What some of the left groups are saying about Left Unity

you were the future once

you were the future once

Dave Kellaway, a supporter of Left Unity and a member of the Fourth International examines the tepid and timid response from the far left to our new political project

My dad used to say that if the other side are ignoring you then you are failing or not working hard enough. The activists supporting Left Unity(LU) must be having some impact because the two major revolutionary left groups, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Socialist Party(SP) and a former significant split from the SWP, Counterfire,  have all written significant political articles referring, often rather obliquely, to LU. But definitely not ignoring us.

Alex Callinicos  (SWP) seems to suggest that it isn’t such a bad thing that there is the appeal around Ken Loach. He is not stupid enough to condemn it.  However the difficulties are emphasised and he states:

“Paradoxically, this revival of the Labour left dovetails with the enthusiastic response that film director Ken Loach’s call for a new party of the left has received.(…)

Defending these achievements—above all the National Health Service—also provides the Labour left with their benchmark. So what we have is, in effect, two different projects for reviving the reformist tradition in Britain.

Both have to be taken seriously. My hunch is that the drive to revive Labour will prove the stronger of the two. (my italics –DK)This is of course problematic, because all Labour governments—including the one elected in 1945—have chosen to manage rather than transform capitalism. The structures of the party are now so undemocratic that it’s hard to see how any attempt to “reclaim” Labour can hope to succeed.

This makes it all the more important that all those who want to see a left alternative to Labour work together. There are plenty of obstacles in our path as well, but the scale of the crisis and the suffering it is causing demand that we overcome them.”

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art/32913/Tories+in+crisis+allow+chance+of+left+revival

In this week’s SWP Party notes it states:

Ken Loach has put out a call for a left alternative to Labour.

It’s an aim we share and we want to be part of any such discussions.  But we also know that making this into a reality is more difficult and requires engaging with others who are involved in similar projects. 

Of course Callinicos or SWP Party Notes will not specifically mention Left Unity’s name or even better refer to our website so that members or readers can make their own judgements. He suggests that a revival of the Labour left is more likely that the LU project and also incidentally already defines the Loach/LU project as reviving the reformist tradition. He does not see any distinction between Owen Jones and his reclaiming Labour idea and the Loach/LU organised party project which is implicitly positioned as a clear rejection of Labour. Obviously the national meeting coming up in May will further begin to clarify this position but reading the statements and political practice of most of the people expressing themselves on the LU website it is clear that there is difference between the Owen Jones position and Left Unity, there are not two sides of the same labourist reformism.  Putting money on an Owen Jones left labour revival is a little risky – the record of the internal Labour left since Bennism has at least been as bad as the radical external left and I cannot recall them leading the Stop the War Coalition.  Personally I would be quite happy for the LU project to grow alongside any Owen Jones led revival. It would provide a fertile field of engagement for a stronger external force. Any official left revival will come up against the iron fist of the internal party structures and the ideological pressure to knuckle under to elect Miliband.

I suppose Callinicos is repeating here something similar to his position on Syrizia – emphasising what he considers its overall reformist nature. It is not clear in the final paragraph above whether  his call for  ‘all those who want to see a left alternative to Labour work together’ includes Left Unity or not. However the SWP still has not lost all its reflexes in relation to what is going on so in its Party Notes it keeps the door open while emphasising how difficult the process will be. Interestingly enough there are reports of SWP members going along to some local LU meet ups.

 

John Rees of Counterfire

John Rees of Counterfire

Currently his ex colleague from the SWP John Rees has a long analytical piece on the Counterfire website http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/theory/55-the-crisis/16388-the-crisis-in-europe-and-the-response-of-the-left that again does not mention LU by name but alludes to left electoral projects.

He puts forward as an abstractly correct line of building the revolutionary  party and carrying out the united front tactic properly. He distinguishes between the correct way Counterfire is doing it with the implicitly incorrect way of his ertswhile comrades in the SWP. He takes up the issue of developing new left parties and briefly refers to the experience of Portugal, Greece, Germany, France and Italy where we have seen significant new left parties emerge over the last ten years or so. Comparing the failure of Respect or the SSP (Scotland) to the others he states: “the most successful left electoral projects have been those that were based on the largest movements in the first place and/or on the largest splits from mainstream social democracy”. However if we look at these parties from the point of view of lasting impact rather than just votes, this is not entirely the case since Rifondazione barely exists and came from a massive split in the PCI in Italy while the Bloco in Portugal, which came out of fusion between Trotskyist, Maoist and ex-CP groups, is still going strong and is nationally significant. Die Linke is also experiencing real problems despite coming out of a mass party split. The Front de Gauche, at least the Melenchon part, did not come out of a very large split from the SP and indeed got lower votes than the NPA for a whole period. The CP part of the FdG has always been a component and does not represent a split. Nevertheless both in the cases of failure or success it was right for revolutionary forces to participate in such projects (although the FdG is a more complex issue). You could even argue that the error of the French NPA was that it defined itself too narrowly on revolutionary positions rather than on a broader basis and this led to its later crisis and opened up the space for the FdG. So if revolutionaries keep away from such parties it is no guarantee of success. Revolutionary parties who stayed out of the broad parties did not generally grow any more strongly than those who went in.

John correctly criticises ultraleft and movementist positions which refuse to develop united campaigns on concrete class struggle question with the reformist leaderships of the unions or the Labour party. I suppose he may be alluding to the ACI when he talks below of horizontalist activists and implicitly puts them in the LU project. There is no mention of Left Unity or the Ken Loach appeal in the article or as far as I know on the Counterfire website and we do not have even the limp nameless endorsement issued by SWP party notes. I remember the Communist Party used to do the same thing with the emergent New Left in the old days.

A different answer to the question of what activists should do is given by those on the left who answer this question with proposals for left of centre electoral projects that can challenge the mainstream social democratic parties.(…)

There is, in Britain at the moment at any rate, a peculiar symbiosis developing between the advocates of electoralism and the horizontalist activists. And of course in a way it’s not surprising. If one rejects the model of working class unity that depends on a revolutionary organisation aiming to sustain unity through the mechanism of the united front then activity and politics fall into two separate but mutually reinforcing poles, ‘grass roots activism’ and electoralism. The two are isolated from each other, and so cannot inform each other. The same people who decry ‘top down campaigns’ then end up with the most restricted form of general politics, electoral participation. This is of course a common phenomena: where no effective dialectically unifying practice is found then two wrong poles reinforce one another.

He, like Callinicos, seems to suggest nothing exists politically between some sort of major developments/splits in Labour movement and the steady task of building the revolutionary party along with correct united front work. The detonator of such splits and monumental changes will be struggles with the trade unions playing a major role although recently  Counterfire have taken a more savvy, open approach to the new movements than the SWP.

