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Left Unity? No thanks, at least not yet

Left unityThe initiative by Left Unity (LU) to found a new party of the left (NPL) is the most serious attempt to do so for some years, and merits some consideration. I would like to argue that a NPL should not be formed, at least at least not now, as it is unlikely to succeed and could actually have counterproductive effects.

The implosion of the Communist Party (CPGB) in 1990, up until then the largest party of the left other than Labour left a few small grouplets, only one of which is now of any size (the Communist Party of Britain, which still, amazingly, manages to publish the Morning Star).

Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party failed to take off in 1995, but the Socialist Alliance of 2001 showed some potential before foundering before the SWP’s sectarianism, although Respect in 20004 managed to resist this and has seen George Galloway win two parliamentary elections for it. However, despite the quality of some of its leading figures it has never broken out of substantially Muslim areas and its appeal remains largely to those opposed to British intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Socialist Party’s Campaign for a New Workers Party in 2007-8 didn’t get anywhere; the 2010 TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) initiative remains a temporary coalition at election time, with embarrassingly low votes.

The Left Unity initiative aims explicitly to set up a NPL, and has already committed itself to a founding conference in November. This NPL will be broader based than any of the existing small left groups and is likely to look to European examples, most notably Die Linke in Germany but a number of others elsewhere where those from differing left traditions have come together to form NPLs with varying degrees of success. Most of them are part of the Party of the European Left, the umbrella group for such parties which the NPL would presumably join.  Kate Hudson, one of the prime movers behind Left Unity, has written a book on these new parties – The New European Left – of which I have written a review (in Chartist March/April 2013, but the book has not been taken much notice of, a sad reflection of the insularity of much of the left in the UK.

The formation of many of the new left parties in Europe has reflected the drift towards neo-liberalism by most of the established social democratic parties and the reorientation of the communist parties after the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites. These new parties are reformist in the sense that they stand for election at all levels, and would see themselves as at some stage becoming part of a  a coalition with other parties to the left of centre. The explicitly revolutionary parties do not belong to the PEL and have their own organisation.

The argument against NPLs is that they divide the left, although in many countries there were large communist parties up to the 1970s, but the move to the right by most social democratic parties in Europe has created a vacuum which the NPLs have sought to fill, although there has been some move back in a leftward direction within European social democracy which has arguably been the case here as well with Ed Miliband’s election as leader.

There are it seems to me two sets of arguments, one against a NPL being formed now, and another against it being formed for the foreseeable future. The first argument is that having elected the more left wing candidate as leader in 2010, and with an election less than two years away it would appear senseless to abandon the fight for a Labour victory on a ‘more left than New Labour’ basis, and the major affiliated unions are unlikely to do that. However, given that the NPL will draw some on the Labour left to it it will thereby weaken the remaining Labour left and affect the manifesto, selections and so on accordingly, while local campaigning is likely to suffer.

The counter view is that while this argument might have had some basis before Labour capitulated to Osborne’s austerity agenda in its response to the Spending Review, agreed with a welfare cap and now wants to end the trade union link, that is no longer the case. It strengthens the NPL now view, but does not clinch it, as the major affiliated unions and other bodies are likely to stick with Labour, at least until the election, unless constitutional changes which effectively end union affiliation come into force before then.

There is a better argument for saying that in the event of Labour, in power, coalition or opposition in 2015 but remaining committed to austerity then consideration of a NPL was on the agenda, particularly if  Labour no longer had affiliated unions. There is another factor, which is the electoral system. In all the European countries where NPLs are relatively strong a proportional representation (PR) system is in place, and it is doubtful if a NPL could establish itself without it. Such an argument can be dismissed by pointing to the Lib-Dems who since the mid 1970s have normally secured a substantial vote, but they were a well established party before this.

The recent large votes for UKIP are for some an indication that there may be an equivalent vote on the left, but this doesn’t take into account the effective support for UKIP’s line from most of the Tory press, while  they still don’t have a single MP. PR would have a major effect, and would certainly allow for the emergence of a proper left wing party with substantial electoral support and representation, as is the case in Germany, Holland, Finland , Portugal, Denmark and others to a lesser extent.

The left arguments against PR are wrong.They argue that socialism will always be compromised through coalition, failing to recognise that large parties are forced to trim to the centre to retain their votes,in other words compromise. ( No, this didn’t happen in 1983, but there would probably have been a Labour/Alliance coalition had it not been for the Falklands War). This is not to say that Labour’s current stance cannot be more left wing than it is, and it needs to be if it is to win back voters lost since 2001, but it cannot go beyond a social democratic programme which a socialist party obviously can.

Without PR the net effect of an NPL electorally would be to divide what would otherwise have been Labour’s vote, thus threatening Labour marginals or seats that Labour should take if it is to form a government in 2015. If the NPL vote was substantial – say six to eight per cent – it could have the effect of reinstating the current coalition or even produce a majority Conservative government, unless UKIP manages to do on the right what I have suggested a NPL might do on the left.

The truth, unpalateable though it might be to many, is that it is unlikely that a viable socialist party can be formed  this side of PR, the attainment of which is rendered more difficult than before by the AV referendum fiasco of 2011.

The most substantial piece of writing I have seen on this issue is by Michael Ford at 21st Century Manifesto (also published at Left Unity and North Star). He argues at great length that Labour remains the party of the working class and it is an illusion to think otherwise. I think this is exaggerated; there is not the degree of tribal loyalty or union support for Labour that there was forty years ago, but it still remains not insignificant, and would be a barrier to a NPL, although the absence of PR would be more significant.

Those attracted by the nascent Left Unity would be best advised to rejoin Labour, press for an anti-austerity manifesto which includes a commitment to PR and campaign for a Labour victory in 2015. The alternative to that is a continuation of the coalition or a majority Conservative government. It would be an irony if the result of the formation of a NPL was to bring either of these two about.

After 2015 the left, in and out of the Labour Party, must take a cool look at how it goes forward. I am well aware that the position I have outlined does not have majority support on the left, but I cannot imagine a viable alternative

43 Comments

  1. Jon Lansman says:

    The only way a party to the left of Labour could succeed in establishing itself as a significant electoral force, in my opinion, would be if at some point Labour was to split. I don’t mean the departure of a left splinter, but a split into two significant parts.

    Unfortunately, the combination of Ed Miliband’s desire to effectively break the union link (even if he doesn’t see it that way) and to pursue policies of austerity-lite, makes that very much more likely than ever before, although that is not what he or most of the Left wants.

    I don’t want that to happen because I remain of the opinion that a two party system, in which the left party is an alliance of socialists, social democrats and greens, offers the best prospect both for democracy and for socialist transformation, provided that the left party has the kind of mass working class base that the trade unions currently provide, and is itself a functioning democracy.

    That’s why I want to defend the link and work for greater democracy in the party. But if such a split does happen, I still won’t be clamouring for PR. I’d be working to consolidate the position of the Left Party in Labour’s former heartlands and to squeeze the new über-Blairite party. To re-establish a two party system in fact.

    I could not say that I would never support some form of electoral reform, in any circumstances, but I think we have seen all too clearly the downside of coalition government. How parties in coalition negotiations abandon their promises and alienate those who did vote for them without winning the support of anyone who didn’t.

    A proportional system maximises the difficulty of throwing politicians out of government, because some of them have a habit, in the shifting alliances of coalition politics, of always staying there. Clegg went into government in an election that was bad for the Lib Dems. He might stay there at the next election even if he does even worse, and these things would happen very much for frequently with PR.

    However, much of what you say about Left Unity is, I think, right. Even if it was the right project, this is the wrong time. Now is the time to assist the Labour left in defeating the anti-union and pro-austerity enemies within.

  2. David O says:

    Sorry Peter, but I cannot see Left Unity getting to the point where it threatens to split the Labour Party vote in any meaningful way.

    I mean, sure, in a really tight marginal, even a few dozen votes might conceivably count, but given the derisory tallies far left electoral formations have been picking up, this is unlikely to apply in more than a handful of seats.

    When strong trade unionists poll fewer votes than Elvis impersonators, it really is time to reconsider. The number of seats where 7-8% is a realistic possibility probably number in single figures.

    Partly this reflects the decline in class consciousness. Socialism is essentially an unsaleable product right now, which is a problem as much for the Labour left as for the far left.

    Then there is the ingrained problem of the mindset of this political millieu. Left Unity already boasts three rival ‘platforms’, one of which is clearly centred around an entrist project.

    If Andrew and Kate try to police the ultras, they will be denounced as bureaucrats; if they don’t, the crazies will wreck everything before it gets off the ground.

