nice capitalism’ to working people and ensuring that demands did not go too far.

    When did a Labour leader ever support a strike in public? I can’t think of one example. Can anyone?

  22. kate
    August 14, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    This post is from Merry Cross. The wording in the document has been changed in line with Merry’s comments.

    “I admit it. I shouldn’t have let a couple of statements go without a small change. Let me explain, using a paragraph from this Left Party Platform background document.

    It states something to the effect of ‘We are opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether on the grounds of … DISABILITY ….etc.’ Here’s the thing. According to disabled people in the movement, disability IS the discrimination. It should have read…’whether on the grounds of … IMPAIRMENT … etc.

    In other words. I have what we call an impairment – in my case it’s a physical impairment that affects my mobility. And I have faced the oppression in all the usual barriers to full inclusion in society, whether it’s having to struggle in physically difficult buildings on the terms of those who are non-disabled, to get my education and qualifications, or people expressing shock that I should have had a sex life and thereby children (oppressive attitudes) or systems designed without disabled people in mind which, by the way, includes the capitalist system of economics. Those then have been my disabilities – or what has disabled me.

    There are of course many different types of impairment and lots of people with multiple impairments, or illness as well as impairment (try not to confuse the two). But we all face disabling barriers as well as whatever particular challenges our impairments throw up within our cultures and social circles.

    So we should really talk about disablement, not disability discrimination, or if you prefer, discrimination based on our impairments.

    Does it really matter? Am I just being an arm of the language police? It really does matter, because using the language that accurately expresses our experiences, especially that of oppression, increases the likelihood that others will grow in understanding and be more likely to support us appropriately. Or, on a more humorous note, let me ask you this. Would you like to sit on a disabled toilet?! No, because that means it has been put out of action. That’s why we prefer to talk about accessible loos!

    If you’re still puzzled, let me know and I’ll explain as much as necessary.
    It matters. And thanks to Bob Findlay-Williams and others who demanded it be changed!”

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