Nick Wrack’s drafting group of four presented a Socialist Platform to Left Unity which inhabits a diffuse middle ground between Marxian socialism and the Labour Party’s abandoned Clause IV.
As such, it advocates a state of things where “the wealth and the means of production are no longer in private hands but are owned in common” (compare Clause IV: “secure for the workers (…) the most equitable distribution (…) that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”).
Some formulations (“complete political, social and economic democracy”) are more radical than those found in Clause IV (“the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service”), but the document steers well clear of advocating a stateless, classless society based on the free association of producers: communism. State socialism is no longer a necessary, transitional stage on a journey towards general human freedom, but an end in itself.
Much like the politics of the long defunct Militant tendency, from which Nick Wrack emerged, the Socialist Platform wants to appeal to left social democrats and revolutionary Marxists alike. How will capitalism’s “state and institutions (…) be replaced” and a “fundamental breach with capitalism” achieved? I believe the answer is consciously left in the dark to allow for a gradualist interpretation. One can read very similar formulations in the programme of the German Left Party, Die Linke. And indeed, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which remains forever stuck in the parliamentary optimism of the 1890s, recently proclaimed that the Socialist Platform is essentially identical with its own programme.
A century ago, the Socialist Platform would have been considered a centrist document. This places it to the left of the Left Party platform, whose ethical socialism combines vague promises of a mixed economy with a diverse set of ‘values’. But it lacks the vision that characterised centrism proper – for all their practical compromises with the bourgeois order, centrists such as Otto Bauer still had their eyes set on Marx’s realm of freedom at the end of the road. They said so openly, and their supporters numbered in the millions. To those who drafted the Socialist Platform, on the other hand, a democratically organised realm of necessity is the best humanity can achieve.
Nick Wrack’s drafting group resisted any changes to the Socialist Platform, though not honestly or openly so. Initially, we were assured that it was open to amendments – but a succession of delays and manoeuvres ensured that the initial drafting group retained exclusive ownership of its content. It became clear that they wanted loyal followers, but no genuine democratic participation.
What does Nick Wrack want, and how will things develop from here? Speaking strictly in personal capacity, these are my pessimistic speculations based on sheer gut instinct and nothing else:
In his bid for a leading position in a party project he did not initiate, Nick Wrack needs to distinguish himself and establish a constituency. His unique selling point is a platform designed to unite those in LU who are prepared to unashamedly write ‘socialism’ on their banner: honest social democrats, former CPers, hard and soft Trots, and others. In short, all those who think Left Unity should be Socialist with a capital S. For this purpose, the differences between the various schools must be glossed over and talk of communism avoided.
Nick Wrack will become part of the Left Unity leadership. He will play the role of the principled socialist who can rally behind him – and, on demand, contain – the LU left. He will compromise with Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin for the sake of ‘party unity’ six days of the week, and offer critical sound bites on Sundays. Already, some of his supporters are calling on him to end the ‘divisive bickering’ and join with the right wing on a compromise platform – a “dialectical synthesis”, as one master dialectician called it. Given half the chance, Wrack will gladly bow to the pressure.