  3. Robert the cripple says:

    The fact is Labour would love to break away from the Unions, if they could keep the funding.
    I’m already hearing that Labour are asking for record amounts of loans donations and full payments of the levy, after a number of Unions decided to cut levy funding, as they wish to use this money for the Unions own political reasons.

    This has already caused uproar with Labour decrying the fact that all levy money was Labours in full and Labour would go to court to get it.

    I suspect Labour maybe looking to scare the Unions but the Unions members are tired, not the top table, but the actual levy payers and broad membership.

    Little wonder we cannot get Unions to grow even when governments are kicking the working class they are not rushing to join up with Unions, because the people the Unions back are the same people who are kicking them or agreeing with the party in power.

    I say it again Miliband is being controlled by Blair’s progress group

  4. James Martin says:

    “The implosion of the Communist Party (CPGB) in 1990, up until then the largest party of the left other than Labour left a few small grouplets, only one of which is now of any size (the Communist Party of Britain, which still, amazingly, manages to publish the Morning Star).”

    A few innacuaracies here I think. Firstly, the CPGB was knowingly destroyed by its ‘Eurocommunist’ (right) wing, many of whom not unsurprisingly then became cheerleaders for the New Labour ‘project.

    Secondly, whatever the CPGB claimed on paper in terms of membership, the reality was that as the end they were very small in terms of activists and heavily outnumbered by both the SWP outside the LP and Militant inside, both of whom also had a far better age profile to boot.

    Left organisations outside the British LP have not traditionally fared well. From the always tiny CPGB in the 1920s, through to the once very large ILP split in the 1930s, and then to the Trotskyist groups in the 1960s/70s (Gerry Healy’s WRP, Tony Cliff’s IS/SWP etc.).

    The LP was unique in Europe (if not the world) in being formed by the unions, who were themselves not split along political and religious lines. That has given it immense strength in terms of hegemony compared to many periods for European social democracy whose organisations formed the unions rather than vice versa. And it is indeed a hegemony that Milliband is currently risking due to either his stupidity or now being fully on board with the Progress tendency aims, depending on your interpretation of recent events.

    The big problem with the left both inside and outside the LP has been when progress towards socialism is seen ONLY as results via elections rather than also its strength within workplaces and unions and battles won (or lost) against capitalism at the point of production.

    The latest ‘new party’ repeats all the mistakes of all the other recent ‘new parties’ (Scargill’s SLP, Peter Taffe’s Socialist Party, Galloway’s Respect etc.) in that respect. New left parties can never be artificially formed, but if they are to mean anything must come out of real struggles by the working class. Greece is a very good recent example of this process where the bankruptcy of PASOK’s right wing social democracy led to a resurgence of the communist KKE on the one hand and the more fluid Syriza grouping on the other, both of which have taken on political strength at the ballot box at the expense of the completely rotten PASOK due to their political struggles in the workplaces and on the streets.

    Any geuine progressive attempts to break the capitalist free market hegemony politics (that has led to the failure of the LP front bench to even call for the renationalisation of the railways) will come not from an artificial ‘new party’ but through real struggles that will affect the unions in particular. If the unions are pushed left, this in turn will open up a space within the LP for socialist arguments once more.

    In the meantime organisations like the Labour Representation Committee (who while made up mostly of LP members and with a LP focus, also works with socialists not in the Party) are the better solution to how we can prepare the ground for shifts leftwards in the future.

    This is not to dismiss external left groups entirely, as when they are not out and out sects (in the manner of the WRP in the past and the SP and SWP now), do have the possibility of also helping to shift the debate inside the LP if they are seen to be growing at its expense.

  5. Neil says:

    Don’t particularly see the need for another left wing party to emerge. The Green’s are the only viable left of Labour alternative that has gained some level of representation. Alas, tribalists on the wider left won’t always give it the time of day for an assortment of reasons. Putting aside the nonsense on Brighton council, they have more traction than a non-starter like Left Unity.

    The left-of-Labour is already too fragmented. Time to think less tribally and think of how to unify under the Green’s.

  6. Rod says:

    “the NPL will draw some on the Labour left to it it will thereby weaken the remaining Labour left”

    Goodness! I hadn’t noticed a remaining Labour left – if it exists it must be in deep stealth mode.

    The PLP are utterly useless. There is no opposition occurring and the Tories have been left to rule the airwaves and dominate news agendas. Even Labour’s ‘opposition’ to the ‘Go Home’ vans with placards is so carefully triangulated as to appeal to those who want the vans with placards to be more effective.