He is presenting a false opposition between united front work/building the revolutionary party and building intermediary class struggle movements/parties like the LU. He seems to suggest it is not possible to develop the revolutionary party, to support and build left moving parties or movements rejecting the worst of Labourism and carrying out successful united front work.  As far as I know the central initiators of Left Unity have supported and often played leadership roles in the work of the Coalition of Resistance which John suggests (correctly) is a good example of united front work. It implies that only struggles, presented in rather an economist or objectivist way in my opinion, will unblock everything. Like Callinicos he appears to counterpose waiting for major shifts in the Labour movement and consolidating the pure party rather that getting involved in projects like the LU.

Peter Taaffe

Peter Taaffe

Finally we have a key piece from Peter Taaffe, leader of the Socialist Party. First of course he condemns the Peoples Assembly against the Cuts because there may be Green party members supporting it and we have a Brighton council making cuts. He says it is not sufficiently based on trade unions. Here I think John Rees provides a very good analysis of why this is a propagandistic sectarian line. The SP activists often participate in events with reformists – they are supporting Len McCluskey against the left militant Jerry Hicks. To compare their anti-cuts vehicle, the National Shops Stewards Network, to initiatives like the People’s Assembly is just in the worse traditions of British ‘Leninism’. Then he takes a considerable swipe at Left Unity, although he does have the grace to name the group. He welcomes Ken Loach’s appeal as opening a debate but rubbishes any actual organisation around it.

“Ken Loach, the socialist, radical film director, understands that New Labour represents a dead end and therefore it is necessary to seek a new road; hence his call for people to sign up to a new ‘left unity’. By so doing, he has opened up a very welcome discussion on the need for a viable alternative to the Labour Party for working class people engaged in the anti-cuts campaigns as well as working people generally looking for an alternative to New Labour.

But this is not the first time that Ken and others have sought to create a new left force. We have seen previous attempts to form a left party: Scargill’s ill-fated Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Alliance that Ken Loach himself was involved in. These failed either because of sectarianism – the completely intolerant approach of Arthur Scargill – or the equally narrow and ultimately opportunist approach of the SWP in the Socialist Alliance and in Respect.

Learning from this, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is the first serious attempt to create the foundations of a new movement expressing the voice of the working class for their own independent party. It is in the best traditions of the labour movement with a federal constitution, and, moreover, unlike other attempts, is firmly based in the trade union movement.

Therefore, any discussion that is opening up with Ken Loach and his supporters cannot ignore the importance of TUSC. Some, including many of those gathering around Ken Loach, are political grasshoppers leaping light-mindedly from one project to another. Their ‘projects’ invariably failed.

We do not need at this critical juncture miracle workers searching for an easy route to the solution of the problems of the working class. We need, instead, a mass movement to defeat the cuts – and the trade unions offer the best hope for the vehicle that can do this. On a political level TUSC also offers the best hope for furthering the process of creating a viable new mass workers’ party.”

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/759/16429/03-04-2013/april-2013-tory-cuts-blitz

So Peter crudely presents the great ‘success’ of a federal based TUSC against the LU project, referring to the great traditions of the British labour movement to theoretically underpin this. He assumes somehow that the 7000 or so people who have signed up to the Ken Loach appeal and the 80 organisers of the local groups are all completely alien to the trade union movement. His assertion that TUSC is based on the trade union movement is because…the RMT is affiliated – the only trade union, he does not seem able to persuade the PCS, strongly influenced by the SP to join. It is not clear how the TUSC is developing incisive mass struggle currents in the trade unions. Generally the SP does that through its own party structures or the NSSN.  Nobody is underestimating the importance of the trade unions Peter but we do not abstractly fetishise them ignoring all other sources of resistance and building blocks for a new mass workers party  – the unemployed, students, precarious workers, the womens and gay movements, anti-racist struggles, ecological movements, the labour party activists and so on.

The icing on his tirade is his rather offensive epithet of  Ken Loach, Kate Hudson, Andrew Burgin, Alan Thornett, Teresa Conway, Nick Wrack and many, many others as political grasshoppers. Apart from being offensive to grasshoppers, that fulfil an important role in the ecosystem and provide protein for humans in some cultures, this is just a ridiculous argument. It would be relatively easy to look back at the history of the SP as a current and identify a whole number of turns and political projects. Lenin and Bolsheviks, so reverentially referenced by Peter, also made lots of moves.  The question is always how to relate to the concrete political situation. At the moment there are thousands of individual activists who are looking for an alternative to Miliband’s Labour. They are excited about a new party, most of them are not deluded, they do not think it will be easy (thank you Alex C. for your concerns) and some have gone through Respect or the Socialist Alliance. Hopefully we will learn from our mistakes. The biggest lesson is precisely the opposite to the one Peter draws when he rabbits on about the wonders of federalist structure.

If we want to demoralise and lose all the people coming into the LU project the quickest way of doing it will be to give special status or privileges to existing left currents or parties. The latter have to earn any leadership they might aspire to by building the project locally and nationally. Recent events in the SWP over rape allegations make this approach even more unpalatable to independent activists.  Our Left Unity has to be a beacon of internal democracy and run a mile from faux-charismatic leaders a la Galloway or Sheridan. Luckily Ken Loach is probably extremely unlikely to follow their paths and in any case the structures will hopefully be established to prevent even him having a turn and doing anything crazy.

Left Unity represents an understanding that radicalising forces do not pass immediately from reformism to revolutionary positions in one go. It is obvious that the whole process is uneven. Clearly we do not accept closed off stages in the revolutionary process or transition which can lead to the revolution being strangled by cautious, reformist forces who say this far and no further. This was what happened in a number of  revolutionary processes in the 20th century where Stalinist parties following the interests of the Russian bureaucracy would hold back (even repress) revolutionary forces in favour of the alliance with national bourgeoisies  Ken Loach’s film,  Land and Freedom, tells this story.

However an awareness of the stages in the development of revolutionary consciousness is a different matter.  Building a party or movement to challenge capitalism itself and fight for socialism requires the understanding of how this consciousness will develop. Left Unity is not the revolutionary party but it may be a party where all those activists who see themselves to the left of labour can work in practice together. We cannot predict its evolution but by definition it will include a wider range of political forces than the SWP or the SP.  It will bring together  – it is bringing together – forces from the historic Trotskyist tradtition, people who were in the CP, many people who always had a home in the Labour party, people from the movements who are understandably wary of certain Leninist practices developed in Britain and just people who were inspired by a film, who are fed up of Miliband’s grovelling and want to do something.

Far better for revolutionary currents like the SWP, Counterfire and the Socialist Party to be working together with thousands of people not previously organised by the radical left than to be pontificating about the united front from the outside. Comrades inside those groups should be asking why their leaderships are adopting these positions and are not discussing with Left Unity about building something which really might make an impact on British politics.

Dave Kellaway

 


52 comments

52 responses to “What some of the left groups are saying about Left Unity”

  1. Steve Bush says:

    More boring, predictable twaddle from the same old people. How many times will we attempt to weld together the sects, ‘independent’ sectarians and vegan priestly quaker ‘green’ vague lefty Liberals into some ‘new’ formation from which the working class will run shrieking in horror?

  2. El Che says:

    Don’t get it..I’m an SWP member and have invited local LU sec to our activities. She posted our work on website and said she would tell her members…in a positive way…..whats the problem??

