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If you were in Greece, would you vote Syriza or PASOK? But in Britain….

european left logoLast week, Labour voted for the Tory benefit cap. Bad news for those who need to claim benefits, and bad news for those who still hold out hope that Labour will present an economic alternative. This week, we’ve seen Labour’s Lord Warner proposing a £10 a month fee just to see the doctor. Is it any wonder that Len McCluskey has described Labour’s policies as ‘a pale shade of austerity’, questioning future union funding?

And is it any wonder, that in spite of all the tired old arguments against building a party to the left of Labour, 250 people joined Left Unity over last weekend alone?

Still small beginnings maybe, but our new party is making steady headway. Since foundation last November, many former Labour party members have joined us. Many ordinary people are frustrated and desperate, not only because of current government policies but because the reality is that no major party will fight to defend them; they have no political representation.

That is why people are joining Left Unity and why people are joining parties of the left across Europe. Labour is not the only supposedly social democratic party to betray its supporters and – as its poll ratings slump – it’s not the only party punished electorally for embracing austerity. These parties which once championed welfare states across Europe have all gone the same way.

At Left Unity’s National Conference in Manchester last weekend, we welcomed delegates from across Europe. From Syriza – the radical left party which is likely to form the next government in Greece. It has superseded Labour’s austerity-loving sister party PASOK, smashing it at the polls. From Die Linke too, the only opposition party in the German parliament. The Social Democratic Party has joined Merkel’s CDU in a grand coalition to drive forward the neo-liberal agenda.

Polls ahead of next month’s European elections suggest that left parties will make major headway against pro-austerity forces. The parties sitting in the United European Left/Nordic Green Left bloc in the European parliament currently number 35. According to Pollwatch, surveying across all member states, the left may total 67 MEPs, making it the third largest force in the parliament.

Greece is due for the biggest increase, with Syriza projected to take 28% of the vote. In 2009 it took 4.9%. Die Linke is likely to remain stable at 8 seats and around 2 million votes. Izquierda Unida, the United Left in Spain, could get as high as 12.8%, potentially moving from the current one MEP to seven. In Portugal, the Communist Party stands at 11%, and the Left Bloc at 6%. The pattern is repeated across the continent.

So as we put the foundations of our new party of the left in place in Britain, we know we can draw on the experience of like-minded parties across the continent. Not surprisingly, they are interested in our development. For too long the European left has met together without British representation. Not any more. Left Unity is part of this movement.

For those who think that Left Unity’s European links are irrelevant, remember that the economic and political problems we face today are not just British problems. They cannot be solved on a British basis alone. And ask yourself, if you were in Greece, would you support Syriza or PASOK? Then think seriously about the kind of party that you really want to build and support in Britain.

Kate Hudson is National Secretary of Left Unity

36 Comments

  1. J MacD says:

    Only a technical note but Die Linke aren’t the only opposition party in the Bundestag as the Greens also have 63 MPs, only one fewer than Die Linke.

  2. Ric Euteneuer says:

    Under the present electoral arrangements – not replicated in Greece, or indeed in many other arrangements – voting for Left Unity is fundamentally a wasted vote, however superficially attractive their programme (or at least aspects of it) are to Labour Party socialists such as myself. The great majority of the leadership – if not the membership – are involved in a bewildering variety of groupscules, who are presumably solely involved to recruit people to push their particular line, rather than advance real and existing socialism within the existing political milieu. I cannot imagine for 10 seconds that the Alliance for Workers Liberty, the Anticapitalist Initiative, the Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee),the Independent Socialist Network, the International Socialist Network, Socialist Resistance, and Workers Power have really put all their differences aside and are in it all for the common good.

    If we had had PR in the UK since the war, whether I or indeed many socialists would be members of the Labour Party, or indeed whether the Labour Party would exist in its present format – is up for debate. One could argue that PR may also have enabled a centrist faction round Blairites to split away to work with the Tories and/or Lib Dems, leaving space on the left for the ‘real’ Labour Party.

    Apropos of the question under consideration, for many years, PASOK in Greece was a byword for widespread corruption and preference – at one point there was actually a temporary coalition government of Communists and Conservatives formed to deal with the legacy of this – so, personally, if I lived or voted in Greece, PASOK would be unlikely to gain my vote.

    Similarly, in Germany, with a Conservative-Labour coalition there, and the availability of a credible left of centre alternatives, the likelihood of people like myself joining the Greens or Die Linke would be that much higher.

