We can’t wish a new left party into existence

Michael Calderbank offers an alternative view of Ken Loach’s appeal to discuss a new party
20 March 2013

In a week when Labour chose not to oppose the coercion of the unemployed into unpaid work for profitable companies, it’s only to be expected that activists start to give serious thought to the need for an alternative.

But at the same time there is a gulf between wanting to see it and being able to realise that ambition. Ken Loach himself has been here before, as a previous advocate of both the Socialist Alliance and Respect, both of which failed to live up to their potential. It is important to understand the lessons of these experiences, and what problems any such attempt faces today.

For one thing, the field isn’t entirely clear. We already have the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), even if its performance so far gives little reason for encouragement.

And while the Green Party might have greater appeal to liberal middle class professionals than to working class communities, they will nevertheless compete to an extent with any new left party unless an accommodation can be reached. The situation in Scotland and Wales is further complicated by the role of the nationalists.

And as we approach the general election, the key priority of voters angry at the coalition will be its defeat and removal, which given our first past the post electoral system is likely see people voting Labour, even if they have to hold their noses to do so.

This is not a counsel of despair, but to recognise that building the foundations for a viable anti-austerity politics will take time. The success of Syriza in Greece, another key development influencing recent thinking on the left, holds lessons here. It emerged precisely as a coalition rather than a party, with the very specific priority of giving practical support to movements which were emerging in the streets, community and workplaces. Only now, nearly 10 years on, is it beginning to slowly, carefully develop the structures of a party.

Ken Loach is right about the crisis of representation, but it won’t be put right overnight. In the meantime, we have to coalesce in practical forms of resisting austerity. In time, this might yet find the kind of electoral expression that thousands want to see.

Michael Calderbank is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective. He is also a parliamentary researcher for a group of trade unions.


University should not be a debt factory

Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan

A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

New Cross fights new wave of housing privatisation

Lewisham residents object to a new trend in local authority housing developments

Stand-off with prison profiteers at the Tower of London

Marienna Pope-Weidemann reports on disruption at the European Custody and Detention Summit

Rupert Ferguson 22 March 2013, 00.45

This is just the sort of garbage I would expect from a Parliamentary Labour Party hired lackey. When Tony Blair hijacked the Labour Party on behalf of the same vested interests who had financed the Tories under Thatcher many of those who refused to go along with it were frozen out. Calderbank’s problem is he will never be even half the man, never mind the intellect that Ken Loach is, and that is why any alternative to Ken Loach that is put forward by Calderbank cuts no ice with those who can recognize the truth for what it is! Those of us Scots with Jacobite Highland ancestry know only too well what it is like to be bought and sold for English gold and hireling traitors wages! Now the English Working Class are being taught the same savage lesson by the same vested interests that enslaved us more than two centuries ago! Spicing up the Left enough for all of you? I hope so!


Robboh 22 March 2013, 07.38

Its simple, the left at the moment is only interested in talking to its own members in its own language. It has no interest in reaching out to the wider public and their concerns. All we have is the usual suspects talking about Lenin on their catwalks, or trying to outdo each other with their “politicking”. While they squabble the cuts agenda goes on. Its a joke.

ian 27 March 2013, 00.56

I wonder how many parties there are on the left currently-from trots to leninist to mao to infinity and beyond, endless splitting, fracturing, breaking and forming of grandiose little sects proclaiming they are the true bearers of the historical mantel, condemning all others as whatever;liquidationist, sectarian, revisionist: how does a poor person choose in such desperate times as these, with so many paranoid projections and so much distorted thinking abounding-so a new party-do we really need a new party-can’t we come up with something less exclusive, something less elitist, something potentially less devisive and just plain crazy than the legacy of the left in this country in the twentieth century?

John Richmond 29 March 2013, 23.51

I am in English speaking Canada but I can certainly relate to this debate. We need a broad based, inclusive, progressive movement-based politics like the MAS in Bolivia or Quebec Solidaire. It would take a few years to build such an alternative but it could be done. Too many people no longer believe in our existing political parties for the status quo to continue indefinitely. The questions is only: do we seize the day or not? Let’s reach out today and get started. Everywhere!

Nick Long 30 March 2013, 22.56

Michael Calderbank I think had understimated the reception Ken Loach’s call for a new left party has made. I have been involved in all the left party exercises of the last 10+ years and this latest move appears to be the most promising. Thousands have supported the call in only a few days. Secondly, the largest ultra left sects appear to be have been taken off guard and are not leading the call, thankfully, or this will be the kiss of death. The SWP seem preoccupied with attempting to stauch the flood of members hemoraging their organisation. The SP struggling to build their stalled coalition, especally after Eastleigh. All the signs look promising.

antoni 1 April 2013, 08.59

Dear friends, as a comrand from Greece I would like to make a short note. It is interesting and inspiringfull that you are taking accound the syriza experience. But syriza now, as always, was constantly focusing on hard debates upon issues of internal democracy vs bureaucrasy and substitution. Sorry this is the real life!if you will stay to wait when a mass party like syriza will appear to start discussing democratically among you of course this an option

Comments are now closed on this article.

Red Pepper · 44-48 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JP · +44 (0)20 7324 5068 · office[at]redpepper.org.uk
Advertise · Press · Donate
For subscriptions enquiries please email subs@redpepper.org.uk