Unity of the desperate

August 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm (Champagne Charlie, ex-SWP, Guardian, labour party)


This letter (below), printed in today’s Graun, really sums up all that is most depressing, desperate and defeatist about much of the present day Brit left. Sure, the (fairly predictable) signatories mean well, but what else have they to offer except the voluntarist, ritual cry of “We urgently need a new party of the left” sans any suggestion of how to win over the millions who still look to, and vote, Labour?

And they’ve completely misread the significance of the Falkirk row: it actually demonstrates the effectiveness of the Labour-union link and the crucial importance of defending it, not throwing in the towel as these comrades would have us do.

Anyway, here it is:

This summer will be remembered for Labour‘s final betrayal of the working-class people it was founded to represent. Not content with signing up to Conservative austerity measures that are dragging Britain’s most vulnerable people deeper into poverty, Ed Miliband has turned his back on the union members who supported his leadership bid.

Austerity has not fixed the economy, while the poor pay the social cost. Labour has failed to make the argument that it was not welfare spending that wrecked the British economy, but a crisis of unfettered capitalism. Miliband cannot even promise to reverse the brutally unfair bedroom tax, which has already claimed its first life with Stephanie Bottrill (Comment, 31 May).

We urgently need a new party of the left. Labour will not provide the opposition to coalition policies that the situation demands. We need to provide a genuine alternative to the austerity policies which the three main parties support. A party that is socialist, environmentalist, feminist and opposed to all forms of discrimination.

Since we launched our appeal in March to discuss founding such a party, more than 9,000 people have signed up and more than 100 local groups have been established across the country. As Left Unity moves towards its founding conference on 30 November at the Royal National hotel in London, we call on all those who are sick of austerity and war, who want to defend the NHS and our public services, and want to see a fairer Britain, to join us. Gilbert Achcar, Jean Alain Roussel, Alan Gibbons, Zita Holbourne, Kate Hudson, Roger Lloyd Pack, Ken Loach, China Miéville, Michael Rosen www.leftunity.org/appeal


Rather than following these petty bourgeois elements and giving up on the Labour-union link, we need to be defending it.


  1. Mike Killingworth said,

    I suppose they explained what it is about the Green Party they dislike so, but the Grauniad’s editors cut it out of the published version…

    • Jim Denham said,

      You have a point, Mike: on the basis of their stated politics, why are these people not in the Green Party?

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      To be fair to them (something that doesn’t come easily given the past records of several of the signatories) it is because they did put ‘working class’ in their first sentence.

      And I don’t think even any left supporters of the Greens would seriously pretend that they are in any meaningful sense a working class party – and of course their only council is currently engaged in a full scale battle with Brighton trade unions.

      Indeed it is precisely because Greens have however exiguously gained these toeholds of actual political power and have to make real world choices that these purists have to reject them (just as those who were in Respect had to eventually fall out with George Galloway).

      In fact most are not real political activists at all but what Carl Schmitt called political romantics for whom everything is about emotional self-realisation through grand but empty political gestures.

      And it is rather significant that the only names anyone not a leftwing political obsessive might actually recognise amongst those signatories are those of a film-maker, a writer of children’s books, an actor and a science-fiction/fantasy author.

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        Quite so.

        My soon is a cook, so I suppose he qualifies as “working class”. If he trains some more and becomes a chef, I suppose he’ll have joined the class enemy.

      • Andrew Coates said,

        Exactly Roger.

        It looks like as futile a grand gesture at the May Day Manifesto (to cite one case, I’ve only heard and read of, we could list a lot afterwards that I and others here know of directly).

        No doubt there will be more Generals than a Mexican Army present at their Conference.

        I notice that the Weekly Worker has what we might call a three pronged strategy: backing for the ‘internal’ SWP opposition, running the ‘Labour Party Marxists’ (Stan Keable), and, within Left Unity, the Weekly Worker supports the “Socialist Platform”.


