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.

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Land of Hope and Misery

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There aint no great in Britain any more
but what was great about Britain?
Because I have my doubts

Was Britain great when it hungered for war and blood
instead of spreading peace and love?

Was Britain great when we had ladies and lords
when we were stopped by the sword?

Was Britain great when we used concentration camps
killing over 30,000 people?

Was Britain great when we brought and sold human life
enslaving whole nations at the point of a knife?

Was Britain great when it turned its guns on its own people
hungry and desperate for a fair deal?

Was Britain great when the majority of its people were poor
struggling to survive?

Was Britain great when surviving childhood was an achievement
with child labour being the norm?

Was Britain great when it worked its people’s fingers
to their bone?

Was Britain great in Northern Ireland where we
brought destitution to a whole nation?

Was Britain great when we killed and killed
all for the sake of the rich mans greed?

Was Britain great in Africa, India, China and beyond
when it murdered all who didn’t dance to their song?

Was Britain great when it drew lines on a map
that from past until present make war instead of peace?

Was Britain great when it was a racist nation
that spread fear and hatred?

Was Britain great when Alan Turing was persecuted
because he preferred men to having a wife?

Was Britain great under a Thatcher government
that destroyed our industry and community too?

So next time you repeat those hollow words with your
hand on your heart,
remember your history, remember it right from the start
for people like me and you have struggled with each day anew
We have never had it easy that has been a luxury reserved for a few
They may lie and sing Britain was once great
but you have to ask yourself great for who?

I will let you in on a little secret
It was never great for me or for you

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.

Left Unity; A new party, a new politics

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Left Unity is a young political party but we have to be greater than a political party, we have to be greater than an election force. Unlike the politicians of today, unlike the parties of the day – We cannot talk about problems and solutions, we have to be providing solutions while highlighting the problems, we have to be working with communities and helping people. We are in perhaps one of the most important times in human history, the world is going through drastic changes, the country is going through drastic changes, people are crying out for a new politics, a new way of doing things and we have to be part of that.

How then do we achieve this?
1. Being part of the social movement
2. Providing substanial community support
3. Providing education and advice
4. Work alongside communities to help them with their needs

Left Unity must stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed, the downtrodden and those in need, that is why we must be part of the social movement. We cannot set ourselves outside or above the people we are fighting for, we have to be fighting with them, we have to be sharing in their victories and in their defeats. We must be on the front line in the battles that hold dear to us as an organisation, we must be at the protests, the occupations, the sit ins, we must take part in and lead our own campaigns for change and justice. Martin Luther King points out “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

Left Unity must be engrained within communities providing help and alleviating the symptoms of the capitalist system through real substanital help. It must be helping those that cannot eat, it must be tackling the things it says it is against, if we are to carry out a new politics, we must be doing more than saying we want to help people, we must be helping them. We need to be fighting poverty, we need to be fighting for the poor, when people think of Left Unity, it should not be as a party of talkers but as a party of doers. We must be associated with being the champions of the oppressed in more than just words. The Black Panthers carried out a breakfast program ensuring that poor children were not going without food in the morning, it is this kind of action that we need to be doing within communities.

We must act as educator and advisor to those that need educating and advising, education is important in improving our own lives, and there is a time when we all need advice. With the cuts to services, with the attacks on education, what is happening to us as a class? An educated populace is harder to manipulate, harder to control – we need to be at the forefront in educating communities, so they can organise to defend themselves and their own interests, we need to be at the forefront of providing advice, be it legal, benefit related, or even working on a budget. Knowledge is power and we have to provide the knowledge to the people so that they can have the power. It is the little things which make the big things, and if we can do these little things right on the ground, Left Unity will be seen as a revolutionary political party in how it conducts it self. If we provide the education to the people, they wil be empowered “People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take” (Emma Goldman).

We must be listening to community needs and acting on what communities want, each community is different and Left Unity has a local agenda, with local branches – We must understand then the needs of our communities. There is not a one size fits all answer to helping a community, needs are diverse and our approach to addressing community problems needs to be also. We can only come to understand the needs of a community by being part of that community ourselves, and acting upon the will of that community, if Left Unity has to stand for anything, it must be for the community! We  must stand for helping local people with the problems they are faced with, at the same time carrying out a national agenda, local issues must be at the forefront of our agenda for substanial change.

If Left Unity focuses only on electioneering it will fail, it will lose sight of its goals and it will be hurled into the dustbin of history, if we focus solely on campaigning, we wil be seen as little more than a pressure group, which is why our strategy must be in multiple directions, we cannot focus solely on one or the other, but work in a direction where they compliment each other. If we are helping people, if Left Unity is seen as an organisation which cares for the people, listens to their needs and provides answers to their problems with actions, we will get voted for, because we will be known as an organisation which is doing what it says on the tin. We have to be it all, or we are nothing, we have to be advocating change and at the same time instigating it!