Four days after the day after tomorrow

May 29, 2009

All the talking will be over and the polls will be hours away from closing.  As I write, the last of the sects have pronounced their views (with the usual highhandedness, as if something depends on it), and the polls are all over the place.  One minute the BNP are destined for nothing, the next several seats.

What is clear is that the left is going to get nothing, and the best we can hope for is a good vote to avoid discrediting the idea of a new left alternative to New Labour, which surely must be prepared from soon after the election is over.  In the post below, Duncan warns against a new Socialist Alliance, and I would agree with him on this point.  But the model of No2EU – Yes to Democracy has been a union funding and launching the intiative, which is then shaped by the organisations that have joined it, namely the CPB and the SP.  With the PCS seemingly going down the road of involving its members in a decision over whether to intervene in the political sphere, perhaps this is the model for the next general election.

Where I disagree with Duncan is maintaining the status quo of merely having local ‘non-aggression pacts’ between competing left groups.   The times we are living in calls for a major left force, and while I am not one to fetishise unity above all else, some measure of limited left unity is required, in a party with union backing.  Such a party might only begin as an electoral coalition, with the prospect of a federal party somewhere on the horizon.  The limited left unity requires having a certain minimum requirement for parties to join.

This might include specific issues (as the support of the Lindsey strike was for No2EU), but also general matters such as how the organisation works with others in broader organisations.  That would exclude the SWP for instance, whose presence is invariably toxic.  A successful organisation needn’t include all the left, or even a majority, but have a strong activist base from the unions and parties involved, and reach out to workers dissatisfied with the main parties.

Though these Euro Elections are likely to be a disappointment for the left, hopefully out of it will come something more substantial and significant for the general election, and for the fight against the savage Tory government that will take over after it.

There are things I can think of that are critical in the formation of any new party:

1. Unite over a series of points that can form the basis of a decent electoral programme, but allow individuals and groups to argue for other additional programmatic points.  There should be no compulsion to advance ever further towards increased integration, and if organisations working in the new party want to maintain their structures they should be allowed to.

2. Launch and build the party openly and democratically.  The PCS seems to be doing the right thing, embarking on a wide ranging discussion and consultation with members.  This stands in stark contrast with the undemocratic foisting of No2EU onto RMT members by the leadership.  The launch conference for the party should be after a period of discussions and meetings at a local level, with interested parties but also ordinary members of the public.  A similar method was used in the launching of the New Anticapitalist Party in France.

3. Insist that all elected representatives take no more than the average wage of the people they represent, and they don’t get involved in administrations where they end up acting like a capitalist party.

4. Don’t pick a stupid name like Respect.  Just because we intend to do things differently from mainstream parties doesn’t mean we can’t have a name that is recognisably that of a political party, not an FA ‘be nice to referees’ campaign.

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