A debate has begun inside Left Unity – the project to set up a new party of the left in Britain – about what kind of party it should become. Here Tom Walker argues the case for the Left Party Platform
In only a few months, more than 9,000 people have signed up to an appeal by film director Ken Loach to set up a new party, and 90 local groups have been established in towns and cities across the country. But Loach – wanting, rightly, to be more a figurehead than a “leader” – did not put forward an elaborate political statement for people to sign up to, simply an appeal to discuss a new party and what it could look like. And that’s where we are today.
Left Unity, through its nascent democratic structures, has agreed to hold a founding conference of this new party in November. It will be open to all who sign up as founding members of the party. And it will vote on statements of the fundamental principles the party should stand for.
In the past weeks, two “platforms” – that is, cross-branch collectives of Left Unity members – have formed to put forward different founding statements: the Left Party Platform and the Socialist Platform. I have signed up to the Left Party Platform and the more elaborate background document that supports it. In this article I intend to explain why.
Two approaches to Left Unity
The debate between the Left Party Platform and the Socialist Platform is, for me, a welcome one. I understand there is some nervousness out there about the idea of having platforms at all, or that it will cause the debate to become “polarised”. But I believe there are two fundamentally different visions of a new party of the left in play, and it is better to pick one now than to fudge the issue.
The Left Party Platform stands, I believe, for the kind of project that thousands signed up to when they signed up to Left Unity: a party that can include everyone to the left of Labour. It is a clear left statement, but without being overly dogmatic or prescriptive.
I do not claim to agree with every dot and comma, but it is a platform that I am happy with as a basis. (There is still a chance to move minor amendments in November in any case.) I believe it would give Left Unity tremendous potential to grow and start to make inroads towards becoming a mass party. Already Left Unity’s meetings in many towns are bigger than any other left group’s, and it’s only just getting going. The space to the left of Labour is enormous – and as Labour moves further to the right, it gets bigger every day. In this moment of crisis and the rise of UKIP, even a moderately successful left party could pull the whole debate in society back towards the left, and win real defensive victories over the welfare state.
The Socialist Platform, by contrast, takes the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with socialism as its starting point. It is a far narrower statement – just about acceptable to a few different kinds of socialist, but distinctly unappealing to most people on the wider left. It is a recipe, I think, for narrowing the party to those who are already convinced socialists, plus a few more who we might be able to persuade as we went along. Ultimately it would limit Left Unity’s horizons to uniting the existing organised left, becoming perhaps a slightly better version of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition).
Shouldn’t we argue for the “most radical” platform?
As a consequence of the way the argument has been set up, some people I wouldn’t have expected are signing up to the Socialist Platform, essentially on the basis of “we’re socialists, so we should sign up to the socialist one”. It sounds obvious – but I think it’s a fundamental mistake.
Remember, we’re not discussing platforms to organise within Left Unity in the longer term, to attempt to win people round to their way of thinking inside an established party. We’re not yet talking about cohering the revolutionary minority inside a broader organisation. The platforms are there to argue for different founding statements; that is, different kinds of party to begin with. The debate is about the fundamental principles and aims that the party should stand for – and, most significantly, about who should and shouldn’t be a member.
So the question to ask when reading different platforms isn’t “do I, personally, agree with this?” (If you’re reading this, you’re probably some kind of socialist, so of course you’re likely to have a higher level of agreement with a “more socialist” platform.) The question to ask yourself, instead, is “should agreement with this statement be a condition of membership of Left Unity?”
The the Left Party Platform tries to set out only the fundamentals – and this is part of the reason why it has been criticised in some quarters as “bland” or “anodyne”. We’re told that, horror of horrors, it doesn’t set out a clear roadmap for the transition from capitalism to socialism. We’re told that it’s a statement that almost anyone to the left of Labour could agree with. Yes – exactly! That’s the point! It is explicitly inclusive of socialism and explicitly opposed to capitalism, but it is not a blunt instrument. It says:
“Many agree that we need a new left party which will present an alternative set of values of equality and justice: socialist, feminist, environmentalist and against all forms of discrimination. Its politics and policies will stand against capitalism, imperialism, war, racism and fascism. Its immediate tasks will be to oppose austerity and the scapegoating which accompanies it, defend the welfare state and those worst affected by the onslaught, fight to restore workers’ rights and advance alternative social and economic policies, redistributing wealth to the working class.”
