This is our truth, tell us yours
A Very Public Sociologist, who writes with real insight about left politics, has looked at the emergence of Left Unity here.
For those who don’t follow the twists and turns of left politics in the UK, it must all seem a little introspective, the formation of a micro party to try and bring together all those who don’t wish to belong to the Labour Party, but who wish to be democratic socialists of the Left.
AVPS rightly focuses on the environment and landscape that gave birth to Left Unity, but misses, almost inevitably, the processes that a party has to have to give coherence and shape to its work. Previous attempts at left unity have failed for the same reason, that because so many of the participants saw them as only a front they didn’t bother putting any kind of coherent processes or practices in place.
The power of Leninism wasn’t its thinking or its half arsed affection for conspiracy and violence. The power of Leninism was rooted in the processes it built around its branches, its paper sales and its hierarchical processes. Members of Leninist groups knew what they were supposed to do, and their political periphery knew where to find them, and where to find out what they thought about any issue. In the process Leninist groups attract to them the kind of people who will see maintaining the party as a goal in itself, who’ll do all the necessary donkey work of managing meetings and accounts, and of expelling the unruly or unreliable.
By way of observation, some of the most brutal conversations I have seen between Trots have been not about their weird relationship to issues of sexuality or gender, but the question of whether a party can have a permanent faction or not. The importance the skilled Trot leaders, like Tony Cliff, placed on such issues, illustrates the point perfectly. Actually, Cliff illustrates the point perfectly; he was a second rate thinker prone to verbal diarrohea, and a nasty piece of work if you crossed him, but he built the SWP out of a tiny faction within a fragment by insisting on processes and structures, like a burger restaurant owner setting up a chain of franchises.
Left Unity will thrive if it can pull together processes that will enable it to build and maintain a structure. It is hampered in some ways, in its search to become a UKIP of the left, by the moral scruples of its members and leaders. UKIP thrives, in part, because it is cynical about its structure and processes; local activists and branches are free to do as they wish provided they don’t offend against the leadership’s ambitions and plans to win the seats in the European Parliament that fund and sustain the party centre. Left Unity can’t take that path, and can’t afford to spend all its time, in the time available, arguing about its platform or orientation tot he Labour Party, the traditional bugbear of left unity projects. If it’s serious about prospering it needs to nail down, firmly, its structure, the work it expects of its organizational units, and the processes it will use to build its periphery.
It’s not my job to advise Left Unity. If I were to, here’s a few hints.
Expel anyone who suggests a weekly newspaper or a theoretical journal. Seriously, they’re living in the past.
Require every member to have a Twitter account, and a Facebook page.
Require every organizational unit to have a regularly updated webpage.
Identify a free CRM system or association management system, and require each unit to use it to build a periphery and potential voters.
If Left Unity do that we’ll know they’re serious, and could be serious players.