Left Unity image

by Nick Wright

The Left Unity project exists now as a party, with an official name, ‘Left Unity Party’ and the beginnings of a programme aiming to ‘fill the space’ to the left of Labour.

The pre-conference debate – conducted on a lively and lightly moderated website – paraded, in opposition to the proposals of the founding group, a range of political platforms drawn up with varying levels of self delusion by a parasitic phalanx of tiny trotskyite sects.

At the conference itself, the cautiously framed platform of the Andrew Burgin/ Kate Hudson leadership, named the Left Party Platform and broadened to include more explicitly ‘socialist’ formulations moved by Ken Loach for the Camden group, easily dismissed the self-described Socialist Platform moved by Nick Wrack which went down 216 to 122 with 28 abstentions counted and more simply not voting.

The amended Left Party Platform gained 295 votes to 101 with 12 abstentions. However, in a vote that demonstrates a certain lack of clear thinking on the part of some delegates, an amendment from the Lambeth London group – designed to underscore a parity of status for the contending platforms and thus formalise the ‘factional’ character of the organisation – and by the way, defining the the winning platform as merely a platform, rather than the organisation’s statement of aims, gained 173 votes to 121 with 46 abstaining. Thus, by default, it lent greater status to the more wooly formulations embodied in the constitution.

Nick Wrack, like many of the other leading figures, is a veteran of the many similar projects that have risen and fallen over the past two decades and was uncharacteristically unpersuasive before an audience that consisted largely of refugees from existing political formations of the left.

This may be because his forceful style did not resonate with the sensibilities of his audience but he was fatally compromised by the unsavoury associations of some of his co-signatories to the Socialist Platform which seemed to have attracted a full spectrum of the most parasitical, disruptive and sectarian.

This illustrates a defining feature of many of the people who have joined Left Unity, a reluctance to reinvent the unsavoury internal regimes of the various ultra left sects they have abandoned and a dislike of grand programmatic gesture, charismatic leaders and rhetoric.

Discussion on campaigning priorities and electoral strategy was deferred as, despite some heroic chairing, the agenda overran although some fierce constitutional battles were won and lost.

Opponents of a constitutional provision for committees to include at least 50% women were driven to ignominious defeat.

In a very sensible move, and after clear anti-imperialist arguments,  the conference decided not to organise in Northern Ireland

A constitutional amendment to directly elect national council members to sit alongside regional representatives elected by postal ballot won with 125 votes to 113 with 47 abstentions. A provision to allow individuals (not just groups) to table motions in was carried. A proposal for a ‘federal council’ made up of representatives from the three dozen local branches rather than postal-ballot reps from regions was lost wit 115 votes to 142 with 33 abstentions.

Approximately 500 individual paid-up members, plus a fair number of observers took part, about half of the existing membership and one tenth of Left Unity’s Facebook likes.

Deferred and remitted matters and, presumably, actual policies will be on the agenda for a conference in 2014. In the short term the party has a hard task to get noticed. A short piece on BBC 4’s World at One, a Russia Today piece and a smattering of coverage in the fringe left wing blogosphere is all that the conference attracted.

On previous form the parasitical elements who made the conference so unproductive will stick around until something more promising comes along or until they calculate that they have gained as much factional advantage as they can.

A bigger problem is the Labour Party and the forthcoming election. As was pointed out on this site some months ago the political space to the left of the Labour Party is filled by … the Labour Party.


If Miliband takes heed of the success that flowed from his adroit manoeuvring around Cameron’s bid to start a New Labour style war on Syria and the impact of his energy price freeze plan then the potential to make electoral inroads on Labour’s left flank will be much diminished.

Left Unity’s chaotic internal regime, lack of media and press presence, shortage of money and the presence of fissiparous tendencies will inevitably limit its ability for a while to conduct ground breaking local campaigns notwithstanding the many capable people in its ranks.

The real potential for a broadly based campaign against austerity is being rapidly filled by the trade union-based People’s Assembly which is already drawing unprecedented numbers of people into effective action and itself is unfavourable terrain for any political organisation to project itself.

In the longer term the organisation will need to clarify its strategy and tactics in ways that reflect its ideological position. This may run against the deepest desires and unspoken fears of many of its adherents but an organisation with socialist aims, no matter how imprecisely formulated, and one that aims to represent the working class, no matter how attenuated its connections with that class, needs to make sure that its policies and practices correspond with its goals. It needs an ideology.


7 thoughts on “Left Unity Party formed in Britain

  1. Why do you continue to ignore the TUSC – they got 27% of the vote in a by-election in Rossall – what’s the biggest the CP’s scored of late? There is a left alternative to Labour and it’s the TUSC – we’ve been trying The British Road to Socialism for 60 years and we’re worse off than ever. FYI the Labour Party started as Keir Hardie who no longer trusted the Liberals to represent the working class – I no longer trust Labour.