    Meanwhile, unable to come up with any alternative policies, Miliband decides to fabricate a crisis and open up chasmic internal divisions to keep Progress happy.

    Labour has abandoned the electorate so there should be no surprise if the electorate abandons Labour.

  7. Patrick Coates says:

    I found some old tapes of “Things can only get better”. How about the party releasing a CD.

  8. David Pavett says:

    Clearly Jon Lansman is right that the only interesting split, if there is to be one, would be a split into two major parts as opposed to a splinter-group break away. I doubt that Pete Rowlands would disagree.

    There are some related but nevertheless separate issues involved in this such as the union link and the embrace of neo-liberal ideology by the Labour leadership (unchanged since New Labour).

    I am one of the few on the left who has never been keen on the union connection. After a working lifetime of involvement in union activity that connection always seemed to me to be based on some horribly unrealistic assumptions. The overwhelming majority of union members never go to a meeting of their union. Their union membership is something like an insurance policy. Representing the views of such people on the political plane has something of fantasy about it.

    I don’t understand Jon’s implicit rejection of PR since he gives no reasons. The question is can democrats support a voting system in which a party with less than 50% of the votes can command an overwhelming majority in Parliament.

    I cannot agree that alternative voting systems should be rejected on the grounds that they may not provide clear majorities where none exists in the electorate. To me that adds realism to politics and shows the ground that has to be covered before one can hope for real changes to the nature of society. We have to stop protecting ourselves from that realisation based on a highly defective system of representation of popular will.

    I don’t have a problem with politicians shifting aliances provided that all this is done in the open. How much better that would be than the current situation in which we have no idea what the great majority of MPs think about crucial issues because they can hide behind the whips and Party loyalty. This is democracy reduced to a farce. A change in the direction of socialism (can I say that?) will never take place on that basis.

    I strongly agree about the need for democracy within the Labour Party but I wonder about the phrase “greater democracy in the Party” which suggests that there are some real measures currently in operation. Labour Party internal democracy is a total sham. When Shadow Cabinet members want to make up policy they ignore the whole structure of NPS JPC etc. They, in effect, issue diktats, to which the rest of us are expected to show some loyalty even though we have been in no way involved in forming the policies.

    Labour has always had a problem with democracy but at least in the past clear challenges were on view at Conference between different view points. Now the Party Conference is a TV show and no such differences emerge. It is all a complete denial of democracy. The much vaunted Policy Reivew run by Jon Cruddas has turned out to be a total farce. In three years (under the guidance of Byrne and now Cruddas) not a single policy has been reviewed in any meaningful sense.

    It is all very well to say that “Now is the time to assiste the Labour left in defeating the anti-union and pro-austerity enemies within” but how exactly is that to be done. The Party simply has no democratic machinery to make that possible. Blair and Brown knocked the stuffing out of the Labour Party machinery. How do we bring pressure to bear in the present structures? I would love to have an explanation about that.

  9. Norrette says:

    Left Unity don’t seem to care that the only result they are likely to guarantee is a Tory majority. http://leftunity.org/i-had-great-hopes-for-labour/

  10. Rod says:

    @Norrette

    The situation is more complex than you allow.

    With its acceptance of Tory spending plans, adoption of the language of division, i.e. ‘scourgers’, ‘shirkers’ etc. and Jim Murphy’s plans for ‘humanitarian’ war in Africa (delivered in a speech to the right-wing Henry Jackson Society), the current Labour shadow cabinet is all but indistinguishable from the Tories.

    And their lead in the polls is accordingly on the slide.

    Let’s just consider one aspect of Murphy’s proposals: cost. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has described how the Iraq disaster caused the 2008 economic crash*. If we fall for Murphy’s plan, unforeseen blowback events are sure to follow, as occurred (and is occurring) in Iraq and in Libya. This will then provide the justification for more ‘humanitarian’ war. And we’ll move into an intensified, permanent war economy which will drain resources, leaving little left for anything else.

    The only ‘bonus’ will be a jobs boom in ‘defence’ industries.

    So it’s no longer a matter of electing a Labour government and knowing that all will be well.

    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NjWr-7yt5Y

  11. Tom Blackburn says:

    I’m with Rod and David on this one. It’s one thing to encourage leftists to join the Labour Party to change it from within – but how are we going to go about doing that? The Bennites tried – valiantly – in the ’80s and were eventually seen off. Since then, internal party democracy has been largely devoid of substance.

    Much of the Labour left seems to think that its mere presence in the party is sufficient, but it isn’t – it needs a strategy and it needs to take the fight to the party’s right wing. The party’s leadership, meanwhile, is more concerned with engineering a contrived fight with the unions than fighting the Tory agenda. In the circumstances, I can’t say I blame socialists for thinking that their energies are better spent elsewhere.

  12. Ric Euteneuer says:

    The problem with the vast majority of ‘New Left Party’ projects is that they are fundamentally dishonest attempts by tiny Trotskyist groupscules to accrue members through a ‘popular front’ style coalition of the left and the ‘not quite so left’ – in which, of course, their groupscule plays a (cough) ‘leading role’, or, like the Socialist Alliance, groupscules join solely to put their particular line forward and use the group to push their own narrow philosophy.

    Now reading this, you’d assume I was a centre-right, Progress reading sectarian – which I can assure you, I absolutely am not (I’m a Bennite Leftist), but at my age, and with my experience in the Labour Party and trade unions, I can tell you that I (and many other people of my vintage) really have seen a fair bit of this all before.

    I agree with Jon Lansman’s appraisal that the only way a NLP would ever come about under the present system would be a split in the party, and even then, we should be wary. The left split of the SPD in Germany that produced WASG and then Die Linke has struggled to establish itself outside it’s Eastern German heartlands, and the protest votes it picked up in the West have migrated to ideology free groupings like Die Piraten.

    Unification under the Greens is an, er, interesting proposition. Those of us who have worked with the Greens will find out just how deep some of their anti-Labourism goes, and just how big fans a significant proportion of Greens are of the Fib Dems. Mainstream Green Party members have argued with me at fringe meetings about abortion and selective education – the federal nature of the Greens would make them a nightmare to work with at a national level.

    What *is* needed are credible and effective left group(s) *within the party* to counter Progress and their appalling brand of Conservative-lite policies. If this means a series of mergers, then the self-sacrifice required to effect this should be undertaken.

  13. Norrette says:

    @Rod, it doesn’t take away the fact a an LU vote in 2015 will split the Labour vote. If LU could muster any size of candidates, then it is the Labour vote that will be split and Tories may not need the LibDems then.

    Unless of course someone is predicting a landslide for LU? Their blogger commented in April that they would not stand in 2015 – now this has changed. The question arises whether they will stand against Labour in marginal seats.

  14. RedShift says:

    All I can say on this article is ‘obviously correct’.

    I’ve met so many people who’ve joined Labour since 2010 and overwhelmingly the main reason is to get this government out and to influence what the nature of the next Labour government after it is. These people outnumber the memberships of all Britain’s far-left parties several times over. They are totally out of touch with what even left-wing voters view as important.

  15. Rod says:

    @Norette
    I have to agree with you. If LU stand candidates in 2015 the Labour vote will be split. But this is not the fault of LU*, it is the fault of the PLP and, in particular, the utterly useless Labour Front Bench (excepting, perhaps, Andy Burnham).

    New Labour has already jettisoned 5 million votes since 1997 and looks set to jettison more, mine included. New Labour managed this all by itself, without even the presence of an alternative pole of attraction. Of course, if today’s Labour presented its own alternative to Tory policy (i.e. not merely a rebranding of Tory policy) there would be no need for any other party to do so.

    So, in summary, Labour does not own my vote, nor anyone else’s. If Labour wants votes it is going to have to work for them as must all other parties. And I’m sure honest, hard work will find its reward contained in ballot boxes.

    * Nor will it be the fault of other parties who have policies deserving of electoral success: National Health Action Party and Lewisham People Before Profit.

  16. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Whilst I “admire” Rod’s commitment to ideological purity, I do hope he muses on this if indeed LU do field candidates that end up splitting the vote and allowing a majority Tory government in. Maybe he wants that, and thinks the Labour Party will reinvent itself in the teeth of a Conservative landslide. Meanwhile, for 5 years, the rest of the country suffers.

    That said, we have been there before, Left candidates have barely scratched the surface previously, people are savvy enough to know voting for groupscules will not advance the cause of socialism – quite the opposite, infact.

  17. James Martin says:

    Which is why Ric we are increasingly seeing mass abstentionism as a form of positive protest, however much that causes unease amongst those of us with the historical understanding of the sacrifices that gained the vote in the first place.

