Left Unity and its Future.
Left Unity: Advancing to What?
“If the Labour Party cannot be turned into a socialist party, then the question which confronts us all is, how can we form a socialist party? If we are not ready to answer this question, then we are not ready to dismiss the party that exists.”
Socialists and the Labour Party. Ken Coates. 1973.
“There are many formidable obstacles, which stand in the way of political renewal on the left. Yet such a renewal is necessary if an effective challenge is to be posed to the domination which the Labour Party exercises over the labour movement: nothing much by way of socialist advance will be possible until such a challenge can be effectively posed. This requires the formation of a socialist party free from the manifold shortcomings of existing organisations and able to draw together people from such organisations as well as people who are now politically homeless. By no means the least of its purposes would be to provide a credible and effective rallying point to help in the struggle against the marked and accelerating drift to the right in Britain.”
Moving On. Ralph Miliband. 1976.
“There is a saying on the British left that the only thing more futile than trying to transform the Labour Party into an instrument for radical change is trying to set up a viable party to the left of it”.
Left Unity or Class Unity? Andrew Murray. 2014 (1)
Polls indicate the xenophobic and anti-EU UKIP may get over 30% of the vote in May’s European election. Nigel Farage is not isolated. Marine Le Pen (also leading voting intentions) in France, the Austrian FPÖ, Wilders and the PVV in Holland, and others, many others on the populist extremes, have come to prominence across the continent. They appear on the crest of wave, with a projected electoral score of up to 25% gathered inside the EU. If there is radical shift in the political agenda it looks as if it’s being pushed from the fringes of the right. (2)
Faced with this prospect it may seem of little consequence that in November last year a small section (over 1,200 sub-paying members) of the British left formed a new party, Left Unity (LU). Left Unity’s creation began in March 2013 when Ken Loach, Kate Hudson and Gilbert Achcar, railed against the absence of a left agenda in national politics, “…Labour embraces cuts and privatisation and is dismantling its own great work. Labour has failed us.” (Guardian. 25.3.13) The wanted something paralleling other European radical left-wing parties “to fill the left space, offering an alternative political, social and economic vision..“The anomaly which leaves Britain without a left political alternative – one defending the welfare state, investing for jobs, homes and education, transforming our economy – has to end.” The call received thousands of on-line and other endorsements, 10,000 according to supporters
LU has drawn inspiration, then, from European parties to the left of traditional social democracy. Their backgrounds are complex, ranging from post-68 extra-parliamentary lefts, Communism, and Second International socialism, and it would not be accurate to call them ‘new’. But they are the major European force giving political expression to anti-capitalist ideas. Many of these organisations, or electoral blocs, such as the Dutch Socialistische Partij (SP), the Portuguese Bloco de Esquerda, the German Die Linke, Syriza in Greece, the Spanish Izquirda Unida, and the Front de Gauche (FdG) in France, many (though not the SP) affiliated to the European Left Party, may also do well in the May ballots. A number of commentators suggest they too are “populists” for opposing austerity. Whether this is true or not, elected to the European Parliament these parties’ representatives will present a counterweight to the success of far-right and ‘anti-political’ populists.
Without any prospect of directly sharing in this result, Left Unity has, nevertheless, supported the call of the European Left Party (ELP), not to turn away from the EU but to “campaign for a different form of European Union, a ‘socialist reconstruction’. Tough opposition to the Treaties that block left policies, from social democracy onwards, mean remaking Europe’s framework, through mass action, brought to shatter the institutions themselves. This cannot be carried out by one country’s left alone. To back the ELP is to broadcast a distinctive message for the May election. Such a stand marks LU out on the non Labour Party left, much of which is officially anti-EU to the point of calling for UK withdrawal. One slate for the May elections, backed by the Communist Party of Britain (CPB), the Socialist Party and the RMT, which has so far failed to make any impact, says No2E and “yes” to “workers’ rights” to sum up its demand to leave the EU on “the basis of socialist policies”. (3)
From Then to Now.
Now, nearly forty years after Ralph Miliband wrote Moving On, something with ambitions to be the independent left party he advocated, has been founded. From November 2013 the new organisation, took shape. At Left Unity’s policy conference in March 2014, people talked of bulding a “mass party of the left.” The party’s goal appears to be, for some, not only to struggle for a voice to express radical socialist democracy and to influence politics, but to replace the Labour Party. Others have indicated that Left Unity will be “Labour’s UKIP” – tugging at it from the left. How will it do this? It will “campaign on the streets, in the workplaces and in the unions” (Salman Shaheen. New Statesman. 31.3.14.) To make its intentions clear, Left Unity has begun by standing candidates for the May local elections in Wigan, Exeter, Norwich and Barnet.
Left Unity comes after a long series of left initiatives. The Party draws on those involved in the Socialist Alliance (1992 – 2005), and, controversially, fomer leading members of the Respect Party (2003 – ?), including those close to George Galloway. Some are ex-Labour supporters. There are those wholly new to this type of politics. There are left ‘factions’ (such as the ‘Communist Platform’) from long-established groups. LU is also inspired by anti-capitalist protest movements and green-left groups. It has connections to the European radical left cited above. Kate Hudson has written favourably on the European organisations in the European Left Party, and those in the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL). Others (such as Gilbert Achcar) are close to the Fourth International, whose principal French supporters are in the Nouveau Parti Anti-Capitaliste (NPA). This is opposed to the largest left bloc in their country, an important part of the ELP, the Front de Gauche..
There is a rule on the British left that nobody keeps their unfavourable opinions to themselves for longer than it takes to type on a keyboard. Left Unity attracted criticism from the beginning. Some of the most trenchant came from Andrew Murray, (writing under the name of Michael Ford). The Chief of Staff of Britain’s largest union, UNITE, and a long-standing member of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and a former Chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Muray wrote from a vantage point embedded in the left and the labour movement.
In April 2013 Murray rushed to his Laptop (or Tablet), dissected LU’s basis and predicted its future. He wrote, “the Left Party proposed will be a gathering of well-meaning individuals, some Marxist, others not, organised primarily around electoral interventions on a fairly broad common-denominator of anti-austerity pro-equality policies. It will have very limited working-class support. It will almost certainly not secure significant support at the ballot box, and it will absolutely certainly not achieve socialist revolution, because it will not be organised for that. It will likely hover between being another left electoral alternative to Labour and being another attempt at far-left regroupment, while succeeding at neither.”
Not many would have come forward to congratulate this Seer. Much of this could have been written about any left electoral foray over the last fifty years, including those of the CPB, and that of the Respect Coalition in the 2004 European and muncipal elections (which Murray is reported to have backed). But he also proffered an argument that would have hit home to a wider audience, “to stand outside the general objective of electing a Labour government as the only alternative to the Coalition by engaging in separate and marginal electoral interventions is profoundly self-defeating.” (4)
The tone of this response to a project that “risks not only being merely irrelevant but also almost (well-intentioned) sabotage through division” was not universally appreciated. But Murray’s arguments cannot be set aside. In their full shape – in the 2014 Socialist Register – they offer a serious balance-sheet of the prospects of the left and the labour movement, and will take up a large place in this article.
