Aims, deals and recommendations
Jack Conrad reports from the Communist Platform’s steering committee
We have agreed to stand a limited number of candidates in Left Unity’s internal elections. The Communist Platform is presenting a full slate for the 15 nationally elected seats. However, as with last year, none of our comrades will be standing for any of the committees or officer positions. Nor, for that matter, apart from London, are we fielding full slates for Left Unity’s regions. And, apart from the youth and student caucuses, we have, at least for the moment, no plans to intervene organisationally within LU’s other sections - disabled, women, black, LGBTQ, etc.
Voting is, of course, by email. The ballot was officially supposed to open on Tuesday March 3 (however because of a cock-up voting was delayed), and is once again officially due to close at 11.59pm on Friday March 23. The results will be announced four days later. Members have before them something near a hundred candidates and are expected to select from them 10 officers, 15 national council members as well as the disputes, standing orders, etc, committees. A big ask.
As we have repeatedly argued, this voting system is surely an internalisation of the defeats suffered by the trade union movement in the 1980s. Margaret Thatcher’s government made postal ballots a legal requirement. Naturally, at the time, the left opposed what was an attempt to neuter trade union militancy. Instead we championed voting at branch meetings, conferences, etc. Those standing for election could therefore be asked awkward questions and inevitably answers informed choices.
Why vote CP
Our main emphasis is not on positions, but conducting the battle of ideas. We seek to win a clear majority in Left Unity to the Marxist programme of extreme democracy and establishing working class power first and foremost in Europe - the decisive point of departure for the global transition to communism. Ideas of “saving capitalism from itself” (Yanis Varoufakis) and a return to some Keynesian golden age are in our opinion as illusory as they are reactionary.
Nevertheless, it would surely be a good thing if the Communist Platform increased its representation on the national council. As is widely recognised, our comrade, Yassamine Mather, has played an invaluable role over the last year. Even those who disagree with us over this or that secondary question would therefore be well advised to vote for our list.
Already the Communist Platform has helped defeat attempts to water down Left Unity’s anti-imperialist principles. Eg, Socialist Resistance wanted to provide a ‘leftwing’ excuse for further US-UK ‘humanitarian’ interventions in the Middle East. Likewise today we militantly oppose any blurring of the distinction between the petty bourgeois politics of the Green Party and the socialist politics of the working class.
Of course, within Left Unity the Communist Platform is committed to openness, democracy, accountability and radical change. In line with the constitution all our Communist Platform meetings are reported. That includes dealing with differences and sharp arguments (eg, when we expelled Ian Donovan because of his retrogressive attitude towards Jews). In the same spirit of openness our comrades regularly write about Left Unity’s branches, national council meetings, conferences, etc. That a comrade, Laurie McCauley, can be permanently suspended from Manchester Left Unity for such a ‘crime’ is surely an outrage. The fact that our disputes committee has proved either unwilling or unable to right this disgraceful wrong can only but repel potential recruits. No office-holder, no political faction in Left Unity should be above criticism.
The present system, whereby a largely atomised membership elects the 10 national officers, appears democratic. But in reality it encourages Bonapartist egos, lessens our effectiveness and prevents proper accountability. On the one hand, national officers who do not perform prominent public roles could be doing perfectly competent jobs. On the other hand, they might be unmitigated disasters. There are rumours and dry-as-dust minutes. But most members find themselves completely in the dark. Far better to have indirect elections - the election of officers by what is supposed to be our central leadership body. The national council should have the power to appoint, monitor and if necessary recall officers.
To facilitate that the national council must be reduced in size … it also needs to meet at least monthly. At present the national council is totally dysfunctional. Far too many NC members fail to attend: eg, the February 28 meeting saw just over half its members turn up. Meanwhile, papers, motions and amendments often go unread. Political and organisational amateurism rules. Agendas are overstuffed, are hardly ever completed. Major decisions are therefore taken elsewhere. By the 10 officers or even unofficial groupings of officers and their factional associates. Obviously all this is highly unsatisfactory.
Every Communist Platform candidate backs the call for a constitutional conference in 2015. Clearly our existing constitution is unfit for purpose. Root-and-branch change is urgently needed.
Besides national council members elected by the entire membership, the Communist Platform is supporting a full slate of 10 in the London region. We are also standing Tina Becker in Yorkshire and Humberside and David Isaacson in the South East. Vote for them all in the recommended order - vital with the single transferable vote system.
