At a recent meeting, we (Lynn and Stuart) were elected to continue as ‘group organisers’ for our local branch of Left Unity. We agreed and are very happy to stay in the role for another year, but insist that we will, in the name of democracy and a healthy rotation of roles, step down next year. Below are our ideas on how we should move forward in the coming months, and a balance sheet of how we’ve done over the past year.
Where we’re going
Our local group, and the new party nationally, has done extremely well in a very short space of time, and we’ll be boasting about that very shortly, so we’ll get the more negative points out of the way first. We feel, and talking to other members we’re not alone, that our meetings have very quickly got bogged down in the usual lefty/bureaucratic routine. We have meetings to organise meetings, and then spend the next few weeks writing minutes of the meetings. We have a meeting that decides we must do something, then have another ten meetings to organise the ‘something’, then meetings to report back about what we’ve done, or haven’t done. While we’re trying to ‘do something’, ten items of business dealing with internal matters come up, so we have another meeting to discuss the national meeting. Then of course a meeting to say how the meeting went and a meeting to discuss the minutes of the meeting.
This is not such a bad thing and is not as silly as it is easy to make it sound (as we have done above, following in the footsteps of many millions of Monty Python fans). The only alternative to a bit of bureaucracy is a lot of strong leadership. And we have never been able to understand why any democrat or socialist would ever put up with ‘strong leadership’ – a petty tyranny of the bossy and the hyperactive and the opinionated. We get quite enough of that at work, thank you very much. But although a bit of bureaucracy is necessary, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of doing nothing else but organising our organisation – because, frankly, it is much easier to get involved in the dramas of internal arguments than do the hard work we should be doing. Or to try harder to have the fun we should be having.
So we propose to rein in the bureaucratic tendencies and return, before it is too late, to our happier origins. To this end, our next meeting will be at Gaia on 6 March at 7.30pm. Tea, coffee, cake and biscuits will be served. And there will be no agenda other than the one you bring yourself. We circulate all the material from the national Left Unity organisation, and we will remind everyone of when the deadlines and conferences and so on are. If you are interested in standing for election, being a delegate, moving a motion, proposing policy, changing policy, proposing a rule, changing the rules, or whatever, just bring it up at the meeting. We’ll deal with it quickly and informally where we can, on a laissez faire basis; bureaucratically and formally only when we must. If we have ideas for activity, let’s try to be more spontaneous about it – we can do a stall or hand out leaflets or turn up to support a campaign or whatever whenever we like or whenever we are able to, we don’t have to talk about it and plan it for months beforehand. We should also, we feel, start to talk about ‘bigger picture’ issues – to discuss politics, and what we want from a politically active life. What is our vision of socialism, for example, and how might it be achieved? What can we do to help bring it about? How can we bring more people in and make what we do fun and interesting? And so on. Come and let us know what you think at the meeting at Gaia. Bring cake!
How we’ve done
Moving on to the much more plentiful good news. Since we had our first meeting of seven people in a pub in April last year, we have grown. We are still very small as political parties go, but by the standards of other groups to the left of Labour, and particularly for a small provincial town, and for our culture, which can often seem hostile to socialist ideas and to activism of any stripe, we are doing very well indeed. I hear we are as big as some London branches. As a fellow Midlander put it to us, by leading the struggle for Left Unity from our semi-feudal peasant backwater, we have anyway fully confirmed Trotsky’s theory of combined and uneven development. We have about 15 fully paid up members, and at least double that number again who support us, or are generally sympathetic and in touch. There are 43 people on our email list, 309 follow us on Twitter, 82 on Facebook. Our meetings regularly attract 10 to 15 people. Our Spirit of ’45 film showing last year attracted 30 to 40. More people again will have heard of us – we have had numerous letters in the well-read local press (you’ll find some of them on this blog), and we are active in, or have built links with, or are at least in touch with numerous local campaigns.
Not bad at all for a small handful of folk who have only been together for less than a year. The picture nationally is similar. From more or less nothing this time last year, we now have a party-in-formation of about 1,400 people. And for a small party of overworked volunteers, we have made waves – both in parts of the mainstream media, and out there in the real world. (Browse the Leftunity.org website, especially the most recent newsletter, for more.)
So, so far, so good, with plenty to look forward to. In the coming few months, we will be continuing to support the good work of our Keep Our NHS Public group – they are holding a stall this Saturday outside the town hall. See their blog for details. We are following keenly and hoping to support the Friends of Victoria Park (who are campaigning to stop one of our green spaces being turned into a car park every summer), and monitoring developments on the fracking front. We will continue to support the people, now members of our group, who started protesting the bedroom tax last year. They rather heroically kept a presence up outside the town hall every single Saturday for six months. When we get our own stall up and running soon, we will continue to collect names on our growing petition, distribute literature, and attempt to build a support network. We are also planning to get the word out, about the bedroom tax but also other issues, in a forthcoming first issue of our free newssheet, Leamington Spark. The first issue will include a report on the growth of UKIP from our local Hope Not Hate group, an update on the bedroom tax, a report on food banks in Leamington, a piece on the growing Europe-wide campaign for a citizen’s income (a wage paid by the state unconditionally to every individual), a look at the real class divide behind the genteel facade of Leamington, an agony column with a difference from “Aunty Unity”, an update on the Leamington Popular Front by Comrade Skippy, and much much more (as they say).
Culture-vultures might also like to go see brilliant stand-up comedian and poet Attila the Stockbroker, who will be at LAMP on Sunday 9 March, or dip into an ongoing schedule of film showings, including documentaries as well as more fun ‘bingo’ and ‘stay at home’ nights, hosted by Leamington Underground Cinema.
Let’s get this party started!
LW and SW, Left Unity Leamington