Left Unity Northampton: Yearly report

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Our year anniversary approaches and what a year it has been! A massive thank you is in order to everyone that has supported us this far. We are new to the Northampton political scene but we have been at its forefront, and we may still be finding our feet but it is safe to say we have had an impact.

In this article I will briefly mention some of the great things we have took part in, and how we are running as a branch of Left Unity, so that we can reflect on how far we have come and look at where we may be heading. Strictly speaking we have been running for over a year but we became a political party in November, some of the things mentioned will have took place beforehand.

We really hit the ground running in Northampton and things are really coming together and it just wouldn’t of been possible without the hard work and dedication of our members, approaching everything with enthusiasm and dedication week after week and while it has not all been plain sailing it is safe to say we have come along way.

The article shall be split into three sections, branch development, local and national as these are the three main areas of interest. Before I start however I think Bianca Todd deserves a massive shout out for all the hard work she has put in to Northampton branch and representing us on a national side as well, she has worked tirelessly for little reward this past year and a bit, so thank you Bianca!

Branch

Our branch meets on a weekly basis at the same place and on the same time, 7pm Cafe Del Sol and every Wednesday. It took us a while to find this format but it works well for us, as we get to keep each other up to date with any developments, react quickly to anything and can discuss what we would like to do, the majority of these meetings are more like a coffee with friends than a political party meeting.

Our meetings started off being less frequent and in the back room of a pub, which is all well and good if like me you enjoy a drink but we realised that this was not the most inviting of places for non-members, which led us to the cafe and it is working better.

We have been wrestling with how to make our meetings more inclusive and accessible, and to this end we have set up a Skype account. We text our members when ever we are meeting, on top of the standard e-mail, as well as provide lifts for people if getting there is a problem or the weather is a bit rubbish.

The most interesting thing for me at least, is we are not sticking to a rigid model, we are adapting as we grow, we are adapting as people come and join in, we are not looking for definite answers but are trying to shape our branch around the realities we are facing at any time, so if I had to sum it up in one word, I think our branch development has been flexible.

All in all we seem to have fell into a good groove, attendance figures go up and down as people are unable to attend every week, our rationale behind weekly meetings however is that if you go to a martial art class or a night class it will be every week.

There are some new and interesting developments coming out, we want to have a meeting in the day, as we believe night time meetings are excluding certain groups (single mothers), and we want to carry out a “ttt” – tea, toast and talk to remedy that.

On top of all this we also have a student society, the first in the country and this has helped give us a little bit of a headway into the student union, it has provided us with some funds which we sorely needed and means our branch is supported by a university contingent.

Local

Each local area is different so a little bit of info on shoe town needs to be said, Northampton doesn’t have any strong left wing groups, meaning there is a big gap for a political party like Left Unity to fill and we have been busy trying to fill it. We are very big on localism in Northampton and are doing everything we can to lay the foundations for a strong and active left wing political movement within the town.

We have taken part in national protests but instead of heading to the big ones, we have held our own little ones, we have taken part in local campaigns and will be standing a few local councillors, as well as supporting strikers as when needed. We have regularly featured in the local rags and Bianca now has her very own blog on one of their websites.

In terms of actions, we have led some, while taking part in others. We organised the national Atos Demo’s I and II, as well as #BootOutBoots. We organised the 999 March for the NHS Northampton leg (with help from Left Unity Milton Keynes). We also held our own homesnotspikes protest against a shop that uses them in our town. We also took part in the Bedroom Tax Sleepout and the bedroom tax demo.

On top of that we have been active with the People’s Assembly and Reclaim NHS, as well as supporting the Fbu strikes, the pathologists #lockedout and national strike action. Finally we supported the campaign for independent pcc and had a LU stall at freshers fair, these are the traditional work we have engaged in with the town and as you can see we have been fairly busy.

I’m pretty certain there are things I have forgotten as well, It seems that a month doesn’t go by where we haven’t took part in some form of local action or held some event.

We have been trying to think of more fun and inventive ways to engage the town and carry out politics in a new and exciting way, one of our most successful actions being a thing called BooksWithBenefits. We handed out free books to the public, while chatting to them about politics and publicised anti-cuts meetings while doing so.

We have took the approach locally to carry out solidarity actions with those fighting cuts, one of these was going around the town and handing out food to some of our homeless people, as we feel we should not be talking about ourselves about these issues but be on the streets where it matters most.

Finally we have begun a monthly speakerscafe, where we invite people to come and have a chat with us one week about a certain topic and depending on the issue being raised can be fairly successful.

