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May 11th meeting of Left Unity

May 17, 2013

 

 Sunday 12th May 2013

I went to the Left Unity first national meeting representing Liverpool (and as the contact person for Chester). I went with Laura who organised the venue and most of the attendees at the Liverpool meeting. We worked well together. I hope Laura enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed hers.

There were 70 people there  

Prior to the meeting this statement was circulated.

Statement for amendment and discussion:

Europe is plunging deeper and deeper into crisis. Its governments are continuing with their failed austerity policies which are destroying the social and economic gains working people have made over many decades. The economic crisis has increasingly become a social and political crisis as people face poverty, hunger and even death, as a result of the catastrophic and government-imposed failure of health systems and social services. A further manifestation of this crisis is the rapid development of fascism in Greece, in the shape of Golden Dawn.

However the people of Europe are fighting back. In Greece, France, Germany and elsewhere, new political formations have emerged, drawing together a range of left forces, posing political, social and economic alternatives, and challenging the capitulation of social democracy to neo-liberalism. Here in Britain we face the savage onslaught of the coalition government, destroying our hard-won gains, but Labour is failing to pose a viable economic alternative. It embraces neo-liberalism and does not represent the interests and needs of ordinary people. A successful response to the rightwards move of Labour has not yet taken place, yet we have equal need of a new political formation which rejects austerity and war, advocates a greater democratisation of our society and institutions and transforms our economy in the interests of the majority.

The strong support for Ken Loach’s appeal to discuss the need for a new left party shows that many share this view. Discussions are ongoing but there is a strong desire for a new party of the left which will present an alternative set of values of equality and justice: socialist, environmentalist and against all forms of discrimination. Its politics and policies would stand against capitalism, imperialism, war, racism and fascism. Its urgent tasks would be to oppose austerity, defend the welfare state, fight to restore workers’ rights and advance alternative social and economic policies, redistributing wealth to the working class.

Its political practice would be democratic, diverse and inclusive, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working; the mutual respect and tolerance of differences of analysis; the rejection of the corruption of conventional political structures and their frequent reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society.

International solidarity is fundamental to the success of any resistance and the achievement of any political progress; such a new party will work with other left organisations and movements in Europe and internationally, to build coordination, strategic links and common actions.

From this meeting today, we call on the national coordinating group to organise a conference of Left Unity groups and members this autumn to discuss the founding of a new Left Party, to facilitate commissions to outline the principles and policies of such a Left Party, and to outline a timetable for a Founding Conference in 2014.

 I put in this amendment. My bits are in bold. (Europe is plunging deeper and deeper into crisis. Its governments are continuing with their failed austerity policies which are destroying the social and economic gains working people have made over many decades. The economic crisis has increasingly become a social and political crisis as people face poverty, hunger and even death, as a result of the catastrophic and government-imposed failure of health systems and social services.  Women face a particular impact from Austerity and Cuts. (http://www.womenlobby.org/spip.php?article4240) in Greece, in Europe and across the world. A further manifestation of this crisis is the rapid development of fascism in Greece, in the shape of Golden Dawn.

However the people of Europe are fighting back. In Greece, France, Germany and elsewhere, new political formations have emerged, drawing together a range of left forces, and  many women’s organisations( as seen in the Women on The March against Austerity Tour of France, Spain and Italy,) posing political, social and economic alternatives, and challenging the capitulation of social democracy to neo-liberalism

Women’s uprisingings against sexual violence, long the companion to  neo liberal re-structuring and  austerity,  demonstrate the need and potential  for  linking work of the left to the causes of women and the communities women care for also ), The remainder of the statement to follow original

 On that basis, I put my name forward to be on the national coordinating committee. This is my statement

I would like to be on the National Coordinating group to  promote the issues of women in the crisis and to support women’s safe involvement. This onslaught has a particular female aspect

 I am   in the NUT, in Women Against the Cuts and Women against Austerity in Europe, Cheshire West Against the Cuts and Cheshire West Trades Council, Liverpool Anti Fascists. I am one of the 47 surcharged Councillors in Liverpool from the 1980s. I was expelled from Labour in having been secretary of the District Labour Party. I am not in any party but I have a distinct political viewpoint and work in networks of socialists, nationally and internationally. I would like to help in the early stages  to build  effective left  unity.

 

The turnout was good and it was efficiently run; good venue, good pooled fare, childcare included in pooled fare, tea and coffee but bring your own lunch.