(Note the helpful distinction there between ideology and the “immediate tasks” of defending the welfare state, which we’ll return to in a moment.)
If we want a “broad party” – that is, a party that be inclusive of people who hold the wide array of different ideologies and traditions that make up the left – we need a statement that doesn’t demand agreement with a long list of specifics, but sets out the basics of the political situation and a few fundamental political principles that we believe are essential. If it’s not essential, it doesn’t belong there. Otherwise we are simply excluding people from the party before we’ve even had the debate with them.
We aren’t going to win anyone to socialism by demanding they sign up to it as a condition of Left Unity membership. Better, surely, to pass a broad founding statement and then, after November, be a strong socialist current within a party much wider than ourselves.
Problems with the Socialist Platform
First and foremost, the problem with the Socialist Platform is that it reads like a “where we stand” statement for a revolutionary organisation. The formulations scream “Trotskyist” – yet at the same time, if we want to be purist about it, fall short of actually calling for revolution, leaving a collection of statements that we want to get rid of capitalism and replace it with socialism but ignoring the question of agency. Presumably socialism comes about when the party gets big enough? It’s the programme of a quite inadequate revolutionary socialist organisation, in the Socialist Party/Militant mould. (I don’t think Left Unity should aim to be the new revolutionary party – I’m just noting that if I were one of those who thought it should, the Socialist Platform doesn’t achieve that either.)
Let’s use the key test: should agreement with all these phrases be a condition of membership of Left Unity? Should you have to sign up not only to end capitalism but to replace it with this simultaneously overly specific (in ends) and very vague (in means) vision of “socialism”, just in order to be a member? Should you have to be absolutely sure that no socialist country has ever existed – you can’t even be a bit soft on Cuba or Venezuela – just to join? Should you have to sign up to replace the European Union with “a voluntary European federation of socialist societies”, which is anyway really just a get-out clause from an argument about our attitude to the EU?
Meanwhile more important issues are left unaddressed. Feminism goes unmentioned.
The Left Party Platform stands explicitly in the “European Left Party” tradition, encompassing parties like Greece’s Syriza, Germany’s Die Linke, Portugal’s Left Bloc, France’s Front de Gauche. The Socialist Platform does not – and the accompanying document prefers to point to their problems (and of course they have problems) than to (critically) outline the inspiration they provide that successful parties to the left of traditional social democracy are possible.
At the time of writing, the supporting document for the Socialist Platform has been signed by seven of the people who have signed the statement itself, so it does not necessarily represent the views of all. However, I think it is worth engaging with briefly, as it makes more explicit the approach that lies behind the platform.
Firstly, loath as I am to use the term “ultra-left”, I think that is an accurate summation of this attitude to the welfare state: “No return to 1945… That alternative is not a return to the welfare state of the 1945 Labour government but an advance to a completely new form of society.” For a party in large part inspired by Ken Loach’s documentary The Spirit of ’45, about the construction of the welfare state and what it meant to ordinary people, these formulations would be odd to say the least. Forget the NHS, forget council housing, forget decent benefits, forget free education – that is, apparently, “managing capitalism, not getting rid of it”. Calling for renationalisations is slammed as a call for a “mixed economy”! After all, “[t]he profit system will remain, the nationalised industries will service big business” and it isn’t a call for “abolition of private ownership of the means of production more generally”. Don’t renationalise the railways comrades – abolish the private ownership of the means of production more generally!
There is no acknowledgement that fighting for reforms in the short term is entirely compatible with aiming for socialism in the longer term. Absent is any idea that a fight for reforms can raise people’s self-activity and point towards escalating demands; instead we are offered something approaching impossibilism. Current struggles are played down in favour of visions of a utopian future.
