2021 National Conference Decisions

1. Beautiful World, where are we? – North London Branch

The contours of the multiple crises facing humanity are clear even if the details and the depth of those crises are sometimes hidden from our immediate view. From the environmental and climate catastrophe to the poverty and oppression faced by hundreds of millions of people, overlaid by the threat of war and economic collapse, few would deny that we face an existential emergency.

Our organisation Left Unity was founded in 2013 in response to the austerity programme of the Coalition government and the absence of a serious opposition on the left. These austerity policies sought to place the burden of the 2007/9 financial meltdown in the world economy on the backs of the working class while protecting the banks and the rich. The government’s austerity agenda had the support of the Labour Party, and the Labour leader at that time, Ed Miliband, went into the 2015 general election pledging to cut public spending.

Thousands of socialists recognised the necessity of building a political organisation that would challenge neo-liberalism rather than seeking to accommodate to it, as Labour almost always does.

More than 10,000 people responded positively to Ken Loach’s appeal to discuss founding a new party of the left, with around 2,000 joining the organisation in its first year.

In 2021 our membership hovers at around 500 and our active membership is considerably less.

The immediate reason for this decline in membership was the left movement that developed around the Labour leadership challenge of Jeremy Corbyn. This movement mirrored the rise of significant anti-austerity political movements across Europe and in the United States. It is not the intention here to examine the rise and fall of the Corbyn phenomenon in any detail but to try and understand where we are now in the wake of the defeat of the Corbyn movement. Corbyn is no longer a Labour MP and more than 150,000 of his supporters have either left or been witch-hunted out of the party.

Left Unity is not the first attempt to create a new party to the left of Labour; there have been several other attempts from Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party to the Socialist Alliance and RESPECT – however Left Unity has the merit of attempting to build such a party on a fundamentally democratic basis. It is not a new idea that the 1945 Labour government represented the highpoint of social democracy in Britain and that the Labour Party has long abandoned that ground. Ralph Miliband wrote about this extensively from the early 1960s; although his belief, writing in 1960, that ‘Labourism has now all but spent itself’ was premature, his analysis in most other respects was powerful and bears re-reading.

At every key point in the class struggle Labour has been found wanting and whenever necessary capitalism and imperialism have had willing support from the party – whether in the foundation of NATO in 1949, during the miners’ strike of 1984/5 or in the ‘war on terror’ from 2001. The necessary response to this is the creation of a mass party to the left of Labour which will articulate and win support for socialist policies. Many such policies did win mass support within the Labour Party during the period of Corbyn’s ascendancy but even at the high point of Corbynism there was no conception of going ‘beyond capital’ and resolving the underlying contradictions within the system as a whole. One of the main lessons of the Corbyn period – and one which has to be continually relearnt – is that one cannot sneak up on the system and change it through piecemeal reform. It has become clear to many of us that the establishment has no intention of allowing a repeat of the Corbyn period. That is the process that is now taking place in the Labour party. It may be that a ‘domesticated’ left will be allowed to remain within and occasionally shout from the sidelines but the return of a leader committed to the left will not be happening.

This begs the question about the way forward. Despite its many political weaknesses the Corbyn leadership of the Labour party was enabled and driven by a mass movement. For millions of young people it represented hope for the future and radical social change. Our focus now should not be on providing an autopsy of the Corbyn period, there are already many of those, but on finding a path to those now disenfranchised by the sharp rightward shift in the Labour party. This cannot be done by proclamation as some are now suggesting. The least effective response to the new situation would be to say ‘Corbyn failed now join the real socialists’.

Although Left Unity took the decision to maintain our organisational independence (for which we received much criticism) and our political commitment to going ‘beyond capital’, we also understood the necessity of supporting the Corbyn leadership and working closely with it for common goals. Despite – and perhaps because of – the vilification that Corbyn suffered and continues to receive from the political establishment and the media, he remains an important pole of political attraction for the radical left politics that Left Unity shares.

