The First Left Forum will be held in the Teacher’s Club, Parnell Square, on May 18th 2013. In the call out the Forum states:
“We have had five years of crisis, five years where no alternative has been able to win support despite the obvious failures of the current political and economic regime, with serious human and environmental consequences.
Can we do better? Can the Left win widespread support for our ideas and build an alternative society? Can we make socialism more than a nice idea? The Left Forum invites you to contribute your views on the state of progressive politics and to discuss how we can do better.
The forum will be participatory and exploratory, and will aim to ask and answer key questions about what levels of political agreement are possible, what forms of organisation are useful and what tactics and strategies will be effective. We hope that you will join us and help define the future of the Left in Ireland”
This has led to some questions, firstly who is the Left Forum? Is it another front? What ideas do you mean, what exactly is ‘participatory’ and ‘inclusive’ and haven’t we heard all of this before?
Who are we?
The Left forum is an initiative that has been launched by the old United Left Alliance reading group in DCU, (now renamed the Left Forum DCU). While small the membership is diverse representing many trends of the Irish left. The group includes ex members of the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers’ Party, The Workers Solidarity Movement, The Workers Party, the Communist Party as well as the non-affiliated. Though the various group members very much recognise the different strengths of the various organisations we believe that for both objective and subjective reasons that these groups (certainly alone) do not offer all the answers. The group originally came together as the DCU branch of the United Left Alliance and this initiative has partly comes as a result of the implosion of the alliance and the gap left in the political spectrum by its demise, including the political space available independent left activists.
We see ourselves generally as self-identified leftists, those who are opposed to the current market system, and believe that we must move towards a socialist system (however defined), and that issues of class, economics and power are of paramount importance.
We don’t believe that this should only include the electoralist left but as much as possible also include activists who work outside (and mistrust) electoral socialism. We do also very much want to engage with party activists, and very much expect any who do to bring their politics with them. However, for the moment we would like the activists themselves to engage with the process rather than be represented by others. In other words, this at the moment is not a process where leaderships of various groups may hammer out an alliance (not that we have anything against that), but one which we hope might develop ‘bottom up’ from activists from right across the left. I also use the term ‘activist’ lightly as we very much want to include people who for various reasons are not politically active at the moment and who may not have much time available to do so, but who would still from time to time like to engage in a political process. For example the many people who attend various political demonstrations but do not have time to be involved day to day with politics in person.
Two organising meetings of the Forum thus far have included about forty to fifty people, mainly un-affiliated but also including some party members, who agree with the general aims so far. It was agreed that the DCU group would organise the first Forum, though this will obviously have to change if the process is to develop.
What is it?
The goal of the first Left Forum is twofold, firstly it is a measure of what kind of numbers are interested in a long term multi-tendency leftist project, and secondly what kind of project people are interested in. The Left Forum could be a basis for a political network; it could be a basis for a new party or even to begin a process of wider left unity. It may simply be a forum where every few months the left can come together and discuss various political issues without binding negotiations and most importantly something that can also involve rank and file activists. The first meeting will begin the process by asking these basic but important questions. For this reason we wish to involve as many people as possible both from outside the existing groups and within. And for this reason we believe that the methodology of the forum (small group discussions rather than a top table of key note speakers) will be more practical and allow as many people as possible to be heard.
What probably makes the Forum a little different to what has come before is that we do not have a pre-prepared blueprint of the outcome that we will present for approval but rather want to develop a roadmap through discussion. This, of course, can be problemic in itself, and will be difficult, however if successful I believe it could have a more stable outcome than previous experience.
This part of the Forum must also begin the process of developing what the left forum stands for collectively, a programme of sorts which may begin to offer some alternatives (beyond simply resistance) to the market system, one that can later develop theoretical and practical answers to the current capitalist structural crisis and one that can hopefully appeal to a wider audience.
This part of the Forum will be covered in the first part of the day in small conveyed groups of eight to ten people, there will be an agenda and a hope to develop and opening statement from the discussions. This opening statement will then be put to the attendees as a whole to amend and if agreed vote on.
For details of the agenda see leftformum.net/proposed agenda for first left forum.
The second and more immediately practical goal of the first forum is to bring together activists working in different fields, whether trade unions, media, and various rights groups with those who may wish to research or develop policy. In this part of the forum there will be convened discussions on the various interests. Attendees are also free to establish a discussion on any subject. These discussions will be naturally of an autonomous nature at this stage. But we hope some concrete networks can develop from this process. So far areas of discussion that have been suggested are Left Education, and Left media, as stated we hope others will suggest and take ownership of more issues to be discussed.
Where to after the first Forum?
How the Forum process develops will depend on the discussions of the first forum and which direction attendees want to go. Though I am personally in favour of a multi-tendency Left party, this realistically is probably a long way off. My own personal preference for the moment would be to develop a network of forums; which by their very nature will have to be autonomous, these forums might be organised in workplaces, localities or around particular issues. If these can develop somewhat we may organise a second left forum where the various groups will come together and begin to make decisions around policy, and strategy.
Online registration details to follow.
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