United LEFT

**working for unity in action of all the LEFT in the UK** (previously known as the RESPECT SUPPORTERS BLOG)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Spirit of ’45: Be inspired but learn the lessons - Nick Wrack

The Spirit of ’45: Be inspired but learn the lessons - Nick Wrack reviews Ken Loach’s latest film.
Those familiar with Ken Loach’s films will not be surprised to learn that his new film The Spirit of ‘45 is a passionate evocation of a period in which the idea of socialism seemed capable of becoming a reality.
Its launch only a few weeks ago has helped to spur thousands to sign up to the call to discuss and debate the need for a new party.
Using black and white archive footage and working-class people talking about how their lives were changed, the film conveys the collective sense of expectation and hope created by the landslide election of the Labour Government in 1945.
After six years of war, following on from the mass unemployment, poverty and endless hardship of the 1930s, working-class people were determined never to go back. They believed that they had fought and defeated fascism abroad and they now wanted to deal with the bosses and toffs at home. They were sick of a society where “everything was run by rich people for rich people”. Now it was their turn.
No one could tell them that there was no such thing as class. Life was “them and us”. They knew that back in civilian life the officers would be on one side of the barrier and they would be on the other. Working-class people who lived through it tell of their living conditions: children without shoes, sleeping five to a vermin-ridden bed; unemployed fathers picking lumps of coal from slag heaps; a young girl being taken to see the length of the dole queue so she could know what unemployment looked like; miners maimed or killed at work because the only thing the mine owner cared about was profit. Class divisions were visible everywhere. One tram journey is described, with the conductor announcing all the shops for the well-off until it arrives at the terminus or “poverty park”.
Reforming manifesto
Clips of Labour leaders speaking about socialism contrast with an image of Tory leader Winston Churchill, who had just led Britain to victory in the war, heckled by workers at an election rally. The Labour manifesto was certainly radical, setting out an extensive programme of nationalisation and other substantial reforms. Perhaps most significant of all, especially given the recent death blows to the NHS, was its creation in 1948 under the leadership of Aneurin Bevan.
And reforms followed. Alongside the creation of the NHS came the nationalisation of transport, the mines, the docks, electricity and gas. An extensive programme of house building was begun to replenish the stock destroyed in the blitz and replace the old slums.
The impact of these changes cannot be underestimated. For the first time, over a million working-class families had decent homes, with access to hot water, electricity and indoor lavatories. One woman describes how her father cherished the letter which told him he was getting a council house; he carried it in his wallet for the rest of his life. Deaths and injuries in the mines fell to an all time low. Parents no longer had to turn away the doctor for lack of money when their children were sick. Working-class people started to live longer.
But the film also begins to reveal how these reforms remained half-measures, destined to be whittled away over time. The hope and expectations were to be dashed, some sooner, some later. Now we can see that every aspect of the ‘welfare state’ initiated by the 1945 Labour government has been, or is being, smashed to pieces before our eyes.
This inevitable rolling back of the most audacious programme of reforms ever seen in Britain was built into the reforms from the beginning, in the way they were perceived, the way they were carried out and in their partial nature. Of course, the Labour leaders wanted to eradicate the poverty, the destitution and the mass unemployment of the 1930s but they had no intention of destroying the capitalist system that bred them. They wanted to introduce reforms into the system that would alleviate the worst aspects of it. And for a long time the reforms did that.
However, from the outset the changes were all carried out from above without involving the working-class itself in drawing up the plans or in implementing them. Even the public service broadcasts that promoted the reforms were dominated by plummy, posh, public-school accents, telling the working-class about the changes and unintentionally revealing which class was still going to be in charge.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
The newly nationalised industries were not run by the workers or consumers in their own interests but were run as before except with an appointed bureaucracy instead of a private owner, in the interests of the wider capitalist economy. Wages may have increased and conditions improved but the relationship between boss and worker remained.
The first chairman of the National Coal Board on its creation in 1947 was Lord Hyndley, a former director of the Bank of England and a managing director of a mine-owning company. The former mine owners, who had made millions of pound in profits through their grotesque exploitation of the miners, without regard for working conditions or pay, were paid massive compensation for their loss. The government paid them collectively £338 million (£11.5bn in 2012 money). The big four railway companies were virtually bankrupt at the time they were taken over, yet their shareholders were guaranteed a yearly income in the form of British Transport Stock. No doubt a large part of our present national debt can be traced back to the compensation paid out to the owners of the industries that were nationalised.
Even with the formation of the NHS a compromise was built in from the start. Free health care was available for all for the first time ever, but the consultants had to be bought off at great cost. More importantly, the pharmaceutical companies remained in private hands, able to use the NHS as a billion pound cash machine for decades to come.
The Beveridge Report, which set out the basis for the welfare reforms of the 1945 Labour government, was not a socialist document. Beveridge was a Liberal who saw his proposals as a way of helping British capitalism become more productive and therefore more competitive.
Root and branch
The British working class had a unique opportunity to carry out a much more fundamental change in 1945. Working-class people were weary of the way they had to live. They saw the possibility of change and wanted to get it. But essentially their involvement remained limited to voting Labour and Labour had a different idea. Not fundamental change; not root and branch transformation of the economy; not a complete extension of democracy or a re-organising of civil society, but only partial measures. The class nature of society was left intact.
The ruling class was on the back foot. It was shocked at the size of the Labour landslide. They understood that the Labour reforms had to be tolerated if it prevented workers taking matters into their own hands and going much further. It was a situation forced on them and they could do nothing about it. They were forced to bide their time. And they waited.
The film jumps from 1951, when Labour lost to the Conservatives and was out of government until 1964, to Thatcher’s triumph in 1979. The film then shows the Thatcherite counter-reforms: the privatisations, the defeat of the miners, the promotion of ‘individualism’, of the idea that there is no such thing as society.
This jump is clearly imposed on Ken Loach by the time constraints but it can create an impression that everything was good until we got Thatcher. Of course, we had Harold Wilson (1964 -70 and 1974 – 76) and then James Callaghan (1976 – 79) and his chancellor Denis Healey and their capitulation to the IMF. Confronted with the economic crisis of the mid-1970s, Labour began to cut back public spending and reduced wages, provoking the ‘winter of discontent’, widespread strike action against the Labour government policies.
Labour’s mythical bird
The Labour programme implemented between 1945 – 51 was an attempt to create a ‘better’ capitalism that looked after those at the bottom. But we can look back and see that the ‘mixed economy’ could never work in the interests of all. Capitalism exists to make a profit for the few, at the expense of the many. Today’s Labour leaders have learned nothing. Ed Miliband talks about a ‘more responsible, more decent more humane’ capitalism. But as Dr Julian Tudor, who worked as a general practitioner in Wales, says in the film, “Caring capitalism is like the Arabian phoenix. Everyone’s heard about it but no-one’s ever seen it.”
We should not be looking to make a better, more humane, or any sort of capitalism but rather to sweep it away for ever and to create a new society based on the democratic collective ownership of the wealth in society, its resources and the means of production.
There is a danger that the film could be viewed as nostalgia, as somehow looking back to a golden age that we should try to re-create. That would be a huge mistake. The film does not uncritically praise the 1945 Labour government. It points to the huge reforms, which had such a massive impact on working-class lives at the time and in the generations since. But it also indicates the flaw in those reforms and the way they were implemented. In pointing to Thatcherism it shows the inevitable consequences of that flaw. Today, we see those consequences in even starker relief.
It is not possible to create islands of socialist industries in a capitalist sea, any more than it is possible to build socialism in a single country. We need a fundamental breach with capitalism.
Be inspired but learn the lessons
Socialists should engage with the film. It is a fantastic introduction for the debate we need to have about the sort of society we want to create. What are the lessons we can learn? How would we do things differently? Is it possible, as I would argue, for the working class to act for itself to change things, completely democratising the economy though collective ownership?
I encourage Left Unity groups to organise a [licensed] screening of the film, or to buy a copy of the DVD to watch together, with a discussion to follow. The film is a tremendous way to introduce a debate on the need and possibility of socialist change.
The film is a wonderful song of praise, not to the 1945 Labour government, but to the working-class spirit for change, for bettering their lives through collective activity and collective ownership. It is the spirit that should inspire us.
To order the DVD or organise a screening, contact Dogwoof distributors
Link: Left Unity

