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Kate Hudson: The New left, Europe and Left Unity

Kate Hudson spoke at the second Leeds Left Unity public meeting last night. Again there were many new faces with around 28 people in attendance. The discussion section was started off with an appeal from the Leeds Pathology labs strike, where their representative spoke about their plight and delivered the shocking news that often on a night in Leeds General Infirmary, St James’ hospital and Bradford Royal Infirmary, there is often only one member of staff in pathology on a night due to cuts. This is obviously not only dangerous but stops highly dedicated NHS workers from delivering the excellent service they strive to provide. The meeting responded well and we hope their strike went well today. Many members of Left Unity said they were planning to head to the picket lines to support today (1.8.13).

The discussion began with a summary of the various Left parties that have formed in Europe in the recent years including Syriza, Die Linke, Front de Gauche etc., how and why they were formed and interestingly how each situation is different to the political situation in England. Front de Gauche for example came about as a co-operation of parties that have been developing and building since the fall of the wall and the triumphal heralding of the fall of communism. If nothing else, the success and persistence of organisations within Front de Gauche highlight how fallacious the fall of the left really was. However, England is a different situation. Labour, as being formed from the trade union movement, Kate Hudson suggests has maintained a hope that it can return to its left roots and turn back the tide of the savage attacks on conditions hard won after WWII. So, England finds itself seeing Labour heading further and further right, while not having maintained organisations significant enough to form into the new left formations developing across Europe, which is why Left Unity has been called. Kate Hudson, as a founding member of Left Unity and present at the 14th of November meeting knows as well as any the need for this to happen and happen fast.

The left in England has divided and divided with the last significant organisation probably being the CPGB, which when it fell apart took 10’s of thousands of members with it. Militant had almost these numbers during their peak but as with everyone else, suffered heavy losses during the 90s and in their split into the Socialist Party and Socialist Appeal. Each of the projects that have either maintained or come into existence since this time have new opportunities to develop however outside of the yolk of the Soviet Union. Some organisations have sought to become more pluralistic, some more dogmatic and some simply obscure. Especially during the decline of communism and Socialism in Britain and Europe in the 80’s and 90’s, new thinkers began to talk about the potential benefits of the era, where it would be necessary to consider that perhaps one theorist was not entirely right and that it was time to put aside the arguments about whether Trotsky was entirely accurate or Lenin, Gramsci or Mao, Proudhon or Marx. It was a time where new formations could and did develop in Europe which has resulted in the parties that are continuing to fight in Europe today.

This led on to perspectives about what Left Unity could represent today and what it should represent today. Left Unity was formed to be a broad left party, to the left of Labour that can seek to represent people in this time crisis and beyond and fight for things like the NHS, properly funded welfare, employment, union rights and equality. It is possible to learn lessons from where the new left parties in Europe have taken their policies, with some coalitions already facing problems through reverting to social democracy and as such, it is important that Left Unity forms clearly with left principles. Another point well made by Kate Hudson was that it is also possible, in creating a new left party, to attempt to live as if social change had already taken place. Left Unity can be a vessel for people to discuss and test theories relating to emancipation with the support of people from all over the left. This is perhaps one of the most essential points raised. With threats of far right devolution either being encouraged by the racist Tory party or ignored by their coalition partners the Lib Dems or silently encouraged by Labour, equality is not common place in any real way in the current political discourse. In Left Unity people will be able to live and develop treating each other with respect while fighting for public services and economic change that will make such a difference to so many.

The discussion was lively and initially focussed on whether or when Left Unity should start to stand in elections. If we are to do this, it is necessary to understand what principles we are to adopt before hitting the doorstep but everyone in Leeds seemed particularly eager to get going and start talking to people. As the discussion developed, the inevitable discussion about what Left Unity represents to each person brought about some interesting insights and agreements. Though as ever, disagreement points out how far there is to go even on a local level with Left Unity. If you are interested in any of the issues discussed above, then please get in touch via the contact page or home page or come along to our next organising meeting.

Leeds Left Unity


Kate Hudson to Speak at Leeds Left Unity Meeting – 31.7.13, 6pm, Rose Bowl, Leeds Metropolitan University

By Elliot Nathan

 

Following on from the success of a well attended public meeting with the well known children’s author Alan Gibbons as guest speaker, Leeds Left Unity has arranged for Kate Hudson to speak at a debate on ‘the left and Europe’.

 

Kate is an academic and political activist. She is currently the General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and sits on the National Council of Left Unity. Kate was Head of Social Policy Studies at London South Bank University until recently and is now a Visiting Research Fellow.  She has penned a number of books on the subject of the European left.

 

Although many social democratic parties in Europe have shifted to the right and adopted Thatcherite economic policies, some new parties and coalitions have appeared to fill the vacuum created on the left of the political spectrum. Examples of this include Syriza in Greece and Die Linke in Germany.  Why hasn’t this happened in Britain and what can we learn from the European experience?  The conditions are overly ripe in the UK for a successful political response to the rightwards stampede of Labour aren’t they?

 

Leeds Left Unity was established in March 2013 and meets regularly to, among other things, organise activities giving support to local anti cuts campaigns, including Keep Our NHS Public and opposition to the Bedroom Tax.  The group arose in response to Ken Loach’s appeal to discuss the formation of a new political party of the Left to bring together those who wish to defend the welfare state and present an economic alternative to austerity.  The background to this appeal is succinctly summarized by Ken:

 

“The welfare state is being dismantled by the coalition government, bringing great suffering to the most vulnerable in society and eroding the living conditions of millions of ordinary people. Worse still, the Labour Party is not presenting a strong opposition to austerity and instead appears to have wholeheartedly adopted neo-liberal policy, advocating its own brand of austerity and privatization”.

 

So, what are you waiting for?  Come along to the debate on 31 July and be part of the search for an alternative – another world is possible!