Discussion: Labour Party, People’s Assembly and Left Unity – Len Arthur
As socialists and Labour Party members, a main aim of our political purpose, is to ensure that our narrative makes links between the problems people experience, as a result of the crisis in financial capital, and political answers. Clearly this can, in part, be achieved as the result of supporting single issue campaigns. However, the unity of political analysis and answers are essential twin ingredients in sustaining a fightback, and winning sufficient power to put socialist alternatives into action.
Two new political initiatives, the People’s Assembly and Left Unity, are aimed at taking this type of political project forward. The appeal for support is to members of the Labour Party, other parties of the left, and to individuals, who recognise both the destruction that austerity politics are bringing to the working class and the need to fightback together with advocating political alternatives. The two initiatives have a background in the Coalition of Resistance that was established after the last general election. The People’s Assembly is concerned with coordinating the fightback now and developing alternative politics both within and beyond the Labour Party. Left Unity has an orientation toward building an organisation outside of the Labour Party. Since the 11 May conference it has now adopted the position of working toward launching a new party at a conference in November 2013.
The People’s Assembly is due to take place in London on 22 June 2013. Basically it is an open meeting which is being called for and supported by a cross section of individuals and organisations on the left. The initial call and statement sets out the purpose and lists the initial supporters which includeTony Benn and John McConnell MP. A key section reads
‘We aim to develop a strategy for resistance to mobilise millions of people against the Con Dem government. The assembly will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views which, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in parliament. A People’s Assembly can play a key role in ensuring that this uncaring government faces a movement of opposition broad enough and powerful enough to generate successful co-ordinated action, including strike action.’
It provides an opportunity to link, and if possible unite, the left in the UK, including us as Labour Party members. The latest delegate information indicates that over 2400 are signed up to attend with about a month to go before the event. If you are interested you can register here. Owen Jones has made a short video putting forward the reasons he is attending as a Labour Party member.
The Left Unity original statement indicates that it was inspired by the ETUC call for EU wide action last November and a series of meetings and statements early in the year built on the idea of what that level of international solidarity would mean for the UK working class. The process received a boost from Ken Loach in statement associated with the launch of his new film The Spirit of ’45, where he suggested that the ‘British left needs to start again... we need a new party’ and asked those who supported this possibility, or at least interested in discussing it, to send an email to Left Unity. So far over 7000 people in the UK have done so providing a huge boost to the Left Unity debate and the role of left politics beyond the Labour Party.
Both Left Unity and the People’s Assembly are seeking to bring supporters together locally, to discuss how unity and action can be developed at this level and throughout the UK, particularly at and following the People’s Assembly on 22 June in London – register here.
For us as socialists in the Labour Party a difficulty is presented by these two developments taking place in parallel but separately. The People’s Assembly is widely supported by left Party members and affiliated organisations of the Labour Party as can be seen from the launch letter. It is a development that is very much in the tradition of the politics of the Labour Representation Committee of which Welsh Labour Grassroots is an integral part, in seeking to encourage a local and international fightback against austerity politics and the development of socialists solutions. All WLG members and supporters should make every effort to attend the Assembly on 22 June and support any local meetings. In fact it may be that we should organise one or at the very least have the Assembly as another focus of our WLG meeting on 18 May.
Recently we adopted a principles and priorities document that emphasised that we are committed to working politically within the Labour Party and working with others on issues, but not as an alternative political party that stands candidates against the Labour Party in an election. Left Unity is at the moment not an organisation that is standing at elections, so the conflict does not arise. But it is clear that there is an intention within Left Unity to work toward being part of the European Left in the UK and if this is adopted, it will mean standing against Labour in elections.
Unity of the left is so critically important in opposing austerity politics and ensuring that the working class does not pay for the bankers’ crisis, that it is a real shame that Left Unity might soon make it difficult for us as Labour Party members to be part of that unity. Moreover, as many of us know, developing left unity and involving more people in political activity is an extremely difficult task requiring a great deal of commitment and energy, but is worth every minute if it is a success. Getting over 2000 to a meeting in London and receiving 7000 emails is a wonderful boost, but moving on will require hard work at a local level. There has been some excellent web based discussion around this issue and here I think are the best five sources:
Red Pepper: which has some usefully comments, especially in relation to the extent to which Green Party members might be interested in supporting left unity.
The International Socialist Network which is the group of socialist who have recently left the SWP have now established a website and Kieran Crowe has written a thoughtful piece which also refers to other left unity initiatives, which I was unaware of.
Luna 17 I have no idea who is behind this blog but these 10 reasons to support the People’s Assembly are persuasive.
Michael Fords Again I have no idea who this is or what is the 21 Century Manifesto but this is a thought provoking, albeit long winded, contribution that is critical of attempts to model UK politics on those of the European Left. It raises points that need addressing but doesn’t leave the reader feeling full of hope!
Left Unity discussion site this is by someone called Peter Hill and is a response to another contribution and sparks a useful commentary based debate about the possible relationship between Left Unity and the Labour Party.
It is easy to get into a left ‘wood for the trees’ situation when ploughing through these contributions: it can seem that the real barbarism that the Tories and their international neo-liberal allies are visiting upon us, is obscured by the debate. And yet, and yet, fighting back and making political links is the only way we will challenge the power of the Tories and their class. As Welsh Labour Grassroots we should make a determined effort to join up the People’s Assembly and Left Unity discussions and action at a local level, both before and after the 22 June meeting. Where we can, we should bring together activists from other parties at the very least to coordinate campaigns, such as those against the bedroom tax. The key however, is that in a more open and purposeful local and UK organisational environment we can help facilitate, or even inspire, more people to become actively involved in the process of a democratic and socialist transformation of our society.