Our political strategy for the coming period must recognise the reality of this situation. Corbyn has unintentionally become leader of a new unofficial left opposition. It is often said that he, like Tony Benn before him, would never leave the Labour party. This may be true but it’s unlikely that Starmer will return the whip to Corbyn. He remains in political limbo having been half-expelled and having half set up a new political organisation in the form of the Peace and Justice Project. As a result, Corbyn is occupying new political ground even if he did not intend to do so. Everyone knows that if he were to call for a new party of the left then it would gain significant support, but most believe that he will not do so. We do not have the power to resolve this problem but we need to understand it and work out how we can be part of the process of moving forward. There is a mass basis in this country for a new party of the left, and many of the political elements for it to come to fruition are there. How to move forward requires broad and inclusive collective discussion.

So there are positive opportunities in the current situation but also very negative features: a political vacuum is trapping and immobilising the left as a whole. The absence of a realistic perspective for unified political struggle and class advance has weakened the left and is further organisationally splintering it. Of course, serious activity is taking place. The essential tasks of defending workers, opposing racism and fascism, defending the NHS, combatting the climate emergency and opposing Johnson’s new militarism are ongoing. These campaigns are vital but clear political direction and unity are indispensable; the numerous political projects that are emerging are to be welcomed but an overarching framework for collective theory and practice is essential.

Left Unity continues to work as effectively as it can: we are organising together with our sister parties in the European Left the No Pasaran conference in Berlin next March; Left Unity members are at the heart of campaigns to defend the NHS and social housing, and working against war and for peace and disarmament. Our members are active in the struggles for women’s rights, disabled people’s rights and LGBTQ rights. We are theorising the process towards the break-up of the UK, and the impact of Brexit on free movement, workers’ rights and international relations. We prioritise international solidarity and cooperation via our membership of the European Left Party and we work with other left organisations and campaigns to strengthen the labour and progressive movement as a whole. But the central political question remains to be resolved: an organisational realisation of the new left that was glimpsed in the Corbyn ascendancy must be concretised.

The systemic crisis of capitalism that we face has so far found its most powerful response in the politics of the far right and the growth of their forces, despite some successes for the radical left across Europe. Our task is to counter this by providing an alternative political path. In this conference, our strength lies in the maturity of our politics and in our understanding that those politics have a far wider resonance than is represented by the numerical strength of our organisation. A serious anti-capitalist politics is the order of the day. We will continue to reach out to others who share that political vision.

To that end, conference resolves to:

  • continue and increase Left Unity’s engagement with the left across Europe and internationally

  • continue to initiate and engage in discussions with other left forces and social movements in Britain on developing possibilities for political unity

  • prepare a relaunch of Left Unity and publicity based on our updated manifesto and the analysis above.

  1. Building Left Unity – Wales Left Unity

Conference notes that the current membership of Left Unity has remained stable despite the 100,000s that have left the Labour Party.

The working class and the planet face urgent global, interrelated and growing crises. The Labour Party has abandoned taking a lead to oppose the Tory onslaught in the UK: there is, as a consequence, a crisis of leadership and it is essential that a radical left ecosocialist alternative emerges to be a significant part in this role, especially in the face of danger of the extreme right taking advantage of the situation.

Conference supports the efforts being made to overcome the dangers of the radical left being fragmented in the current situation. It also recognises that, given the urgent need for the radical left to provide a coherent and coordinated ecosocialist alternative, that there is an early political organisational and policy outcome.

In the meantime, Left UK and in the nations where we have an organised presence will:

  • Prepare a Left Unity re-launch based upon our updated manifestos.

  • Emphasise linking the manifesto to transformative demands within campaigns that point toward fundamental system change and system reform. 

  1. Building a Broad Democratic Alliance around Left Unity – Midlands & East of England Virtual Branch
    (not moved – so not carried)

Conference notes:

  • Left Unity has a strong and activist membership base and a long tradition of support and involvement with other progressive movements and organisations across the Left-wing spectrum both in the UK and internationally. We work closely with CND, the Peace and Justice Project (set up by Jeremy Corbyn) and the Ecosocialist Alliance (which includes Anti-Capitalist Resistance and Green Left) to give just a few examples. Left Unity is also a full member of the Party of the European Left.

