There can be few on the progressive side of the political spectrum who have not yet heard of the rapid rise of Left Unity movement. Ken Loach’s appeal to found a new party of the left was greeted enthusiastically by 10,000 people who have since gone on to establish 100 local groups across the country campaigning against austerity and the bedroom tax, opposing the EDL, fighting to save hospitals and fighting for a fairer society. The Labour left, however, have rolled their eyes. They tell us not to rock the boat before a closely fought election, arguing that if we don’t fall in line behind Ed Miliband then we’ll split the vote and hand the country to a vicious Conservative government engaged in all-out war on the working-class people we stand with and for.
But supporting Labour will only enshrine Tory policies. In gutting the Labour party and turning it into a neoliberal husk, Tony Blair did far more than John Major to embed Thatcherism in this country. Miliband’s instincts may be to the left of Blair’s, but in supporting Tory spending plans, accepting the arguments of austerity, abstaining on workfare and failing to make the case that it was not welfare spending that wrecked the British economy but a crisis of cowboy capitalism, the next Labour government will only create consensus around Cameron and Osborne’s project to shrink the state at the expense of the most vulnerable people in society. If the left continue to back a Labour party that not only fails to represent their views, but actively opposes them, then that will never change.
New Labour long ago made the calculated and correct assumption that it can tack as far as it likes to the right and continue to count on its working-class base. As a result, we now have three main parties signed up to the interests of big business and no one representing the interests of working-class people. Left Unity will make Labour fight hard for every working-class vote. And in doing so we will pull this country and the centre of political debate back to the left.
If Labour is worried that Left Unity will split its vote, then it will have to listen to the concerns of the working class people it was founded over a century ago to represent. Back then, there was a gaping democratic gap with no party standing up for the interests of the majority – what Occupy might now call the 99%. We have that same democratic deficit today. As George Monbiot once told me, if people continue to vote for something bad in fear of something worse, no one will ever get the government they want. It is not good for the left and it is not good for democracy.
We need a party that stands on socialist principles and speaks to the majority in this country, that fights to protect our environment and our NHS, that opposes war, racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of discrimination. On 30 November at London’s Royal National hotel, Left Unity will become that party. Unlike past attempts to build a party to the left of Labour, Left Unity is not dominated by a central charismatic figure or controlled by a single group. It is being built from the bottom up by activists united by their opposition to austerity and their desire for a better society. If, like me, you want those things, then join us.
This article was originally written for the Guardian