Left Unity: the People’s Assembly and Beyond

This is a guest post by Andrew Burgin of the new Left Unity website

Assembly Against AusterityBritain stands on the verge of a triple dip recession. The government is relentlessly pursuing its austerity policies. This year the unemployed, the disabled, the low paid and many other vulnerable groups will all find their benefits and wages cut and many millions will be pushed further into poverty. The ‘bedroom tax’ will drive many working class families out of their homes. Our cities will be socially cleansed.

Hundreds of food banks have been opened over the last two years and the Trussell Trust, which operates many of these, estimates that 1,000 will be needed in order to stop serious malnutrition and hunger – this in one of the richest countries in the world.

Under cover of austerity the right is attempting the destruction of the entire welfare and social system established in the post-war period.

Billions of pounds of health contracts are being transferred to the private sector and these private health companies are financing the election campaigns and work of those pursuing this privatisation. There is a corruption at the heart of public life which has only been partially exposed by the expenses and lobbying scandals of recent years.

Cameron and Clegg are rolling back the welfare state to an extent that Margaret Thatcher could only dream about. When Thatcher contemplated introducing similar measures she met opposition even within her own cabinet. How times have changed.

Tory ministers now talk openly of there being a clear end to the NHS should they be re-elected in 2015.

The decades of Tory and New Labour rule have seen the evisceration of the labour movement and many trade union leaders have failed to defend their members and the movement adequately in the face of this onslaught. Unionisation of the private sector stands at 15% and the unions have drawn back from the defence of public sector pension provision.

Up until now opposition to these attacks has been fragmented and weak, punctuated by some significant trade union-led marches against austerity, occasional direct action campaigns by UK Uncut and others, and rallies and conferences called by a number of different national anti-cuts groups. The emergence of dynamic local campaigns in defence of specific services, such as libraries and hospitals, has been the most effective and inspiring factor in the anti-austerity movement. But the absence of a coherent and united national movement to challenge the government’s cuts agenda – and pose alternatives – has been hard felt by those on the front line in these struggles.

Now, however, there is a possibility of united action against austerity. The call for a People’s Assembly against Austerity – and particularly the breadth of support it is receiving – is of tremendous importance. The call, initiated by the Coalition of Resistance and Unite the Union, brings together trades unions and anti-cuts activists from a wide range of organisations and has the potential to take the movement beyond the limits of the single day event on which the call is based.

Moreover the call has been strengthened by the participation of a group of important left-wing activists such as Owen Jones and Mark Steel and others who are prepared to build the Assembly by touring the towns and cities of Britain, agitating for the Assembly and aiming to unite all those who oppose austerity.

There are groups that stand outside this process. The Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party both have their own national anti-cuts organisations. However, the hope now must be, given the weight of trade union and campaigning involvement in the People’s Assembly process, that all anti-austerity work can be united under its banner.

What is significant about the decision of the Coalition of Resistance to initiate the People’s Assembly – which can make it more than merely a successful one day conference – is that it is conceived as an open process with its own dynamic. CoR will devote itself to the success of the Assembly but on the basis of equal participation by others both in the process and the outcome.

This is a genuine opportunity to create the single national united anti-cuts organisation that we have long recognised the need for.

That this is a possible great step forward for the working class cannot be denied. We can harness the social weight and capacity for mass action of the trades unions together with the seething anger and sense of injustice felt by those facing austerity.

The anti-austerity movement and the Labour Party

Participation in the Assembly process will help shape a united front against a common enemy. But clearly it won’t imply complete political agreement between all participants. Many hope that the People’s Assembly will strengthen the left in the Labour Party and will force an incoming Labour government in 2015 to reverse the privatisation of services and welfare cuts of the current government.

Others, and we in Left Unity are in this camp, think that this, regrettably, is not possible. It is not that the great majority of the working class will not vote Labour in 2015. Where they do still vote, they will largely vote Labour, but this is not because they expect any significant change. The only expectation that rests in the Labour Party is that it will be marginally better that the Tories. Very few expect a wholesale reversal by Labour of the neo-liberal policies imposed by this government and by the previous Labour governments of Blair and Brown. Miliband’s shadow cabinet message is clear – there will be no wholesale reversal of the Tory cuts. Indeed there has been no progress yet beyond the ‘slower cuts’ mantra.

The Labour Party has never been a socialist party but was founded by the trade unions to provide political representation for the organised working class, and was able in the period of capitalist boom to make some limited reforms in the interests of that class. With the change in political orientation of the Labour Party and its embracing of neo-liberalism it no longer fulfils its historic role in relation to the working class, leaving that class politically defenceless in the current economic crisis. In the absence of the Labour Party, there remains an objective need for a political force which will represent – and fight for – the interests of the working class.

New parties of the Left

There cannot be many on the left in Britain who do not have some experience or knowledge of the various attempts to build a new political organisation to the left of the Labour Party. From the Socialist Labour Party and the Scottish Socialist Party, through to the Socialist Alliance and Respect, we have witnessed a catalogue of sectarian political strife which has resulted, despite some false dawns, in failure and political despair.

However difficult it may appear to be, the task of constructing a serious broad-based working class party is an essential component of the fight against austerity. A political response to the crisis is essential. It is not sufficient that the opposition to austerity remain at the level of trade union and community struggles. Trades unions, even under left wing leadership, cannot substitute for the building of new parties of the left which must engage with broad social forces not necessarily organised within a trade union framework.

The objective need for this development and the political space that it will occupy has existed at least since the mid-1990s. We recognise that the success of such a party will only take place to the extent that it engages in mass movements and articulates and advances the needs of the working class. New parties flower in a period of big struggles but the need for such an organisation exists independently of these struggles and it is the responsibility of socialists to make clear the goal and to lay the groundwork for this development.

Elsewhere in Europe new political formations of this type have already emerged and are playing a central role in the anti-austerity movement. SYRIZA, (Coalition of the Radical Left) in Greece is the most successful so far, being formed around Synaspismos – established in the context of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Until recently, SYRIZA was a very small force on the left, but its politics have enabled it to meet the challenge facing the Greek working class.

Greece is the beating heart of the Eurozone crisis. There the entire social fabric of the society is being dismantled. Athens this winter is covered in smog through the burning of wood because people cannot afford oil and gas heating to stay warm. Hospitals have run out of basic medicines. The suicide rate has increased by 400%. People scavenge for the basic means of existence.

The people of Greece have fought courageously against the avalanche of cuts. Since 2009 they have had more than twenty days of general strike action. There have been strikes in many industries and occupations of hospitals and steel plants. The young people who now suffer from 60% unemployment have protested in the squares and city centres.

Up until last year the social democratic party PASOK was in government. In the elections of 2009 PASOK received just under 44% of the vote and SYRIZA polled 4.6%. Further elections were held in May and June last year and then the vote for PASOK collapsed to just over 12% and that of SYRIZA rose to close to 27%.

SYRIZA, with a clear anti-austerity programme, came within a hair’s breadth of being able to form a government. Throughout Europe, new parties which have been forged through the struggles of the last two decades, uniting left forces on an anti-capitalist programme, are now occupying the political space vacated by the rightward move of social democracy.

No doubt it can be argued that the conditions in Britain preclude such a development, whether that be the historic relationship of the working class to the Labour Party, the blighting of the movement by the Thatcherite onslaught, or the first past the post electoral system. These factors undoubtedly make the task more difficult but nevertheless it is a necessary task. We cannot continue to be the only country in Europe that has a political desert to the left of neo-liberal social democracy.

Even to pose this question amongst comrades – and begin the discussion of what is necessary and what is achievable – is of enormous value.

In reality, the construction of such a party is the only route out of this crisis. This is an international economic crisis which exposes the limits of capitalist development and poses the need for a complete reordering of the economic priorities of society. That is why a new party is necessary and why the discussions that we have begun with other comrades in the movement are worth continuing.

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142 comments on “Left Unity: the People’s Assembly and Beyond

  1. Interesting meeting at Glasgow University. open to the public. A warning from Greece and a discussion on how to build resistance to the attack on our living standards. A fightback is sorely needed. Central to any fightback will be the creation of a mass socialist party with an adequate political program to transcend capitalism
    sandy

    Tuesday 26 February 2013

    Savas Matsas: `The Political Economy of Greece and the Current Global Crisis’

    5.15pm, Room 1115, Adam Smith Building. Glasgow University

    About the speaker:

    Savas Matsas is an oncologist who has been politically and academically active
    in Athens under the dictatorship and after. He has written books on literature,
    articles on dialectics and Marxist philosophy as well as on Greece and the world
    crisis, and has taught at a number of Greek universities.

  2. “In reality, the construction of such a party is the only route out of this crisis.”

    Well as such a party is self-evidently not going to be built, then is Burgin arguing there is NO route out of economic crisis?

    Seems a bit of a catastrophist perspective.

  3. “This is an international economic crisis which exposes the limits of capitalist development and poses the need for a complete reordering of the economic priorities of society.”

    sounds a bit like

    “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat. The economic prerequisite for the proletarian revolution has already in general achieved the highest point of fruition that can be reached under capitalism. Mankind’s productive forces stagnate. Already new inventions and improvements fail to raise the level of material wealth. Conjunctural crises under the conditions of the social crisis of the whole capitalist system inflict ever heavier deprivations and sufferings upon the masses. Growing unemployment, in its turn, deepens the financial crisis of the state and undermines the unstable monetary systems. Democratic regimes, as well as fascist, stagger on from one bankruptcy to another.”

  4. john Penney on said:

    A good, concise, article. The twin problems to building a mass movement that can play a real role in mobilizing across the board support to fight the austerity strategy of the capitalist class via its political agents are the usual ones:
    a) the apparently unwavering ability of the organised radical Left to factionalise so much in their own petty “partyist” interests that every initiative becomes such a cockpit for factional battles, and rival egos, that ordinary people simply cannot be attracted to participate.

    and B) , the motivation of many of the high profile Leftie figures advocating and supporting this initiativbe appear in reality to just be in hitching the rising tide of mass discontent with the coalition policies to the Labour electoral bandwagon. Yet again misdirecting a rising tide of nationwide struggle into the passivity of “waiting for Labour”, of believing in the false promises of a better deal under a new Labour Government. Owen Jones in particular has this as his primary aim. His (quite undeserved in terms of any record of struggle) Leftie “celebrity status” in mobilizing for the Assembly is therefore actually counterproductive – as he and his Labourite ilk are simply serving as political “Judas Goats” to lead people into the barren territory of support for , and continuing illusions in, the Labour Party. an utterly futile activity. the article quite rightly says – the time of evern hoping to “influence” Labour “to the Left”, is well and truly dead. We need a new radical, “Syrizaesque” party of the radical Left in the UK NOW, not AFTER the next Labour Government has yet again betrayed the working class.

  5. Andy Newman,

    Maybe Andrew Burgin does feel that a snappier transitional programme and some nice new graphics and logo’s is all thats needed to set up Syriza in the UK1 Good Luck to him and Kate and all who set sail in the good ship Left Unity.
    I do notice the lack of any reference to The Green Pary or RESPECT in this post which is either anomaly that needs rectification or an indication of a rather narrow focus. [or it could be that when I scanned the post I missed the reference to the Green Party and RESPECT because of my age related macular degeneration]
    I will be in Greece when the peoples assembley meets in June… but if some new united left party is set up please save a seat on its national committe for me next to mark steel.
    I would also like to propose that if this new party should have two principle speakers and not a LEADER
    I would like to propose Salma Yaqoob and Eddie Izzard for these posts.

  6. i dont believe that syrizia can be built in britain i would be looking at germany and frances left party and left front. as france and germany more similair to britain; but then they both had a traditional communist party and a defector from the main social democratic party. we dont have a large traditional communist party and we no longet have a labour party figure who has the following of a livingstone or benn or galloway did at there heights.
    its to late now to set up this new party people on the left who want to get involved with electoral politics will be in labour or the greens depending on how idealistic or tougth they are and this wont change any time soon.

