5 Responses to “Left Forum public meeting – Reconfiguring the European Left: Where do Britain and Ireland come into the picture?”

  1. 1 littlemicky2012
    March 10, 2014 at 18:32

    “…..the Left Forum appears to have consolidated so quickly around this kind of reformist fantasy.” Couldn’t have put it better myself. “The left” or the bigger part of it has abandoned revolutionary politics and perspective, the positioning and reformist claptrap that passes for the various programmes for the local and european elections demonstrate this. Why the majority of the left forum are so anxious to emmulate this nonsense as some sort of new departure is beyond me. I suspect that the real defeats we have suffered in the last while has fed a pessimism that has as it’s outlet this approach. The net result will however be useless to those geuinely desiring an end to capitalism. Why don’t the forum members all just join Sinn Fein or the new left TDs alliance?

    • 2 BB
      March 18, 2014 at 21:57

      “It seems the original conception of the Left Forum as being a space for discussion and debate about different political ideas has been subsumed by this more “practical” and “realistic” approach.”

      Alan, contrary to what you say, the Left Forum has provided a space for discussion – at local level branches, a national public meeting on issue of building a party last year and at an AGM where (following circulation of a draft for consideration) a Constitution was decided. The vast majority voted to seek a broad Party initiative. Your proposal on the Constitution attracted two votes. As a result, you opted to withdraw your nomination for Committee membership. ‘It’s my way, or no way’ perhaps. Democracy matters; failure to respect it alienates people. And rightly so.

      I do share your concern about reformist politics. But I do not wish to thrust a revolutionary socialist rite of passage on entrants to any new initiative. What to do in these circumstances? I suggest instead that a principled compromise is required for anti-capitalist activists. They should live with a line that they do not fully support while at the same time they could put their ideas OPENLY to bigger numbers moving left. I would wish to see uncommitted militants having democratic control of a Party in which they had votes for what should be in the action-programme. I expect loyalty to the Party action programme as the priority of the far-left socialists (and an orientation to action as distinct from endless chattering). Only this could put matters to the test and address your concerns about participation.

      • March 20, 2014 at 15:52

        BB, As I commented in my blog post I don’t dispute that a majority of the Left Forum participants (unfortunately from a revolutionary Marxist point of view) do endorse the perspective of building this kind of party. I am just noting my disappointment at that development.

        I also don’t dispute that the “vast majority” at the last national members meeting voted for a new Constitution which I felt was implicitly moving too fast in the direction of making the Left Forum a party-type organisation. But lets have a sense of proportion about what is involved here as this was a national membership meeting with only 16 voting members present (or 17 if you count Henry who had to leave before the actual voting took place) and only 1/2 dozen or so apologies. The reality is that Left Forum as a “space for discussion” is only in its infancy and has involved a fairly small number of participants at a small number of, almost exclusively Dublin, meetings which, if the public debate between the two James’ that I attended was anything to go by, hardly mobilised great numbers.

        But looking forward. If what is proposed is indeed going to be an open process of discussion around what kind of political organisation is needed by the working class and what the programme should be then I am more than willing to actively participate (as I have done in the past in the ULA here, the SLP in Britain and the NLP in New Zealand). However what seems much more likely is that a Party of the European Left style political framework is going to be “thrust” onto the new initiative. Discussion around revolutionary alternatives to that left-reformism will be discouraged as being “endless chattering” with the argument being made that the Left Forum has already gone through a period of providing space for discussion and now is the time to move on to practical activity.

        I am quite prepared to loyally implement an “action programme” around immediate demands that did not contradict a revolutionary Marxist strategic perspective and I was not limited from openly presenting those immediate demands as an integrated part of that wider revolutionary perspective. But we both know that the leaders of this project are not going to be happy with me, or anyone else, doing that and will include strategic elements in the programme that are in line with their left-reformist vision and so make any open presentation of a revolutionary alternative an act of disloyalty by bringing the project into political disrepute through associating the new party with mad/sectarian/ultra-left revolutionary ideas. The new Constitution of the Left Forum already includes a clause that would cover this:

        8 Suspension/Expulsion of Members
        The coordinating committee has the power to suspend members of Left Forum for bringing the forum or its project into disrepute. The suspension is to be reviewed at the next national meeting, where it must be put to a vote by the membership. A vote in favour of the suspension will result in the expulsion of the member, while a vote against will cause the suspension to be rescinded and the member to be restored with full rights.

  2. 4 BB
    March 23, 2014 at 18:05

    I commented previously on the need for a “principled compromise” for anti-capitalist activists. This can happen when the vote is lost in any new party scenario. This means “… live with a line that they do not fully support while at the same time they could put their ideas OPENLY to bigger numbers moving left.” Perhaps I should have clarified this to state that the agreed “line” has to be defended publicly, as long as members with other views would be free to argue their differing views INSIDE the party.

    For this reason, I have always defended the rights of tendencies. I did so successfully in the ULA and committed it to tendency rights. An individual or group could announce itself, hold its own meetings, publish its own bulletins inside the party and put forward its motions at decision-making bodies. Many people attack the idea of tendency mutual criticism as a recipe for failure of such a party. I disagree and defend to its fullest the right to explore all proposals and ideas.

    However, “any open presentation of a revolutionary alternative” if done so externally, would be a misrepresentation of what the party (or Forum currently) stands for, that is, left reformism. Yes, this should be discouraged. But this should/would not prevent you from speaking or writing re same in a personal or RP group political capacity.

    I suspect that you would never publicly support the broad party pluralist line agreed at AGM should a party ever be formed. Both you and I know that this is highly unlikely. But I imagine you would effectively disregard the democratically made decision (or leave because of it).

    As for the suspension clause, that is a battle to be fought if it happens in the circumstances you mention.

    Maybe we will have to agree to disagree on these matters.

    • March 24, 2014 at 15:26

      I complete agree that working class parties should have a culture of the fullest possible democratic discussion – including the kind of tendency rights you outline.

      However it seems you go further than that and are arguing that this new party should apply the strictest possible interpretation of democratic centralism – that ANY external discussion of differences would amount to a breach of discipline?

      This seems quite strange for an organisation of the type you are proposing, with a limited action programme as its political basis and with a membership of working class militants from across the reform to revolution spectrum.

      The organisational framework known by the term democratic centralism, even in less strict variants than the one you propose, is only appropriate for organisations with a much higher level of common political understanding of the strategic tasks facing our class in its struggle for liberation from the chains of capitalism. It is only a common strategic understanding that allows socialists to carry out and argue for majority decisions they disagree with on more immediate or tactical issues.

      Instead what you seem to be arguing for would effectively be a bureaucratic straight-jacket by which a reformist leadership could muzzle critics from its left.

      I must also point out that any votes taken at the last Left Forum national meeting could only been seen as indicative for any actual party type organisation that may emerge from the Left Forum process given the tiny number of people involved in the voting.

      The most likely route to such a new organisation would seem to be some kind of political fusion of Left Forum with the United Left electoral machine around Clare and Joan – whether or not this would be acceptable to the leading members of either side in that potential fusion is an open question.

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