    • Vincent Doherty says:

      You seriously don’t get why many people on the hard left are not enthused at this point in time about the prospect of joint work with what’s left of the SWP?

    • Dave K says:

      Thanks for your comment. The problem is that your leaderships puts Left Unity in the same boat as the internal Labour left which still has illusions in reclaiming he Labour Party. I think that is a misrepresentation of what LU is likely to be. It is great that you are working with LU supporters locally. It would be nice if your newspaper or leadership actually recognised its existence by naming us or our website so that more of your fellow members can do what you are doing on the ground. The other question of Alex Callinicos saying the internal labour left revival will be much stronger and more important than the LU project is a question of judgment and we can agree to differ on that. It would imply however that the SWP should be working much more closely that it has seriously done in the past with the internal/Owen Jones left. I hope you can continue the political discussion with your local SU group.

      • Chris McCabe says:

        With growing evictions, poverty, & many deaths among people who’ve lost their disability claim, political awareness is rising again; we desperately need a party that can save NHS & restore a sense of society, & LU has the impetus right now.

  3. Peter Morton says:

    I’ve just come from our first Left Unity get-together in Medway. There were about 20 people there; already established left activists (some, longer in the tooth than others) and many people new to politics. There were local representatives of established left groups,eg; SP, SR, several ex- awl, swp, LP, Green Party, etc (even an ex-LibDem). My point is that if LU groups are built locally, and meet regularly with an open approach to discussion and development, they will provide a poll of attraction that the existing left groups won’t be able to ignore. They will have to engage with LU at this local, grass roots level, despite what their respective national leaderships say (or not say) about LU, or became irrelevant. I would prefer this to the prospect of the CC’s of these groups getting together with the putative leadership of LU at a national level, and setting the agenda from there. Far better that we do this at the grass-roots, and let them follow us.

    • Dave K says:

      Absolutely agree, I am definitely against a federal structure like TUSC. I also think you may well be right and LU may be a focus to bring people together locally.

    • mikems says:

      Yes, what we really lack and have lacked for a long time now is good leadership.

      I expect LU has more ex-members of the SWP and SP in it than those paties currently claim in membership.

      And there lies the failure of their own leadership : they have failed to build their parties or retain members. They flit about from one urgent priority to another and the labour movement remains unbuilt and the parties remain small.

  4. Mark Perryman says:

    Thanks Dave. An informative survey.

    The experience to date tho is that if either the SWP or SP get involved the project is doomed to division and failure.

    The succss of LU wll be down to whether it reaches far beyond these groups’ membership. If it does then their opinion will rapidly become irrelevant. So don;t let get too hung up on their non-involvenent.

    Mark P

    • Zetharagon says:

      I am not SWP or SP or anything, just someone who sees that maybe just maybe Left Unity is a new party that can stop all this unfairness. So why not stop all this discussion about labels and start reaching out to ordinary people like me?

      • mikems says:

        Because these parties do exist and do and will have an influence on LU.

        Sorting out how we react to them means we will be better able to organise ourselves.

  5. Tom says:

    The SWP has made it clear they wants to be involved with any project set up by the likes of Ken Loach. Who could have thought otherwise? Seems like Mark P wants to force the SWP and the SP to stand against Left Unity. Not a very anti-sectarian approach if you ask me. The SWP will get involved unless they are witch hunted out. I have no doubt about that. I predict that the SP will get involved too before too long. We cannot afford Left Unity to stand alongside previous debris left over from past ‘left unity’ initiatives. This is a rediculous idea under a system of first-past-the-post. Anyone who wants Left Unity to stand against TUSC, Respect, the SLP and others without even going through the motions of extending olive branches for genuine left unity is highly suspect in my book. Those who refuse to engage in credible negotiations have to be exposed by the real left as sectarians. And they will all, deservedly, pay the price at the ballot box.

    • Rob Marsden says:

      The SWP and SP may or may not choose to be involved, as individuals or as organisations, but the question is what do we actually mean by ‘involvement’.

      If we are to build a sizeable, broad, democratic and pluralist party to the left of Labour then we cannot have the situation we have had in the past where the component parts of that organisation- call them groups, platforms, affiliates or whatever- devote more of their energy (and finances!) to building up their own public profile than they do the profile of the broad party.

      For a Left Party to really get off the ground, I would expect it to have its own publications, posters, placards on demonstrations and to be THE organisation holding regular political meetings in each town.

      I would NOT expect, if an organisation like the SP or SWP came on board, that it would continue with its current level of ‘public’ work. Instead, it should put its resources fully behind building Left Unity, arguing for its politics within, of course, but operating primarily as a platform within it.

      That, for me, is the central lesson of the failed projects of the past- Socialist Alliance, Respect and TUSC- where this did not happen.

      And it is also the lesson of some of the more successful left parties in Europe where pre-existing left groups operate primarily as currents within a broader organisation composed, in the main, of what we can call, for want of a better term, ‘ordinary members’.

      Forward to a British Syriza!

      Rob Marsden
      Tamworth Left Unity

      • Left unity manchester says:

        Rob,
        I think this is a brilliant point. If we weren’t all running around doing the same things in a small, divided way, but together doing them as one, unified force then we would be so much more effective. We need to pool our resources and join together under Left Unity.
        Good luck in Tamworth
        Jenny

      • John Penney says:

        You make some vital points, Rob, and Dave . The tiny grouplets (and we are talking about only a few thousand people, in total, lets be clear) of the revolutionery Left, are very keen to “engage” with broad, loosely structured “united front” or even “popular front” campaigns. OK, partly because they agree with the aims of the campaign, and want to be part of a broadly based struggle. But there is always one central objective – to recruit from the broad campaigns into their small, tightly structured, usually Trotskyist-based, revolutionery grouplets . I’m an ancient ex-Trot myself so I can understand that. However,it guarantees that pretty soon the broad front campaigns will disintegrate into factional infighting of course – but along the (usually short)way often some good political work is done, ie, Stop the War Coalition, Respect, TUSC, etc, etc, etc.

        Breaking out of the tiny revolutionery Left sectarian quagmire requires a much more open , politically flexible (but principled) political movement, organised as a coherent membership-based PARTY, with a broad-ranging programme, and the ability to contest electorally up against the now totally , and forever, politically degenerated Labour Party, as well as participating in and organising the broad anti austerity struggle in the commumnity and workplace/trades unions.

        The small revolutionery sects will hate that – they wont find it so easy to simply enter and recruit from a coherent radicalsocialist party compared to a loose campaign. The Owen Jones types will hate it too – because it poses a real threat to the Left voting (and electoral activist) base of the Labour Party. The whole purpose of all the “steer Labour Leftwards again” guff is merely to retain for yet another electoral cycle the illusion in Labour as a useful vote for socialists and working people generally. I think we’ve all wasted quite enough time on that illusion !