  7. The pole of action and initiative developing around the People’s Assembly – which counts among its active supporters Unite the union, the People’s Charter, the Coalition of Resistance, the Morning Star and a wide range of local campaign groups and political organisations i– s a refreshing sign that the tempo of resistance, centred on an alliance of labour movement and popular campaigning, is on the upbeat.
    The strength of this initiative is its inclusive and open character and the sense that it will go beyond a conference to reach deep into working class communities throughout Britain.
    Only a hopeless sectarian would be disappointed if this failed to strengthen the left in the Labour party. Indeed it is hard to see how an anti-cuts movement based on the social weight and capacity for mass action of the trades unions together with the seething anger and sense of injustice felt by those facing austerity would not have as an objective a Labour Party in government taking practical steps to reverse the cuts.
    Andrew is spot on when he argues that it is not sufficient that the opposition to austerity remain at the level of trade union and community struggles.
    I think he begins to wobble a bit when he makes the leap from the entirely correct premise that a political response to the crisis is essential to collapsing this into the need for the construction of a new political formation of the type represented by Syriza in Greece.
    We can all agree that political parties of the left must engage in mass movements and articulate and advance the needs of the working class.
    Indeed, it is precisely this which most people on the left in the Labour Party and certainly most Labour leaning trade unionists anticipate will be the mechanism which would change the orientation of both the party and a Labour government.
    Where Andrew falls of his bike is in failing to account for the profound differences between Britain and Greece which in my view render his suggestion that we construct such a British Syriza an deeply problematic project.
    There is of course the nature of the Greek political system. Proportional voting, as against the first past the post system which in Britain is a powerful objective factor limiting the political expression of working class action and preventing the emergence of electoral challenges, allows for a much more fluid situation.
    More significant is the nature of Greek social democracy (if that is what it is). Syriza is an extremely heterogenous political party with much of its electoral support and a big component of its membership and machinery saturated with refugees from Pasok – some undoubtedly honest if recent opponents of the bipartisan policies pursued by Pasok – others more concerned to protect their careers.
    At a deeper level political strategy in Britain must take account of the relative stability of ruling class hegemony based on its more powerful position in the capitalist system and imperialist domination. Relatively speaking the Greek ruling class is weaker (symptomatically much of its liquid assets have been transferred to London), it is compromised by its recourse to fascist methods of maintaining its domination and its social base is weakened by the effects of the crisis on the the very substantial non proletarian strata in the greek economy whose political expression has been divided between New democracy and Pasok.
    And then there is the nature of Syriza’s political project which is to seek a resolution of the country’s profound crisis in an accommodation with the the EU, the IMF and the European Bank – essentially in agreement with German capital and in a complex pas de deux with France.
    In a sense Syriza’s credibility has been maintained precisely because it narrowly escaped being elected to government.
    In government it would need to translate its ‘anti capitalist’ rhetoric into concrete policies – a process which would undoubtedly have the effect of highlighting the differences between those whose perspective is for an accomodation with capital and those who aim to exapropriate it.
    In arguing that ‘the construction of such a party is the only route out of this crisis’ Andrew has traded in his bike and hitched his cart before the horse.
    The development of a broad movement, something we almost all agree on, is the priority not yet another attempt to cobble together disparate and disputatious constellation of sects into a ‘nouveau parti anticapitaliste’.

  8. McFudgestrikesagain on said:

    How petty can Manchester SWP hacks get?

    Geoffrey Brown and/or Rick Lighten of the SWP have removed the article written by Dave Harker, ‘Bringing MTUC into disrepute’ from the MTUC website- see #5 above – even though MTUC policy is that branches have complete editorial control over their sections.

    I understand that they have also locked Dave, the elected Webmaster, out of the system, even though he has built the website into possibly the best in the UK and has not been unelected.

  9. McFudgestrikesagain on said:

    Here is the censored article:

    Bringing Manchester TUC into disrepute

    As is well-known in the NW labour movement, Geoffrey Brown and his fellow travellers are seeking to rule or ruin MTUC.

    1. At the 2011 AGM, Brown knew that at least a dozen people who voted for his slate were not accredited delegates, and only he had the necessary information, so he could not be challenged. Frank Ellis, Sara Livesey and Brown were unopposed as Treasurer, Vice-President and Secretary, respectively, but Sharon Green and Lynne Hodge were elected as President and Minute Secretary at an illegitimate AGM. Sadly, the former NWTUC Secretary was completely ineffective.

    2. The harassment campaign began with a motion tabled by Hodge, claiming that the Vice-President had not taken one speaker. This delegate had not complained, and the Treasurer, who was assisting the Vice-President in conducting the business, apologised for not spotting her at the back of the room. It later transpired that Hodge had not told at least one of her UNITE branch officers that the Vice-President was almost completely blind. Sara has since resigned from MTUC.

    3. Brown ignored the Treasurer’s repeated requests for information about affiliated branches and their accredited delegates, and it took months for him to establish that Brown had allowed twelve people who were not accredited delegates to vote at the 2011 AGM, thereby ensuring the defeat of Kate Richardson and Dave Harker.

    4. Dave’s UCU branch complained to the NWTUC Secretary and the TUCJCC, and Alec McFadden whitewashed MTUC’s 2011 AGM, but he also identified a thirteenth person with no right to vote at an AGM or any other MTUC meeting.

    5. Brown and Hodge ‘stood down’ at the 2012 AGM, and Frank was elected as Secretary, Dave as Minute Secretary and Kate as Treasurer, while Sara and Sharon were elected unopposed as Vice-President and President.

    6. Brown viciously attacked the Treasurer, without a mandate from his UCU branch, and Green allowed it to happen. On Brown’s initiative, the minutes were illegally deferred at the next EC, with no challenge to their accuracy or amendments.

    7. Brown, Hodge and others sought on several occasions to impugn the Minute Secretary’s integrity in relation to an entirely private matter, and Green allowed this to happen.

    8. Hodge tabled a motion smearing the Secretary, Minute Secretary and Treasurer, without any supporting evidence, and Brown seconded the motion, without a mandate from his UCU branch, thereby potentially setting two UNITE branches and two UCU branches against each other. In spite of being advised by the Secretary, Green allowed this to happen.

    9. Brown, Hodge and others illegally deferred other MTUC minutes, without challenging their accuracy or proposing amendments, and Green allowed this to happen. These minutes are now embargoed because of the TUCJCC’s second investigation into Brown, Green and others, after a complaint by the Treasurer, who was off work ill for several weeks.

    10. I understand that Green is not now an MTUC delegate from her PCS branch and is no longer MTUC President.

    11. Rhetta Moran, the Acting Chair elected by Hodge and others at the January 2013 Council, developed Green’s practices to a higher level of political bias and illegality. Moran was one of the SWP ‘Disputes Committee’ members who whitewashed a Central Committee member accused of rape and sexual harassment. Reportedly, nine previous rape allegations have been covered up by the SWP hierarchy.

    12. Brown, Hodge and several EC members have done absolutely no work to build MTUC since the 2012 AGM, and some attend only when they want to get money for their front organisations or to rubbish the three hard-working officers.

    13. If this sort of conduct is allowed to continue it will mean that no decent trade unionist will want to be associated with MTUC, and it will revert to being a ‘front’ and ‘piggy-bank’ for hopeless sectarians and their fellow-travellers.

    Dave Harker

    6 February 2013

  10. However difficult it may appear to be, the task of constructing a serious broad-based working class party is an essential component of the fight against austerity. A political response to the crisis is essential. It is not sufficient that the opposition to austerity remain at the level of trade union and community struggles. Trades unions, even under left wing leadership, cannot substitute for the building of new parties of the left which must engage with broad social forces not necessarily organised within a trade union framework.

    Whatever the exaggerated rhetoric that has been pointed out, this is a fundamentally good point.

    The People’s Assembly will obviously reach out to much broader layers than simply those who want a new party of the broad left. And this will include that tendency on the left for whom criticism of the Labour Party’s political woolliness – on the global investment strike of the capitalist class, masquerading as an economic crisis – seems to constitute sabotaging the struggle against the government. It is therefore an inappropriate venue for discussing such a development.

    In those circumstances however, what would a successful People’s Assembly look like? What is the desired result? Too often, as with the Unite the Resistance conference last year, these events seem to descend into a day trip for activists, at which the luminaries of the left make a few speeches, and everyone goes home again not having actually advanced a strategy.

    Of course a Labour government is the only immediately realistic people which remotely palatable when compared to the alternatives. But if the PA is simply supposed to mobilise a cheerleading squad for Ed Miliband, what’s the point? Is it just a way to allow people who don’t want to actually join the Labour Party to support it? Labour doesn’t need the support of the activist left. The mass alienation of working-class people from the coalition government, demonstrated by the strong Labour votes in local elections, does not hinge on what position the Coalition of Resistance does or does not adopt.

    So, running parallel to the PA proposals, I’m cautiously optimistic that non-sectarian attempts at discussing solutions to the crisis on the left are being attempted. It does not have to be in opposition to the creation of a broad popular movement (something which it is not entirely clear whether the PA will actually help in establishing, rather than simply reaffirming the togetherness of the left’s most prominent figures). Moreover a movement itself cannot be sprang into existence from above: it is currently emerging in a dozen different places, via workplace and community struggles and in trade unions and trades councils. And this would be inordinately assisted by a broad and well-organised left voice.

  11. Nick Wright,
    Have you fundamentally changed your politics Nick?! It’s all very well strengthening the Left in the Labour Party, it’s part of the answer of course, but surely that’s not the whole answer to the social, political and economic crisis that we face? Don’t you think there is a political space to the left of Labour that needs to be filled, in the interests of the working class? What right has anyone got to say that such a political formation cannot or should not be built? Why should Britain go without?

  12. kate: kate

    You ask don’t I think there is a political space to the left of Labour that needs to be filled, in the interests of the working class?

    I don’t think strengthening the left in the Labour Party is the route to working class political power. Rather it is a possible result of the working class beginning to assert its capacity to take that power – a process which will inevitably splinter the Labour Party with either a breakaway to the left or, if the trade unions give expression to the interests of their members, to the right – as we saw with National Labour in the thirties and the SDP in the eighties.
    Incidentally, it is a sign that the right understand the importance of the Labour Party in that they have conducted an impeccably Gramscian campaign to command its ideology and organisation. One has to wonder why some on the left seem willing to surrender this territory to them.
    I don’t think that the concept of political space is much use. We are not filling in a colouring book or shading in a rainbow. The missing element is not just ‘left wing’ shaped it is ‘working class shaped’.
    The question is put usefully in Andrew’s piece when he asserts that it is not sufficient that the opposition to austerity remain at the level of trade union and community struggles.
    My disagreement is with his assertion that conditions in Britain are sufficiently analogous to the Greek situation (and other european countries unspecified) for us to construct a new formation of the Syriza type.
    The first is not so and the second undesirable. Britain has its own specificity that we must pay attention too. And Syriza, for all its heterogeneity is a new and highly unstable expression of quite contradictory and irreconcilable tendencies.

