Saturday 30 November will see the founding conference of Left Unity.
Left Unity was launched in late 2012 by Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin. It reached a wider audience after film maker Ken Loach and left-wing academic Gilbert Achcar sent an open letter to the Guardian in March 2013, promoting Left Unity as a new party to challenge Labour from the left.
The organisers of Left Unity claim to have struck a chord with the public — thousands have signed up to the appeal and even more have “liked” it on social media. There’s some truth to this claim; the media publicity has undoubtedly given Left Unity a larger audience than most left-wing regroupments enjoy, but how much this online interest translates into people becoming actively involved remains to be seen.
The Founding Conference will discuss and vote on a range of business, from a Safe Spaces policy, to priority campaigns, party name, and aims. It is the last category which will likely prove most controversial.
A number of platforms have been produced by different political tendencies in Left Unity, each outlining the kind of organisation they hope the project to come, and setting down a basic political programme.
Although this debate is supposed to defend LU’s basic aims, just 54 minutes have been given to it: three minutes to explain each platform, and just 20 minutes for speakers from the floor of conference.
The two major positions in the debate are the “Left Party Platform” and the “Socialist Platform”. The LPP has the backing of Hudson, Burgin, and Achcar, and senior ISN figures Richard Seymour and Tom Walker.
The LPP conceives of Left Unity as a broad, pluralistic “left” party on the model of the electorally successful Die Linke, Syriza and Parti de Gauche in Europe.
The rightward drift of Labour, so the argument runs, provides an opening for a new party to soak up the votes of disillusioned Labour voters by tacking just to the left of Labour.
The language of the LPP is deliberately vague and non-specific. The party should be “anti-capitalist”, in favour of a “transformed society” and against “neo-liberalism”. Will this party tinker with capitalism or replace it? The Platform doesn’t tell us, and deliberately so.
The “Socialist Platform” proposes Left Unity should be an explicity working-class socialist organisation. Where the LPP is designedly vague, the SP makes it clear that Left Unity should seeks to end capitalist rule, and replace it with the democratic, collective rule of the working-class.
The last few months have seen local meetings in which the relative merits of the platforms have been debated. Many of those debates have gone to the root of whether socialist activists should hide their politics in favour of (vain) hopes of short-term popularity, or whether we should work to honestly convince people of our class-struggle ideas.
Workers’ Liberty thinks that the SP side of the debate is the right side and will be arguing for the adoption of the Socialist Platform at this Saturday’s conference.