- The Labour Party
- Motion on Greece
- Imperialist interventions
- European Union
- The standing army and the people’s militia
- Alternative constitution
- 1. Aims
- 2. Membership
- 3. Organisation
- 4. Structure of the party
- 5. Discipline
- 6. Dues
- Code of conduct for LU members
- Rules for Disputes procedure
- Equalities policy for LU internal procedures
- Amendments to Left Unity constitution
- Disputes Committee
- Appeals committee
- Disputes and disciplinary action
The Labour Party
- Left Unity welcomes the election of Jeremy Corby as leader of the Labour Party. It amounts to a revolution in the workers’ movement in Britain.
- All half-way house projects, opportunist attempts to chase the Greens, adapt to petty nationalism have been exposed, wrecked or left high and dry.
- Left Unity commits itself to the project of transforming the Labour Party into an instrument for working class advance and international socialism. Towards that end we will join with others and seek the closest unity of the left inside and outside the Labour Party.
- Ideas of reclaiming the Labour Party and the return of the old clause four are totally misplaced. From the beginning the party has been dominated by the labour bureaucracy and the ideas of reformism. The party must be refounded on the basis of a genuinely socialist programme as opposed to social democratic gradualism or bureaucratic statism.
- The aim is not a Labour government for its own sake. History shows that Labour governments committed to managing the capitalist system and loyal to the existing constitutional order create disillusionment in the working class.
- Labour should only consider forming a government when it has the active support of a clear majority of the population and has a realistic prospect of implementing a full socialist programme. This cannot be achieved in Britain in isolation from Europe and the rest of the world.
- Socialism is the rule of the working class over the global economy created by capitalism and as such is antithetical to all forms of British nationalism. Demands for a British road to socialism and a withdrawal from the European Union are therefore to be opposed.
- Political principles and organisational forms go hand-in-hand. The Labour Party must become the umbrella organisation for all trade unions, socialist groups and pro-working class partisans. Towards this end Left Unity will demand the complete elimination of all undemocratic bans and proscriptions and will seek to affiliate to the Labour Party.
- The fight to democratise the Labour Party cannot be separated from the fight to democratise the trade unions. Trade union votes at Labour Party conferences should be cast not by general secretaries but proportionately according to the political balance in each delegation.
- All trade unions should be encouraged to affiliate, all members of the trade unions encouraged to pay the political levy and join the Labour Party as individual members.
Motion on Greece
- Conference reaffirms Left Unity’s commitment to campaign in solidarity with the Greek people against the fraudulent “austerity” policy imposed by the “institutions”.
- Conference recognises that this “austerity” policy can only be overthrown by the common political action of the working class Europe-wide. Left Unity will therefore increase the priority it gives to Europe-scale political cooperation.
- Conference, accordingly, recognises that Left Unity was, like Syriza, mistaken to promote illusions in the possibilities of a Syriza-led government overturning austerity in Greece without immediate common action of the working class across Europe.
Conference recognises that imperialist interventions, in the form of wars and occupation followed by civil wars, have left most of the Middle East and North Africa in a state of permanent conflict. The United States as the world hegemon power, supported by its allies, seems content with the existence of failed states in the region and tolerance of Jihadist groups, including Islamic State.
Conference notes that after a year of US air attacks, Islamic State remains as strong as it was in 2014. In the last few months, Turkey a NATO ally of the United Sates, has been engaged in bombing Kurdish forces fighting IS.
Conference recognises that the signing of a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers has paved the way for more conflict in the region as regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia enters a new phase.
Conference reiterates it stance in opposition to imperialist military interventions in the Middle East. Peace cannot come courtesy of bodies such as the United Nations – an assembly of exploiters and murderers. It is the duty of socialists to connect the popular desire for peace with the aim of revolution. Only by disarming the bourgeoisie and through the victory of international socialism can the danger of war be eliminated.
Conference reaffirms Left Unity’s previous decision to fight for “a united Europe under the rule of the working class.”
- That a referendum on British membership of the EU is on the Tory government’s political agenda.
- That a ‘yes’ vote will be an expression of support for whatever concessions David Cameron is able to get from the EU, and that any such concessions will be anti-working class to their core.
- That left-wing support for a ‘no’ vote can only be justified by endorsing the utopian fantasy of ‘socialism in one country’, shown by Stalinism to be a dead end.