But let’s leave that for now to look at the wider issues. This passage is intended to answer arguments such as mine when it comes to “socialism”:
“We do not believe that those who want to fight against austerity will be put off from joining a socialist party that openly and patiently argues its case. Who are the people who it is feared will walk away? Those who we campaign alongside in the anti-cuts campaigns, the anti-bedroom tax protests, opposition to imperialist wars and against racism are unlikely to be repelled by our arguments. We will say, ‘We want to fight here and now to [stop the privatisation of the NHS] [oppose the bedroom tax][oppose police brutality] but we also want to fight for a society in which we no longer have to get up each morning to fight these fights. We want a society in which hospitals don’t get closed and in which there is no police racism. It’s called socialism. But to get it we have to build a party that will campaign for it. You should join it.’ How will this put people off?”
I submit that this is exactly the kind of patronising of working class people that I have argued elsewhere the left needs to get away from. “It’s called socialism.” Oh, is it really? Tell me more, I’ve never heard of that. Perhaps you have a newspaper I could purchase?
The reality of the left – and the working class as a whole – is that it isn’t full of naïve activists just waiting to be brought the “good news” about socialism. People are not blank canvasses for our ideology. They have their own traditions and their own outlooks, arrived at through a lifetime of picking up a little here, a little there, and coming to a label they feel comfortable with (or, sometimes, rejecting labels altogether).
The whole spectrum of the left
A broad left party needs to encompass not only socialists, but feminists, greens/environmentalists, anarchists (and people who aren’t particularly anarchist in their practice but say they are anarchists), communists, syndicalists, autonomists, alongside people who might call themselves “mutualists”, or “co-operators”, or supporters of “parecon”, or just “radical”, or “libertarian left”, or any number of other more unusual self-descriptions – situationism, anyone? Not to mention combinations, like “eco-feminist” or “anarcho-communist”, and people who say things like “well, I don’t label myself” or “I just want to defend the welfare state”. And yes, the dreaded “left reformists” should also be included (though, of course, almost no one uses that term to refer to themselves). I’m sure I’ve missed plenty. These are the people who I “fear will walk away”. We need to try to weave together the many, many threads of left tradition into a common party.
The Socialist Platform supporting document answers this argument in this way:
“Another argument is that the supporters of this platform want a ‘narrow’ party, whereas they want a ‘broad’ party. We want a mass working-class party, which will include all who want to support the party’s aims. There is nothing to be gained from being in a narrow or small party. We set our sights on transforming society. We believe that can only be achieved by the majority of the working class acting in their own interests to get rid of capitalism and begin afresh. To reach that stage will require a mass party of millions of activist persuaders, millions of people who will argue for socialism.”
In other words they are for a “broad” party … of people who already agree with them. A “mass party” of millions who are going to appear from nowhere and embrace socialism, because socialism is just that great. The “activist persuaders” line is essentially a propagandist view, of the sort that has done the socialist left no favours for the last century or more.
My argument here annoys those who believe that parties are built through top-down “clarity” – first you come up with a clear programme (or set of politics), then you go out and build the party. But every attempt to build a mass party in this way has failed. Real parties are far messier creatures, containing a whole world of ideas that people bring with them into the party.
Of course plenty will arrive with no set ideology, or with ideas that are not very strongly held. A strong socialist presence will draw people closer to socialist ideas. Common struggle, open debate, genuine participation – all these things will draw people closer to us. But what will surely “put people off” is if we just insist from day one that socialism is the only “correct” left politics – it’s been proven by history, you know! – and insist that if they’re “put off” by it then they must be some kind of right winger.
One final point: Is this about “hiding” our socialism and voting for bad positions, in the style of the Socialist Workers Party in Respect? No – and I find this the most tedious accusation of all. The Left Party Platform is full of left principles, and certainly does not advocate the abandonment of any of them.
Supporting it is, simply, about being openly socialist, but not demanding that everyone else should be. It is about being the kind of socialist who can co-exist in a party with a wide spectrum of the left. If we’re going to demand that people agree with us before they can even join, then what is the point of having a new party at all? This is a crucial moment for Left Unity – and I believe the Left Party Platform offers the best way forward.