    When I was a young lefty the talk would often be of how to deal with ‘illusions’ of working class people in the ability of the Labour Party refomists to achieve their socialist aims. No one talks like that any more because no one has the least bit of illusion in the Labour Party to progress society towards socialism, including those of us who are members. Instead we have a fairly bitter and constant reguard action in trying to defend the remaining gains of previous periods of reformism (the welfare state – inclusing state education and the NHS) from the constant attacks on it, including on many occasions from our own ‘New’ Labour leaders.

  18. Rod says:

    Well Ric, ideological purity is something I don’t attach myself to, nor do I call my self a socialist. I merely regard the avoidance of disaster as a characteristic of good governance. Perhaps we should be grateful to Murphy for his forewarning.

    I very much doubt that LU will stand candidates in a general election – there are too many Labour supporters/members involved for that and the far left already have their own half-assed electoral projects. And anyway, I don’t imagine LU will muster much support beyond the already converted – though I could be wrong.
    From what I hear in casual conversations around town, the mood is not one that seems likely to accommodate the trivial triangulations of your lazy Front Bench.

    But meanwhile, networks are being established. And political analysis continues in workplaces, in homes and in leisure venues. Labour may have closed the door on ordinary people but ordinary people have deep political concerns which, sooner or later, will find expression.

    If the Tories form the next government, as with the jettisoning of a significant part of its vote, Labour would have achieved that on its own, certainly without my help.

  19. Ryan Gallagher says:

    A very good article and summing up of the situation.

    Just to correct a minor point: the Communist Party of Britain doesn’t publish the Morning Star. The Morning Star is printed by the People’s Press Printing Society (PPPS) which is a co-operative owned by the Morning Star’s readers.

    The Morning Star does have a close relationship with the Communist Party with its programme Britain’s Road to Socialism (BRS) forming the basis of the Morning Star’s editorial line.

  20. Rod says:

    Shameful interview from Chris Bryant on R4 this morning. Within seconds Bryant was retracting his own press release, admitting no knowledge of factual errors in his own speech and was reduced to general incoherence.

    I suppose that’s what happens when a politically bankrupt politician attempts to pull off a miserable piece of triangulation: trying to appeal to the UKIP demographic (attack on immigrants) while, at the same time, trying to appeal to Labour voters (attack on Tesco).

    Cameron will probably send him a ‘thank you’ card.

  21. Rob the cripple says:

    Well said Rod he was on TV now, and back tracking on something seems to be what Labour does a lot now.

    But for a party that let in nearly four million maybe five who were not the highly skilled high trained people we were told were coming.

    In Wales we had an agency which was bringing in people from Poland by bus to work in a meat processing company , we wrote to the Labour government when we had thousands unemployed in the area, Labour wrote back saying the people from the EU were in some areas better at working then local people who were long term unemployed were not seen as good workers, we said are the polish workers then trained or have not been unemployed no answer.

    Sorry but the fact is Labour are telling the Tories to do something they did not do.

    Same with other issues Labour telling the Tories that hospital failing are the Tories problem, when in fact it happened on Labour shift.

    Labour do not like being told it was you, they say that was history this is now, nope that was and is not history because the people who caused it are in the main in the Labour opposition. The idea that New Labour is dead so this Labour had nothing to do with it is laughable.

    If Labour need to make a break from New Labour then get rid of Blair because it stinks of his control within Labour at the moment, saying immigration is a Tory problem would make the public laugh out loud, saying we did make some mistakes, to try and get UKIP voters back, will not work, you tried to change the voting pattern by bringing in poor immigrants who did not end up voting.

    Far better to get the Labour voters back then try to alter voting by social engineering.

    I will vote Labour when Labour forgets about hard working people and get back to the working class you know the people who use to be labour, we are not militant we are people at the bottom.

  22. peter willsman says:

    The unions are the organised expression of the struggles waged by the working class.The Labour Party was formed and effectively controlled by the unions as its political wing.This is why the ruling class spend so much time trying to undermine our party both inside and out.The only struggle that matters is the stuggle within the Labour Party.It is incredibly hard.It must be much more comforting to sit on the sidelines pontificating.We know that any new left party will end up getting less votes than Lord Sutch.I think it was Einstein who said that the definition of a fool was someone who did the same thing and always got result A and then thinks that doing the same thing again will produce Result B.

  23. Rod says:

    Peter Willsman: “We know that any new left party will end up getting less votes than Lord Sutch.”

    That’ll be news to Galloway.