- To call for a boycott of the referendum.
- To continue to fight for working class unity across the EU, and united action on a continental scale.
The standing army and the people’s militia
Left Unity is against the standing army and for the armed people. This principle will never be realised voluntarily by the capitalist state. It has to be won – in the first place by the working class developing its own militia.
Such a body grows out of the class struggle itself: defending picket lines, mass demonstrations, workplace occupations; fending off fascists, etc.
As the class struggle intensifies, conditions are created for the workers to arm themselves and win over sections of the military forces of the capitalist state. Every opportunity must be used to take even tentative steps towards this goal. As circumstances allow, the working class must equip itself with all weaponry necessary to bring about revolution.
To facilitate this we demand:
- Rank-and-file personnel in the state’s armed bodies must be protected from bullying, humiliating treatment and being used against the working class.
- There must be full trade union and democratic rights, including the right to form bodies such as soldiers’ councils.
- The privileges of the officer caste must be abolished. Officers must be elected. Workers in uniform must become the allies of the masses in struggle.
- The people have the right to bear arms and defend themselves.
- The dissolution of the standing army and the formation of a well regulated popular militia under democratic control.
Article 1. Left Unity was founded on November 30 2013 and brought together a range of individuals and organisations. Our aim is to organise the working class in order to overthrow the capitalist system, establish socialism and realise a society based on the principle of ‘From each according to their abilities; to each according to their needs’.
Article 2. A member is one who joins the party, accepting its rules and programme, works in a party organisation and regularly pays dues.
Article 3. Barring exceptional circumstances, application for membership is submitted individually. An applicant must be accepted by the appropriate branch.
Article 4. Members are expected to be active in a party organisation.
Article 5. Members also have a right and a duty to educate themselves politically and help develop the party’s political positions.
Article 6. Organisationally Left Unity is based on the most thorough-going democracy. This provides the solid basis for united actions. As a general principle the part is subordinate to the whole, lower committees to higher, all committees to the National Council, and the National Council to the conference.
Article 7. Except where the rules state otherwise, in all party bodies decisions are taken by the majority of members voting in the meeting (excluding abstentions). It is the right and the duty of party members to participate in the meetings of the bodies of which they are a member and to openly state their views on all matters concerning the party.
Article 8. Party bodies are established on the basis of task, locality or workplace. Within their sphere of responsibility they are autonomous.
Article 9. Members have the right to submit their views to higher committees up to the National Council for discussion. While acting in accordance with the principle of unity in action, members may publicly oppose decisions taken by higher committees, as long as agreed actions are not disrupted.
Article 10. Members have the right to form factions, platforms or tendencies with a view to changing party policy or its leadership.
4. Structure of the party
Article 11. The basic organisational unit of the party is the branch. Branches should be kept as small as possible to allow maximum flexibility and maximum efficiency. Branches should as a norm meet weekly.
Article 12. The National Council, or all branches in an area, city, district or region, may establish area, city, district or regional committees, which are responsible for directing the work of at least five branches.
Article 13. Conference is the highest decision-making body of the party. The conference should normally be held every year. The conference should be announced by the National Council at least three months in advance. The conference can be delayed by decision of the National Council, but the period between conference should not exceed two years.
Article 14. Special conferences can be called by a majority decision of the National Council. If more than a third of the membership demand it, the National Council is obliged to convene a special conference. It should be held within three months. Failing that, the next highest committees calling for a conference have the duty to set up an organising committee to convene one. Preparation and representation is decided by the committee convening the conference.
Article 15. The National Council may invite to the conference individuals who have speaking but not voting rights.
Article 16. Conference hears, discusses and votes upon all reports, resolutions and matters it considers relevant. Through simple majorities (excluding abstentions) it also decides upon the numbers and composition of the National Council, changes in the rules and programme, appeals on matters of discipline, etc.
Article 17. The National Council is the highest decision-making body between conferences. The National Council elects its own officers and sub-committees. If one third of its members so decide, the chair of the National Council must convene a special meeting of the National Council.
Article 18. Decisions of the National Council are taken by a simple majority of those members voting (excluding abstentions) . The National Council has the power to dissolve and re-establish any party body or publication. The National Council may coopt new members, who will not have voting rights.
