The Convention of The Left is a bold venture that 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. As Derek Wall has said today in the Morning Star,“To solve ecological crisis, we need to put workers in control of production using green plans to cut pollution.”
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 day of action, a full day conference, and three days of themed debates and discussions (Saturday September 20th - Wednesday September 24th 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.
The agenda is evolving, because we have been seeking the comments, suggestions and involvements of many more people – and we are going on doing so, 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 (http://www.conventionoftheleft.org.uk/) 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 (including Prejudice and Oppression for example). 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 – all of which may lead to the development of “charters” or even a “manifesto” of The Left, on which we can all agree to mobilise our forces in unity so as to campaign more effectively.
The Convention is currently organised by an Organising Group, meeting in Manchester. All meetings have been open to others to come and make suggestions. As a practical result of this, we have agreed that we must take some action already – anti-fascist work for example is not going to wait until September, but is starting now.
Similarly we have been 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). Debate in hyperspace is encouraged, but maybe people can also organise their own meetings in their own localities; to which those of us in Manchester would be pleased to come along and give some information on the progress so far.
Confirmed participants include Tony Benn, John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, Mark Serwotka, Sue Bond, Jeremy Dear, Matt Wrack, Rahila Gupta, Tariq Ali, John Lister, Jonathan Neale, Kate Hudson, Andrew Murray, Bill Greenshields, George Galloway, Abjol Miah , Ken Loach and Derek Wall. Sponsoring organisations include the Labour Representation Committee – and the Left Women’s Network and Left Economics Advisory Panel; Scottish Socialist Party; Communist Party of Britain; Green Left; Respect; Greater Manchester Association of Trades Union Councils and others.
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 Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, 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 put your own contributions onto 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.