Other reactions, from those more directly affected by any left “regroupment”, came. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) talked of the need for a “revolutionary party” rather than Left Unity – or Labour. The SWP’s Paul Blackledge criticised LU’s determination to see “old Labour” through “rose-tinted spectacles” as evidenced in the Ken Loach film The Spirit of 45. The SWP refuses to “liquidate” into the new party because they cannot organise as a “politically independent group”. The chances of them being invited may not have been increased by Blackledge’s observation that, “our aim is to work alongside these formations” (“left reformists’), but without “sowing illusions in them” and that “in all probability they will sooner or later have to break with their reformist partners.” (5)
John Rees of Counterfire commented less directly. “There is, in Britain at the moment at any rate, a peculiar symbiosis developing between the advocates of electoralism and the horizontalist activists. And of course in a way it’s not surprising. If one rejects the model of working class unity that depends on a revolutionary organisation aiming to sustain unity through the mechanism of the united front then activity and politics fall into two separate but mutually reinforcing poles, ‘grass roots activism’ and electoralism.” Rees ended by calling for a “new revolutionary organisation”. Decoded, Rees meant that that those who wish to present left candidates in elections were aligning with those enthused by some of the forms of “anti-capitalist” protests, built as ‘networks’ of recent years.
What is Counterfire’s alternative? Few readers will need reminding that “united fronts” in the UK refers not to agreements between the mass organisations of the working class to form a common national platform. It means co-operation between diverse bodies, in pressure groups, like the Stop the War Coalition (StWC), and the anti-cuts body, the Coalition of Resistance. Counterfire have since put a lot of widely appreciated work into the People’s Assembly, the latest of these forms (thankfuly ditching the confusing term ‘Coalition’ in the fight against the Liberal-Conservative Coalition). Whatever one thinks of Rees’ ‘revolutionary’ pretentions, and other feelings about this approach, the group is prepared to do “grass roots activism”. (6)
The Socialist Party (SP) had a ready-made answer. They claimed that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was already, “the first serious attempt to create the foundations of a new movement expressing the voice of the working class for their own independent party.” Peter Taaffe, the leader of the SP, then described the LU backers as “political grasshoppers.” (7)
Now, in the Socialist Register 2014, Murray offers a carefully weighed unpicking of the Left Unity party project that expands his original points. Last November Murray spoke at the Historical Materialism conference on his Register contribution. He repeated the message, at a meeting organised by Red Pepper magazine under the title ‘Ralph Miliband and the politics of class.’ This reinforces the relevance of referring back to Miliband’s ideas about an independent socialist party. John McDonnell MP, Chair of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) and a supporter of the “reclaim Labour” approach, chaired the gathering. Red Pepper – as we will see – has a long-standing connection with projects for new left parties. Its editor, Hilary Wainwright, has provided some of the most fertile and attractive ideas about these attempts.
Many will agree that the hard slog of trying to make something straight out of the crooked timber of socialist organisations is irksome, particularly for those with firm ideas about what needs straightening. For many people, and not only Andrew Murray, the major difficulty with Left Unity lies in the potential political and social weight of the party and its relationship to the labour movement as a whole. As he writes, “Political space is secured by the strength that comes from the adhesion of mass organisations or movements rooted in important social classes.” There is not a lot of evidence that LU approaches to a “fusion” between a party and such forces. (8)
Yet scepticism about Left Unity is not at odds with the view that it could play a valuable role as a forum where new ideas, unconstrained by the rigidities of existing left groups, and the dominance of a ‘charismatic’ leader, can be debated and related to activism. This may include realistic (limited) electoral campaigns. Left Unity is not run through stifling negotiations between the leaders of various left micro-parties (or even tinnier groupuscules). It contains some of the best, most open-minded activists on the left. Criticisms of the project are not, therefore, to be made lightly.
Whether the struggle Murray advocates – to “reclaim Labour” – will succeed is equally less than certain. Ken Coates reached the conclusion – after more than two decades of working for socialism within the Party, right up to serving as a MEP in the European Parliament – that “the new rules and structure of New Labour, pushed through in the 1997 post-election honeymoon, prevent Labour members and Constituency Parties having any substantial control of, or even influence over, New Labour policy.” (9) The Independent Labour Network, founded in 1998, which Coates was involved with, ended up working with the Socialist Alliance in attempts to offer an alternative to Labour. Since that time these structural changes inside Labour have deepened. One of LU’s leading figures, Liz Davis, has direct experience, as a former member of the Party’s NEC of how Labour has marginalised the democratic weight of activists. Following the latest batch of internal constitutional reforms, the Morning Star and the Labour left appear unenthusiastic about their chances of having any impact on the Party, let alone wielding power inside it.
How, then, does Left Unity measure up? The present article will look at Murray’s arguments, about the “political space” for LU, the example of the radical European left, and his own ideas about a “political response” from the left. Written in the light of the fact of the party’s existence, it is by way of a qualified agreement with many of Murray’s judgements, though without draughts of holy water from the shrines of Soviet history. The importance he gives for support for the People’s Assembly is widely shared, including by LU supporters, some of whom were present at its March conference. We should be open enough to recognise the strengths, and not just the weaknesses of Left Unity. Equally we should not ignore the flaws, as well as the strong points, in Andrew Murray’s scrutiny.
A Closer Look Backwards.
In Left Unity or Class Unity Andrew Murray refers to a “large body of evidence” about the failure of efforts to transform Labour and to set up a party to its left. It would take a full-size book to trace this history right back, to say, the Socialist Unity Conference of 1911, or the Unity conference that founded the Communist Party in 1920. Life is too short, perhaps, to cover the Communists’ attempts (urged by Lenin) to influence Labour to the left by affiliation. More recent events, within easy memory or political reference, are the most relevant.
Murray’s first note points to the 1970s debates around Miliband’s Moving On article and later efforts to create left parties with an electoral presence. What are these signs, and what can we forensically prove, or at least indicate, from them?
Moving On was published in 1976. In March of that year the Labour Prime Minister Prime Minister Harold Wilson resigned amidst deepening political and economic difficulties His successor, James Callaghan, and the majority of the Cabinet, took fright at a Sterling Crisis and embraced Monetarism. For much of the left the record of Harold Wilson’s Labour Governments had already showed not only a failure of socialist promise, but also an inability to introduce serious reforms.
The disintegration of the Social Contract with which Labour maintained itself in power that followed Callaghan’s leadership, appeared to confirm this. The late 70s and 80s were years in which many of Miliband’s New Left, amongst others, engaged in battles under the banner of what came to be known as ‘Bennism’, to change Labour’s course. But before these came to the fore one could see that the left was not only unhappy with the course Labour was taking, but had the force to make its opinions known right throughout the Party, right up to the (at the time) influential National Executive Committee (NEC). This discontent foreshadowed a decade or more of disputes inside the Party, over democracy, accountability, and the counter-proposals to Monetarist austerity, the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) and attempts to transform the Labour Party, root and branch.
