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