Friday, April 05, 2013

Milton Keynes Against the Cuts: Motions passed at April 4th 2013 meeting

The following motions were passed at the April 4th meeting of Milton Keynes Against the Cuts.

Councillors Against The Cuts:

A: Milton keynes Against The Cuts believes:
1. That any Councillor who has taken a principled stance and voted against cuts in their council, deserve this groups recognition and support.

2. That Councillors who have taken a principled stance and voted against cuts in their council should not be subject to disciplinary measures from their party.

3. That Councillors who have taken a principled stance and voted against cuts in their council should not be subjected to any form of harassment or victimisation because of their active opposition to cuts.

B: Milton Keynes Against The Cuts resolves:
1. To publicise this motion of support on the Councillors Against The Cuts web site and Facebook site.
2.To post this motion of support on the MKATC web site and Facebook site.

3. A copy of this motion to be sent to Milton Keynes Trades Council.

4. MKATC supporters on MK Trades Council to attempt to get support for this motion (Part A) from MK Trades Council.

5. MKATC supporters on MK Trades Council to ask MK Trades Council to pass this motion (Part A) onto the SERTUC for support and from the SERTUC (South East Region TUC) if possble to the national TUC conference.

6. To send messages of solidarity on behalf of our supporters to each Councillor across Britain who has taken a principled stance and voted against cuts in their locality, and those who have been victimised because of such action.

Left Unity and the Peoples Assembley:

A: Milton Keynes Against The Cuts notes the Left Unity initiative and the call by Ken Loach for people to join in a discussion about the need for a new party of the left (a call now signed by over 6000 people).

Milton Keynes Against The Cuts resolves to support this initiative and encourages its supporters to to participate in the discussion to argue that a new party should be set up and that it should adopt a clear programme for socialist change. MKATC should offer to send a delegate/delegates to the Left Unity discussions where this is practical and possible by the timing and location of meetings.
Milton Keynes Against The Cuts will continue its anti cuts work and campaigns while keeping developments under review. We welcome the opportunity to discuss any new developments at future MKATC meetings.

B: Milton Keynes Against the Cuts welcomes the call for a Peoples Assembly on Saturday 22nd June (at Westminster Hall starting at 9.30am) called by the Coalition of Resistance (to which MKATC is affiliated) to coordinate the anti cuts work across the country. We urge our supporters to attend this conference.

Neil Williams
Secretary Milton Keynes Against The Cuts

Friday, February 01, 2013

What kind of Left do we need? by Alan Gibbons

What kind of Left do we need? by Alan Gibbons.

Award-winning children’s author and campaigner, Alan Gibbons, discusses the way forward for the Left

The world is in crisis. The global economy continues to struggle. The World Bank’s report on Global Economic Prospects manages to argue simultaneously that financial market conditions have improved dramatically since June 2012, but that “the real-side recovery is weak and business conditions low”. It estimates that growth in 2013 will be 2.4%, only marginally above the estimated 2.3% growth for 2012. It estimates that the biggest economy, the US, will grow sluggishly at 1.9% and the UK will continue to bump along the bottom at 1.1%. The state of the Eurozone countries continues to pose a major headache for those who argue that market capitalism is the only game in town. At some point there will be a modest, probably sluggish recovery, but the fundamental problems of capitalism PLC will remain unresolved.

As indicated above, the UK economy is, contrary to the arguments of PM David Cameron and his beleaguered Chancellor George Osborne, in a parlous state. Increasingly, when they try to boast that they have cut the deficit by a quarter (a claim exploded in a recent Channel 4 investigation) and laid the basis for a strong recovery (belied by the state of manufacturing, services and construction) critics circle in however coded a manner. These have included the IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard, Jim O’Neil of Goldman Sachs and the ubiquitous Tory opportunist Boris Johnson. Even these firm apologists of market capitalism think austerity is a busted flush and want to see Plan B or at least Plan A and a half.

It does not follow automatically that the Left should be the immediate beneficiary of this picture of crisis. There is an old adage that a crisis of the system is often simultaneously a crisis of the Left. So it has turned out. In the UK Labour is ahead in the polls, but not convincingly so. There appears to be a widespread vestigial distrust of Labour after the meltdown of the Brown years. Given the multiple catastrophes of the Conservative Party, Labour should be much further ahead in the polls than it is. Labour has enormous problems in Scotland and Ed Balls’ notorious acceptance of cuts and austerity on behalf of the Labour leadership, rather than winning ‘middle England’ appears to be contributing to a sense that it is failing to speak up on behalf of its own traditional base. Cameron’s recent speech on Europe has given him a bounce in the polls which, though likely to be short term and eroded by the UK’s continuing economic woes, has posed problems for UKIP on the right and Labour on the (not so) left.

Labour councils are contributing to the widespread conviction that the party is a whole sackful of compromises short of springboard to power. At a time when living standards are crumbling and the Tories are carrying out an onslaught on public services, Labour councils are acting as a conduit for cuts. Newcastle’s decision to cut its entire Arts budget is only the most notorious symptom of this spinelessness and failure to even try to shield the mass of the population from the Tory axe. A new group, Councilors against the Cuts, is welcome but extremely weak at the time of writing compared to the scale of opposition mounted in the 1980s against a similar Tory offensive. The Left inside the Labour Party, while there are some principled individuals, has very little resonance.

So what of the Left outside the Labour Party? The once moderately strong Communist Party is history. The Morning Star remains with a modest circulation. Respect won a stunning victory in Bradford, causing Ed Miliband to swallow so hard it registered nine on the Richter scale, but George Galloway’s by-election result was followed by controversial comments about rape by the new MP, provoking the exit of Salma Yaqoob and Kate Hudson. For all Galloway’s skills as an orator, it is a party confined to a handful of areas and very dependant on the profile of its best-known member. Tony Mulhearn, veteran Liverpool activist and a member of the Socialist Party, won a significant vote in the city’s Mayoral election, but the party is a shadow of its former incarnation as Militant which was prominent in the Liverpool council crisis of 1984-5 and the poll tax campaign. In Scotland the Tommy Sheridan dispute saw the fracturing of the Left outside Labour, a conflagration from whose ashes it is only now beginning to emerge. The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition’s vote at elections has been tiny and it has never had electoral successes to compare with Galloway’s triumphs. There are various smaller groups, but they have never had much influence.

The most recent self-inflicted disaster to engulf the Left is the car crash over the Socialist Workers Party’s handling of a rape allegation against senior member ‘Comrade Delta.’ This has led to open dissent by well-known members China Mieville and Richard Seymour, the resignation of Socialist Worker journalist Tom Walker, protests by many Socialist Worker Student Society groups and calls for a recall conference to discuss the Central Committee’s conduct of the accusations. This follows hard on the heels of the Respect fiasco when there were briefly two Respects. This conflict led to the emergence of Counterfire, led by former SWP Central Committee members John Rees and Lindsey German.

There is an argument that this fragmentation, disintegration and marginalisation is a product of objective circumstances, the ‘state of the movement’. This seems a dubious line of argument for two reasons: firstly because elsewhere in Europe organisations such as Syriza, Die Linke and the Front de Gauche have had some success in sustaining radical politics outside the social democratic parties, secondly because the far left has, in the recent past, helped build the Stop the War movement, its high point being the two million strong march against the Iraq war. At least part of the explanation has to be subjective, the actions of the leadership of the groups posing as an alternative to the traditional reformist parties. These groups have variously built the Stop the War campaign, the poll tax movement, the miners’ support committees, the Liverpool council campaign in the 80s, the Anti Nazi League and Rock Against Racism. Significant as these achievements have been, it has not translated into any significant growth of the Left outside the Labour Party. The Left that has broadly emerged from Trotskyism has also been much less central in a number of significant movements such as Occupy, UK Uncut, environmentalism, feminist initiatives such as the Slut Walks and LGBT campaigns that have challenged some of its preconceptions. Indeed, the outside Left appears weaker, greyer and less confident and vibrant as evidenced by the picture of marginalisation, splits and internal disagreements. It has struggled to relate to some of the explosive new movements and sometimes labeled them with an element of pejorative dismissiveness ‘autonomist.’ In the case of the SWP its recent difficulties may well be a partial spin off of its retrenchment, retreating from ‘the movements’ and ‘united fronts of a special kind’ to its default setting of party building.

One consequence of the state of the outside Left is that there is not a single movement on the key issue of the day, cuts and austerity. There is the Coalition of Resistance, Unite the Resistance (a successor to the Right to Work Campaign), the National Shop Stewards Movement and UK Uncut. A strong, healthy and coherent movement would surely be capable of uniting in a single body. The recent 25,000 strong LewishamHospital demonstration shows that there is widespread discontent. Disturbingly, at a national level, the second of the TUC’s cuts demonstrations was substantially smaller than the first. A movement which isn’t moving up, which doesn’t appear to be progressing, usually moves down. A number of trade unions such as Unite are undertaking interesting campaigning work and Unison participates in broad organisations such as Speak Up for Libraries, but many activists feel demoralised and under extreme pressure as the cuts bite.

There is a final factor that has to be considered, and this is the nature of party organisation for any body of people attempting to create an alternative to the Labour Party. A lot of the discussion around the SWP’s current problems revolve around the notion of democratic centralism, in Lenin’s formulation: “freedom of discussion, unity of action.” The term democratic centralism has been used to describe regimes in which factions only exist in pre-conference discussions and regimes with permanent factions. It seems to have lately fossilised into a system in which the full time apparatus of the political party exerts a disproportionate control over the membership and stifles free discussion and initiative. Any rethinking of the Left will have to decide if it has any lasting applicability. I will not assemble the usual series of supporting quotes from Marxist theorists. I find that kind of appeal to papal authorities increasingly stale. In circumstances as challenging as those we face socialists and anti-capitalists have to think creatively and work out solutions for themselves. Rigidly applying formulae stricter than those adopted by the Bolsheviks in clandestine conditions seems ludicrous in the age of a mature parliamentary democracy and the internet. Talk of combat parties looks exotic to most and subjects the Left to ridicule. Over-dependence on a centralised, full time party leadership can be a block on the ability of activists to relate to the world around them and act in an independent, self-confident manner.

So where do we go from here when left wing voices like Owen Jones, Laurie Penny and Mark Steel are hugely welcomed by many, but a coherent political force representing the kind of ideas they hold is just not present? I am not casting a rueful look at the Left from outside. I am part of it. I have been a socialist since I was fourteen and a Marxist since my third year at university when I read the Allende pamphlet Chile’s Road to Socialism, Marx’s Capital and Grundrisse and came to the conclusion that the Labour Party was incapable of delivering socialism. That year, 1974, I met the International Socialists and became a tirelessly committed member of the organisation that would become the Socialist Workers Party. For two decades I barely missed a paper sale or a branch meeting.

I served on its National Committee for many years, worked on Socialist Worker with Jim Nichol, Paul Foot, Laurie Flynn and others. I was a full time organiser in Manchester and Liverpool. By the mid to late nineteen eighties I was having serious doubts about the party’s internal life and ability to adapt. I finally left in the 1990s mentioning absurdly over-optimistic perspectives and inner party democracy in my resignation letter.

