Monday 25 March 2013

Left Unity, is it just a joke?

In recent months there have been numerous calls for "a new party of the left", most notably from the film director Ken Loach

That there is no mainstream political representation for those that place themselves in the left-liberal quadrant of the political spectrum is more clear than ever. Labour abandoned this territory in 1994 when they allowed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to usurp the party and set about their 13 years rule of privatisations, dodgy PFI scams, bank deregulations, imperialist warmongering and attacks on our civil liberties. The Liberal Democrats tried to cash in on this Labour betrayal by posturing as a left-liberal party, but abandoned this stance as soon as they got a whiff of second hand Tory power. It is beyond question that all thee establishment parties are adherents of centre-right orthodox neoliberal pseudo-economics, all three are grotesquely illiberal (detention without trial, secret courts, internet snooping, retroactive legislation) and all three are riddled with selfish, self-serving, expenses scamming career politicians.

There is a huge amount of popular dissatisfaction with the political establishment, but the problem of course is that for the last few decades "the left" has been riven by factionalisation. 19 years after the Labour party abandoned socialism and 16 years after Neo-Labour rose to power, other than George Galloway, Caroline Lucas and a few old school Labour "leftie die-hards" like Dennis Skinner and John McDonnell the left has had no representation in Westminster.

The project to unify the left and create a new political party seems like an interesting and worthwhile project. Even to people that do not share particularly left-wing sentiments must find it difficult to oppose the idea of more political plurality. If the right-wing have the choice between extreme-right UKIP and the three right-wing establishment parties, surely the left need more choice than just the Green Party and the Respect party (which will always be overshadowed by George Galloway).

I decided to check out the "new left" project by visiting the The Left Unity website, but the very first article I stumbled across was one entitled Just how left wing is the Green party? Which starts out reasonably well, but soon descends into the construction of a tribalist division between the Green party and the "new left".
"Those of us outside the [Green] party often point to the record of the Greens in Germany, where the party joined a neo-liberal coalition and voted for the Afghanistan war, and in Ireland, where they joined a right wing government and cut healthcare and benefits while saying it was OK because they were creating new cycling schemes."
It is obviously unfair to judge the Green party in the UK by the actions of other Green parties abroad, especially when there are plenty of examples of other national Green party groups that haven't sold out to neoliberalism (Italy, Turkey, Greece, Catalonia, USA).

It's also a bit rich for "the left" to be criticising the Greens by citing a couple of examples of Green party groups in other European countries have sold out to the neoliberal economic orthodoxy, when they allowed the main left-wing group in this actual country (Labour) to be usurped by orthodox neoliberalism almost two decades ago. The supposed party of the left then enforced the neoliberal establishment orthodoxy for 13 long years. 13 years in which they not only failed to reverse the work of their Tory predecessors, but actually served as the neoliberal establishment and continued the lunacy of financial sector deregultaion, housing neglect, state sell-offs, corporate outsourcing, doggy PFI scams, extraordinarily lax tax enforcement, expenses fiddling and corporate warmongering.

As a supposedly left-wing party Neo-Labour had a truly lamentable record, yet in this long 13 year period of left-wing betrayal, the "alternative left" in the UK was democratically represented by just two Scottish blokes, Tommy Sheridan in the Scottish Parliament and by George Galloway representing the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in Westminster. One of the strongest criticisms of "the left" is that in two decades they have utterly failed to galvanise any kind of credible left-wing alternative to Blair's continued Thatcherisation of British politics.

The Left Unity article then goes on to lambaste the minority administration Green council in Brighton for having made spending cuts. Even though the author of the Left Unity hatchet job openly admits that the scale of the cuts were forced onto the Green party by the Tory local government minister Eric Pickles and due to the fact that they only have a minority administration. Their minority rule allowed opposition Labour and Tory councilors to give the Greens an ultimatum to either enforce the cuts, or to quit their only local government administration in the whole of the United Kingdom. It is extremely harsh to criticise the Greens for actions that were forced onto them by the establishment parties, because even if they had quit the council and let Labour and the Tories form an anti-Green coalition (as the author of the article implies they should have done), the cuts would still have been made.

All in all, the article was a disgrace. Instead of looking to the Green party success in Brighton as an inspiration and praising the tireless political work and social activism of the Green MP Caroline Lucas, the author used the article to launch an attack on the Green party and create divisions between them and this new left party that doesn't even exist yet! The whole idea of using a website called Left Unity to attack another left-wing party and to undermine the work of one of the only genuinely left-wing politicians in Westminster is so absurd and thoughtless that would make a very funny unwitting self-parody, were the abject lack of representation for the liberal left not such a serious issue.

Judging by the feeble tribalism of the Green party hatchet job they were happy to publish, I'd say that the Left Unity website certainly is a joke. However the wider concept of left unity is a perfectly serious proposition. I'd go further, I'd say that a different kind of unity should be striven for, a unity of resistance and desire for fundamental reform of the political system. It should consist of a broad cross party pact to stamp out political corruption and to reform the political system and the UK economy. Voters need to be given a choice between the expenses scamming, corruption, betrayal, dishonesty and self-interest of establishment politics and a new alternative, focused upon reform and renewal of the political system. Because as it stands now, in England there is only the choice between Orthodox Neoliberal Blue, Orthodox Neoliberal Yellow, Orthodox Neoliberal Red and a few fringe parties which stand almost no chance of electoral success. This abject lack of choice and the apathy it provokes is bad for democracy, because when all three of the main English parties fundamentally agree on almost everything, there's no scope for genuine discourse and debate, which is supposed to be the essence of what democracy is all about.

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