National

It is a wonder with how busy we are at a local level how we have any time to do the same nationally, and again Bianca has been tireless on this front. I don’t think a month has gone by where she hasn’t had to travel to this place or that, and a day hasn’t gone by where she hasn’t had to either give an interview over the phone or speak to this person or that.

This is on top of regular attendance to the standard NC and EC meetings, so on a national front Bianca has been our main champion but she hasn’t been our only one! Jade who recently moved to Abu Dhabi was an integral member of the womans caucus, while I was instrumental in the formation of the youth caucus. We have also taken part in a few of the national rallies in London, as well as People’s Assembly meetings.

Jade travelled to My Belly Is Mine demo and various woman caucus’s meetings, as well as representing them on the NC and EC, with the great work she was doing it was a loss for us when she left to pastures anew. We travelled to support the Birmingham Occupation, where Bianca gave a talk, which can be found online.

We also attended the Homes Not Spikes protest outside of Tesco, which successful saw the removal of the spikes. On top of this we have attended various festivals around the country, and Bianca got down to support the Focus15 Mothers. On top of organising the 999 March in Northampton, we met them in London and carried the NHS banner through central London.

We attended conference, founding and 1 year on and are always keeping an eye out for new national protests which grab our attention, but local comes first.

Looking to the future….

We are always learning and adapting to how we can change and grow to be more inclusive and how we can improve the party, the movement and our branch. Looking for new ideas and new opportunities, I think the over riding philosophy of the branch is solidarity not charity, in that we want to help people who are struggling with their lives and believe fundamentally that this is how the movement will grow in our town and beyond.

We have set up a Skype account so people unable to attend our meetings and events can take part, this has been a big hit with parents unable to get child care and has allowed greater level of participation.

We still have quite a lot of areas of improvement, and are standing a few councillors in the local elections but all in all it has been a positive year, and if we continue like we have been doing this next one will be to. Things are coming together slowly, but steadily.

Thanks once again for everyone that has made it possible, lets make 2015 be our year. We are also looking to support our comrades on a regional level in any way possible, so that we can have a strong and active region of friends and comrades.

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All power to the regions!

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The Left Unity project is as ambitious as they come, a work in progress that will never be completed as long as there are those willing to fight for a new kind of politics. Our party is attempting to do away with the outdated and the archaic defunct structures of the past, structures which ultimately have existed to keep power in the hands of a few while at the same time robbing it from the many. In this past year we have come along way, we have had many ups and downs but the relentless assault on the people continues, regardless of what we do and in that vein we shall continue marching on! We can only operate on trial and error, if we wait for the perfect party or the perfect structure or the perfect time, then we will be waiting in vain.

Our greatest strength are the people, it is how we organise on the ground which is key to our success, and this is why it is my belief we should be doing everything possible to empower our existing organisation and expanding our structures to accommodate a bottom up power model. These things do exist in some capacity, but as with all things they can always be improved, as we are attempting to create an atmosphere where a social movement can spring up much in the vein of Greece and Spain we should be doing everything possible to achieve this. Within the article I will discuss how we can empower regions and branches so that we are more accountability and doing politics in a less hierarchical and thus in a more open way.

Here are a list of suggestions

  • One principal speaker per region (elected by that region)
  • Region specific policy making
  • policies which are detrimental to a region or branch can be adapted or in some cases removed from that specific region/branch (regional veto)
  • Disputes handled at regional level, appeal handled at national
  • Regional NC reps being from throughout the region (no branch concentration of power)
  • Remove all form of delegate based conferences and meetings
  • Conference and regional votes should follow direct democracy with region and nation (end to the tyranny of the attendee, party-wide referendums)
  • Branches have further autonomy enshrined in the constitution

Some of these things are a lot easier to implement than others, and arguably some exist in theory or on paper, but have yet to be implemented. It is my belief that Left Unity national should exist as a mediator, facilitator and promoter for regional and branch development, as we work at building a network which forms our national identity. If we are to have any hope of creating a mass movement, it is imperative it comes from below, the top down approach has failed many a time, and it is my concern we are in danger of sliding back into the traditional methods of organisation which have a proven record of failure. Our main aim should be giving the tools to party members and the public to shape our party as they see fit.

We need to bolster and improve regional powers so that there is more accountability, more variety and ultimately more power in the hands of members. We want an environment which promotes participation and interest through having an atmosphere where people, their actions and their beliefs actually matter, where they have an impact. These things have been lacking from mainstream politics and unless we start looking at ways to engage, people will switch off with us too. Hence region specific policy making, regional principal speakers, regional veto and regional disputes as all these measures can act as the fertilizer for a more robust political party and in turn movement. We are trying to reshape society, we cannot do that if we cannot reshape ourselves.