        Left Unity (or whatever “Party” name it adopts) will have to be a principled radical socialist party, far to the left of what Labour is , or ever was, but it doesn’t have to be, and musn’t be, yet another “Leninist” neo-Bolshevik sect. Fighting the austerity offensive uncompromisingly does not require everybody involved is signed up to full revolutionery overthrow of capitalism, or to a completely identical vision of what “socialism” actually looks like in the fine detail. The limits of reformism, and indeed the opposite, how far a resolutely determined mass socialist party can win concessions from capitalism in the short term, are issues which can be worked out in practice , as the struggle develops. One things for sure, without attracting masses of peole to engage in radical resistance activity on a broad front, in an open and discussion rich democratic socialist movement, the Left will remain completely marginal to political life, and the down the line issues about “reform versus revolution” will remain abstract issues for small sects to pontificate about in empty roopms.

    • Dave K says:

      Agreed, we need to be flexible about any electoral strategy and definitely engage in discussions with other left forces including the Greens. You are right too that we should not be less open to the organised groups than to independents or ex-Labour people. However I don’t think the SWP have made it clear they want to be involved in the Ken Loach project. Callinicos would have mad to frontally oppose it but he has hardly endorsed in the way he has defined it politically and in his prognosis of our weakness.

    • Clara says:

      Well said, lets work together on this it’s really the only chance we have- sectarianism within the left is something we may have a real chance to leave behind. A mini peace process within the left for the greater good……

    • Brian says:

      The fate of LU will be decided,above all, by what impression it makes on the trade union movement. If LU can show those unions no longer affiliated to Labour that it is a viable and realistic party for them to affiliate to, then LU may have a future. This would be a most useful contribution for LU to make, since we must avoid,at all costs, the nightmare scenario of unions affiliating to a dozen different sectarian groups, all at each others throats. That really would turn the clock back a hundred years to the time before the foundation of the Labour Party. In order to make a good impression on the unions, LU will have to make a strong showing of unity itself, and an equally strong showing of non-secatarianism towards those unions still affiliated to Labour. Contrast this with those who heckled Len McCluskey at the closing plenary of the People’s Assembly on 22 June.An intelligent left force should always be positive and encouraging to those unions, such as Unite,campaigning for a break from new Labour and bringing trade unionism into localities with their community branches, sponsoring a page in the Mirror, and raising the possibility of a trade union conference in the future to consider whether the trade unions want to remain with new Labour.Any decision about the foundation or refoundation of a party of Britain’s working people is a decision for the mass organisations of Britain’s working people to make and their decision alone.If LU could make an intelligent contribution to this, that would be good.

  6. Dave Edwards says:

    A considered article. Expect more antagonism from the usual suspects as Left Unity grows and is “seen as” a “threat”. That is; the usual suspects world view is one that sees difference as a threat. In contrast a healthy approach would be to welcome additional ways of developing a socialist project, even if you did not fully agree with it. And then go on to see how you could work with it. Ha! fat chance of that. Which is of course why Left Unity is needed in the first place. To get away from self-centered organisations which have a veiw of the world that they are totally ‘correct’ and everyone else is in the dark pit of hell. Enough of that, let’s get on with social intercourse and building in a living society.

  7. Mark Perryman says:

    Its really very simple, and nothing to do with ‘sectarianism’ or ‘with-hunts’.

    The vast majority of those on the outside left are not, and often have never been, members of any Far Left Groups.

    The success so far in attracting 7000 signatories and forming 70 local groups indicates Left Unity has at least begun to tap into that audience.

    The combined membership of all the organised Far Left groups is considerably less than 7000. If Left Unity is dominated by these grups it will have failed.

    That doesn’t preclude experienced activists from those grops geting involved, thiugh the need for the organised left’s support is often over-estimated. The fact is they quite naturally prioritise maintaining their own structres, menbership, finances and profile. Left Unity needs to be composed of those who put Left Unity first.

    The experience of all parties made up mainly of the SWP and/or SP has been division, and failure.

    Mark P

    • Callum says:

      Mark,

      You seem to be confusing getting people to sign an online petition with commitment to actually getting involved. It’s very impressive that the list is so large, but over 250,000 signed an online petition against IDS, does that mean we could build a movement of that size against welfare reform? Possibly, not necessarily.

      Your somewhat conspiratorial attitude to the revolutionary left is the first thing you need to jettison. The idea that any serious left formation is going to emerge without the activists on the extant left is just silly. That’s certainly not how Syriza (a more dodgy brand than people think anyway) emerged. In fact, Syriza operates on the basis of recognized platforms and currents, the same model you seem to be saying leads to disaster.

      You are quite right to be cynical bout the previous experiences, but to blame the failure on SSP/Respect/Socialist Alliance on the ‘sectarian far left’ or ‘charismatic leaders’ is an easy solution that avoids tackling the real problems.

  8. Jim Board says:

    An interesting piece but one that feels unnecessarily defensive.

    I, like the previous, “poster,” above am an SWP member who has already made contact with the LU organiser in our area, work closely with a broad layer of left activists locally, regionally and nationally both within the trade unions and without and find the LU project to be a really welcome initiative. To describe this as initiating an important debate on the left in Britain is, of course, formally correct but there is a sense in which LU has a much more significant potential than just, “debate.”

    It seems to me that what LU speaks to is the oft commented need for all of those, “left,” forces to put aside their differences and to join together toward the common goal of a society (indeed a world) which is built in our interests and those of the vast majority of ordinary people. The appeal to unity in the face of the most aggressive, “class war,” offensive by the rich and shameless. This is what very many people instinctively want and correctly identify as our best hope of fighting off those attacks.

    That being said, acknowledging the importance of this does not mean that the analyses expressed by other left groups can have nothing to say or to offer for consideration. To describe LU, as AC does, as representing a reformist regroup meant to the left of Labour does not strike me as particularly startling or critical. It is, rather, an accurate description of the terrain on which we will fight in the immediate term. To describe LU as an, “intermediary,” between the politics of reformism and a potentially more explicitly revolutionary formation is an interesting opening comment and one which, I hope, will be debated more fully over coming months.

    Reformism is not a slander. The traditional comment that revolutionaries make the best reformists (apart from being what many of us tell ourselves to keep ourselves warm at night as the cold winter of, “Austerity,” continues, has a very real grain of truth. It is precisely because of the passion and commitment of those that want to see a better world (reformists and revolutionaries alike) that we fight both within and against the system of law, capitalist economics and class struggle to win the change we want to see. As John Rees once said, “Every day I wake up a reformist!”

    To observe and to comment in the immediate reformist nature of the LU project is simply about the, “now,” the early stages of this initiative, not to condemn it. I believe that SWP members will be as interested to participate in this as many others on the left whether aligned or not. But, ultimately, what makes the difference between where it starts from and where it goes is whether it is able to fully express the anger of working class people, to, “speak,” for the millions of those affected by austerity and to hold out an alternative that can inspire and lead. In short, it will be class struggle in Britain that will determine whether a, “reformist,” project develops beyond its starting point into the radicalised and more explicitly revolutionary and transformative force we need.

  9. Doug says:

    Rob Marsden, to what degree he’s actually serious, has raised an interesting point – ‘Forward to a British Syriza!’ If that becomes a consensus goal of any new Left Unity organisation then it’s a potentially disastrous road – we do not want a British Syriza!

