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Archive for the ‘New workers’ party’ Category

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.
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Posted in Elections, New workers' party, Strategy | 1 Comment »

Leftovers #12 – Left (dis)unity and more on the equality debate

Posted by Left Luggage on June 29, 2009

Can the various Left parties, sects and groupuscules unite around a basic socialist programme in time for the General Election next year? Are they at all likely to attract electoral support if they do?

Judging by the responses to the Socialist Workers’ Party’s open letter to the Left, the first question is unlikely to be answered in the affirmative.

Unlike the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – who responded immediately by requesting talks with the SWP over the creation of a Left coalition – the Socialist Party probably feels it is in a position of strength vis-a-vis other Left groups at the moment. As one of the players in No2EU, the SP has formed links with the RMT, and hopes to be part of an platform involving Crow’s union at the next General Election. On the industrial front, the SP plays a central role in the National Shops Stewards Network, which held a sucessful conference at the weekend. Leading shop stewards in the high profile union victories at Enfield,  Swansea and Lindsey were all SP members.

Confidence shines through in the SP’s reply, but so does its distaste for the SWP’s previous conduct. The first section of the reply is spent addressing the SWP’s failure to acknowledge the formation of No2EU (mentioned only twice in Socialist Worker). “To try to ignore the existence of an initiative as significant as No2EU undermines your stated aim of opening a discussion on creating an electoral alternative for the general election”, it says, before concluding:

Unfortunately, we believe that your brushing aside of No2EU is an indication that your methods have not changed. You claim that: “Unity is not a luxury. It is a necessity” but as a party you have never been prepared to countenance working together with others in an honest and open fashion unless you hold the reins; hence your wrecking of the Socialist Alliance and your splitting from Respect. Far from playing a positive role, your approach has actually complicated and delayed steps towards a new mass workers’ party in England and Wales.

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Posted in Elections, Ideology, Leftovers, New workers' party, Strategy | 2 Comments »

Interesting insights from Mark Steel

Posted by Left Luggage on June 23, 2009

Interviews with lefty celebrities aren’t normally the kind of thing that interests Left Luggage. The Third Estate’s interview with comedian and former Socialist Workers’ Party member Mark Steel, however, contains a couple of insights relating to Left strategy and the structure and organisation of the SWP.

His disgust at the SWP’s behaviour over the Respect split and the Party’s treatment of then executive committee member Linda Smith is palpable. The most venom and bitterness is reserved for the SWP’s “Open letter to the Left“:

“I don’t think anyone will take the blindest bit of notice,” Steel says and it’s hard not to miss the sense of bitterness in his voice now. “It’s hilarious! You can’t go round trashing everything and everybody and then… you know, it was awful, really, really awful. It was particularly awful for longstanding SWP members, because you’d think, what the hell are we doing?”

We’re not the kind of blog to delight in “sectarian” attacks on particular parties or groups, but there is a serious point to be made about how groups on the Left relate to one another. Anyone who has had substantial experience of leftwing politics will be depressingly familiar with the Machiavellian tactics of groups who put their own recruitment before the needs of alliances, coalitions or campaigns.

The more important points Steel makes relate to broader questions of Left strategy. Several times, Steel makes the point that the only way to win support and trust is to be seen to make a difference on the immediate issues that concern people most:

“Whether something succeeds or not is not just a matter of whether it has a figurehead that gets on the news and so on, although that is very helpful, but it’s about getting a group of people in every area who seem to be doing things.” It seems an obvious starting point and Steel is quick to point out that it’s nothing new. “Going back to the English Civil War, that’s how agitation groups managed to get some sort of hearing. It’s not just being on the radio and saying things that people like.”

Of course, the state of the Left would be more depressing than even I imagined if the only successes it could tout were almost four centuries ago. Steel’s more recent inspirations can be found in the Scottish Socialist Party. “The SSP managed to get to a point where it could get 7% of the vote across the whole of Scotland,” he says. “That’s because Tommy Sheridan and his colleagues were known through the 90s, not just because they campaigned over the poll tax, but also when people who refused to pay had bailiffs coming round, the SSP organised people in the area to defend that person’s property.” It was a tactic, Steel argues, that was very successful both in the short-term and in the long-term. “In the short-term it meant people’s armchairs weren’t dragged out by the bailiffs. In the long-term it meant the poll tax was defeated.” Steel notes that they won themselves an immense amount of credibility over that. People trusted them.