    You ask what right has anyone got to say that such a political formation cannot or should not be built? Why should Britain go without?
    None. I am sure that people will try to copy Syriza (the British political equivalent of Synaspismos –­ which calls the shots in Syriza – has vanished and no one is trying very hard to breathe life in ‘eurocommunism’) but we have just as many daft Trots, recovering maoists and free floating left wingers to make a passable imitation of Syriza.
    Our crisis is deep but not comparable to the Greek situation. British capitalism has many more reerves of strength than the Greek.
    But at one level I think this is worth trying. Not that we should ground it on the illusion that some accommodation with the IMF, the EU and the European Bank is possible. The very minimum that a government that deserves our partisan support should do is to break with the dominance of finance capital and the institutions of the EU that buttress it.
    We cannot exclude the possibility that some version of a left wing alternative to voting Labour – ideally based on an alliance of popular anti austerity and anti capitalist sentiment and trade union organising – will be able to mount an electoral challenge. This is a good thing where Labour candidates have forfeit the right to enjoy our support. But it is neither a programme for government nor a credible challenge for a parliamentary majority of the kind that could produce a political crisis that is the foundation of Syriza’s ballooning vote.
    My argument is that the movement must acquire a more solid foundation first and that finding the widest possible unity to give that movement a political expression is a greater priority than yet another attempt to cobble together disputatious fragments.
    Put simply Syriza is the product of the specific character of the Greek crisis not its cause. A playground pastiche of Syriza in British conditions is not the route to working class political power.

  13. Sadly the proletariat of Manchester couldn’t give a fuck about the Trades Council one way or the other to be honest. And that includes when I was a delegate back in the day.

    How about trying to change that?

    And a clue- practice what preach you defenders of womens’ rights!

  14. My initial reaction was that this new grouping will last probably up until the point where someone says “Right! What shall we do?” and then everyone realises that some people are looking to ‘reclaim’ Labour and some people are looking to build an alternative. But maybe I’m being cynical? Perhaps this lash up has real potential? Anyone feel like explaining what purpose this could fulfill to me?

    Andrew Burgin makes some good points re Labour, but I don’t understand why he doesn’t start off by working with people who share his views, if he really wants to see an alternative emerge.

  15. Vanya: Sadly the proletariat of Manchester couldn’t give a fuck about the Trades Council one way or the other to be honest. And that includes when I was a delegate back in the day.

    Lol.

    I really wanted to understand what this MTUC kerfuffle was all about, but try as I might, however many times I read the explanation above, I’ve still not got any idea what’s happened.

    Seems very Bunfight at the O.K. Tea Rooms, though.

  16. Vanya:
    Sadly the proletariat of Manchester couldn’t give a fuck about the Trades Council one way or the other to be honest. And that includes when I was a delegate back in the day.

    How about trying to change that?

    And a clue- practice what preach you defenders of womens’ rights!

    Agreed.

    This nonsense is a complete distraction that prevents the trades council from doing its job, the shameless behaviour of certain individuals has driven away many would be delegates.

    Really someone needs to go around the union branches in town, get a full turnout of delegates at a trades council meeting and elect a completely new set of positions. But obviously far, far easier to be said than done.

  17. Andrew Burgin on said:

    A few small points about the discussion. Firstly I wished I’d called it ‘Left Unity: the People’s Assembly and the SWP’. The last SWP post on this site has close to 600 comments. I’m glad Andy still has a copy of the Transitional Programme on his shelves. No big disagreements with Nick, yes we have to look to the specificity of the British situation and no mass party will be built without the working class becoming a class for itself. As for daft Trots and recovering Maoists – well most of the recovering Maoists have joined the CPB together with some of the daft Trots so we’ll have to look elsewhere.
    The next meeting of Left Unity will be this coming Thursday and we’ll be discussing some of the questions that Nick and Manzil raise. Nick Wrack, Gioia Coppola and Joana Ramiro will lead off a discussion on the kind of organisation we’d like to see and explore the problems of creating such.
    Contact us via the website if you are interested in attending.

  18. Karl Stewart on said:

    Andrew Burgin,

    Like Nick, I agree with about half of your article above. The first half.

    The People’s Assembly appears to have some strong potential to unite the vast majority of the left around a progressive alternative to the government’s austerity programme.

    A viable alternative narrative with mass support has been sorely lacking thus far and the weakness and disunity of anti-austerity voices has been a major factor in the general ineffectiveness of opposition to the ConDems.

    If the People’s Assembly can build a meaningful, concrete unity to these hitherto disparate voices then it can be of huge importance and significance.

    Personally, I don’t see a space for a viable left electoral alternative to Labour at this time. And I fear that making that argument central to the debates on the day – in an “either/or” manner – would be unhelpful in terms of the unity that the event is seeking to achieve.

  19. Andrew
    I wish you good fortune with your project. I am intensly relaxed about people trying out new political formations that seek to avoid the errors and excesses that seem symptomatic of sections of the British left and my guess is that yours is in good hands.
    I suppose my reservations arise in direct proportion to the extent to which people make mechanical parallels between Greece and Britain and avoid the hard choices that confront us here.
    In particular the illusions about the EU that social democracy depends upon (and which some sections of the left and ultra left seem to uncritically echo) are an unresolved issue.
    There are still plenty of less-daft-trhan-they-used-to-be Trots (read these columns) and maoists in rehab who can add to your strength.
    We communists can’t claim them all:)

  20. David Pavett on said:

    You say that “constructing a serious broad-based working class party is an essential component of the fight against austerity”. Can you give some idea as to what you understand by the “working class”. Who is included and who is excluded?

    I have other questions about the above statement of intent but it is not worth asking them without a response to the above question.

  21. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    Andy Newman,

    I don’t think its self evident at all that such a party is an impossibility, although it will clearly remain at most a minority party in the British context for the forseeable future, as Syriza was until very recently in Greece. The problem with Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson is that they’ve turned their backs on the actual, concrete steps that have been taken towards such a left alternative party, or at least the only ones that have succeeeded, only a matter of months after first linking up with the Bradford Spring. And over an issue where not only were they wrong, in my view, on Assange, but which never should have been seen as a split issue at all, compard to the vital tasks of building an anti-austerity party, and the great opportunities opened up by Galloway’s election, making the manner of Kate Hudson’s resignation in the middle of the Manchester election particularly absurd and destructive. Now they’re back in Manchester but without that link to the living left politics of RESPECT, trying to duplicate its work based on an unnecessary split and from a much lower level, so I don’t exactly fancy their chances – I just don’t think their failure will mean a complete vindication of Ed Milliband either, let alone Imran Hussein =)

  22. Karl Stewart: Respect is George Galloway.

    Now, arguably, sure. Even so, I disagree that was always the case. As to my question…?

    These references always seem to elide the centrality of imperialism, and deference to reactionary social mores and institutions, to the theory and practice of “Labourism”. Which no alleged “Labour Party Mk II” initiative has ever remotely compromised with. If you mean reformism just say it.

  23. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil,

    I answered your question about Respect – it’s George Galloway.

    Yes, Respect did indeed used to have other members – my understanding is they left to set up a website called “Left Unity”.

  24. Karl Stewart,

    In your mind, since 2004 Respect has constituted nothing more than George Galloway. Right. And you don’t think that’s a bit of a one-dimensional view?

    Anyway, to reiterate, I think the LP Mk II stuff is fundamentally inaccurate in what it implies. In the case if Respect, even if Respect is George Galloway, I don’t think George Galloway is “Labourism”. Labourism has never been particularly strong in its opposition to war, racism or imperialism. I don’t think what the Left Unity people are calling for is Labourism, either.

  25. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    “Yes, Respect did indeed used to have other members – my understanding is they left to set up a website called “Left Unity”.”

    Why are you being so absurd about this, especially since you took the same position as Galloway and those many OTHER members who stayed in RESPECT on the issues that led to the departure of “Left Unity”?!

  26. Karl Stewart on said:

    Marxist Lennonist,

    I’m not in Respect and never have been. I’ve never been even a supporter and I wouldn’t vote for them in an election.

    Respect was a left electoral alternative to Labour. But “left unity” have just split from them.

    The SP/Mils have been striving to build an electoral alternative to Labour. Their current project is TUSC. But our friends from “left unity” are not proposing to join TUSC.

    So here we have a call for a new left electoral alternative to Labour, which must be “broad based” but not “broad” enough to include the two other left alternatives to Labour currently in existence. And this call is being made by “left unity”.

    But you think I’m the one being “absurd”.

  27. Karl Stewart on said:

    Marxist Lennonist:
    … you took the same position as Galloway and those many OTHER members who stayed in RESPECT on the issues that led to the departure of “Left Unity”?!

    I did admire the firm stance Galloway took in opposing the CIA smear campaign against Assange, but that’s not the same as support for Respect.

  28. Jimmy Maxton on said:

    Karl Stewart: So here we have a call for a new left electoral alternative to Labour, which must be “broad based” but not “broad” enough to include the two other left alternatives to Labour currently in existence. And this call is being made by “left unity”.

    I think you miss the point here. The movers and shakers behind Left Unity are VERY IMPORTANT, and they are suggesting a left unity project that acknowledges that fact from outset. They may not be important in the sense of having any weight in the trade unions, or any name recognition with the electorate, or any particularly insightful ideas, but nevertheless they are VERY IMPORANT. Indeed we lucky that even before a mass broad left party is built, its leadership are already in place.

    Praise the Lord!

  29. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    Karl Stewart,

    No, I think “Left Unity” is absurd too! But I’m intrigued why you “wouldn’t vote for RESPECT at elections”; does this include if it was the only left party on the ballot? Would you have voted for Imran Hussein in Bradford?!

  30. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil: Karl Stewart, …I think the LP Mk II stuff is fundamentally inaccurate in what it implies…I don’t think what the Left Unity people are calling for is Labourism, either.

    Yes, there’s something in that Manzil. The TUSC project is definitely for a LPMKII, but the “left unity” people seem to be saying they want a British Sryzia (albeit a “Sryzia” that excludes all existing left organisations).

  31. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil,

    They stand in a small number of seats. And elsewhere they usually say vote Labour, but sometimes they back alternative left candidates.

    Personally, I’ve come to the view that there’s no point in any of these “left alternatives”. To me, they’re just variations on social democracy.

    If social-democracy is what one wants, then there’s the Labour Party.

    In my view, the only meaningful “left alternative” to social democracy is communism. So why waste your time in building some halfway-house project?

  32. Karl Stewart,

    For the sake of argument? I suppose it’s that, just because the substantive class content is the same, doesn’t mean the specific form of its expression doesn’t matter.

    To pick an apposite historical example, take the debate over the proposed militarisation of labour in the USSR. Its defenders argued that ‘free’ waged labour was no more voluntary than a universal obligation to work as directed by the state, so you could make no socialist argument against it.

    Obviously wage labour is inherently coercive, but that didn’t address the fact that the formal legal rights afforded to wage labourers under capitalism granted them significant advantages – despite the material compulsion to find employment – over people required to work by law.

    The post-war Labour Governments were social democratic. But I would have thought it was axiomatic that they were preferable to, say, the contemporary experience of New Labour, even discounting the different balance of class forces which they each had to struggle with.

    I don’t think you can regard political ideologies as static receptors of popular support; they can become a material force, and more than that, they can represent different forces at different times.

    The logical conclusion to a complete dismissal of anything short of ‘full communism now’ is the SPGB’s position of taking no interest in ‘reformist’ struggles, which are nevertheless of significant importance to the working class, and which by winning allows the labour movement to steadily progress towards a more advanced degree of political consciousness and organisation.

    Although don’t take this as a defence of TUSC, the Left Unity site or anything else in particular.

  33. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil,

    I’m saying I don’t see a political space for another social-democratic party.

    That isn’t the same as taking a dogmatic attitude towards social-democracy or towards social-dmocratic reform.

  34. jon fanning on said:

    why are you discussing left unity when you know the left has a really big and important faction fight on its hands, now is not the time to look oitwards comrades, all pile inwards.

  35. Manzil: But I would have thought it was axiomatic that they were preferable to, say, the contemporary experience of New Labour, even discounting the different balance of class forces which they each had to struggle with.

    Well that is an interesting question, and one which perhaps needs some unpacking; i.e I don’t think it is necessarily axiomatic.

