Saturday, 1 March 2008

Convention of the Left

Very occasionally the left is capable of generating a 'good news' item. This is one of them. The Convention of the Left seems like a very worthwhile project deserving wide support across the entire left. Show your support for the project by linking to the blog and participating in its discussions.

This bold venture comes as a result of people from different left and radical traditions – or none – getting together in Greater Manchester to say that there IS an alternative to Labour’s policies of war and privatisation.

We are from green, left, internationalist, communist, socialist, radical and anarchist backgrounds. We are involved in civil liberties, anti-deportation, trade union, climate change, peace and public service campaigns. What we have in common is that we believe the wealth exists in society to pay for our essential needs – but we do not believe that an unbridled free market is sustainable.

We cannot have socialism if the planet has been destroyed, but we [probably?] can’t save the planet unless we have socialism.

So when New Labour comes to Manchester for its so-called “Conference” (an event generally believed to be without debate or decisions), we have decided that we want to host a “Convention of The Left” – just a stone’s throw (or a balloon’s flight) away from the security-surrounded official event, we will be holding a full day conference, a day of action, and four days of themed debates and discussions (Saturday September 20th - Thursday September 25th 2008).

Our Convention will be both a protest at Labour’s war and privatisation, racism and pollution, authoritarianism and inequality, and a practical demonstration that there is an alternative.

Our Convention will be about an entirely different world – one that can be built by working people for working people.

Our Convention will be united in our determination to combine our strengths and develop through open and participatory debates the rebuilding of The Left today.

There is no final agenda, because we want to attract the comments, suggestions and involvements of many more people, between now and then. We don’t just want a one-off conference (good though we hope the debates in September will be). We want to encourage everyone to start debating the topics and the possibilities across the pages of the left press and the websites and blogs, all the way from now till then.

So our blog ( ) has started with a few contributions for debate – on Planet, Peace, People not Profits, Politics: Power and Participation – and hopes to encourage both responses to these and suggestions on many more. The topics don’t all have to start with “P” – but, for the meanwhile, Give “P”s a Chance … and we look forward to the comments that come in.

Then, as we get closer to the event itself, we hope we will have a body of material already debated widely across the left that can start the Convention off on a sound footing – and encourage yet more participation and debate in the sessions that follow.

The Convention is currently organised by an Organising Group, meeting in Manchester (first meeting 1st March 2008 in Friends Meeting House, 12.00). All meetings will be open to others to come and make suggestions.

We will also be planning some wider meetings open to the whole of the left to report back to (the first of these took place successfully on Sunday 24th February, as a result of which the first leaflet was agreed and is now available for downloading, circulating, or just plain old fashioned printing and distributing). And we will be looking for ways to involve the left around the rest of the country, who cannot necessarily make meetings in Manchester (and from our neighbours north and west of the borders – in Scotland and Wales – and hopefully from the European Left and beyond).

So if you want to support actions ranging from stopping the war(s), supporting the anti-nuclear blockades, fighting racist deportations, stopping housing sell-offs, defending the NHS – do feel free to get involved. If you want to hear (or even to organise) debates and discussions on Venezuela, Cuba, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, or the break-up of the UK, climate change, human rights (including the rights of migrants and refugees), reclaiming health and (secular) education, and the struggle for a fairer economic system – do make suggestions and responses to the blog.

We want to start defining a new way of working (even to reclaim that word “new”) so that we can work together in practical campaigns, regardless of the organisations we may belong to, and so that we can stop the war and nuclear proliferation, the cuts and privatisation. Much more than elections and individual campaigns, we want to develop a critique of capitalism as we now know it and an alternative strategy that is environmentally and socially just, inclusive and peaceful, pluralist, tolerant, and doesn’t rely on “top-table” speakers but on discussion from us all – in pursuit of a bigger common objective that benefits the many and not the few.

Diverse but not divisive, we want participation in debate and unity in action.

What do you think?


Jim Jepps said...

I think this is a great initiative and I hope the blogging community does its best to promote this - and the values its expressing.

It's also a good moment to try to pull in those who feel excluded by the set framework of the groups on the left but who none the less consider themselves socialists - something that feels independent minded and passionate without cynicism could be a really fantastic event!

Phil said...

The Convention has got a lot of potential as there is nothing dedicated to bringing together the various strands of the left. The LRC brings together Labour party people, the CNWP people who (largely) think Labour is finished and are not enamoured with Respect, and so on and so forth. What I would like to see is the Convention win backing from trade union branches up and down the country, and maybe the setting up of localised groups that can build for the event as well as deepen cooperation across parties and traditions.