Left Unity Wales â€“ July/August 2018 newsletter
[Links to references and further reading highlighted in red]
Dear members and supporters
This email is rather long and comes more as a political review than a report of actions and campaigns. We hope you stick with it and if you wish to respond please do so on our LU Wales FB page or on our LU Wales weblog when this newsletter goes up. You are also most welcome to send an email and if you state that you wish to add it as a comment we can do so for you.
Of course if you agree largely with what we are saying please think of joining or becoming a â€˜friendâ€™.
Radical possibilities revealed by the Trump demonstrations
The 250,000 strong Together Against Trump demonstrations were a magnificent collective act of not just of opposing what he stands for but our celebration of all that he hates: the demonstrations in Wales, the coaches up to London and the amazing cooperation and collective effort across the left to get this to happen was a real achievement. We kept Trump out of London and brought together a huge cross section of radical people in what was one of the most happy and joyous demonstrations weâ€™ve ever been on.
To get that level of response on a work day was a historic achievement and reveals further possibilities of the number of people who are prepared to mobilise against the extreme right wing politics and policies that Trump symbolises. The size and peacefulness of the demonstration was in sharp contrast to the tiny number and violence of the right and fascists who assembled on Saturday. Congratulation to comrades, from Wales who stayed over together with those from London and the UK, who challenged the right with a counter demonstration the following day.
Global threats and political opportunities
As Left Unity Wales and following on from decisions at our LU UK National Conference we would like to take this opportunity to raise some questions about how we move this radical moment and movement forward. As a working class, as human beings and for life on this planet we are facing three very serious threats in the areas of economics, climate change and politics.
In terms of economics the consequences of the financial crisis of 2007-08 are far from over and another looms. Michael Roberts catches the problem in one of his latest blogs â€˜A new global credit crunch to come?â€™. He points out that the global economy is still staggering with low levels of growth, investment and no improvement in real incomes for 90% of the population. Research carried out by the GMB union has indicated that as many as 10m workers in the UK – one third of the total – face insecure employment. Austerity cuts continue with even Tory run councils in England either facing bankruptcy now or in the near future. All public services remain under the cosh of cuts and privatisation. The NHS struggles with underfunding and the recent pay settlement is revealed as a con for many workers with no new money being made available to fund it. As Left Unity Wales and Peopleâ€™s AssemblyWales we have year after year revealed the worsening Tory austerity cuts situation across all services in Wales passed down by local councils and a Welsh Government who are not prepared to reject further cuts. Later this month we will argue that Peopleâ€™s Assembly Wales should campaign against another cuts budget for next year. Finally, workers across the UK, including Wales, are experiencing continuing cuts in welfare support particularly as UC credit is rolled out with people being sanctioned and experiencing unexpected changes in benefits.
There has not been a recovery for workers in the UK or across the world since the financial crisis. The global economic system has been propped up through printing money, low interest rates and unsustainable borrowing. The downward pressure on pay, working conditions, public services and welfare are ever present and, in addition, it is quite possible that another financial crisis threatens, aided by the trade war launched by Trump. As Larry Elliott points out in a recent Guardian article, if another financial crisis hits there are very
few policies left in the neo-liberal cabinet.
The heatwave this summer has again brought the reality of global warming home to all of us. A recent scientific paper on global feedback argues that the domino effect of climate change is close to taking us beyond our ability to control the process within existing agreements, such as the Paris commitment to 2%. Although the paper is a projection, evidence such as the Gulf Stream being at its weakest for 1,600 years supports both this case and the worse projections of the The fifth Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change (IPCC). Despite the accumulating evidence, climate change deniers, such as Trump, have pulled the US out of the Paris agreement and started to wreak havoc on action against climate change in both the US and the UK. The Tory government sneaked out fracking permits in Lancashire at the beginning of the summer Parliamentary recess, despite having evidence of increased air pollution from the process.
These major threats require a radical socialist alternative to place the needs of people and the planet before profit and the anarchy of the market. A socialism that involves planning is based upon the collective ownership and control of the means of producing wealth and is directed by the democracy of all us, so that we control which needs are prioritised. Being able to do this requires taking the wealth, and consequent power, out of the hands of the obscenely global rich, the 1% of whom are on target to own two thirds of the world’s wealth by2030. Challenging and taking this power frombelow requires the collective and united political effort of at least the working class across Europe.
However we currently face three political threats in developing and sustaining collective working class support for our radical socialist alternative.
