|Convention of The Left – Statement of Action – Stop the Cuts, Defend Public Services, Promote Sustainable Public Ownership
The Convention aims to bring together the Left, across green, socialist, radical, communist, anarchist and trade unionist. We explicitly challenge the Tory / Liberal Democrat Coalition programme of cuts and privatisation, with its continued warmongering and failure to tackle environmental destruction.
We believe that there is an alternative. The wealth exists in the world to abolish famine and poverty and to pay for our essential needs; the debt-fuelled culture of conspicuous consumption does not produce a fairer or happier society – and is anyway unsustainable; and peaceful collective public enterprise is preferable to the private profit-making of the unregulated market and its escalating competition for scarce resources.
The problem is capitalism, which produces only for profit not need, which destroys the environment and carries out endless warfare in pursuit of market domination.
The New Government’s Attacks
The government claims the cuts are unavoidable because the welfare state has been too generous. But it is working people who have funded the welfare state through taxation and insurance. It is ordinary people who have to pay for the bankers’ bonuses.
The £11bn welfare cuts, rise in VAT to 20%, and 25% reductions across government departments target the most vulnerable – disabled people, single parents, those on housing benefits, black and ethnic minority communities, students, migrant workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people and pensioners.
Women are expected to bear 75% of the burden. The poorest will be hit six times harder than the richest. Internal Treasury documents estimate 1.3 million job losses in public and private sectors. There is no financial logic – civil service jobs that stop tax evasion will be cut, meaning tax evasion will not.
We reject this vandalism and seek to campaign for a radical alternative, such as that of trade unionists and social movements in Greece and other European countries.
An Alternative Strategy
We need an alternative budget to place the banks under democratic control and raise revenue by increasing tax on the rich, to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and abolish the nuclear “deterrent” by cancelling the Trident replacement – at once.
The alternative strategy could use these resources to: support welfare; develop homes, schools, and hospitals; and take a green approach to public spending – investing in renewable energy and public transport, creating a million jobs.
But we also believe that we must win these arguments. We must find ways to develop and promote these alternative positive policies and demands – of peace, social and environmental justice, civil liberties and equality.
Building Unity to Fight the Cuts and Defend Public Services
We must join together with all those seeking a better society, as an anti-capitalist left fighting for an alternative socialist society.
We are not saying that this means the construction of another political party. The idea of the Convention is to attempt to bring local groupings together and to provide a wider forum for discussion and united action – so that we can strengthen the anti capitalist left by uniting ourselves around action and policies where we can.
We want to find ways that the Left as a whole can co-ordinate action both nationally and locally wherever we can. We are not aiming to displace existing united campaigns, but to strengthen these and to encourage working together across the widest range of organisations and individuals.
We therefore support all those anti-cuts alliances already in existence, in order to promote and co-ordinate united action across the Left, in an inclusive, participatory, pluralist, tolerant and democratic way, with an emphasis on bottom up campaigning, participation and decision making. We are not seeking to duplicate other campaigns but to draw the left together in co-operation and struggle. We should go out of our way to overcome the division that exists between the organised left and the direct actionist and libertarian groups.
We commit ourselves to working together with all others fighting the cuts, so as to oppose cuts and privatisation, to fight rising unemployment, to oppose all proposals to “solve” the crisis through racism and other forms of scapegoating, and to develop an alternative programme for economic and social recovery in the interests of the many and not the profits of the few.
Cuts? There is an alternative
Read and download our new leaflet from the Convention of the Left and the Left Ecenomics Advisory Panel which Andrew Fisher from LEAP has kindly written after the Keeping It Public Conference on 27th February.
“£70 billion is lost every year through tax evasion and a further £25 billion is lost thovered if more tax inspectors were hired and the legal loopholes were closed.
“But the Government is cutting the number of tax staff every year. Last year this meant that another £27.7billion of tax went uncollected by HM Revenue and Customs.
“By just collecting the tax that is rightfully ours, including from the wealthy and big business, we could avoid public service cuts.”
