To be or not to be
The Left Unity conference has given over the first day to debating whether to be or not to be. Left Unity is in essence a struggle between old Labourism and new Republicanism. Labourism, reflecting the economism of the left in England, has been and remains by far the dominant tendency. It is the disguise which Trotskyists wear when trying to be populist. Now Corbyn has pulled the rug from under LU, the forthcoming conference may look like a case of Labourites falling out. Not quite.
This week Nick Wrack says in Project “There is little point its continuation as a small party with policies indistinguishable from those of Corbyn”. True enough. But then he adds “unless LU were to turn itself into a party based on the principles and programme of Marxism, there is no reason to exist” which is more or less the same conclusion as the CPGB. If the Titanic doesn’t change course it will hit an iceberg sooner or later.
However this is not the full set of sailing routes. Republican socialism has a different plan. Resolution (69) argues that Left Unity should continue to build as an independent working class party by realigning itself with RISE in Scotland. The resolution says that “LU has no future as smaller sectarian version of the Corbyn Labour Party and conference recognises we cannot continue on this basis for more than a temporary period.”
The resolution is about realignment. It is about changing direction before we hit the iceberg. It says “Noting the rise of the democratic movement in Scotland during and after the referendum and the launch of RISE, Left Unity will work to reject Labour’s economism and seek to build an alliance with RISE around the politics of republicanism, internationalism, socialism and the environment”.
If LU survives this conference, the resolution says “to make the transition to an alternative on the basis of a radical democratic and social programme” LU should “hold a special conference or national meeting in early 2016……where members can discuss and debate the transition to the new politics needed in response to the Corbyn victory”.
This realignment resolution is one of four basic positions identified in the resolutions. These are i) liquidate 2) affiliate 3) carry on as before 4) realign. These four boil down to three trends, Right, Centre and Left in the struggle between Labourism, which supports the social monarchy, and republicanism which demands a social republic and an independent working class party to win that programme.
Corbyn’s victory is pulling many former Trotskyists to the right and this is defining the right wing of Left Unity. The harder right is throwing in the towel straightaway and the soft right wants to follow the slower route by trying (and failing) to become an affiliate of the Labour Party. The distinction between “liquidate” and “affiliate” are not about principle. Affiliation, when push comes to shove, is slower liquidation.
The call for LU to liquidate as a party is found on resolution (15) from comrades Green, Shaheen, Walker, Godfrey-Wood and Willig. The idea of affiliating to the Labour Party is found in resolutions (20) Norwich (23) Haringay (27) Becker and Conrad, (70) Lambeth and (74) Waltham Forest. .
The Left Unity centre is identified with the idea of continuing to sail in the same direction. Resolution (48) from comrades Hudson and Burgin urges LU to continue as an independent party. This stands against the liquidation of LU and should be supported critically. The fight for a new working class party independent of the Labour Party has to continue. But full steam ahead is not a solution.
Left Unity has to turn to the left and realign itself with progressive democratic forces in Scotland. A left turn requires and demands that LU shifts its politics from social monarchy to social republic and makes a clear break with Left Unionism.
Just as the Labour Party has moved to the left so LU must likewise turn to the left if the party is not to be run over by the Labour juggernaut. This is the message from the Scottish referendum to the left in England. So far the left in England has shown no sign of listening. Ears plugged up and eyes tight shut. Keep sailing towards that big white thing on the horizon. Let’s hope it might be America!