Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Left Unity “moderate” “mishmash” or step forward?

with 5 comments

Weekly Worker says, economic policy  is ” mishmash“.

Left Unity is encouraged, rightly in the Tendance’s view by having achieved some national resonance.   1,520 signed-up members – and 200 in the immediate run up to their Manchester Conference.

But steel-hardened cadres beware!

Peter Manson reports in the Weekly Worker.

The economics policy commission, which made up the first real business of the day, remains a mishmash of lofty aspirations and minimalist reforms. It starts by describing the effects of the global financial crisis, yet does not go on to call for the party to be committed to a campaign for an alternative society. It states: “Radical measures are necessary to ensure a transformation in the economic structure and a reversal of the damage inflicted over the last 30 years of attacks …” It calls for “an expansion of public spending in pursuit of a policy of full employment”.

…incredibly, no debate was allowed on this monstrosity of a document.

We can only be dismayed.

Except that to most people it seems a pretty good approach to take, a radical programme of structural reforms, and a positive attempt to offer an alternative to the Privatising State and Austerity.

In general Left Unity has some pretty good policies. It refused to follow the  Gadarene herd into the sea of Scottish nationalism and an independent capitalist Alba. It rejected calls for  ‘unity’ with groups like the SWP (which some of Left Unity’s main members recently split from acrimoniously) and the No2EU supporting Socialist Party.

It would have been interesting to see  some balance-sheet of the experience of other left party initiatives, particularly a self-criticism from those who were until not so long ago part of the cabal around George Galloway’s Respect Party.

None has appeared.

Even Cde. Mason admits its policy on Europe is an excellent start,

Crouch End’s motion called for support for the statement of the European Left Party and its “refoundation of Europe on a socialist basis”. This was carried unanimously. Of course, there are big differences on what exactly is meant by that, and those around Andrew Burgin, Kate Hudson and so on who support it have very different ideas in practice on what is meant by “socialist”. But this convergence around the notion of all-Europe unity – as opposed to left nationalism – was striking.

This is a major advance for the British left.

The comrade writing in the organ of the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB accurately  observes (following no doubt the judgement of Tendance Coatesy) that the motion on racism was a load of, how shall we put this politely, cack.

Cde Mason remarks,

“It was fitting that this intersectionalist motion was moved by Richard Seymour. He was urged by comrade Macnair to accept that the motion was “framed in the wrong way” and should be referred back.”

Comrade Macnair pointed out that its sectionalist/intersectionalist basis was “inconsistent with global opposition to capitalist rule”. Blacks (or women) per se cannot lead such opposition. Secondly, it saw no difference between the racism of old and today’s “nativism”. It accepted the whole multiculturalist agenda, which was driven by the bourgeoisie and sought to divide opposition from ethnic groups by upholding their separation from each other and promoting ‘community leaders’ who claimed to speak for them and helped sideline any united class response to cuts, etc.

Quite right comrade! (we are not being facetious  here)

In his reply, comrade Seymour dismissed the concern about intersectionality. The various oppressed groups “intersect”. So “what’s the problem?” As for the divisive nature of multiculturalism, that seemed to pass him by. Showing just how all-pervasive are the backward ideas associated with multiculturalist intersectionality, the CP was virtually alone in calling for a referral-back: the motion was carried overwhelmingly.

To repeat.

The motion passed.

This alone shows something is going wrong.

Whether Left Unity will amount to a successful intervention in national politics remains very much an open question.

One larded with doubts.

We consider that initiatives like the People’s Assembly have deeper roots and can achieve more results – fighting austerity uniting trade unionists , social movements and individuals – than a new party.

But we shall leave to conclusion to Cde. Mason.

The whole day was very tiring, but it was nowhere near as frustrating as the founding conference. But, despite some success for the “extreme left”, March 29 marked another step on the road towards Left Unity becoming a broad, “moderate” party incapable of organising consistent working class opposition to capital. However, there is a lot to play for yet.

A rather different report on the Conference in Links International.


Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

5 Responses

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  1. Andrew

    You say the People’s Assembly offers a better alternative, how? we have been here before tried that and the setbacks for the left continues. It is firefighting and by putting all of our eggs in such a basket we are allowing the capitalists to set our agenda. We must offer the working class some bright sunny uplands not continuously defend past gains which we have little hope of reversing without a national parliamentary platform. If we had the latter along with something like a radical peoples assembly instead of a talking shop, we might get somewhere.