You can download the pdf here or by clicking on the image
Pots and Pans Protest
Banging on Pots and Pans is a noise protest – a traditional way of everyday people showing we demand change. Such demos helped bring down governments in Argentina and Iceland.
|Britain is bankrupt? Show you’re not fooled!It’s a year since the first bailouts. “Experts” who “didn’t see it coming” make it sound complex. The truth is simpler: We’ve been scammed!
Banks brought the economy to it’s knees. Now we are supposed to pay the price with service cuts, higher tax, pay freezes and unemployment. How dare they?
UK National debt is over £800bn.
The banks are backed by their friends in the media and the large political parties. We haven’t shown how angry we are. It’s time to get the protests under way!
This demo is for anyone who’s tired of just moaning. Let’s start a national wave of protest against the biggest rip-off in history.
DOWNLOAD A FLYER
Convention report to follow.
Opening Plenary session at the Brighton Convention of The Left
Capitalism in Crisis
The Left’s Response
One day special conference with contributors including Miles Barter (NUJ), Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Defend Council Housing, Robert Griffiths (Communist Party of Britain), John Haylett (Morning Star), Caroline Lucas MEP (Green Party), John Maguire (Unite Visteon Belfast Convenor), John McDonnell MP (Labour Representation Committee), Pete Murray (NUJ), Kay Phillips (Respect), Martin Smith (SWP), Matt Wrack (FBU) and more.
Saturday 26th September
10.30am to 5.00pm
Brighthelm Church and Community Centre, North Road, Brighton.
|Find a map here||download leaflet here (PDF)|
11.00 – 12.30pm: The Economic Situation – and Our Response.
12.30pm – 1.30pm: Lunchtime sessions on the Lessons from Latin America plus Labour and the Land.
1.30pm – 3.30pm: Parallel Sessions – The impact of the economic crisis onPeople, Planet, Peace and Politics
3.45pm – 5.15pm: Seeking Unity in the current Cold Climate
The organisers of the Convention of The Left would like to invite you to the free one day conference in Brighton.
Last year the Convention ran successfully as the alternative to New Labour’s conference in Manchester. This year’s Convention event will continue the debates on the crisis of capitalism and Westminster politics and develop our ideas in response.
The wealth exists in society to pay for our essential needs – and the way the governments of the UK, EU and US have found trillions of Pounds, Dollars and Euros at the drop of a hat for the bankers proves what we have been saying all along.
And, as the continuing bloodshed in Afghanistan shows, there is still a limitless coffer for war and destruction.
The trouble is that our rulers want to use the wealth in society to prop up capitalism – which will inevitably lead to the same results all over again. They are buying themselves out of their crisis, but expecting the rest of us pay the price.
Recessions lead scape-goating, racism and the rise of the far right. The election of two BNP members to the European Parliament should be warning to us all.
Don’t blame the victims. The poor should not be punished for the crisis of capitalism.
We must provide the alternative. We look forward to seeing you in Brighton on September 26th to discuss how we make the green, left, socialist and radical alternative a reality.
Opening Planary: The Economic Situation – and Our Response
Four parallel sessions: The impact of the economic crisis on People, Planet,Peace and Politics
Closing plenary: Seeking unity in the current cold climate
for previous Convention information and archive material please click here
|Time for The Left
The left in this country has never been so weak.Sounds like an academic essay title. 2 pages of A4. Discuss.
And it’s a symptom of this weakness that the first response, to whatever blog or left publication which chooses to publish this, will be to focus on some chance remark I am about to make (whether for or against the SWP, for example, or whether because of some crime against the movement that I am personally accused of quarter of a century ago – that probably isn’t true but equally noone can remember), rather than to engage with the point.
Perhaps its because we have always been too impatient. Perhaps we’ve had the luxury that it hasn’t mattered enough. John McDonnell hasn’t been incarcerated by an apartheid regime for 25 years in top security like Nelson Mandela. Caroline Lucas hasn’t been confined to house arrest by a military junta like Aung San Suu Kyi. Indeed the people who have been victims of that type of treatment – the Irish Guildford 4 and Birmingham 6 of the 1970s and the Pakistan Student 10 this year – haven’t, at the time, had the general active and unconditional support of the left as a whole. (Though it seems the same individual legal representative has managed to carry on the same patient defence of such “unpopular” causes throughout all those years.)