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
Left Unity is a member of the European Left Party.
Read the European Left Manifesto
Events and protests from around the movement, and local Left Unity meetings.
Just Stop Oil – Slow Marches
Slow marches are still legal (so LOW RISK of arrest), and are extremely effective. The plan is to keep up the pressure on this ecocidal government to stop all new fossil fuel licences.
Wed 31 May, 19.00
Trade Union Struggles in France & Britain – Left Unity Public Meeting
Millions of workers in France and Britain are in struggle against austerity -join us for a discussion with: Francoise Baran – CGT & PCF (France) Jim Hollinshead – UCU & Left Unity (Britain)
Sign up to the Left Unity email newsletter.
Get the latest Left Unity resources.
A very good article defending the idea and importance of building a broad rather than ‘pure’ socialist party. I wrote the following on the comments of the Socialist Platform:
“I too have little to disagree with this statement, although it has little or nothing to say about the environmental crisis. Of course revolutionary socialists want to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with a socialist, democratic and internationalist society. But there are already several revolutionary organisations you could join which have similar or identical programmes – the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, etc. if you agree with this platform. The problem is that most of these groups are tiny, have no resonance with the rest of the working class and have failed to build themselves in the face of the current twin capitalist crises of the economy and the environment.
The point about Left Unity is that it recognises we have to start from where we are not where we wish we were! The vast majority of the working class, while opposed to the austerity being imposed and looking for answers are not convinced of the need to overthrow the system even as they reject the rightward move of the Labour Party. ‘Patient talking’ with them will not convince them in the short term and programmes like this will probably make them run a mile.
So we need to build a broad party, which can relate to all those fighting austerity, a class struggle party, in touch with ordinary peoples’ lives. As Marx said people make their own history but not in circumstances of their own choosing! Like much in politics it would be better if we didn’t have to start from here, but here is where we are!”
I agree with Tom’s critique of the Socialist Platform and would like to announce a potential way out of the polarisation of the debate between the two published Platforms by posting a draft People United Platform which manages to be more vague than the Left Party Platform and more Revolutionary than the Socialist Platform!
This is the draft that was published on the Worcestershire Left Unity facebook page on 12th July.
People United Platform Statement.
12 July 2013 at 11:27
The Name of Our Party is “PEOPLE UNITED “.
Our party campaigns for Fairness, fights for Justice and demands Respect.
Any individual whose normal place of residence is in the Country of England and who shares the aims and objectives of PEOPLE UNITED can become a member. Any group of 5 or more members in a geographical area can form a branch of PEOPLE UNITED. Our goal is the establishment of branches that mirror Parliamentary Constituencies.
Aims and Objectives:
Our Primary Aim is:
To win popular mass support for the creation of a Green and Pleasant Socialist Republic in England.
Our Primary Objectives are:
To Encourage and respect the self organisation and empowerment of all sections of society in England who are exploited, oppressed, alienated and marginalised by the reality of life under capitalism
To Work with those in the neighbouring countries of Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland who are struggling for social and environmental justice.
To Work with those across Europe and Internationally who are struggling for social and environmental justice.
To Establish the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.
To Participate in Local and Parliamentary Elections in order to popularise the Aims and Objectives of PEOPLE UNITED.
To Ensure that members of PEOPLE UNITED who win elected office are accountable to their electorate via developing new forms of direct participatory democracy including the right of recall.
To Secure by reform of existing institutions of or via the creation of new structures a new society based upon PEOPLE’S POWER.
The linguistic roots of the word Democracy comes from two Greek words – Demos, meaning peoples and Kratos meaning power. Therefore our Party not only advocates Peoples Power as a political objective for the whole of society but it functions as a living example of Peoples Power at every organisational level.
The way our Democracy works in practice is based upon the result or outcome of Votes.
Every member of our party is encouraged and will be empowered to actively participate in internal discussions. Every member of our party is encouraged and will be empowered to contribute their thoughts, feelings and ideas as part of a genuine collective.
At all levels of our Party Decisions shall be made on the basis that a Majority of Votes for any given proposal has been achieved. Once a Decision has been made our Party encourages and will empower all members of our party to take collective ownership of decisions made and to implement them in practice.
Our Party seeks to encourage and empower all people in society to become active participants in collective action to make positive changes in our world. All members of our Party are encouraged and will be empowered to act as champions of the oppressed. Together we act and via our action we inspire other to join the struggle for Peoples Power.
Our Party recognises the fractured, atomised and individualistic culture dominant in capitalist society ferments social conflict. Our Party encourages and will empower all members to resolve conflicts via open democratic discussion. Our Party encourages and will empower all members to respect each other and value cultural diversity. Our Party will establish a Dispute Resolution Committee elected by National Conference. The Dispute Resolution Committee will encourage and empower any member who has a grievance to come forward seeking to resolve any dispute via an open fair and transparent process.
Our Party recognises that the British State and Monarchy are violent institutions and their various agencies will seek to undermine the establishment of Peoples Power in any territory over which it claims sovereignty.
Therefore our Party encourages and will empower members to defend themselves and the communities in which we live from any abuses of power by agents of the crown. We aim to create units of volunteers who will act to protect and defend our members and our communities from any threat that may be directed at us by the British State.
Mark Anthony France
I’m not keen on the usage of ‘capitalism’ and the ‘anti-capitalism’ tag. It will preserve the characterisation (perhaps rightly) of the Left as being constituted by uninformed fundamentalists who don’t understand markets. Great care should be taken in analysing the aspects of markets that have led to the present situation we find ourselves in, and the influence that the finance sector has had on government. I guess this demands another platform, one that articulates an analysis of neoliberal economics and its relationship to the money supply and monetary policy.
I can see your concerns around the use of “capitalism” and “anti-capitalism”.
This book by some members of the Center for a Stateless Society and the Alliance of the Libertarian Left contains chapters that discuss the use of the terms, and whether they are used correctly or not:
While I can see the concern, I don’t agree. While the word “socialist” has a very poor resonance for much of the left (including myself), “anti-capitalist” dosn’t.
There are clear, present failures which can be ascribed to capitalism, and what anti-capitalist policy means can be clearly described.
Well, that’s that argument nailed, for me anyway. Great piece, thanks Tom.
Totally agree with Stuart. Thank you for articulating this so coherently for me. I know what kind of party I’m looking to join and you’ve described it perfectly.
I hope you don’t mind me commenting as I’m not a member of Left Unity but I have been following its progress through this blog and people I know who are already members. I think this is a great article, so refreshing to read! I have been making pretty much the exact points raised here for quite a while and it’s good to see that I’m not alone on this issue. I would be more likely to join Left Unity if it were a broad left platform that had a set of shared principles that everyone, regardless of their political position on the left, could be united in supporting e.g. NHS, education, housing. I think this would mean ordinary people who don’t consider themselves political activists/socialists wouldn’t be as alienated from the movement as they would share common principles and goals with everyone in the group.
I speak as someone who was in a socialist political party for a brief period of time and found it to be quite ‘narrow’ (in the way this article mentions) and somewhat alienating despite the fact that I was already interested in left politics. I also know a fair few people who feel this way who have never been involved in activism. Anyway, to sum everything up I guess I would say we have had many parties with a socialist platform over the years and they haven’t made any long term significant progress so why would we need yet another attempt? Left Unity needs to break the mould and be a party that is comprised of and represents a broad group of ordinary people – a position left vacant by Labour.
Hi Hannah – thanks for posting. I won’t write a long comment but I think it’s exactly people like you and the people you know who Left Unity needs to appeal to and involve. Our parties need to stop being alienating and start being inclusive. Hope you’ll join!
Completely agree, Tom.
Hannah, great post, why don’t you expand on this and submit it as a article here, L/U have said they will publish those they receive.
Thanks, Jonno. I’ll try.