Regional NC Representation at present can be concentrated into one branch, regional reps should be representative of the region and not only a single or a select few branches. This ensures regular communication and co-operation between regional areas but it protects against a single branch representing a region in an unaccountable fashion. We have a pretty autonomous branch structure as it stands, the worrying part however is a lack of branch rights included in the constitution. Just what, how and when can our branch act, what rights do we have in case of disputes? I think how we have it at the moment in terms of branch autonomy is pretty good, but we need to be enshrining it in the constitution and working out how we can ensure branch autonomy is here to stay, how national can support it and where we can improve it.

Delegate conferences are a thing of the past, we should be looking at how Podemos conducted their conference and seek to emulate that. This means internet participation and utilizing all forms of technology available to us, but more than that it means an end to the tyranny of the attendee – why should the pressure be on members to get themselves to this place or that when voting can be done online? We need to be as accessible and as open as possible, this means accommodating people and their busy stress filled lives. Fact is if you’re a single mother living in York it is going to be very difficult for you to attend something taking place in London. All members votes are equal, that single mothers vote is worth just as much as someone who lives there and can attend easily. Our party does not represent its members views if the majority of them cannot vote on our policies.

To conclude the kind of party we should be building is one that is adaptable, varied, representative, accountable to the lowest level and one that empowers all its members. In my opinion the best way to achieve that is to empower structures like the regional assembles and branches so that we can improve the bottom-up model we are trying to build. This should not end there and should include conferences, members from all over the country should be included and we should be looking at ways to be as inclusive as we possibly can. The debate on what kind of party we are building should never end, we should never stop looking at how we can improve what we have and how we can empower people, because our party like the universe is always in motion. When we have groups like Podemos, Occupy and Anon who have radically different approaches for our inspiration, there is just no excuse.

Members over Money

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A new kind of politics and doing politics differently, two slogans we have been using within Left Unity, but as the saying goes: actions speak louder than words. In Left Unity Northampton we put a motion to the NC for allowing free membership to young people and homeless people, this is only just the beginning as we believe we need to radically change how we interact with the wider public. We are attempting to build a party that is for the downtrodden, that is run by the oppressed and we are trying to do that during hard economic times, where the people are suffering untold amounts. Ultimately If your benefit gets sanctioned, do you want the added stress of party contributions? Within this article I am going to explain why the kind of party we need has to change how members contribute if we are going to have long lasting success. The benefits of having a more inclusive membership process is self evident, more people will be open to committing time and energy to the party if they do not have to submit to a monetary commitment right off the bat, people who are weary of politics will be able to dip their toe in the water and membership will inevitable rise.

Austerity Britain, a slogan we hear on a daily basis, while we recognise that there is money available because the rich continue to grow their wealth off the hardships of the poor, the suffering of the people is something however which is very real. Money is tight for us all and as a party we should not be adding to the financial burdens of our members, we should not be putting pressure or in some cases shame on them in the form of monetary obligations. Members are not cash cows to be milked for the expenses of the party, this way of thinking belongs in the 20th century, it is not a new kind of politics. Ultimately the party we want to build will be choc-a-block full of the oppressed masses, why should they give up the limited amount of money they have in order to pay fees for an organisation where they get nothing in return. Do we feed or cloth our members, do we provide them with shelter, electricity, gas? All these things are far more important to someone struggling to get by than paying a membership fee, however these people unable to financially commit still deserve a political voice.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” is a saying that needs no introduction to the majority of the left, well how about we have: “from each according to his circumstance, to each according to his contribution.” Take Podemos for example, a party which in a short space of time has reached out to hundreds of thousands of people. Podemos has no membership fees at all, it crowdfunds for the money it needs and all receipts are made public. While I am not suggesting this is why they have grew so fast and so quickly, I believe it is however a factor. We are asking people to give us something for nothing, this is in a climate where people don’t have a lot to give, but even worse than that, it is in a climate where politics is a dirty word. We need to break out of this two dimensional way of thinking, where money Is more important than peoples time, dedication and commitment. If we want a party which is inclusive and accessible to the largest amount of people in the country, then we need to value and welcome them with open arms and say your contribution matters much more than the change in your back pocket.

