Save Lifeworks mental health service!

April 15, 2014 at 6:23 am (Cuts, Disability, health service, mental health, posted by JD, protest, unions)


Service users and supporters rallied in Cambridge on 5 April

By Matt Wells (via Workers Liberty)

Lifeworks is a Complex Cases Service drop in centre which currently supports over 70 people with complex mental health problems in the Cambridge district and has supported many, many more over several years.

Following a deeply flawed decision to close the Lifeworks centre, taken behind the backs of those using it, a group of service users decided to occupy it. That was six weeks ago and the occupation is still holding out. This short video interview from inside the occupation with one of the participants gives a flavour of the resolve being shown by those fighting to save the service.

Please visit their Facebook page and sign their petition: see here.

They are seeking donations to sustain their campaign. Cheques to Cambridge & District Trade Union Council, marked Lifeworks. Send to Ian Beeby, Treasurer, CDTUC, 55, Station Road, Whittlesford, Cambridge, CB22 4NL.     

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Jeremy Hunt is trying to change the law: sign this petition!

December 3, 2013 at 2:39 pm (Cuts, health service, London, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, Tory scum)

Readers are urged to support this petition against Hunt’s outrageous “hospital closure clause.” However, I feel obliged to say that 38 Degrees have a bit of a cheek in seemingly claiming all the credit for the brilliant Lewisham Hospital campaign, which has been conducted on the ground by local activists and rank-and-file trade unionists, many of whom have not even heard of 38 Degrees…

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From 38 Degrees: This is a message from Louise Irvine, a 38 Degrees member and hospital campaigner. Read her message below, or sign  her petition here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/hospital-closure-clause

I’m a doctor and part of the Save The Lewisham Hospital campaign. Along with thousands of 38 Degrees members, we stopped health minister Jeremy Hunt from closing services at Lewisham Hospital. Thousands of us chipped in to take him to court, and we won. [1]

Jeremy Hunt appealed the decision – but he lost again. So now, having been told twice that he acted illegally, he’s trying to change the law! [2] He wants to bring in a “hospital closure clause” to give him new legal powers to shut A&Es like Lewisham. If he gets this through, none of our hospitals will be safe from his meddling or closure. [3]

The hospital closure clause will soon be voted on by MPs. We need to persuade enough of them to vote against it. A huge petition will show MPs that the public don’t want them to give Jeremy Hunt new powers to shut hospitals.

I’ve started a petition on the 38 Degrees website. Please can you sign it today, before MPs vote?
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/hospital-closure-clause

It’s a pretty cynical way to respond to our campaign, isn’t it? After losing in court, Jeremy Hunt’s trying to sneak a change into a law to allow him “to dismantle hospital services arbitrarily.” [2] Even the very best hospitals wouldn’t be safe. This sinister clause is hidden within a much bigger piece of law - presumably he’s hoping that it will go through unnoticed.

A big petition can help stop this happening. When the bill is next debated, we can prove that thousands of us are coming together against these plans. Every signature helps sound the alarm. Every signature is a blow to Jeremy Hunt’s reputation, an extra voice against him getting new powers to shut hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt saw the public outcry the last time the government changed the law to damage the NHS. He saw his predecessor, Andrew Lansley, lose his job. The last thing Jeremy Hunt will want to see is 38 Degrees members coming together again to stand up for NHS.

NOTES:
[1] 38 Degrees blog, Jeremy Hunt beaten in court… again!
http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2013/10/29/jeremy-hunt-has-been-beaten-in-court-again/
[2] Parliament website, Early Day Motion 656
http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/656
[3] The Telegraph, Government wants free rein to close hospitals, claims
medic
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10414510/Government-wants-free-rein-to-close-hospitals-claims-medic.html
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H/t: Trudy S

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Anti-austerity Fireworks

November 5, 2013 at 12:57 am (Cuts, jazz, Jim D, Tory scum, welfare)

Louis again – this time with ‘Fireworks’ (a distant relation of ‘Tiger Rag’). Recorded June 27th 1928 in Chicago. The next day Louis and the same band (the later version of the ‘Hot Five’) made the greatest jazz record of all time, ‘West End Blues.’

