Building a Mass Workers Party

Left Unity Principal Speaker, Felicity Dowling was invited to speak at a recent event called Building a Mass Workers Party, organised by the Campaign for a New Mass Workers Party. This was her speech.

“Thank you for this invitation to speak.

The condition of the working class in the UK and internationally certainly requires a socialist voice, an alternative to the racism and cruelty of the Conservatives and there are many socialists, organised or not, in the UK.

Similar discussions are happening in Scotland.

There are many struggles and many campaigns.

What would a socialist party based in and of the working class look like?

It would be involved in organising with our class in issues around Housing, Health, Education, Children’s wellbeing, on Women’s Rights, rights  and facilities for the disabled people, it would be  Ecosocialist, anti-racist, pro migrant and respectful of the right of LGBT people, working for peace and the climate, on the arts and music, it would be internationalist.

It would organise amongst the youth.

It would produce leaflets, newspapers, websites podcasts,  political education classes. films, (Ken Loach) plays and more. It would be a long  dynamic conversation with the class. It would help organise mutual aid for food shelter and emergency safety.

The party would stand for election where possible but not separate the party from the struggle. It could not be a solely electoral party. It would have candidates with real links to the area where they stand If and when elected they would operate as we did in Liverpool the 1980s and produce propaganda in bricks mortar and in parks. We tackled key issues like creating jobs with good conditions, building council houses, sports centres and  a large urban park but we also fought political battles, organised demonstration s and turned politics into something people discussed on the buses.

This would be  working in the workplaces through the unions old and new, working in the communities working on campaigns.

It would be a voice for our class’s interests.

It would be recruiting, organising, educating, presenting the ideas that a better world is possible and that together we can achieve that world. It would be democratic; it would, we hope, be lively and both serious and optimistic.

A new mass party forms  organically. Socialists are the midwives of that formation. The party comes out of struggle, sometimes slowly, sometimes its forged in fire, like the founding of the Portuguese Socialist party  with the fall of the Dictator 50 years ago. People’s Democracy in Northern Ireland in 1968 sprang from struggle . Or the Scottish Socialist party in 1998, or in 2008 the founding of  Syriza in Greece. New parties across Europe came into being in the fight against  Austerity.

But all of them who  have lasted were born in struggle. The were not fiat parties that sprang from an announcement.

Some parties in Europe have deep links to trade unions and some do not some have different trade union federations each linked to a political party. There are many models.

But Labour still exists in the country, away from the  sickening policies of Starmer and certainly in the minds of many people who are not politically active. It is a loyalty linked to class consciousness. There are some good (optimistic) comrades still working in Labour. We would want to  keep links in struggles with them. Roger Silverman argues that  Labour will split and indeed a socialist party of whatever name would not succeed if all the working-class vote stayed with Labour.

The very low vote to disaffiliate from Labour at l Unite conference and the low-key response to Starmer’s speech shows that, right now, not all  even left unions would disaffiliate  and support an alternative. There is a mountain to climb here but the necessary propaganda and agitation on the issue has scarcely begun. The closeness of the general election and the culture, the belief that change comes through discussion and legislation means many people are depending on Labour to deliver them from the Tories. We think it will be from the frying pan into the fire.

We have no government funding for political parties so  for standing in elections, and for campaigning work it would be handy to have trade union support.

So, our class is involved in struggle. What do socialists do  to found a party that will fight to transform society?

We have seen a drop in workers living standards as the rich get richer, seen public services including our beloved NHS  break,  the housing crisis  deepen, the cost of living grows, we see hunger and hungry children, see women bear 86% of the burden of austerity, seen the government pass laws to let migrants die, or be sent to Africa, ramped up the rhetoric of hate against migrants, we see the world burning.

But we have also seen a strike wave, a contagious strike wave that has brought more people into the unions, more people on strike, more people active in their unions.

We saw under Corbyn huge numbers of young people especially young women supporting Corbyn’s radical manifesto and the pollsters tell us that they are not changing their mind as they grow older.

Labour has an organic link to the working class but this loyalty is waning. We can expect them to win the  next election though do not put it past them to lose,. They are  stupid enough . We can also expect them to have similar policies to the Tories when they are in office. At that point there must be an alternative. But we cannot wait till then. The graft and the groundwork for the movement has to be laid now.

The UK economy is in a dire situation and there could be a serious development. We can be sure that any crisis will be used to bring in more austerity, more class war on the working class.

Left Unity is a radical left, feminist Ecosocialist , and internationalist political party, founded in 2013, because the main parties all supported the policies they call ‘austerity’: deep cuts in public spending designed to destroy the social and economic gains working people have made over many decades.

Many of our members left to join Labour under Corbyn but we continue to campaign,  We have signed an accord with Breakthrough and The People’s Alliance of the Left (PAL) to issue a call for people interested to join together to work for a  socialist party based on the interests of working class and on challenging the existence of capitalism.

We have seen the numbers who flocked to the Corbyn Peace and Justice, to Enough is Enough.

There is scope and space  for a Left Party out there.

But founding it will be a heavy load. A public call is likely soon. Meanwhile all of us will continue our campaigns, our trade union work. That is when the discussions with individuals and groups in different parts of the country will have to start but we must ensure that these discussions and meeting do not distract us from our campaigns and work in the unions and in the communities.

I hope that we have here some very energetic and optimistic people who can work together towards building such a party.


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