A party however much like an army, marches on its stomach. We need money if we are to have shiny meeting areas, challenge elections and fight it out with the big boys, but money isn’t our only resource and arguably not even our most important, that would be people. Membership fees are not the only way to raise funds, there are an untold amount of ways to raise money and the only limit to how we get revenue is our imagination. We could crowdfund like Podemos, which seems to be working fine for them. We could say to members they can contribute whatever they can in a more voluntary system, or operate off of donations alone, paying as and when able. Branches could be charged an operating fee, instead of the contribution falling on individuals. We could also operate using traditional fundraising methods. Each one of these has pros and cons, and the suggestions are by no means extensive, we could even just tweak our current membership rules to exempt certain groups of people. The more inventive the way we can be inclusive and still operate effectively, the better and the only thing stopping us is the limit of the debate we have.

Why I’m standing for local government, and why you should too

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Lets not beat around the bush things are bad, we feel disconnected from our political masters in Westminster, we feel let down and betrayed by those that proclaim to represent us, we feel we are losing out, we feel powerless, we feel hopeless but most of all we feel like we cannot make a difference. Our money isn’t going as far as it used to, we are struggling to get by, our communities are being stripped of all their character, our lives are being dictated by how much profit this or that corporation is making, at the end of the day we are that tired and stressed out worrying where we are going to get the money for this bill, or the next. Not a day goes by where we do not hear more lies either coming directly from the mouths of politicians or in the media, as they clutch at straws to justify our suffering, while they get to live in luxury. Well enough is enough, things do not have to be this way, we can make a change, we can make a difference, we can take charge of our communities. What is stopping us?

I love my community, It is the place I grew up, it is where I went to school and it is where my family live. In the twenty years of living here, I have seen things change, not for the better but for the worse. We have lost untold amount of employment opportunities, and we have lost untold amount of services, the bank and the cricket ground were the first to go in my memory and more recently we have seen the stain on our landscapes which have come about on the George and Club sites. At the same time of losing all these, we are getting more houses, the majority of which are not affordable, but homes which are there to profit a small amount of individuals. We need to put the community at the heart of these decisions, are decisions being made to benefit the community or are they being made to benefit self interest? I look at the future of our village and I think unless we do something things are going to get worse, that is why I’m standing, not because I want to, but because I need to, we can all moan about how things are going but unless we actively try to change them, what is the point?

The people are the beating heart of any community, I do not want our community spirit to die out and become a shell of itself, if we work together there is no limit to what we can achieve. I am standing because I want to do a new kind of politics, a politics that puts people at the heart of the decision making process, a politics that builds communities from the bottom up, a politics that is engrained in the community, a politics which is there to help not hinder. That is why if I’m elected I will be doing things very differently to our current representatives, who got in unelected at the last election. Ultimately our democracy only works when power rests with the people, everything being in the public domain, the people should have a say in how and what their representative fight on, they should be approachable and accessible, but most importantly our representatives should inspire us to get involved in politics ourselves. This community is ours and its future is our future, what kind of future do we want to build?

The more people that stand on principal and conviction with a desire to improve and help their communities, the healthier our democracy will be. Participation doesn’t begin or end at the ballot box either, there are untold amount of ways to fight for what we want, and fundamentally that is the only way we will ever change things in our favour, if we fight for them. This change has to come from below because there is not the political will for it at the top, the top 1% have the same combined wealth as the bottom 50%, and the only people that know what is best for the community, is that community it self. By having local representatives who live, breath, eat and sleep in their communities, we can begin to effect change at a local level and in the long term we can transfer that to regional and national platforms. Without an active and engaged local level of participation, we have a democracy that does not function, a top heavy regime which implements things not to improve, but to profit. Ultimately who should decide what is best for us, the people who live here, or the people that don’t?

Left Unity: In Principle & In Practice

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Left Unity was and still is a very ambitious initiative which sought to not only unite various strands of the left but to spread the left message to the massive chunk of people not engaging with the left, or politics in general. We have had some degree of success in this regard, bringing in members from ex-Labour, the far left, and general activists. What do we do now to move the project of Left Unity forward, where do we go from here?

As it stands presently Left Unity has members who are involved in other political projects and other political organisations, these people have put their toe into the water but have yet to take the plunge. We should be looking at why, and how we can assimilate not only them, but their organisations within our ranks. This is imperative not only for the success of Left Unity but for the success of the left in general.

The system we have in place now was fine prior to our becoming a party and standing in elections, but the organisation has moved forward, we cannot have such an overlap between groups, not only is it confusing but it leaves Left Unity open to infiltration and a situation could arise where we are left with mud on our face, we can be brought into disrepute. At the moment groups can freely take part in Left Unity, with all the benefits going to their organisation but what do we get in return? Absolutely nothing.