In Moving On Miliband did not analyse the politics of the incoming Wilson government of 1974–6. He had already outlined in a Postscript to one his most celebrated works, Parliamentary Socialism (1973 Edition) a despondent and critical view on the nature of the Labour Party. His balance-sheet of the Wilson governments of the 1960s was employed to illustrate the judgement that the labour could not be turned into “socialist party” – or help build a “radically different social order”. This had become a structural fault, aligned with Labour’s loyalty to the “parliamentary system”, a pivot by which they integrated the unions into capitalism. This Constitutionalism was at odds with socialism. It cut the Party from class struggle and more radical democratic demands; it wrapped up its MPs inside Westminster conventions; it kept the membership’s ambitions within conventional limits; it stifled their political imagination. (10)
Parliamentary Socialism (in early and later editions) became part of a flourishing crop of criticisms of the Labour Party and its 1960s record in office. This had some resonance in activist spheres, including inside the Labour Party. Many were also affected, if not directly enthused by, the events of 1968. The May Day Manifesto (1967/8) produced by New Left figures close to Miliband, was announced as a “socialist alternative to Labour government policies” – and failed to mention feminism. It claimed that “largest group of active socialists in Britain is now essentially unorganised and others whose only definition so far has been that they are Labour Party socialists on the Labour Left.” A new initiative was required to gather them to break the mould of Labour’s stifling politics.
The Left Convention of 1969 followed in the wake of the Manifesto. Some participants in that event blame the “sectarianism of left groups” for the failure to set up a new left organisation of any kind. Raymond Williams himself recorded that it was disagreement over standing candidates for 1970 General Election under the banner of the Left Alliance that shattered the movement. (11)
This was not the only approach to emerge during this period. Ken Coates wrote, at the start of the 1970s, one of the most convincing defences of why socialists should be members, active members, of the Labour Party. (Socialists and the Labour Party. 1973) For Coates, those who do not “stagger” under the “weight” of revolutionary doctrine, things should be clear. “What possible alternative can offer itself but that of campaigning to develop and explicitly socialist tendency within the Party? And if one admits such a tendency might be developed, who can say, in advance, whether it would be containable? If the unions decide to support real socialist options, why should socialists need to split away?” This was a Wager more appealing that Pascal’s bet on the afterlife. Nothing is certain, but if we believe in the potential influence of socialist ideas in the Labour Party we have to act to promote them inside; nothing will make them more certain to lose than doing nothing.
Ken Coates also observed, on the New Left (May Manifesto) emphasis on cultural transformation, “although the creation of a renewed socialist culture is the first task of modern socialists, it will mean abstract and scholastic until is materially embodied in working-class institutions.” Socialists should relate to what Labour and trade union activists thought, and not preach at them, if, that is, they wanted to gain support for a “socialist tendency”. In retrospect one can register how far Coates was alluding to a gap that he did not directly name. That is, the differences between, say, the different strands in the (then) strong shop-stewards’ movements, the Labour left, the Communist Party (a significant presence on the left) and the galaxy of ‘new left’ and “counter-cultural” trends (12)
Moving On was a challenge to Coates’ and similar views. The rationale for a new party, Miliband observed in Moving On, was that debates about the Labour Party and the left had led nowhere. Referring to Coates he asserted, “the belief in the effective transformation of the Labour Party into an instrument of socialist policies is the most crippling of all illusions to which socialists in Britain have been prone.” This left unanswered Coates’ principal point: nobody can say with absolute certainty that there will never be developments that may change the nature of the party.
Miliband outlined the extremely difficult (if not impossible) operation of transferring an academic existence into an activist one. Moving on was not a message in a bottle thrown into the unknown sea of politics. He had some clear ideas about its potential amongst a smaller pool of activists. In 1974 he had already set out an initial “Case for an Independent Socialist Party”. What was needed, he had argued, was a party of around ten thousand members, involving “active socialists who would be somewhere between Lenin’s professional revolutionaries and passive card-carriers.” It would not be based on democratic centralism. (13)
One group – already swimming in the political pond – remained unconvinced: the ‘revolutionary’ left. They had no belief in Labour, or ‘Labourism’, and were anxious for all and sundry to shed any vestiges of one. In response to Milliband Duncan Hallas of the just formed Socialist Workers Party agreed that it was impossible to change the Labour Party, (How Can We Move On. 1977). The party was marked by “inevitable sells outs” and by a largely passive membership. The Communist Party of Great Britain, was wrong – or more accurately unable – to propell Labour leftwards. Efforts to reform the organsation by “entrism” – a broad term in Halls’s vocabulary, meaning organised efforts to bring Labour to the left – failed to recognise that the party had no real connections with “working class struggle”.
The common ground with Miliband then shrank. Or rather there was “clarification” of the terms of debate. If a new socialist organisation implied, Hallas noted, more than roping in Miliband’s immediate circle it would it could mean a“‘New Left’ type party. This would be “equivocal about reform and revolution, about socialism as the self-emancipation of the working class.” It would be “a sort of ILP or POUM or PSU” (the 1930s democratic radical lefts and one of the main forces of 1960s-70s French ‘new left’). Hallas conceded that Miliband could not wish for such a dire fate. Yet the author of Parliamentary Socialism did not project a party equipped to lead the revolution socialism required.
What was needed, Hallas informed his readers, was to break completely with “parliamentary illusions”. He considered this meant, “The building of a revolutionary party with serious roots and a serious tradition – the Communist tradition….” He concluded, flushed with the prospects of his new Party’s future, that “the SWP has made some modest progress on that basis”.
There were plenty of non-Leninist grounds to be wary of Moving On. It is hard to disagree that the project was launched, as Miliband’s biographer, Michael Newman says, because Miliband saw all existing left parties as defective, and that a new socialist party was needed, it would come about. That is, “because he thought it necessary, he appeared to believe that it could be brought into being.” The – intellectual – conviction that, “such statements would have any real purchase on the situation” met with, the biography further notes, “little discernible effect”. (14)
Miliband attempted to assemble those from, or close to, his circle, for this attempt at “regroupment”. Some Centres for Marxist Education emerged. These efforts had almost no wider results. Hallas had described the New Left milieu from which this initiative emerged, as “politically amorphous and organisationally unserious.” This is unfair. Those “crippled” by their “illusions” in the Labour Party did not respond. There were no sects, and few unorganised socialists, however unformed, to prove their lack of seriousness in the first place.
The story of Moving on can be seen, as a result, as a paradigm of how not to launch a party. This is not to show disrespect for Miliband, whose better sides will be put at the centre of the analysis that follows. But this episode indicates three things. Firstly that the experience of a right-wing Labour government (read New Labour) may lead people on the left to believe that the “necessity” of forming a political alternative trumps everything else. Secondly, that it is all too possible to think of a potential constituency for a new left organisation but very hard to get a real one. Finally, many people simply are part of the left and the labour movement. They are not waiting for the scales to fall from their eyes when a brand new organisation emerges to tell them that they should follow a better way forward. Disillusionment is not fertile ground for a new beginning. As a wide group activists must have very good reasons to change their day-to-day political allegiance, if this is needed at all.
