Around 500 people attended the launch of the new party Left Unity in central London last Saturday.
The project emerged from a call by film maker Ken Loach.
Over 10,000 people have signed the opening statement since March, showing a wider yearning for radical organisation to the left of Labour. Around 1,000 people have signed up to be Left Unity members.
The agenda was very full at its one-day launch conference.
In the run-up to the launch the fledgling party organised around a number of “platforms”.
Some looked to forming a party more like Labour in 1945, others to a more radical left party along the lines of Syriza in Greece. Others fought for a more explicitly revolutionary party.
Ken Loach was concerned that platforms have been divisive.He said, “We’ve seen a level of acrimony not in our original project”.
He worried that the time on the agenda given to debate them left no time for the organising committee or the trade union group to report.
Loach moved that there should be no vote on platforms, but was defeated. However, another motion calling for platform votes not to define the party’s aims was passed, so that more than one platform’s statement could be adopted.
The only platform to be passed was the Left Party Platform, calling for a broad socialist organisation, passed by 295 votes to 101 with 12 abstentions.
The conference was determined that the organisation itself should be more diverse than this original gathering. Discussions on this led to the most contentious debates of the day.
It voted that all bodies should be 50/50 men and women and that there should be sectional structures for LGBT, black and minority ethnic, disabled members and women.
The constitutional amendments became somewhat tortuous, though the discussions remained largely good humoured. But at certain points large sections of the audience became confused. Someone called out from the back, “I’ve absolutely no idea what’s going on”.
Debates were clearer around issues of age, region and organisation. A motion from Wigan that called for meetings to be held around the country to avoid being London-centric was defeated.
The point “Caucuses may not organise public campaigns against the overall aims of the party” was deleted from the constitution.
This will allow left organisations to operate inside the new party.
These complicated discussions meant that there was no time for the sections on priority campaigns and electoral strategy to be raised or discussed.
Socialist Worker welcomes all discussion about credible left alternatives to the Labour Party.
But the difficulties are emphasised by the lengthy debate on programme without getting onto the practical realities of organising.
Left Unity does not at present represent any breakthrough.
The Socialist Workers Party will continue to seek joint working with Left Unity and to avoid electoral clashes. Left Unity will hold a further conference to work out how it will organise in the new year.