There are various ways how we can remedy this situation, I will list them here before going into more detail, these are:

  • LU can open up talks with organisations and groups to discuss what we can get out of allowing their members to organise within our ranks.
  • We can expand on our internal structure to allow these groups to come within the Left Unity structure and operate officially as extensions of Left Unity, in a similar fashion to tendencies.
  • These groups can become amalgamated into Left Unity ceasing to exist.
  • Becoming a member of Left Unity means members have to renounce membership to previous groups/organisations

As a member of Left Unity and only Left Unity, I feel like our internal democracy can be subverted by outside organisations who can all lump together to impose their organisations will on our organisation. As a member of Left Unity, I have no say, or knowledge of what their organisation gets up to, yet they know everything about us. Even worse than this, as a member I have no say over what organisations can do this, there is no policy in place to ensure this process is two way. At the moment we are giving everything, and getting nothing in return, that is why we could open up talks with the groups involved with Left Unity and work at how they can organise within our party, and how the membership can hold these organisations and their representatives within Left Unity to account. This could range from something as simple as a democratically agreed list of “affiliate organisations” to something much more in depth.

As it stands we have a very rudimentary way to allow groups to form within the party in the form of tendencies, we could expand on this structure so that pre-existing groups can become part of Left Unity, retaining most of their individual identity. This can improve our internal democracy, it means that members of various organisations can be held accountable to the membership of Left Unity, it ensures that we cannot be put into disrepute by groups of people who are part of this group and that organisation. It will also promote lively debate within Left Unity, as various tendencies operate officially within our structure to promote their views, instead of doing this from the outside and from within. We could accommodate them expanding what rights tendencies have, fleshing out how they operate within the party while promoting healthy democratic debate.

Amalgamating the various organisations of those involved would be something similar to what historically happened to the Labour party, and would definitely make the left a lot stronger than it is. At the moment we are like a hundred people all pulling in different directions, if we united under one organisation, we would be one hundred people pulling in the same direction. However Left Unity are still the new kids on the block and how successful we are going to be is still being decided by the jury, one thing is for certain we will be as successful as those committed to Left Unity make us. There is that age old workers maxim, unity is strength and this holds as true today as it did one hundred years ago, the left is in a mess because of its disunity, Left Unity exists to remedy that. Everyone involved must want some form of left unity, or at least recognise the need for it.

Making members renounce political affiliation to other organisations, would cause a lot of work for Left Unity. First and foremost our membership would drop slightly, secondly we would come under attack by these organisations. All of which will distract us from our real concerns, fighting capitalism and helping those feel its effects. However it isn’t all negative, it would ensure that the people left are committed to Left Unity and Left Unity alone, we would be free from internal distractions brought about through various outside influences, and we would all be working towards the improvement and betterment of Left Unity. This would therefore empower the membership who are left to have full control over the organisation, the only problem would be just how many activists we lose and the danger of LU falling into the trap of sectarianism.

What path Left Unity should take, I am not one hundred percent sure, one thing is for certain though this debate needs to be had, and it needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. We are leaving ourselves open to attack from within and while this may not be a massive problem at the moment, as we grow it will become a much bigger possibility. We need people who are taking Left Unity seriously, and are committed to the project wholeheartedly, we need to work at improving our grassroots structure and our democracy, empowering the membership to take Left Unity on the journey they want it to. It is very bizarre that we can have people not involved with Left Unity at all, in a completely separate organisation influencing our policy through having their members in this position, or voting on that motion. In the long run this leaves us as members completely powerless over our own destinies. The first step in finding a resolution to this, is Left Unity having this debate and discussing what kind of party we truly want this to be. We can hold a meeting with all these organisations, get their input, get your input as a member, this is our party, lets ensure it succeeds.

Left Unity: Moving Forward

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This article is a follow up article to a piece wrote at the beginning of the year entitled: “Left Unity, a new party, a new politics.” It is suggested you read that before reading this one as the two compliment one another, the article delved into how Left Unity should be operating and what it should be doing for our new kind of politics. This article shall delve deeper into that topic reflecting on what still needs to be done, and what strategy we should be adopting to grow the party, and continue to fight for the oppressed. The task ahead for Left Unity as a whole and for individual members is a monumental one, building a party from the ground up, it cannot be rushed, we cannot cut corners, for if we drop the baton now, everything is for naught.

