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A resolution on Syriza and the new left passed at Counterfire National Conference 2015.

Submitted by the Steering Committee


Notes

  1. The election of an anti-austerity government in Greece, led by Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left. The rise of Syriza with the anti-austerity movement, its commitment to that movement, and it's posing of the need for an anti-austerity government. The collapse of Pasok, Greece's Labour Party.
  2. The breakdown of the old party system in the UK, with record numbers polling for parties outside of Labour, Conservative and the Lib Dems.
  3. The "Green surge" and the corresponding rise of the SNP in Scotland, with tens of thousands joining these parties in the last few months.
  4. The continuing commitment of all the mainstream parties to ongoing austerity, and the rise of Ukip.
  5. The continuing attachment of the bulk English and Welsh working class to the Labour Party, both through its historic institutions, the trade unions, and with its likely votes in May.

Believes

  1. The election of a Syriza-led government is an enormous step forward for all those forces opposed, across Europe, to austerity and neoliberalism.
  2. Whatever the government now achieves, or fails to, the shock to Europe's political systems has been immense. The magic spell of There Is No Alternative has been broken; it is clear to millions that an alternative can be presented. Ending austerity requires an anti-austerity government.
  3. That shock has been felt in the UK, where the main political parties are locked into failed austerity politics, either soft or hard version. Those looking for an alternative are seriously  raising the question of creating a Syriza here.
  4. There have already been some claimants to the title of a "British Syriza", or similar. But Syriza cannot be created in the abstract or simply declared into existence. The Greens would be the best claimants, but the heavy influence of broadly liberal politics weighs against it becoming an authentic, left, working class voice.
  5. Syriza's rise is incomprehensible without understanding its attachment to the movement against austerity. A Syriza or Syrizas in the UK will only come about if it has a similar relationship. This will almost certainly include the trade unions, not least as a plausible source of democratic and accountable funding.
  6. Similarly, Syriza grew because Pasok fell. Until there is a crisis inside of Labour approaching a similar scale, the prospects for an equivalent here are limited. Labour is highly likely to enter such a crisis after the election, in office or out, if at a slower pace and with less clear cut outcomes, given its deeper historic roots in the British working class and the more moderate pace of austerity here.
  7. This implies the continuing necessity of the People's Assembly as the best available organisation for uniting all those opposed to austerity, regardless of party affiliation.
  8. It further implies that whilst the priority at this election will be the removal of the Conservatives from office, there is a need to develop and support a left alternative to the political mainstream even without a clear-cut party division. This will mean voting Labour where necessary, left Labour where desirable, and left Green where safe to do so, with the aim of securing the exit of the Tories from office, a decent cohort of left, anti-austerity MPs, and the largest possible vote for the non-Labour left nationally.
  9. The pressure the political breakdown asserts on our medieval electoral system is immense. There is an opportunity to win full proportional representation (and not some arguably worse compromise like AV). A trade union and left campaign for electoral reform post-election would make a meaningful impact.
  10. For a major (if declining) world power like the UK, the question of a radical transformation of its society is inseparable from its role in the world - and the backlash it produces. No viable left alternative will be possible that does not also address the twin questions of the UK's militarism abroad and racism at home. Thisracism has been used directly against a left-wing council with Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman smeared and subjected to administrative measures. 
  11. Organised revolutionaries can have a vital part to play in this, drawing together the separate strands of the disparate movements and helping create a space, on the method of the united front, where they can work together. Syriza, compared to Podemos, is likely to prove a stronger organisation precisely because it contains a strong and organised Marxist left, and it is because of this that it opens the door to more radical possibilities.

Resolves:

  1. That we continue to build and support the People's Assembly, whatever the outcome of the election.
  2. That we support the creation of English and Welsh, and Scottish Syrizas, defined as a broad party of the radical left that unites all forces opposed to austerity and neoliberalism, with a parliamentary strategy but not a parliamentary fixation. That such a party must be open its left to more radical forces than anti-austerity alone.
  3. That, for this election, we recommend votes that would help move us towards the goal of that new party: against the Tory-led government, but for the anti-austerity left rather than pro-austerity mainstream Labour. This implies some attention must be paid to individual constituencies. In general, vote Labour where necessary to keep out or remove a Tory. Vote left Labour ahead of the Greens (where they compete) as the most likely left candidate to secure parliamentary representation. Vote Green where possible to boost the national anti-austerity vote. We do not view a vote for various small left forces as politically decisive at this point in time but in some particular constituencies it could be desirable to support a strong candidate.
  4. Post-election, to support initiatives that would improve democracy in the UK, led by a demand for full PR but potentially extending beyond that point. To argue inside People's Assembly for this strategy as a necessary complement of anti-austerity campaigning.

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