Article 19. The following are violations of party discipline: failure to pay party dues; disrupting or sabotaging an agreed action; threatening or using violence in an internal political dispute; behaving in a way that brings discredit to the party.
Article 20. Any committee of the party can vote on a motion of censure against one of its members. The relevant higher committee must be notified. Votes by a committee to suspend or expel a member must be ratified by the National Council. A member who is suspended has no membership rights, only duties. The comrade’s level of consciousness and experience should always be taken into account.
Article 21. Every member of the party who is subject to disciplinary procedures has the right to appeal to higher bodies of the party, up to and including the conference.
Article 22. The expulsion of a member of the National Council must be agreed by a two-thirds majority of its full membership.
Article 23. The National Council determines the level of membership dues. Dispensation can be negotiated in particular cases by the basic committees, but have to be ratified by the National Council.
Code of conduct for LU members
Left Unity aims as far as possible within the deeply unequal society within which we live to combat all forms of oppression and discrimination, to develop all our members as leaders, and to develop a culture of free discussion accessible to all members. We recognise that this is most likely to be achieved by a political culture in which fully open debate, including accusations of sexism, racism, class prejudice, scabbing, etc, or saying that ‘the emperor has no clothes’, are possible; and in which members are free to communicate with each other and to organise themselves for common ends. This code of conduct therefore merely sets certain minimal limits which are necessary to LU’s ability to function and pursue these goals.
Members may not:
- violate this constitution;
- actively disrupt LU’s agreed common actions (eg, election campaigns);
- persistently actively disrupt LU internal meetings;
- intentionally assist Redwatch or similar far-right organisations which target leftists with violence and threats, employers’ blacklisting organisations or mass-media witch-hunts;
- ‘troll’ LU online forums;
- behave in a way which brings LU into disrepute: for example, by violence against other members, persistently oppressive conduct towards other members, or the exploitation of party office for private purposes.
LU recognises that we do not have the resources to properly investigate and handle complaints of serious crimes against other members: for example, rape or wounding/GBH; and that by attempting to do so we may contaminate evidence and thereby prevent justice being obtained.
Rules for Disputes procedure
A body handling a complaint or disciplinary charges against a member must:
- act as promptly as possible (having regard to the following points);
- give the person complaining sufficient opportunity to formulate their complaint, and the person complained against sufficient notice of the nature of the complaint and sufficient opportunity to formulate their answer to it;
- allow both the person complaining and the person complained against to have the unpaid assistance of another person;
- where facts are disputed, allow both the person complaining and the person complained against to call witnesses and to ask questions of witnesses they have called and of witnesses called against them, and to offer other evidence (such as documents, emails, medical reports, etc);
- conduct any hearing with fairness to both sides;
- where the complaint is not dealt with in a branch, publish to the region (if dealt with in a regional committee) or to LU generally (if dealt with in the National Council, Disputes Committee or Appeals Committee) a summary of the decision and the body’s findings and reasons.
These procedural obligations do not prohibit dealing with complaints by voluntary negotiation, mediation or reconciliation procedures, whether before or at any stage of formal complaints procedures.
Where a complaint is upheld or a disciplinary charge found proved, the sanctions imposed may range from censure of the member complained against, through other penalties, up to suspension or expulsion from membership of LU.
In deciding on sanctions, account should be taken of the seriousness of the complaint, the extent to which a persistent course of conduct is involved, and of the level of political experience of the person complained against. A vote to expel a member does not take effect until ratified by the National Council or Disputes Committee on the basis of a report from the body hearing the complaint.
Equalities policy for LU internal procedures
Left Unity recognises that we live in a society characterised by profound systematic inequality, not just on the basis of class, but also of the oppression of women, discrimination against members of ethnic and religious minority groups, and LGBT people and of age hierarchies, as well as both direct discrimination and the inherent bias of market society against people with disabilities.
We aim for a party in which all people can fully participate.
We also recognise, however, that there are serious limits on the extent to which the life of the party can overcome the inequalities of capitalist society or ‘prefigure’ the future, and the complete and disastrous failure of previous attempts to create party ‘liberated zones’ or ‘prefigurative politics’. In addition, a number of forms of discrimination and inequality, particularly around caring responsibilities and disabilities, immediately engage the questions of material resources and time; and the recent evolution of capitalism has been to reduce the resources in both space and time available to workers generally and to workers’ organisations. For instance, we may and should aim to meet in accessible rooms, but such rooms may simply be unavailable or not available at a price which small LU branches can afford.
