Feminists Brook no Debate on ‘Safe Spaces’ – Manchester Branch suspensions
I resigned from Left Unity nearly a month ago. Set up in a blaze of publicity, it has fallen victim to identity politics and navel gazing. It reports that it has 2,000 members. If so they make next to no impact. There is no internal life in the organisation, no paper or journal, and criticism of policies such as ‘safe spaces’ for women are frowned upon or, as is the case in Manchester subject to censorship and suspension.
Ironically, despite the number of ex-SWP members, such as Richard Seymour in LU, they have taken up the SWP’s forlorn campaign – understanding nothing and learning even less
Socialist Resistance of the 4th International, a chameleon group that long ago abandoned any class analysis or Marxism, has no problem with identity, as opposed to class politics. The emigrants from the SWP have failed to understand that the problem with their leadership was not a failure to appreciate feminism, but a failure to create a democratic culture where the leadership could be held to account, unlike the present day oligarchy.
No campaigns have been organised nationally (what use a party?) and now we hear that those who have spoken out, in the Manchester Branch have been suspended and the e-mail list shut down. Left Unity: Freedom to criticise must be defended – Laurie McCauley reports on his suspension from Manchester branch Left Unity was supposed to be different. A pluralist party, we were told, which could accommodate varied views within its ranks. The mistakes of the ‘old left’, of enforcing a false ideological unity that only led to splits, would be avoided. Openness and transparency were to be the order of the day. . It was a Socialist Resistance member, the miserable Ian Parker, who proposed the suspension and the closure of the e-mail list.
As Laurie writes: ‘Left Unity was supposed to be different. A pluralist party, we were told, which could accommodate varied views within its ranks. The mistakes of the ‘old left’, of enforcing a false ideological unity that only led to splits, would be avoided. Openness and transparency were to be the order of the day.’
It is clear to me that a small group of feminists and men they have guilt-tripped into agreeing with them, have effectively begun to ‘purify’ the organisation. No doubt it will be a good experience for these women before they continue their journey to New Labour.
What began this episode was when Dawud Islam, a former deputy leader of Respect, was demonised for the heinous crime of not coming to a snap judgement on the guilt or innocence of Steve Hedley, a trade unionist accused of domestic violence. His own union, the RMT found he had no case to answer but being working class he must be guilty of something!
Meanwhile LU, which has a Rolls Royce constitution but precious few people to fill all the new posts, flounders about making no impact whatsoever. Ironically, it has adopted the SWP campaign against a ‘racist’ UKIP, thus entirely misunderstanding this party. That is why I resigned.
Thursday, 29 May 2014
Dear Left Unity,
I have always supported the idea of a broad party to the left of the Labour Party that would include a spectrum from the left of the Labour Party to the far-Left. I have therefore been extremely disappointed in where Left Unity is going, or rather not going.
I sent an Open Letter to you earlier this year and asked that it be published on LU’s web site, a request that was ignored. I notice though how Fred Leplat, a prominent member of Socialist Resistance has an article on the web site and certain other members have privileged access. Clearly some people are more equal than others.
Despite having a flying start LU has become entangled in the sectarian politics of feminist and anti-racist identity politics, which 20 years ago were characterised by women for Palestine and Jenny Bourne of the Institute of Race Relations as profoundly reactionary. But then who is to say which identity trumps another identity? It has led to LU becoming an organisation primarily focussed on itself. In prioritising the demands of a few inconsequential feminists with no political base, whose desire is not to be challenged politically but for people to accept their arguments because of the ‘identity’ of those who make them, it has abandoned the most basic democratic norms. It wasted a whole day last December in London debating a constitution for an organisation 100 times as large.
Since then most mailings from the Centre have concerned elections for the multiplicity of posts in LU. Barely a word has been issued concerning prioritising campaigns such as the destruction of the NHS or the welfare state. Bogus issues of interest to just a handful of careerists, such as intersectionality, have been deemed of more importance instead.
It is little wonder that LU didn’t see fit to stand candidates in the European elections when it has such pressing internal issues to deal with. The result is that UKIP and its anti-immigration policies have been given a free ride and LU has abandoned what could have been an effective platform for introspective navel gazing.
As a political activist in the student movement, Irish, anti-fascist, unemployed and Palestine solidarity campaigns, for the past 40 years, I have wondered in amazement at where LU’s leadership believes it is going and its complete lack of strategy as the old, seasoned cooks of the left – Socialist Resistance, the SWP émigrés and people like Andrew Burgin, Liz Davies and Kate Hudson – have taken an organisational and political grip over LU.
LU’s leadership could do worse than to look at the success of Syriza in Greece and try and learn some lessons. However I fear that they are too fixed in their views and politics to learn lessons from anyone. They insist on following the same strategies that embraced Respect and destroyed the Socialist Alliance. Politically LU has demonstrated complete impotence on questions like Ireland. My conclusion is that the time for success has now passed and what is left is a terrible missed politically opportunity.
I have therefore decided that no purpose is served by my continuing to remain a member and I have decided to resign from Left Unity.