Here’s ‘Fireworks’:

Maybe that will fire you up to attend one of these November 5th anti-austerity events.

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March in Manchester to Save the NHS!

September 28, 2013 at 6:51 am (Cuts, health service, posted by JD, protest, Tory scum, TUC, welfare)

  •  SAVE OUR NHS

    LIVE DEMO BLOG:

    See live updates from the march and rally at our Save Our NHS blog

    JOIN US ONLINE ON THE DAY

    If you can’t join us in Manchester you can still get involved online.

    Tell the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester: SAVE OUR NHS. Defend Jobs and Services. No to Austerity.

    March and Rally – Sunday 29 September 2013

    Supporters of the National Health Service and all those who want to defend jobs, services and a decent welfare state will be marching in Manchester to deliver a clear message to Conservative Party Conference that we mean to Save Our NHS from cuts and privatisation.

    A march and rally have been called by the North West TUC, backed by unions and NHS campaign groups. They’ll be assembling at Liverpool Road (M3 4FP) from 11am, and marching to a rally in Whitworth Park.

    The protest will highlight the impact of huge job losses and spending cuts across the health service, as well as the rapid sell-off of the most lucrative parts of the NHS to private healthcare companies – many of whom like Circle are also Conservative Party donors.

    The event will also raise concerns about the wider effect that government economic policies are having upon communities across the UK.

    Getting there:

    Coaches to Manchester are being laid on by groups around the country, with many places subsidised or free. A list of coaches can be found at http://falseeconomy.org.uk/travel/uk/all/t1.

    Coach Drop Off Point: The coach drop off point will be on Water Street, Manchester B5225. Coaches should arrive at the drop off point between 09:00 and 12:00.

    Advertise your coach
    For those looking to advertise your coach and ensure they are full, the False Economy has a section dedicated to 29th September. Register your details through http://falseeconomy.org.uk/nhs299 or alternatively, you can email Jay McKenna at jmckenna@tuc.org.uk with your coach details.

    Trains
    The nearest train station to the form up point is Deansgate Train Station. For those travelling to Manchester Oxford Road or Manchester Picaddilly, there will be police officers on duty on the day who will be able to point you in the direction of Liverpool Road and the march.

    Buses
    Buses will be running on the day, however there will be some alterations due to road closures. These will be published shortly on the Transport for Greater Manchester website www.tfgm.com.

    Form Up
    The form up area for unions will be signposted and this information will be circulated prior to the march.

    Route:

    The march is expected to move off at 12:15 and the route has been confirmed with police and agency partners.

    It is: Depart Liverpool Road; Turn Left onto Deansgate; Turn right onto John Dalton Street; Continue over onto Princess Street; Turn right onto Portland Street; Turn right onto Oxford Street; Left into Hall Street; Continue round to Bale Street; Turn left onto Lower Mosley Street; Continue down onto Albion Street; Turn left onto Whitworth Street; Turn right onto Oxford Street; Continue down onto Oxford Road; Finish at Whitworth Park.

    Map

    Short March/Static Demonstration
    For those who require a shorter march the two points for will be at:

    • Barbirolli Square (outside of the Bridgwater Hall) – This allows for those who wish to join the march to pass the conference centre and continue onto the rally
    • All Saints Park (off Oxford Road) – This allows for those who just wish to attend the rally to join the march to its conclusion

    Both Barbirolli Square and All Saints Park will be stewarded and policed to ensure that those with mobility requirments will have safe and easy passage in the march. All marchers are asked to respect this.

    Rally

    The rally will start at 14:15 or when the march reaches Whitworth Park, whichever is the later. It is expected to last for approximately 2 hours with speakers and music.