    • Rob Marsden says:

      Perhaps Doug could elaborate on why he does not want a British Syriza? A popular left party, uniting all shades of opinion to the left of social-democracy (ie Labourism) and capable of mounting the sort of electoral challenge we can only dream of.
      For me its a no-brainer but does anyone else here think that the purpose of Left Unity is for us to remain small and marginal?

  10. I think this article misses something out: that grass roots members of these parties might feel differently locally, from their leadership’s national evaluation, about Left Unity. I think we want as many folk involved, and I’m very happy to be working with SWP and SP comrades in my local LU group. I’m not expecting them to follow or justify every detail that one of their leaders comes out with. It’s not the 1950s, and these groups just don’t operate like disciplined phalanxes.

  11. George Anthony says:

    Once again the ultra-left attack all other left groupings when left unity is the only way forward
    The hallmark of the ultra-left through history

  12. O. Lorian says:

    As an SWP member I think there’d be nothing better than a mass left party contesting elections. It’s what we all want (including the swp). But being adventurist and diving in too early will result in burnt fingers just like the SA & respect fiascos. The way I see it, for the LU project to get off the ground and be genuine force in politics 3 things are required

    1) Green party gets on board, whether we like them or not, they’re the biggest group to the left of labour. All the left partys syriza fdg etc. all include the greens. In this country its going to be nigh on impossible to get them on board becaue they’re doing fine as it is, they’ve got an MP and various cllrs. Its unlikely that they’ll want to lose their emerging profile to get in bed with us commies

    2) The labour left gets on board, by this I basically mean Owen Jones. There are genuine socialist activists in the LP. If we don’t have that relatively large group with us then its not a broad left reformist party at all. We’ll continue to lose socialists to labour without LU being the main pole of attraction for those on the left

    3) Labour become completely discredited ‘a la’ PASOK. Syriza grew because people saw the concrete actions of PASOK and decided that for those on the anti-cuts left PASOK was no longer a vehicle for any kind of change. Labour here are just fudge and illusions remain, though if they win in 2015 this should change (this one is the most realistic of all 3)

    Thoughts from LUers?

    • John Penney says:

      As an enthusiastic advocate of the “Left Unity concept” nevertheless I also sympathise with “”Doug’s” comment that “we do not want a British Syriza”. We all have been inspired by the way the Syriza coalition exploded in size and voting support in no time at all . However, and its a BIG however, I don’t know if most UK Left enthusiasts for Syriza are aware just how far the “leadership circles” of Syriza have drastically moved it opportunistically to the right over the last few months – allying themselves with a split of from the Greek Conservatives (ND) – in fact showing every sign of embracing some sort of “national salvation front” compromise with their bourgeoisie.

      Syriza’s background and composition is very specific to Greece, so I’m not suggesting any direct lessons for Left Unity – other than the habitual danger of radical socialists being drawn into “managing capitalism” for the bosses (by the attractions of office, the ideological power of “patriotism, or trying to appear “responsible” to international investors), The Green’s “Brighton predicament” on a national scale. Given the rapid degeneration of Syriza’s politics though, I suggest we stop using it as a “benchmark exemplar” for the direction we wish to go, other than as an example of swift growth achieved through combining Left forces to offer (until recently) a dynamic and uncompromising opposition to Austerity !

    • mikems says:

      FdG does not include the greens. EEDV – the French Green party – had an agreement with the PS in the last elections, though some EEDV splits did support FdG.

  13. Mark Perryman says:

    Its a most curious idea that in Britain we wouldn’t want to match the most successful left of social democracy formation in all of Europe. Of course we wouldn’t replicate Syrizia precisely, but the idea we have nothing to learn from thee and other formations of this sort across Europe should be anathema to LU.

    On the SWP and SP, sure if they want to get involved locally but the hallmark of LU’s success will be characterised by reavhing way beyond the tiny membership of these groups .

    On O’Lorian’s ‘presscriptions for success’.

    ‘As an SWP member’ he/she writes then passes over the SA and Respect fiascos that the SWP was instrumental in causing. A little more political honesty and humility would go a long way in the SWP being taken seriously.

    He/she lists three criteria

    The Green Party – I’m not sure about Greece but in Fance and Germany the Green Party are outside of Die Linke and Front de Gauche. What is key is that LU is re-green. And that it seeks co-operation with the Gren Party wherever practicable including electorally. Welcoming in particular Caroline Lucas’s election and actively seeking to help her save her seat from the utterly pointless targeting of it by Labour.

    The Labour Left – No they’re not going to up sticks, it is futile to expect that. So we again co-operate where we can, not contesting seats held by good left wingers.

    Discredited Labour – typical SWP micawberism ‘ waiting for the upturn’, politucs is about making the conditions for change. The LU response provides the basis for evolution into a significant formation to Labour’s left, we don;t wait until Labour disappoints to turn that into practice.

    Mark P

    • O. Lorian says:

      Mark, maybe our idea of what LU would like is different. But I would want is THE main pole of attraction for the anti-cuts left. If there’s still a left wing in the LP and a green party then LU wouldn’t be that automatic pole of attraction, therefore it’ll just be SA and Respect all over again i.e. one left party amongst other. LU has to aim to be THE reformist party of the left in the same way labour was in its inception.

      I’m not saying to wait until Labour’s discredited in the same way PASOK has (through national implementation of austerity). Just dont expect to get anywhere until it does (indeed Syriza got single figure percentages in the years preceeding Pasok austerity). On SA and respect I’d tend to agree with you, but other factors contributed to that too.

  14. Mark Perryman says:

    O. Lorian

    Thanks, thars helpful.

    Its unrealistic to expect LU to instantly becme THE anti-cuts party. For many that woll remain Labour. But rooted in localities, dynamic campaign, strong candidates can establish LU as an alternative especially in PR elections and local councils where people have more than one vote.

    Clearly Labour in government failing to be much different to the Con-Dems will expand that space but we can’t just wait for that to happen. As the resonse to the appeal and the local groups begins to indicate there is already a constituency radiny and wlling to build something better.

    On SA and Respect. If LU establishes itself as a one meber one vote party from the start, with appropriate use of voting via the inernet as well as a national council consisting pf local group reps then the abiity of one group and/or idividual to dominte will be reduced while maxikmising the participaton of members. A horizontally organised party should be the key organisational principle.

    Mark P

  15. Jonno says:

    Sounds like the battle by the SWP to “win the new movement to their ideas” has begun, these missives above will not be individual initataives, I sincerely hope this doesn’t become a Socialist Alliance Mk2, I think the emergent grouping will have to address the ‘SWP’ issue almost immediately,
    namely their M.O of ‘control or destroy. The awful thing is, the new members will quite rightly hate this and just see the usual divisions, the experienced(though rapidly dwindling) SWP cadres who will turn up hell or high water will accuse people of being ‘sectarians’ even though the whole point of the new party is that none of these 19thC left can dominate what is a truly exciting and fresh .