    Odd that you take this approach to the Unions, Peter, particularly now that Labour’s ruling clique appear to want to break the Union’s collective relationship with Labour on the grounds of a report not even seen by the NEC.

    As my Union leader, Len McCluskey said: “The block vote didn’t stop a Labour government invading Iraq. Affiliation didn’t keep Labour out of the clutches of the banks and the City. Our special relationship didn’t get the union laws repealed.”

    Ain’t that the truth.

  24. Peter Rowlands says:

    Many comments, mostly about Left Unity’s chances and the danger posed for Labour, but few about my main point, PR, only from David Pavett, with whom I agree, and Jon Lansman, with whom I don’t.
    A major split is unlikely, simply because under our system it would be electorally suicidal. That doesn’t rule out a rerun of the 1980s Alliance , if the Blairites were defeated, or a Lib Lab merger if the left was. If this happened there would be no alternative to the formation of a NPL.

  25. peter willsman says:

    In response to Rod, let us wait and see where George ends up.George is only known because he was a Labour MP otherwise he would be like Lord Sutch.The unions effectively control the Labour Party but they do not exercise their control.Ed. can achieve nothing in the party without the unions agreeing.Blair could not have developed New Labour without tacit support from the unions.As for the failures of the Labour Govt. this is partly because so many of them are Blairite.Not a few of these were helped to get their seats by unions.This is now at last beginning to change which is why the Blairites are so upset and it is why Ed.is so misguided

  26. James Martin says:

    Peter wrote “The only struggle that matters is the stuggle within the Labour Party”. Perhaps you didn’t mean it to come out like it did, but actually this is terribly demoralising for any trade union activist or those involved in campaigning activity on the streets and in communities, as it effectively says all that actually matters is getting the ‘right’ person on this or that committee in a ward or CLP, or getting the ‘right’ candidate to stand as a councillor and MP.

    Of course, getting the right people for all those jobs matters, often rather a lot. But nothing will convince me that 650-odd people sat in an old building ion London are half as important as the millions of workers in this country, and the billions around the globe, who have the REAL power to create a socialist society. In other words, the only struggle that REALLY matters at the end of the day is that at the point of production where capitalism constantly recreates itself, and where it can – and must – be broken.

  27. Rob the cripple says:

    Workers, so the rest who are not working or producing may as well vote Tory then, we have gone from working class to the Labour party the party of hard working, yet we have 67 million people in this country with 27 million working, hell of a lot of people left out of the Labour so called socialism.

  28. James Martin says:

    Rob, you can be working class without being in work (youth, unemployed, sick, disabled, pensioner etc.). It is the class relationship that is important here – however it is absolutely true that an organised workplace is far more powerful than a pensioner or unemployed group, because the biggest power of the working class is at the point of production, and by default therefore the organisations that directly flow from that (i.e., the unions). Of course it is then important for the unions to reach out and to seek to protect other groups (as Unite have done with its recent attempts to organise the unemployed, and PCS have done with its links to benefit, disability and pensioner groups).

    Of course if you see the abolition of capitalism as simply being about voting at a ballot box then one vote is much the same as another isn’t it? But the capitalists themselves do not normally take ballot boxes too seriously themselves given that on the whole they fail to control the international banks, the boardrooms, large property and land owners and the largest horders of wealth. They do take things like large strikes and industrial conflict seriously though, and for good reason…

  29. Marc says:

    A key point is that many people have long left Labour (like me, after Blair etc took over) and could be active but have no channel for being active. A new party that at least says and does what Labour should be doing could be both a complement to Labour and a vehicle for lapsed activists.

  30. peter willsman says:

    I meant that political power in advanced capitalism is the key,which is why the unions set up the Labour Party after the Taff Vale decision.Two million marched against Iraq and it had zero effect.A proper Labour Govt. would not have gone into Iraq.Blair would have gone into Vietnam but a decent Labour Govt. refused.This is why the struggle in our party for a proper Labour Govt. is key.Anything else is a self indulgent diversion.I see from todays Gruniad that the latest diversion is underway.For shorthand we can call it the LSTP-The Lord Sutch Tribute Party.Like all things new it will have a bit of a flurry but before long it will join Lord S in the dustbin of history.

  31. Rod says:

    @Peter
    Now you’ve got that off your chest perhaps you could find the time to present a well-reasoned argument explaining why people like myself (my LP membership expires shortly) should remain with Labour when there are no internal mechanisms by which LP members can hold the LP elite to account or prevent Labour’s out-of-touch elite from imposing disastrous policies.

