On November 30th a wide range of socialists and others will be coming together in London to found a Left Unity Party. None of the early proposed platforms, including that of the main organisers, has anything to say about the real nature of the UK state or the current political situation in Scotland. Now, however, some members of the Republican Socialist Alliance are putting forward an alternative platform which addresses these issues.

  1. The global financial and economic crisis since 2008 has been transformed by governments bailing out the banks while imposing austerity policies on the poor. This has resulted in a massive redistribution of income and wealth from working people to the rich and powerful.
  2. There is a ‘crisis of democracy’. Democratic uprisings and protests have impacted on authoritarian and liberal regimes alike. Since Iceland in 2009, democratic movements spread from Tunisia and Egypt right across the Middle East, and onto Russia and more recently Syria and Turkey. There have also been the Occupy protests in London, Spain and America and elsewhere. Meanwhile, in Greece the banks have imposed austerity policies on the people rendering Greek ‘democracy’ more or less irrelevant. Globally people are protesting against corruption and the sway banks and corporate elites have over government. Everywhere uprisings have focused on the role of finance; Wall Street, the City of London, Troika in southern Europe or the IMF in Egypt.
  3. The UK is not a functioning democracy. The country is governed by an oligarchy which rules in the name of the Crown through the constitutional laws of the ‘Crown-in-Parliament’. This involves the hegemony of the Crown over Parliament and the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The so-called Glorious Revolution was the beginning of an historic compromise of Crown and Parliament forged between 1688 and 1707. This was never intended as a popular democracy. Despite subsequent democratic reforms, a largely unaccountable bureaucracy, with more and more centralised control, has ensured that political power remains concentrated in the institutions of the Crown, governing “from above”.
  4. The contradiction between this lack of popular democracy and the official ideology of liberal parliamentarianism has been regularly highlighted by corrupt practices and exposed by protests and popular struggles, most notably over the poll tax and the Iraq war. During the economic and financial crisis, support was freely given by Labour to City institutions while austerity was imposed by the Crown. The subsequent Coalition package of cuts and privatisation was never endorsed by the electorate but cobbled together after the 2010 general election.
  5. Today, the public is increasingly disillusioned with ‘politics’ and alienated by corruption, a lack of democracy and a lack of public accountability. However, people do not necessarily draw radical conclusions from this. The Tory right and UKIP point to Europe as the source of Britain’s failing democracy.
  6. A progressive resolution of the ‘democratic deficit’ requires the building of a mass movement for radical democratic reform. The anti-poll tax movement and the mass opposition to the Iraq war contained the seeds of such a movement. In Scotland, opposition to the poll tax fed into demands for a Scottish parliament. But in England, both movements failed to generalise beyond these particular issues into a ‘permanent’ democratic movement. In 2011, the Occupy movement re-awakened the democratic impulse from which emerged demands for a new constitution or ‘Agreement of the People’.
  7. Crucially, the Labour left and Trotskyist parties in the UK have failed to champion the cause of fundamental democratic change. They have occasionally paid lip serve to the ‘democratic deficit’ seemingly unaware of the direct economic and social damage this has inflicted on the lives of working people. In essence, Labourism does not fight for republican democracy aiming, instead, to secure reforms by accommodation with the Crown. By not fighting for republican democracy, the Trotskyists have been a mirror image of Labourism, posing against it a demand for total ‘socialist revolution’ in theory while in their practice not going beyond defending the welfare state.
  8. All three main political parties have become increasingly behoven to corporate lobbyists and have lost connection with their grassroots.
  9. We need a different kind of party to the traditional ‘parties’ of the left. Such a party would recognise the central importance of the struggle for democracy in mobilising all oppressed sections of society into a mass movement for radical change, a new democratic constitution, and a social republic. This party, drawing on the republican and socialist traditions going back to the Levellers and Diggers and inspired by the struggles of the Chartists and Suffragettes, would seek to build and provide leadership for a broad democratic movement, thus becoming a republican socialist party.
  10. Such a party would need to organise in an explicitly democratic way, ensuring that the wider population and grassroots are able to actively participate in the party in meaningful ways; by setting policy and choosing candidates. Such a people’s party would create alliances and show solidarity with campaigns to resist austerity and develop alternatives, as the SYRIZA party does in Greece.

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