Britain faces two more years of disastrous coalition policies, but no coherent left political alternative is being presented. This has led a number of people from disparate parts of the left to come together to found a new website www.leftunity.org, to discuss what is necessary and possible for a left alternative, and to learn from the struggles of the people of Europe and the political developments that are taking place there.
For whilst there’s no end in sight for the economic crisis currently devastating Europe, anyone can see that the people of Europe are fighting back. The governments may persist with their failed austerity policies, but popular opposition is constant. You can watch the continual mobilisation on the streets on any networked device. You can see the strikes, occupations, diverse forms of direct action and resistance: the locksmiths refusing to participate in evictions, the people singing in unemployment offices. And European-wide cooperation is increasing as the movement opts for greater political coordination in solidarity and action.
An ‘Alter Summit’ is taking place in Athens this June, to pose alternatives to what is being imposed upon us. A European anti-fascist network is coming together. Of course this process is hugely helped by the existence in Greece, France, Germany, Portugal – all across Europe, of left political parties and coalitions. SYRIZA is just the most well-known. These have developed and consolidated over the past few years, drawing together a range of left forces, posing political, social and economic alternatives, and challenging the capitulation of social democracy to neo-liberalism. Their existence and coordination, whilst often fragile and uneven, nevertheless gives the working people of Europe at least a fighting chance.
In Britain we have the problem of rightwards-moving social democracy without a left political alternative putting forward the policies that we so desperately need. Labour no longer adequately defends the great achievements it made for working people. For decades now it has bought into the pro-market, neo-liberal framework. Yet here we also need a new political formation, which rejects austerity and war, advocates a greater democratisation of our society and institutions, and poses a new way of organising everyday life.
For many people I speak with, this is an obvious political fact, and they are enthusiastic about discussing how such an initiative can began to take shape, how we can work towards the articulation of popular pro-working class policies which Labour – to a considerable extent – used to represent. Others prefer to persist within Labour, wanting to reclaim the party for the policies and values it used to represent. Others grudgingly settle for New Labour-lite, especially in the run up to a general election, hoping that perhaps this time, Labour will fulfil our hopes.
The obvious point is that there is space politically for both, for the centre left and the left. Both will represent different interests and will advocate different policies. What would be unfortunate would be for Britain to be devoid of a left political choice. It is more than obvious that there is massive public opposition to austerity, to war, to the values of our ruling class and political elites. But Labour is not challenging the status quo. Sadly, it is part of the status quo. What is also obvious is that vast numbers of working class voters opt not to vote for this very reason: because they believe that Labour won’t make a difference.
To discuss developing a left political alternative seems like a reasonable and necessary option to me. No doubt some will disagree. But if anyone else would like to discuss this with like-minded people, visit www.leftunity.org, the new website where news of these political developments in Europe can be found, together with an ongoing debate about how this could also be manifested in Britain.