We have been approached by Nick Wrack on behalf of the Independent Socialist Network to come to some sort of non-aggression pact, some sort of accommodation, perhaps even run a joint slate. Given that the ISN is a recognised component part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, is based on the politics of fudge, is unanchored programmatically and is fielding a number of candidates who have a record on the left which renders them unsuitable to serve on the leadership of any kind of socialist organisation, the Communist Platform rejected all such suggestions. The fact that comrade Wrack was vaguely talking about extending his coalition to include the social-imperialist Alliance for Workers’ Liberty closed the matter as far as we are concerned.
There are worthwhile people in the ISN, but there are also philistine muddleheads. There are the sincere, but there are also scoundrels. For example, Chris Strafford and John Pearson. The first is Manchester LU secretary. He took the lead in suspending comrade McCauley and then defending what is a gross violation of elementary democracy: ie, banning the freedom to criticise.
Then there is comrade Pearson. He is not only standing for the national council, but aspires to become our nominations officer. However, comrade Pearson was expelled from the Campaign for a Marxist Party in 2008 for threatening to “lamp” a fellow CMP member. Comrade Pearson did not take kindly to being criticised. Despite strenuous efforts by Hillel Ticktin, myself and others, comrade Pearson refused to express the slightest contrition. Indeed he adamantly claimed to be fully justified. Naturally then, he arrogantly rejected all offers of mediation and requests for him to withdraw the threat of violence and apologise. If he had, I for one would have forgiven and forgotten. But he steadfastly refused.
Nevertheless, as a gesture of good will, we have put two ISNers towards the top of our recommended list for the 15 nationally elected NC members. Given our modest but real strength, this support will give them a boost. We might have our differences with Toby Abse and Chris Cassells. But they are principled leftwingers, they are also primarily committed to Left Unity, as opposed to Tusc. We are also calling for a vote for Dave Landau in London; and for Matthew Jones in Scotland and Dave Parks in the South West, who should be given the first preference vote. The Communist Platform hopes that the ISN will reciprocate, but we are not relying upon it.
Whereas the Communist Platform is democratic, well organised and disciplined, the ISN is a veritable swamp. In other words, whereas the Communist Platform can, and will, deliver 100% of its members to vote for whatever our steering committee recommends, the same is unlikely to be the case with the ISN.
A number of ISNers hope to become national officers. Besides comrade Pearson, Nick Wrack is standing for national secretary, Pete McLaren for media officer, and Ed Potts and Will McMahon as principal speakers. Rather than giving a hard and fast recommendation in relation to these and other candidates, our steering committee thinks we should ask all comrades standing for officer positions and on the regional lists to answer the following questions. If their replies are satisfactory, and can be judged honest and upfront, it would be right to vote for them.
1. Do you publicly criticise all calls, manifestos and organisations calling for a British withdrawal from the European Union? Will you publicly advocate the programme of establishing working class power throughout Europe?
2. Do you oppose the idea of forming some kind of bloc within Left Unity that includes the social-imperialist AWL? Should those who support the pro-Nato government of Petro Poroshenko, who refuse to condemn the 2003 invasion of Iraq or the possibility of an Israeli nuclear strike against Iran be considered legitimate bloc partners?
3. Do you give priority to Left Unity or Tusc? Do you agree that Tusc is a diversionary Labour Party mark II project?
4. Do you support openness and accountability? Do you consider reporting and commenting on Left Unity officers, branches, regions, national council, conferences, etc, perfectly normal and acceptable? Will you publicly condemn the suspension of Laurie McCauley? Do you demand his immediate reinstatement?
5. Do you disassociate yourself from those who resort to violence or threats of violence within the left? Will you insist that anyone found guilty of making such threats issue a public apology, no matter how belatedly?
6. Do you think Left Unity should draw a clear red line between the socialist politics of the working class and the petty bourgeois politics of the Green Party?
7. Do you support the call for a Left Unity constitutional conference in 2015?
We urge comrades to vote in the following order of preference
1. Yassamine Mather
2. Jack Conrad
3. Tina Becker
4. Chris Cassells
5. Toby Abse
6. Moshé Machover
7. Mike Macnair
8. David Isaacson
9. Sarah McDonald
10. Robert Eagleton
11. Lee Rock
12. Peter Manson
13. Daniel Gray
14. Maciej Zurowski
15. Mark Lewis
1. Daniel Gray
2. Sarah McDonald
3. Emily Orford
4. James Turley
5. Tom Morley
6. Simon Wells
7. Maciej Zurowski
8. Moshé Machover
9. Phil Railston
10. Dave Landau
1. David Isaacson
1. Dave Parks
Yorkshire and Humber
1. Tina Becker
1. Matthew Jones
Support for other candidates should be based on their responses to the seven questions listed in article