    If you read Eric Shaw’s brilliant book “Losing Labour’s Soul” about the Blair government, he makes a convincing case that Blair’s delivery of progressive reforms in the interests of working people was favourably comparable to any other Labour government; but without the visionary language; and another book worth reading is David Halpern’s “The Hidden Wealth of Nations”, which explains what the Blairite inner circle were thinking; and again on domestic policy, their objectives were progressive – they were determined to appear to the press and the electorate (and thereofre also to their own party) more right wing than they were.

  36. Graham Day on said:

    Andy Newman: If you read Eric Shaw’s brilliant book “Losing Labour’s Soul” about the Blair government, he makes a convincing case that Blair’s delivery of progressive reforms in the interests of working people was favourably comparable to any other Labour government

    It’s interesting that the talking points of the “socialist left” are often lifted from the Grauniad editorials, rather than from the daily lives of working class people.

  37. before we get all nostalgic for the 1997-2010 new labour government – anyone else remember fighting the introduction of tuition fees and the abolition of grants? The retrogressive measures that helped pave the way for a more unequal society, with less social mobility, and increased the power of the market in higher education, paved the way to todays Tory attacks, etc?

    or the government that introduced foundation hospitals and many of the market measures that contribute to todays NHS crisis?

    Or further empowered the super-rich, fed the credit boom and finacialisation that precipitated the global crisis?

    a labour government that throughout its period in office empowered bankers but continued to disempower trades unionists with its laws and regulatory stance?

    I know the Labour government did some good things – from the minimum wage to sure-start centres – but an honest balance sheet would not give the new labour government your ringing endorsement. It is not unrealistic to aim higher than this – in fact it is essential.

  38. Karl Stewart on said:

    Marxist Lennonist,
    Well I guess you got me there ML.
    I would have voted for the Labour guy, but it’s a good thing for the left that Galloway was elected to Parliament..
    I disagree with some of his views, but overall I do think he’s on “our side”.

  39. Andy Newman on said:

    Barry Kade,

    193000 more NHS staff, 23000 more doctors and 69700 more doctors.

    Peace in Ireland, devolution for Wales and Scotland, abolition of cause 28, civil partnerships.

    Public sector disclosure Act, Equality act, working time directive.

    Minimum wage, working tax credits, sure start, school building programme, statutory route to union recognition, right for trade union representation, increase of strike protection period from 8 to 12 weeks, reduced qualifying period for unfair dismissal.

  40. Marxist Lennonist on said:

    #49 and #52 The truth is you’re both right. But while I think Andy’s summation of the real positives of the New Labour government is fairly comprehensive, I could add to Barry’s list not just Iraq, which would be enough to damn them all on its own, but the deliberate stoking of Islamophobia, brutal treatment of asylum seekers, attacks on civil liberties. My emphasis might be a bit different from Barry’s – I’m in favour of aiming higher than the positives of New Labour too, actually, but a good first step would just be to avoid repeating, and punish, their crimes…

  41. Andy Newman on said:

    Marxist Lennonist,

    There are more positives than that, I was just quoting from memory. When you add in the extra teachers and school support staff, and significant increase in household incomes.

    The thing is, while we are right to mention the negatives and the 5 million voters lost since 1997, millions of people experienced Blair govt making Britain more prosperous and fairer. And thousands of activists are proud of what was achieved.

    The left gets nowhere unless we acknowledge that

  42. Andy Newman: millions of people experienced Blair govt making Britain more prosperous and fairer.

    This seems like a gross misrepresentation of the Blair years to me. Inequality went through the roof under Blair, PFI effectively introduced privatization into the NHS, the minimum wage institutionalised low pay, while working tax credits is essentially corporate welfare.

    I really think we have to be careful when it comes to the Blair years.

    The housing crisis, anti-union laws, and attacks on benefit claimants were all aspects of New Labour that can’t be dismissed or abstracted from the historical record.

  43. Andy Newman: The left gets nowhere unless we acknowledge that

    The first term of the Blair Government was actually pretty good both interms of achievement and the calibre of minister. Even then though the seeds of degeneration were evident but on balance peple were optimistic and could see the difference.

    Selection panels prior to ’97 went out of their way to choose candidates with ‘no baggage’ over experienced people. The ‘no baggagers’ were extremeley suppine and often of poor quality for me Jaqui ‘no training’ Smith is a good exemplar of the breed.

    Its very rewarding to read Chris Mullin’s diaries about the period.

  44. John: The housing crisis, anti-union laws, and attacks on benefit claimants were all aspects of New Labour that can’t be dismissed or abstracted from the historical record.

    The Labour party between 1997 and 2012 saw a real shift of wealth towards ordinary people, through child benefit and working tax credit so that the average family was £80 per week in real terms better off.

    4.5 million working families received average tax credits of £65 per week in 2010.

    Average wages grew by £215 per week over in that 13 years.

    There was a 65% increase in investment in education; increasing per child from £2900 in 1997 to £5850 in 2010. There were 41000 more teachers and 120000 more Teaching assistants in 2010 than in 1997. By the End of the last Labour government 3000 Sure start centres provided direct assistance to 2.3 million young children.

    I think that the positives of the Labour governemt were most felt by working class families with children, especially single mothers in work.

    That is why there is a clear paradox – the policy delivery to the benefit of working people and the poorest parts of society under Blair were favourably comparable to anything achieved by Wilson, or Callaghan. But nevertheles, Labour’s vote went down by 5 million, and the left despised the government.

    Now partly I think this is becasue the left was too divorced from those who did benefit.

    But also, you are completely correct to say that disastrous failure to address the problem of affordable and social housing meant that even for those who did benefit, they experienced a key aspect of their life remaining problematic. (This was compounded by the complex failures of Labour relating to preceptions of immigration)

    What is more, New Labour deliberately demoralised their own supporters in some too clever by half electoral wheezes.

  45. Andy Newman,

    Well, it does come down to choosing your stats.

    I don’t think those 5 million votes were lost simply as a consequence of a misunderstanding of what was taking place under New Labour.

    The fact is that In 1997, the year new Labour came to power, the 1,000 richest people in Britain were worth £98 billion. Ten years on, their wealth had climbed to just over £300 billion, a 204 per cent increase.

    In 2007, 3,200 bankers in the City of London shared £8.8 billion in bonuses, while at the other end of the scale 2.5 million children and 2.9 million pensioners were living in poverty.

    The New Labour years were boom years for the global economy, when the liberalisation of credit was at its peak and governments throughout the West were drunk on deregulation.

    Working benefits such as tax credits subsidised corporate profits, which had the effect of maintaining the structural inequality that was built into the economy by Thatcher.

    Individual aspiration rather than collectivism was the mantra of New Labour. Philosophically being working class was portrayed as something to escape rather than be proud of.

    Certainly, there were gains in investment in public services, etc, but these were in large part correcting the years of under investment that had held sway under the Tories and were paid for in the further encroachment of the market into the public sector. I think we are paying the price for that now.

    Of course the war looms large over every account of the Blair years. It wasn’t a negative it was a crime, resulting in not just the suffering of millions of Iraqis but also the polarization of British society, the normalisation of Islamophobia, attacks on civil liberties and the corruption of the body politic in general.

    This is my understanding anyway.

  46. John: Individual aspiration rather than collectivism was the mantra of New Labour. Philosophically being working class was portrayed as something to escape rather than be proud of.

    Well yes, and both of our sets of statistics are correct and equaly valid.

    I stress there is a paradox, that when viewed objectively, the Blair government delivered as much progressive reform as the Wilson governments. So why doesn’t it feel like it did?

    Here we are in a complex political area, where simulataneously the right wing sought to marginalise and defeat the left; and the left almost colluded in its own marginalisation by increasingly surrendering an aspiration for winning over the centre ground.

    Blairism was a major defeat for the left ideologically, and practically in terms of reduced democracy in the Labour Party and reduced voice for the unions. But we shouldn’t confuse that defeat for the left with being necessarily expereinced as a set back for the prosperity and aspirations of working people.

    John: Of course the war looms large over every account of the Blair years. It wasn’t a negative it was a crime, resulting in not just the suffering of millions of Iraqis but also the polarization of British society, the normalisation of Islamophobia, attacks on civil liberties and the corruption of the body politic in general.

    Yes, but it doesn’t take long knocking on doors for the Labour Party to realise that most people don’t care about that. I do, you do, the people who read this blog do. But it is not mass politics.

  47. Andy Newman: Here we are in a complex political area, where simulataneously the right wing sought to marginalise and defeat the left; and the left almost colluded in its own marginalisation by increasingly surrendering an aspiration for winning over the centre ground.

    I think what has to be factored into any account of the Blair years is the success of Thatcher’s revolution beforehand in shaping public attitudes towards issues such as wealth, aspiration, inequality, law and order, etc.

    Working class consciousness had already irreducibly adapted to the changed economic and with it social paradigm. When Blair came in the unions were much denuded and viewed as an electoral liability rather than a bulwark of the Labour Party.

  48. John: When Blair came in the unions were much denuded and viewed as an electoral liability rather than a bulwark of the Labour Party.

    And went along with that negative perception themselves. To a certain extent the triumph of Blairism was the result of poor strategic thining from the left

  49. jack ford on said:

    Much of New Labour’s increase in public spending was financed by PFI which enabled New Labour to increase spending in the short term without raising taxes to pay for it but in the long run has cost the Treasury billions. Gordon Brown sold our gold at the bottom of the market – the country’s awful financial position would be considerably less dire now if we still had that gold – and he also championed light touch City regulation. New Labour’s apparent success was based on an unsustainable credit boom and the manipulation of debt and the chickens have come home to roost. They also completely failed to deal with the issue of affordable housing which made hostility to immigration that much worse.

  50. Andy Newman: The Labour party between 1997 and 2012 saw a real shift of wealth towards ordinary people, through child benefit and working tax credit so that the average family was £80 per week in real terms better off.

    This £80 bit of this is undoubtedly true although the essence of tax credits is that tax payers as a whole subsidise employers paying low wages.
    For the first part it would be more accurate to say that between 1997 and 2012 the effects of a speculative bubble allowed a marginal increase in the social wage and an a very substantial increase in profits.

  51. Graham Day on said:

    jack ford: Gordon Brown sold our gold at the bottom of the market – the country’s awful financial position would be considerably less dire now if we still had that gold

    That’s a bizarre point to raise.

    First off, economically there’s nothing special about gold (unless you’re an Austrian goldbug). Our currency hasn’t been backed by our gold reserves since the thirties. It sits and sparkles and doesn’t earn interest – in fact, it costs money to store securely.

    The money raised was actually invested in other assets – interest bearing bonds. I’m not sure what exactly has happened with those bonds, but we presumably still have them, they still have value, and they’re still earning interest. So the money we raised then hasn’t disappeared.

    And sure, we know now that it was “the bottom of the market”, but hindsight is 20/20. It’s meaningless anyway… sure, if we sold the gold now we’d get about 5 times what we got at the time, and if I’d sold my car a year ago I’d get more than I would today. So what?

    Finally, the amount we’re talking about is of the order of £10bn. From the Guardian’s datablog, I see that “Public sector net debt was £1,162.8bn at the end of January 2013″. So if we still had the gold and we sold it, we’d be able to pay off 1% of the debt.

  52. Andy Newman,

    I’m not denying the substantial improvements to people’s lives under the 1997-2010 governments, especially in terms of reducing absolute poverty, improving education and health etc.

    But the situations each government faced aren’t really comparable.

    The Attlee governments faced a shattered economy and exhausted society, yet oversaw one of the largest shifts in wealth and power towards the people that ever occurred, at the direct expense of a politically discredited but still powerful and reactionary capitalist class.

    What improvements New Labour made were funded through an expansion of consumer credit which masked wage suppression, all financed by speculation in property and finance.