Where We Begin From.
Many of these points have since been made against every single attempt to create a new socialist party. But there is another reason to look backwards. Moving On, like most of the responses to Miliband’s views, took for granted a degree of consensus on the left about the need for “socialist advance”. The debate was about the class and social potential in organisations and movements – Labour or a new party – for a society based on common ownership.
Miliband did not reply on a “labour metaphysic which took the role of the working class to be a timeless icon of socialism. His “empiricism”, the use of evidence to back ideas, was criticised by, notoriously, Nicos Poulantzas. Poulantzas charged, from the standpoint of Marxist theory, that he employed a theory that was fuzzy at the edges and saw the state as an “instrument” of classes, without “relative autonomy”. Yet Miliband worked with decidedly classical Marxist assumptions that set out a clear, but undogmatic, political standpoint. Socialism was a project that needed the self-organisation of wage-labourers (the exploited) and their allies (the oppressed) to replace capitalism, through the vehicle of democratic public organisation and social ownership.
In reply to 1980s criticisms of this kind of bedrock “class politics” Miliband developed his views in Divided Societies (1991). Inequalities, of power and wealth, were maintained by class struggle “from above” by the various interests that make up the ruling class of society. Against this “labour movements are indispensable” for tackling the “evils” of capitalist societies. “The argument is not that labour movements in advanced capitalist societies will necessarily play their transformative role. Nor is it to accord some kind of arbitrary ‘privileged’ place to labour movements out of metaphysical belief in the ‘mission’ of the working class. The argument is that without labour movements organised as political forces, no fundamental challenge to the existing social order can veer be mounted, For organised labour does have a greater potential strength cohesion and capacity to act as a transformative force than any other forces in society.” Social movements, should, Miliband believed, co-operate as partners, to fight their specific oppressions and to influence and transform the labour movement. (15)
The problem for the left lay in the “political agencies” – those standing for the labour movement – that tried to transform this condition. Miliband allowed himself some speculation about what might happen if a left government committed to “radical reform” came to power and the possible violent reactions of the ruling class. His answers showed that his methods and goals were democratic and pluralist – both politically and socially. There was unlikely ever to be “one” party that represented the working class, and no “one” picture of socialism. In this vein Miliband promoted a socialist vision, which developed and expanded the democratic aspects of Marxism.
Miliband wrote in Marxism and Politics (1977) “Bourgeois democracy is crippled by its class limitations and under constant threat of further and drastic impairment by conservative forces never more so than in an epoch of permanent and severe crises. But the civic freedom which, however inadequately and precariously, form part of bourgeois democracy are the product of centuries of unremitting popular struggles, the task of Marxist politics is to defend these freedoms; and to make possible their extension and enlargement by the removal of their class boundaries.” (16)
As Robin Blackburn noted, (commemorating Miliband’s work in 1994), this meant advocating the “democratisation of the state rather than delusive notions of its ‘withering away’.” Blackburn marshalled Miliband’s backing for the proposals for Constitutional Reform developed by Charter 88. From our present vantage point they appear to have no impact in halting the transformation of the state into a body that contracts out to even less democratic private companies. Yet some of the Charter’s demands for decentralisation, may, however have contributed to the clamour for the ‘break up’ of Britain and the establishment of independent Scotland. (17)
The revived Labour Left of the 1970s continued its battles into 1980s. An ideological dispute overshadowed, at least for some, from their (losing) fight for power inside the Party. Many on the left, including those in the Morning Star and a substantial section of the New Left, took up arms against what Miliband called the “new revisionism”. This pitted those who stood for ‘class politics’ against those rapidly on the way to the political centre-ground. Miliband repeated the arguments already cited, and added that the “principal (not the only) ‘gravedigger’ of capitalism remains the organised working class. Here is the necessary, indispensable ‘agency of historical change’.” (18)
Those in the ‘hard-left’ or class camp included many who took an open-minded attitude towards new social currents and groups, from feminism, gay rights, to green issues, but agreed with Miliband’s judgements on the importance of the labour movement. It is not always easy to untangle a common message from opponents of this view. The claim that the “ forward march of labour” had halted or that Thatcherism was a new ideological challenge, can be argued for or against. It was said that the class based left was “fundamentalist” “essentialist” and “elitist”. Arguments resounded principally as watch-words or jibes, which were amply paid back. Probably the ideas of “radical democratic” alliances (which put class, and a host of other demands, from ecology, feminism, to democratic demands that made up a counter-hegemonic ‘people’ on equal footing) was the clearest alternative strategy to the ‘hard left’. This was developed in Ernesto Lalcau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. (1985) (19)
Miliband’s last major work, Socialism in a Sceptical Age (1994) continued to criticise parties like Britain’s Labour. He added, “social democratic parties will remain arenas of struggle. But in conditions of economic, social and political malaise, with a political system unable to cope with evident ills like mass unemployment, deteriorating social and collective services, and general insecurity, the Left, in these parties and outside, may in future be able to exercise a greater degree of influence than it has in the past.” By this time, however, there was little indication that the left had sufficient strength in Britain to shape the direction the Labour Party was taking. (20)
Unravelling the left?
Politics are about changing balances of forces, individuals battling, working together, or falling out, different configurations of class interests; no party is immune to these pressures. Miliband’s views, with the benefit of hindsight, might have been prescient only if we accept that the Labour party was bound to move to the right. But perhaps we should also look, and give credit to the efforts of those who tried to unbind it.
In Moving On Miliband had admitted that, “there is not the slightest chance, of bringing into being an alternative mass party in the relevant future, and that the Labour Party will continue for a long time to be the major ‘party of the working class’” This proved to be the case, and the “disabled” left stayed put. If they did not follow Ken Coates’ to the letter, many followed his practice, and kept within, or joined, the Party.
As the 1970s wore on Miliband’s call was increasingly at a tangent, that is, irrelevant, to the struggles of the left. Far from being “captured” by the routines of the Labour Party a radical challenge arose from the activists. It was met with determined, if not hysterical, resistance from within the party and the national Establishment. When the Left succeeded in winning majorities in National Conference it lost them in the Byzantine procedures of Labour committees and was ignored by Parliamentary representatives. With Labour out of office from 1979 onwards there was even less chance of a “direct assault on the major centres of transnational capital” taking place. (21)
The hopes created during these disputes dominated socialist politics right up to the mid 1980s. They went beyond the Communist Party of Great Britain’s strategy for a push conventionally leftwards, and contributed to the Communists’ own splintering. Hilary Wainwright was one amongst many to describe the left’s efforts to combine democracy in the workplace with reform in the state, workers’ action linked to political action, and moves towards (never achieved) a radical shake-up of Labour’s constitutional structures. This, as her book’s title indicates, opened up deep divisions in Labour that remain, just below the surface, today. (Labour: a Tale of Two Parties. 1987)
The Left’s time was not to be. Labour’s leaders headed off the challenge. The Labour New Left dissolved. The main forces pushing for constitutional change like the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLDP) were marginalised. The shift that led to New Labour began from the time Neil Kinnock became Party leader in 1983. The story is told in Richard Hefferman and Mike Marqusee’s Defeat from the Jaws of Victory (1992). It does not need repeating here.
