A banner headline which didn’t match the strap lines
Another Missed Opportunity as feminists and reformists link-up
Left Unity is the brainchild and founding father, the distinguished socialist film maker Ken Loach who has produced more radical and socialist films that I can remember.
Ken Loach – Left Unity’s guiding light
According to its own web site, as one might expect, the new Left Unity (it’s
doesn’t call itself a party!) saw a successful launch for Britain’s new and
latest socialist project. All inclusive,
democratic, it is the ideal counter to the sectarianism of the far left sects.
If only things were as simple as that. For a start it involved a glossing over of
political differences. This was made
possible by the utter madness of having a constitution more fitted to a party
100,000 strong, not one that is 1,200
and, according to a seasoned ex-member of the Morning Star Communist Party, Andrew Burgin, is
expected to increase to 2,000.
There are not only branches, but regional structures, a
National Committee and an over-weight Executive. It would seem that some members are going to
be burnt out just attending the meetings and since the life-style feminists
were determined to ram through positive discrimination then no doubt the
structures are not going to function
for long if at all. Activity and campaigning is going to be at a minimum.
A simplified branch structure, feeding into an Executive
would have sufficed.
Politically the main problem is that a large number of
members are political refugees from the SWP, like Richard Seymour. Unfortunately they have drawn all the wrong
conclusions from the shipwreck of what is left of the SWP. The problem in the SWP wasn’t feminism or the lack
thereof. It was a failure of democracy and the determination of women to get the leadership clique to accept that rape and sexual molestation are
unacceptable in a socialist (or any) organisation. Comrade Delta i.e. Martin Smith, managed to
be acquitted by a jury of his mates, not because there was no positive discrimination
but because the SWP lacks all democratic control by its membership. Indeed Alex Callinicos and co. were very
clever. The majority of those involved
in acquitting Smith were in fact women.
The only dissent on the Disputes Committee came from a man.
Positive discrimination, which is written into the new Left Unity project’ constitution, comes from a faulty
analysis (see more later).
A conference session
What one didn’t get the sense of was any active political
involvement by many of the women.
Perhaps this was best epitomised by Liz Davies, a barrister who chaired the first
session and did her best to call women or men she knew. The afternoon Chairperson was no different.
Some habits die hard! Ms Davies
in particular doesn’t seem to have a sense of shame or political honesty. At the 2001 Socialist Alliance Conference
when the Socialist Party walked out and the SW P began its take over of the
Executive, via ‘independents’ like Liz Davies, she accepted the role of Chair
of the SA knowing full well, not least because a caucus at lunch time pointed it out to her
and her partner Mike Marquesee, that she was, to be blunt acting as the SWP’s patsy.
A died in the wool reformist she is typical of the new feminist
What was even more confusing was that the Chair couldn’t
decide whether the Aims and Objectives were part of the constitution. He ruled against but the agenda stated differently. If so, then we have a party that is committed
to the mixed i.e. private and public, economy.
A great start for a unified socialist party, which is probably why the
term ‘left’ rather than ‘socialist’ was the order of the day. There were 4 platforms – Class Struggle,
Socialist, Communist and Left Platform.
The latter won out with a ¾ majority.
Kes – the first of Ken Loach’s films I saw and possibly the best
But there were some recognisable seasoned cooks, from the
left groups like the perennial Alan Thornett, who the last time we spoke
berated me for having opposed the SWP’s move in the Socialist Alliance to
create Respect. Nothing it would seem
has changed for this veteran of the Workers Revolutionary Party. And his Socialist Resistance is one of the better
groups on the far left.
Left Unity conference
All hell broke out when I had the temerity to oppose
positive discrimination. Apparently that
made me a member of the far-right, according to one hysterical woman that
followed me. The points I made were
In a political party you vote for someone
according to their politics. You should
not have a free ticket because of your sex.
If you are going to have positive discrimination for women, then why not for
black women, gays, the low paid, disabled transgendered etc. It is a recipe for fragmentation, not unity
and socialism is about unity if it is about anything. However judging by some of the screeching
feminists, this is probably a good thing.
own union, UNISON, there is the most advanced form of positive discrimination there can be. It’s called the ‘diversity agenda’. Every fraction, from black lesbians to
the low paid and women are represented. The only
problem is that a union which has a largely female leadership, led by Dave Prentis, sells-out
its members, mainly working-class women, every year.
This really got the sisters howling.
But since it’s only nurses, teaching assistants, carers etc. who
experience the ‘benefits’ of UNISON’s positive
discrimination then who cares. Female barristers and bankers are more concerned with ‘glass ceilings’ than strikes and class struggle. But since there seemed to be few if any working-class women
(or men) at the conference it probably didn’t matter.
It is a sign of how the
democratic norms of the SWP have been imported into Left Unity that the Chair
made no attempt to quieten the cat-callers, quite the contrary.
But of course positive discrimination is not something particularly
socialist or ‘left’. Anyone who
remembers that photo of the 101 Blair Babes, women labour MPs, most of whom owed their position to all–women
short-lists, might also recall that when it came to the vote against the Iraq War in 2003,
40% of male Labour MPs voted against war and just 25% of female MPs voted against the
war and many of them were the old,
traditional socialist working-class women, like Alice Mahon, who had become an MP in the
absence of any positive discrimination.
To get 500 socialists in a conference hall, without a solitary Socialist
Worker seller, is an achievement.
However I fear that Left Unity has already reached its apogee and the
way from now on will be down.
Left Unity has been set up on the basis of a false analysis of the
problems facing the socialist left which is not that we don’t all come together but that there is no shared
This is, in turn, the product of a working class that has been defeated
and restructured (atomised) with a consequent weakening of trade unions. The problem with Left Unity is that the debate on the
Constitution prevented any discussion or debate on strategy or elections through
lack of time. This was a serious, if not fatal mistake.
A case was also briefly made by the Republican Socialist Platform for a party with its roots in the English revolution (1649), in contrast to the two main platforms, Left Party Platform (1945) and Socialist Platform (1917).