    New Labour’s successes, in terms of redistribution by stealth and more efficient public services, were not at the expense of capital. They merely facilitated an environment in which a massive increase in wealth at the top was politically possible, as demonstrated by the burgeoning social inequality.

    In many ways those improvements were part of the disciplining of the public sector according to neoliberal dogma. It’s not coincidental that the outcome-led “reform” agenda could be so easily adapted to financial as opposed to human needs, from improving standards to saving money.

    You can’t compare like for like, because the situations each faced were qualitatively different. Instead we should compare the actual record of the government to its potential. Obviously this is inherently subjective, but I think 1997-2010 can be broadly and fairly summed up as “under-performing” – ie there was plenty of unnecessary bad, and what was good could easily have been better.

    Although it’s perhaps less concrete than a discussion of money spent or statistics improved, I think a serious failing of the last government was its failure to present a counter-hegemonic narrative to the one it inherited. There had been no substantive increase in the social weight of the labour movement, no consolidation of cultural or institutional ‘strongholds’ to cement its legacy.

    Thus the ease of the present government to unleash its onslaught, often co-opting the very mechanisms initiated by New Labour for supposedly progressive ends. New Labour were proficient administrators, but it was the best government we were allowed, not the one we needed. It was a government whose basic assumption was that the defeats inflicted on the working class were permanent.

  53. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil:
    The Attlee governments faced a shattered economy and exhausted society, yet oversaw one of the largest shifts in wealth and power towards the people that ever occurred, at the direct expense of a politically discredited but still powerful and reactionary capitalist class.

    This is an extremely important example of what is possible and something we must make central to our efforts to present an alternative to austerity.

    By every comparison imaginable, the UK was far, far worse off in 1945 than today.

    Huge areas of our inner cities had been bombed out.

    There was a massive housing crisis, there were food shortages, fuel was in short supply, many millions of men and women were returning home from the war to an economy in ruins, with a debt/deficit four times higher than today’s.

  54. Karl raises an interesting point. We have Labour, a party that is able to form a government, that can stop the Tories forming a government, that is subject to pressure from the trade union movement to bring in reforms-that is essentially providing a social democratic role. We must therefore support the left in labour in their struggle against Blairites and encourage unions to demand more for their millions.

    Then you have a much reduced but slowly rebuilding Communist Party trying to fill a role for building militancy in the trade union movement, winning solid positions at conferences, for producing marxist-Leninist analysis for the labour movement and leading campaigns that labour members might not be able to get away with…etc

    What else do you need?

    I suppose the greens have been fantastic at putting environmentalism on the political agenda and making sure the establishment doesn’t get away with voicing support while doing nothing.

    I suppose some daft trots are good at putting forward to the idea that all leadership sells you out, that all the mistakes and difficulties you encounter building socialist are unacceptable and clearly demonstrate you are a sell out, that unless you buy paper x and concentrate practically solely on recruiting for us, you are the enemy!

    Andys question about Blair is interesting. I guess why New Labour’s social reform wasn’t seen the same as comparable other governments is the reliance on big business.

    Attlee changed Britain’s economy and built a welfare state that has lasted decades, much of Blairs-dont get me wrong-good reforms-were at the cost of introducing foundation hospitals/academies that would ensure that-as a public service-they would not last.

    New labour did bring about many benefits that helped many people, but it didn’t produce lasting meaningful employment.

    New Labour was all about letting billionaires do almost exactly what they wanted and when for the promise to trickle down a bit for the rest. This was working-ish in the good times but fell completely apart during the bad times.

  55. Manzil: Although it’s perhaps less concrete than a discussion of money spent or statistics improved, I think a serious failing of the last government was its failure to present a counter-hegemonic narrative to the one it inherited. There had been no substantive increase in the social weight of the labour movement, no consolidation of cultural or institutional ‘strongholds’ to cement its legacy.

    Yes, that is what I said (more or less)

  56. Andy Newman: Yes, that is what I said (more or less)

    …and therefore: “it was axiomatic that they were preferable to, say, the contemporary experience of New Labour, even discounting the different balance of class forces which they each had to struggle with.”

    There really is no comparison.

    Shaw doesn’t prove otherwise. He shows in absolute terms New Labour was reasonable. But that’s a completely unscientific approach. In a period of sustained, speculative boom, they could afford to be decent (far more than they actually were, in fact). Comparative analyses require context.

    I’ve not read Halpern; isn’t he the one who works for Lord Sainsbury’s pet think-tank and is currently on secondment as the Tories’ behavioural psychology guru? The “nudge” guy?

    George W,

    Surely it doesn’t require a party to build militancy in the unions, win positions at conferences, produce Marxist analyses or lead campaigns. It simply requires a ginger group, operating within the left fringe of the Labour Party. Indeed your “trot groups” all practice the above to relative degrees. I sympathise with attempts to strengthen the left within the movement: shouldn’t the logic of that position be to liquidate into the Labour Party? If we don’t actually have a programme for the working class, not the labour bureaucracy, assuming power, what need is there of an independent party?

  57. Manzil: Shaw doesn’t prove otherwise. He shows in absolute terms New Labour was reasonable. But that’s a completely unscientific approach. In a period of sustained, speculative boom, they could afford to be decent (far more than they actually were, in fact). Comparative analyses require context.

    But when we criticise the New Labour years, it is important to recognise that as expereinced by most people, these were years of progress, prosperity and reduced lawful discrimination.

    Manzil: I sympathise with attempts to strengthen the left within the movement: shouldn’t the logic of that position be to liquidate into the Labour Party?

    yes, but look at it the other way round. As we argue for trade unions to be more politically assertive, each union will decide how it can achieve its objectives for its members, and mostly that is most effective through seeing the Labour Party as an arena for exerting trade union inflrunce

  58. Andy Newman: But when we criticise the New Labour years, it is important to recognise that as expereinced by most people, these were years of progress, prosperity and reduced lawful discrimination.

    yes, but look at it the other way round. As we argue for trade unions to be more politically assertive, each union will decide how it can achieve its objectives for its members, and mostly that is most effective through seeing the Labour Party as an arena for exerting trade union inflrunce

    Of course. But I was specifically addressing the idea there can be serious qualitative differences between superficially similar regimes. If every such argument must be prefaced with a defence of the status quo, it weakens the demands that people place on social democracy. It is the equally-damaging flip-side to the argument that all politics are the same, and everyone betrays you in the end. It concedes the New Labour position that it was the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.

    Sorry, but I don’t think I understand your second point.

    Surely the difference is that trade unions have an entirely separate social role, independent from their ‘formal’ political activities. That alone justifies their existence. But the CPB isn’t a union. And its links to the left of the Labour movement are far more tenuous than of the affiliated trade unions. It cannot rely on social weight or financial resources to guarantee its influence.

    So if its political strategy is predicated on a strengthening of the existing mass organisations, and sees the prospects of socialism arising from the left wing of those organisations – shouldn’t it be in them?

  59. Manzil

    Sorry I assumed the main aim of an independent CP was implied!

    I was just listing day-to-day stuff that it is generally easier to do outside rather than inside the Labour Party as a means by which to build further support for socialism. The danger with us all joining up the Labour Party as individuals are the same as just joining campaigns or trade unions alone with the vague leftish ideas. Without an organised independent marxist-Leninist party I think your ideas might become a little messed up and sidetracked. You might begin to find it too cosy and easy to simply work within a campaign or union. Essentially reformism and careerism. How many people in history have started off as genuine socialists and after being sucked into the machine start treating campaigns and unions as end in itself, rather a means to socialism.

    I was taking it for granted that everyone assumes the communist party wants socialism-as in full on proper socialism-and that it sees staying independent as a method of ensuring that it sticks to its marxist-Leninist guns. That doesn’t mean it sticks its head in the sand and doesn’t engage with the labour movement and win reforms within capitalism as a means by which to build the forces for socialism.

    Of course plenty of communists have become corrupted by careerism or reformism, but I see a seperate Communist party as key to avoiding this. I know Lenin advocated us affiliating to the Labour Party-but I think he intended this not to be a permanent arrangement, rather a provocation to force either the right or left to split off, depending on who won.

    Look at, for instance, the communist party of Venezuela. They were asked to join Chavez’s mob, and Chavez even got pretty pissed off when they didn’t. But I think they made the right decision. I think it should be kept as broad as possible for as long as it is possible to continue pushing history. Indeed the PCV should not join up until capitalism in Venezuela is kaput and a process of building socialism requires it.

    Look at Cuba, the Communist party was only established as all the forces of the revolution were united a couple of years after the revolution itself. Liberals and all sorts could support the revolution in the early days. They played the long game and build up the forces for socialism over a number of years.

    Similarly in Britain it would be ridiculous to proclaim yourself as a revolutionary party and demand that all pay homage to you when you are 13 people in a pub in Manchester. We have a hell of a lot of work to do in building up the trade union movement, increasing its militany, winning conferences to ‘the line’, building campaigns and community groups, linking them all up together.

    A the end of the day you can only work where people are at, not where you want them to be. This should be your day-to-day work. But without some form of organised group with a distinct vision and analysis of the present, working soley where people are at might mean you forget where you are going.

  60. George W,

    Oh, I’m not saying “why are communists not social democrats”! :)

    I was just questioning, in terms of your strategy to achieve socialism, whether independent organisation makes sense in the immediate period. I was curious as to your reasoning, which seems to be that a party increases the chances of communists ‘sticking to their guns’. But as you say, plenty of communists have fallen into reformism despite maintaining their separate existence.

    A distinct vision and analysis is important. I just don’t think it necessarily requires all the baggage that comes with the idea of a consciously revolutionary party. I don’t think my politics are determined by party membership or lack thereof. Surely you don’t think the only communists are in the CP?

    In order to grow beyond 13 people in a pub (is it sad that I’m impressed at 13?), especially if you don’t actually think there are presently the conditions for an explicitly socialist party, wouldn’t it make sense to work in and not simply with Labour? Is it just about keeping communists on the straight and narrow in a difficult period for socialism, until ‘better days’? Don’t take this the wrong way. As you know, there’s no CP here on the People’s South Coast, so the internet lets me badger you instead.

  61. Manzil: Surely the difference is that trade unions have an entirely separate social role, independent from their ‘formal’ political activities. That alone justifies their existence. But the CPB isn’t a union. And its links to the left of the Labour movement are far more tenuous than of the affiliated trade unions. It cannot rely on social weight or financial resources to guarantee its influence.
    So if its political strategy is predicated on a strengthening of the existing mass organisations, and sees the prospects of socialism arising from the left wing of those organisations – shouldn’t it be in them?

    I wasn’t taking about the CPB, but more generally.

    Manzil: But I was specifically addressing the idea there can be serious qualitative differences between superficially similar regimes. If every such argument must be prefaced with a defence of the status quo, it weakens the demands that people place on social democracy.

    I don’t accept the narrative of “placing demands on social dmeocracy”, my project is to work within social democracy to develop credible left perspectives.

    In terms of politics, it is necessary for the left to develop a coaition building approach to the centre; in order to do so means not isolating ourselves from people who experienced Blair’s domestic policies as beneficial

  62. Manzil,

    Badger me all you want brother!

    Plenty of communists certainly have become either reformist or careerist, the former-most have either left or won over the party to become ‘democratic left’….etc, the latter is a collective failure of the party. There is always a danger of this happening but it requires constant monitoring both of current and new applicants.

    If you are asking why don’t we just all join the Labour Party? I guess it’s a matter of how? For us to disband and all join up as individuals goes back to the loss of direction/potential for corruption argument. If we disbanded but said “meet up on the inside next month”‘ that would be entry ism which is fundamentally dishonest, is against the rules and I think leads to intrigue and paranoia getting in the way of proper work.

    The only feasible manner would be affiliation, which although we came close a purple of times, is outright impossible these days.

