Left Luggage

The socialist strategy site

Electoral project risks repeating past errors

Posted by Left Luggage on July 28, 2009

no2eu 2.0Not much has been heard of the No2EU initiative since its disastrous result in the European elections. But obviously there has been much activity behind the scenes, as blogger A Very Public Sociologist reports. Apparently at a recent national steering committee meeting it was decided to press ahead with the formation of a new platform with the core of the Communist Party, the Socialist Party of England and Wales, the RMT and possibly some other unions:

In the immediate term the steering committee appointed a working group that will report back in September. Its remit is to come up with an alternative name and a basic programmatic document that can be added to later. In addition, another union besides the RMT will be present at the September meeting and committee members will be talking to the leaderships of a further four unions about their participation.

According to the report, there seem to be some good things coming out of this initiative. One of those is the mooted discussions with four more unions about participation in the platform. If that were to occur, it would no doubt mark a significant moment in terms of the historic political/economic division of labour within the labour movement. Also, there seems to be some hints of recognition of making links with localised campaigns and small community-oriented parties:

Dave [Nellist, Socialist Party councillor in Coventry] also said he would like to see the coalition sit down with localised defenders of public services who already have some representation – people like Wigan’s Community Action Party and the Socialist Peoples Party in Barrow. But they’re only going to come on board any sort of left formation if they feel they have a say in its development.

As has been argued on Left Luggage, the number of community action groups has swelled enormously in the last ten years – charting the decline of the Labour Party as an organisation with a grassroots presence – and although many campaigns are formally apolitical, they articulate many of the values and ideas the Left should be championing.

There are a number of problems with No2EU 2.0 already on the horizon, however. One of these is the question of internal democracy, which was raised the first time around, and it remains to be seen how this will be resolved. The basic progamme itself is being decided by the steering committee and apparently the Communist Party is pushing for the broad People’s Charter to form its foundation.

The larger question – and probably the biggest problem – was apparently raised by one comrade at the regional meeting. That is, the platform is explicitly focused on the next General Election when “millions of voters will be afloat thanks to the collapse of Labour’s electoral support”.  In his report, A Very Public Sociologist says: “If we are to claim some of that and start building a mass alternative we have to get out into communities with our socialist message now.”

Unfortunatley, this is to vastly underestimate the scale of the challenge facing the Left. No2EU was put together at a late stage and had no roots in working class communities. It got a derisory vote in the Euro elections. The fact that it was so late in forming was one of the main explanations given by its supporters for this failure. Yet now we have No2EU 2.0 with scarcely four months more in which to bed in before being put to the electorate in June 2010 at the earliest. So at the most optimistic estimate, with the steering committee’s “working group” reporting back in September, we can expect this Left alternative to be whipped up just nine months before the election.

Every attempt to form a Left platform in recent years seems to be characterised by two things: (1) a focus on elections and chasing Labour’s vote; (2) no serious pause to consider long-term strategy. This leads to a vicious cycle of initiatives being established in haste aimed at an upcoming election, failure, and demoralisation.

The scale of the challenge facing the Left is such that it will need years of serious political work in working class communities to even consider mounting a less than appalling General Election showing. One has to wonder at the purpose of even standing in the election, which will no doubt prove a hugely costly affair with lost deposits all round. A year hence we will no doubt be asking the same question: where now for the Left? As one representative at the meeting put it:

Dave Church of Walsall Democratic Labour Party argued we were in danger of going around in a circle if we just chase after elections. We need to be more consistent and seek roots in our communities.

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One Response to “Electoral project risks repeating past errors”

  1. Paul B said

    Before setting up yet more parties/fronts and dispensing their wisdom to a bemused and uninterested electorate the ‘left’s’ time might be better spent assessing why it is currently irrelevant in working class communities across the country.

    Time could also be better spent reflecting on why past initiatives have failed to connect with the class it presumes to ‘lead’.

    The left might ask, whilst they are about it, how it is that the they have regularly found themselves in opposition to the views and demands of the working class on a range of issues.

    They might also discuss and then agree that a period of listening to the working class rather than talking at it would be a good idea.

    Finally, the left might accept that you cannot parachute into working class areas and expect instant credibility, particularly if the comrades you are sending in are people who have actually don’t have a clue about life in these areas.

    They might, but I see no evidence that they will.

    As the IWCA correctly state for the rest of us it is “the long game or nothing” and whatever formation or approaches arise out of current discussions will need to commit to years of patient and difficult work. LL is correct that this work will need to be sustained for years, and withoutany possibility of a major breakthroughs intially. The current ‘left’ formations will not necessarily be involved – and might not actually be interested – in this work and the resources and efforts needed to bring it about.

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