    I can’t articulate it as well as some of the other posters, but we will need to have to have a horizontal organised entity, with strong powers of recall, maximum transparency, though being aware not everyone can afford to be online,
    absolutely no tolerance of gerrymandering strategies, lower membership fees for unemployed, etc the groups really shouldn’t be dominated by the middle class, etc.

    I am very pleased that many groups are positing ideas of creating social projects, like the old SPD and of course the Black Panthers, though this can very draining on a groups resources.

  16. Theo says:

    Yes. I think the social projects ideas are crucial. They are the right thing to do to build a real working class movement that means something in the present and not just at elections – mutual aid – and where the left fail to have them in place the fascists can steal a march on us very quickly if things get really tough as in Greece. That’s an urgent danger for us to be preparing for from the outset.

    I’m interested to know what smaller left groupings like AWL etc have been making of LU.

  17. Tom says:

    The poisonous British establishment has closed ranks in order to smear all the victims of Margaret Thatcher’s wretched government. What are we going to do about this? Jonathon Dimbleby is a decent journalist by any standards, even if he has crossed a picket line or two.

    When it comes to Any Questions, he has been scrupulously fair n all the years I’ve listened. Can’t, off the top of my head, come up with any exception to that rule. However, often the only decent points made on Any Questions are those he makes himself as well, of course, as those made by the audience. Not infrequently, all four of his guests are utterly wretched right-wing bastards.

    Yesterday’s edition (repeated within the last hour) did have John Cooper QC, and he did make a fair number of excellent points. He is also someone who has supported many good causes, like representing the Occupy protestors in court. However, even he refused to challenge the anti-trade union bias that is misrepresented these days as common sense at the BBC, alongside SKY News, Channel Four News etc. Margaret Thatcher, we are told (by Ed Miliband as well as Alan Johnson, Tony Blair and Neil Kinnock and John Cooper) was absolutely right to take on the trade unions. And we are expected to sit back and agree with all of this? Fuck off!

    What exactly are trade unions, by the way? They are the most elementary form of working class organisation, and a million times more democratic than our wretched monarchy with half the legislature unelected, a first-past-the-post system that stops us voting for who we like, mass media that spends a fortune in propaganda to manipulate the result, as Rupert Murdoch’s vile SUN boasted they did. Those who own the factories etc are subject to zero democratic scrutiny. Shareholder democracy is bullshit. It says that the richer you are the more votes you get. Fuck that for a game of soldiers.

    Trade unions are democratic organizations that workers use to set limits on the rate of exploitation by those who are privileged enough to own the means of production, distribution and exchange, as often as not no thanks to their own hard work but because they have inherited wealth or married into inherited wealth, with both wealth and lack of wealth cascading down the generations, century after century.

    This exploitation is in no sense eliminated by trade union activity. So long as a profit is being made by those whose labour fuels the capitalist system, then exploitation remains a fact of life. Ed Miliband can join Lord Tebbit and Rupert Murdoch in defending capitalism, but their lies on behalf of the exploiters changes nothing. All this bullshit is ineffectual in changing reality. It has the same status as The Pope’s placing Galileo under house arrest. He could stop the world discovering the evidence that the moons of Jupiter orbited it and did not orbit the Earth as the Catholic Church would have us believe. But they couldn’t bury the truth forever. And the same is true when it comes to all the anti-Marxist drivel of the capitalist BBC. The truth will out.

    Workers organise to limit the supply of labour power. Simple logic of supply and demand thereby pushes up the bargaining power of that commodity. And that allows the worker to eat, and to have enough left over to put food on the table of those of us too young, old, or infirm to work, and to put a roof over the heads of himself/herself and the rest of their family, and maybe to even have a little left over for luxuries like a holiday, television, computer, car and other stuff.

    This power of organized labour allows us to defend decent health and safety legislation for the workers and for the public as well. Economic strikes have always had a tendency to burst through some arbitrary political ceiling and change government policy. Happened in France in 1968. Happens all the time, all over the world. It has happened in Britain too. That is what Thatcher’s government set out to change. She used the brutal state (using illegal police tactics, by the way) to attempt to cripple the organized working class. We fought bravely in 1984-85, but, despite everything, we did lose. We lost because the leaders of our movement refused to pull their weight. They talked a good fight, but they let us down. Badly, with one or two honorable exceptions. Arthur Scargill was one of those exceptions.

    Arthur Scargill is not the most popular figure on the left anymore. I am sorry about that. I always had disagreements with him. Over Poland’s Solidarity trade union, and the rest of the Stalinist regimes, for example. Nevertheless, he fought bravely. And he doesn’t deserve how he has been treated, regardless of some of the mistakes he may have made in the intervening years. The SLP was a step forward in the face of Tony Blair’s ripping up of Clause Four, but we need democracy, comrades. The same arguments apply with George Galloway’s RESPECT.

    Everyone needs to remember what happened to us during the Great Miners Strike. Everyone lucky enough to have been politically active at that time. Initially, my party (the SWP) wanted to boycott the Miners Support Groups, to rely on Socialist Worker groups, but that position didn’t last long. Very quickly comrades learnt to appreciate that there was something in the air. The best of the left grew together rapidly. This happened semi-spontaneously as a consequence of what the miners were doing. Thirst for unity in our common class struggle was palpable throughout our movement. Sectarians were given short shift. We need to remember that feeling, to become inspired once more by the rewriting of history that we are seeing today as a result of Thatcher’s death.

    The ninety nine percent are simply refusing to be intimidated by a media out of control, with Tory propagandists who think they have brainwashed us. We will download what the fuck we like. If the BBC censors our choice this week, then next week I expect it will be Elvis Costello’s “Tramp the Dirt Down”. Who knows what it will be after that. We are simply not going to be dictated to by an out-of-control, out-of-touch shower of Thatcherite bastards.

    Not satisfied with denying us a single supporter of the socialist attitude to class solidarity on Question Time, Any Questions or This Week (Will Self wasn’t up to that job either), Anita Anand virtually reduced a victim of Thatcher’s class war against the miners to tears, then she insults a wonderful woman who supplied the Any Answers phone-in programme with one excellent point after another as a conspiracy theorist! Quite sickening.

    We are going to protest. And we need to work together. We need to resist sectarians who want to set us all at each others throats at every point in time. We will argue over strategy, tactics, even principles. We are going to fall out, specific individuals finding it impossible to work with someone or other. Personalities do get in the way and insults don’t heal overnight. We will form opinions and suspicions. But we need to be able to work together for the good of our movement.

    We need Left Unity, comrades. Ken Loach, naturally, needs to play a key role in any new electoral alternative to what Ed Miliband delivered up to our class in the House of Commons the day it sank into hypocritical eulogies for a dead Tory bastard. We cannot afford leaders who want our class to put up with more of the same old discredited pro-capitalist polices, including bankrupt Keynesianist borrowing. Even someone who promised a lot more than Ed Miliband ever will (Holland) started betraying as soon as he got elected. The capitalist markets don’t give you much choice if you support their legitimacy. The socialist left needs a strategic approach. We need to examine class forces. We need to take a long, hard, sober look at the first-past-the-post electoral system. And that means we can’t be indifferent to the splitting of the left vote. That is what Miliband wants us to do. It is what Blair wants, what Cameron, Murdoch and Farage want. I propose we don’t give them that satisfaction.

