What is the alternative to Left Unity?

Vote for me. Look how big I can smile.

Vote for me. Look how big I can smile.

Ed Miliband cheerleader Andy Newman dipped his toe in to our small but growing socialist pool of Left Unity droplets a short time ago. There are eight thousand individuals who have signed a petition calling for a left of Labour Party. For the most part these individuals have not yet started to organize. Alas, they stood no candidates in last Thursday’s local elections, nor even offered advice on how their supporters should cast their vote. That reflects the very primitive state of the ‘organization’. However, that’s all about to change.

The contributions to the Left Unity website displays considerable diversity. We are far from singing from the same hymn sheet. On the one hand, there are those who demand the exclusion of the SWP and SP, clearly itching to stand candidates against them both, or else to simply help Ed Miliband’s One Nation Blairites corner the working class vote. I, on the other hand, want Left Unity to embrace TUSC. My guess is that the inspiration behind the entire Left Unity project (Ken Loach) is more on my side on this than he is on Mark Perryman’s.

TUSC is not united on Left Unity so far. All the indications are that the SWP wants to get involved. That said, some of those attracted to Left Unity want a thorough-going witch hunt against them, and the SP too. Some of these people have zero commitment to socialism. Neil Kinnock during the Miners Strike of 1984-85 is their model, in fact many of these people have even embraced Tony Blair’s opposition to common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Uniting myself and them in a single party will be very problematic indeed.

The Kinnockite Tendency wing of Left Unity is destined to get bored and then drop out. But Left Unity has attracted some individuals who are even more right-wing than the Kinnockites. Some of them are very good at waffling in a way that makes it impossible to pin down what they are rabbiting on about, which might explain why they want to deny their critics more than 200 words to explain what is so awful about their politics. Their politics turns out to be so bizarre and meaningless that I am not going to waste any time discussing it.

What I would like to address is a substantial article by Michael Ford. It is very long and was first brought to my attention by a link from Andy Newman’s blog. Anyone who wants to wade through all of it can now find it on Left Unity’s own website here: http://leftunity.org/left-unitys-modest-flutter/
and here: http://leftunity.org/left-unitys-modest-flutter-2/   Comrade Ford concludes by summarizing his comprehensive critique of Left Unity.

Here is that summary:

  • In summary, the project for a new Left Party:
  • a) is based on a flawed assessment of how socialist political parties can emerge and sustain themselves
  • b) prioritises “left unity” over class unity, to the detriment of the latter
  • c) misreads European experience and its applicability to the situation in Britain
  • d)  fails to seriously address the Labour Party and working-class support for it
  • e) ignores the failures of numerous similar initiatives and, indeed, the actual problems of the left in Britain today
  • f) draws a causal connection between economic crisis and political radicalism which is at best questionable
  • and therefore
  • g) cannot best direct the efforts and resources of socialists at the present juncture – indeed, it risks being an impediment to making the most of actual opportunities for advance and reconstruction.I hope the comrades involved will address these points and consider the possibility that they may be wrong.

Other comrades will have to speak for themselves, but I think comrade Ford is clutching at straws here. He would have us believe that all signatories have a monolithic approach to every one of these issues whereas in reality Left Unity is, thus far, little more than the coming together of those who want to build a new party to the left of Labour. There is certainly no single fully formed programme, and partly that is a good idea because we want to get others on board, I wanting the earliest participation by every section of the activist left, others no less intent on keeping one of the activist groups or even all of them out.

If Arthur Scargill and George Galloway could be persuaded to deploy their talents to make the new party work, I would welcome that, others would be less keen. If Respect and the SLP could finally agree to merge their cadres with that of the rest of the activist left into a new party, that would be a very good thing, in my opinion. Having said that, the key is drawing in new blood.

Left Unity needs youth. Left Unity has problems to overcome, but does have assets in the bag. Potential assets. The rise of UKIP will be used by the likes of the BBC and SKY News to shift their own take on politics still further to the right. However, that will not reflect where the center of gravity of politics is in the factories, offices, colleges.

UKIP’s support as registered at the polling stations last Thursday for things like greater deregulation, and flatter taxes, is going to be exposed in social media if not on Question Time, Sky Papers, Channel Four News. What to the broadcasters are presented as perfectly innocent, indeed sensible policies will provoke howls of anger in homes of working class families up and down the country. Notwithstanding the crap showered into our living rooms by the official broadcast media, socialists can expose the fact that it is not victims of global capitalist chaos in Greece or Cyprus who is taking away our living wage, our pensions, our NHS free for all. On the contrary, it is the very same ultra-rich, union-busting bastards who are funding Nigel Farage and Channel Four News and SKY News who are to blame for the misery of the poorest ninety nine percent.

UKIP’s spectacular electoral successes last Thursday will (in addition to giving the BBC and SKY still more excuses to gag the left) create chaos for the parties of big business. The first-past-the-post electoral system and personal ambitions of right-wing politicians and businessmen with antagonistic interests has tossed up a series of unresolvable problems for our class enemies. Aww. Poor diddums.

UKIP cannot easily be placed back in the box. The media tried this in the days leading up to the local elections, but they left it far too late. UKIP had been helped along by broadcasters to foment right-wing populist sentiments among the voters to create a climate of scapegoating to distract us from the parasitic profiteers. But all they managed to do was create an SDP  of the right. Nigel Farage is going to split the Tory vote the way David Owen split the anti-Tory vote in the early 1980s. This is not what the ruling class wanted, but it is what they have got, and there is no way they can easily extricate themselves from this gawd awful mess.

The problem with conspiracy theorists is that they sow the seeds of despair, imagining powerful forces working in the shadows who get their own way, with the people successfully out of the loop. That is not what we are seeing. The Tory establishment is preparing to nut each other: Nadine Dorries, Theresa May, James Forsyth, Bill Cash, David Davies, Liam Fox, Michael Gove…. They cannot settle their differences away from the cameras. They could try to give off-the-record briefings to knife one another, but an ever increasing number of them are too stupid even for that. They want to get their way by rallying their own troops against their rivals.

All of this plays into the hands of the left, into the hands of Left Unity. As the ruling class fiddle while the global economy burns, and as they put the boot into each other, the masses start to get trigger happy themselves, they want a piece of the action. The collapse of the Tories and Lib Dems vote has lead to their individuals politicians looking for scapegoats. They point the finger at David Cameron. They want heads to roll. Many of them don’t think they can save their seats at the next election, which partly explains why they don’t really mind going down in a blaze of glory. Spectacularly. Some of the Tories (Lord Tebbit, Lawson) will join UKIP. Nadine Dorries is likely to be the first UKIP MP, but she is unlikely to be the last. Nigel Farage may win a by-election or two if one is held in a Tory seat in the next few months.

Commentators are looking for answers, and they are struggling. That said, the fact they are for once being forced to use their brains means that what they are saying is, finally, interesting. The old certainties have gone. And some of them want to make a name for themselves by being ahead of the game when it comes to making predictions that don’t immediately turn out to be a pile of crap.

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