Monthly Archives: May 2013

Leeds Left Unity Launch Meeting – 22nd May 2013

On the 22nd of May 2013 Alan Gibbons introduced the Leeds Left Unity launch meeting with great enthusiasm and personal passion that was truly inspirational. Leeds Left Unity formed as a result of the national call from Ken Loach for a new left party to oppose the national shift to the right and the betrayals of Labour, felt so deeply by the people least responsible for the financial crisis. Within two weeks over 8000 people nationally answered that call by signing the petition and as a result over 90 groups have been set up across the country in less than two months. It is obvious to anyone at this stage that Left Unity has the potential to answer questions unanswered by the main three parties and more importantly, has the opportunity to have ordinary people feel they have a voice again that is not rooted in racism, oppression, capitalism or subservience to big business.

Kath Owen gave a brief introduction to the meeting of around 100 people as chair that called on everyone involved to stay involved and highlighted the nature of Leeds Left Unity and Left Unity nationally by highlighting that it is a member led organisation seeking to encourage people to organise themselves and fight back against austerity. Then introduced Alan Gibbons, international children’s author but perhaps more importantly, long standing left wing campaigner with too many campaigns under his belt to list here. Alan is not on an organising ctte in Left Unity or a national initiative seeking to control the organisation. He is a member with a voice and it is important to recognise that while he is a truly fantastic speaker, he spoke as another member of Left Unity to the people in the room.

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The discussion ranged from why we need a fightback against the coalition and Labour at this time and how Left Unity can achieve that. He spoke at length from his personal experiences in fighting for left wing politics and how to challenge non-sensical economic terms that the big business parties use to confuse and intimidate people out of action. As the discussion went on, people were laughing, shouting and so wonderfully encouraged on to action but it became very clear that this was a meeting interested in doing something new. The room was made up of around 100 people from all walks of political and personal situations. It was perhaps slightly more male participants then female, which is something Left Unity is very interested in addressing the patriarchal attitudes so present in British politics but the ratio was far better than any meeting I have personally attended on the left in some time.

The discussion had to be ended with people still indicating to speak after around 90 minutes of contributions from campaigns, personal speakers and traditional revolutionary left organisations and even a speaker still in the Labour party. The first people to speak were from campaigns already active in Leeds, with Hands off Our Homes speaker Liz detailing how it is possible to beat the government on another entirely ideological and ill-conceived plot to make poor people pay as they have already U-turned on a number of issues and it will cost more to evict people than can possibly be gained from these bullying sanctions on spare rooms. Keep Our NHS Public speaker gave a richly informative description of the work taking place in KONP in Leeds and wider and how they are always looking for more people to lobby the privatisers of a dearly loved and hard won NHS, such as Virgin and Serco.

Other contributions highlighted the need for Left Unity to be inclusive and considerate when using outdated or politically damaged terminology, to make sure that all people from all walks of left wing political opinion can feel welcomed, encouraged and strengthened by the unity that Left Unity can offer. There was already an agreed meeting on the 5th of June (details to follow) for the Left Unity organsing meeting where we will determine what to do next with this rapidly and encouragingly growing movement. So, whoever you are, if you are left, please come along and let us know what you think should be done and help in a genuinely united movement interested in helping people because it is the right thing to do. I won’t spoil the excellent introduction by Alan Gibbons at this point by detailing it as video of his introduction is to follow. So, please, watch this space and get involved.


Summary of Left Unity Leeds Launch Meeting on the 22nd of May 2013

These are the notes taken during the meeting for record keeping sake. A full report of the meeting will be made available later on the blog.

       Notes from Alan Gibbons meeting

       Hands off our Homes – fantastic campaign, real resistance from below – needs to get to more places, esp. Lingfield. Handsoffourhomes@gmail.com

       Keep Our NHS Public – end of 65 years of NHS! American system coming! It is going to hit home. Go to your own GP, involve with patient participation and clinical commissioning.  KONP group, meeting and leafletting.

       Wakefield Left Unity – there is a fightback. Ballots for strike action. Clerical staff in UNISON already been out, more action to come.  Get union reps and strikers to talk to meetings.

       Spirit of ‘45 – we were in it together to set welfare state up.  What will make the difference now? People should reclaim the Labour Party and trade unions.

       Socialism? Or mass movement? Word demonized in press. Don’t need the word, we’ve got morality

       Left unity like a unicorn. Spent too much time discussing what we disagree on, rather than what we agree on – what we are fighting against and fighting for.

       Lessons from past – easier when struggles going forward. History of united activity in Leeds – continue unity in those struggles.

       UAF meet 7.30PM, 3rd Tuesday every month in Civic Hall – fight fascism and racism.

       UKIP is a warning. Ken Loach’s appeal – not just for elections, but in struggle. Got to name capitalism as enemy and to fight for alternative – socialism. What lies ahead? Needs discussion. Get involved – organising meeting June 5th in Broadcasting Place.

       Different traditions, be a big church – like the Morning Star. We agree on 90%

       Labour don’t represent an alternative, need a working class alternative. Lessons from Lingfield – lack working class socialist alternative on that estate. Need left organization rooted in every community and workplace.

       Labour in the communities – in the past. Now, we want activists in communities. Lesson from KONP at Labour conference. 65th anniversary of NHS – want to campaign against privatisation. Meet in Millennium Square. Campaign against Virgin. Put Labour Party on the spot. Push Labour to the left. For public housing, against war, discrimination, privatisation. Rebuild grassroots organisation.

       UKIP – Tea Party? Astroturfing. Claim to be movement of working class – don’t alienate people, show we’ve got working class roots.

       Unity in action – work in Lingfield, successful – revitalised UAF. Done by a handful – needed more people. Hands Off Our Homes – needs more activists. KONP – need more people. Stimulate unity in action. We’ve got to win.

       UKIP racism – influences Tories and Labour – need to confront  racist arguments about immigration, build unity.

       Can it happen? Going to be what people want it to be. Share information.

       One Member One Vote (OMOV)

       Left organizations not changed much since 70s – Left Unity needs to be different and broaden things out. Not arguing about nature of USSR.

       10,000 people in Green Party. Willing to work together in future.