First there is the global threat from the rise of the far right and what some have called â€˜creeping fascismâ€™. The far right and fascist organisations offer a political core set of ideas which are about excluding large sections of the population from any benefit, labelling them as â€˜the otherâ€™ and undeserving: it is a process of dehumanisation and division. It doesnâ€™t matter that people suffer as they can be categorised as â€˜illegalsâ€™, on benefits, people of colour, of a different religion, disabled, or Roma, anything that can justify exclusion from rights or benefits as humans on racial grounds. Allied to this is nationalism, the exclusion of other humans as not being fellow citizens, being foreigners and in advancing the interest of one nation state against that of all others. Democracy, giving all people equal rights, is a threat to this process of division. Authoritarian rule and action is required to defend white nationalists who share the myth of being superior members of the human race against the internal and external threats of foreigners and others, such as socialists, who advocate equality, solidarity, democracy and human rights for all. For many on the right supporting Brexit was about supporting this political position.
The deep and real political danger of division is that the populist right can seem to be socialists of sorts advocating social benefits but, of course, only to their selected section of humans. For the right climate change is denied, an unscientific myth designed to undermine jobs and national greatness. The divisions created by the far right and neo-fascists ultimately serve the interests of global capital and neoliberalism. In emphasising nationalist and racist based global differences they legitimate imperial rivalries and divert attention from the rich who really wield power. Dehumanising â€œthe otherâ€� and creating myths of superiority in some sections of the population mean deep divisions in working class unity are created which then justify violence on those considered to be inferior or a threat.
The new PRRUK publication â€˜Far Right On The Riseâ€™ covers these arguments in more depth, as does our most recent Left Unity broadsheet â€˜Dangerâ€™ which is available online. As both these publication point out, the left can be overwhelmed by the forces of the right if we donâ€™t unite and act together against the divisive dehumanising and violent authoritarianism of their politics. The demonstrations against Trump were a huge collective rejection of these politics of the right. The following week the Cardiff Socialist Forum and Cardiff Peopleâ€™s Assembly had a meeting about tackling the rise of the right with a range of speakers from the left. It was well attended, by about 50 people, and there was a wide discussion about ways of working together such as through the Peopleâ€™s Assembly Wales, Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up to Racism. The following Saturday Potere al Popolo UK – part of the European Left, as is also Left Unity – held a film show in Cardiff about migrants in Italy with a discussion afterwards, followed by lovely Italian food!
Left Unity also agreed at our National Conference in June to work through the European Left to build a European wide conference against the right – steps have now been taken to get this to take place early in the New Year and we will work to ensure this is a success. More immediately the Left Against Brexit campaign launched by Another Europe is Possible has, at its core, the defence of free movement and the need to argue to â€˜remain and reformâ€™ as a basis of developing political and active unity across state boundaries. We are helping to organise the Cardiff meeting of this campaign in the middle of September. However we need to discuss this further, both as Left Unity and with comrades in other organisations, on how best to organise against the right in Wales and the UK.
Second, in developing working class unity in support of a radical socialist challenge to capital, we currently face contradictory and complex trends. Despite the fall and stagnation in real wages and household income since the financial crisis trade union membership as struggled to stay at around six million, just under 20% of the employed workforce and down from around 50% in 1979. Strikes are at an all time low. And yet we see signs of union renewal in the United Voices of the World cleanersstrike in London and the UCU universities strike earlier in the year and we see 250,000 on the anti Trump demonstration. Similarly, the election to the leadership of the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 brought 10,000s into meetings and political activity, as did the defence of his leadership a year later and the surge of support was represented at the ballot box in the 2017 general election. This has had a huge impact on the organisation of socialists in the UK, with record numbers joining the Labour Party and the specific support Corbyn campaign group Momentum. Left Unity has been directly affected by this shift losing around 1,200 of members and yet, of course, we support the need for a Corbyn led Labour government.
Across Europe, socialists are even looking to Corbyn for a lead. And yet, it has been difficult to sustain this shift to the left and sustain the collective enthusiasm for Corbyn. There has been a steady move away from the radicalagenda of 2015, partly due to the difficulties of leading a deeply divided party and overwhelming PLP opposition but also due to an unrelated political softening of a radical left agenda, on Trident renewal, freedom of movement, on the economy and in the antisemitism onslaught. This softening of the radical agenda is reflected in the Momentum Activists Handbook which advises supporters to avoid confronting racist comments when canvassing. These trends leave supporters of the radical left position who have joined the Labour Party with a very difficult dilemma: is keeping quiet until the next election in the hope of a Corbyn government the best strategy or should they speak out and find other ways of helping to sustain, support and grow the signs of a radical upsurge? There is also the longer term danger that we cannot risk another radical left and socialist government failing to deliver an adequate challenge to the power of capital: it will set us back for years and give succour to the right wing.
In Left Unity, we feel that there is an answer to the dilemma of those who agree with the need for a radical socialist alternative to the threats by capital to workers and to the planet. This is to constantly help build unity around a political trajectory that works toward challenging the strategies and power of capital. We have to accept the challenge daily: we cannot just wait for the next election. As Left Unity we think keeping quiet and putting all the political eggs in the JC4PM basket until the next election is not acceptable..