In the last three or four decades there’s always seemed the possibility – or even probability – that huge advances were about to take place in the movement. So within the Left one new venture after another has been set up, too quickly, without proper process, without the trust or involvement of the whole of the left, and then dropped again a few years, or even months, later. And each time a few new people are attracted, by the immediacy of the
The truth is that those advances havent come. What weve had is defeats.
The miners lost. Local government lost. The war didn’t stop. The economy has even fallen apart from within but we are in no position to take it over.
Labour was elected – as New Labour. It didn’t even have to change the name – as Blair said to their Conference when he won his new Clause 4. That was perhaps the biggest defeat. Having what should have been our own side elected – only to inflict on us neo-liberal economics, PFI, escalating inequalities…. and war. The dockers maintained their strike for 2 years of the Tories, and collapsed in months after Labour got in and sold them out.
With the help of the unions. The union leadership which in most cases is as divorced from the base of workers organising for themselves in their workplaces as Labour’s expense-soaked MPs are from their constituents.
And now we’ve got fascists elected.
No question but that this is Labour’s fault . Blair and Brown and a succession of Home Secretaries have gone out of their way to legitimise the BNP, in seeking the approval of the Daily Mail for increasingly racist measures before the far right had even thought of them.
Playing up the so-called fears of ordinary people about immigration (thus spake Labour
Prejudice is never removed by information alone. To change individual attitude and behaviour requires tackling the questions of power and prejudice together. What Labour has done is to encourage the prejudice and give power to those who wheel it out.
This alone is a reason for everyone to desert Labour.
Of course its not just about electoral politics. Strategically there are three different strands to fighting the fascist threat. First is to fight the fascists wherever they appear, on the streets, when they try to hold events or meet in public premises. It was disgraceful to see Labour Ministers minimising the nuisance of the BNP as no more than “thoughtless”
Second we must tackle the distortions and lies that the fascists peddle, in the local communities, and work on the ground with local campaigners, to explain that we are also angry with the lack of housing and jobs, but that there is an alternative, which is not to scapegoat other communities. Racism is not the answer to the recession.
And third is to consider electoral unity – which can include uniting behind one electoral
We have to be tough on the causes of the far right as well as on the far right themselves.
And to carry out these activities, in and out of election times, we need to develop an understanding across the left, industrially and electorally, in the interests of the environment and equality, about how we could work together, in and out of elections, against consumer capitalism, inhumane imperialism, and all the appeasement of racism and fascism and warmongering that has taken place under Labour.
So we may need to define for ourselves a new way of working (reclaim the word “new”), so as to demonstrate unity in action, so as to develop our arguments through debate, and so as to create a framework of policy and action that is environmentally and socially just, inclusive, peaceful, pluralist, tolerant and one that does not rely either on “leaders” or small
It may matter less what organisation we are in that what we are willing to do – together.
That is what the 2008 Convention of The Left sought to do, in 5 days of discussion and debate last year, as an overt and immediate alternative to the bankrupt new-labour-fest that was going on next door. And that is why there will be another Convention event in Brighton, this September 26th, at the start of Labour’s non-event this year, to put forward that another way of working is possible and another world is possible. We will not blame the recession on its victims. Racism and fascism cannot be the result of the lack of alternatives from the mainstream.
With contributions (not top down platform speeches) from Caroline Lucas (Green), John McDonnell (LRC), Robert Griffiths (CPB), Kay Phillips (Respect), Matt Wrack (FBU) and so on, there will be a clear demonstration of unity in discussion and practical action to put forward as an alternative to the strange death of new labour that the official delegates will witness nearby.
This is just one example of working together. And there is a spirit of unity in the air. Calls for unity are emerging from every quarter of the left.
Our response needs to be committed and long term. It isn’t unity to put a flag in the sand and say,”this is our party, you must come and join it – and if you don’t, you’re the splitter”. It isn’t unity to set up an organisation and then get bored and leave when it isn’t all going your way. It isn’t unity to create a constitution and use the voting mechanisms to stop plural and inclusive discussion and decision making.
