Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Why we don’t need another party of the left

So allot of talk at the moment is about we need a new party of the left, a new workers party we need to reclaim labour etc etc. Well do we really? I am not so sure. I was once signed up as a socialist party member and was keen to see a new workers party formed. The longer it went on the less likely I saw this happening and was even desirable. If the same leadership of the SP ever got power in a bigger party I’d fear for it. But to be honest we don’t need another party or sect to fill up the various parties we already have. The left is already scattered and fragmented as it is. Here are some good starting points for anyone wishing to go down the route of a popularist left wing party posted up on Novara Wire yesterday by Jeremy Gilbert http://wire.novaramedia.com/2014/12/9-necessities-for-a-popular-left/ But why do we not need another party of the left calling for the latest version of unity and to all get together in one big party. TUSC the Socialist party's electoral front of the moment has been around since 2010 and has plenty of hype about it from within the SP but is it really what we need another electoral project by the so called revolutionaries in our movement. "There’s nothing wrong with ambition, but to achieve something you have to appraise where you are and how you might meet your destination. An honest reflection on TUSC’s results would set it in the context of labour movement weakness, the – unfortunately – wide indifference to austerity, the ongoing restructuring of the British labour market, the crisis of mainstream politics, and the continued acceptance of neoliberal common sense. It also means having a sense of history – where does TUSC sit in relation to and how does it compare with the preceding regroupment projects of the previous 20 years? Has it developed any since it was founded in early 2010? It has to ask discomfiting questions such as why does it continue to poll less than spectacularly, why did the comrades who formed Left Unity give TUSC a wide berth, and why do Labour-affiliated unions remain stubbornly Labour loyal?" All questions which TUSC fail or avoid answering. TUSC makes allot of its so called trade union backing and those who stand are proud trade unionists. "What about the social weight of TUSC, the dozens of trade unionists and community campaigners that decided to stand for TUS this may? After all, didn’t Lenin once note that elections were the lowest form of class struggle? For those turned on politically by such things, the beauty pageant of candidates with union membership by their names sounds impressive. However, the one significant set of initials missing from the bulk of prospective councillors was (SP). All party members are expected to be members of their unions and certainly, the SP pulled out all the stops, urging as many members as it could to stand. This is your real reason for the preponderance of trade unionists on the list – it is factually accurate, but does not represent large numbers breaking with Labour which, of course, is the intended impression it wants to convey." One of the Sp and TUSC's goals is to get labour affiliated unions to back TUSC they would see this as a break and a new start of a new workers party But many in the SP and TUSC miss the point that many of the unions who are affiliated to labour actually go along and often vote with the labour NEC for some of the worst parts of labour policy pulling them into a new party would not turn union leaders into revolutionaries or make them more militant and less bureaucratic. Take for example the review by Lord Collins about the changes to the relation of unions to labour were accepted without critical comment by the trade unions affiliated to labour. At this year’s policy forum. As the SP has given up reclaiming labour it puts allot of its energy into forming a new labour party but more democratic and not prone to sell outs apparently. The labour left is weak but hasn’t it always been weak in a sense. However much you want to reclaim labour to form a new party of labour the facts still can’t be ignored. However, the attempts of the Labour right to finally de-labourise Labour by weakening and eventually severing its links to the unions serves as an adequate political pretext for the imagined replacement. But the idea that Labour has not always been a “loyal opposition” since its formation is frankly bizarre. Was it not being a loyal opposition by encouraging workers to sign up to the ‘British war effort’ in 1914-18? Or when it betrayed the 1926 General Strike? Or when Ramsay MacDonald headed the National Government alongside the Conservatives in 1931? Leaving aside the fact that the trade unions themselves block-voted for Labour to ‘distance itself’ from them, when has the party ever ‘reflected trade union values’, let alone acted in the class interests of workers? It was precisely because the Labour Party sought to become a respectable party of government, to demonstrate that it was “fit to govern”, that it has repeatedly “betrayed” the working class. Because it sought to manage capitalism (allegedly in the interests of the working class), it had no option but to behave in that way. So the idea that a Labour Party mark two would behave differently is absurd - not that LU or TUSC has any hope of becoming one. Left-of-Labour electoral projects come and go, but have never offered a real alternative; they merely promise the same thing - a ‘fairer’ capitalism, thanks to sensible Keynesian management. But how that will happen without Labour’s established voter base and trade union backing is anyone’s guess. The Labour Party can be neither ‘reclaimed’ - it was never ours - nor sidestepped. Yes, it is possible for the union leaders to demand policies in the interests of their members, but that assumes that those leaders are accountable to their members in the first place. By winning control of our own organisations - first and foremost the unions - we could hope to transform Labour into a different sort of party. But the Labour question must be confronted head on; we cannot wish it away. Getting back to left unity and what the left thinks it is. Virtually everyone will be familiar with. Whilst harnessing the energy of movements in a sanitised form doesn't actually require direct recruitment, the leftist front organisation nearly always has that as its explicit goal. First, join the united front (or popular front, in the SWP's case). Then, why not buy our party's paper? Finally, well if you join the party you can get more involved in the struggle – sign here. The most obvious problem with this type of unity is that it's not actually unified at all. In every popular campaign that crops up, each party has its own separate front. For every National Shop Stewards Network there's a Unite the Resistance and a Right to Work Campaign and a Coalition of Resistance and so on. And if more than one left sect is involved in one front, you can guarantee a split and the emergence of a new front sooner or later. Alongside the now tedious Monty Python joke, however, there's also the draining effect the united front (of whichever hue) has on the movement it seeks Having said all this, it goes without saying that unity – disentangled from all of the above – is something that the workers' movement needs. But it is not left unity, on the spurious basis that we all stand on roughly the same side of the political spectrum, that we need. In practical terms, whether we organise in the workplace or in the community as tenants, claimants or whatever else, what unites us is the material conditions we share. In a word, our class. Our common enemy is not “the right” or “the Tories,” but all of those on the other side of the class divide – those who we have to sell our labour to, those who we have to pay rent to in order to keep a roof over our heads and those who run the state which serves this system where we're all subject to the process of money making more money. By making class the basis of our unity, we necessarily exclude elements of “the left.” That radical activist who busts unions and uses workfare, that union bureaucrat who cuts a deal on pay cuts to “save jobs,” that union for screws, that party leader who accepts austerity but says it's “too deep, too fast.” Moreover, this kind of unity doesn't demand that we all belong to the same organisation or front. For example, Solidarity Federation and Boycott Workfare following their own paths over unpaid labour hasn't stopped them both making significant dents in the scheme together or coordinating and supporting each others' days of action. With extracts and thanks to the weekly worker http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1000/labour-unions-vote-to-be-distanced/ And Phil Dickens at https://libcom.org/blog/%E2%80%9C-real-enemy%E2%80%9D-why-we-should-reject-left-unity-concept-17022013 And to Phil BC over at A very public sociologist http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-far-lefts-prospects-in-2014.html

1 comment:

  1. This might just be your best blog entry to date. Well written and a few points well made Comrade. - Ant.