    I think it takes an exceptional person to be politically spot on and under the influence of no party or party line. If we did an experiment tomorrow and the party and the morning star disappeared and everyone who reads it, I think the labour movement would be worse off. I think all sorts of ideas would start creeping in. I think the progress we have made re-establishing the old trade unionist view of the EU would go. I think there would be nothing between the sectarian cults and (very) soft left of the Labour Party (old money=’soft right’) which would be terrible.

    Of course the AWL…etc would expect outright socialist revolution to break out instantaneously cus it was us holding back ‘the revolution’ all these years!

    As for communists outisde the party, of course there are many. I would consider all these daft trots and mad Maoists some form of communist. As for those of our distinct tradition, you have the old boys and girls of the NCP left (I think), you also have some self-described communists in the Labour Party. But more importantly you have many more both in the Labour Party and outside who are sympathetic to the party line, read the morning star…etc

    I would hate to dwell in a cult with a monpoly on ‘the truth’.

    It is a shame we ain’t stronger Hampshire way, little steps though I’m sure we’ll get there in the end. There’s a MS readers n supporters group in Southampton now, think I remember seeing an advert for a CP branch relaunch meeting last month ish so you never know

  63. Fair do’s George. That’s a fair point about impossible affiliation versus paranoid entryism. And I don’t mean to suggest that the Morning Star or an independent voice for the left isn’t crucial.

    Let me know if there’s movement in Hampshire. ;)

    Andy Newman: I don’t accept the narrative of “placing demands on social dmeocracy”, my project is to work within social democracy to develop credible left perspectives.

    In terms of politics, it is necessary for the left to develop a coaition building approach to the centre; in order to do so means not isolating ourselves from people who experienced Blair’s domestic policies as beneficial

    What does that actually mean in concrete terms though?

    Do you feel there are people on the left of the Labour Party who don’t actually feel the 1997-2010 governments were worthwhile? Or who don’t want to ‘reach out’ to people to their right, and are content to remain a permanent minority? Short of Ted Knight, I don’t think they’re exactly numerous.

    While I don’t think the assessment is accurate, it does seem central to the outlook of a certain group – let’s call it the CLPD school, for ease, and given the advertising of its AGM on SU.

    The split in Briefing, for instance, seemed to reflect a self-assessment by the merger opponents that they were a lot more ‘credible’ than the LRC. Which I think reflects the outlook George W refers to above – people getting very comfortable in their routines, but not really achieving all that, or wanting to.

    Self-described realists aren’t always that realistic.

  64. Graham Day: sure, if we sold the gold now we’d get about 5 times what we got at the time, and if I’d sold my car a year ago I’d get more than I would today. So what?

    That really is the point Gold, unlike your car, is a finite resource that’s why China is buying it. Sure its price fluctuates but unlike paper money including Government Bonds its never in danger of being worthless. So if you want to back your currency Gold is good and yes Gordon Brown fucked up, not on the scale of PFI but a fuck up nonetheless. Its quite reasonable to say this.

  65. Manzil: Do you feel there are people on the left of the Labour Party who don’t actually feel the 1997-2010 governments were worthwhile? Or who don’t want to ‘reach out’ to people to their right, and are content to remain a permanent minority?

    i) JOhn McDonnell
    ii) LRC
    iii) the LRC aligned Labour Briefing

    Manzil: What does that actually mean in concrete terms though?

    That is how almost all progress has been made in and through the Labour Party in the last 100+ years.

  66. Graham Day on said:

    SA: That really is the point Gold, unlike your car, is a finite resource that’s why China is buying it. Sure its price fluctuates but unlike paper money including Government Bonds its never in danger of being worthless. So if you want to back your currency Gold is good and yes Gordon Brown fucked up, not on the scale of PFI but a fuck up nonetheless. Its quite reasonable to say this.

    Well, it wasn’t just the UK, since the Swiss and the Dutch were also selling at around the same time.

    Gold has no magical property that sustains economies. It’s simply an asset with an associated price. The UK traded in that long term asset for some other long term assets, that’s all.

  67. Andy Newman: i) JOhn McDonnell
    ii) LRC
    iii) the LRC aligned Labour Briefing

    That is how almost all progress has been made in and through the Labour Party in the last 100+ years.

    Well as a former member of the LRC, and someone sympathetic to its politics, let’s just say I disagree with the first point, which could easily be the argument of the worst red-baiting Blairite, and leave it at that.

    On to the more substantive issue of Labour and progress:

    You can’t reduce everything to a question of the internal politics of the Labour Party. That completely ignores the motive forces which propel change, ie social and class struggles. Sure, if you dis-embed a political party from its social base and consider it solely in terms of its own internal mechanisms, you could put forward this voluntaristic conception whereby everything depends on the coalitional strategies of distinct interests. But that ignores whether those interests actually represent wider forces.

    The self-defined “centre”-left around CLPD, Wilsman, Shawcroft etc. don’t represent anything more weighty than the LRC. The only difference is that the former orientates itself solely towards the bureaucracy and to the vestiges of their old activist/working relationships. What defines them is they are ‘known’ figures. They are not taken more seriously by the Labour leadership, because their entire programme is predicated on self-abegnation: denying the legitimacy of the left position as the precondition for reaching out to the intermediate, vacillating layers of the party.

    The leadership understands this, because it has a far more realistic assessment of the balance of power and opinion within the Labour movement, and does not fetishise the organisational over the political.

    Not to mention that at the grassroots level there is considerable overlap between each current. And that both suffer, as does the Labour Party as a whole, from the international hollowing-out of official social democracy. Making this very much a case of bald men fighting over combs.

    Given the long-term involvement of definitely-not-members of Socialist Action in CLPD, I see why you sympathise with them, but I do think the criticisms of the “centre”-left tendency very much reflects an unrealistic, exaggerated estimate of its own importance, and the likely efficacy of its tactics.

  68. Graham Day: Gold has no magical property that sustains economies. It’s simply an asset with an associated price. The UK traded in that long term asset for some other long term assets, that’s all.

    But were these other long-term assets as shiny, eh? Eh?

  69. Manzil,

    Not at all, the coalition with the centre should not be oriented to within the Labour Party, but calibrated to achieve a national popular counter hegemonic project to attract the electorate and the broader social and progressive movements.

    It is axiomatic that progress towards socialism requires government power. The only credible vehicle (accepting the nuances of devolution) is Labour, and we need to locate our starting point in the actually existing context

    Therefore the task of the left is to work with the centre to isolate the right

  70. Manzil,

    What we need is a discussion about theories of social change.

    I am not convinced, for example, that the LRC has a credibible strategy even for Labour winning a generalelection let alone achieving social progress and a viable economy.

    The SWP clearly have had no theory of social change since the beginning of their silly “downturn” phase ; and I have asked but never been answered what the SP thinks.

    Although not completely convincing to me the BRS from the CPB

  71. Andy Newman: What we need is a discussion about theories of social change.

    Fair point. What the left groups have essentially adopted is a theory of struggle. It’s a fundamentally defensive proposition, but is perhaps understandable given the recent past.

    The CP has perhaps said it most explicitly: “The left and the labour movement will need to transform an array of defensive battles … into a united offensive across a broad front”. I’m not sure the atmosphere exists in the movement to give the CP ‘left-wing programme’ weight, but it’s consistent.

    But the SWP and SP essentially practice the same thing, except shamefacedly or dishonestly.

    The SP seems to want to ‘split’ the labour movement in the course of struggle, without acknowledging that a reorganisation of our present forces, to the benefit of the left within it, in no way increases the overall weight of the movement. The SWP… I don’t think it’s thought that far ahead since 2007.

    The problem is the logic of any socialist strategy presupposes an eventual split within the Labour Party. But given the low state of working-class consciousness, the left is tasked with a) theorising a split in social democracy in the long term, while b) aiming to rebuild the strength of Labourism in the short term. Meaning they’re caught between sectarian and opportunist impulses.

    The SP has simply abdicated any struggle over official social democracy and gone on a kamikaze run against Labour, while the SWP has postponed the possibility of socialism for the foreseeable future.

    I think another problem is the loss of an international focus. The LRC especially seems to have adopted the wrong-headed position that Britain could somehow extricate itself from the world market and unilaterally rebuild dirigisme against the united opposition of European capital.

    Christ, talking about this makes me feel like one of those people banging on about their stamp collection.

  72. Graham Day: Gold has no magical property that sustains economies. It’s simply an asset with an associated price. The UK traded in that long term asset for some other long term assets, that’s all.

    If you want to know what gold can do have a look at the impact of New Spain on the Hapsburg Empire. Government Bonds are not the same type of asset at all.

    It was a fuck up.

    And Manzil is right gold is shiny too.

  73. Graham Day on said:

    SA: If you want to know what gold can do have a look at the impact of New Spain on the Hapsburg Empire.

    IIRC it ultimately caused inflation. What’s that got to do with anything? In any event, the economy of a wealthy 21st Century industrial country operates rather differently from the agrarian economy of Hapsburg Spain… not least because we have long since dumped this mystical belief in the innate value of gold.

  74. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    SA,

    “Gold, unlike your car, is a finite resource that’s why China is buying it”

    Silliness. It turns out that most other commodities are also finite in nature — iron, for instance. Or copper.

  75. jack ford on said:

    In times of economic crisis such as this investors and savers look for a safe source of value. Gold silver and platinum are a safer source of value in hard times than bonds issued by states whose level of debt are as dire as the UK and the US. If the UK still had the gold its credit would be far more secure than it is now. The price of gold is going up and will continue to go up and so will silver. I suspect the present bond market bubble will pop over the next year or so.

  76. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    jack ford: bonds issued by states whose level of debt are as dire as the UK and the US.

    And yet real interest rates are — and continue to be — historically low in both the UK and the US. If investors were so wary of them; this would not be the case.

  77. Harsanyi_Janos: And yet real interest rates are — and continue to be — historically low in both the UK and the US. If investors were so wary of them; this would not be the case.

    While the UK economy is still viewed as a safe place to invest, private investors are currently refusing to do so, which is one of the main reasons we are in such a deep recession. The primary purchaser of UK bonds at present is the Bank of England via QE. Private capital is sitting on its surplus due to lack of demand.

  78. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    John: While the UK economy is still viewed as a safe place to invest, private investors are currently refusing to do so, which is one of the main reasons we are in such a deep recession.

    No, private capital is refusing to invest in non-government debt in the UK. It is not refusing to invest in government debt — you are simply repeating the tired arguments for austerity. The sad fact is that the UK is in a liquidity trap — up against the zero bound of interest rates and so austerity — contrary to what the Treasury seems to think — is making matters worse: not better.

    Most government debt is not being bought by the BoE — it is being bought by pension funds and private banks.

  79. Harsanyi_Janos: And yet real interest rates are — and continue to be — historically low in both the UK and the US.

    They are not ‘real’ in the sense of reflecting the capitalist market – they are being kept artificially low by governments. Surely you know this. The banks do not need individual investors because of unlimited and unconditional government subsidy. Hence low interest rates and the ‘justification’ of austerity for the have nots.

    You might ask yourself where the money has come from that enables private banks to buy government bonds.

    Also while iron and tin etc are indeed finite they are much more available common and therefore less expensive than gold. To pretend otherwise would indeed be ‘silliness’.

  80. Harsanyi_Janos: Most government debt is not being bought by the BoE — it is being bought by pension funds and private banks.

    UK interest rates are low primarily due to monetary independence and Bank of England support – at least according to the WSJ.

    Yes, as I stated, the UK economy is seen as a safe investment, particularly compared to the Eurozone at present, but it is a fact that without Bank of England buying up gilts private holdings would have been dumped leading to a rise in interest rates.

    Holding on to UK gilts is different from investing in more.

  81. Graham Day: the agrarian economy of Hapsburg Spain

    The Hapsburg Empire was bigger than Spain and included the most significant mercantile and manufacturing nodes in Europe.