  • We are very fortunate in our ability to reach out beyond our membership base and enjoy a social media following of 15-16,000 people with a mailing list of over 10,000. (https://leftunity.org/more-thoughts-on-left-unitys-potential-in-the-current-political-climate/ )

  • Left Unity has enjoyed recent discussions (in October 2021) with the Breakthrough Party and Northern Independence (NIP) Party which attracted a large audience and were well received.

Conference believes:

  • Left Unity needs to build on these recent discussions together with our history of positive engagement with other campaigns with progressive movements and parties. Our future as a party depends upon on us working with other political parties that share our core values of socialism, feminism, environmentalism and anti-racism.

Conference resolves:

  • Left Unity commits to building a broad democratic alliance of progressive forces working with other left-wing parties that share our beliefs and values. We therefore welcome the recent discussions held with other parties and express our hope that this lays the foundations for future alliances at the local level and nationally.

  1. Organising the Left – Liverpool Branch

Conference recognises the need to strengthen the Left and especially the transformative left in the UK.

Conference endorses the cooperative, practical campaigning work that has been done with other organisations to build campaigning work within communities and workplaces, and looks to extend this, with our campaigning ‘feet’ firmly based in working class communities.

  1. Building A Movement – Lou Stothard
    (Carried as amended by amendment 5a)


That LU recognises a need, as identified by Doug Thorpe, to build a ‘movement of movements’ by seeking to gather together the organisations, communities and individuals with whose aims it most identifies, and which are most likely, in principle and practice to stand up to the permanent war against our planet, its systems and species (given the scale of and acceleration of capitalism/the growth economies around the world and given their capabilities), and which are therefore most likely to be able to topple governments engaged in the destruction of our planet and the subjugation of its peoples in favour of true socialism sustainable-only, localised and circular.

That it works towards the strengthening of that movement by self-critical and democratic means.

5a amendment – North London Branch

In first sentence: replace ‘gather together’ with ‘work together with’.

  1. Unifying the radical left – Wales Left Unity

Conference recognises the full autonomy that Left Unity Members have in Scotland and Wales over current devolved policy matters and in supporting national self-determination and independence for these nations.

Consequently, this conference recognises that steps toward unifying the radical left in the UK have to take account of, and support, the development of radical independence campaigns in Scotland and Wales.

Conference recognises that there is a growing constitutional crisis of the British state which is challenging its lack of democracy, monarchist, and imperial underpinnings. This crisis overlaps with the attacks on human rights and democracy as a result of the Tories preparing to criminalise resistance to their attacks on the working class and lack of effective action on climate breakdown.

It is recognised that a radical independence campaign would make the case for independence as a radical ecosocialist challenge to capitalism, and a radical transformation of democracy at all levels of the independent state. Such a campaign must also join internationally with other groups and nations struggling to take up this challenge. The Left Unity Wales manifesto provides one example of demands and policies that would be taken forward in this context. 

  1. Yes to Left Unity – No to Northern Separatism! – Oliver Charleston
    (Not Moved – so not carried)

Conference notes:

  • Discussions held between Left Unity, Breakthrough Party and Northern Independence Party (NIP) were largely positive and welcomed by our members and those of the participating parties

  • However NIP is first and foremost committed to ‘establishing an independent North, to be governed by the people of the North. The historic nation of Northumbria once spanned from the South to Scotland, and so we seek independence for people from Cheshire all the way to the Scottish border.’ (https://www.freethenorth.co.uk/our-values)

  • The historic Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria existed from c.547 to c.878 CE (https://www.britannica.com/place/Northumbria) and has in fact never existed as an independent geopolitical entity since that time. NIP seeks to revive a state that has not existed for over one thousand years.

  • The above NIP programmatic commitment comes before any mention of socialism and the party incorporates national-separatist themes e.g. flags of ‘Northumbria’ were clearly visible behind NIP supporters during recent discussions.

Conference believes:

  • Despite the serious social and economic disparities between the English regions, the working people of the North and the working people of the South, together with the Midlands, need each other now more than ever before, in the 21st Century.

Conference resolves:

  • Left Unity therefore cannot justifiably seek dialogue or any further discussion with a view to alliance building with NIP because of the NIP’s avowed Northern English national-separatist aims and objectives. England would emerge from such a split severely weakened, divided against itself, worker against worker, Northerner against Southerner and Midlander as well as family against family. This is clearly not the basis for building socialism but rather strengthening the whip hand of the English ruling classes seeking to further divide and rule (as they always do). Left Unity must prevail at all costs so we say no to this ultimately reactionary separatist tendency.

7a amendment – North London Branch
(redundant as motion was not moved)

Delete last paragraph/bullet point (after ‘Conference resolves:’) and replace with:

  • Left Unity will continue to engage in discussion with all democratic socialist parties and organisations as appropriate. Discussions that include NIP amongst others do not mean that Left Unity supports a separate Northern English state and should not be interpreted as such. Far more discussion would be needed to take a position for or against. In any joint activities we will not be silent about our internationalist and socialist principles and their relevance to fighting inequalities between regions, as opposed to separatism.
  1. From Labour to Left Unity – let’s bring in new members! – Midlands & East of England Virtual Branch

Conference notes:

Conference believes:

  • There are now many thousands of former Labour Party members who find themselves politically ‘homeless’ having either left or suffered unjust expulsion from Labour who still hold the radical socialist values they held during the time Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour Party.

Conference resolves:

  • Left Unity therefore makes every effort to encourage these ex-members to join our party. We actively encourage new membership of LU through social media platforms, word of mouth and leafleting (where this is practical). We ask Conference that all members of Left Unity commit to speaking to at least one friend or family member who is either still in the Labour Party, has already left (or is just potentially sympathetic), to tell he/she about Left Unity and where we stand. A casual chat in the home, pub or during lunch hour at work can make all the difference. Conference, let’s get out there and win new members!

  1. Ecosocialism – Liverpool Left Unity

Conference endorses the Ecosocialist Alliance Statement and agrees to develop this work as one of our priorities in the forthcoming year in local national and international work.

  1. Environmental Protection – Lou Stothard
    (Remitted to National Council for further discussion)

1) that Left Unity commits to and works towards the creation of a comprehensive and internationally binding Environmental Protection Treaty, a corresponding graduated Universal Environmental Degradation (UNED) Tax and Fund, the redistribution of which shall protect species, systems and other natural resources from exploitation, degradation and appropriation of any kind, both now and in the future; help build resilience and restore, as far as possible, those which have already been lost or damaged, by common consent and without prejudice.

Non-signatories shall be sanctioned by the UNED Treaty co-signatories and constituition.

2) that the terms and provisions of such a Treaty shall be considered unambiguous, all-encompassing.

eg that the term ‘renewable’ shall refer only to resources that are self-generating without any depletion or damaging side effect. Such resources can include wave, water and solar-generated power under certain conditions, but do not include the removal, extinction and burning of trees and vegetation currently providing up to 40% of biomass-powered energy, nor the use of nuclear fission to create energy; that our own species shall have no greater claim to its existence than any other; that the goals and targets set for restoration, carbon sequestration, and so on be made a fraction of those currently set; that the term ‘climate breakdown’ be used in place of ‘climate change’ as a feature of planetary destruction, since change does not infer damage, only difference).

  1. Campaign against Tory Tyranny – Wales Left Unity

Conference notes that the People’s Assembly Wales has established a campaign against the Tories systematic attacks on human rights and democracy: https://pawalescymru.blogspot.com/2021/10/wales-against-tory-tyranny-watt.html The campaign has so far identified 20 different aspects to these attacks providing evidence of the growing authoritarian direction of the Tory government. 