I think this is a really excellent document. Thanks for producing it. I am happy to help the platform develop in any way I can. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks again, a really great piece.
As a point of interest, I have been talking to several people and the thing that strikes me is, how few people are seeking to impose their position on others. A refreshing change on the British left. There seems to be a genuine interest in having the discussion and making up our minds based on that. Again, a refreshing change. I just hope this does not develop into people taking their bats and balls home if they don’t get their way as the most sensible outcome in this instance would be a broad statement that everyone with Left Unity can feel comfortable supporting.
Thanks for your excellent article Tom. I was a little undecided because I believe in socialist principles but wondered if this would alienate the broad range of people on the left who we are hoping to unite.
As other people have mentioned above there are already too many narrow left parties and none of these have made a significant impact, so we have to be that something different.
The right are very good at weaving together many common causes under a banner of self protectionism while the left waxes lyrical in its small factions. By making this a party only for people who identify with socialism we would just be another faction. I hope come November the right choice is made for a broad based Left Platform.
Why have two options that just present an alternative between seemingly Leninist ‘state socialism’ and reformist social democracy? Why not embrace the libertarian left – direct democracy, workers owned and managed industries etc – to think in terms of mere degrees of nationalisation is to utterly forget the image of a new society that every marxist and anarchist has had as the goal to aim for. Look up ParEcon.
`I would be more likely to join Left Unity if it were a broad left platform’
Hannah, the trouble with broad platforms is that they are unprincipled. They do not address the objective reality but are concocted to opportunisitcally attract a certain demographic, say in this case a layer of bleeding heart liberals angry at austerity and cross with New Labour, simply to propel themselves forward. I think you’ll agree though that building grubby little political careers for ourselves by filling this `gap in the market’ is not what we want to be doing.
Come on Mr Rouge, moderate the contempt and address the points raised. A little bit of respect makes the whole process a lot easier and politically clearer. It is possible to have a different point of view without being a traitor or an idiot, or a ‘bleeding heart liberal’!
Trying to repeat the failures of the past, insisting on a dogmatic approach which attracts the same set of old comrades…will be as successful as those past approaches. There are still plenty of good Socialist parties out there, I’d point out.
Moreover, in FPTP your ideal is unrealistic electorally in any case.
@ baton rouge – You failed to read or understand my post properly – I said a broad left (meaning anyone who identifies with the left would be able to join) united on common principles and goals such as protecting the NHS, education, housing etc. These are things that all people on the left do, or at least should, agree on. There is nothing more principled than fighting to save or improve these services for all. If that is not clear enough for people then don’t truly understand the issues facing ordinary people. If that is not enough for people then it gives the impression they have other motives. Most people out there do not care about some socialist plan for the future, they don’t have the luxury of waiting for that to happen, they care about the issues affecting them here and now. Even if someone identifies as a socialist, if they were desperate enough themselves or saw how desperate other people were for change and a better life then they’d get on with fighting for it, and not spend all their time only insisting on whatever they believe in. I really shouldn’t have had to explain all this, it should be common sense. Unfortunately, this is what puts people off joining left parties, they have to fight against a never ending stream of such arguments just to get across what really matters to them.
Where is the Social Democratic platform? Is this it?
No – that’s the Labour Party. Look where that leads you!!
And where does the Socialist platform lead to Ray? come on tell me.
I don’t believe it, I told you it would end this way, kick out the Socialist Party platform, or what ever they are calling themselves. They have have their own parties, and nobody votes for them. But here they are f*cking up the program as that is all they know how to do. Trots out of LU. Don’t be airy fairy about it get serious and do it now, because Im having to join and vote for the Labour party, I dont want to, like a lot of other people I know, but what choice do we have when presented with this rubbish.
Very fraternal and constructive!
I hope your anti-debate/democracy position does not gather support within Left Unity. If it does, then Left Unity will be finished.
Left Unity was finished as soon as it let the Trots in. But look that is fine, LU will run its course. Just like SWP,CPBG, CPPSWP (??), WP, WPCA etc etc or what ever their names are now.