    But we don’t have this system, and Left Unity has no base in organised labour or indeed representation at any political level.

    The idea of Left Unity, like UKIP are with the Tories, acting as an “external faction” of the Labour Party enticing it to the left because they’re are losing votes to it (they quite clearly are not) is risible.

  3. James Martin says:

    If I was in Greece I’d probably vote KKE myself…

    1. Dean Williams says:

      I’d vote KKE in Greece as well James — being locked into the EU is as much a problem for Syriza as it is for Labour.

      But more than that the weakness for me in Kate’s argument is that while these parties are getting reasonable or good votes they are not in power and with the exception of Syriza not with much chance of that happening.

      The existence of Die Linke etc has also not forced the SPD to the left, if anything the departure of the left has aided the possibility of the grand coalition and a move to the right.

      I’d like there to be a short cut to winning Labour to left policies but I’ve not heard of one yet.

  4. David Melvin says:

    European Left is a clear alternative to failed pro-austerity policies of the centre left parties. In Britain those who oppose austerity and privatisation are disenfranchised. In most Europe countries there is a left party to support. Len McCluskey says he would form a new Workers Party if Labour looses the election in 2015. Why wait till then? Win are loose we all know it will be on a pro-austerity and privatisation agenda. Left Unity is up and running and is worth looking at Len.

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      There are indeed left parties to support – a whole plethora of them, who fail to agree the nature of a whole range of things. Under our present electoral arithmetic, it’s a wasted vote.

  5. Peter Rowlands says:

    Kate Hudson is right to want more links with European parties of the left, but the limited attention paid to her interesting book ‘ The New European Left’ is symptomatic of the insularity of much of the left in the UK. However, as Ric above points out, our electoral system is a barrier to the growth of a party such as Die Linke in the UK, and until we switch to a form of PR Left Unity is likely to remain marginal. Socialists in the UK should be in the Labour Party, fighting for the adoption of left wing policies in the run up to next year’s election.

  6. David Melvin says:

    We all know there is no possibilty of the Labour party adopting left wing policies before the next election. Even if Ed Miliband wanted to which I doubt, the Progress faction which dominate the Shadow Cabinet will ensure that Labour go into the next election supporting an austerity-lite package.

    In his last book in 1994 Ralph Miliband wrote in “Socialism for a Sceptical Age” the “The emergence of new socialist parties in many countries is one of the notable feature of the present time….their growth is essential if the Left is to prosper.” The parties Ralph Miliband is referring are the parties of the European Left described by Kate Hudson. The Party of the European Left at their conference in Madrid last years called for a re-foundation of Europe on a socialist basis. Left Unity supports that call. The Labour party bank on an undemocratic electoral system to ensure the left have no where else to go. Is that a good enough reason for Labour to continue to receive left support? I think not. Left Unity have been described as the UKIP of the left – certainly UKIP have flourished under an undemocratic electoral sytem why not Left Unity? Many have been waiting more than 50 years for Labour to rediscover the spirit of 1945 and its never happened. With a fair wind Left Unity could achieve a UKIP style breakthough – the world turned upside down.

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      You may be right, David – I certainly think Progress and the Labour right “bank on an undemocratic electoral system to ensure the left have no where else to go”. But, as to the rest…”with a fair wind Left Unity could achieve a UKIP style breakthough” I think is subconscious wish fulfillment to be brutally honest. It’s a raggle taggle bunch of the far left with no coherent policies or programme.

  7. PETER WILLSMAN says:

    These are the same arguments we have heard a thousand times.We are watching the birth of the Lord Sutch tribute party

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      People’s Front of Judaea/Judaean People’s Front all over again.

  8. Chris says:

    I’d rather be dead than join those PC fake-leftwingers.

  9. David Melvin says:

    Don’t be so cynical Peter. The Liberals were dismissive of the Labour party at the turn of the 20th Century .Those who wish to turn the world upside down have always been dismissed by the established. Left Unity is following the pattern of the European Left Party. It is not an ultra-leftist revolutionary party. PSOE in Spain cannot dismiss Izquierda Unida and is in coalition government with the IU in Andalucia. In Germany the SPD prefer a coalition with the CDU than Die Linke.

  10. Syzygy says:

    These are all interesting discussions for the future when this government of the City, by the City and for the City is removed. Another 5y of Osborne will leave the population of the UK with less public spending than the US, dismantled and destroyed education and health services, with decaying and privatised infrastructure. A third world economy of low wages, low welfare and high unemployment – all under corporate/financial control.