    In truth whether it was the Liaison Committee for the Defense of trade unions in the 1970-1980s or the Peoples Assembly(even the name harks back) without wishing to be overcritical all they really amount to is giving activists something to do.

    It is not that I do not wish them well or admire those activist who work within them but in the harsh light of day they are extra parliamentary politics without any real clout.

    We have to move on, and whether it succeeds or not for me Left Unity is worthy of support. In this country the ruling class is so well entrenched organising the odd demo, meeting, or march, no matter how successful, is not going to dislodge them, we need to put the fear of god into them and although it is early days, if we are to go down the road of a mass Left Unity party, not a hodge podge coalition of leftists who act like ferrets in a sack. We just might get somewhere.


    Mick Hall

    April 5, 2014 at 12:25 pm

  2. A valid point Mick, the People’s Assembly is for activists.

    It is not a talking shop – here in Suffolk we have helped in a variety of active initiatives, from backing DPAC pickets, the teachers’ rally during their recent strike, to a campaign on the Living Wage and our own local events co-ordinated with the national Day of Action last November 5th.

    It is too broad to be confined to a ‘party’.

    Left Unity does not have this kind of presence, and some of its activists (notably in Socialist Resistance) are involved in the People’s Assembly.

    Left Unity has established some space for left policies, without the kind of arrière-pensées of the SWP and the Socialist Party.

    It also, unlike these two groups, and unlike the CPB, has a clear line on Europe – to refound it as a “social” Europe – that is mainstream on the European left, unlike the feeble “Britain alone” call to withdraw from the EU position of much of the British left.

    But Left Unity is small, and is likely to remain so: it does not come from anything but a fringe of the labour movement.

    It is largely made up of former members of other left groups.

    It is unlikely to make much of an impact in “extra-parliamentary politics” with any “real clout”.

    Andrew Coates

    April 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm

  3. It sounds like solid work in Ipswich, as to LU I can but hope.

    Mick Hall

    April 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

  4. According to Laurie Penny (this is too funny to miss), “The next generation don’t need a Nasa-funded study to predict that their adult lives will be harder than those of their parents. Slavoj Žižek, every hipster’s favourite communist philosopher, once opined: “It’s easy to imagine the end of the world . . . but we cannot imagine the end of capitalism.” I’m not sure that’s true any longer. I suspect that young people today are gradually beginning to imagine what the end of capitalism as we know it might look like – and while it might be exciting, it won’t be a lot of fun and might require some weapons training. ”


    Andrew Coates

    April 6, 2014 at 11:56 am

  5. The “mishmash” of the economics policy document that Peter Manson referred to does include some radical demands, which were described as “transitional” at the meeting to discuss the document in London, that I attended. It was pointed out there that Nick Wrack was horrified by how reformist the demands on tax were (or words to that effect), but the question arises as to why his Socialist Platform went into (perhaps permanent) hibernation rather than coming up with concrete improvements.

    I submitted amendments, via Manchester, on making compensation for nationalisation in the form of government bonds “capped at a certain level so that large shareholders lose most of their investments” and nationalising “companies that attempt to destabilise a Left Unity government, by a ‘strike of capital’ or by trying to transfer assets overseas” – the first was accepted into the document without need for debate and the second (1D) was voted for overwhelmingly (after being proposed by Laurie McCauley of the CPGB since I couldn’t make the conference). Obviously those amendments don’t transform LU into a revolutionary party (and I actually favour a broad party anyway), but they could play a part in panicking big business when faced with the prospect of LU coming to power (perhaps through a mass/general strike rather than elections).

    I disagree with those (including the SWP) who call Left Unity “reformist” or “left reformist”. We are a broad socialist party in which there is an ongoing struggle between revolutionaries and those who want LU to have reformist policies (even though some are actually revolutionaries or in organisations that claim to be revolutionary).

    Read my blog entry, which concentrates on the economy discussion, at http://thatcheroftheleft.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/29-march-leftunity-conference-the-ongoing-struggle-between-revolutionaries-and-reformists/


    April 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

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