    Space for any stalls within Whitworth Park is limited is extremely limited. If any Union or organisation wishes to have a stall at the rally, please email Kara Stevens on kstevens@tuc.org.uk

    Accessible Viewing Area/Sign Language
    A disability viewing area will be provided near to the stage to enable clear sight lines to the stage. There will also be sign language provided on the day. This area will be signposted and stewards will direct individuals to this area if required.

    Departure
    At the end of the rally, coach pick up points and the direction of travel to train stations will be advertised on the large screen. Stewards and police will be on hand to assist with dispersal from the park and signposting individuals to coach parking.

    Get involved:

    NB: all the above is reproduced from the TUC website

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Birmingham’s new Library: the last “people’s palace”?

September 3, 2013 at 5:05 pm (Art and design, Brum, culture, Cuts, Jim D, labour party, literature, modernism, reformism, socialism)

A “last hurrah for local pride“?

 
The new Library of Birmingham: rubbish outside (above); magical inside (below)

To the opening ceremony of the new Library of Birmingham in Centenary Square today: an occasion made all the more powerful by the superb choice of anti-fascist Malala Yousefai to do the deed. In an inspirational speech, emphasising the emancipatory power of books and learning, Malala brought forth laughter by calling us (and herself) “broomies” – oh well, she hasn’t yet had time to pick up the accent. For the record, she called Brum her “second home” after “my beloved Pakistan.”

The new building itself is superb in every respect, except its outer appearance, which is a gigantic, square and over-decorated cake. The interlocking ornate circles on the outside are, supposedly, intended to represent Birmingham’s history of metalwork and jewellery manufacture. Unfortunately they weren’t manufactured in Brum or the Black Country, but in Switzerland.

Frankly, I think the “old” (ie: previous) library, designed by the now almost-forgotten modernist John Madin and completed in 1974, is a much more handsome building, and I’d been hoping it would be retained and given a new role. Sadly, I overheard Birmingham Council’s Deputy Leader Ian Ward today, telling someone that it’s going to be demolished.

But enough carping: once you’re inside, this is, indeed, a “people’s palace,” as architect Francine Houben of designers Mecanno, describes it. It includes everything you’d expect of a modern library (ie “an open information hub for the City”), plus a “library within a library” for children, massive archives accessible to the public, elevated gardens with stunning views of the city, and -right at the top- the reconstructed 1882 Shakespeare Memorial Room with Europe’s most extensive collection of Shakespearian manuscripts and Shakespeare-related literature.

This is, truly, a “people’s palace” and credit is due to Council / Labour Group leader Albert Bore (someone I’ve had clashes with in the past) and the Labour leadership of Birmingham City Council, who drove the project forward against Tory opposition at local and national level.

But this is likely to be the last such civic project in the UK for the foreseeable future. With the present cuts and the emasculation of local government finance by the Coalition, the idea of another £189m public project like this would now be unthinkable.

So why the hell was Tory / Coalition Minister for Culture Ed Vaisey invited to attend and speak at the opening ceremony?

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Bedroom tax judgement to be appealed

July 30, 2013 at 11:19 pm (benefits, Cuts, Disability, Jim D, law, tax, Tory scum, welfare)

From Leigh Day & Co:

Lawyers vow to fight on after losing part of their battle on overturning the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’

Lawyers representing adults and children with disabilities who are challenging the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ have vowed to fight on after today losing part of their High Court battle to halt the controversial new housing benefit regulations that came into force on 1st April this year.

Since 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%.  The claimants all argued that these new Housing Benefit rules discriminate against people with disabilities.

The Court accepted that they are discriminatory, but decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful – apart from in cases of disabled children unable to share a bedroom because of their disabilities.

Disabled Children and Bedroom Sharing

The Court found that the Secretary of State has been aware that the law must be changed to provide for disabled children since May 2012, and they were highly critical of his failure to make Regulations to provide for them. Lord Justice Laws said that the current state of affairs “cannot be allowed to continue”.

The Government must now make Regulations “very speedily” to show that there should be “no deduction of housing benefit where an extra bedroom is required for children who are unable to share because of their disabilities.”

The Wider Group

However the Court held that discrimination against adults with disabilities, even those in the same situation to children with disabilities who could not share a room, was justified.  Lawyers for adults with disabilities today said that they believe this cannot be right.

They should be entitled to full Housing Benefit for the accommodation they actually need.

Appeal

Lawyers for adults with disabilities today confirmed that they intend to appeal the ruling, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on people with disabilities cannot be justified and is unlawful.

Disabled children and their families also intend to appeal as they are now left in a position where they do not know whether in fact they are entitled to full housing benefit to meet the costs of the homes that they need.

This is because the Government has declined to confirm that the new Regulations, which the Court says must be made, will cover their situations, or to provide a date by which the new Regulations will be made.

Since the new housing legislation was introduced it has had a devastating effect on many people across the country. Charities, Social Landlords and Advice Agencies have spoken out about the plight of people with disabilities who have been affected by the measure.

3 law firms are representing the Claimants: Hopkin Murray Beskine, Leigh Day and Public Law Solicitors.

Richard Stein from the Human Rights team at Leigh Day said:

“This is a most disappointing result. We will be seeking an urgent appeal to the Court of Appeal.  Many people with disabilities including our clients may lose their homes unless the law is changed. Their lives are already difficult enough without the fear of losing their accommodation which has been provided specifically to meet their exceptional needs.”

***

The Guardian identifies some “puzzling anomalies” in the judgement.

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Report from the People’s Assembly

June 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm (capitalist crisis, Cuts, reblogged, TUC, unions, Unite the union, welfare)

A report from Andrea Gibbons of Lambeth Save Our Services

Francis O'Grady addresses opening session of People's Assembly

Above: the opening plenary

It was partially a day of misadventures I have to say. It began with me missing the opening plenary (many apologies), attending the housing session, being unable to get into the session on immigration and racism because it was too full (that so many people attended did indeed make me happy), being immensely frustrated with the regional meeting, enjoying some of the closing plenary before ducking out for pints, and the evening wrapped up when a man stumbled outside of the Sutton Arms where we were standing with blood pouring everywhere. Turns out he’d had a beer bottle broken over his head for being a Fenian, no one stopped the fight or the guy from leaving… I stood wearing Mark Steel’s hat and guarding everyone’s drinks (post of doubtful honour), while Mark and Niall ran in hot pursuit, Kevin and Helen gave some first aid as the cops showed up after far far too long, though what we needed was an ambulance which took far longer…he got away, and after being bandaged up, the injured party was well enough to ask for Mark’s autograph. We were upset, had a long talk on the train ride home about violence and sectarian violence and the left, but anyway, the assembly.

It was full, absolutely rammed full. Even with my limited experience, I’m sure it wasn’t just the ‘usual characters’ as I’ve come to hear people call them, and it was more diverse than I was fearing in terms of age and race and in all other ways, though I think we’ve still a long long ways to go. I got there just as the plenary was ending and people were pouring out of the overflow rooms where they had been watching it on screens. Over 4,000 bought tickets, and I well believe it Read the rest of this entry »

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Bedroom tax suicide: “the only people to blame are the Government”

May 13, 2013 at 8:01 pm (benefits, Cuts, Jim D, Tory scum, tragedy)

From The Mirror website:

Stephanie Bottrill suicide note

Ten days ago Stephanie Bottrill sat in the redbrick terrace house which had  been home for 18 years to write notes to her loved ones, the  Sunday People reports.

She ripped the pages from a spiral-bound notebook and placed them neatly in  little brown envelopes.

There was one for her son. Another for her daughter. Her mother. Friends. And  a very special one for the year-old grandson she doted on.

Then in the early hours of last Saturday Stephanie, 53, left her home for the  last time, leaving her cat Joey behind as the front-door clicked shut.

