Wednesday 26 July 2023

Along Comes Another New Left Wing Party

A new left party, you say? Announcing itself to the world on Tuesday, Transform is the newest kid on the block. But hold on a moment, is it really? Firstly, it's not a party as such but rather a call to form one that, apparently, will be called Transform. Issued by the Breakthrough Party, Left Unity, the People's Alliance of the Left (hold on, isn't that a compact between these two parties?), and Liverpool Community Independents, there are a few relative notables on board too. Like Thelma Walker, ex Labour MP and former candidate for the Northern Independence Party, broadcaster and troll target India Willoughby, my old mucker Derek Wall - ex Green speaker, and BFAWU president Ian Hodson. It has a 10-point charter of principles committing it to class politics, understands these are inseparable from so-called identity politics, is internationalist and anti-imperialist and, among other things, seeks to intervene electorally, industrially, and at the community and street level. People who support the call for a new party are invited to sign their declaration, and almost 3,000 have done so at the time of writing.

Isn't this all just a little bit of history repeating? In the post-Corbyn era of post-Corbyn regroupments, the Northern Independence Party made the biggest media splash but never amounted to much. Though its founder, Philip Proudfoot, is among the signatories. At around the same time the Breakthrough Party was established, and in a short time enjoyed more local authority success than the longer-established TUSC, attracting some defections at parish and district council level from sitting councillors. There is also the Harmony Party who used to have online meetings ... and that's about it, from what I can tell. Breakthrough and NIP later formed an alliance with Left Unity and founded the People's Alliance of the Left, which TUSC was initially on board with. And it wasn't long before they were kicked out for its opportunist cosying up to George Galloway, just he joined in on the establishment attack on trans people. The Socialist Party, who used to have much sectarian point-scoring fun with the Socialist Workers Party for co-habiting with Galloway in Respect find themselves doing exactly the same thing: burying their own politics.

Anyone starting a new party project has to answer two questions. What is it for, and how does it plan to realise its purpose. Transform's platform signposts a direction of travel, but how is it any different to Breakthrough, for instance? What does it have that Breakthrough hasn't got? Given the lack of sectarian baggage that doomed the efforts of the Socialist Labour Party and Socialist Alliance, it's not clear why there has to be a new body that everyone dissolves into. The second issue is the competition. The existing far left ... exists and, unlike Transform, does have a degree of ideological conformity that is attractive to radically-minded newcomers to the left and labour movement. For instance, Socialist Appeal literature these days urges punters to "join the communists!" (a bit of a turnaround for anyone acquainted with their history). You go along to a SWP or SP meeting and it's not long before a bit of Lenin and Trotsky is fed into the conversation. As obsolete as this brand of revolutionary socialism is, they have a total world view that is easy to grasp and offers a coherent explanation about our contemporary crises, and is explicitly rooted in a reading of working class politics. They are also already active in trade unions and through their caucuses and groupings offer other militants a lead on the workplace issues of the day. And because they're disciplined organisations, regardless of what you think of self-described Leninist groups they get stuff done and are able, in certain circumstances, to punch above their weight. Neither Transform nor any of its feeder organisations have that level of coherence, efficacy or, you might say, motivation.

And there is the competition over the left-of-Labour space. Undoubtedly, that is opening again as Keir Starmer beats a hasty retreat but poised and ready to pounce are the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. With greater resources and name recognition at their disposal and, in the case of the latter, a commitment to a politics not a million miles from Transform's 10 pledges, any kind of headway will have to be made against these strong cross winds. And for an entirely new party without a big name attached this becomes even more difficult.

Lastly, there is the track record. In a decade of existence Left Unity has achieved nothing apart from a memorable Facebook thread. Breakthrough's defectors have almost entirely retired from politics rather than fight for their seats under their new party name, and its electoral interventions have proven extremely modest - even if their results on average are a touch better than TUSC's. Meanwhile, NIP vanished as quickly as the memory of last week's retweets. How Transform is an advance on the internet pop-up party phenomenon is not obvious. It looks to me just like a rebrand of already quite meagre forces, and one facing a daunting task to get noticed outside of a few thousand extremely-online social media users.


Anonymous said...

No. They'll be attacked as antisemites from Day One. That's what the scam was all about.

Anonymous said...

Left unity is already being attacked as 'pro war' bh srwc in brum because of pro Ukraine position The established groups will strangle it at birth.

Shai Masot said...

Don't. Let. Lansman. Anywhere. Near. It.

Jim Denham said...

Lansman is too sensible to Go.Anywhere.Near.It.

John Smithee said...

Transform ( – “a call for a new party of the Left”, was launched on Tuesday, 25 July.

Following the launch 3,000 plus supporters had signed up in the first 48 hours, with 500,000 plus viewings of the launch video. The launch was featured in the Morning Star, Skwawkbox, and the Voice.

The Breakthrough Party, Left Unity, People's Alliance of the Left, and the Liverpool Community Independents have come together along with support from people across our movement.

These include former Labour MP Thelma Walker, National President of BFAWU Ian Hodson, and former Labour Women's Committee and Momentum NCG member Solma Ahmed to launch and sign this call for a new left party.

The right wing has regained control of Labour. Jeremy Corbyn, and his politics that inspired millions across our society, have been cast out.

Labour now opposes strikes, rejects renationalisation, refuses to defend refugees, and won't scrap student fees – or even the two-child benefit cap.

Keir Starmer has overseen the driving out of 200,000 Labour members. 'The many' who supported Labour politics from 2015 to 2019 are denied a political voice.

We need a political organisation that offers a real solution: one that challenges the system at the root of every crisis we face. Over recent months, organisations and individuals from the labour and trade union movement have come together to discuss a way forward.

Now we are taking the next step: inviting all who agree with our core principles to move rapidly towards founding a new party of the left. Together, we can transform politics. The time is now.

John Smithee
Transform Supporter

JN said...

The problem is that all roads forward seem about equally implausible. There are huge barriers to any new party, the existing sects of the 'far-left' are a joke, and the Labour Party is very firmly back in the grip of it's fifth column who are now on their guard.

So, what is to be done?

Blissex said...

«the Labour Party is very firmly back in the grip of it's fifth column who are now on their guard.»

From their point of view it is quite the opposite: New Labour is a "quasi-Conservative" party that belongs firmly to Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair and people compatible with them, and it has suffered the infiltration of hundreds of thousands of Labour party entrysts who have managed to take it over for a few years.
All that Keir Starmer and his ilk want is for Labour party members to stop trying to take over Mandelson's and Blair's party.

Peter said...

Some fair points and genuine challenges here for Transform. What it doesnt seem to allow for, is for Transform to develop its identity in more detail, beyond its broad initial ideas, once its been launched. As all parties/movements have/do. Since November 2023 thats what iTransform ahs been working on. As an ex SWPer whose joined, its a refreshing change to be around a genuine attempt at including all members in what it stands for. The elected leadership seem, to me, to be taking things steady, not running ahead of our reality and promising to stand here there and everywhere like TUSC, because they seem to recognise its going to take time to build a new and different type of campaigning left electoral party. Its not claiming to be 'the' answer or the finished product, neither, I suspect, is the leadership writing off merging into something else, should that be appropriate at some future point. Its talking to many groups/networks/initiatives as equals and seems open to ideas. All pretty reasonable stuff really. As Phil rightly notes, many have recognised we are in an unprecedented situation were some, limited, electoral opportunities to the left of Labour are opening up. We cant keep waiting for 'the' right party to suddenly emerge, no party or movement ever has or will. They are built. In the meantime, Transform is slowly trying to grow in every way, shape and form.