By the end of the decade the left was looking for ways beyond the Labour party to mobilise a constituency. The Chesterfield Conference of 1988 was followed by the creation of the Socialist Movement, which acted as an umbrella for the left, from inside to far outside the Labour Party. Further conferences were held up to the start of 1990s.
It is in this context that a new round of discussions about creating an independent socialist party began. The Socialist Movement included the Socialist Society (of which Miliband was a member). The Socialist Society’s Negotiating the Rapids (1989), stated, “In our view the Socialist Movement must be preparing the way for an eco-socialist party.” This would be based on a “different political culture” in which “parliamentary representation becomes the expression of a politically confident social movement.” The Labour Left, the pamphlet argued, had been caught up in years of “power struggles, rather than the creative exploration of possibilities in debate based on grass-roots experience. Yet, Negotiating recognised, proportional representation was a key condition for any new party to have any electoral impact. .
By 1992 the Socialist Society Organisation Study Group met and produced papers on the “space for a new party.” (Party Time. 1992) Hilary Wainwright argued that there was a “constituency” ideological and political, for a party that would parallel left-green groups in the rest of Europe. A certain Andrew Coates contested this view, stating that the Labour Party was the focus for left political struggle, and that, in broader terms the left needed to “re-found” itself, that is have a clearer idea of first principles following the collapse of Official Communism. He wrote, “Vehicles such as the Socialist Movement, have not, here and now, anything like the necessary size of political cohesion to become an operational new party, with a serious electoral and social constituency.” (22)
In the Socialist Register of 1995 Wainwright developed this theme. She observed that the rightward drift of Labour was continuing. By contrast there were reasons for hope in the “rise of ‘new’ social movements on the left – indeed several waves of them.” New types of organising meant that this constituency existed. Wainwright asserted that they are “more than protest movements or efforts to extend the agenda of mainstream parties” There was “an explicit sense of themselves as direct agencies of social and political transformation, with their own methods and understandings of political power.” A “politics of doing it themselves…” (23)
In the Register of 1996 Barry Winter pointed out that “social movements” came in many shapes and kinds – including reactionary one – and that the left would do better to “close the gap between the left and the rest of society”, focusing on our real opponents, the “owners and controllers of capital.” Winter added a postscript noting the formation of Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, and Wainwright’s – realistic – rejection of this new party. In response Wainwright realistically noted that Scargill starkly called for others to “follow his lead”. That there is a problem of “presentation” for a large number of left people when Labour was has become a “party of modern capitalist management”. A vacuum exists. In Arguments for a New Left (1994) Wainwright sketched out a way social movements could produce ‘knowledge’ and a different kind of ‘rationality’ from their experience. They could pool this together as the basis for “co-operative planning”. These ideas, which relate social movements (‘horizontalist’ ones in today’s language) to practical alternatives, continue to have relevance. (24)
The more conventionally framed political initiative that appeared was the Socialist Alliance (SA), 1992 – 2005. To some on the left (including this writer), this appeared to have the potential to combine the best of the Labour left’s radicalism with new left ideas. It was not a success. The SA involved many ‘sects’, or left-wing parties, including (initially) the Socialist Party (SP) and the Socialist Workers Party, as well as small number of former Labour Party activists who had been associated with the journal Labour Briefing. From the start there were conflicts about the Alliance’s structure. The SP wanted a federal form (so that they could continue to ‘build’ their own organisation separately). The decision in 2001 to create a membership run body resulted in the SP leaving and the SWP (through their larger membership totals) dominating the party.
The SA’s high point was probably the General Election of 2001 where candidates stood across the country. Yet Bob Pitt was accurate to observe that, the SA was “an organisation of whom few voters had ever heard.” It had won 2,9% in the Greater London elections the previous year and in the Westminster Ballot its average vote in the capital went down to 2,2, %. Pitt poured scorn on the SA’s gestures towards “breaking” the unions’ link with labour. He contrasted this activity to those working within the “real labour movement”. In the same journal Andrew Coates explained his backing for the SA largely in terms of the faults of New Labour, and was unable to offer much, if anything, in the way of proof as to why the Alliance would offer a democratic socialist alternative. (25)
Events were to indicate that the internal structure of the SA was to prove a sticking point for many activists. There were complaints about the way the SWP operated, with a heavy-hand and scant regard for the democratic rights of others, or even proper procedures. A mentality of “revolutionary” expediency was all-too evident.
Mike Maqusee has written, of his own experience, “Coming from a left Labour and trade union background, I was from the first taken aback by the SWP’s lax approach to what it regarded as the finer points of accountability and organisational integrity. For us in the Labour left, the whole battle had been about accountability, about members’ rights and power; we had no interest in joining an alternative that did not meaningfully enfranchise us – for which things like accurate and detailed minutes, reports from officers, etc. are a sine qua non. The cheque forgery was one example of the kind of misbehaviour that people with serious experience in the labour movement would never countenance. But the aura of “revolutionary” superiority in which the SWP wraps itself enables it to skate past all kinds of questions that are the daily diet of people in the broader movement.” (26)
Unpleasant experiences of working with the SWP (and other ‘democratic centralist’ groups) were not unusual in the SA. They help explain why, Andrew Murray excepted, there are people around who consider them important indications of deep-running problems with this form of party. Some say that they do not prove the faults in this design, or lay the problems they create at the door of Lenin. Those in democratic centralist groups who spend much of their lives poring over his Collected Works and commentaries about him may indeed one day find a convincing response to their critics. We await it with bated breath.
Since that period broader debates about left-wing political agencies has run through concepts, of gender, neoliberalism, ecology, globalisation, anti-capitalism, the “Empire” and the “multitude”, subaltern studies, or “post” theories, from post-Modernism, post-Colonialism, to post-Marxism. All related, to one degree or another to political ‘subjects’.
How have these debates affected the way the left thinks of potential vehicles for advance? ‘New social movements’ have been replaced by “intersectionality” – the idea that different issues of gender, sexuality, and other oppressions, need to be worked through by autonomous groups co-operating together. Some on the left are inspired by the Internet based campaigns such as UK Uncut. There are claims that the “anti-globalisation” (other-globalisation) movement has brought new life into “eco-socialism”, revived (again…) by the Occupy/Indignados movements. There is debate about how to deal with the ‘rejection of politics” by a section of the newest generation of activists (Luke Cooper and Simon Hardy (Beyond Capitalism? 2012). Some believe that fractions of the middle-class are the motor behind the most recent upheavals – in, for example, the Arab Spring. That one can “enlist a major portion of the middle class, by addressing some of its core concerns and seeking to articulate them in a critical, egalitarian direction” (Göran Therborn) (27)
In short, things, at least in the realm of ideas about activism, have not stopped changing. They stand linked to the fact that is no longer a taken-for-granted consensus about what ‘socialism’ is – something underlining the long-term effects of the collapse of Official Communism and the weakening of Socialist and social-democratic parties world-wide, above all in Europe. French Socialist Party President François Hollande’s own Spring 2014 rightward shift and turn away from any fight against what he described as the “enemy” finance capital indicates this. We have yet to see any effective if modest ‘reformist’ moves to stem the move to the right. Which is one of the reasons why the issue of a new party keeps resurfacing. Activism, however intense, cannot replace a strategic political vision. It is only organisations, ones that stand ready to take on responsibilities, including electoral mandates and – one hopes – power that can achieve lasting results for the left.