  32. David Pavett says:

    There are three Peters and two Davids involved in these exchanges. It would help if contributors were to make clear which ones they are replying to.

    Can we not use hyperlinks for this. I don’t know what is allowed on this system. In the next line I will try a hyperlink to my own comment above. If it doesn’t work then some gibberish will appear instead of a link.

    Link to David Pavett

  33. David Pavett says:

    It works. I suggest we use hyperlinks.

  34. David Pavett says:

    I further suggest that Jon Lansman provides a general link to a page explaining what html tags are allowed on this system and how to use them. Let’s make the technology work for us!

  35. David Pavett says:

    Just to emphasise the point about hyperlinks here are some recent articles relevant to Labour’s travails:

    (1) John Harris on Labour’s Lack of Purpose

    (2) Peter Wilby in Chris Bryant and Labour’s wrong focus

  36. peter willsman says:

    Rod.Join CLPD and your doubts will soon melt away!!We do not have all the answers but we do have most of them!! See 40th anniversary edition of our magazine on the right hand side. YoursPW.

  37. David Melvin says:

    I rejoined the Labour party 2 years ago after an absence of more than 30 years! I would not rejoin now or encourage anyone else to join. In 1972 Ralph Miliband wrote in the postscipt to “Parliamentary Socialism” that the Labour Party “given its overwhelming preponderance as ‘the party of the left’….There is at present no party or grouping which is capable of posing an effective challenge to that preponderance.” That was in 1972 when there certainly more socialists in the Labour Party than now. Is there now going to be a party or grouping to provide that effective challenge? Perhaps someone knows the answer because I don’t.

  38. Tim P says:

    I ought to support projects like Left Unity. As a newcomer to the Left, with all the zeal of the convert, I am desperate for a credible political, broad organization that is genuinely socialist. There’ve been a number of attempts to create such a thing in the last few years but I look at the Left Unity website, and once again recoil in despair.

    Once again the hard Left lets down the people it should be defending. Once again the cliched iconography of the 1930s. Once again the utterly pointless faction fighting dressed up in ideology – as if anyone outside the bewildering variety of tiny Marxist sects gave a damn. Once again futile, self-indulgent discussion reduced to argument as to whether the USSR was a good thing or not.

    And those participating in this farce, many I’m sure with good intentions, appear to have little idea how irrelevant (at best) this sterile navel-gazing is to the vast majority of those who need a party of the Left.

  39. Rob the cripple says:

    Tim P think your mixed up I suspect your idea of socialism is Tony Blair.

    The hard left who the hell is on the hard left.

  40. David Pavett says:

    @Tim P

    You say “I am desperate for a credible political, broad organization that is genuinely socialist”.

    You are not alone!

    We don’t have such an organisation hence the moves to create a NPL that Pete Rowlands discusses above. His point is that it is not only a matter of having good ideas and a willingness to work. It is also necessary to have the appropriate conditions and his argument is that we don’t have them at the moment and that current efforts to create an NPL are liable to dissipate energies with no good outcome.

    Our electoral system makes it difficult for a new Party without media attention and support to get off the ground. A change in the voting system could make a big difference to that, hence Peter R’s case for PR, but there may well be other factors, which we cannot predict, that come into play if the Labour Party continues its decent into political pointlessness.

  41. David Melvin says:

    If Left Unity is merely factions arguing over whether the Soviet Union was socialist it will be wasting everyone’s time. It needs a substantial chunk of what remains of the Labour left and some trade union support. If it didn’t happen under Blair why under Miliband? Quite simply anyone who does not support the Con-Dem Labour front bench austerity is disenfranchised. There is no credible alternative. It’s worth looking at the experience of the IU – the United Left in Spain.

  42. Andrew Crystall says:

    I think you’ll find there’s very little overlap between LU membership and people who might vote for Labour – I certainly won’t vote for the right.

  43. Tim P says:

    Rob t. c.: No, I am not and never was a Blairite. Nor am I convinced that the current Labour leadership is sufficiently socialist to present an alternative to neoliberal capitalism. However, perhaps I am being unfairly premature about Left Unity. Perhaps it will indeed grow to provide a real, and realistic, socialist platform. I see there are some posts which give hope. We shall see.

    And by the hard Left I mean the sort of people who think putting pictures of Lenin on their webpages appeals to the working class.

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