These “obvious” lessons urgently need to be learned by the Left today, who for the most part neglect community campaigns on bread and butter issues like crime, housing and litter.

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Leftovers #11

Posted by Left Luggage on June 21, 2009

Before this month’s European elections, the No2EU platform had been both written off as an undemocratic, nationalist stitch up and vaunted as laying the promising foundations for a new workers’ party. All of this became rather academic once the results came in and No2EU joined the long list of far left contenders to have received a derisory vote in national elections.

Gregor Gall produced a detailed analysis last week of the reasons for No2EU’s failure. In his view, these include the low level of understanding in Britain about the EU’s neoliberal role, the fact that No2EU chose to target the EU rather than the New Labour government, the absence of a British referendum on the EU (which would have polarised views and created an opportunity for anti-EU arguments) and the way the platform’s name was phrased to obscure any “class message”.

Given all this, there is a danger that, instead of advancing the struggle against new Labour and neoliberalism, No2EU actually sets it back.

A disappointing vote for a left-of-Labour project can dent the willingness of other forces to get involved in creating a united and progressive radical front because people’s confidence in the viability of such a project has been undermined.

As we reported previously, the disappointing performance of No2EU and the success of the BNP have lead to renewed calls for “unity” on the Left. Respect’s Salma Yaqoob has shown interest in a coalition with the Greens, while the Socialist Workers’ Party issued an “open letter to the Left” indicating the Party’s willingness to resurrect a Socialist Alliance-style initiative.

The debate (such as it is) on how to go about constructing an alliance has so far been narrow in scope, but there does seem to be some evidence of a divergence between those like Yaqoob, who aim to align themselves with liberal “progressives” and those who seek a coalition of the “hard Left”. (There does not so far appear to be much awareness of the need to address broader questions such as the way the Left is organised, its priorities and the best strategies for building support.)
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Leftovers #10

Posted by Left Luggage on June 12, 2009

It has been a busy week in the Left blogosphere with the Euro elections, the meltdown of Labour and the BNP’s victory. Plenty of questions have been thrown up, but most central is the need for the Left to get its house in order and begin rebuilding. This was addressed in a call by the Socialist Workers Party for a new left-wing political initiative to combat the BNP and to resist cuts to services and jobs in the next few years as the Government begins to introduce measures to cut national debt. Although there are some problems with this letter, it’s worth highlighting three important points that the SWP recognises:

Those who campaigned against the BNP in the elections know that when they said to people, “Don’t vote Nazi” they were often then asked who people should vote for. […]

The European election results demonstrate that the left of Labour vote was small, fragmented and dispersed. […]

The SWP is all too aware of the differences and difficulties involved in constructing such an alternative. We do not believe we have all the answers or a perfect prescription for a left wing alternative.

Many people will immediately cite the experience of both the Socialist Alliance and Respect – the Unity Coalition as evidence of the immpossibility of such a union being formed. Clearly the severe problems these organisations encountered were not unconnected to the groups involved and their modes of operation. Louis Proyect makes the point well in a post on Socialist Unity, arguing that another “united front” style formation with different “tendencies” coexisting, or contending, would be disastrous. Instead he suggests the Left should leave aside questions of socialist dogma, become more democratic, and begin to address the immediate problems facing the working class:

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Posted in Anti-fascism, Labour Party, Leftovers, New workers' party, Strategy | 5 Comments »

Labour and BNP – both got what they deserved

Posted by Left Luggage on June 11, 2009

While posts on its website are a rare phenomenon at best, the Independent Working Class Association consistently produces startling content. Considering the recent Euro election results, the IWCA argues along similar lines to Left Luggage that the BNP’s victory (which it undoubtedly was, despite attempts to minimize it extent) demonstrates conclusively that the Left now needs to adopt a “strategy of winning-over rather than side-lining the alienated working class voter”. In other words, the way forward is for a genuine political alternative from the Left to be built. And, as we have highlighted, the IWCA admits there are lessons to be learned from the BNP’s success:

Ideology aside, the BNP has established a benchmark for how smaller parties can advance. There are lessons to be learned there and it is futile to deny it.

