REPORT OF THE LEFT UNITY MEETING DEC 19 2009 LUCAS ARMS
PRESENT: Green Left (Jane Ennis; Simon Sedgewick-Jell); RDG (Steve Freeman); Socialist Alliance (Gerry Byrne, Pete McLaren); tUSP (Steve Ballard); Socialist Party (Clive Heemskerk); Left Alternative (Toby Abse); DLP (Dave Church); AWL (Martin Thomas)
APOLOGIES – CNWP
It was agreed that due to the late arrival of Gerry Byrne, Pete McLaren would chair
DEVELOPMENTS POST NO2EU
Clive Heemskerk (SP) reported back from the Post No2EU 'Core Group' which had held five meetings since June to try and build a Coalition for the General Election. He began by expressing the need to be sensitive – a process was under way, involving left organisations and individuals from trade unions and political organisations. There were many political currents and political perspectives involved, therefore sensitivity was needed. There was still some residual support for voting Labour to stop the Tories. There were issues of protocol and confidence. This all made it difficult for him to present everything, but he would do his best and attempt to answer questions.
He outlined how the process had arisen out of No2EU. A number of TU leaders had expresed support in a personal capacity, including Bob Crow, Chris Baugh (PCS), John McInally (PCS) and Brian Caton (POA). It had been provisionally agreed to have a Steering Committee which operated by consensus, and to contest all Cabinet Ministers' seats as a minimum - more were likely. Local groups, as in Lewisham and Wigan, would be encouraged to become part of the Coalition whilst retaining their local autonomy. Some core policies had been agreed, and these would be circulated after the next meeting on January 7th, at which meeting the electoral title for the Coalition would be agreed following internal consultation within component parts. Supportive organizations and individuals will be able to get involved, but organisations need to have some 'social weight' and be able to work by consensus. Submissions from organisations already wanting to take part would also be discussed on January 7th. He concluded by stressing the importance of local campaigns getting involved.
In the discussion which followed, the following questions were raised by Martin Thomas, AWL:
- If trade unions do support the initiative, what scope would they have for affecting the shape of it?
- Would the policies be based on the Peoples Charter?
- Will the Coalition respond to political points made by organisations like the AWL?
- How is 'social weight' defined?
- How can other organisations influence the project?
- Why is an organisation's attitude to No2EU important? Is it a criteria for Post No2EU?
Clive Heemskerk answered these questions. The SP hoped trade unions would appoint representatives to the steering committee and shape the Coalition how they wished. The SP had written to the RMT and POA to invite them to do so. The core policies agreed so far were not based on the Peoples Charter, and they are not controversial. One example was opposition to privatization. Supporting organisations can supplement them by producing their own material. No criteria has been laid down to determine 'social weight', and all organisational requests to get involved will be looked at on merit. What has been agreed so far can be modified, and local initiatives will be able to add their input if they become part of the Coalition.
The following points were made during the general discussion:
- We need working class unity, but around what issues? Private ownership of the means of production must be challenged
- We must be careful not to set up something that will lead to defeat and demoralization
- We need a trade union based party to challenge the capitalist parties and their cuts agenda
- We should join the Coalition as part of a working class perspective. It is not about winning seats (which we won't) but putting up a political fight and preparing the working class for the struggle after the election. We must campaign for defending the working class against cuts etc. and argue for real democracy against the present corrupt parliamentary system and for social ownership
- The Coalition will not have membership; it will not be a Party. It will be a type of federation, and organisations that take part will be able to influence it
- Left members of the Green Party can not join the Coalition, but they can help build local coalitions to find the best left candidate
- The lateness of knowing the Coalition's name is a problem when building locally
- The Coalition should be inclusive and not put obstacles in the way of organizations joining
- The Coalition will be just that – a Coalition for the General Election, not a new Party. However, it can become an important part of the process of moving towards a new Left party
- If not happy with the registered title, organizations can use their own name as part of the Coalition
- We can not really sign up until we know the Coalition's title and policies
- We need a national Coalition to co-ordinate local campaigns
- We need to be ready after the Election to build a proto-type party
Martin Thomas (AWL) asked a further series of questions:
- What else is in the core policies, and are they open to discussion after January 7th?
- Has the Coalition talked to the SWP?
