Maverick left nationalist
We reproduce below correspondence between comrade Freeman and LU national secretary Kate Hudson and also publish a statement issued by Left Unity’s Communist Platform
I am writing to inform you that your intention to stand as a candidate in a constituency where Left Unity is standing a candidate is incompatible with Left Unity membership. See section 3d of our constitution below.
Membership of Left Unity shall be open to any individual without regard to perceived or actual impairment, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation who:
(a) commits to further the aims of Left Unity
(b) agrees to abide by the democratically decided rules and constitution of Left Unity
(c) pays any membership subscription agreed by national conference
(d) supports Left Unity candidates in elections
(e) is not a member of an organisation deemed incompatible with membership of Left Unity by national conference or national council
(f) abides by the principles and guidelines of behaviour set out in the safer spaces policy (appendix 1)
I urge you to withdraw your candidacy and support the ‘Left Unity - Trade Unionists and Socialists’ candidate, Kingsley Abrams, who has been endorsed by Southwark branch and Left Unity national council.
If you persist with your candidacy, I advise you to resign from Left Unity. If not, I will pursue withdrawal of your membership with the appropriate party bodies.
Dear Kate and comrades
Thanks for your letter (March 20 2015) advising me of the intention to expel me if I do not stand down in favour of a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate. I will not be standing down. There are a number of points I want to make:
1. I will be standing as a militant anti-unionist and republican socialist in Bermondsey. The emphasis of my campaign will be on democracy and social justice. Without democracy there will be no social justice. I will target the political bankruptcy and corruption of the Westminster system. Britain’s sinking ‘democracy’ is a real danger and this is one reason why the working class must prioritise the struggle for a radical extension of democracy.
2. I will be explaining to the people of Bermondsey the political significance of the 45% who voted ‘yes’ in the Scottish referendum and why we must follow the lead of the Scottish people in taking the path of democratic revolution. I will be highlighting the fact that we urgently need a republican socialist party and without this the socialist movement will continue to flounder like a blindfolded person in a darkened room.
3. Standing in this election is a matter of honour. In 2010 I stood for Bermondsey as an independent socialist and trade unionist and made a pledge to the electors that I would stand again at the next general election. I will not break that pledge to satisfy the ambitions of Tusc. Second, I am standing as an act of solidarity with the Scottish people, who were cruelly abused and threatened by the British crown, Bank of England, the European Union, the United States and major banks and powerful corporations throughout the referendum campaign.
4. The people of Scotland, Ireland or Wales do not have a right to self-determination. It is our duty in England to stand up for their democratic rights, while fighting for our own rights. By keeping silent about this in the general election, the socialist movement in England is betraying the working class. As an internationalist, it is a matter of shame that republican socialists will be the only ‘party’ in England standing against the growing spectre of English chauvinism.
5. The political significance of my campaign is as an anti-unionist and republican socialist standing in England in the 2015 election. To my knowledge I will be the only anti-unionist and republican socialist in England. It will be a unique event that the fight over Scotland’s future democracy is carried on in England. Only ‘parliamentary cretinism’ would think a lack of votes is more important than issues of policy and principle.
6. When the votes are declared, it will be a moment of triumph and shame. It will be a triumph that I have stood out against the combined might of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the RMT union bureaucracy. It will be a triumph that I have dared to stand without a party organisation and have not been deflected from doing so by the fear of getting very few votes. It will be a moment of shame for the socialist movement that it has failed to recognise the particular situation pertaining in the country and that the best the left can come up with is ‘reheated Labourism’.
7. It would be the height of political folly to embark on the course of expelling a founding member of LU without thinking through the ramifications. Expelling me will, in part, redefine the nature of Left Unity to mean Left Unionism. It is likely to end the participation of republican socialists in LU. It will undermine any possible rapprochement with the radical left in Scotland. It will cement the perception of the politics of LU as tepid Labourism.
8. If Tusc does well in the election, this will make the Tusc-LU merger which is now on the cards more or less inevitable. The expulsion of a republican socialist from LU, combined with the dominance of the lash-up between the SP-SWP and RMT bureaucracy is the death knell for LU as an independent party. All the votes that pile up for Tusc nationally and in Bermondsey are but fuel for a funeral pyre for LU.
9. Tusc is not going to mount any serious challenge to Labour in this election. Kingsley Abrahams (Tusc) has set his own ambitious target of saving his deposit. He is not a member of Left Unity. He was the chosen Tusc candidate before he met Southwark LU. If we endorse Green Party or Labour Party candidates do they automatically become LU candidates?
10. The plan to expel me from LU is, thus, a curious combination of political ignorance, gross stupidity and the behind-the-scenes manoeuvrings of dark forces. The best answer to the latter is to drag them into the light of day. From those copied into the email this plot seems to emanate from Socialist Resistance - either individual members or the group as a whole. Of course, LU members would be wise to clarify this before proceeding further. I think we should be told who was the first person to propose it.
1. Steve Freeman has announced that he is a parliamentary candidates in Bermondsey and Old Southwark for the May 7 general election. He is standing as a Republican Socialist. He is therefore opposing Kingsley Abrams, a candidate jointly backed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and Left Unity. Politically this amounts to sabotage.
2. Comrade Abrams is a former local councillor and was the official Labour candidate in the 2001 general election. He lost to Simon Hughes, but got 30% of the vote. Comrade Abrams fell foul of the Labour Party machine after speaking out against austerity. He describes himself as old Labour and recently resigned from the party after 30 years of membership. Comrade Abrams then offered to stand under the banner of Tusc and LU - an offer that was eagerly accepted at both a local and national level. Southwark LU officially endorsed him on February 25.
3. Though comrade Abrams is not a member of LU, he is without doubt the right candidate to back. He is not only challenging Simon Hughes once again, but mainstream Labour hopeful Nick Coyle. His central slogan is ‘No to austerity’.
4. Comrade Freeman is a member of Left Unity. Till recently he was in charge of its constitutional commission and put himself forward for its national council in internal elections. His criticisms of old Labour and Tusc are well founded. The idea of a Labour Party mark II is illusory and doomed to fail. However, comrade Freeman’s ‘republican socialism’ amounts to little more than a leftwing version of English nationalism.
5. Even if he advocated a politically principled socialist programme comrade Freeman would be wrong to stand. The left in Britain is woefully weak and dividing our forces in the general election can only but damage our cause. Political criticism is perfectly legitimate - indeed it is required. But when it comes to the May 7 general election our motto should be ‘Unity in action’.
6. We urge comrade Freeman to behave in a responsible manner and immediately step down as a candidate. If he refuses then it is clear that the national council is duty-bound to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him under clause 18(a) of the constitution.