        And as ‘Charlie’ says, with the beginning “This summer will be remembered for Labour‘s final betrayal of the working-class people it was founded to represent.” it’s not exactly going to galvanise the troops into battle.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Not sure what the point about class enemies is – my listing of signatories professions (and having checked some of the others can add a musician, another children’s author, a professor and whatever it is that Zita Holbourne and Kate Hudson actually do for a living) is about their coming from backgrounds which are whatever else they might be hardly classic proletarian.

        And while I rate Mieville for instance very highly indeed as a fantasy writer my point is precisely that this is what he is.

        Now you’d be hard put to find a member of the 1917 Bolshevik central committee who wasn’t a member of the bourgeois intelligentsia (and that would probably have to be Stalin who actually did slave for a pittance in a shoe factory) or even an aristocrat (Lenin and Bukharin both came from the Tsarist service aristocracy) so class origin isn’t everything,

        But when there is no workers party with mass support for these bourgeois or petit-bourgeois intellectuals to join such people will just produce fantasy gesture politics: a couple of hundred bickering lefties in a room unironically describing themselves as a People’s Assembly, middle class students who may never have a real job in their life yelling out ‘general strike now’, grotesque charlatans with a talent for the crudest communalist demagoguery being hailed as saviours of the Left, the extraordinary self-indulgent waste of time that was ‘Occupy’ etc, etc.

  2. jimmy glesga said,

    All the left need is another talking shop party that will argue with all the other leftie parties.
    The Tories must love the left. Anything that divides the Labour vote they will encourage and probably discretely fund.

    • dagmar said,

      It’s not as if the Tories don’t have their own problems (UKIP for example), is it?

      • jimmy glesga said,

        UKIP are not a problem for the Tories. UKIP are getting labour votes and the left are doing their best to divide labour.
        It is a win win for the Tories.

  3. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Don’t follow the AWL as closely as I should but given its past support for futile initiatives exactly like this one does this reflect a return to good old fashioned Labour entrism?

  4. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Doesn’t say who this is by but Left Futures has I think a generally sound response:

    The recent large votes for UKIP are for some an indication that there may be an equivalent vote on the left, but this doesn’t take into account the effective support for UKIP’s line from most of the Tory press, while they still don’t have a single MP. PR would have a major effect, and would certainly allow for the emergence of a proper left wing party with substantial electoral support and representation, as is the case in Germany, Holland, Finland , Portugal, Denmark and others to a lesser extent.

    The left arguments against PR are wrong.They argue that socialism will always be compromised through coalition, failing to recognise that large parties are forced to trim to the centre to retain their votes,in other words compromise. ( No, this didn’t happen in 1983, but there would probably have been a Labour/Alliance coalition had it not been for the Falklands War). This is not to say that Labour’s current stance cannot be more left wing than it is, and it needs to be if it is to win back voters lost since 2001, but it cannot go beyond a social democratic programme which a socialist party obviously can.

    Without PR the net effect of an NPL electorally would be to divide what would otherwise have been Labour’s vote, thus threatening Labour marginals or seats that Labour should take if it is to form a government in 2015. If the NPL vote was substantial – say six to eight per cent – it could have the effect of reinstating the current coalition or even produce a majority Conservative government, unless UKIP manages to do on the right what I have suggested a NPL might do on the left.

    The truth, unpalateable though it might be to many, is that it is unlikely that a viable socialist party can be formed this side of PR, the attainment of which is rendered more difficult than before by the AV referendum fiasco of 2011.

    The most substantial piece of writing I have seen on this issue is by Michael Ford at 21st Century Manifesto (also published at Left Unity and North Star). He argues at great length that Labour remains the party of the working class and it is an illusion to think otherwise. I think this is exaggerated; there is not the degree of tribal loyalty or union support for Labour that there was forty years ago, but it still remains not insignificant, and would be a barrier to a NPL, although the absence of PR would be more significant.


    The link to the Michael Ford piece (which as a Labour member I obviously agree with more than the author) is also worth following up.

  5. The Political Idealist said,

    Yes, yes and yes again! In reading analysis of Left Unity, there is one phrase which I have read over and over: ‘The Judean People’s Front’. Becoming a small voice in the wilderness will not achieve anything at all for the Left.

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