The intention of the campaign is to build a left coalition against these attacks and provide an overall political perspective on the Tories strategy of which the campaign against the Police Bill is one part. 

Left Unity Wales fully supports this campaign and proposes to conference that the EC and the NC are requested to explore with other organisations in England and the UK to see if they are willing to support a similar campaign possibly to be know as ATT – Against Tory Tyranny. 

  1. Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People – Birmingham & West Midlands Branch

1). Left Unity acknowledges that on June 17, 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

2). It is also acknowledged that there is a climate of hostility and distrust in relation to the politics surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, given this, the Party needs an internal discussion on these issues.

3). Notwithstanding this situation, Left Unity affirms its commitment to the full equality, inclusion and acceptance of people of all gender identities and gender expressions.

4). Affirms the right of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be referred to by their name, gender, and pronoun of preference in our Party.

5). Despite the antagonisms that currently exist, Left Unity encourages its members to continue to advocate for the rights of people of all gender identities and gender expressions

6). Urges the adoption and implementation of legislation and policies that prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and that require individuals to be treated equally under the law as the gender by which they identify. This includes establishing the right to change without undue burden their identification documents to reflect their gender and name and ensuring equal access to medical and social services.

7). Calls on the British government at all levels to review and revise all laws and policies to ensure full equality and protections for people of all gender identities and expressions.

8). Urges Branches and members to begin or continue to work with local and national transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual organisations to create inclusive and welcoming communities for people of all gender identities and expressions and to spread awareness and increase knowledge of issues related to gender identity and expression.

9). Urges Branches and members to review their use of language in forms and policies in the effort to ensure people of all gender identities and gender expressions are welcomed, included, accepted and respected. This includes developing statements of inclusion and/or non-discrimination policies pertaining to gender identity and gender expression, the use when feasible of gender-neutral language, and offering more than two gender options or eliminating the need to select a gender on forms.

10). Seek to build inclusive practice by ensuring that Left Unity’s policies, material and campaigning ensures dignity and safety for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

11). Will work in collaboration with other progressive organisations to create educational materials that will empower such organisations to be more inclusive and welcoming of people of all gender identities and expressions.

  1. Violence against women and Girls – Liverpool Branch

Conference mourns the deaths of women killed by men, at home, in the street, or at work, and resolves to continue campaigning for reinstatement and improvement in domestic violence services for women and girls, for mandatory training for all police, the holding of the police to high standards of accountability, an end to the culture of complacency, institutional misogyny, ‘turning a blind eye’ to complaints, and victim blaming and significant changes in prosecution policies. Left Unity will continue to support such campaigns locally, nationally and internationally.

  1. NHS – Liverpool Branch

Conference recognises the severe threat to our health service free at the point of need, publicly owned and provided, universally available, providing the full range of services, and funded to world class levels, and resolves to campaign accordingly. Conference asks all members to help in this campaign in whatever way they can.

Members are urged to join local campaign groups and press for active lobbying of MPs and councillors, to persuade them to

1) To vote against the health and care bill and only to introduce amendments to end the health and care bill and

2) Councillors not merely to condemn but to refuse all collaboration with their local Integrated care System.

To raise the issue within their union branches and with the general public where possible.

To support the campaign for safe maternity care, and

Support the nurses and health care workers pay claim.

Oppose the migrant surcharge, and migrant charges for health care.

  1. Social care – Liverpool Branch

Conference agrees to support the campaign for independent living, the work of Act for Inclusion and the nationalisation of Care Companies.

  1. Free Movement of people – Liverpool Branch

Conference endorses Left Unity’s on-going policies on free movement of people and in support of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

Conference condemns unreservedly:

1. The cavalier behaviour of Priti Patel, particular her endorsement of allowing people to die at sea without being given aid, against international maritime law, and not be held accountable.