>”kick out the Socialist Party platform, or what ever they are calling themselves. They have have their own parties, and nobody votes for them. But here they are f*cking up the program as that is all they know how to do. Trots out of LU. Don’t be airy fairy about it get serious and do it now, because Im having to join and vote for the Labour party, I dont want to, like a lot of other people I know, but what choice do we have when presented with this rubbish.”
Yes, let’s kick out the Socialist Platform and all Trots, including those who signed up to the other two platforms. If we don’t, then ROBBOH might decide to leave – and, seeing as the world revolves around him, where would that leave the rest of us?
Seriously, Robboh. I think you’ve got a problem accepting basic democratic practice. If the Socialist Platform does not win the support of the majority, it will not be adopted. If it does, it will. What do you find so strange about that?
The Socialist Platform would lead to a another slightly bigger small left party (until it split) which would be a terribly wated opportunity. Just to be clear – I am for neither (or any of the three!) platforms.
I’m by no means a Trotskyist (whatever that term means in the 21st century!) but I want a party that aims as high as the old Labour Party, Clause IV which aspired to the “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange” That, for me, is an essential part of the Spirit of 45 and is why I support the Socialist Platform. I do hope that the debate remains positive, focused and respectful. We can do without abusive trolling, Robboh. Just because you have an opinion it don’t make it right.
Isn’t it time that the ‘Aims’ part of the internal democracy and constitution commission were put out for discussion on this main blog?
The wording is much better than either of the ‘platforms’ and is a result of proper friendly discussion. It clearly outlines the future non-capitalist society that the overwhelming majority of LU supporters want, without using the revolutionary cliches that don’t actually make us sound principled or revolutionary but simply comical.
I do not fully support either of the platforms.One will appeal simply to the rest of the existing far left parties, and enjoy the same level of support from the revolutionary ‘masses’ that those parties have enjoyed over the last 60 years. The LPP is much better in tone but too vague with regards to the aims of the party – the kind of society we wwould like to replace capitalism. As such it leaves too big a crack in the door, as can be seen by some contributions on the blog, for those who have made their peace with capitalism and think it can just be made better or fairer, rather than replaced.
I am a supporter, and hopefully one day a member, of Left Unity. That is all. I do not want to join another faction and strike polarising positions. I don’t want to go to another faction meeting – my local LU group is good enough, thanks. I would resent any developments that gave more say or influence to some other member, just because they are part of some organised faction.
It cannot be beyond us to work out a statement of aims as a united party which steers a course between the tired rhetorical flourishes of the Trotskyist left and the danger of a slide into another sell-out Labour Party.
I like the above statement.
It is not necessary to dot every i or cross every T, what is needed is a broad left platform which states a new Left Party’s core principles and aims. In truth we all understand what these principles and aims are.
I would add any new left party would need to be one member, one party, otherwise we will be repeating the mistakes of the past, when the small left groups used the likes of the SA as a recruiting sergeant and when they felt they had drunk it dry, or they become bored due to their lack on an attention span, they would up sticks and go off and create yet another ‘popular front/electoral alliance/whatever.’
There are many examples of left party’s which can be draw from, whether in Germany, France, Portugal or Greece, etc. Comrades need to get beyond the name calling, early 20th century time warp, it is possible for a left party to act in a reformist and revolutionary way, (Even Lenin agreed to enter the Tzarist parliament) Defending past gains is in itself a reformist act, making new one’s may well take a revolutionary act. Time alone will tell.
What we must not do in the meantime is continue outside the UK’s political chancellories shouting the workers will never be defeated at people within who have deaf ears. Why should we allow the bourgeois shits alone to use parliament as a propaganda vehicle.
We need a new left party to be on the street, in the workplace, on local councils and within parliament, for the problem we have today is we spend most of our time preaching and arguing with each other, preaching to the converted so to speak.
As I said, any new left party should unite around what can be agreed upon, if this is not possible then the chances of a new Left Party are nil..