The Left and Labour Movement Today.
The left in Britain, while not without some influence (particularly in the trade unions), has no real political power and not much popular support. Since the Thatcher years, and Prime Ministers John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the politics of the right and left appear to have worked solely to the advantage of the former. The major domestic policies of the ‘centre-left’ in government during the New Labour and Blair-Brown years look like those of a local authority tinkering around the edges of Whitehall instructions issued by the ghost of Margaret Thatcher. There are plenty of other left-wing descriptions of this record, many of them less flattering. Graham Bash and Andrew Fisher, party members and supporters of the Labour Representation Committee, described the Party as follows,
“Unlike previous right wing leaderships, New Labour has a qualitatively different relationship to the labour movement. It is the direct and immediate expression of the interests of big business, intertwined with it in a way that previous right wing leaderships could never be. This is no distorted or bureaucratised expression of the working class. Rather New Labour is the heir to Thatcherism – a product of the defeats imposed on the working class and an attempt to destroy the class base of the Labour Party.” (28)
What then of the wider labour movement? Many accepted that they would have to deal with New Labour, and some were initially warm (or at least not actively hostile) to the possibilities offered by a Labour government. By the 1990s “social partnership”, far from any but the most diluted left-politics, dominated the thinking of the mainstream of the labour movement. Unions would win a role in shaping government policy through the strength of their arguments (I cite from memory a speech by Hilary Benn at Congress House) not by organised muscle. Co-operation with employers might mean hard bargaining but it would work, bolstered by increased social legislation. In local government, and amongst Labour activists, a similar pragmatic approach was the norm, touched by admiration for electoral victory after electoral victory.
The period of New Labour office (1997 – 2009) only gradually saw this alter. By the start of the new millennium even moderates in alliance with the remnants of the Democratic Left conceded that, the Labour government saw unions as “irritants inside the Party, obstacles to public sector reform, and vested interested focused on narrow sectional interests” Labour failed to hive “any distinctive role for unions”. It “fell short of the European social model advocated by John Monks and took no account of the union role beyond the limits of the firm.” (29) The TUC and its affiliates failed to change New Labour’s policy of a “fair and flexible labour market underpinned by minimum standards”. By the end of the decade the union movement began to change. Andrew Murray in A New Labour Nightmare: Return of the Awkward Squad (2003), hailed what he believed was trade unions “emerging from a long period of slumber”. The “awkward squad” arrived. Social partnership was quietly dropped from the union agenda.
What impact has this had on the Labour Party? Did the election of Ed Miliband signal the end of New Labour? On March the 1st the Party adopted the Collins Report, which drastically reduces the weight of trade unions, and attempts to put in its place individual “affiliation” for members. The appointment of the American Democrat strategist David Axelrod appears to send out a strong indication that New Labour’s search for victory through the use of communication professionals rather than activists is far from dead. If the pro-Blair faction, Progress has dropped the term New Labour, has far is the substance gone? (Independent. 8.6.14) Writing in a series of articles in the Morning Star Robert Girffiths, General Secretary of the CPB asks whether this Labour has finally ditched its roots in the organised labour movement (Morning Star. April. 2014)
What kind of policies will Ed Miliband offer in next year’s election? The labyrinthine process of policy-making by ‘forums’ has already been marked by the influence of those associated with Blue Labour, John Cruddas and Maurice Glassman. This involves calls for ‘fairness’, cohesion, an appeal, apparently, to the ‘self-help’ tradition in the labour movement, and civil society, rather than state-centred policies. Equality is to be combined with a moral case for solidarity. In this vein Ed Miliband has called for a “responsible capitalism”. He has stated “While there’s capitalism, there’ll be socialism, because there is always a response to injustice.”
But what of the massive inequalities of wealth described by Thomas Picketty (Capital in the 21st Century. 2014), or the increased power of managers in the workplace, bolstered by the privatisation of formerly core-state functions, from the Probation Service onwards? Both of these aspects form mechanisms of the production of surplus wealth, its accumulation by a small class, and the basis for a web of rules and control in the workplace and community that confront the labour movement. New Labour was deeply implicated in the creation of this hiving-off state, some of their MPs directly profiting form its growth. At present there are those who have joined this most parasitic fraction of the new state bourgeoisie preparing to privatise the NHS. A left, reformist or radical, that cannot come to grips with the problems these economic and political structures create is more concerned with “excising” power than in winning for it for a class constituency in society as a whole.
Some ideas, which have emerged from the Party, such as campaign for the Living Wage, have been well received across the left. But there is not much clarity about what other distinctive policies Labour advocates. The Policy document One Nation Economy (2014) appeals to “hard working families” and states, “Our vision is of an economy where work pays for all; where all firms succeed because owners, managers and employees see themselves as being part of one shared project” It falls short of abolishing injustices such zero-hour contracts, or reversing anti-trade union legislation or dismantling the degrading and wasteful regime to which the out-of-work and the disabled are subjected. One Nation Society (2014) promises to “to put more power into the hands of the British people themselves.” What this means is as vague as David Cameron’s project for the Big Society.
Labour Briefing, amongst others, has observed that the Labour leadership is “not offering a clear alternative to austerity” – and many other Coalition policies, beginning with their welfare “reforms” (Labour Briefing March. 2014). There is no vehicle to change these policies: one member one vote is confetti, the reality is that Ed Miliband and his advisers decide, and the Policy Forums endorse – with mild amendments.
Len McCluskey, UNITE’s leader, (who backed the Collins Report) has asserted that Labour needs to challenge Government policies. If they offer a “pale shade of austerity” he thinks they will be defeated. In that event “”If a new workers’ party emerged at some time down the road, you may well find that I am in favour of PR.” (Morning Star 2.4.14.) There has been talk elsewhere of creating an “affiliated” working class party, on the model perhaps of the ‘Co-op party’ (?) – though how this would operate (or be accepted), enrol members, and form its own policies, is far from obvious.
Left Unity Again.
“…UKIP may be making the headlines as we approach the European elections next month, threatening to steal thousands of votes from the Conservatives and forcing them to watch their right flank. But the Labour Party will have to watch its left flank in the months and years to come. Because Left Unity is on the move.” (Labour Must Watch its Left Flank in Months to Come. Salamn Shaheen. New Statesman. 31st March 2014)
Left Unity or Class Unity takes on Left Unity through three main prongs.