The first session was reports from the groups in the areas but it lead into a discussion about how to relate to other left parties/organisations; there was a long debate but the final decision (of this meeting; it can be altered at the September meeting) was that the organisation will have individual membership, but that platforms within the party will be expected and allowed. There was another suggestion that left groups be allowed to send one rep each to the steering committee meetings. That was very unpopular.

There seems to be a determination to talk with the left groups/parties and not to duck this task. Two leading members of TUSC were in the meeting and we were told that the SP executive would be discussing left Unity on Saturday. ISD, Workers’ Power and CPGB announced their presence but as Left Unity reps from their areas. Any democratic   attempt to coordinate the work of the existing left groups, each staying as their own democratic centralist organisation, will be fraught with difficulties.  If there is sufficient agreement on the extent of the crisis facing working people, (and the collapse in living standards and services that looks set to  continue  for a decade or more) then, perhaps, the forces of history will produce a willingness to work together.

The next discussion was on whether there should be a vote on the statement; Procedural Resolution for the Left Unity meeting on Saturday 11 May 2013

Motivation

There has been a very encouraging response to Ken Loach’s call for people to discuss and debate the need for a new party of the left. So far, over 8,000 have responded to that appeal.

The task now should be to try to increase that number and to ensure that everyone who has responded feels included in the debate and discussion. The debate has to be genuine and inclusive. It must aim to involve everyone who has expressed an interest. This will take time but our patience will be rewarded.

It is only nine weeks since the appeal was launched. It would be premature to take decisions on the precise political nature of the project at such an early stage, especially when there are differences of opinion and when those differences have not been discussed fully by all those who have signed up to the process.

It was reported to the co-ordinating group on Thursday evening (9 May) that only half of the representatives attending the meeting today have been elected by local groups; the other half are individuals who have volunteered to be points of contact for their area. Members of the co-ordinating group, which lacks a real democratic mandate at this stage, will also be attending with voting rights.

This is a very undeveloped democratic basis to be taking serious decisions on statements of intent, principles or general politics.

We need to allow time for the issues to be discussed in the local groups; for new local groups to be set up; and for the local groups and all individuals to participate in the discussions and to express their views.

None of the statements presented to this meeting have been circulated for longer than eight days. Most have not been seen until today. Most groups will not have had any opportunity to discuss any of the statements. None will have been able to discuss those resolutions and amendments that have only been seen today for the first time.

Even where there are local group representatives attending, some if not most will not have had the benefit of a local discussion to guide their vote.

In short, any votes taken today will be unrepresentative and would be open to criticism as short circuiting the process that people thought they had signed up to.

We must not allow anyone who has signed up to this project feel that they have been ignored or by-passed.

Resolution

This meeting resolves not to take any votes on any of the statements, resolutions or amendments except for those, or those parts, which deal with: (1) the election of the new national coordinating group; (2) the process of debate and discussion; (3) the dates of the next national meeting and the founding conference.

Nick Wrack & Simon Hardy

The argument was that because it had not been produced by the whole of the ad hoc committee, nor circulated to branches etc., it was not right to vote on it. That was carried.

 I voted against. I thought we should have something to take back to the meetings in the areas. That debate lasted so long there was no debate on the statement and therefore only organisational issues were voted on. The key issues were: to set up a steering .committee to organise until the next national meeting and to organise towards a founding conference.

 The original proposal to hold this in 2014 that was amended to late 2013; again I thought that was too fast a timetable but the enthusiasm of the meeting carried it through.

The next vote was on whether 50% of seats on the committee should be women; we only just won that.

Ken Loach spoke, and spoke very well, on how this was not going to be a social democratic party; it was going to be one which challenged capitalism and demanded a decent home for our people, jobs, the health service and decent schools, and was anti-war. Oh, and it would have no charismatic leader. Ken voted against the 50% of women on the committee (this had a particular significance for me as the debate on the impact of Austerity on women had not been taken).

There was a good representative from Scunthorpe who spoke of how they’d had 30 years of defeat in Scunthorpe, how they never won anything in Scunthorpe, but had 30 years of defeats …. Someone forgot to tell the kids and when the council tried to close the youth service the kids organised a huge protest; from that came the left Unity group; it was a funny and moving contribution.

A Brighton representative spoke of their 290 people signing up at a meeting. They have had the student occupation, the bin strike and the EDL demos all of which have fuelled a movement for a new party. Leeds already had a banner and had been on a demo.

I spoke in the report from Liverpool about how we had fought Thatcher in the 80s but that the current government made that fight look minor. If we are to win this round we have to organise in a significantly more effective way; we have to engage in the struggle.

I was elected on to the national committee (till September) and there is much to be done.

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