What follows is therefore an incomplete list of recommendations for LU’s organisations for good practice in combating the effects of inequalities and discrimination on our decision-making. Most of these recommendations are hence subject to ‘as far as possible’ (generally, more will be possible for national meetings than for local meetings).
Meetings should be held in accessible spaces and with hearing loops, and so on.
Scheduling of meetings should take account of members’ or potential members’ caring responsibilities (for children, for people with disabilities, etc). Childcare arrangements should be provided. IT (streaming, Skype, etc) should be used to facilitate participation of those unable to attend.
Agendas and motions should be circulated well in advance.
Every effort should be made to avoid overcrowded agendas, which tend to cramp participation in discussions (and hence set up conflicts between open discussion of debated issues, on the one hand, and prioritising the contributions of oppressed groups, on the other).
Chairing should be sensitive to the need to draw in contributions from those who might not ‘normally’ speak, as well as to the need to clarify differences and allow full debate. On the other hand, some rotation of chairing is desirable to allow other comrades to gain experience of that duty.
Meetings of any length should include appropriate access breaks.
Left Unity needs to actively promote workers’ education and similar initiatives to empower those who have had less access to formal education. The party as a whole, and branches, need to develop party education for the same purpose.
Amendments to Left Unity constitution
Clause 3, Membership, subhead (f): “abides by the principles and guidelines of behaviour set out in the safer spaces policy (appendix 1)” – Delete.
Clause 10, Direct democratic participation …,subhead (d): “All discussion and debate will be expected to be respectful and adhere to the standards of behaviour set out in the safer spaces policy (appendix 1)” – Delete.
Clauses 18, Disputes Committee, and 19, Appeals Committee:
Rewrite as follows:
(18-19) DISPUTES AND APPEALS
(i) A Disputes Committee shall be elected annually by national ballot. This committee will consist of seven people, but shall include no members of the National Council. Its role will be to investigate disputes and complaints about the behaviour of individual party members in appropriate cases.
(ii) The Disputes Committee may form a sub-committee of at least three members to consider any one case.
(iii) The Disputes Committee shall adopt its own procedures and standing orders, subject to approval and amendment from time to time by national conference.
(i) An Appeals Committee shall be elected annually by national ballot. This committee is the last stage in any disputes resolution procedure and its decisions are final.
(ii) The Appeals Committee will consist of seven people, but shall include no members of the national council or disputes committee. Its role will be to hear appeals from members against disciplinary action taken against them. The Appeals Committee may form a sub-committee of at least three members to consider any one case.
(iii) The Appeals Committee shall adopt its own procedures and standing orders, subject to approval and amendment from time to time by national conference.
Disputes and disciplinary action
(i) Individual members have the right to make complaint against other members, or LU officers or organisations, complaining of violations of this constitution or of the code of conduct (appendix 1).
(ii) The National Council may refuse any applicant for membership or take disciplinary action against an individual member. The individual concerned has a right to appeal to the appeals committee. Such action must be explained in writing to the member or potential member concerned, and such explanation must include a statement that the member or applicant is entitled to appeal to the appeals committee.
(iii) Complaints should, subject to (iv) below, be dealt with at the most local possible level. Individual members’ complaints against other members of the same branch should be dealt with in that branch. Complaints between members of different branches within a region may be appropriately dealt with by the relevant regional committee. Complaints against national officers or LU organisations must be dealt with by the National Council or the Disputes Committee.
(iv) A complaint or disciplinary proceeding shall be transferred from a branch to a regional committee or to the Disputes Committee, or from a regional committee to the Disputes Commmittee, on the request of the person complaining or complained against on the ground that the circumstances make a fair handling of the complaint in the branch or regional committee impossible. A branch or regional committee, or the National Council, may refer any complaint or disciplinary action which is to be dealt with before them to the Disputes Committee if it appears to them that this is required by the seriousness of the matter or if it appears to them that circumstances within the referring body make fair handling of the complaint impossible.
(v) People aggrieved by a decision, disciplinary action, or refusal to act on a complaint, by a branch, regional committee, the National Council or the Disputes Committee have the right to appeal to the Appeals Committee.
(vi) Bodies handling complaints or disciplinary actions must act in accordance with the disputes procedure (appendix 4).