That then raises the third political danger – political degeneration into sectarianism. It is very difficult to currently support the call for a Corbyn led Labour government whilst at the same time being critical of the policy drift away from the needed radical socialist and international alternative. It is an even more difficult call when arguing that Labour and other radical left parties should directly challenge Tory austerity cuts when Momentum in Wales are supporting Mark Drakeford, the current Welsh minister of finance, for First Minister as he does not agree with this position.
As Left Unity Wales we argue that it is possible to help bring together those who recognise a radical left challenge to the power of capital is now urgently required. Clearly we think we have the policies – even ones covering Wales – and the international commitment, through our membership of the Party of the European Left, so that in joining us this radical challenge would be taken forward. But of course, it would be sectarian if that was the sole argument. As Left Unity we think the current way forward is through building unity with members of any left party or none around ideas, policies and campaigning actions that take forward the challenge. Our recent organisation in Wales for the Wales Against Trump demonstrations is one example of how this can work, as well as our continued support for the Peopleâ€™s Assembly groups across Wales. Clearly a combined electoral and direct action strategy is needed to seriously challenge the power of capital. At the moment the electoral part has to be to continue to support Corbyn but collectively we have to keep other options under review.
Avoiding sectarianism and building active unity in action can be seen in two basic approaches: developing transitional actions and demands. The socialist history of this approach is argued here.
Transitional actions are about having the strategic political trajectory towards developing the collective power we already have and finding ways of increasingly challenging the strategies and power of capital. Essentially they are about building an alternative radical left space now as social movements. Some have described these prefigurative spaces as â€˜building the future in the presentâ€™ and they can also be seen as establishing â€˜frontiers of controlâ€™ where the battle to take back power from capital has temporarily stopped but provides a base for going forward at another time. Socialist political parties should aim to be as prefigurative as possible by being publicly open, democratic, international, accessible and respecting all members equally. We try to achieve this as Left Unity, engaging in the ideological battle of being involved in developing the Party of the European Left platform for the EU elections by helping the PRRUK to publish the Transform journal. Examples from Wales could include the ideological battle to developing radical left ideas, debate and action. Some of the Peopleâ€™s Assembly groups in Wales have moved in this direction, the establishment of the Cardiff Socialist Forum and the Valleys Socialist Discussion and Action Forum. In workplaces the fight to gain and retain trade union membership, recognition and collective agreements to provide a space where employer power is subject to joint control hence the need to support industrial action and help renew trade unionism through campaigns like Better Than Zero Wales and the Justice 4 Supply Teachers campaign. Cooperatives such as Tower can be seen as a transitional action if they have a social as opposed to a purely business strategy. Similarly we would argue that Dwr Cymru is not a cooperative and we should campaign to give ownership over to all Dwy Cymruâ€™s consumers and directly elect the board of executives. Centre for Advanced Technology in Wales is a space that inspires and helps develops projects that directly challenge climate change through renewable energy and recycling. Whether an alternative space remains a â€˜transitional actionâ€™ that continues to expand to challenge the power of capital will depend on the direction of internal strategic and political debates – and here the presence of radical socialist ideas are critical.
Transitional demands start the process of blocking the capitalist strategy by mobilising collectively, they act as a basis for generalising resistance through the experience of solidarity, allow wider access to the narrative against austerity and open up the logic that leads to legitimating a radical alternative: they act as a bridge between where we are and where we need to be. The relationship is clear in building for demonstrations such as Together Against Trump, against nuclear weapons or wars such as Iraq but need working on when the relationship is less clear. In fighting austerity, for example, the radical socialist case is that all of these attacks on the working class are unnecessary and avoidable and are only taking place because the Tory government wishes to prop up the profitability of the capitalist system they represent. So it is for us to find ways of challenging and blocking that strategy and arguing an alternative economic case. Hence the Peopleâ€™s Assembly Wales argued that the Welsh Government and Assembly members should vote to refuse to implement austerity budgets in Wales. Such a move would directly challenge the Tory arguments that support austerity budgets and, as Left Unity, we will again be arguing that case this autumn. Similarly the demand by the UCU lecturers strike was about stopping arbitrary changes in pension benefits – delayed wages – demanded by the financial industry. Strikes are an example of how transitional actions prepare the frontier of control for transitional demands and further collective action.
At the moment a tension exists between all energy into the LP and the next election and building support for a radical left and socialist case now through campaigns and direct action. A way of trying to avoid divisive sectarianism is through developing united action across the left in fighting the rise of far right and neo-fascists and through transitional actions and demands which directly challenge the power and strategies of the Tories and capital. As Left Unity we are involved across Wales in helping to do this and would ask that if you agree with our case that you consider supporting or joining us to take our politics forward.
End â€“ 17 August 2018