The IWCA also points to Labour’s historic drubbing and the hollowing out of the party’s activist base as presenting a historic opportunity for the Left, but it is without organisational or ideological presence or coherence:

to say that progressive elements are ill-prepared to take advantage is to underestimate the scale of the disarray. Putting it bluntly, the working class and its allies are utterly adrift. […] For the first time in living memory there is no identifiable working class/left leadership visible anywhere in Britain.

Furthermore, the IWCA points to the failure of Left groups to have learned the lessons from the BNP’s early successes or the IWCA’s own pilot-schemes where the group had members. We recently highlighted some of the problems of Left sects focus on party-building at the expense of the working class. The IWCA say:
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Posted in Anti-fascism, New workers' party, Socialism, Strategy | 3 Comments »

Leftovers #9

Posted by Left Luggage on June 3, 2009

As we reported previously, the entry of No2EU into the political arena has ignited a lively debate on the Left. One positive result of the establishment of the union-backed electoral platform is the way it has raised the question of what the Left’s approach to the European Union should be. Last week, the debate reached the pages of Red Pepper, where European Union expert Leigh Phillips explained in great detail why “it’s hard to claim the EU is a continental-scale democracy”. On the record low turnout expected for this week’s European elections, she writes:

East and west, this is clearly not the apathy of the contented. Rather, it is the rational decision of those who may have little knowledge of the snakes-and-ladders hierarchy of the European institutions – but sense that however they vote, it will make little difference.

As a Brussels journalist, I can confirm that their hunch is mostly correct. The real power in the EU lies not with elected MEPs, but with a clatch of committeemen, civil servants and diplomats.

Phillips goes on to cite an estimate that the European Parliament has a substantive say in only 15% of EU legislation, with the unelected European Commission accounting for 70%.

Given these claims, it is perhaps surprising that Phillips argues against “the blinkered defence of national sovereignty” she attributes to No2EU, advocating instead “another version of European politics, one that is internationalist and democratic, not intergovernmental and technocratic.” The reader is not enlightened as to what that might mean in concrete terms. -Keep reading>

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A note on No2EU

Posted by Left Luggage on May 15, 2009

No2EU

Plenty has been written in the “blogosphere” and elsewhere online about the No2EU electoral platform formed by the RMT union, alongside the Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party to contest the forthcoming European elections . (Although, notably, this reasonably-sized political initiative from the Left has garnered only a single mention in the pages of Socialist Worker.)

Much of the analysis has been hostile, with highly sectarian and personal attacks on some of the activists involved in the more squalid corners of the far-left’s Internet presence. We won’t be directing your attention there. But it is worth highlighting some of the cogent arguments from the blogopshere about No2EU’s strengths and weaknesses, before outlining what we feel to be the key points.

First up is The Commune, which has a very critical analysis of No2EU, calling it “at best a diversion” and at worst “right wing and reactionary, pure and simple”. The writer, Dave Spencer, criticises the platform on a number of grounds, saying it has been called too late, criticising the platform for saying its candidates will not take up their seats in the European Parliament if elected, and saying it is bureaucratic and led in a top-down fashion. The most biting critique is over the platform’s “nationalism”, however:

Some comrades have called the politics of “No2EU” “left-wing nationalism”. Perhaps this is to keep the embarrassment within the Left family. Personally I cannot see how British nationalism in the context of global capitalism can be anything other than right wing and reactionary, pure and simple. […]

When there is an economic recession, the first reaction is to find scapegoats, usually immigrants or foreigners. The No2EU leaflet complains about “social dumping” which refers to foreign workers coming to Britain for jobs. This is a disgraceful, reactionary statement.

It is worth pointing out that this seems to be a slight misrepresentation of No2EU’s position. On its website the term “social dumping” appears to refer to the practise of companies bringing in workers from elsewhere in the EU for specific jobs, as in the Lindsey dispute, rather than labour migration per se.
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Posted in European Union, Nationalism, New workers' party, Socialism, Strategy | 13 Comments »