Re-evaluate, Redesign, and Realign
Last weekend Left Unity conference took place in a fairly comradely spirit despite the strong views on either side of the debate. There is no doubt that the Corbyn movement has put real pressure on LU. Just as there is a sharpened left-right division within the Labour Party, so LU is divided within itself. It is tug of war rather than a civil war.
Pulling to the right are those seeking to merge with the Corbo-movement. The right trend has been proposing various tactics from resigning and joining the Labour Party, to turning LU from a party into a Network, to affiliating to Labour and no longer standing candidates. Pulling to the left are those who recognise that politics has moved to the left. A left turn means sharpening the politics and programme and drawing a clear ideological differentiation between Labour and Left Unity.
LU conference was a concealed struggle between Labour and Scotland which ended with a good old British fudge. At the extreme right end of the spectrum was the call for LU to become a pro-Labour network securing about ten votes. At the opposite end was a resolution calling for realignment with the new RISE party in Scotland which gained thirteen votes. The centre ground won the day by passing three resolutions with contradictory messages. Left Unity would carry on as an independent party. But it would not stand candidates against Labour. Left Unity gives up its fight with Labour was how the Daily Politics show headlined it.
In the last year the biggest challenge to the ruling class was in the Scottish referendum which mobilised and politicised millions and shook the foundations of the state. The referendum had its extended impact on the result of the general election and the defeat of New Labour. It was the revolt against New Labour in Scotland by the working class in the Yes cities of Glasgow and Dundee that gave the Tories the opportunity to defeat Milliband in England.
So instead of Prime Minister Milliband, we now have Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Her Majestiy’s Opposition. The bigger picture has not impinged on the thinking of Left Unity’s right wing. The strange aspect of the Left Unity conference was its focus on recent events in England in the Labour Party. Perhaps that reflects a conference which had ninety five percent or higher of delegates from places such as London, Brighton, Wigan, Stockport, Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool.
We have to look beyond the blinkered view of the English left. We have to dig deeper into the ideological foundations of Left Unity and re-evaluate the original politics. At the founding conference in 2013 there were three basic positions signaled by historical markers. First was Labourism identified with 1945 Labour government. The second was communism or Trotskyism, identified with the 1920 foundation of the CPGB. Third was the call for a republican socialist party, identified with 1649 and the Levellers and Diggers in the English revolution and the Commonwealth of England.
Left Unity rejected the Trotskyist-Communist model for the idea of a militant working class politics forged around uniting democratic socialists (social democrats) and communists into one party. This idea has been called a ‘Broad left’ Party or ‘Half Way House’ party. In practical terms “communism” is not the official ideology or programme of the party, but communists are free to organise their own platforms. So far so good.
But then Left Unity combined this with the ideological foundations of Labourism and the British Road to Socialism as represented by “the Spirit of 45”captured in Ken Loach’s film. The 1945 Labour government created a very British type of ‘socialism’ symbolised by the NHS, which is indentified constitutionally as a Social Monarchy or the Elizabethan Welfare state. The Labour Party is not and has never been a republican party. It is loyal to the principles of constitutional monarchy and unionism.
Now, two years later, it should be clear that this 1945 plan has been torpedoed. First the Scottish referendum and the 2015 general election have seriously undermined the British Road to Socialism and the very idea of resurrecting the British social monarchy. The general election wiped out Labour in Scotland. The Corbyn movement in the Labour Party has reclaimed the ‘spirit of 45’ and quite simply pulled the rug from under Left Unity’s feet. Hence Left Unity is now facing an existential crisis as its right wing follows the logic of 1945 politics.
Left Unity’s left wing has to re-evaluate, redesign, and realign as a smaller organisation which has stronger politics from which renewed growth will inevitably come. If Left Unity is not going to be pulled down Labour’s plug hole, it has to make a sharp break with Labourism. The survival of Left Unity depends on an ideological purge of all vestiges of Labourism, that is Social Monarchism and Left Unionism. To put it simply Left Unity has to become a republican socialist party. Scotland has turned the improbable into the possible.