    The focus has to be on removing this disastrous asset-stripping coalition… and the only way to do that is by voting Labour or at least voting to block the return of a tory MP. Then the fight can be to create a real socialist party… hopefully with all the many fine grassroots LP members who are way to the left of the leadership.

    1. Rod says:

      Syzgy: “[vote Labour] Then the fight can be to create a real socialist party”

      Yawn.

  11. Dave Roberts says:

    Haven’t you all learnt from the Respect fiasco?

  12. Robert says:

    The thought of Miliband and Ball’s running this country must be a nightmare to the people.

    The bed room tax if all those brave 46 MP’s who did not vote had????.

    The cap labour party is now a party with caps in hand cap energy, cap benefits, cap wages, cap railway fares, caps are handy you can cap and do or say no more.

    But you only need to watch Cameron and Miliband throw insults dunces and Muppet’s and you think Jesus these people are our diplomats who will be speaking at conferences to other leaders.

    The Tories are offering a vote on the EU I now believe that is going to be a winner for the Tories at the next election as will leave UKIP dead.

    But the issue for labour is of course what makes you any different from the Tories and who the hell is Miliband he argues with his donators and then begs them for money, UNITE has given MIliband’s lot £12 million in the last four years, and yet labour proudly states from now on your not going to be a major player in labour as it seeks to become the Progress party .

    Right now to be honest I’m going to vote in Wales for labour they are at least a semblance of a socialist party, in the national election none of the above is worth an X.

  13. swatantra says:

    Are the Karamanlises and the Papandreous still running Greece? If they are then that is the major problem. Its inbred corruption.

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      No, they are not

  14. David Ellis says:

    Left Unity do not have a programme. They have a set of disconnected half-digested policies many of which are no less New Labour than New Labour’s. It is not worth breaking up the political unity of the working class, albeit behind the opportunist New Labour clique, just for that. Come up with a manifesto for real change, socialism and working class empowerment and things might be different. It would be worth standing in selected constituencies just to get a hearing for something like that but currently Left Unity is a dangerous piece of pointless adventurism offering nothing but platitudes that Milliband and Co would not feel uncomfortable mouthing.

  15. Simon Deville says:

    While Left Unity activists seem to be spending a great deal of their time congratulating themselves as being the new mass party, a reality check might be in order. Their claimed 2,000 members pretty much amount to a re-shuffling of the far-left pack following the implosion of the SWP. What we aren’t seeing is a rise in mass struggles, any significant strike waves, or anything that would indicate a more generalised resistance to austerity in the UK. Greece has seen dozens of general strikes over the last couple of years, we have seen none. Unfortunately many socialists who are hoping for some easy short cut to bringing about socialsim have fallen under the spell of their own hype. What we need is real unity that rebuilds class confidence and combativity that will challenge austerity whoever is in power, but each time someone comes up with yet another new party left to challenge labour more of the dwindling pool of left activists get deverted into these lectoral dead ends.

  16. David Ellis says:

    Here is a serious manifesto for the transition to working class power and socialism:

    1. End the bail out of the bankrupt banks. Take their estates, staff and deposits into administration to form a People’s Bank lending at base rate to small business and facilitating social investment in accordance with a democratic and sustainable plan. This bank to have a monopoly of credit to prevent privateers ripping us off with Ponzi Schemes and counterfeit bonds ever again.

    2. A regime of Full-Employment. All school and college leavers and unemployed workers to be bought into the local workforce to share in the available productive work. Each to be paid the minimum of a trade union living wage.

    3. Replacement of all Old School Tie and absentee shareholder-appointed Fat Cat Executives who treat UK plc as a private pig’s trough with managers elected by the workforce. Establish committees of all-grades of workers in every workplace.

    4. Socialisation of the cash-hoarding, profiteering, asset-stripping corporations, cartels and monopolies. Re-nationalisation of utilities and services and an end to contracted out health services.

    5. Defence of all necessary and desirable public and welfare spending effecting the working class, communities, the poor, young, sick, old and disabled.

    6. Federation of sovereign British nations and north of Ireland to replace the Union. Vote Yes to Scottish independence.

    7. For the renegotiation of the founding treaties of the EU in accordance with socialist principles (EU-wide Living Wage and Full-Employment) to replace the neo-liberal ones that are currently tearing it apart.

  17. peter willsman says:

    In reply to David M,I think it was Einstein who said the definition of stupidity is doing something 100 times and getting Result A and then doing the same thing again and expecting to get Result B.There have been countless piddling little parties set up to the left of Labour,all to disappear without trace, having struggled to do as well as Lord Sutch.I am not being cynical,I am following the teachings of the socialist A Einstein.

    1. Rod says:

      Perhaps you might like to consider the relevance of another Einstein quote:

      “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

  18. David Melvin says:

    Agreed Rod but whether Left Unity is the answer I don’t know. At least we have tried. I would have thought that a successful left party to the left of Labour would help the left in the Labour party as the IU has to left in PSOE in Spain.

    “Freedom is the man that will turn the world upside down, therefore no wonder he hath enemies” (G Winstanley: A Watch-Word to the City of London (1649)

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      Left Unity is neither Syriza, Die Linke, nor IU, and doesn’t have a fraction of the support or profile of any of these. I’ve said it before, but the members of Left Unity need to get out there in the community and earn their spurs as community activists, TU reps and build up a base of support. Selling red topped newspapers and magazines stuffed with dense, deathless prose outside supermarkets or on marches isn’t nearly enough.

  19. Robert says:

    Seems this new party is getting some people hot under the collar. Would it work well of course for centuries we in the UK have had a two party state, the Tories and the Whigs, and then we had the Tories and labour, then we had the Tories and Tory Lite with Blair, now we have the Tories with god know where Miliband is I think he’s Progress or he is owned by them.

    So a new party if it enters has to be looking at a very long hard battle to take it from labour.

    But if you do not try then you will not win.

    Would I vote for it maybe at this time I will be voting for the Welsh Assembly election, I will not bother with Miliband or Cameron

    1. Ric Euteneuer says:

      Hot under the collar ? Hardly. This is a forum for comment – some of you back LU, some of us don’t. Fair play to LU for exercising their democratic right, where the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Alliance (Democracy Platform), Respect, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all have gone before.

      Thankfully, democratic centralism need not apply here.

  20. David Ellis says:

    OLeft Unity want to build a broad party when what is needed is a principled one. Labour is a broad party with the result that it has no principles and hterefore, deliberately, never gets anything done. Left Unity will never achieve Left Unity. That requires a properly worked out manifesto that will not just unite the left but the entire working class behind it. It won’t be long before Left Unity breaks down into its component parts.

    A far more dangerous phenomena is the People’s Assemblies against Austerity bought to you by the people who turned the three million strong anti-Iraq war movement into two hundred or so pro-Assadists and Putinites. When a mass movement against austerity actually arises they will be already in place to head it off.

  21. PETER WILLSMAN says:

    In response to Rod,both of Einstein’s aphorisms seem spot on.As it happens, CLPD is developing new thinking in relation to the long standing problems comrades have outlined.And “Left Unity’s” hackneyed response to the problems does fully qualify as stupid as per Einstein’s dictum.

    1. David Melvin says:

      In my experience people only resort to calling responses “stupid” when they know they lost the argument. It’s not a way to discuss matters of mutual interest between comrades.

  22. James Martin says:

    As a socialist I’ve always thought that the vehicle and road used were less important than the destination, and there are sectarians on both sides of the in or out of the Labour Party debate. Waving little red flags (as Lenin once put it) is as much a waste of energy as sparsely attended ward meetings that spend time discussing the colour of recycling bins. But in terms of trying to pull together active socialists whether inside or outside the Party and to link union and other struggles to politics then surely the LRC have the correct orientation?

  23. Rod says:

    Thanks for your response, Peter (Willsman). And I wish you the best of luck with your project.

    But in my view a choice between three pro-austerity, pro-EU, pro-military intervention parties is no choice at all.

  24. PETER WILLSMAN says:

    Rod,Jon Lansperson will be setting out CLPD’s new thinking on LFs idc.It was discussed at our AGM(see the 4 page report in the Morning Star of 31/3).In response to David M,it is difficult to have a serious argument with comrades who are repeating for the thousandth time a course of action that for a thousand times has been shown to be a total waste of effort ,except it gives the participants a personal buzz and means they do not have to get their hands dirty.A bit like smoking dope.

  25. Gina says:

    European Left is a clear alternative…

    1. David Melvin says:

      Agreed Gina that European Left is a clear alternative and not a waste of effort. It’s a shame EL is not yet organised in the UK as a clear anti austerity party for the European elections.

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