Here are some suggestions from Andrew Burgin/Kate Hudson of the November 14th Movement for Left Unity. Engage. I have missed off the preamble on the crisis we face in the interests of brevity.
On what basis can this discussion begin?
Basic principles and common practice:
1. A self-definition as Left; presenting an alternative set of values of equality and justice, not constrained by notions of ‘revolutionary’ left; informed by Marxism but not a pre-condition to engagement.
2. A broadly conceived opposition to capitalism, imperialism, war and racism, understood in a popular sense; defence of the welfare state and advance of redistributive social and economic policies.
3. A democratic, diverse and inclusive political practice; open dialogue and new ways of working; mutual respect and tolerance of differences of analysis; rejection of brutality and distortion of traditional left structures and their frequent reproduction of the gender domination of capitalist society.
4. International solidarity; working with other left organisations in Europe and internationally to build coordination, strategic links and common work.
5. A recognition that the situation is so urgent that sectarian interests must be abandoned which means compromise and a willingness not to be ‘in the lead’.
Organisational options for discussion:
1. Coalition model: e.g. Syriza – electorally-based coalition uniting over a dozen smaller groups around larger Synaspismos (from communist tradition).
2. Coalition model: e.g. Front de Gauche – electorally-based coalition of a number of groups around larger PCF (French Communist Party) and newer Parti de Gauche, originating in left social democrat split from French Socialist Party (Melenchon). Both Syriza and F de G are similar in many respects to Izquierda Unida in Spain and Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal.
3. Party model: e.g. Die Linke (German Left Party) – development from former ruling East German Socialist Unity Party, via PDS, encompassing WASG (left social democrats – Lafontaine) and revolutionary left groups; political differences articulated through Platforms.
1. The political future for the left in Britain cannot be resolved by sticking together existing left groups; there are newly emerging and evolving groupings and individuals that want to be part of the process.
2. The lack of serious electoral possibility owing to ‘first past the post’ system means that an electoral coalition would be putting the cart before the horse.
3. No single party exists that could play the role of a PDS or Synaspismos in creating a new organisation or coalition.
4. How to simultaneously develop individual participation as well as organisational participation?
Steps for facilitating this discussion:
1. Setting up a website to pose such a united left option; publishing and commissioning broadly representative articles and debate pieces to explore willingness to take a new approach.
2. Organising series of discussion meetings on key topics, looking for common ground, such as: attitude towards Labour Party and Labour left; relationship with trade unions; relationship with social movements and anti-cuts groups; posing alternative economic policies; addressing gender and race balance in process; relations with European organisations. To publish the discussion at these meetings.
3. Convention to take further steps towards establishing a Left organisation.
Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin