People’s Assembly and #LeftUnity conferences: debating the economy and European Union – be radical but strategic

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This blog entry (that I am also submitting as a letter to the Weekly Worker, which as usual will undoubtedly cut it significantly but without distorting my points) is about uniting much of the left in the new broad socialist party Left Unity – with the People’s Assembly Against Austerity which also held a conference recently going some way to uniting the left in a single anti-cuts organisation. I argue that we should not just put forward radical (and sometimes revolutionary) demands but consider the implications rather than dogmatically taking up positions which make a socialist revolution less likely.

In (“‘Moderate’ party takes shape”, 3 April), Peter Manson writes about the policy-making conference of Left Unity in Manchester on 29 March: “the obsession with political ‘broadness’, with anti-democratic constitutionalism, risks disabling the project from the start.” As CPGB members in the Weekly Worker have made clear many times, they are in favour of a solely Marxist party (which they sometimes call a “Communist Party”). Apart from the word “Communist” putting people horrified by the crimes of Stalinism (with “Marxist” having similar connotations to many), such a party could never gain mass support. When they actually put that theory into practice, uniting with the Democratic Socialist Alliance and the Critique journal, in setting up the Campaign for a Marxist Party, that campaign completely failed to take off.

I have argued for “a revolutionary platform” within Left Unity, and supported the Socialist Platform, but to make LU more revolutionary and unite together revolutionary socialists in preparation for a potential huge economic crisis (that could even be more severe than the 2007-8 credit crunch) rather than to totally take over LU, which is not practical anyway even if we tried to. I want a “broad socialist party” involving reformists as well as revolutionaries, with at least some members openly mentioning their revolutionary views. Apart from other significant political differences, including the emphasis on “the working class” suggesting that middle class people like Russell Brand (who incidentally plugged Left Unity via Twitter a Guardian article by Ken Loach on the eve of the Manchester conference contributing to the quick recruitment of 200 new members) should be disenfranchised, I wouldn’t be keen on joining the Communist Platform due to its name. Continue reading

Proportional Representation versus “a workers’ state”, and Left Unity

ImageThe current edition (20 February 2014) of the Weekly Worker (the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain) includes a letter of mine. I disagree with quite a lot of their politics instead of a broad socialist party like Left Unity, they advocate a Marxist party, and set up the Communist Platform of Left Unity to argue for such a party and “communist” views in LU), but their letters page is open to a wide range of left-wing arguments. This issue is broader than just the CPGB, since the SWP and Socialist Party are in favour of some sort of “workers’ state” rather than a society where everybody is in control.

Although I have had a few letters published on the subject of proportional representation (which had some success in them supporting PR, albeit with a party list system which gives a lot of power to party machines, whereas I generally favour single transferable vote but am not particularly prescriptive nowadays), they have always previously cut out sections of my letters in which I argued for PR under socialism – rather than just something to advocate under capitalism to be replaced by some sort of “workers’ state” after a revolution.

My (fairly) minor gripe is that the section of the Communist Platform on “republican democracy”, that I praised wholeheartedly, was cut from the letter. [It is at http://communistplatform.org.uk/?p=30 and I had previously added a comment there on much the same lines, which had been approved by a moderator.] That section reads as follows:

Left Unity does not counterpose democracy to socialism. Democracy is much more than voting every four or five years. Democracy is the rule of the people, for the people, by the people. To make that aspiration real necessarily means removing all judicial, structural and socio-economic restraints on, or distortions of, popular control from below.

Left Unity stands for republican democracy. That means demanding:

  • Abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and a single-chamber parliament with proportional representation, annual elections and MPs’ salaries set at the level of a skilled worker.
  • No to the presidential prime minister. End prime ministerial appointment of ministers and all other forms of prime ministerial patronage.
  • Disband MI5, MI6, special branch and the entire secret state apparatus.
  • For local democracy. Service provision, planning, tax raising, law enforcement and funding allocation to be radically devolved downwards as far as possible and appropriate: to ward, borough, city and county levels.

Continue reading