26 Oct 2008

The Convention of The Left: 29th November recall event

Convention of The Left - November 29th Recall Conference - Capitalism Isnt Working

The Convention of The Left brought together the left across labour, socialist, communist, green organisations and those in none. In 5 days of countering the official security-bound (non)event next door, we did well to meet our threefold aims: protest at Labour's warmongering and privatisation, presenting an alternative of people not profit, and proposing ways of working together in unity for The Left as a whole. Our agreed Statement of Intent envisages local left forums that can support practical campaigns and co-ordinate local action, as well as continuing the spirit of genuine debate started by the Convention.

There were criticisms: "a sinking ship" (before we had even set sail!), "a talking shop" (whats wrong with talking?), and, perhaps most critically, that we failed to set up "the one" (or "an other"?) new left party. Of course, many of us might want this to take place; but the Convention recognised that it will take time, we have to build confidence and develop trust, and it is better to start by doing so through unity in practical action rather than planting a flag and saying "we" are the true party already.

I am really pleased how so many people have praised the Convention, not least for its style and process, participatory discussion with (sometimes spontaneous) decision-making by those attending, no top-down platforms in an event called and organised by rank and file activists working together in the Manchester area. These comments have been echoed in the weeks since in emails and letters received by the organisers; thanks to all those for your kind words.

Even more, I am pleased that initiatives for unity are continuing. We cannot honestly pretend that our crystal-ball gazing enabled us to predict holding the Convention at such a timely moment as the crisis of capitalism; the oncoming misery of millions simply delivered us a silver lining in this respect. But in parallel to, contributing to, and arising from the Convention have come several important developments that we should all be supporting.
- The Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, announced at the TUC, will take forward left unity in and across the unions.
- The Campaign Against Fuel Poverty, launched at the Question Time event at the end of the week, has already given local groups the ability to campaign on the streets, not just for windfall taxes but public ownership.
- Agreement is growing on uniting our various "Charters" (CPB, LRC, Public Services not Private Profit, for example); we must seek widespread support for an alternative economic strategy that does not let the government force the poor to pay for the crisis and that does not allow the recession to become an excuse to scapegoat migrants and increase racism.
- Further Conventions of The Left have been proposed, for both the Labour Conference and TUC in Brighton next year.
- Most immediately, there will be a "Recall Event" of the Convention on November 29th in Manchester, under the broad title "Capitalism isnt working, what is our alternative"; and progress on all these practical proposals can be reported and hopefully taken further.

At this point, I would like to thank all those who helped make the Convention so effective. Among these, John McDonnell and the Labour Representation Committee, together with Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn, gave generous and unstinting support to its development from the start and to many of the sessions during the week; Robert Griffiths of the Communist Party of Britain and John Haylett of the Morning Star encouraged and gave excellent promotion throughout; Matt Wrack, Mark Serwotka, Pat Sikorski and Gregor Gall ensured the left trade union input; Clive Searle and the Manchester Respect party created and sustained the publicity and website; while Lindsey German, Martin Empson, Amy Leather (SWP), Derek Wall, Chris Hyland, Steve Durrant (Green Party) and Colin Fox, Frances Curran, Pam Currie (SSP) contributed personally and organisationally to give the full flavour of the left, both politically and geographically. And all the local activists involved for the year beforehand, too numerous to mention, and though un-named here, you know who you are and the value of the unseen organisation that you contributed.

The Recall Event takes place in Manchester on November 29th to take the vital process of left unity further forward. Some comrades will admittedly be mutually exchanging, between the SSP's Red-Green conference in Edinburgh and ourselves on the same day; but everyone should be attending one or other of these events.

Capitalism isnt working; we must make sure that we are building the socialist alternative!

John Nicholson
Convenor of the Organising Group, Convention of The Left/ Left Debate, Manchester 2008

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