  18. Mikhail says:

    “people who were in the CP”? How about people who ARE in the CP? It is kinda weird to place specifics if this is supposed to be called “left unity” no? If these “open minded” guys/gals are already drawing up the map of what is acceptable this will become yet another infantile lefty project that will sound real good…for a little while. Otherwise if this is even remotely serious, best of luck as anything pushing back the current reality of the world can’t be a bad thing.

  19. Sophie Katz says:

    I think Dave Kellaway has written a thoughtful piece. And the enthusiastic support in England behind Left Unity (I don’t know enough about Scotland and Wales) does tell us that there is a continuing, albeit elementary, emergence of a genuine radical left political current in the country; the first since the Benn/Scargill movement of 1981 – 9. Reflections in the article on the European left as an important part of the debate here, are also healthy. Then, inevitably, there are a lot of the old conundrums.

    What do ‘we’ (there are various types of ‘wes’ in the that discussion follows Kellaway’s piece) do about the Labour Left and Owen’s ambitions? Are the old far left organisations /any/some/a lot/ of use? What were the ‘decisive’ mistakes of the SLP; Socialist Alliance; Respect; TUSC etc? And what will be OUR (Left Unity’s) particular and novel formula to avoid them?

    Can we step back? It might sound a bit grand to write it – and it should be recognised that the organised expressions of this new political current are still very small – both inside and outside the LP – but these steps toward organisation are still part of our society, part of a social system, and therefore susceptible to critical marxist analysis as much as any other concrete historical phenomena. Left Unity’s successful development in the future will clearly depend, in part, on some serious answers to a set of concrete ‘what do we do about?’ (see above) type questions. But it is also a unique combination of the political trends and contradictions that create its identity in the world in which it lives. It is a living thing, which grows (or not) among, and as part of, and in contradiction to, other living elements of political and social reality.

    From that perspective there are, perhaps, some rather more fundamental observations that might be made, and some more elementary problems about Left Unity, that might better inform concrete tactics regarding the answers to the ‘what do we do about …’ type questions.

    My aim is to see if anybody else wants to write something about this. But here are some initial remarks.

    The current government has been driven into a bunker. It is a victim of the political crisis of our rulers across Europe and wider. The IMF has picked up the scent. So have signal parts of the Euro-bureaucracy. They are getting frightened by the social consequences of 5 years of austerity. They are starting to call for ‘growth’ policies. Miliband has also picked up the scent. And millions of ordinary people in Britain who are already worn down by austerity and see that there is none of the promised light at the end of the tunnel; instead the tunnel’s length keeps growing; they pick up the shifts among the rulers and consider their own experiences and they are starting to think austerity has failed. Miliband wants to head a conglomerate in Britain composed of the IMF’s dictums, the Hollande wing of the Euro leadership, Vince Cable etc., and drag into it anyone with a vote in 2015. That’s Miliband’s plan. That’s who and how he proposes to surround the Coalition’s wagons. His ‘thinkers’ describe it as a strategy for unity of the left. How does Left Unity respond to that context? Unite all those who already believe that Labour will be no use? Ok. But what will Left Unity say to the mainstream; to those hundreds of thousands who have fought against austerity. We are the ‘real’ unity of the left?

    Miliband’s current perspective is also ‘left unity.’ By 2015 Miliband’s call for unity will drown out anybody else’s. More importantly, millions of people may see a vote for a Labour Government as the obvious, basic and essential expression of left unity; against the right; against the Coalition parties. The Owen part of the new radical left current will also back that view. What will ‘Left Unity’ the political organisation, represent in that circumstance; those that do not vote? Will abstention in the context of 2015 represent the older disgust with both main parties after the Blair and Brown’ premierships, who offered only the status quo? Or will the working class vote for Labour on this occasion represent the first political expression of opposition to austerity by millions of working class people? Could passive voting and support for Tweedle Dum over Tweedle Dee become its opposite; a positive act that could potentially increase confidence and participation in the future struggle?

    In other words it may be a worthy enterprise to group all those who see themselves to the left of Labour – but not if you cut them off from the vast majority of those who not only fight austerity but who are beginning to think that we should get rid of it. Forming a radical group that bridges the gap; that offers to take the new radical political current emerging in society towards the leadership of the whole; is one thing. Forming a radical group because we think everybody else has ‘not got it’ just wastes time and people.

    These sort of questions are paramount for any new grouping. Taking them on brings us closer to having no interests separate and apart from the working class – to coin a phrase.

  20. Peggy Colebank says:

    Could it be that some people have a problem with teaming up with the SWP? Their latest wheeze being to fuck up an allegation of rape by not telling plod. I consider myself left but I won’t go near the SWP now. Had their supporters haranguing me on twitter because I brought up the rape-denial problem. Apologists one and all.

  21. Liz Beech says:

    Since I work in feminist circles I am aware of the ‘problem’ that occurred when the SWP seemed incapable of dealing with serious sexual harassment allegations with integrity. Like Peggy Colebank I lost any residual respect for this group.

    In common with, (I hazard) more people than you might imagine, I want involvement with a movement committed to systemic change. Above all I want to feel hopeful about the future for my children and grandchildren. Almost every comment I have read has rehearsed the same arguments or presumed that everyone reading them (the comments) are familiar with the dismal history of left of centre groups since the neo-liberal agenda took hold. I’m not – having avoided involvement with squabbling circles for a very long time, so I couldn’t follow all the references. That said, the comments alone are putting me off LU. I think the most sensible comment hs been about people getting together locally, an idea that might help form affinity groups who could work out their own ways of coming to decisions. Just for the record, I have noticed an increasing tendency to presume that horizontal decision making ia a dead duck, (is this the result of David Harvey’s recent pronouncements on the topic?) As someone involved with the process group at Occupy (St. Paul’s) I would only remark that we spent many months finding ways that consensus decision making could be refined to eliminate the tyranny of ‘the block’. However idealistic consensus decision making might be I would hope it is not to be dismissed out of hand at this embryonic stage of creating alternatives.

  22. Geoff Collard says:

    I agree. I suspect like many others with a long history of acquaintance with various Left wing groups, I am not optimistic about the Left’s ability to truly come together without time-wasting sectarian back-biting. But for all that I hope Left Unity may be able to rise above it and truly make links between people and groups on the Left based on mutual respect and a recognition of the simple truth that we all essentially want the same thing – a socially just and equal society in which the exploiters cannot flourish, where resources are redistributed accordingly among all equally, and where the need for the sustainability of our planet is recognized. I think Liz’s and others’ comments about the groups operating at a local level must be right. Once we have an ‘organisation’ (based in London) you immediately have the makings of a centralised rigid ‘top-down’ structure which will then get hamstrung by the usual divisions and descend into a self-obsessed paralysis, not able to deliver what it seeks to achieve. Best I think for LU groups to organise themselves locally.