A telling moment in my genesis was when I was called in front of a panel of CC members and other leading members at which I was accused of syndicalism, being a block to the growth of the Liverpool District and being a ‘yes-man.’ I wasn’t sure how I managed all three, but the accusation of being a yes man hurt because it had more than a scintilla of truth. I had been a student activist, an USDAW shop steward and branch chairman, a President of Knowsley NUT and conference delegate. I had led campaigns against the NF and BNP. In other words outside the party I was considered a militant and free thinker. Inside it I subjected myself meekly to a stifling conformity as did the overwhelming majority of the organisation. That humiliating contradiction got me thinking. I was a socialist before I joined the SWP. I have remained one in the years since I quit. I speak at the Marxism each summer. I spoke twice in support of Tony Mulhearn’s campaign to be elected Mayor of Liverpool. I work in many joint activities with groups on the Left. Do I believe any of them remotely cut the mustard as the kind of organisation needed to challenge Labour on the left? I’m afraid not and I say this with regret. I gave a quarter of a century to the SWP and I find its current travails deeply troubling. It is the largest organisation on the far left and its weakening is hardly something to welcome.

For all the reasons I have given above I believe we urgently need to rethink the Left. In the trade unions, in the campaigns that spring up, in strikes (and we should not that strike days continue to be low and may remain so for some time yet) and social movements there needs to be a much stronger, better coordinated, anti-austerity, socialist, radical, anti-capitalist voice. It has to be open, democratic, undogmatic and capable of reconciling difference. It has to be internationalist, anti-racist, a staunch champion of women’s liberation and LGBT rights. It has to be flexible about organisational forms. This is anathema to some groups on the Left and that probably explains their current woes. It also has to be generous and able to admit that it doesn’t have a monopoly on wisdom.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I do think many people like me have begun to ask the right sort of questions. We could have a much more vibrant and relevant Left than we have now, assembled around a number of jointly agreed principles. There are other models than the Leninist vanguard party. Is it possible to bring together a substantial body of socialists and anti capitalists able to intervene in struggles and mount an electoral challenge to Labour? We will only know if we undertake a root and branch discussion that is ready to topple any shibboleth. I do not underestimate the difficulties. There are no left splits from Labour to help construct a new organisation. There is no substantial former Communist grouping to anchor it. Some left organisations would be hostile to such a project. In Europe for every left organisation which has grown there are others such as France’s Anti-Capitalist Party which have gone into crisis. None of this means we should abstain from debating the possibility of a reformation of the Left. Circumstances demand that the large numbers of people disenchanted with the Labour Party but unimpressed by the fragmented state of the Left outside be given an organisational voice.

We are living through contradictory times. On the one hand a broad-based, principled, non-sectarian left of Labour organisation is urgently needed. On the other, past experience (Socialist Alliance, Respect) warns us that the British Left is notoriously fractious and self-harming. One blade of that contradiction weighs much more heavily than the other, however. The point of socialists is to change the world. It would be pointless and probably self-defeating to declare a new party in competition to all the others. A genuinely reinvigorated Left would have to include at least elements of existing organisations, but if the Left we have is not up to the task there has to be an urgent discussion of how to establish one that is.

TUSC must change tack if it’s to succeed by Nick Wrack

TUSC must change tack if it’s to succeed by Nick Wrack.

I went on the ‘Save Lewisham A&E’ demo today. There was a fantastic turnout of around 20 – 25,000. The area was bedecked with campaign posters. It seemed as though every passing car honked its horn in solidarity. It was a really significant development in the anti-cuts movement to get such a response for a local demo.

There should have been a serious attempt by TUSC to raise its profile at today’s event, showing solidarity and offering help.

Any anti-cuts electoral challenge would have to engage with such an event. Everyone of the 20,000 + people on the demo should have seen TUSC activists and gone home with TUSC literature. TUSC should have been seen as having something to say about the NHS and this threatened closure.

However, the two big socialist organisations in TUSC - the SWP & the SP – both prioritised their own party building activities, selling papers and running their own stalls. That is their prerogative and nothing I say is going to change what they do. I am told that the some SP members brought the TUSC banner but I didn’t see it.

TUSC has no organisational centre or apparatus, no money, no relevant leaflets and consequently had no impact on the march at all. The new National Health Action Party’s banner, on the other hand, was prominent (ED: we now know that there was one TUSC banner on the demo).

If TUSC is to make any impact at all in the next two years it has to completely change its approach. It needs to think and act like a national party and intervene in protests like today’s as though it had something serious to say.

Independent socialists, trade unionists and other activists who want a new party should seriously discuss how we can work together to increase our weight and influence. Join the Independent Socialist Network.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why Socialism is the only answer - watch this video.

Why Socialism is the only answer.
Happy Christams and New year to all our readers!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Independent Socialist Network – Join Us

Here is the new card that was produced by the Independent Socialist Network that was handed out at the TUC anti austerity march on Oct 20th 2012.

ISN are the Independent Socialists who support the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (see links below) - why not join us?
Click on the centre of each card to see a slightly larger and more readable version.

Link: TUSC

TUSC campaign for Manchester Central

TUSC campaign for Manchester Central.

Details from Hugh Caffrey on the TUSC Facebook site:

The TUSC campaign for Manchester Central officially starts next Wednesday evening. Already we’ve got support from across the Left, and from unions/trade unionists including RMT, PCS, POA, CWU, Unite and FBU. Our first organising meeting last night made plans for the campaign as follows.


