Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

A new party of the left comes one step closer

Salman Shaheen of Left Unity, the group supporting Ken Loach’s call for a new left party in Britain, reports from its first national meeting

May 16, 2013
4 min read

When Ken Loach launched an appeal to discuss founding a new party to the left of Labour in March, it sparked a wave of enthusiasm. Within a few weeks, more than 8,000 people signed up and around 100 local groups were established across the country.

It isn’t hard to see why. Austerity is devastating Britain. While the Conservative-led government is giving tax breaks to the richest individuals and biggest corporations, it is driving the most vulnerable people in the country deeper into poverty with public service cuts and the bedroom tax, which tragically claimed its first victim when Stephanie Bottrill committed suicide because she could not afford the £80 a month charge. Labour’s response to the Tories’ ideological assault on the poor has been weak, and its abstention on workfare a betrayal. The need for a new party to represent the interests of the working class, which have been ignored far too long by the three main parties, has never been greater.

On Saturday, Left Unity held its first national meeting, bringing together around 100 elected delegates from many of the local groups that have sprung up over the last few weeks in answer to Loach’s call. Some came from small towns where groups had only a handful of members. Others, such as the delegates from Brighton, spoke of vibrant and big meetings – Brighton already has a signed-up membership of more than 200 people.

Sitting in the same room together, these were no longer names on a signature sheet, but passionate activists from a vast range of left-wing traditions. Many of the familiar old alphabet soup far-left groups were represented. But there were also young campaigners from Occupy and UK Uncut, anarchists, Greens, trade unionists, disaffected Labour supporters and dozens who had never been involved in any party before, but wanted to change the world all the same.

With such a diverse group coming together for the first time, there were inevitably going to be disagreements. It proved too difficult to agree a statement of principles in such a short space of time, for example. But the meeting voted to move towards a founding conference in November and overwhelmingly supported the idea that a new party of the left should not be a patchwork coalition of far-left groups hastily thrown up as a temporary electoral front, but should be an active campaigning organisation built around the basic democratic principle of one member one vote.

‘We have been through some bitter experiences and we need to learn from the past,’ Loach said to the meeting. ‘We absolutely need to be a democratic party and I support the principle of one member, one vote. We’ve had groups trying to take projects over, we’ve had manipulations behind closed doors and we don’t want that again.’

‘Just like we don’t want one dominating group, we don’t want any charismatic leaders,’ he added, clearly expressing his desire not to be an unaccountable figurehead for the new party. Indeed, despite Loach’s appeal, much of the hard work has been done by the local groups, which have grown organically with their own ideas and ways of working, and Left Unity has been built from the bottom up. This must continue over the coming months as Left Unity moves towards its founding conference and the beginning of a vital new party of the left.

For too long the left has been divided and weak, its energies exhausted on sectarian splits. And absolutely no one in the real world cared. If, as Loach said, Left Unity is to learn from the mistakes of the past, it must be transparent, open, inclusive and democratic. If, as so many people at Saturday’s meeting said, we want to make a difference, we must first put aside our own differences.

The time for Left Unity is now.

leftunity.org
www.salmanshaheen.com

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Empire en Vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.


229