  23. Bugsy says:

    I dunno really. In spite of the new grouping calling itself “Left Unity”, there appear to be a fair proportion of folks who’re intent on not actually displaying any “Unity” at all with their kneejerk condemnations of SWP and/or SP members. In a Capitalist society it stands to reason that certain Capitalist characteristics are unconsciously absorbed to a greater or lesser extent. In this case I’m talking about the tendency to regard everything as a sort of competition – “my” organisation’s better than yours! Continuing in that vein is a certain recipe to gradually introduce the very sectarianism that Left Unity was ostensibly designed to avoid.

    It would be nice if there was only one revolutionary organisation on the left, but that’s wishful thinking. So let’s combine our strength as often as we can on issues that we believe in and avoid as best we can falling into the trap of imagining ourselves in some sort of race against each other. We should attempt to keep sight of the fact that we all want the same result, i.e. a much better and more equitable and just life for as many folks as possible. Even the slightly arrogant and elitist dismissal of any reformists should be unacceptable. I mean, who knows? They might just succeed and deserve encouragement for their efforts, however futile we might believe them to be.

    MsG

  24. Mike Pesch says:

    As a formers lefty who has intentionally kept out off left politics for a number of years since I was involved in the LP, I find the discussion on left unity a bit of a re-run.
    I understand the sincerity which is essential to getting any serious results, and the enormity of the problems of getting organisations like the SWP an SP to give any ground to what is only a dream for many of us who have been down this road before.

    I have only started looking at the question of building a serious party to the left of labour again since I saw Ken Loaches “Spirit of 45” which pricked at my consiounce a little and made me re-think the past. I have seen how the Revolutionary left have tried to bring the struggle forward. I have tried the labour route at the branch, union, and Local Government level. Some of us can only do so much and then we have to get back to the real world of familys and everyday life because politics offers no help here.

    To take the issue of building a Party to the left of Labour to the next level that can really make a difference or at the least offer some hope of political security for the future requires an enormous break with the past and a real heart felt need for change in our attitudes to all irrespective of their current political experiences and affiliations.

    Yes the current perpectives and discussion will go ahead and I truelly hope and would encourage everyone to participate to what ever level they can, but let us all be clear that to make the next qualitive step we must go beyond the cosy group culture that has existed within the left for so long and make a truelly revolutionary committment to uniting all progressive currents at a one to one level that goes beyond the curent safe party politics. I will contine to follow developments. and keep discussing the issues of the day with whoever I can.

    Mikep

  25. Bob & Ruth Chapman says:

    As socialist we feel a moral obligation to support any organisation that aims to unite the left, yet have serious reservations that the left is capable of unity.
    1. Over the years we have had several examples of parties and individuals that have called for unity, often in order to promote their own objectives.
    2. Realisation that the burden of a failed economic strategy is being targeted at the poor and working poor is becoming clearer yet the public call is still for fairer capitalism not socialism.

  26. barbara brown says:

    Enough already! Blah blah blah. So many differences but we do have a commonality–we are all human and we know that what is going on is NOT RIGHT. We have a voice but we are talking to each other. The 99% will remain powerless unless everyone has rightful access to unbiased honest media. Remember George Galloway on Talk Sport? Don’t we learn from each other on Twitter? The public doesn’t know half of what is going on. People just disbelieve me when I say that we are losing our NHS. They internalise the stuff the BBC and Sky churn out. Well then, the priority should surely be a radio station. It has to be provocative and educative. Effort put into a truly alternative radio station would achieve cohesion amongst us and place power in our hands. Now wouldn’t that be something. Who would put their hands in their pockets for our own radio station. Plenty, I bet.

  27. Jimmy Roberts says:

    I left my “reply” to the debate on the Socialist platform earlier today – Thursday, 15th August 2013. I do not see it on your website. Can you explain its omission/disappearance/censorship? One thing I sincerely hope for is that the methods, dirty tricks, and gangsterism of Stalinism do not find a new nest in the new Left Unity organisation. If so, it will be stillborn as these cuckoos and enemies of the working class and socialism doubtless intend.

  28. Shaun May says:

    Hello Jimmy
    I posted a critique of Left Unity. It didn’t appear. I am discretely informed that they are subjecting posts to a strict censorship like the rest of the left sects and cults. It’s just another sectarian ‘initiative’ which has coem into the world stillborn. For example, at an aggregate in Yorkshire, observers were denied speaking rights. Even trades councils give observers (non-delegates) full speaking rights. It not worth bothering with.

    Shaun
    Hull

  29. ann bennett says:

    a sad reflection on how far from the revolutionary party politics the ex Militant has strayed , P Taffe used to be so good , he now sounds like all the other defeated left groups , we don’t have the time to wait for perfect conditions to prevail before we form a new party , as Marxs said we have nothing to lose but our chains .

  30. Art D. Cummins says:

    Far too many words in this topic to attract much fresh support; Hasn’t any activist noticed? bird watchers & Jehovah’s Witnesses get more support than politics. In face of the oncoming ‘Gagging Law’ against pressure groups campaigns, is not the simplest, most relevant benefit of forming a new political party, that it will circumvent the intention of the law & also pool our limited resources. Forget nuances of ideological historical dialectic & forge a force with a specific aim – give the electorate an inspiring (not boring) reason to vote for as many Left Unity MPs as poss. Tall order? Yes! Let’s get on with it.

  31. Mark Ewington says:

    Which ever way those of us on the left look at it I think we need to engage both in revolutionary activity but crucially also have an electoral strategy. I have been so so many meetings in my life but I think if we have the courage of our convictions then we need an electoral strategy in local elections. We should make no assumptions and test our ideas on the door steps of people that desperately need a left alternative to vote for. Otherwise we run the risk of remaining a load of abstract depressives.

  32. Philip Foxe says:

    Having been in the SWP for 20 years, living through the dark days of the miners’ defeat and witnessing the SWP’s utter opportunism in various united fronts, culminating in their criminal destruction of Respect, I would question whether they have any role to play in Left Unity. When I hear them(or other unreformed Leninists) talking, it makes my blood boil. The sheer arrogance,sense of superiority and inability to see beyond their blinkered world is infuriating. I left the SWP in the early 90’s and have not witnessed any attempt within it to understand its inevitable decline. Counterfire consists of people like German and Rees who were happy to crush dissent when in the SWP and lead the Party down a cul-de-sac.Their hermetically sealed world view is actually chilling to behold.


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

About Left Unity   Read our manifesto

ACTIVIST CALENDAR

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

20 January 2018
Conference: Turkey under the state of emergency

10am to 4pm at NUT, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD

Solidarity with the People of Turkey

Register here

26/27 February 2018
Mobilise against Trump’s visit

Trump is expected to visit Britain at this time. Protests to be announced.

More events »

GET UPDATES

Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.

CAMPAIGNING MATERIALS

Get the latest Left Unity resources.

Broadsheet: No One is Illegal!

Transform journal

Placard and broadsheet: NHS Emergency

More resources »