This remains very urgent – we have received over £700 in donations already but need to raise another £1300. We have just paid out £1100 to send a leaflet to every registered voter/household in the Manchester Central constituency! So please help us raise the money.

Donate online at the TUSC website: http://www.tusc.org.uk/donate.php (please email me if you donate online to ensure the donation is allocated to Manchester Central).

Make cheques payable to “TUSC” and post to my election agent Hugh Caffrey, Flat 2, 55 Hathersage Road, Manchester, M13 0EW

Contact us to make a cash donation

All donations are gratefully received and will be receipted.

Use the attached spreadsheet to build support and raise funds. One supporter has raised £25 in a few days using this. Bring completed forms and cash/cheques to our weekly organising meetings.

About Manchester Central

This huge constituency has over 92,000 registered voters across 8 council wards. The attached map shows which wards are in the constituency. If you, or people you know, want to check whether they are in the constituency and/or able to vote for TUSC, email me their names and addresses.

Organising meetings

Every Tuesday (except the 13th Nov) until 20 November (the Tuesday after polling day).

All meetings are 7.30pm, upstairs at the Town Hall Tavern in the city centre. Meetings will take reports of activities done, plans for forthcoming activity, and be a pick-up point for election campaign material.

Ardwick council by-election

There is a by-election in Ardwick ward on the 15th November, we’re standing Unite assistant branch secretary Shari Holden. You can download the ward map here. Leaflets for Shari’s campaign are available from mid-day tomorrow and we need volunteers to put them through doors in the ward.

Shari has a day-glo window poster available, the file for that and her leaflet are attached.

Bundling leaflets – can you help?

We need to bundle the posted election leaflet into bundles of 100. We need volunteers to help with this daytime next Thursday (1st November).

Rally for TUSC with Dave Nellist 13th November

Our election campaign will rally all supporters on 13th November for a major pre-poll rally, with speakers including former Militant Labour MP Dave Nellist, a senior national leading member of PCS union, and Alex Davidson. Put it in your diary now! A specific leaflet will be available from next week.

Tuesday 13th November, 7.30pm, The Methodist Central Hall , 1 Central Buildings, Oldham Street, M1 1JQ.

Campaign diary so far…

Please RSVP with which events or part thereof you’d like to help with.

Thurs 25 October

Collecting nominations. Meet 6pm Oxford pub on Oxford Road outside Manchester Royal Infirmary

Tues 30 October

Organising meeting 7.30pm Town Hall Tavern

Weds 31 October

First evening canvass, (canvassing in Ardwick ward unless otherwise indicated)

Thurs 1 November

8-9am leafleting city centre

daytime bundling election leaflets

5pm Alex speaking at meeting at Manchester Uni

7pm canvass

Fri 2 November

7.30-9am leafleting Manchester Royal Infirmary,

3-6pm leafleting rail stations

Sat 3 November

12-2pm city centre campaign stall

and leafleting at two city centre union meetings

Sun 4th November

1-5pm canvassing

Mon 5th – Fri 9th Nov

8-9am leafleting city centre

Tues 6th November

6pm hustings Friends Meeting House;

also organising meeting 7.30pm

Weds 7th and Thurs 8th November

Evening canvassing

Sat 10th November

12-2pm campaign stall city centre

Sun 11th November

1-5pm canvassing. Any volunteers to leaflet the City home game (1.30pm KO Eastlands)?

Mon 12th – Thurs 15th November

8-9am leafleting city centre

Tues 13th November

7.30pm rally for TUSC Methodist Central Hall Oldham Street

Weds 14th Novembe evening canvassing

Thurs 15th November


Link: TUSC on Facebook
Link: TUSC web site

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Bob Crow slams Labour over pay ‘kick in the teeth’ and calls for a political alternative

Bob Crow slams Labour over pay ‘kick in the teeth’ and calls for a political alternative.

Responding to the adoption of Con-Dem policies on public sector pay by the Labour front bench at the conference in Manchester, RMT General Secretary Bob Crow today said:

“Millions of workers have had their pay frozen for years now and have seen their real standards of living decrease by 16% while boardroom pay has gone through the roof. You would have thought that the Labour Party might do something to side with those taking a battering and against those dealing it out but you would be wrong.

“Labour and the government are now positioned like Tweedledum and Tweedledee; whichever one you vote for you end up with the same kick in the teeth for the very people that make this country tick and that is a disgrace.

“Who are those nurses, teachers and public service staff going to vote for now that Labour has made it clear they have abandoned them?

“The case for a political party rooted in the trade unions and with a clear socialist agenda is now overwhelming as Ed Miliband and Ed Balls signal their desertion of the working class and their adoption of a pro-business, pro-EU and pro-austerity programme”.

Bob Crow is a member of the TUSC national steering committee and the general secretary of the RMT union which, at its annual conference this June, agreed to formalise its relationship with TUSC. See HERE for more details.

