A UK Convention Of The Left With The Aim Of Establishing A Broad-Left Coalition Is Long Overdue

Mick Hall calls for a reconfiguration of the Left in the UK. Mick Hall is a Marxist blogger @ Organized Rage.

Tens of thousands attended London's anti austerity march, yet only one out of the four candidates for LP leader.

Ever since New Labour turned the Labour Party into a vehicle of Neoliberalism, all be it with a more humane face than the Tories and Orange Book Lib Dem's, there has been a desperate need in the UK for viable political party to the left of Labour which was capable of gaining electoral traction. In Scotland, after New Labour conceded it, that space was quickly occupied by the SNP, which given there massive growth since they moved to the left, makes a nonsense of those who claim there is no space for a progressive left party.

The lack of such a party in 2010 was the main reason the Liberal Democrats did so well in that years general election, gaining support from young people and others who hoped they might fill that void. Sadly it was not to be as its Manifesto commitments turned out to be a cruel hoax on the part of Clegg and his Neoliberal colleagues who had preplanned entering a coalition with the Tories if the favourable circumstance evolved.

Today, there's the Green Party, but they do not appeal to the militant sections of the working classes, who given the political trajectory of their sister parties in Ireland and Germany, regard them as far too middle class and suspect they may well turn out to be flaky when push comes to shove.

In the post WW2 period the British Communist Party played a not disimilar role to the Greens today.The main difference being it played a far more influential role in the trade unions, which allowed it to punch way above its weight. Sadly unlike the European CP's at that time, in Italy, France, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe, it could not transfer its core support from the workplace into the parliamentary sphere.

Having said that much of the progressive legislation Labour governments passed in this period, emanated from the office of the CP's industrial department, which worked alongside its militants within the trade unions: who channelled progressive left policies through their trade union branches, district, regional, and executive committees on to the floor of the Labour Party conference, which unlike today had a decision making role.

This process could not but drag the LP leftwards, ensuring at the very least it was firmly anchored in the center ground. The implosion of the CP for a host of differing reasons allowed the Neoliberal Blairites to spin the LP ever more rightwards to such an extent today we witness its leading members supporting, ney advocating, some of the most reactionary policies a Tory Government have implemented since 1945. Out of the four candidates for party leader, only one, Jeremy Corbyn attended Saturday's march in London against austerity, in which over one hundred thousand potential Labour voters took part.

Presumably they refused to show their faces because they were fearful if they attended the mainstream media would crucify them. Pray tell how can such people stand up for working class people against austerity when they act in such a craven and cowardly way?

In much of Europe social democracy has trod a similar path and have been rightly rejected by their core electorates. But unlike here, with the exception of Scotland, across the continent new radical left parties, often coalitions, have emerged in the last decade opposing austerity and Neoliberalism. Bringing new generations into political struggle. Syriza in Greece, Podmos in Spain, the Left Party in Germany, and HDP in Turkey have all become important players in the political life of their respective nations. Three out of four of the parties I mention above have charismatic, and politically solid young leaders who are able to appeal to and recruit people from across the generations, and as important from both the working and middle classes. Again making a nonsense of the mainstream media claims that all middle class people have no interest in seeing a more equitable society.

However it's not only within these countries where there has been a political awakening, it's continent wide. Increasingly old and young have realised there must be a better way, a radical alternative to austerity, an end to mass unemployment, especially amongst the young, blood sucking landlords, zero hours contracts, low wages, and the unfair influence of multi national corporations within Europe's political chancelleries.

One of the main achievements of party's like Podmos, Syriza and the HDP, and its a lesson the English left must learn; they have managed to combine as individuals or organisations within a single political entity. People who have differing views often with a history of taking chunks out of each other, Anarchists, Communists and Trotskyists, Greens, former social democrats, housing activists, peace, anti racist, gay rights, and human rights, campaigners, feminists, people of different religion's, class and race, those who have never been active politically until now. All have had to make compromises and have done so willingly for the greater good. They have kept their eyes on the prize.

They concentrate on what they can agree on, the big issues of the day, not bicker over what they cannot. If they fail to agree, they put their differences to one side. They certainly do not walk out in a huff and return to the phone box in which some on the left used to reside.

The UK

Despite over five years of unnecessary austerity with more to come, in England there is still no sign of a similar Broad-Left Coalition. Even though within countless extra parliamentary campaigns and within their trade unions, radicals, leftists, and environmentalist's work tirelessly together when organising collectively. But when it comes to elections and parliamentary activity they spin off into their own little safe havens, becoming almost invisible as one of the 57 varieties of left socialism.

What a missed opportunity the 2015 general election was. Was there anything more dispiriting than the sight of Ed Miliband, Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood, and Nicola Sturgeon, battling each other in the leaders debate? When on the main societal issues and their hatred for the Tories you couldn't get a cigarette paper between them. With Cameron having side stepped this debate completely, it could have been the ideal situation for them all to set out a united left platform offering the British people a better way, a radical alternative to austerity.

True Miliband may not have been in a position to offer that, having been shackled by his bourgeois PR advisers and MPs who filled his head with silly nonsense like that stone plinth. But the three women should have been up for it. Instead on the night they sang from the same song-sheet and then went off to fight each other in the election campaign proper. Is it any wonder two out of the three failed to increase the number of their seats?

Whither the LP

After Miliband reacted to Tory generated media pressure by foolishly saying Labour would never work with the SNP, his campaign lost all momentum and understandably so. Potential Labour voters understood without SNP support he would not be able to form a government. Unless at best he conceded ground to the hated Cleggite Lib Dems, at worse joined a pro-austerity national government with the Tories.

Thus millions of potential Labour voters thought, why bother voting Labour, went home and either shut the door, or used their vote as a protest by voting for Ukip or the Green's.

Far from being too Left wing, Miliband failed to gain office because people believed correctly he had no chance of doing it without the SNP. Not because they disapproved of the SNP. As far as most potential Labour voters were concerned that was just media generated hype. For at the very same time Miliband and his advisers fell for that Tory swerve ball, opinion polls showed Nicola Sturgeon was the most popular politician in Britain, not Scotland alone, but the whole of the UK.

The Future

In many way the future of the left and the LP now depends on how many votes Jeremy Corbyn will receive in the leadership contest. If he does well the trade unions will decide the party is still worthy of their support and many on the left will continue to work within the party.

One only has to see how Corbyn had to go cap in hand to get on the ticket to understand as far as the left is concerned the LP's best days are long behind it.

The first past the post system in the UK cries out for a centre, left, electoral coalition. The British Labour Party once filled that space, its members stretched across the social democratic spectrum from right to the far left. That is clearly no longer the case. This nation needs a new left electoral coalition. Without it politics in the UK will gradually morph into what exists in the USA, a country with massive inequalities, no public health care system worthy of the name, and where the two main parties are stridently anti-organised labour, pro-big business which bankrolls them to the tune of tens of millions.

What is needed is a Convention of the Left to be organised next year in which the Labour Left, the Trade Unions, (its time the cart horse went to the knackers yard and the TUC brought shares in a thoroughbred) the Greens, the SNP, and those who belong to smaller left organisation and none attend with the aim of creating a Broad-Left electoral coalition. Without this coming together the left will revert back to its comfort zone of organising demos, marches, international solidarity, and meetings, endless bloody meetings, while leaving the electoral field to the Neoliberals whether they be Tory, LP or Lib Dem's.

The only way the left will change the UK for the better is to combine extra parliamentary activity with a strong parliamentary presence. Anyone who believes radical change can be brought about by either alone, fails to understand the country they live in.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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