Left Unity: ducking decisions in Doncaster

16 June 2013

Five weeks after Left Unity’s first national conference around 40 delegates attended its first National Coordinating Group (NCG) meeting in Doncaster. Ten had been elected at the national meeting on 11 May whilst the others had been elected to represent the local groups. Clearly there are considerably more groups who were unable to send delegates. Nevertheless holding the meeting in Doncaster allowed for greater representation from the north of England and some were able to make the journey from Scotland and Wales.

It was valuable to hear – in the welcoming speeches from Doncaster Left Unity members and a local firefighter involved in a campaign to keep a local fire station open – the sorts of struggle that Left Unity supporters there are engaged in. Indeed it was a shame, in retrospect that more space was not discussing the ways in which the local groups are trying to launch Left Unity in their areas.

Left Unity dithers in Doncaster

Clearly many people are still worried over issues of democracy and transparency in the way LU conducts itself and this once more tended to drive out discussions of political substance. The founding meeting had placed an embargo on the NCG adopting policy. This was adopted on the suggestion of the provisional organising group but now it boomeranged on them with organisational questions occupying delegates minds and speeches – squeezing items like the Peoples’ Assembly to just ten minutes at the end of a four hour meeting.

An extensive debate took place about the role of the ten members of the nationally elected NCG – “the ten.” They had held two meetings to plan the NCG and discuss some other matters, including the production of a four page free sheet to hand out to delegates attending the People’s Assembly on 22 May.

Many delegates felt that the national meeting had not empowered them to act as some sort of executive between meetings and the ten duly disavowed any intention of acting so in future. Resolutions from Cambridge and Southwark were passed emphasising that no distinction should be made between “the ten” and the other delegates and then minutes of all meetings should be carried on the LU website.

This leaves the coordination of LU’ work till the next delegate meeting (whose date was not decided) scattered amongst a series of separate working groups. Since “politics like nature abhors a vacuum” since an “open” national meeting (open to all members and supporters) was decided for September.

Hackney Left Unity proposed a resolution which stated “The founding conference should discuss and vote on a broad policy statement (such as the East London draft), on democratic structure and membership issues, and on issues relating to ongoing anti-austerity campaigns and the 2014 European elections.” Workers Power (the delegate from Lambeth) proposed that such a statement of policy – in fact what should be a limited action programme or manifesto rather than a full programme – could be discussed and adopted at the September meeting and become the basis for defining membership of Left Unity. But this was rejected. The danger now is that the September meeting will be a rally. It is not clear which working groups if nay will prepare and organise this.

This is roughly the sort of policies we think could be agreed Left Unity – as an organisation laying the foundations of a new party – cannot continue to remain without policies until it has agreed the complete strategy (programme) that a party needs. It has agreed to set up a number of policy groups with the idea that these will make proposals to the founding conference envisaged for November.

Workers Power believes however that to complete a whole range of policies let alone a full programme by then will be difficult if not impossible. However in order to recruit and consolidate members and participate as LU in ongoing struggles with a clear and distinct message it needs a more limited platform – a manifesto or action programme – which addresses the burning issues which face us this summer and in 2013-14. In this period decisive battles will be need to be fought and won if we are to save the welfare state.

As the main planks of such an action programme we suggest:

A New Left party should aim to unite all these struggles with a struggle by the working class not just to defend the gains made by the labour movement in the past but which fight to put an end to crisis-wracked capitalism and replace it with a democratically planned, ecologically sustainable, socialist system.

What strategy is necessary to achieve this goal – whether a social revolution or by a process of radical social reform – what kind of government would be needed to enforce them against the resistance of the bosses and the bankers – will have to be democratically debated and discussed by the members of the new party before being embodied in a new programme.

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