The Commune takes a critical look at platforms in Left Unity.
Left Unity is yet another attempt to construct a broad Workers Party in the tradition of old Labourism to fill the void left by New Labour. The political assumption is that despite the obvious dissolution and disintegration of old Labour , the reformist politics of social democracy live on in the consciousness of the working class. The spirit of 1945 is still seen as the inspiration of the British working class. The Parliamentary Labour party might have abandoned working class representation, but the working class is still assumed to be loyal to clause 4 and parliamentary socialism. The task is to recreate a party that dissatisfied Labour voters can support or at least put electoral pressure on the Labour Party to move left.
The fact that sections of the Socialist left have to substitute themselves for left Labour or Social Democracy is a reality check. It does indicate something is fundamentally wrong with old Labourism. Where is the organised Social Democratic constituency? The spirit of a golden age of real Labour has been called up, yet in the Socialist Party’s front, the Workers Party, and the Socialist Alliance, the call was not answered. The reaction to these failures was the attempt to build an even broader party, the popular front, Respect. This also flags up a warning there is something fundamentally wrong with the tactics of the leading politicians in Left Unity.
The left platform is unashamed left reformism. It wants to revitalise old labour and recreate the past. State Socialism (State Capitalism) can be reintroduced to roll back all the privatisation of State utilities. Austerity is not understood as a crisis of Capitalism, but an artificial policy choice by managers of the Capitalist economy. It’s just a malicious excuse to attack the poor by the Tory Toffs. Neo Liberalism is the problem, not Capitalism. A different form of Capitalism is seen as a step forward or a transitional tool. Tactics to draw in workers assumed to be Labourite, by revolutionaries. What are the real convictions of these radical politicians ? Historically the working class has not trusted these dodgy tactics. Leaving convictions on one side to attract support does not convince in the long run.
The class struggle platform is a version of the tactics formulated in the 1920′s -1930′s. The activist united front. Forget about the political convictions or subjectivity of the workings class, Think about the objective situation pushing people into activity. Left Unity leaders can lead workers assumed to be loyal to trade union leaders and New Labour by sheer militancy. The platform is still Keir Hardie, rather than Karl Marx. What is called for is a politically unspecific mass party. It is also the same Social Democratic programme as the Left Platform. It declares we are struggling for no less than the defence of the welfare state since 1945. Nostalgia as a substitute for thinking. Again the call is limited to putting an end to austerity and Neo Liberalism. Ignoring the nature of trade unionism, the platform calls for the rank and file to break with the bureaucracy and organise a national strike by Autumn of this year.
Where do we situate the Socialist Platform? It does raise the issue of the ultimate goal of the socialist transformation of society. But, ambiguity surrounds its Socialism. Is it state Socialism? We are informed that the transition will include the parliamentary process. The old Social Democratic formula of a combination of parliament with anti parliamentary methods is invoked. The aim is a workers government based on the capitalist state. This is an old Bolshevik schema that fudged the class nature of the capitalist state, as if a transition to socialism could take place via the state. However, there is a promise that any Left Unity Party, led by them, would not enter coalitions with capitalist parties. But many of supporters of the Socialist Platform do not regard the Labour Party as a capitalist party.
The different platforms and the ensuing debate have shown that while there can be no unity on a revolutionary platform of socialism from below, there can be unity on high parliamentary politics, and an electoral orientation to anti Tory voters. Yet the politics of Labourism and left trade unionism have already failed to halt the rise of UKIP and the politics of scapegoating and anti-European sentiment. Right-wing views about foreigners and Europe were an undercurrent of Old Labour. The rise of a British Syriza seems unlikely in this historical context. Besides, Syriza and its leadership are already firmly in the electoral groove with a perspective of a parliamentary party of national salvation.
Rosa Luxemburg raised the dilemma for any mass revolutionary movement. The movement ” can best advance by tacking betwixt and between the two dangers by which it is constantly being threatened. One is the loss of its mass character,the other the abandonment of its goal. One is the danger of sinking back to the condition of a sect, the other the danger of becoming a movement of bourgeois social reform”. Left unity is, of course, not a mass movement, but a unity of small groups on the basis of seeking social reform. Marx did complain that even revolutionary politicians often seek the root of the problem, not in the nature of the state, but in the form of the state.