    But surely you accept Gordon Brown fucked up?

  82. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    “UK interest rates are low primarily due to monetary independence and Bank of England support – at least according to the WSJ.”

    Yes, the Wall Street Journal is chief-most amongst those commentators who repeat the same old austerity arguments that were fashionable in the UK in the 1930s — it used to be called the Bank of England view at the time I believe. If what the WSJ was saying was true — then we would see the price of UK gilts with their low interest rates collapsing and thus their yields sky-rocketing. This is what the WSJ has been predicting for literally years now. It hasn’t happened.

  83. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    SA: The Hapsburg Empire was bigger than Spain and included the most significant mercantile and manufacturing nodes in Europe.

    That depends whether you are talking about Austria pre- or post Prussia’s annexation of Silesia — if it is post then this statement isn’t true.

  84. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    SA: They are not ‘real’ in the sense of reflecting the capitalist market – they are being kept artificially low by governments. Surely you know this.

    Sorry SA; you don’t appear to know what the phrase “real interest rates” means. It means interest rates minus the rate of inflation. Real interest rates are around zero to negative in the US, UK, Germany, etc.

  85. Harsanyi_Janos: Yes, the Wall Street Journal is chief-most amongst those commentators who repeat the same old austerity arguments that were fashionable in the UK in the 1930s —

    You in fact are giving weight to the argument being used by advocates of austerity, because in effect you are saying that the status quo of low interest rates means that the ‘markets’ are happy with the government’s approach to tackling the deficit and national debt and therefore the present course is the right one.

    Obviously the recent loss of the UK’s AAA rating has put a spoke in the wheels of the austerity max approach on its own terms, but the argument holds regardless.

    There is a crisis of investment in the UK economy due to lack of demand and confidence has been eroded as a direct result.

  86. Graham Day on said:

    jack ford: If the UK still had the gold its credit would be far more secure than it is now.

    Our credit is secure at the moment because we have our own currency, more than anything else. It has nothing to do with our gold reserves. Why do you think it does?

    jack ford : The price of gold is going up and will continue to go up and so will silver.

    Really? It will just go up, forever? Even though history shows otherwise?

    SA: Harsanyi_Janos: And yet real interest rates are — and continue to be — historically low in both the UK and the US.

    They are not ‘real’ in the sense of reflecting the capitalist market – they are being kept artificially low by governments.

    I think Harsanyi_Janos was referring to the yields on government bonds rather than the interest rate set by central banks. Long term bond yields are currently hovering slightly above zero in real terms.

    SA: The Hapsburg Empire was bigger than Spain and included the most significant mercantile and manufacturing nodes in Europe.

    So your contention is that the industrial revolution did not in fact start in 19th century Britain, but 16th Century Antwerp? I don’t think so…

    SA: But surely you accept Gordon Brown fucked up?

    Not on this, no. It isn’t about individuals anyway.

    John: There is a crisis of investment in the UK economy due to lack of demand

    That is correct. And the state should be filling the gap by borrowing at the current low interest rates (yields) and investing, rather than cutting. Which is pretty much the current Labour Party position, though it’s being a bit more cautious about expressing it than I’d like.

  87. Graham Day: So your contention is that the industrial revolution did not in fact start in 19th century Britain, but 16th Century Antwerp? I don’t think so…

    Snap nor do I but then again you said it not me.

    I cannot agree about Brown though. plainly he sold a solid asset at a bad time at a poor price. Its hard to deny that or to find reasons why it was actually a good thing.

    Sometimes it is about individuals its hard to imagine the Iraq fiasco without Blair and in Brown’s case his personal impact is on ecomonic decisions including the failure to regulate.

  88. Graham Day on said:

    SA: Graham Day: So your contention is that the industrial revolution did not in fact start in 19th century Britain, but 16th Century Antwerp? I don’t think so…

    Snap nor do I but then again you said it not me.

    I was talking about a modern industrial economy and you started on about the “Hapsburg empire”. As I said, the situations aren’t comparable.

    SA:plainly he sold a solid asset at a bad time at a poor price. Its hard to deny that or to find reasons why it was actually a good thing.

    Where do you get this notion that gold is an asset that is more “solid” than any other? It’s not. In fact, until the last couple of years, gold prices had been pretty flat since the late seventies. So if in 1980 you spent £100 on gold, in 2005 it’s real price would have been about £40. If you spent it on inflation protected bonds, your £100 capital would still be worth £100 in real terms, plus you’d have received interest over the term.

    The price is higher now, but current circumstances (i.e. the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression) are unique and were unforeseeable at the time. You may as well criticise Brown for not sticking the proceeds on Bobbyjo in the 1999 Grand National.

  89. SA: I cannot agree about Brown though. plainly he sold a solid asset at a bad time at a poor price. Its hard to deny that or to find reasons why it was actually a good thing.

    Oh I don’t know, when I was a kid I was fairly sure that the price of Pogs would go on rising indefinitely, and missed out on a perfect opportunity to engage in some playground speculation.

    I was left with nothing but a box of cardboard discs and a propensity for gambling.

    We all make mistakes.

  90. jon fanning on said:

    SA,

    It takes more effort to get gold therefore it is more valuable even though the commodity itself has little discernible use (90% that is dug up goes back underground into bank vaults) thus the labour theory of value is conclusively proved.

  91. Manzil on said:

    I think Gordon Brown should have spent the gold windfall on Cadbury’s fruit and nut bars. The shops never seem to have any when I look, so that must be in proper demand.

  92. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/759/16429/03-04-2013/april-2013-tory-cuts-blitz

    That aging white male Trot has once again written for that radical, nay, boring, socialist newspaper on Austerity in ‘Black April’ and how to fight it; and the question of a Left alternative to the Labour Party. Thought I would like to post it here for all lefties to see and ‘converse’.

    Left Unity:
    “Ken Loach, the socialist, radical film director, understands that New Labour represents a dead end and therefore it is necessary to seek a new road; hence his call for people to sign up to a new ‘left unity’. By so doing, he has opened up a very welcome discussion on the need for a viable alternative to the Labour Party for working class people engaged in the anti-cuts campaigns as well as working people generally looking for an alternative to New Labour.

    But this is not the first time that Ken and others have sought to create a new left force. We have seen previous attempts to form a left party: Scargill’s ill-fated Socialist Labour Party and the Socialist Alliance that Ken Loach himself was involved in. These failed either because of sectarianism – the completely intolerant approach of Arthur Scargill – or the equally narrow and ultimately opportunist approach of the SWP in the Socialist Alliance and in Respect.

    Learning from this, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is the first serious attempt to create the foundations of a new movement expressing the voice of the working class for their own independent party. It is in the best traditions of the labour movement with a federal constitution, and, moreover, unlike other attempts, is firmly based in the trade union movement.

    Therefore, any discussion that is opening up with Ken Loach and his supporters cannot ignore the importance of TUSC. Some, including many of those gathering around Ken Loach, are political grasshoppers leaping light-mindedly from one project to another. Their ‘projects’ invariably failed.

    We do not need at this critical juncture miracle workers searching for an easy route to the solution of the problems of the working class. We need, instead, a mass movement to defeat the cuts – and the trade unions offer the best hope for the vehicle that can do this. On a political level TUSC also offers the best hope for furthering the process of creating a viable new mass workers’ party.”

  93. Vanya on said:

    Jimmy Haddow: because of sectarianism – the completely intolerant approach of Arthur Scargill –

    The then Militant Labour were entirely welcome to join the SLP but refused to do so because it was envisaged that everyone would do so on an equal basis and not be treated differently because they were already in an organisation, a problem you lot shared with the Weekly Worker.

    Jimmy Haddow: the equally narrow and ultimately opportunist approach of the SWP in the Socialist Alliance

    that’s the Socialist Alliance that you lot formed with the Weekly Worker and assorted professional independent lefties who considered themselves to be bigger than the legacy of the miners’ strike, and the SWP who you are currently in TUSC with in spite of the fact that they turned you over in the Socialist Alliance.

  94. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Sorry, I should have clarified when I said “that aging white male Trot” is in fact Peter Taaffe the General secretary of the Socialist Party who wrote the article.

  95. Manzil on said:

    Jimmy Haddow: That aging white male Trot has once again written for that radical, nay, boring, socialist newspaper on Austerity in ‘Black April’ and how to fight it; and the question of a Left alternative to the Labour Party. Thought I would like to post it here for all lefties to see and ‘converse’.

    Do you have to sit on a towel because of all the contempt you’re dripping?

    Although it is in line with Peter Taaffe’s article, which managed to rubbish the People’s Assembly, Arthur Scargill, the Socialist Labour Party, the Socialist Alliance, the SWP, the Communist Party, the Labour Party, Owen Jones and Ken Loach leaving… the SP?

    Jimmy, do you think ‘Loach Unity’ represents “miracle workers searching for an easy route to the solution”? Do you feel people should ignore it: is TUSC the onle “route to the solution”? Do you feel any activity outside of TUSC is an obstacle to a “mass movement against austerity”?

  96. Jimmy Haddow: These failed either because of sectarianism – the completely intolerant approach of Arthur Scargill –

    I would say brother that you’ve got that completely arse for elbow. Otherwise you must be having a laugh.

  97. Jimmy Haddow: It is in the best traditions of the labour movement with a federal constitution, and, moreover, unlike other attempts, is firmly based in the trade union movement.

    Since when was a federal constitution in the best traditions of the labour movement, for example, does the SP have a federal constituion? Or does the SP not follow these best tradiations?

    And you are of course having a giraffe about “firmly based” in the trade union , *really* is it “firmly” based, when it has the precarious support of one small and maverick union?

  98. vanya on said:

    #113 You’re forgetting the POA.

    A discussion between them and fellow TUSC affiliates the SWP about Brian Catton’s call for. he officers involved in the Strangeways riot to be awarded the George Medal or the merits of calling for the Police to be driven off the streets would be interesting.

    As would an in depth discussion about the merits of prisoners injured by officers receiving damages payments.

    In fairness the current leadership of the POA are widely recognised for their efforts to combat racism and organised fascism so I shouldn’t be too sarcastic.

  99. Karl Stewart on said:

    Jimmy Haddow: the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is the first serious attempt to create the foundations of a new movement expressing the voice of the working class for their own independent party.

    This is simply factually incorrect – a lie in other words.

    TUSC is not the “first” attempt and it’s certainly not even your first attempt. You Mils first stood candidates independent of Labour in 1991 – Lesley Mahmood in Walton. That was 22 years ago and you’ve been building your “alternative to Labour” ever since.

    Jimmy Haddow: It is in the best traditions of the labour movement with a federal constitution, and, moreover, unlike other attempts, is firmly based in the trade union movement.

    Another lie. The SLP when it was founded, was supported by leaders of several trade unions, and it had a provision for trade union affiliation.

    JimmyH, argue your politics without lying. TUSC did win a local council by-election a couple of months ago in a small Yorkshire town – that was a small, but significant achievement. Why not look to build sensibly on that rather than telling lies and alienating everyone?

  100. Manzil on said:

    #114. A friend of mine was a prison officer for a while. I’m not saying we should rephrase ACAB as All Cops Are Bolsheviks, but POA didn’t seem that different from any other union in terms of the views expressed.

    Karl Stewart: TUSC did win a local council by-election

    Don’t give Jimmy an excuse to wax eloquent on how “serious” a development it was! Please.

    A town council by-election. With one opponent.

    I could probably get elected to my town council for the “Roman Party, Ave!” Hell, I’d probably get one or two votes if I stood as a “Free the Paedos” candidate, simply because the seat would actually be contested (for once) and people are strange (when you’re a stranger).

  101. Karl Stewart on said:

    Manzil,
    A win’s a win Manzil. It was small scale yes, but they did win the seat fair and square.

