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Left Unity Wales – report of discussion meeting 27.4.2019
Raffaele Raffo Grande from the European Left Italian member party Refondazione Comunista spoke and responded to discussion about the political situation in Italy and the importance of the EL. He explained how the working class vote had been captured by the Five Star Movement (M5S) and has delivered that vote to the right by forming a coalition with the Northern League to form a government. The right have used the issues of migration and blaming other workers to change the paradigm from a working class v capital struggle to one of workers v ‘other’s. The opposition is now basically Berlusconi Forza Italia and the much weakened social democratic party PD. The EU elections are likely to result in re-enforcing the position of the right.

Unlike the UK the trade unions do not have a close relationship with the PD social democrats. They are rapidly losing members.

In this situation the network of socialists provided by the EL has become increasingly important. If it was possible for a left – social democratic – green majority to emerge in the European Parliament then much of the neo-liberal legislation could be blocked or rolled back.

At the local level socialists in Italy and across Europe need to stop just talking to and about each other, reach out and engage with the alternative arguments. As Gramsci argued there is a need to rebuild a socialist hegemony across Europe and borders: ‘every drop starts to make a whole’.

In the discussion it was mentioned that there appeared to be a contradiction between leading anti fascists also supporting Lexit. That in the Labour Party the remain argument had become too closely associated with Blairites that it had become toxic irrespective of the different context of the argument such as that put by AEIP. It is important that if there is another referendum that the neo-liberals do not dominate the campaign and there is an important object to build and strengthen the presence of AEIP. The prospect of doing this have increased due to the events in Parliament.

The rise of anti political sentiments ‘curse on all your houses’ is an issue in both countries. And another is the LP abandonment of free movement. A discussion took place in this context of the gilets jaunes movement and it was recognised that it was contradictory with progressive and reactionary elements although the balance may be changing to the left. It reflects experience in both countries of a battle without a plan and open to fascism.

It is a task we all have work at to overcome the profound rejection of politicians and demonstrate that cross border and international class solidarity can work.

Let’s build a socialist programme

The background and areas of work on this LU Wales initiative can be seen here.
At this discussion we starting to look at the economy and with Alice Tahi from XR climate breakdown.

An alternative economy

The discussion was started by Len Arthur

As with all the workshops the idea is to start with the general context as a number of propositions

  1. The idea of a ‘fantasy boom’ proposed by Michael Roberts indicates that global capitalism remains extremely unstable and without a long term foundation.
  2. The financial crisis has led to extremes of global inequality in terms of ownership of wealth, possibly unparalleled in historical terms, at least in relation to the size of the value of the mass of accumulated wealth involved. As a recent Oxfam report reveals 26 people now own the same as the 50% of the world’s poorest or 3.8m people.
  3. Income inequality has seen some improvement totally due to improvements in the low base in China and India but outside of those countries it continues to decline. In the UK real disposable median household income peaked in 2008 then fell every year until 2013. Has risen since then but in 2018 plateaued meaning that very little has been gained overall since the financial crisis with toughs cancelling out peaks.
  4. All these lead to a huge influence on and interlock with political power – too big to fail etc. These pressures overlap with political and state power so we can see a new phase of imperial competitiveness emerging with the US hegemony being challenged by China and Russia, the European Union and states being drawn into political and economic alliances around different views about how capitalism does and should work
  5. The control and power is about increased accumulation through the maximising the rate of profit through increased exploitation of people and the resources of the planet. Continued austerity drives ensuring that the working class pay for the financial crisis.
  6. For us as socialists we pose the alternative as moving production for need away from profit and a ‘donut economy’ where production does not overshoot the needs of the planet and avoiding climate breakdown.
  7. Both require a political emphasis on the need for collective ownership and control of wealth and the investment processes through democratic governance at different levels of state structures.
  8. Key issue is how do we transition to collective ownership and control?
  9. How can we take forward the transition by ‘rolling back’ the market and private ownership locally to nationally and internationally?

There was not enough time to start to go beyond the initial statement of the problem but some thoughts were expressed in an earlier version of LU Wales’ manifesto – the economy section – produced in 2014 which perhaps provide a starting point.
XR – preventing climate breakdown

Alice Tahi who had been at the London XR demonstrations introduced the discussion. A strength of XR is it’s lack of ideology and emphasis on pragmatic tactics. It is an attempt to move away from adversarial politics for the long not just the short term. It is as much about shifting and creating a new culture of making decisions by consensus as a social movement with a particular purpose.

Some successes had already been achieved locally as Cardiff Council supported the idea of a climate emergency but then watered down what it meant by emphasising actions already taken in terms of regeneration etc.

The idea of citizen’s assemblies is to be reflective of the local demography, groups which would be cross party or none. The aim would be to take on board the best possible evidence so as to arrive at the most effective policy decisions.

Discussion points were raised about consensus and whether it ignored real conflicts of interest; the difficulty of actually achieving net carbon by 2025.

In response it was suggested that XR was about testing and engaging not telling people waht the answer was, it is about giving voice to members of public. There were a huge range of possible solutions and Bristol XR for example had started to work through these. The aim is to help people make different decisions at a social scale moving away from just advocating those at a consumer level. XR supported critical collaboration in different ways through the allocation of roles.

Discussion point was raised in relation to unilaterally setting up citizen’s assemblies now and not just waiting for the state to initiate them.

Discussion point was raised praising the work of XR and putting the idea of climate breakdown on the social and political agenda.

In response it was felt that there is a danger in doing this as just the same people would get involved and the discussion degenerate. The aim of the assemblies would be to engage a much wider range of community groups and be in reality more representative.

In relation to net zero carbon by 2025 it was suggested that this is a plan. What was really needed was to develop a clear step by step process drawing upon expert input as many solutions were already know.

The aim to change toward a ‘regenerative culture’ in a prefigurative sense was emphasised, to recognise that people suffer from burnout and the need to change the mode of engagement to recognising this through ownership and spiritual support.

In taking forward issues for the Let’s build a socialist programme the discussion would need to improve upon and add to our earlier work in this area which can be seen here. Especially by moving to support the aim of XR in relation to net carbon by 2025.

It was also suggested at the meeting that

That the M4 extension should be opposed with alternatives being proposed

That we should argue to set up citizen’s assemblies across Wales but ensure that they are as representative as possible of the local communities and not just activists.

The discussion on the economy and climate breakdown will now go out on our Let’s build a socialist programme weblog and FB page.