The first is a head-on criticism of the idea that the party can “occupy” a space left vacant by a rightward shifting Labour Party. We have seen this idea crop up since the 1980s. It is often reinforced by the claim that proportional representation will deliver that slice of the electorate that identifies with left policies into a votes for a left party. Whether this is true or not (and it’s unlikely to be tested for Westminister elections in the foreseeable future) Murray observes that parties only take real shape with the backing of “mass organisation ” He asks, whu anybody would want to cast their ballots in this direction when “most people on the left see the enemy as the Tory-led government, and most working-class voters view the possibility of a Miliband-led Labour government with at least a tepid optimism?”( 30)
This is the strongest argment. No amount of description of Labour Party policy formation (above) its weakening union links (idem), or its lack of clarity, will affect the the fact that the majority of Labour supporters retain a degree of optimism about Ed Milliband. Even if this is discounted (improbably) their determination to be rid of the Tories and Liberals is overwhelming.
Next, Murray refers to European left parties. He compares them to 1920s ‘centrist’ left organisations in the ‘Two and a Half International’ (later, London Bureau). That is those who stood to the left of traditional social democracy, but refused to adhere to the Third International in defence of the Soviet Union. Murrray puts this in terms of those who stood “between” Revolution and Counter-Revolution. The “experience of Leninism” and the “movement for a communist future”, with its “historic achievements and imposing crimes and errors” is a lot of weighty baggage to muster in this context. He informs us that these parties are “ explicitly reformist” and that the “absence of a revolutionary international” explains their attraction. But perhaps (unexplicated) “imposing crimes and errors” may have played a role in why “centrism” (democratic Marxism) existed and exists.
Murray is, however, justified in citing the difficulties these parties face. Many, as he observes, exist in the departed shadow of mass Communist parties – now shrunken (France) or (in Italy) dispersed or integrated into right-wing politics. Alliances or blocs, like the French Front de gauche (FdG), suffer from personality clashes (between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the rest to be exact) that – to a lesser extent, they are constrained by democratic structures – mirror the UK’s micro-party difficulties. Syriza is beyond our scope, but there are doubtless robust defences to be made of their politics.
For all their problems these groups may well (as indicated above) make some impression in the European elections this May – an impact that illustrates the non-Labour Party UK Left’s irrelevance.. Few will forebear noting that Murray’s own Party’s project, No2E is unlikely to rival them.
The main issue for the left, whether in unions or in parties, is that in European unity between the different groups, blocs, and organisations is indispensable for a progressive change in EU policies. Cross-continental movements, popular, trade union, and socialist, are a condition for any kind of socialism. Many European lefts, on reading Murray’s comments on them, will be tempted to say: well, do better yourself!
Finally, Murray argues in favour of projects that aim to re-build working class politics. To begin with this involves making unions “effective reformist organisations . It requires extending them outwards to the unorganised. At the same time working class-centred politics should help form a “vanguard of a new type”, a democratically organised movement of “tens of thousands of ‘ordinary’ people”. Murray sees the People’s Assembly Against Austerity playing its part in this refoundation. And he is right. (31)
Of one alternative strategy, that of the Socialist Party (SP) which is the principal force in the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), Murray is also critical. He notes that they have many “fine and self-sacrificing comrades”. However, the SP insists on “trying to create a shadow labour movement around itself, with its own electoral front, its own shop stewards’ network etc.” (32)
On the Labour Party Murrray asks, “Under circumstances of a stronger and developing working class movement, can it be turned into an instrument of deeper social advance – not a revolutionary party but one which can contribute towards opening up the way to socialism” Will this contribute the “social weight to help “reclaim Labour”? Will it be outmanoeuvered? As perhaps Ken Coates would have said, we cannot tell unless we make the attempt to build one. (33)
Instead of dismissing LU we might ask what can it offer that can contribute to these objectives. At its March 2014 Manchester Conference Left Unity produced a “solid raft of left-wing policies”. These include the kind of “left reformism” that, contrary to the charges of their critics, many on the left find appealing. They may help towards revitalising working class politics.
To cite one example, LU’s economic strategy. Pete Green explains, “A left reformist government could implement the measures outlined in the document. We could introduce simple measures from bringing energy companies back into public ownership to ending tax havens in the Channel Islands, from building new council houses to abolishing anti-trade union legislation. We could take the urgent measures necessary to reduce carbon emissions and develop renewable energy. Full employment with reduced working hours is possible under what would remain a ‘mixed economy’ but the nature of the mix would change radically over time. We would promote new forms of public ownership, cooperatives and other forms of community ownership, but we would not seek to take over every small business, or abolish the market overnight.” They would also ensure that there is a social minimum so that body would have to go through the degrading experience of begging at Food Banks (even ‘co-operatively owned’ ones). (34)
Green also refers to Thomas Piketty’s writings on the origins of extreme inequality, a major problem that is increasingly at the centre of the left’s concern. Many of these reforms are attractive. They offer some alternative to the “processes of deregulation, privatisation and austerity implemented over the last 30 years. ‘Revolutionaries’ attack them as “reformists “ because they appear in the line of the “structural reforms” opposed by “centrist “ groups like the 1960s/70s French party the PSU. This is not off-putting to many others. Many other attractive policies include a whole-hearted commitment to feminism, to inner party democracy, an open-minded approach to Europe (cited at the beginning of this article). Measuring up to Murray’s more immediate concerns Left Unity activists back the People’s Assembly.
An immediate issue is whether Left Unity will be able to free itself from at least some of the “sectarianism, dogmatism, adventurism and authoritarianism” that Miliband saw marked the groups to the left of the Labour Party. There is certainly a potential for fissures inside LU. Some LU platforms are determined (and designed) to criticise, at length, the majority, and their idea of a “broad party”, mostly from the standpoint of Leninism. Others appear to believe that through patient work “revolutionaries” will enlighten the “reformists” amongst the membership. Engaging with these views is not an attractive prospect for every democratic socialist, however firmly on the left.
What too of the previous experiences of left alliances? The “wilderness of wrecked or aborted initiatives” Dave Kellaway from LU argues that, “Many people involved in LU have drawn some of the lessons of previous initiatives. We think that it is no use having an electoral intervention based on a cartel of political organisations, even if supported by a trade union. We believe you need a membership organisation and consistent local bases from which you can construct some electoral success.” (35)
Left Unity’s future is far from certain. Mike Macnair, from the Communist Platform inside LU, calls the party a “half-way house with poor expectations”. It has no “spinal core”, has little political “purchase” and will bear “meagre fruit”. (Weekly Worker 1.5.2014) Macnair’s ‘Leninism’ apart, his assessment is not without supporters on the left. Others foresee an urgent need for the party, regardless. Kate Hudson has pointed to Labour’s Parliamentary vote for the welfare cap, and said, “What clearer example do you need of the case for a new party?”
Or perhaps we need new policies from Labour?
Either way it will be a hard fight to re-establish serious left wing political influence.
Conclusion: Where are we Moving to?
There is an old saw, given best expression by William Hazlitt, that “a losing cause is always the most divided against itself.” (Of Jealousy and Spleen of Party. 1826) Over the years the British left has offered many proofs of this observation. Yet vigorous debate, reinforced by the left’s tendency to read scripture individually rather than accept the ‘line’ handed down, can be a healthy sign. It is to be welcomed that people are talking about serious issues – socialism, political power, and parties. – without losing sight of activism addressed to the wider public. If Left Unity makes a splash it may not be the kind of dereliction of duty that Andrew Murray charges. It could act s a “wake up call”. In the meantime, the business of “re-founding” the labour movement, fighting austerity and building unions continues. As always.