    If only they could just be honest, then we could actually engage in serious debate. But sadly they just keep lying.

    They’ve been consistently standing in elections for 22 years, and everyone knows that, but every time they change their electoral name, they pretend it’s something new. No-one’s fooled, it only detracts from their credibility, so why do they keep doing it?

  102. Pete Jones on said:

    #113 and the SLP saw the wielding of the block vote of the North West, Cheshire and Cumbria Miners Association to great effect.

  103. Jota on said:

    Federalism and Andy : ‘in the best traditions of the labour movement’ – I suspect this relates to the foundation and structure of the Labour Representation Committee and fore-runner of the Labour Party.

    Vanya and the SLP: regardless of the attitude of the SP and CPGB to the SLP, we can judge where the organisational model led to.

    Manzil and the election victory of TUSC candidate: My experience suggests that votes for far left candidates are not easily secured. I would have thought that, as an SP member, you may be have some experience of slogging your guts out for paltry votes. You do a disservce to the comrade elected and his supporters to suggest they have not achieved anything of not. Far from a Bradford SPring, perhaps, but not nothing.

    Karl Stewart and SP standing for 22 years under different names: SP members have stood as their own party (although due to electoral rules and thanks to the SPGB – read them weekly on the letters pages of the WW – they appeared as Socialist ALternative). The SP ran as Socialist Alliance candidates – but had to stop doing so after the SWP take-over and wind-down. They know run as TUSC candidates – as part of a wider (although flawed) alliance. Each electoral name has had its own logic. I am sure that SPer would have liked to stand as Socialist Party or Socialist Alliance throughout, but circumstances have changed. To call this ‘lying’ seems a little harsh. Where have SPers claimed that they have only just started contesting elections as TUSC?

    TUSC has failed to take on greater weight for two reasons. Firstly the objective circumstances. Secondly there is very little capacity to take on or inspire large number of unaffiliated lefties. The federal structure was a direct result of the experiences of the SWP take-over (and subsequent destruction) of the SA. Unlike the SP, which tried to be inclusive, the SWP had a ruthless need to dominate. The thinking of behind TUSC is that you can avoid that with federalism until such a time as there is a sufficent membership that any left wing group is not able to pack meetings and fix lists etc. Unfortunately for the SP the outcome of this is the stale largely lifeless TUSC. With the decline of the SWP, the SP should perhaps consider growing some and having more confidence that they can swim rather than drown in the latest Left Unity initiative.

    For me, however, I’m afraid I’m staying in the LP – although I will watch this exciting Left Unity development with interest, and keep my fingers crossed that it isn’t another car-crash.

  104. Manzil on said:

    Jota:
    Manzil and the election victory of TUSC candidate: My experience suggests that votes for far left candidates are not easily secured. I would have thought that, as an SP member, you may be have some experience of slogging your guts out for paltry votes. You do a disservce to the comrade elected and his supporters to suggest they have not achieved anything of not. Far from a Bradford SPring, perhaps, but not nothing.

    There is no sign, literally none, that TUSC’s future will result in anything but derisory votes in any election that matters. If your intention is to change anything, whether by winning office, threatening those who do, or using elections to spread socialist ideas and to build up political organisations of working people, it is a categorical failure. It would be a disservice to ignore that.

    Under no circumstances should a freaking town council by-election be allowed to cover from that simple fact – as many attempted in the aftermath of the Eastleigh disaster.

    My problem is not that wins aren’t “easily secured” (even in the Labour Party it was hard work!) – it’s the widespread and unchallenged assumption that they will be if we just ‘keep on keeping on’, try a bit harder, and wait for the new mass workers’ party to spring forth. All the while finding ways to dismiss anyone that the SP or TUSC (as in the attacks on Left Unity linked to above).

  105. George Hallam on said:

    Manzil: My problem is not that wins aren’t “easily secured” (even in the Labour Party it was hard work!) – it’s the widespread and unchallenged assumption that they will be if we just ‘keep on keeping on’, try a bit harder, and wait for the new mass workers’ party to spring forth.

    Lewisham By-Election (Evelyn Ward) 28th March 2013

    Labour won the bye-election with 978 votes, LPBP got 404, Lib Dems 131, Tory 119, UKIP 119.

    23% vote for Barbara Raymond of Lewisham People Before Profit candidate in the Evelyn Bye-Election.

    Of course LPBP has the advantage of not being a ‘Left’ party.

  106. uncle albert on said:

    George Hallam: Of course LPBP has the advantage of not being a ‘Left’ party.

    And that is a very significant advantage. Well done with the result, 23% is not to be sneezed at.

  107. Manzil on said:

    As uncle albert says, well done!

    George Hallam: Of course LPBP has the advantage of not being a ‘Left’ party.

    How would you describe LPBP, George? And what do think the… not-Left(?) could learn from it?

  108. Omar on said:

    Jota: TUSC has failed to take on greater weight for two reasons. Firstly the objective circumstances. Secondly

    Jota,
    “Objective circumstances” covers a fair amount of ground,I’d say. Seems to me and much of the target electorate,I suspect, that TUSC only exists as an electoral lash-up, with the constituent parts operating on their own most of the time. To win support, even of unafilliated leftists, you need to build roots in the community and forge links with other community groups on a day-in,day-out basis under a united party banner. You also need a unity of direction and purpose. Neither of these things are well served if the electoral project is a part-time one. You either shit or get off the pot.

  109. Jota on said:

    I agree Omar, both with your analysis of the flaws of TUSC and the fact that objective circumstances covers a lot of ground, such as electoral system, working class consciousness, Labour in opposition, low level of industrial disputes, historic links between LP and TUs etc, etc. I suppose the question is whether you believe these objective circumstances preclude a successful Left of Labour project (as Andy Newman believes) or precludes a successful Left of Labour project AT THIS TIME (which seems to be the logic of the SP in pushing the maintainence of their own organisation over the the building of a broader leftwing party – keeping TUSC ticking over without following the SML to SSP model) or doesn’t preclude it at all, which seems to be the thinking of the Left Unity people.

    I’m in the first camp, but would love to be convinced.

  110. Omar on said:

    Well, I don’t think it precludes it, but it is, as I was suggesting, a project that requires time to build and a willingness to put aside factional interests and jettison some of the more outmoded ideologies. Even if the function of a new party is to pull Labour leftward, that would be an achievement in itself. The weakness of the current Labour Left (for various reasons) has been demonstrated by their inability to even get their candidates selected to contest by-elections so I’m not sure this notion of “changing the LP from within” is particularly useful or realistic.

  111. Karl Stewart on said:

    George Hallam: Of course LPBP has the advantage of not being a ‘Left’ party.

    If it’s not on the political left, then the number of votes you get is no more relevant than any other “non-political-independent” local candidate.

    As for the Ken Loach “Left Unity” call, it’s a petition, nothing else yet.

  112. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: If it’s not on the political left, then the number of votes you get is no more relevant than any other “non-political-independent” local candidate.

    This is an excellent example of the sort of a priori reasoning that dooms the ‘Left’ to impotence.

  113. vanya on said:

    #128 Ok so now you’ve reiterated your low opinion of Karl’s reasoning skills, how about telling us what’s wrong with what he says?

    While a bit of a cliche, the expression ‘noone likes a smartarse’, nevertheless contains more than a grain of truth.

  114. Karl Stewart on said:

    George Hallam,

    An apolitical “independent” local authority candidate is utterly irrelevant to a discussion on the future of the left.

  115. George Hallam on said:

    vanya: Ok so now you’ve reiterated your low opinion of Karl’s reasoning skills, how about telling us what’s wrong with what he says?

    I would have thought it was obvious.

    Karl Stewart: If it’s not on the political left, then..

    As self-identfing ‘Lefts’ on this site have often said, the politics of the Left are a bit of a mess. So the assumption that “the political left” is the be-all and end-all of things significant seems open to question.

  116. vanya on said:

    What’s silly about the ‘ discussion’ between Karl and George is that objectively LPBP has a programme that very clearly puts it objectively on the left, and therefore its electoral success or otherwise is of definite relevance.

    The fact that it isn’t a front for or creature of one of the various sects makes it only more so.

  117. George Hallam on said:

    vanya,

    Well done for going to the trouble of reading LPBP’s manifesto.

    If you think it is ‘ objectively Left” then that is your affair.

    However, I must point out that by finding out about something before expressing your opinion you have, objectively, become non-Left.

  118. Vanya on said:

    #134 Nice one George being silly is far more endearing than being a smartarse.

  119. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya:
    #134 Nice one Georgebeing silly is far more endearing than being a smartarse.

    I’m not interested in popularity. I want to get people to think so they can act in a productive way.

    Of course, I enjoy the jokes as well.

  120. Karl Stewart on said:

    George Hallam: vanya, finding out about something before expressing your opinion…

    That’s a fair point GeorgeH. And now I’ve taken a look at the LPBP website I have to say it looks like a positive initiative.

    Point taken!

  121. Morning Star reader on said:

    Condolences Vanya. Could you tell us any more about your mum – just to make the contrast between a socially useful life and the one that’s ended today.

  122. Great to see Left Unity getting off the ground in Brighton…

    Good to see the involvement in the Sussex University anti-privatisation campaign .. a beacon of hope…(I was there on the demo, as indeed on the 2010 demos against sackings/ dismissals (I’m a former MA student at Sussex Uni, and a former Governor of the University)

    I’ve been involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) (as their parliamentary candidate in Brighton Kemptown) and, before Blair neoliberalised the Labour Party, turning it into another Conservative/ pro-privatisation, imperialist party, stood twice for Labour as Parliemantary candidate in Brighton Pavilion

    Now? I’m a member of Socialist Resistance, a small, internally democratic and pluralist Marxist party… but I’ve spent many years, as I guess, have many on the Left Unity lists, trying to bring sections , members, parties of the socialist and Marxist left together with trade unions and organised workers- and indeed, with less vertically organised groups such as UKUncit, the Occupy and TentCity movements.

    I think we have to move beyond TUSC, which is not as open to newcomers and individual membership and the adhesion of various socialist / marxist groups as it should be… it is, however, important in the upcoming discussions about the way forwards, for Left Unity to seek a democratic and open and transparent relationship with parties and members of parties such as the SWP and the SP, many of whom have reservations about aspects of their parties’ functionisn of course…and to develop a relationship with radical trade unions and their members… as well as broadening to include, as I say above, less vertically/ hierarchically organised groups and movements

    actually, in Brighton the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition was and is a good model in its heyday of 2009-2011 (it still exists and functions, but, for the current period, some oomph has gone out of it… it’ll come back!… ) A couple of features are that it is inclusive and not dominarted by any one group, and, secondly, it was/ is wide-ranging- at one time around 50 groups/ associations/ organisations were affiliated

    In Solidarity and Hope for a Left Unity socialist party opposing all the neoliberal parties, and seeking to work for a socialist future…

    Dave Hill
    Research Professor of Education at Anglia Ruskin University
    Activist in Socialist Resistance and in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Former regional Chair of NATFHE (HE) the lecturers’ union (now UCU)

  123. dave hill: important in the upcoming discussions about the way forwards, for Left Unity to seek a democratic and open and transparent relationship with parties and members of parties such as the SWP and the SP, many of whom have reservations about aspects of their parties’ functionisn of course…and to develop a relationship with radical trade unions and their members

    #chairs #rearrange #titanic

  124. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: #chairs #rearrange #titanic

    The Titanic 2202 people on board when it hit the iceberg: 1,317 had passengers and 885 crew.

    I hate to bring up the topic of the SWP again, but isn’t 2202 very similar to the estimated active membership of that troubled group.

    Further, the Titanic’s ratio of passengers to crew has an uncanny similarity to the SWP’s ratio of rank and file members to full-time officials.