She crossed her road in Meriden Drive, Solihull, to drop one of her letters  and her house keys through a neighbour’s letterbox. Then she walked 15 minutes  through the sleeping estate to Junction 4 of the M6.

And at 6.15am she walked straight into the path of a northbound lorry and was  killed instantly. Stephanie Bottrill had become the first known suicide victim  of the hated Bedroom  Tax.

In the letter to her son, Steven, 27, she had written: “Don’t blame yourself  for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

Read the full article,  from the Mirrorhere

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The Mail, Philpott, welfare…and MMR

April 6, 2013 at 5:28 pm (benefits, children, crime, Cuts, Daily Mail, Jim D, media, science, Tory scum, tragedy, welfare)

Daily Mail Welfare UK cover
As a general rule, it’s the political right who object to attempts to explain crime by reference to the social, economic or political context in which it occurs. This is, they say, to make excuses and to let evil people off the hook. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and distractions like poverty and unemployment should not enter into the equation.

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Which makes the Daily Mail‘s campaign to link the Mick Philpott case with the benefits system, at first blush, seem rather odd. AN Wilson, writing in the Mail, stated that “What the Philpott trial showed was the pervasiveness of evil caused by benefit dependency” and went on to ask his readers, rhetorically, “Do you think Philpott would have done this crime if he has worked regularly for the past 20 years and provided for those six children out of his own pocket?”
.
Now this is all highly unpleasant stuff and clearly part of a Tory campaign to justify the government’s dismantling of the welfare state. The repugnant, monstrous figure of Mick Philpott has of course been a godsend to the Tories, taken up first by the Mail and then by Chancellor Osborne following a bizarre speech on welfare “reform” delivered at a Morrisons warehouse in Kent.
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But I’m not joining in with the shrill, self-righteous outrage expressed by the likes of Owen Jones and Pamela Nash MP: after all, us lefties do not hesitate to blame the Con-Dems and their cuts for death and misery. The Mail and the Tories will not be defeated by moralistic posturing or complaints that certain headlines, articles and speeches are “offensive.”
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For what it’s worth, I think the argument that Philpott did what he did in order to get his hands on more child benefit and/or a larger house, is pretty far-fetched. From what I’ve read and heard, his motives would seem to have been a desire to exact revenge upon his ex-mistress by framing her for the fire, and to simultaneously win himself media attention as a “hero” for having saved the children.
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But the truth is, none of us can know for sure.
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What we can know for sure, however, is that sections of the press and other media have played a big part in putting the lives of thousand of children’s health and lives at risk.
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The present measles epidemic in Swansea is the direct result of a cynical, irresponsible and hysterical campaign run by swathes of the UK media between about 1998 and 2010, against the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and its alleged (but in fact non-existent) link to autism. Thanks to widespread vaccination, incidences of the three diseases covered by MMR had been rapidly decreasing for years, to the point where they’d become very rare. But in the 2000′s instances of mumps and measles began to rise again. Dr Ben Goldacre, in his 2008 book Bad Science, wrote:
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“[T]he incidence of two of the three diseases covered by MMR is now increasing very impressively. We have the highest number of measles cases in England and Wales since current surveillance methods began in 1995, with cases occurring mostly in children who had not been adequately vaccinated: 971 confirmed cases were reported in 2007 (mostly associated with prolonged outbreaks in travelling and religious communities, where vaccine uptake has been historically low), after 740 cases in 2006 (and the first death since 1992)…
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“Mumps began rising again in 1999, after many years of cases in only double figures: by 2005 the United Kingdom had a mumps epidemic, with around 5,000 notifications in January alone.”
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Now, in Swansea, the measles epidemic has reached 588 cases and Public Health Wales have said: “it is just a matter of time before a child is left with serious and permanent complications such as eye disorders, deafness or brain damage, or dies.”
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According to the Guardian, “Take-up for the MMR vaccine dropped by 14% in south Wales in the late 1990′s after research, subsequently discredited, raised health concerns about the jab and prompted a campaign against it by the South Wales Evening Post.”
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And which major national paper was giving the provincial South Wales Evening Post its lead?
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No prizes for guessing:
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Embedded Image

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AWL on left unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’

March 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm (AWL, capitalist crisis, Cuts, John Rees, Respect, socialism, solidarity, SWP, unions, welfare, workers)

From the AWL website and Solidarity newspaper:

peoples assembly fb pic

Left Unity

Unity must be linked to real action

The crises and splits in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and Respect have spurred more talk about left unity. The left needs systematic unity in action where we agree, and honest dialogue where we differ, in order to reinstate socialist ideas as an option in the working class.

On 26 March the Coalition of Resistance (within which the key force is the SWP splinter Counterfire) held a press conference to promote a “People’s Assembly Against Austerity” for 22 June (previously announced in a letter to the Guardian on 5 February). Workers’ Liberty supports all such gatherings; but, worryingly, the press release described the event as a “rally” rather than a conference.

There is a back-story. In late 2010 and early 2011, as anti-cuts campaigns flourished in the first angry response to the Tory/ Lib-Dem government, a number of left groups called conferences to try to make themselves the hub of the anti-cuts movement. The SWP called one (Right to Work, since morphed into Unite the Resistance), and the SP called one (National Shop Stewards’ Network). Counterfire’s effort, the Coalition of Resistance, was the biggest.

More than 1,000 people attended the Coalition of Resistance conference on 27 November 2010. Listening to many platform speeches from celebrities calling for militancy against the cuts, including from Unite leader Len McCluskey (who also backs the June event), some of those thousand must have felt they were in on the start of a real new movement.

But not much came of it. CoR has run an informative website, and some useful stunts; but for local anti-cuts committees usually the best contribution that CoR has been able to make is to refrain from organising CoR local groups as rivals to the main committees (and CoR has not always refrained).

The CoR conference was dominated by top-table speakers, 20-odd of them in the opening and closing plenaries. Little came of most workshops. At the workshop billed as dealing with political representation, speakers were a Green Party councillor; Liz Davies, who declared herself a critical supporter of the Green Party; Billy Bragg, whose speech was a straight plea to vote yes in the May 2011 referendum on AV; and Guardian contributor Laurie Penny. It was chaired by a Green Party member and allowed little debate.

The conference applauded a call from the platform for a week of action from 14 February 2011, but there was little action that week. CoR faded.

There is also a back-story to the “People’s Assembly” trope with which Counterfire hopes to revive CoR. They did it first on 12 March 2007, as a People’s Assembly Against War, when the people who now run Counterfire were in the leadership of the SWP. That event drew a good crowd, too — 1,000 or more — but its contribution to unity in action or to serious dialogue on differences was smaller than the attendance. There were almost 40 celebrities speaking from the top table.

On 25 March, film-maker Ken Loach and writer Gilbert Achcar co-signed a letter to the Guardian promoting the “Left Unity” initiative started in December 2012 by Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson after they had quit George Galloway’s Respect movement. The initiative’s website claims that 3000 people have signed up on the web to back Ken Loach on this. No conference has been announced, but the website reports on local groups.

If those local groups can act as left forums, bringing the left together in joint action where we agree and honest debate where we disagree, then they will make a contribution.

Again, there is a back-story. Burgin had previously been active in Gerry Healy’s Workers’ Revolutionary Party as well as Respect; Hudson, in the Communist Party of Britain before she joined Respect. Loach was close to the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, and then in Respect.

There have been quite a few other unity initiatives in recent years. A weary shrug (“not another one!”) would be wrong; but so would the idea that we need not think about and learn from why they didn’t work.