Yes – and it’s encouraging to see a number of responses like this. I’d encourage all who agree with the platform to add their signatures – just email email@example.com
Absolutely agree with Chris – but the LPP platform needs more work – especially on the clarity of its commitment to a society that actually replaces capitalism.
But that’s not true, Chris. The Socialist Platform says:
“So long as the working class is not able to win political power for itself the [Left Unity] Party will participate in working-class campaigns to defend all past gains and to improve living standards and democratic rights. But it recognises that any reforms will only be partial and temporary so long as capitalism continues.”
If we didn’t think that “fighting for reforms in the short term is entirely compatible with fighting for socialism in the long term”, why would we state that the [LU] party will participate in such struggles?
To us, the crucial argument is that all gains made under capitalism can be undone as long as the capitalist class remains in power – as has indeed been happening since the 1970s and is being intensified today. Hence, the overriding goal is socialism, i.e the definite removal of the capitalist class from political and economic power.
In other words, any reform that is grudgingly granted by the capitalist class and improves out living standards – and therefore our ability to fight – is good.
But a reform – or a series of reforms – that undermines/weakens the power of the capitalist class is even better, because it helps paving the way to where we want to be in the long term: a revolutionary transition to working class rule and socialism.
No one is saying that we ought to absent ourselves from everyday struggles.
I pretty much with the spirit behind the LLP platform and strongly opposed to “Trying to repeat the failures of the past, insisting on a dogmatic approach which attracts the same set of old comrades…”
I very much agree that with many of the socialist platform supporters “There is no acknowledgement that fighting for reforms in the short term is entirely compatible with aiming for socialism in the longer term.”
But I wonder if the alternatives in this debate are the only ones? Nor am I sure either addresses what I think the most essential element in our identity: HOW exactly LU intends to UNITE the left (rather then split it further – we can’t both unite these parties and not take their membership away can we?) I think this is more seminal to its success than if it’s Progressive or Socialist.
My proposal is simply this – our role is to aggregate a wide spectrum of progressive, environmental and socialist ideologies and parties – combining similar if not congruent ideologies into large voting blocs for parliamentary election success.
We do this by providing the infrastructure for cooperation between existing parties and an alternative electoral agenda for the people. his isn’t just copying the type of great work the SWP (far left Trotskyist) did in getting Respect (progressive ala Australian Greens) elected in Bradford West (the largest increase in share of the vote, 52.8%, since the introduction of universal suffrage). It’s the creation of an organisation dedicated to campaigning for and providing the machinery for cooperation between the parties for both campaigns and electioneering. The work involved in this starts and local level: our reps attend all of the meetings, create local news boards aggregating the various threads of activity, bringing them out of the shadows with better publicity, articulating the ideas from the various parties in a language non-activists / all can understand and support, researching community responses to campaigns, putting together campaigns to support local council elections, bi-elections etc. to get a progressive socialist agenda into power.
I respect the SWP for what they do. When combined with Respect an essentially socialist agenda was voted into parliament. When not combined … So LU is for election success of an essentially progressive socialist agenda that wins the support of a wide range of voters.
That is NOT the same as saying we will put ANY policy forward just to get elected.
I attend the communist party, cuba solidarity, swp, left unity and people’s assembly meetings in Cambridge and know several people here who think that the creation of “friendly relations / operational cooperation’ between these different teams is a good idea.
I see good people in all these groups: and I see a core set of beliefs. Why split them? The far left will always exist as will the far right. I count myself a hobbit! My preference would be to say we will endeavour to facilitate a unifying of the left and appeal to you all to recognise that to get a socialist agenda into government we have to aggregate and yes that means a transitional compromise agenda the majority of people can understand and support.
We should have discussed earlier an agenda of policies for the 2014 / 15 elections that a broad tenet could agree on something like this:
Example 1 http://gerrycavander.com/2013/04/19/11/ …
Example 2 http://gerrycavander.com/left-unity/economic-agendas-2-recent-election-manifesto/ (won an by-election)
I believe we should put agreement on such a statement foremost: then sort out the machinery to bring it into power.