- What is the envisaged procedure for selecting candidates? Can local groups nominate candidates and seek endorsement from the Coalition?
- Would the coalition name be kept short so that other groups could add their electoral titles to that of the coalition within the six-word legal limit for ballot-paper descriptions?
Clive Heemskerk responded to the questions and replied to the debate. The provisional programme includes a reformulation of Clause 4 on public ownership as well as opposing privatization. Local candidates would control their own campaigns, hopefully under the Coalition name whilst using their own name as well in publicity if they wish. The existence of the coalition will itself create a debate about the need for working class political representation within the trade union movement, with attacks on the coalition likely as well as support for it. The coalition will have its core policies, but some coalition candidates may well decide to stand on the Peoples Charter. Comrades should get involved with the Coalition through their organizations, as tUSP were doing in Liverpool. There had been some discussion with the SWP who are discussing standing a limited number of candidates. He concluded by accepting that the delay in agreeing an electoral title had been frustrating, and he confirmed the word 'socialist' was included in the proposed title at present under discussion.
Pete McLaren, in the Chair, thanked Clive for keeping the LULC, and hence the left, up to date, and reminded comrades that there were sensitivities involved which prevented more information being released at this stage, and he asked delegates present to respect those sensitivities by not making any public announcements until the Core Organisations had consulted and reported back in January
REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST CONVENTION REPORT
Steve Freeman (RDG) reported that the Convention was taking place at London South Bank University on February 13th. The first session was on the Crisis of Democracy and a republican progranmme, with invited speakers including Tony Benn, Peter Tatchell (confirmed), Robert Griffiths (confirmed), Peter Taaffe (SP confirmed they would provide a speaker which may be Peter Taffe) and Colin Fox (confirmed) The second session was on Republican socialism and the national question, and the third session was on Republican Socialism and the General Election, with invited speakers including John McDonnell MP, Bob Crow, Joseph Healey (confirmed) and Colin Fox (confirmed). The Convention was sponsored by the SSP, SA and Green Left and further sponsors were being sought.
MOTION ON LEFT UNITY AT THE GENERAL ELECTION from Rugby Red Green Alliance
Rugby Red Green Alliance (RRGA) believes that it is essential that all parts of the left (Socialist and Green Left) at a national and more importantly local level, enter into discussion with each other as soon as possible with the aim of ensuring that working people are given every chance to vote against the neoliberalist parties (Tory, Lab and Lib Dems) and the BNP, by promoting left candidates in each constituency and attempting to find agreement on supporting the 'best placed' left (socialist, green or community candidate) in a particular constituency at the next General Election.
The real enemy at the next election is not your fellow socialist or green but those parties that support attacking the working class, to pay for their policies and mistakes.
The RRGA would ask all socialists and greens to consider the fact, that, while we may have some differences in political ideas – what is true is that on 80% of issues WE ALL SHARE A COMMON POSITION – especially around issues like cuts in public services, the war and against racism and
Unite and fight against the bosses' parties and the Fascists and give working people a chance to vote for positive ideas!
Pete McLaren moved, explaining that the motivation was a need to avoid clashes between socialists, although he accepted those in the Green Party would be standing on the Party manifesto which was not socialist. He suggested discussions were needed at both local and national levels, and felt the Socialist Green Unity Coalition (SGUC) was the best body nationally to deal with clash avoidance as that was its raison d'etre. A number of points were made in the discussion, as follows:
• The Green Party was not socialist, so why should they stand aside?
• There are socialists inside the Green party who want to work with others
• In Lewisham, socialists had agreed not to stand against the Green party in the General Election, but
the Green party would not agree to stand aside in the Council elections
• The problem lies with the policies Green politicians adopt once in power, as Darren Johnson is
• The Green Party in Ireland is attacking workers by putting through horrendous spending cuts
• The best opportunity to effect politics at present is through the Green party
• The Green Party in Germany supported the use of nuclear energy once in power
• Local working and local arrangements are important
Following the discussion, it was agreed to support the idea of clash avoidance and send the motion to the SGUC for action
DATE OF NEXT LEFT UNITY MEETING – This was agreed as February 6th, 3.15 – 5.15pm, at the
Lucas Arms – which has now been booked
Pete McLaren 22/12/09
LULC Meeting Report December 19 2009