In 2009, both AWL and SWP made proposals for left unity (only, it turned out that the SWP’s idea of left unity didn’t include talking with AWL…) The Convention of the Left, launched in September 2008 by John Nicholson (previously Labour deputy leader of Manchester City Council, and then in the Socialist Alliance) won wider endorsement than any of the current efforts — Morning Star, Red Pepper, LRC, Respect, Labour Briefing and Socialist Worker, as well as Workers’ Liberty. It agreed to set up local left forums. Trouble is, the forums never really got going, and the “convention” turned into a series of conferences, of diminishing vitality.

The Left Unity Liaison Committee, set up by activists from the Socialist Alliance, brought together different groups to discuss, but also petered out (in the end, AWL was the only one of the activist groups attending regularly). According to the Socialist Party, their electoral vehicle, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, is the best hope for left unity. AWL was able to get a loose alliance with the SP and the Alliance for Green Socialism — the Socialist Green Unity Coalition —up to 2008-9, but the SP and AGS then pulled out in favour of No2EU and what became TUSC.

The Anti-Capitalist Initiative, in which the main force is splinters from the Workers’ Power group, also promotes itself as the way to left unity.

None of these, not even CoR which was perhaps the best effort, has had enough substance of agreed united action or of real open debate.

Paradoxically, it often happens that the smaller and more splintered the group which proposes itself as the hub for left unity, the better the initial response it gets. But it’s not necessarily easy sailing from there on!

If an activist group with a known record of political activity makes a call for unity, then people judge it partly according to their opinion of that record. If a splinter of a split of a splinter (just two people initially, as with Burgin and Hudson, or a few dozen, as with Counterfire) makes an appeal, and puts it in the vaguest terms — Burgin and Hudson suggest no more political definition than “rejects austerity and war, advocates a greater democratisation of our society and institutions, and poses a new way of organising everyday life” — then everyone can read into it what they want.

Everyone who wants to build a socialist organisation, but is unsure about how to do it, and so holds back from joining any of the existing groups, can believe they have found a short cut. Just a click on a website, or a “like” on Facebook, and they’re already part of the big movement they want!

Burgin and Hudson cite Syriza in Greece and Die Linke in Germany as their models. But neither of those dropped from the sky in response to a few activists writing a letter to the Guardian, or doing a press conference. Syriza builds on a long political tradition — that of the Greek Communist Party, since the 1920s the main force in the Greek workers’ movement – and on sharp political battles which separated Syriza’s core both from the old Stalinists and from the soft reformists now in Greece’s Democratic Left. Die Linke rests on having been able to take over a chunk of what was the old ruling party in East Germany.

Also, neither of them is adequate. If Syriza did not have organised left groupings like DEA and Kokkino battling within it against its mainstream leadership, then there would be no hope for it doing anything other than collapsing into reformist adaptation. Die Linke is more Keynesian than socialist, and has supported cuts where it is in provincial coalition governments.

Unity is good. But talk about unity will be just a way of floating yet another left splinter unless it is translated into specific unity in action and specific dialogue about differences.

To the credit of Burgin and Hudson, they have posted on their website a thoughtful contribution from SWPer (or ex-SWPer?) Keith Flett. “However, and however frustrating some may find it, there is no way of by-passing the weight of Labour and perhaps in particular Labour activists in the unions and localities in all this…. The electoral support of Labour and its impact can’t be ignored.

“It may be argued that membership is hardly what it was in the 1950s but that is true of all political parties. It may also be argued that the hold of Labour’s approach to political change is less, but it is an argument not an historical fact.

“Even if we accept time scales change with context, historically it has taken time to build left parties.

Not just time, but effort, argument, education. And politics! Talk of unity is good, but only if it leads to specific united action and specific dialogue. Not if it becomes only a way to float yet another left splinter making its claim as being the one which is really for unity…

AWL will work with the Left Unity forums, and the People’s Assembly, on that basis.

Burgin/Hudson initiative

People’s Assembly

AWL leaflet to first Coalition of Resistance conference

Coatsey’s rather more enthusiastic view of the Assembly Against Austerity

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