Link: TUSC

Saturday, September 29, 2012

TUSC conference report - Socialist Resistance

TUSC conference report - Socialist Resistance.

Last Saturday’s (September 22nd) conference of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was attended by about a hundred people, about seventy of whom were members of the Socialist Party (SP), six or seven were with a delegation from the RMT, five or six were SWP members and there were four Socialist Resistance (SR) supporters.
What made the conference important, as far as SR was concerned, was that two of its three sessions were devoted to the development of TUSC. The first session was on working class political representation and the third on the future structures of TUSC. Organisations supporting TUSC, but not necessarily affiliated to it, were invited to make submissions.

TUSC for the first two and a half years of its existence has had a federal structure with representatives of the affiliated organisations, the Socialist Party, the SWP, the Independent Socialist Network (ISN) and the RMT forming a steering committee with some individual appointees. There has been no provision for individual membership or for the election (or reelection) of the Steering Committee itself. If an individual wants to join he or she is required to join the ISN, an organisation which had been created internally for that purpose.

SR made a submission on developing the structures of TUSC based on individual membership, one-person-one-vote and an elected leadership body with provision for trade union representation (see below). These are issues which are important in the struggle for broad pluralist party of the left in England.

The other thing which made the conference important for us is that it would give us the opportunity to raise the issue of SR’s affiliation to TUSC, which had been refused on two occasions over the past two years by the Steering Committee: first in December 2010 and again in December 2011. We tabled a resolution to the conference on this which is also reproduced below.

RMT bombshell

The conference was heavily dominated by the SP. Dave Nellist chaired and gave a political introduction; Hanna Sell spoke on behalf of the organisation and Roy McInally spoke in his capacity as a PCS official.

Alex Gordon, speaking on behalf of the RMT, in the first session dropped a bit of bombshell. He had said that objective conditions for building mass left-wing parties are difficult. There is a deep instinct to vote Labour as lesser evil among working class voters. He said that the RMT is determined that TUSC would continue to have a federal structure, a view that was repeated throughout the day by RMT speakers.

He said that the current situation, in which the RMT was the only union officially affiliated to TUSC, was a very unsatisfactory situation. TUSC supporters who were present and were members of unions had to redouble their efforts to get their unions to affiliate. He explained that this means affiliation of the entire union, not just the support of individual EC members.

His insistence that TUSC needs to win more support in the unions was followed by very clearly expressed warning that the RMT will not stick around as the only affiliated union in TUSC. He demanded that socialists deliver broader support in their unions if his union is to remain in it. Just so there was no room for doubt he said twice that the RMT would walk away if this did not happen. This bombshell was dealt with by being ignored for the rest of the day.

Charlie Kimber of the SWP gave an assessment of the period we could agree with. He went on to add that the key method of fight back is in workplaces, streets, and colleges. He spoke of the need for a new political party adding that some of us have recognised need to unite to put forward electoral alternative, though he didn’t go into detail about what if might look like. He was one of the few speakers who referred to SYRIZA and Bradford. He was very critical of Galloway pointing out that the weakness of a reliance on individuals has been shown by meltdown following his remarks on rape.

No speaker from SR was taken in the first two sessions, which was not a good start, but the final session on structures was was worse. It was also the shortest of the day’s three sessions. There were opening contributions from the SWP, the SP, and the ISN. The chair then made clear that no speakers would be taken from the floor and that not all of those who had tabled submissions would get to speak either.

The Steering Committee had met before the conference and had decided to call on us to remit our resolution on affiliation to a future meeting of itself to which we could make the application. In other words it would be remitted to the same Committee which has rejected us on two previous occasions. Our situation currently is that we can give TUSC money, do the leg work at elections, and even stand as candidates but we given no role in any national decision making process.

When Alan Thornett for SR intervened to say that we were not prepared to remit our resolution on affiliation and ask when it would be taken we were told that the resolution would not be taken at all because the conference was not empowered to deal with it. It was a non-voting and non-decision-making conference. When we asked for an indicative vote that was refused as well. The reason given was that no votes would be taken was because there was an overwhelming majority of SP members present, so they’d be certain to win any vote. Why it should be necessary for every member an organisation to vote in an identical manner on every issue was not explained.

Federalism is a barrier to growth

SR was then given three minutes to introduce both our resolution on affiliation and our submission on structures. Alan Thornett spoke explaining the context of our application for affiliation and the need for TUSC to adopt a democratic and open structure. He said that in his view the federal structure has been there for two and a half years was now an obstacle and there was now an urgent need for one-person-one-vote system and an elected leadership body established. The chance of getting individual political activists to join an organisation in which they will then have no say or vote on anything as a part of the structure is pretty remote. The federal system is now a barrier to the development of TUSC.

Nick Wrack and Pete McLaren of the Independent Socialist Network argued forcefully for our affiliation and a place on TUSC’s leadership. Mark Thomas of the SWP made the same point rather more delicately. Nick Wrack, who had submitted a paper on structures with many similar points to SR supported a lot of what Alan Thornett had said, though he said not the tone. Dave Hill was also called to speak on the Brighton resolution calling for our affiliation. Clive Heemskeerk, on behalf of the SP acknowledged that the request had been received but offered no explanation for the lack of formal responses over the last two years.