Our year anniversary is fast approaching and we have come quite a way since we started out, so I guess a congratulations and a well done are in order for all the hard working members, officers, and branches up and down the country, who are working tirelessly in service of their communities and towards the success of Left Unity. Our work however is far from over, as founding and early members of the party our job is one of the most important tasks, we need to be laying the foundations of the party, our foundation within communities and our foundations in the hearts and minds of the people. If we fail at this task, the party is finished, it is our duty to prove to the people that we are not more of the same, that we are well and truly on their side in the struggle, and that they can trust us. It with this in mind that the formative years of the party will shape how we are perceived by the public, and will set the tone of the party for years to come.

Our first task in ensuring we can deliver on the five strategical aims I laid out in my previous article is organisation, we need to ensure our internal structures and organisation are complete and operating as intended. If we cannot get this right, we stand no chance of working efficiently or growing as a party, for we will forever be marred in internal distractions. This means ensuring:

  • Regional councils are fully functioning

  • Standing orders finalised for branches, committees, sub-groups, etc

  • Branches are fully supported and operational

  • All posts are filled

  • Committees are fully operational

  • Refined policies

In fact, everything in regards to the internal structure and organisation could be added to the list, so it is by no means an extensive one, but you get the picture. This is what I am getting a little concerned about, if Left Unity was an army, half of our troops have had no training, the other half haven’t been given any weapons, and we are going to be sending them out to war?

Which leads me to my next point, elections are coming up and the debate was had at Left Unity Northampton on how we were planning to proceed, we unanimously agreed that standing in the General Election would be a waste of time, money and resources and we have put a motion in to the NC towards that end. Left Unity is not even a year old, we haven’t got our organisation fully operational, and with less than a year to go, we have no strategy for fighting the election, even if we win a seat, the party is not prepared or ready to have an MP. We need only look at other parties to see how long it has took them to mount credible challenges, and what strategy they adopted to achieve that end. Money that we are going to be throwing away in fighting a general election could be spent on positive things which help us lay the foundations for 2020, where we can fight a good campaign. If Left Unity was a product, we haven’t finished making it yet, nor have we finished producing it, but we are already trying to sell it and that kind of opportunistic token electioneering will damage our long term success.

So what should we be doing in the coming year, what strategy should we adopt if jumping on the general election bandwagon is a waste of time? I touched on the five points in my previous article, but we need to be doing more than just that. We need to be working at building local foundations, local fortresses, Left Unity bases up and down the country, and more importantly we need to be getting Left Unity out there into mainstream culture. To achieve this, we should be standing in local elections, while continuing to build relationships with communities through the five points. Once these lines of communication are fully laid, the trenches have been dug, then we will be prepared for battle, as the saying goes, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Therefore the time spent on elections could be spent helping communities in their struggles, doing the important ground work for the success of the party in its battle against capitalism.

On top of this, the money we are going to be wasting on a general election could be put towards real good use in growing the party, we could hold a Left Unity political road show traveling up and down the country, with national officers and members going to each and every branch to boost that branches recognition and get the Left Unity message out there. We can put that money where it is needed, helping the oppressed and downtrodden, getting right into the hearts of communities and building Left Unity from the bottom up. Instead of rushing around placing general election candidates for the sake of it, when we are relatively unknown, we should be carrying out positive actions within communities which will attribute to the long term success of the party, not detract from it. If we do this step perfectly, when 2020 comes around we will be in perfect position to mount a general election campaign, as we would have had six years to plan for it, instead of half a year.

In Northampton Left Unity we have been working at building a strong base, a powerful foundation with which to challenge in 2020. We have built relationships with local groups, carried out our own protests and actions, got involved in local campaigns, helped in communities and set up our own society within the university. We are working tirelessly to build links within the community and create a bond of trust which will empower the group and the people. We will be standing a few candidates in the local election to get LU on a ballot paper, and make a headway into local government, because we feel that is the most effective use of our time. Each month we are gaining one or two new members, and these members are usually people that have never engaged in politics before. We plan on leading by example, and whatever strategy Left Unity adopts, we hope in a few years time we can show you a successful branch. We have done this without any real tangible support in terms of funds and resources from LU Central, if we got given a couple of grand with which to build the branch, we would be twice the size we are now, and this is where the resources should be going.