References.(1) Socialists and the Labour Party. Ken Coates. Originally published in Socialist Register 1973 Merlin. Published with postscript. Spokesman. 1975. Moving On. Ralph Miliband. Socialist Register. 1976. Page 166. Left Unity or Class Unity? Working-Class Politics in Britain. Andrew Murray. Socialist Register. 2014. Edited by Leo Panitch, Greg Albo and Vivek Chibber. Henceforth. LUCU. See also: See also: Leo Panitch. Socialists and the Labour Party a Reappraisal. Socialist Register. 1979. Leo Panitch. Socialist Renewal and the Labour Party. Socialist Register 1988.
(2) See: Anti-EU vote could rise above 30% in European elections, says thinktank. Patrick Wintour (Guardian. 28.4.14) The article points out that this projection conflates together all ‘anti-EU’ parties, including the “eurosceptic” Dutch Socialists, with groups like UKIP and the FN. Les europhobes à l’assaut du Parlement européen (Le Monde 29.4.14) more modestly estimates that the combined total of Euro deputies of the far-right and UKIP could be 10%. These classifications are not hard and fast.
(3) Policy from Left Unity National Conference. Manchester – 29 March 2014. Left Unity.
(4) Left Unity. Michael Ford. 21st Century Manifesto. April 2013.
(5) Once more on left reformism: A reply to Ed Rooksby. Paul Blackledge. International Socialism. No 141. Winter 2013-2014. .
(6) The Crisis in Europe and the Response of the Left,. John Rees. Countefire,. April 2013. People’s Assembly: We need Unity to Beat Austerity. Alex Snowdon. Counterfire. 15.5.13.
(7) Cited in What some of the left groups are saying about Left Unity. Dave Kellaway. April 2013. Left Unity.
(8) Page 269. LUCU.
(9) Page 10. Preface. Ken Coates & High Keer. The May Day Manifesto. Michael Barret Brown. Independent Labour Network on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group in the European Parliament 1998.
(10) Ralph Miliband Parliamentary Socialism 2nd Edition. 1973. See also: Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left. Michael Newman. Merlin. 2002. Ralph Miliband Socialist Intellectual. 1924 –1994. Leo Panitch Socialist Register. 1995. Merlin Press.
(11) May Day Manifesto. 1968. Edited Raymond Williams. Penguin. 1968. See On the general background to the left, Labour and otherwise, in this period see: The End of Parliamentary Socialism, From New Left to New Labour. Leo Panitch and Colin Leys. Verso. 1997. On left groups in the Convention and the splits there. Page 226. The Promise of a Dream. Sheila Rowbotham. Allen Lane. 2000. On the party initiative, see Pages 368 to 382. Raymond Williams. Politics and Letters. Interviews with New Left Review. New Left Books. 1979. Williams eventually joined Plaid Cymru.
(12) Socialists and the Labour Party. Ken Coates. Op cit. Page 52. For reminding us of the distinctions within the late 60s and 70s lefts and counter-culture this is invaluable: Lynne Segal. Out of Time. The Pleasures and Perils of Ageing. Verso. 2013.
(13) Duncan Hallas. How Can We Move On. Socialist Register. 1977. Merlin. Posted by Nick Wright
(14) Pages 239. Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left. Michael Newman. Merlin. 2002. As related in Michael Newman op cit. Political Practice: the Centres for Marxist Education and the Idea of a New Socialist Party. Pages 237 – 248. On Miliband’s work as an effort to promote a cultural socialist ‘common sense” see also: Ralph Miliband, 1924 0 1994. Ellen Meiskins Wood. Radical Philosophy. No.68 1994.
(15) Page 109 –110. Divided Societies, Class Struggle in Contemporary Society. Ralph Miliband. Oxford. 1989.
(16) Pages 189 – 190.Marxism and Politics. Ralph Miliband. Oxford. 1977.
(17) Ralph Miliband. 1924 – 1994. Robin Blackburn New Left Review. No 206. (First series). 1994.
(18) The New Revisionism in Britain. Ralph Miliband. New Left Review (First series). No 150. 1985.
(19) Stuart Hall Thatcherism and Marxism Today. Andrew Coates. 2013..
(20) Page 144. Socialism in a Sceptical Age. Ralph Miliband. Polity Press 1994.
(21) The Choices Before Labour. Ken Coates New Left Review (First series). No 131. 1982.
(22) Negotiating the Rapids. Socialist Politics for the 1990s. Socialist Society. 1989. Party Time? Socialist Society Organisation Study Group. 1992. The idea that there was a “given” “constituency” for the left was widely held. And long-standing. For example, ““For even in electoral terms there is a strong left constituency in this country to be tapped and developed.” David Coates. The Labour Party and the Future of the Left. Socialist Register. 1983.
(23) Once More on Moving On: Social Movements, Political Representation and the left. Hilary Wainwright. Socialist Register. 1995.
(24) Socialists, Social Movements and the Labour Party, A reply to Hilary Wainwright. Barry Winter Socialist Register. 1996. Building New Parties for a Different Kind of Socialism. Hilary Wainwright. Reply, Socialist Register. 1996. Arguments for a New Left. Answering the Free Market Right. Hilary Wainwright. Blackwell. 1994. Her Reclaim the State. Verso. 2003 offers some examples, in Brazil and local initiatives in the UK (Luton, Manchester, Newcastle) of potentially new forms of political power that correspond to these ideas.
(25) The General Election and After, Bob Pitt. What Next? No 20. 2001. The Socialist Alliance. A Regional View Andrew Coates. What Next? No 20. 2001.
(26) Mike Marqusse. Ten years on: a comment on the British SWP. 2013.
(27) Göran Therborn. New Masses? New Left Review. Second Series. No 85. 2014.
(28) 100 years of Labour. Graham Bash and Andrew Fisher. Labour Representation Committee. 2005.
(29) What Next for the Unions? Unions 21. 2003.
(30) Page 269 LUCU
(31) Page 281.LUCU. How these movements could be connected to the European left see: Un nouvel élan, mais pour quelle Europe ? Etienne Balibar Le Monde Diplomatique March 2014. (32) Page 284 LUCU. (33) Page 284.LUCU. (34) Pete Green. In defence of the economic policy of Left Unity. Left Unity Site.
(35) Left Unity can build an alternative to Labour Left. David Kellaway. Left Unity Site. This is also a short reply to Andrew Murray. See also Socialist Resistance, Which Way Forward for Left Unity?
Written by Andrew Coates
May 9, 2014 at 11:24 am
Posted in Britain, British Govern, Capitalism, Europe, European Elections, European Left, Human Rights, Imperialism, Labour Government, Labour Movement, Labour Party, Left, Marxism, New Left, Sectarianism, Theory, Trotskyism, Ultra Left, Unions
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