It was in a smart central London hotel.Hundreds of guests milling about, having a crafty fag outside before going inside.It could have been a significant wedding or an impressive bar mitzvah- easy mistakes to make.
But what gave thev event away was the traditional sight of newspaper sellers, no not the usual London newspaper vendors but the rash of Leftist newspapers with the traditional range of titles always involving 'Workers'or 'Socialist' with the usual call for a General Strike tomorrow, the defenestration of Trade Union leaders the day after and a bit of capitalist state smashing thrown in.
Oddly enough the Morning Star and Socialist Worker appeared missing, maybe they hadn't been invited!
It was quite exciting, there was a buzz around and there were a lot of people,that's for sure!
It was of course the Founding meeting of Left Unity and like all Founding conferences it was a bit chaotic and a lot of time spent in procedural motions, counter motions anti motions and frequent circular motions.
Apart from the plethora of newspaper sellers the other feature was the mass of paper that surrounded every delegate and at the end every chair in the hall.
I wonder if as much paper surrounded the Founding conference of the Labour Representatiobn Committee or even the first meeting of thye Bolsheviks?.
Who can tell?
Yet between 5 and 6 hundred people were there, the initial founding membership stads at over 1200 and during the day over 1,000 people were following on Twitter.
No mean achievement in the current political climate of indifference and dispair.
The really positive side was the remarkable number of young people there,but on the otherhand(this blog is starting to sound balanced!) there were still too many old grey haired and even hairless dinosaurs to make me entirely comfortable.
Much of the constitutional stuff could have and should have been done on line, a new party for a new century should have been more willing to embrace new technology.That would have achieved several things, speeded the process and allowed strategic political debate to have taken place,shown a willingness to embrace modern methods of work and most importantly of all frightened off most of us dinosaurs.
A new party also needs a more technically advanced way of counting votes other than bits of cardboard and sore arms (especially those of the dinosaur tendency)
The debate on the name also seemed a tad redundant-why advertise as a Left Unity Founding Conference and then leave the door open to change the bloody name?
Would we have needed a recall conference to use different voting cards?
Much of the day centred around the various platforms, many of which seemed suspiciously similar ,and some of the amendments were more about grammar and syntax than a bold new political dawn.
But it seems to me the show is on the road and we are all members of a new political party that maybe,just maybe can make a difference on the left.What appears to be most disappointing is that old sectarian habits are not dead, indeed they are not even dying.
There was evidence aplenty that many of the old baldy and grey haired cohorts were still insisting on fighting the old battlesc all over again.My colleague Ron from the Northampton branch described much of what was going on as 'infantile leftism'.
I guess most of them had at some time read Lenin's essay 'Left Wing Communism-an Infantile disorder'- it isobvious they didn't get what V I L was getting at!!
there is a case for comrades to meet and discuss the platform and direction of the party on an almost daily basis, I get that, situations change,events can determine direction quite rapidly.But then that should mean in a well ordered and forward looking organisation coalitions around ideas and actions shoule emerge as and when.For the first time we can have a political organisation that reflects the ebb and flow of the dynamic of the times-in real time.
Left Unity must not become a part chained to the dogma of the script handed down from the centre.We must try and be a disciplined group of folk who want to get things done locally and nationally, but we are not a democratic centralist party with a fixed unyielding hierarchy.
It seems to me that the platforms now need to be left at the door,that discussions can be fluid and responsive to change and we can build our bases within communities that need such political organisation without the heavy hand of the centre or 'the line'.
Most of the young people joining willm have no need of the historial baggage, and maybe a few of us on the Dinosaur Platform should learn that lesson too.
Perhaps the best point of reference today is a careful analysis of the current series of Borgen,where a new party is being created week by week.Maybe soon we will have our own Birgette too- and then-who know?
We might even resurrect the 93/4 platform.