REGULAR readers of my blog will know that my passions in life are clear: my family and friends, the words and music of Bob Dylan and my home town football team Brighton and Hove Albion.
Behind those Earthly passions I am a lifelong pacifist and a socialist.
But sometimes I can’t help but wonder what’s happening to my country, my world and my companions.
I look around me and watch our welfare state being torn apart by David Cameron’s politics of austerity. The NHS, welfare benefits, the post office, local councils, social services, education, the fire service – nothing has been safe from their axe.
The Labour Party, who should be standing and campaigning against all this, have failed again and again to do so. They have even joined in with attacking the poorest, instead of the real culprits: the rich and the bankers who ruined the economy while lining their own pockets.
Even our trade unions are distancing themselves from Labour in digust.
No one should have to choose between heating and eating, no one should have to pay for their healthcare or education – and everyone should have a roof over their head. It’s that simple.
And neither have we learned the lessons of Iraq or Afghanistan. Once again we are hanging onto the coat hem of the USA in taking an aggressive stance against Russian involvement in the Crimea, while supporting a fascist Ukraine. We don’t need thousands more deaths of innocent people by any military posturing or worse still involvement.
As I hinted in my earlier post this week: https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/all-he-believes-are-his-eyes-and-his-eyes-they-just-tell-him-lies-2/ and in another post: https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/youre-the-one-that-reached-me-youre-the-one-that-i-admired/ I have lost confidence with any major political party in this country to provide social and just government and turn back the cruel tide of capitalist politics.
I found myself agreeing with Russell Brand that either we need a bloodless revolution to change the status quo or I remain sitting on my backside and give in to nihilism.
Or is there another option? Is there a realistic left wing alternative?
I think I may have found one.
For the first time since I was 20 years-old I have joined a political party to help give meaningful hope and action in the bleakness around me.
I have joined Left Unity.
“This is a new kind of party, with feminism, socialism and environmentalism at its heart. It’s a party that supports the campaigns and struggles of ordinary people, for public services, for equality, and for real democracy.”
Left Unity was only formed last November and already its membership is burgeoning.
Here I post its two founding statements. Much more can be found on the party’s website at: http://leftunity.org/. If you agree with me, please consider joining too.
1. Left Unity stands for equality and justice. It is socialist, feminist, environmentalist and against all forms of discrimination. We stand against capitalism, imperialism, war, racism, Islamophobia and fascism. Our goal is to transform society: to achieve the full democratisation of state and political institutions, society and the economy, by and for the people.
2. Our immediate tasks are to oppose austerity policies designed to destroy the social and economic gains working people have made over many decades; to oppose the scapegoating which accompanies them; to defend the welfare state and those worst affected by the onslaught; to fight to take back into public ownership those industries and utilities privatised over the last three decades; to fight to restore workers’ rights; and to advance alternative social and economic policies, redistributing wealth to the working class.
3. We are socialist because our aim is to end capitalism. We will pursue a society where the meeting of human needs is paramount, not one which is driven by the quest for private profit and the enrichment of a few. The natural wealth, and the means of production, distribution and exchange will be owned in common and democratically run by and for the people as a whole, rather than being owned and controlled by a small minority to enrich themselves. The reversal of the gains made in this direction after 1945 has been catastrophic and underlines the urgency of halting and reversing the neo-liberal onslaught.
4. We are feminist because our vision of society is one without the gender oppression and exploitation which blights the lives of women and girls and makes full human emancipation impossible. We specify our feminism because historical experience shows that the full liberation of women does not automatically follow the nationalisation of productive forces or the reordering of the economy.
5. We are environmentalist because we recognise that if humankind is to survive, it has to establish a sustainable relationship with the rest of the natural world – of which it is part and on which it depends. We recognise that an economy based on achieving maximum profits at the lowest cost in the shortest possible time is destroying our planet. The current operation of industry and economy is totally incompatible with the maintenance of the ecosystem through the growing loss of bio and agro diversity, the depletion of resources and increasing climate change. The future of the planet can only be secured through a sustainable, low carbon industrial base designed to meet people’s needs on a global basis.
6. We are opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether on the basis of class, gender, race, impairment, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, religion, age or politics. The current economic onslaught disproportionately affects already disadvantaged groups and we oppose their persecution and oppression. We support the introduction of legislation and social provision to make this intention a reality. No society is just and equal while some people remain without the support needed to achieve their full potential.
7. We work for and support strong, effective, democratic trade unions to fight for full employment, better wages and salaries, for improved living standards, for better working conditions and stronger, more favourable, contracts of employment. We believe that the strength of the union is the people in the workplace; that what each person does at work matters – to make the job better, to make the service provided more effective, to persuade workers to combine for greater strength. Going on strike (including mass/general strikes), occupying workplaces and solidarity between workers (in different unions and/or workplaces) can be effective tactics in winning individual disputes and changing society.
