Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

ULA: Nuts and bolts of Nonaligned democracy – Brian Stafford

with one comment

Nonaligned members of the United Left Alliance are – gradually – making their way to the formation of a nonaligned group in the organisation. Recently Brian Stafford, a nonaligned ULA activist,  sent the following discussion piece, on nonaligned representation and organisation, to nonaligned members who are linking up through a newly created emailing group. We reprint it here as a guest post with Brian’s permission.

Another forum for the ULA nonaligned is the Left Unity Blogging facebook page at:


What follows below are only suggestions to get the discussion going in light of the fact that it looks like it will be difficult to meet before the ULA conference.  I will probably be proposing tidied up versions of them after discussions here.  Because of the lack of political basis to the non aligned group I believe it is most important to have effective democratic checks in place for our own representatives on the steering committee.  I think it is fair to say that all non aligned ULA members want to see the ULA evolve as a democratic functioning party of the working class.  I think we all agree that the founding parties are to be praised for taking the potential first steps towards a mass workers party but that the project has stalled somewhat.  I believe that how we act as a non aligned grouping, with the building of the ULA as our primary goal, can go a long way to getting over the current stasis.  One thing that strikes me is that other left unity projects have been very slow processes I am now very much of the opinion that barring massive social upheaval, which I don’t rule out, we are in for a long journey.  So what do we need, technically to put in place, to make the non aligned grouping a dynamic force within the ULA.

1) The right to recall. I would envision that a non aligned vote on recall would come in one of two ways.  A majority of the SC members decide to put it to a vote of the non aligned members and lay out their reasons for doing so, of course the right to respond should be extended through the same channels for the proposed non aligned member up for recall if they disagree with the recall, it may be necessitated by health or other commitments so no disagreement may arise.  Secondly a percentage of non aligned members petition for a vote to recall.  I think it would need to be around 30% of members at least considering recall should be confined to exceptional circumstances only and should not be open to one non aligned tendency or grouping to air a grievance and disrupt the functioning of the ULA.

2)  Term limits.  Fairly straight forward, I would propose one year terms up to a maximum of three years in a row followed by a break of a year for every year served when it is decided to not stand again or when the three year maximum term is up. So if somebody does two years on the SC and then decides not to run again then they are affectively barred for two more years from running for election to the steering group.

3) Substitute list. Whilst running for election to the SC it would be preferable but not a necessity to announce a substitute in case of failure to be able to make a SC meeting. This substitute can not be someone already running or barred from running through term limits and must be a member of the non aligned ULA group.  I would see the role of the sub to fill in for a maximum of ten steering group meetings barring exceptional circumstances in that case no limit should apply up to the next yearly election.  The substitute would have the same rights as the others members of the SC whilst filling in. If no substitute is announced at the time of election then no substitute can take the place of the elected member.  This is why I believe it preferable to announce a sub at election time who can be on the ballot, however especially at this early stage it may not be practical for all interested in running to actually announce a sub.

4) Open tendencies. As the ULA progresses to a full party it will probably go through a stage were the original founding parties become open tendencies or platforms in an overall minority position (numerically) within the overall membership.  At that stage we will need a framework for dealing with tendencies.  This again is an area were the non aligned grouping can lead the way and be a testing ground for future progress of the ULA.  I’m aware of one tendency within the non aligned group who are very open that they belong to an existing grouping. We need to formalise the registration of such groups to affiliate to the ULA. Depending on the membership size of the affiliating group it should seek its own rep or reps on the SC or if the group is small in number say less than 15% of the non aligned members it should seek representation through the non aligned structures.

5) Gender equality.  It is not enough for us to state that we are for equality we have to show it in our actions.  I would argue for a gender quota of 50% in the non aligned SC reps as I believe it is a fact that female representation on the current SC is zero even though we have excellent female public reps and members.  I would also argue for a policy on gender balance on platforms, family friendly times for meetings and where possible crèche facilities at larger ULA meetings and conferences.  It is still a fact that the vast bulk of unpaid work in the home and caring work is carried out by women and we need to be aware of this fact and organise accordingly.

6) Communication and political discussion.  It has become noticeable that communications have become better since the two full timers were hired and it is worth noting.  It is of the upmost importance that the members start to receive minutes of SC meetings. I think we all recognise that some issues discussed may be sensitive and should not be open to potential leaks to the media or other political forces.  Finalised minutes should be agreed amongst the SC.  I am ok with certain information being withheld for time periods but as far as possible the minutes should be detailed so we are all kept informed as to what our reps are doing.  Finally political discussion. I think we again can lead the way as far as the original discussions on the ULA political program was designed.  We should regularly (maybe quarterly) have discussions on a number of topics, seeking areas we agree on and then having that position mandated to our SC reps to bring to the rest of the SC.  I’m under no illusion that this could be a slow torturous process.  If we accept that we all agree on a lot more than we disagree on and that we can have comradely discussions were the decision is there is no decision then that alone is progress from what has happened in the past on the left.

This is by no means an exhaustive or totally detailed list of everything I am currently thinking about as it relates to the democratic structures of the non aligned group of the ULA but they are important areas beyond the obvious nomination and election process to the SC from the non aligned members.  I think they are important because they have the potential to provide a template for the future of the ULA. I am open to discussion, correction or improvement on any part of this and look forward to any constructive feedback or downright poo pooing of my unworkable ideas.  Finally we should take heart from the rise in support for avowedly anti capitalist parties in Greece but we have to recognise that those parties have been built over long periods of time and had the social force and structures that come with that.  That is I believe the current goal of the left here.  To lay the foundations for the potential to grow rapidly should social conditions change but to definitely grow steadily in the face of further onslaughts on our class.

In solidarity,

Brian Stafford.

22 March 2012

Written by tomasoflatharta

Mar 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] Henry Silke’s proposal for a delegate’s council and Brian Stafford’s “nuts and bolts.” Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: