Britain: First Left Unity conference builds anti-austerity alternative

Monday, April 7, 2014

“In a few short months,” principle speaker for Left Unity Salman Shaheen said in a March 31 New Statesman article, the new party “has attracted more than 1,800 members. With a new member joining every 10 minutes over the weekend, the party is going from strength to strength.”

Left Unity held its first national conference in Manchester on March 29. The party was called for by filmmaker Ken Loach last year, to build a political alternative opposing brutal austerity and promoting the interests of working people. With the Labour Party committed to austerity, thousands of people signed a call to create a new left party.

Shaheen said: “After a day of open, democratic debate around a series of motions sent in by branches and members around the country, the party agreed that it would launch its challenge to the Tory-led government and weak Labour opposition by campaigning against austerity, poverty pay, zero-hour contracts and privatisation.

“Left Unity is committed to introducing a mandatory living wage and a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay to support people struggling with their work-life balance.

“It will campaign to bring the railways and the energy companies back into public ownership, policies that big business-backed Labour will not even consider, even though they are supported by the vast majority of British people ...

“The party committed itself to defending the NHS from creeping back-door privatisation, to campaigning against the bedroom tax and campaigning to build a million new affordable, spacious social homes while reigning in rocketing private rents.

“Conference supported a push not only for many more green jobs, but many more purple jobs as well. The term refers to jobs in the caring sectors which are being remorselessly cut by local authorities as a result of national government reductions in their funding.”

Shaheen said the party was opposed to fracking, pointing to the dangers involved in pumping chemicals into the ground to extract gas. He saidthe practice “ties us into further exploitation of fossil fuels, hampering efforts to bring carbon emissions down and distracting us from the need to be massively expanding renewable energy”.

Shaheen said: “The party has had an encouraging start for an organisation that emerged from nowhere to be built from the bottom-up by independent activists fed up with the political status quo. But for Left Unity to succeed, it will now have to turn outwards. It will need to campaign on the streets, in the workplaces and in the unions.

“It will have to support ― not hijack ― local campaigns across the country to save hospitals and libraries, to shut down fracking sites, to oppose the bedroom tax and to stop the racist [English Defence League].

“Only when Left Unity has done all of these things, when it has actively tried to make a difference to the lives of poor, vulnerable and oppressed people, will it have the right to ask for their vote.”

[For more information, visit Left Unity.]

From GLW issue 1004