Consensus is key. Working together in practical action creates the trust that helps organisational development. Sticking at it is crucial. And it is worth taking some chances. Creating trust includes the risk of losing something. But a practical demonstration of unity is worth more than simply repeating the word as a mantra.
For example, following the Convention of The Left last year, links between the Green Left and socialists in other organisations in the North West were developed. An agreement was discussed, within and between. At the Convention Recall event in January Peter Cranie, leading candidate on the Green Euro list, spoke about fighting the fascists. Later, the loudest applause of the day came for Kay Phillips, Chair of Respect and prospective candidate for North Manchester, who said that Respect was backing Peter in the North West, specifically at this time and in this one election, to stop the BNP. This was both logical and political. Unprompted and immediate was the response from Greens in Tower Hamlets , who said they would endeavour to reciprocate there in the Westminster election.
Many socialists doubted that this would be possible. Previous “deals” with the Greens, locally, have been frustrated by “national” decision making. Candidates haven’t stood aside for each other. And the Greens are middle class, vote the wrong way in local councils, and support the EU.
[Oh, so it would be ok to vote for Labour then – the party of big business, war, privatisation, racism …. ?]
The reality is that the doubters were wrong. The fascists could have been stopped, in the two particular regions where local left activists had identified that the arithmetic and the politics added up to uniting in a vote for the Greens. If all left activists had used their energies not just to put out “hope not hate” literature or to go on anti-fascist bashes but to
Rank and file activists and even just armchair leftwingers can see this. The letters pages of the Morning Star have carried long debates on the subject. People with no explicit political affiliation have seen the sense of the left working together and simply expressed their common sense accordingly.
And the reality is that the links between the left in the Greens and in the socialist organisations involved have strengthened – in both directions – and can continue.
These arent exclusive or the only possibilities. But the sort of electoral alliances that have already been made are a good omen for the future. Ofcourse, they don’t and can’t add up to a new party [- yet?]. They dont require more than a broad understanding [- though maybe we can all find a broad organisational umbrella?] There can be no preconceptions. No illusions. No impatience. No possessiveness. No blueprint.
We have to take some responsibility, as the left. We dont have the luxury of any instant fix. It is, now, too serious.
John Nicholson, convenor Convention of the Left, Manchester
14 years ago Blair announced the abolition of Clause 4 part 4 of Labour’s constitution.
Arthur Scargill formed the Socialist Labour Party – but wouldn’t let Dave Nellist join (Socialist Party / expelled Labour MP), and snubbed Tommy Sheridan and others out right from the start (Scottish Socialist Alliance / Scottish Militant Labour).
Dave Nellist went on to chair the Socialist Alliance in England – joined by almost all the left, including the Socialist Workers Party, and standing over 100 candidates in the 2001 General Election under the banner People Not Profit.
Tommy Sheridan went on to lead the Scottish Socialist Party, whose unity across the Scottish left, including some trade union affiliation, gained them 6 seats in Holyrood and accompanying campaigns against Trident and the council tax and for free school meals and public transport.
But in England the Socialist Party moved out of the Socialist Alliance, in a self-fulfilling fear of an SWP take-over, and the SWP duly took it over, closed it down and formed the electoral party, Respect, which gained George Galloway as an MP and a number of councillors notably in East London.
The SP started their own Campaign for a New Workers Party. And Tommy Sheridan left the SSP, forming his new party, together with the SWP and CWI in Scotland, called Solidarity – and the three way split between the SLP, SSP and Solidarity ensured that almost all the left seats were lost in Scotland in May 2007.
Of course, none of this is reminiscent of the Life of Brian.
Meanwhile the Greens were themselves reduced to two MSPs in Scotland, though a larger number of councillors in England and Wales; and the left wing presence within the party (including at leadership level) has not prevented the party standing against other left candidates locally.
Sound like the Life of Brian? But that was comedy. This year the vote for the Greens in the European Elections was narrowly not quite sufficient to prevent the fascists gaining the last places on the European proportional representation list in the North West and Yorkshire and Humberside. Its no longer a joke.