2. The Nationality and Borders bill, which increases even more the ‘hostile environment’.

  1. Anti-Austerity Campaigns – Liverpool Branch

Conference recognises the harm done to working class communities by austerity and resolves to support mutual aid and solidarity campaigns such as the Right to Food, Acorn and other Tenants organisations. Conference also believes it is crucial to work to provide a political alternative to austerity, answering not just the propaganda of the Conservatives but also the passivity and compliance of Labour.

  1. Resolution on HS2 and West Midlands transport policy – Birmingham & West Midlands Branch

That Left Unity condemns the proposed Birmingham to Leeds East arm extension of HS2 and the extension to Manchester from Birmingham.

We are united in wanting it stopped along with all other extensions of West Midland Metro and Sprint buses that are horrifically expensive for more fossil fuel growth; make for a First Class and Second Class public transport provision; and, worsen public transport by introducing more changes and delays between train, three kinds of tram, Sprint buses and Platinum buses.

This is called multi-modal transport by Mayor Andy Street but means, in fact, a multi-modal mix up mish-mash that results in a slower public transport journey as now seen on Hagley Road, Five Ways underpass and Broad Street in Birmingham.

We resolve that Andy’s £15 billion to 2040 for Metro tram extensions in the West Midlands must go, instead to extend the region’s Fare-Free Public Transport to the young and middle-aged to end that discrimination against them and, as the antidote and carrot to the stick of Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone charges.

  1. Let Us Support Our Comrades in Belarus – Oliver Charleston
    (Not moved – so not carried)

Conference notes:

  • Since 1994, the post-Soviet state of Belarus has been under the iron thumb of President Alexander Grigorevich Lukashenko, who has systematically re-moulded the entirety of the political, judicial and economic life of that country under his very personalist dictatorship (Belarus is infamously known as ‘the Last Dictatorship in Europe’). Lukashenka has created an extensive security apparatus under the Belarusian KGB that regularly uses the most brutal violence, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of detainees. Some of his political opponents have even disappeared, never to be heard of again. (Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship by A. Wilson, Yale, 2021).

  • Following the Presidential elections in 2006 and 2010 there has been waves of intense crackdowns against the opposition in Belarus, the latest being in the aftermath of the disputed 2020 Presidential elections; this is still ongoing.

  • One of the parties that have suffered the repeated wrath of Lukashenko is the Belarusian Party of the Left “Just World”(hereon referred to as Belarusian Left Party). This party is the direct successor of the Soviet-era Communist Party of Belarus and was founded in December 1991. From 2009, it has been a member of the Party of the European Left.

  • The Lukashenko regime helped engineered a split in the party in 1996 and created a puppet party ‘Communist Party of Belarus’ which merely serves as a pliant prop to his autocratic regime.

  • Since then, our comrades in the Belarusian Left Party have reported severe police brutality. In 1997, police beat up a journalist from the party newspaper Tovarisch in the capital, Minsk. (Belarus – A denationalized Nation by D. Marples, Harwood 1999). More recently in the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential elections, one activist reported to Left Unity that he had been forced face down with hands tied and beaten in a prison courtyard. He was subsequently gaoled in over-crowded and unsanitary conditions. (https://leftunity.org/belarusian-left-speaks-out/) Another anonymous source, who is also a party activist, has reported that a comrade was sentenced to five years imprisonment in a maximum security prison for comments made over social media. The Government will punish even the most minor acts of dissent such as writing on walls with chalk!

Conference believes:

  • The violence and repression against the Belarusian Left Party and political and civil opposition to President Lukashenko must end now and free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections must take place as soon as possible in Belarus.

Conference resolves:

  • Left Unity will do everything we can to support our persecuted sister party, the Belarusian Left Party, in Belarus and raise greater awareness in Britain, and beyond, of the Lukashenko dictatorship. At the European level, we welcome our Belarusian comrades continued participation in the Party of the European Left and support all efforts in aid of helping bring about the rule of law, respect for human rights and democracy to the long-suffering masses of Belarus.

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