It would be easy to be snide about Left Unity’s 29 March policy making conference but that would be unfair.
Left Unity has over 1,500 paying members and 200 signed up in a couple of days in late March after it got serious media publicity.
Around 200 members attended the conference that tried to set out its positions on the economy, the NHS, housing, immigration, Europe, anti-racism, foregn policy and electoral strategy. For a one-day conference with people with a wide range of views on the left it did fairly well, even if the debate was often limited and sometimes confusing.
The main confusion was whether Left Unity was developing an election manifesto that aimed to be “broad” and “realistic” or was developing as a party that focuses on workers’ campaigns and struggles.
In the main members backed active campaigning but there were a few moments where a desire to go mainstream and be a new soft-left came to the fore.
A motion on austerity which “welcomes the agenda for hope published by Owen Jones… We see this as an achievable minimum five year programme and will seek to build a progressive consensus around it” was enthusiastically backed by at least one of the socialist groups involved, Socialist Resistance. It won a majority.
Things were a bit clearer on Left Unity’s approach to the EU. Despite a confusing debate the conference strongly backed a proposal that “Left Unity opposes all demends for a British withdrawal from the European Union”. When it came to a vote on a clear abstention position in a referendum, though, a majority, prompted by Socialist Resistance, opted to defer discussion.
A big new start for the left? No. A serious discussion on how to take the left and rebuilding socialist politics forward? Maybe. Worth working with and campaigning alongside? Yes.