8. Our political practice is democratic, diverse and inclusive, organising amongst working class communities with no interests apart from theirs, committed to open dialogue and new ways of working. We will campaign, mobilise and support struggles on a day to day basis, recognising the need for self-organisation in working class communities. We recognise that support for our party and its electoral success will only advance to the extent that it is genuinely representative of working class communities, has no interests separate from theirs, and is an organic part of the campaigns and movements which they generate and support.
9. We will engage in elections offering voters a left alternative – where any elected representatives will take an average wage and be accountable to the party membership – while understanding that elections are not the only arena or even the most important arena in which political struggles are fought. We aim to win political power, not to manage it. We will not participate in governmental coalitions with capitalist parties at a local or national level.
10. We are an internationalist party. There are no national solutions to the problems that humanity faces. Capitalism is an international system, highly organised and globalised and its defeat requires not only international solidarity but the linking up and coordination of struggles across Europe and the world. We will work with left organisations and movements in Europe and internationally that share our aims. We will also seek to learn from the experience of those parties in Latin America which have challenged and rejected neo-liberal economic policies and are establishing a social and economic alternative in the interests of the majority of their people. We stand against imperialist wars and military intervention, against the exploitation of other countries for economic gain, and for a drastic reduction of military expenditure for the benefit of social spending, and for a foreign policy based on peace and equality.
The Ken Loach appeal launched in association with his film The Spirit of 45 and calling for a new left party has resulted in over 8,000 responses nationally. The film informs us that in 1945 the Labour Party pledged to put an end to the social evils of disease, idleness (mass unemployment), ignorance, squalor (slum housing) and want (poverty) and, despite the legacy of wartime debts, achieved significant reforms. Britain today, along with the rest of Europe and North America, is far wealthier in human and technological resources than it was in 1945. Yet as a result of over 30 years of so-called free-market policies, culminating in a chronic economic and financial crisis since 2007, all those evils have returned.
Our most urgent task is to defend and reclaim the gains won by the labour movement during more than a century of struggles. We believe that there is no prospect of the Labour Party today doing that effectively. Elsewhere in Europe left parties such as Syriza in Greece are winning mass support for resistance to austerity. In Britain we also need to create a new Left Party founded on the following political principles and policy commitments:
1. On the Immediate Economic Crisis
• We are against austerity programmes which make the mass of working people, the old, the young and the sick, pay for a systemic crisis of capitalism.
• We are for policies to restore full employment through measures such as reduced working hours for all; spending on public housing, infrastructure and services; and the public ownership of, and democratic collective control over, basic utilities, transport systems and the financial sector.
2. On Public Services
• We are against the creeping privatisation of the NHS and Education, the sell-off of the Royal Mail and the marketization of the public sector as a whole.
• We are for free provision of education (from nurseries to adult and higher education), the arts and all forms of healthcare.
3. On The Environment
• We are against an economic system which prioritises short-term profit over the future of the planet, and which is responsible for accelerated climate change and ecological crisis.
• We are for sustainable development, an end to energy and transport policies which contribute to global warming and for an agricultural system which is committed to animal welfare and environmental protection.
4. On Employment
• We are against the casualization of employment conditions and laws which restrict the right of workers to organise effectively and take industrial action.
• We are for the ‘living wage’ as a minimum for all, an extension of employment rights for all workers and support for workers’ cooperatives.
5. On Tax and Welfare
• We are against cuts in benefits and measures such as the bedroom tax, changes to disability allowance and cuts in legal aid, hurting the poorest.
• We are for a tax and welfare system based on the principles of social justice, universal benefits and steeply progressive and effective taxation.
6. On Equalities
• We are against all forms of discrimination and oppression whether on the basis of gender, race, religion, sexuality, (dis)ability or national identity.
• We are for an inclusive society with equal citizenship rights for all, including asylum-seekers and refugees, and support for all those in need.
7. On Internationalism
• We are against fascism, war, imperialism and an international economic system dominated by the wealthy and militarily powerful nations.
• We are for the right of national self-determination for oppressed nationalities such as the Kurds and Palestinians and solidarity with all those resisting austerity and oppression. We are for ‘fair trade’ and recognise the necessity for global solutions to global problems such as climate change.
8. On Anti-Capitalism
• We are against a system whose benefits go disproportionately to 1% of the population and which is responsible for devastating economic and ecological crises across the planet.
• We are ultimately for a radical social transformation based on the principle of ‘people not profit’ and drawing on the best of the cooperative, radical democratic, feminist, green, and socialist traditions (although we may disagree on how such a transformation can eventually be achieved).
9. On a New Party
• We are against the bureaucratic centralism, corruption and sexism to be found in many existing political parties.
• We are for a mass, democratic and inclusive party which unites campaigners and trade union activists, supports collective direct action and self-organisation, and has close links with similar parties or movements resisting austerity and ‘freemarket’ policies across Europe and elsewhere.