Signposts, Programmes And Ideas For The Left In Britain
Unfortunately I am unable to get along to the Convention of the Left in Manchester over the next few days, so I thought I would link some useful background reading, information and programmes and give my tentative suggestions.
The Convention itself has been left with as open an agenda as the organisers could without leaving it totally without suggested outcomes. This, despite the inevitable complaints of the usual suspects is a good idea IMO. (And the fact that some are complaining they did not have a clear enough policy programme in advance and others are complaining that making any suggestions pre-empts the discussion shows they have got it about right.) The tentative idea of local left forums for co-operation on matters of broad agreement does not seem overly controversial. The idea would be that co-operation only took place in such cases between people who agreed on the task or strategy in hand, rather than acrimoniously debating in an externally alienating manner what they did not agree on, as has too often been the case in the past.
So, to some of the ideas, transitional, broad brush and otherwise that have been circulating. One of the debating points at the moment is the Green New Deal drawn up by various figures on the environmentalist left to give a progressive, social-justice-based approach to the pressing climate crisis and current economic difficulties. This programme should not be seen as an end in itself, but a series of transitional/progressive demands that can help change the territory of debate and open the frozen ground for more radical demands and approaches. The report can obviously be criticised, but can at least give some pointers to possible immediate demands.
In terms of broad concrete demands and unity platforms there are a number of Charters circulating and being proposed. Here is the People Before Profit Charter (promoted by amongst others the SWP and their "Left Alternative"), and here is the CPB idea for a new People's Charter.
It is important that the English left do not forget, or fail to learn from, the situation in Scotland and Wales, or indeed the situation of our Irish neighbours. It is good that there is at least a debate scheduled (put together by Scottish Left Review) around the situation as regards devolution, autonomy and independence early in the convention.
The convention and current events also call us to look at the relationship of the left to the greens and vice versa, with a key role for groups like Green Left, the AGS and the Ecosocialist International Network. Here is a contribution from SUB by Green Left activist Sean Thompson.
Industrial work, alongside community organising, must become more of a priority for activists in Britain given the likely assaults that will be made by New Labour and the bosses to try and deal with the economic crisis and by any incoming Tory government eager to "go where New Labour daren't". Whilst the NSSN shop stewards network is a good initiative that is still worth exploring, and developing, as a Wobbly I would like to see the IWW in Britain (already larger and more inclusive than the vast majority of British left political groups) developed as both a radical union in its' own right but also as a network for linking up industrial unionists in existing unions during the coming struggles.