What is to be done about Left Unity?

Left Unity has potential. Seeing that, the SWP and ISN have climbed on board. That third pillar of TUSC (The Socialist Party) have expressed considerable misgivings, and not without good reason.

This new initiative which can be traced to Ken Loach is tapping into a thirst for genuine unity on the left, and a sense of betrayal at Ed Miliband’s leadership, and all but a tiny handful of Labour MPs. This is all inherently progressive and all members of TUSC have to relate to it. But they have to do so in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Genuine socialists need to be pulled together, the sooner the better. Part of this process seems to be identifying who has no interest in left unity in the sense of posing an alternative to a bankrupt capitalist system, and such opponents of genuine left unity are coming forward as organizers of this new initiative. This is a problem.

Self-evidently, transitional demands have to be raised to mobilize those whose commitment to working class unity contains no ideological component, but rests ‘merely’ upon impressions imposed upon them by the facts of life: the class struggle and its consequences to them, their families, communities, trade unions, and, up to a point (at least on a gut level) their class and the rest of humanity. The latter group can and must constitute the potential electorate of Left Unity, if it is to mean something. They may be agnostic about the need to overthrow the capitalist system, but they do get the slogan, “If capitalism cannot afford political and economic rights for the 99%, then we cannot afford these profiteering parasites.”

Having said that, the core of any new Left Unity organisation has to have a clearer understanding of what we need. In other words, they must have a commitment to the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, what Karl Marx referred to as the expropriation of the expropriators.
Left Unity needs genuine internationalism, one that will immunize our class from divide and rule mentality of uniting British (or Scottish) bosses and workers with middle class elements against our Greek brothers and sisters, or French, German, South African, Egyptian etc. “Workers of the world unite!” has to inform the perspectives of Left Unity. Left Unity has to act as the tribune of all the oppressed.

Left Unity must not reduce its ambitions to becoming a half way house for those who can’t get selected as Labour, Green or SNP parliamentary candidates. And its slogans have to differentiate it from all the pro-capitalist parties: Tories, Lib Dems, UKIP, Labour, SNP etc, etc, etc.
As far as the People’s Parliament is concerned, socialists have to be there to make the case for a workers united front, and not what many want it to be: some lowest common denominator cross-class popular front that only seeks to exploit unpopularity with the Tory-Lib Dem coalition without committing themselves to breaking the law in order to stop the cuts. In order to maximize the forces of the left and expose those who want to use it for cheap electoralism, socialists have to be there. The Socialist Party has to be there as well as the SWP.

Given that some of Left Unity’s self-appointed local organizers are unknown to those who have organized on the ground, whose organizing principle is meaningless platitudes like ‘honesty, justice and fairness’, the problems with this project run deep. Socialists have to try to save it from such petty-bourgeois charlatans.
Here are a couple of assessments of Left Unity, the optimistic and pessimistic. I commend Antonio Gramsci’s prescription: optimism of the will; pessimism of the intellect.

Nick Long says:
April 4, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Comrades, events are moving much much faster than many of us could have hoped for. Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin, have register ‘Left Party’ as a party name with the Election Commission on the 26th March -I presume to try and protect this possible name. More than 60 discussion groups are being convened around the country. The hard slog and difficult task of building from the ground up the party is starting!
Stuart King is less than optimistic:

“In less than 24 hours 800 people have signed up…
A similar problem happened in Manchester. Andrew Burgin it seems has
appointed local “organisers” for Left Unity. In Manchester there is a very
active ACI group and they and others from Manchester left went to meet this
“organiser” that no one had ever heard of. Apparently within ten minutes she
had managed to alienate everyone at the meeting.
Apparently five or six thousand have emailed in to sign up to “Ken Loach’s
appeal”, in fact Andrew Burgin/Kate Hudson’s appeal. LU meets in London in
non-advertised meetings ie effectively invite only. This self selecting
meeting has appointed an organising committee of 12. None of this is
publicised on the LU website – nor is the discussion or content of the
manifesto they have discussed. It is not a very democratic method. Apart
from AB/KH (who aren’t particularly close to Counterfire) it includes SR,
ex-SWPers, ACI members, ISN, ex-WRPers and independents. Some have been in
the Socialist Alliance, Respect, TUSC etc
If LU were committed to openess I would have thought first thing you would
do is to call a national meeting within a month, informing all the people
who emailed in and elect a provisional steering group out of that meeting
with a clear remit ie delegate conference, draft manifesto, democratic
constitution. And you would put all your discussions, meetings etc openly on
your website as we do with the ACI
Several thousand people emailing in to the idea of a new left party is
significant (but given about 250k left the LP over the last 10 years largely
in disgust at Blairism it should be no surprise). The question is how do you
turn email expressions of interest into active groups, how do you do it
democratically and how do you allow a genuine discussion of what such a new
party should be, fight for. What are the lessons of Socialist Alliance, SSP,
CWP/TUSC? We know turning “expressions of interest” into activity/action is
not easy. And how does LU relate to the existing left – SWP, SP, TUSC, ACI –
at the moment it appears closed off and suspicious of it.
Many of these emails will come from Old LP members looking for a new home
and, as Dave found out in Exeter, wont be very left at all (think German
Left Party) but many of them will be from fighting activists wanting to get
organised we should try to give them an organisation. Obviously I’d rather
that was a revolutionary one but that’s a matter of debate and argument.”

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