    • The BRS can’t be all bad. Trotskyist left attacked the parliamentary road for 60 years and now seeks to emulate it through TUSC and Left Unity.

      • Good point and you’re quite right of course – I think the thing about the BRS is that it put forward the notion of eledting a Left Labour govt. supported by Communist MP’s – but the Labour Party now is more to the right than ever so what did all those rallies and fringe meetings and confrence resolutions etc. actually achieve – well at the time, a hell of a lot. I grew up in a welfare state and my Grandad (who came back from World War One a convinced socialist) told me he’d never have dreamed as a kid that working calss people cou,ld go to University, live in decent houses, get free healthcare etc. He told me we’d almost won – and then it starts with Kinnock and continues with Blair and now Milliband – one sell out after another – one utter betrayal after another – and everything he fought for and saw some people die for, was destroyed – and Labour stood idly by and did nothing. Vote Labour – why bother? Your turn.

    • Kevin, for decades all kinds of trotskyites (and Maoists) misrepresented the political programme of British communists as essentially electoral, describing it as ‘the parliamentary road to socialism’. In fact, over its entire history the Communist Party deployed only a tiny fraction of its resources and effort in electoral work but it did manage to get some people elected. By way of contrast, the main trotskyist organisation, Militant, actually buried itself in the Labour Party and denied its own existence and even its name (The Revolutionary Socialist League) the better to secure nomination as Labour councillors and MPs. It even had some success and a number of rather good MPs were elected.

      Inevitably, the inherent contradictions of this strategy matured, the Labour leadeship expelled them and Militant split into one group who set off on their own and another that buried itself even deeper. This is not to traduce the intentions of any of these people, both organisations continue to hold in activity, some useful and some wasted, a good number of capable comrades.

      TUSC achieves variable results in elections sometimes getting quite reasonable votes. Whatever virtues this activity enjoys it does not add up to a strategy for winning state power for the working class. Elections are important but in bougeois democracies they are imperfect mechanisms for winning state power.

      In a bizarre turn of events it is the leaderships of the various ultra-left (perhaps this description no longer applies) formations who are most obsessed with electoralist tactics. This is true in France, in Germany (where ex maoists run the Green party), in Greece where Syriza is the home for almost all of them, and many other countries.

      • Thanks for getting back to me Nick – I take your point about sections of the Left – but as someone who lived in Liverpool during Militant’s tenure, I still remember that hatton and co (for all their faults and they were many) stiil forced Thatcher to back down twice and as a result increased their vote at the local elections – and then of course they screwed up. They imposed an outsider on the black community and ended up sending out redundancy notices in a fleet of cabs etc. – what I also recall is the number of (to be honest) obvious agent provocateurs around plus the Euro-communists who became (as far as I was concerned) indistinguisable from the Lib Dems. And it was tragic – Militant failed and way too many people fell for Kinnock’s line – a lot even voted Liberal as a protest. And I knew a fair few Trots. I’d been one myself as a teenager. Most of the ones I knew were University academics who probably ended up voting ofr Thatcher in 1979. I’d also known a lot of Party Members when as a 16 year old I was involved in Medical Aid for Vietnam. I had respect for them then and I still do. I’ve voted Communist lots of times and Labour as well. I don’t despise Party members and call them closet-stalinists but I don’t dismiss people in the TUSC as “ultra-leftists” either. I’m a socialist who believes that instead of engaging in verbal sniping across no-man’s land, we should be engaged in free frank and honest debates about the way forward. And I think what the Party and the Labour left needs to do is analyse why the TUSC is making inroads, why working class voters refuse to vote Labour. Could it be that the TUSC offers an alternative to Milliband and co’s pitiful opposition to what’s going on? I agree about Left Unity though – yet another splinter group to split the vote – just what we need ! And I’ll stop there – but would be happy to continue this discussion with you if you want to get back to me. Thanks.

  2. The above report snd comment reveals once again how confused, bureaucratic, impotent and disorganised the British left is. Despite some fine and outstanding individuals the broad left is unable to reach any consensus on the way to move forward. It reveals that any attmept to create a new left party is doomed to failure. In no part due to the wrecking tactics of the sectarian Trotskyists, and the liberalised left. (revealed by the stupidity of Owen Jones refusing to speak on a platform with Mother Agness the pacifist nun from Syria)
    To be frank the left is a shambles. But as Nick rightly points out only the Unions, peoples assemblies and winning back the Labour party can at the moment project a real practical alternative to offensive by the ruling class.
    Even then the left and progressive forces have to become more innovative in their methods and campaigning. Stale imagery, out of date methods, lack of imagination, too much talk and debate, looking inwards instead of outwards, this is self defeating when thousands of people are going hungry, having their benefits and services cut struggling to pay bills. This is what matters to most ordinary people. Passing a thousand resojutions and holding confrences orwaving red flags is meaningless to them. The left has to learn lesson from the past and move forward. The Morning Star and CPB are an essential element to the future of the left.

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