To wrap this up, Left Unity is a long term project, and we need to be thinking in the long term, we are the builders of Left Unity’s future and if we build those foundations on sand, then we are destroying that future. We have two thousand members and need to be pushing to get that membership up to ten thousand, we need to be working at getting branches fully embedded into their communities struggles, we need to be supporting one another so that the party is operational, so that when we do go to war, we are fully prepared for the fight, instead of throwing ourselves to the lions. There is important work that needs to take place in the formative years of the party, that we cannot afford the distraction of chasing general elections, when we will not get our deposits back, not mount a credible challenge, and waste a huge chunk of the year and time, for little or no gain. Now more than ever we need to be placing ourselves well and truly on the side of the people, so that come 2020, we mean business. Instead of running the Fawlty Towers of election campaigns, the party will be fully operational, our policies will be refined, our strategy well thought out, our product will be finished and it will be rolling off the assembly line. We should not be trying to sell Left Unity and carrying out business like the other parties, they are more prepared, better funded and resourced than us, we cannot beat them fighting a conventional war, we will not beat them at their own game, we have to resort to guerrilla tactics if we are too be successful in the long term, so lets not sell out our long term success for short term dreams.

Labour: The New Party of the Right

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Can we stop pretending that Labour is a centre left party now? It seems with each passing week another right wing policy comes spewing forth from the Labour party machine, or even more farcically a selection of MPs falling over themselves to appear more right wing on the key debates of the day. How long are we going to be in self denial on what the Labour party has transformed into? How long can we buy into a false belief that they are anything but on a clear course of centre right politics? If Labour taking up the rally cry of “one nation” politics didn’t send the alarm bells ringing, what will? Like the Titanic hurtling towards an ice berg, Labour are hurtling full speed ahead into the right of British politics. Ed Miliband is just the newest figure in Labours slow march to the right as it abandons its supporters. Labours continual commitment to move further right should go down in history as one of the biggest betrayals of British politics, how insane that a political party can be so divorced from its key voters and supporters that it is doing everything in its power to leave them behind. It is a damning state of affairs for British politics when come the election people will vote Labour only because they won’t hit us as hard as the Tories, or if they do, they will look apologetic and sorry about it afterwards.

The Labour party was founded out of the Trade Union movement, it was founded to ensure this movement had representation in parliament, who would of thought that when they are afraid to say they support striking workers? Or fall over themselves in trying to distance their relationship to the unions. I am going to say this loud and clear, being a trade unionist is not a crime, it is not a sin, trade union is not a dirty word to be shied away from, it is something to be proud of, and Labour are not proud of this history, and they are not proud of that legacy. Their betrayal of their founding principals continues however, Nye Bevin founded the NHS, a health system which is the marvel of the world, yet it was a Labour party some sixty (give or take) years later which begun selling off this wonderful health system to private companies, so they may profit off our sickness, now that is a big fuck you to Bevan and the proud achievements of a Labour party fighting for the people. The NHS came about to ensure that we were all given good healthcare regardless of wealth, yet now they begun the process to have a health system run on profit and based on wealth? “It will last as long as there a folk left to fight for it” Bevan once said, he would be turning in his grave if he knew his party were the ones that begun the process of dismantling it. I could go on and on, but there is a rather simple test which can prove this abandonment of socialism, look through a Labour manifesto, look for the word socialism, now look through their last five manifestos, see if you can find it, you won’t, just like they are afraid of their trade unionist past, they have abandoned their socialist principals. They even took up the rally cry of imperialism with the invasion of Iraq, they picked up the sword of imperialism and plunged it into the back of their international socialist supporters!

One Nation Conservatism championed by Benjamin Desrali is the new theme for the Labour party, and it was such an important part of Conservatism that it was only in the 1970s that its influence diminished within the Tory party, New Labour has now become One Nation Labour. Ed Miliband while citing Desrali as a key influence, also claims it is inspired by Prime Minister Attlee, the same Prime Minister that brought in a swathe of welfare reforms, chief among them the NHS, a champion of the welfare state. This being the case, how can this One Nation Labour even begin to match up to the champions that brought in the welfare state in one of the most difficult periods economically and socially this country has ever witnessed? Far from having a banker created deficit to deal with, Attlee had a myriad of problems and far from shrinking from the responsibility the Labour party had to the people of the country, he brought in reforms to help them and the welfare state he laid the foundations for and built up is being dismantled by the ConDems, and is going to continue to be attacked by Labour, at the very least if he wants to lay claim to Attlee’s legacy he could at least mount a robust defense of the welfare state instead of helping hammer in the nails of the welfare coffin.

