The National Forum of the United Left Alliance will offer an opportunity to put the launch of the Alliance into perspective and to discuss its further development.
All over Europe, there is a huge vacuum in political life, more particularly on the Left. That vacuum has been left by the inexorable move to the right and into the camp of market capitalism of all the Social Democratic and Labour parties. While the leadership of those parties had for a whole historical period seen themselves as just another arm of the establishment and played such a role in the many governments in which they participated, there was often a strong Left within, which fought for a Left programme and to develop those parties into real fighting organisations of the working class. That day is gone however.
With the collapse of the Stalinist regimes around twenty years ago and the worldwide triumphalist propaganda that accompanied this in the capitalist media, these parties have moved fully into the camp of the capitalist class and dropped all pretence of any allegiance to socialism. The active workers and young people who genuinely fought for a socialist programme in these parties in previous periods are no longer there.
The evolution of the British Labour Party to the point where it was as right-wing in economic policy as Margaret Thatcher and could launch the criminal invasion of Iraq is only one among many striking examples. Others are the Greek, Spanish and Portuguese Socialist Parties which are currently inflicting savage austerity on working people, the unemployed, the youth and the poor at the behest of the EU / IMF as dictated by the financial markets representing Europe’s main banks and powerful speculators.
The huge vacuum on the Left as a result of these developments poses a major task for the socialists of the present day. New mass parties of the working class committed to a socialist programme have to be built. And it is to meet this critical responsibility that the United Left Alliance has been launched.
The ULA has already taken important steps. The agreement of a principled Left programme on which the General Election was fought was crucial. The programme states that there is no sustainable solution to the economic and social problems of society on the basis of capitalism and that is a key foundation on which to build. The gains made in the election fighting on this programme and on the campaigning record of the activists of the organisations and individuals making up the Alliance, are a firm foundation on which to build.
It is inevitable that there has been somewhat of a pause in the political momentum since the election. There is a certain wait and see approach by ordinary people in regard to the Fine Gael / Labour government. Although there were no great illusions in these parties, there has been, nevertheless, a certain hope that the new government could only be better than the Fianna Fail / Green disaster and that things might change. Any such hopes are being dispelled by the day.
The shape of the struggles to come is taking outline. The attack on the lowest paid workers will lead to resistance. The imposition of new stealth taxes next year such as water charges, a home tax or household utility charge will evoke not just opposition but active campaign of resistance through Boycott / Non Payment campaign.
The United Left Alliance can come into its own through being central in launching these campaigns. The public representatives of the Alliance can use their public platforms to assist build the campaigns and to wage powerful media campaigns to take the fight into the heart of the establishment. They and the other activists must be central to constructing powerful, active campaigns of worker and people power to halt the austerity juggernaut while all the time arguing for a socialist alternative. It is through these struggles that the Alliance will be strengthened and a basis laid for further gains, all of which is part of the process of building a new powerful party of the Left.