To lay the blame solely at Ed Miliband’s feet would do him a disservice, he is very much a fruit of a Labour tree that has hacked away at its roots and one that marches relentlessly to the right, the Labour’s mass consensus and acceptance of Thatcherism. We had thirteen years of Labour government, thirteen years of chances, thirteen years for the Labour party to empower the unions, thirteen years to undo the heartless and callous actions of she who may not be named, thirteen years to regulate business interest, thirteen years to nationalise key industry, thirteen years! THIRTEEN YEARS!!! Far from being remembered as an administration that championed the interest of the working class, that reigned in big business, that gave power to the trade unions, it is remembered most of all for an imperialist war, for giving power to the banks, for creating the big brother state. The whole New Labour project was a betrayal of old Labour, a betrayal of true Labour – it should be remembered as the final nail in the coffin, and Blair the man who sold those principals down the river. To still peddle this poor excuse for a party which is anything but socialist, as a viable workers alternative is not only an insult to everyone who is a socialist, but it is in an insult to those who built up the party, an insult to all who see themselves on the side of good, on the side of equality and the side of justice! Much like Oscar Wilde wrote “the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it,” these people are perverting the socialist message and prolonging our suffering under this system. The sooner we stop letting Labour beat us up and fight back, the sooner we can be living in a just and fair society!

If we examine some Labour of past and present, we can see this growing right wing tendency consuming the soul of the party. The most iconic of these in recent memory being the abandonment of clause 4 which read: “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of 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.” This arguably ensured that the constitution and the party were firmly rooted in the workers struggle, and on the side of the people against the vampiric nature of big business. Removing this from the constitution was either a retreat from the principals which made the party great, or a capitulation to Thatcherism and right wing ideological thought, but one thing it certainly wasn’t, was left wing. Now fast forward twenty years and we have a Labour party that wants to be “tough” (right wing rhetoric for harsh and unfair) on immigration and benefits, with a Labour government we will not be able to have benefits until we are 21. It goes deeper than this still Rachel Reeves has rather proudly declared “It is not an either/or question. We would be tougher [than the Conservatives],” in what kind of parallel universe do we have to reside in, when a socialist or left wing party is declaring it will be more right wing than the Tories? While Ed Balls is declaring they will go into the next general election being “tougher on immigration,” this in the wake of the UKIP scare, where we witnessed a swathe of Labour politicians falling over themselves to appear more right wing than UKIP. The party has betrayed its principals, betrayed its supporters and betrayed us all!

Finally, and this is by no means the sum of all the charges laid at the feet of a disconnected Labour party, the cuts which have hit the poorest and most vulnerable in the wake of the bankers and capitalism crisis are being forced to pay, we are being forced to see the many victories won by brave souls, brave trade unions and a brave Labour party, get ripped away before our very eyes. You would expect then a left wing Labour party to be on the offensive, racing ahead in the polls with a swathe of policies and rhetoric to reflect the dire situation we all find ourselves in, but alas this is not the case. We are met with Ed Balls “We will be cutting departmental spending in 2015-16 and not raising it, with no more borrowing to cover day-to-day spending.” Not only has the right wing Labour party followed the immigrant scapegoating lined laid down by the likes of UKIP, it has accepted the neo-liberal right wing capitalist myth, forcing every normal person to shoulder the burden of a crisis it did not create. Outside of the cost of living crisis rhetoric, which is very true, there is no real substance to it, it is just hot air, a sacrifice to appease the Labour faithful, a bone thrown for them to chew on, well lap it up, because it isn’t going to get any better. A left wing Labour party would be reversing these cuts, it would be creating equality, fairness, a system that works not for a few elites at the top, but for the majority of us.

To reflect on Labours slow zombie like shuffle to the right you can trace this slow right bound drudge with the removal of clause 4, you could argue it begun even further back as some have, but when it begun really doesn’t matter to the present situation and that is, we now have a Labour party which no longer represents the majority of workers, a Labour party which has betrayed or ignored the trade unions, a Labour party that has abandoned the principles it was founded upon, a Labour party which no longer seems to care for its roots. The reclaim Labour strategy has been argued for, for fourty odd years and within that time we have witnessed a complete betrayal by the Labour party to the people. We can mourn the Labour party, we can waste our time within the Labour party machine, fighting helpless against the ever growing tide towards the right wing, or we can work at building a new party that represents the people, this is why a new party of the left had to come into existence. After all that Labour have done to us throughout the decades people still turn out because “they’re better than the Tories” but how long is that excuse going to last? How much betrayal can we take? On the continent we have seen relatively young parties spring up and have some measure of success, this is why we need to throw off the pessimism of a new party, Labour started somewhere a century ago, and we have to start again for the workers torch is being extinguished over Westminster. We cannot continue to support a party which does not support us, it is as simple as that, so please throw off the Labour shackles, the Labour party of old is dead, the new beast is not one we want to ride.