Dave Nellist said that our third request for affiliation will be discussed at a future meeting of TUSC’s steering committee (which will not be the October one, however) and we’ll be invited to explain it there. We may also be allowed to put our submission to the body reviewing TUSC structures.

A speaker from Walsall forcefully echoed our critique about the absence of any mechanism for individual members to have a say in decision-making. He went on to complain that despite paying money every month to the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, and at the last meeting it held the aim was to develop it into a broad left party, no one had bothered to let him know it had been put in the deep freeze. His was the reaction that most people you’d want to recruit to a left party would have.

On the broader political level the conference felt like an ecology free zone. There was not a single mention of it from start to finish (this is only part of the full article). More (full article).

Link: TUSC

Friday, September 28, 2012

For a new, united socialist party - by Nick Wrack and Will McMahon

For a new, united socialist party - A contribution for discussion by Nick Wrack and Will McMahon.

The ruling class is waging a vicious war against the working class. The profit system is in its most serious crisis since the 1930s and this government is determined to defend both the system and those who benefit from it at the expense of everyone else.

This is not just a national crisis but an international one. The eurocrisis shows the depth of the crisis with Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain showing the economic fault lines in sharpest relief. But nowhere, not even Germany, can escape. Unelected ‘technocratic’ governments as we have seen in Greece and Italy make a mockery of ‘democracy’. Bailouts are awarded only if massive cuts in government spending are implemented.

Across the world, the same policies are enforced both by governments of the right and those that claim to be of the left: austerity for billions, but billions for the few.

Trillions of pounds of public money have been poured into the world economy in a desperate attempt to stabilise the economy and save capitalism. It is ordinary people who are being made to pay. Meanwhile, the super-rich owners of capital wallow in their obscene wealth, created by the work of those who are now suffering.

Individual capitalists and companies are sitting on a huge stockpile of money, which they refuse to invest because they cannot obtain the profits they want. They are hoarding this money, waiting for better prospects, or squandering it on a luxury lifestyle that is a million miles removed from the day-to-day existence of mere mortals. The private ownership of the means of production by this tiny class is a complete obstacle to tackling the urgent issues of living standards, debt, unemployment, housing, health, education, leisure time, as well as the developing ecological crisis.

The political and economic policies of austerity are designed to create the conditions for an increase in profitability – public sector cuts in jobs and pay, increasing unemployment as a means to drive down wages and pensions, smashing open the public sector to private investment, forcing the unemployed and disabled to work for poverty pay by cutting benefits.

The most vulnerable are swept to the side but even those in work fare little better. Almost 7 million adults in Britain are just one bill away from penury despite being in work and not dependent on benefits. All the past gains won by struggle are being smashed before our eyes. The health service and education have been opened up to the market, where decisions are made according to profit not need.

Most of those who consider themselves middle class are finding their standards of living, job security and pensions evaporating. In reality, this section is just a slightly better off sector of the working class. A university education can now only be obtained at the cost of accumulated debt of £40-50,000. Young people cannot afford to buy a home, while their housing benefit is cut or removed.

Despite all this and more, we have no party in Britain that even begins to address these issues. There is no party that champions the interests of the working class against the opposite interests of the bosses.

Instead of seeing the market and the profit system as the cause of the crisis, all the parties believe that only the market can resolve the crisis. This includes Labour. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls support cuts, but say they should be implemented more slowly. They both support a public sector pay freeze. Labour supports the cuts in pensions and an increase in fees for university. It supports privatisation. In government Labour maintained the anti-union laws, which hinder trade union action in defence of jobs, pay and conditions.

Instead of siding with those under attack, Labour plays the role of a false friend, feigning sympathy while doing everything to ensure that austerity goes ahead. In short, Labour supports austerity just as much as the Tories and Liberal Democrats. A cut is a cut is a cut, no matter who implements it.

We urgently need a new party that will fight against austerity. Any party that seeks to win the support of the working class must have one basic principle: it must never make things worse for the working class. It must reject completely the austerity agenda that intends to place the burden of the crisis on the working class. This means that a new party has to refuse to vote for cuts in jobs, pay or pensions. It must refuse to make working class people pay more for services by increased taxes, rents or other charges.

A new party, therefore, has to be resolutely committed to defending the interests of the working class. It must fight alongside all those who seek to resist austerity – defending jobs, pay, pensions and services. That means supporting workers who take strike action, supporting communities who occupy to prevent library closures and students who protest against the increasing cost of education.

Resistance is essential. But it is not enough. Any party that seeks to represent the working class must not only be determined in defending what has been achieved in the past, it must also show how society could be different and fight to make it so. This means arguing for an end of the profit system – capitalism – and for its replacement by a completely different system, one based on common ownership of the means of production with investment being decided democratically in the interests of all.

With the capitalist class squatting on its vast wealth and holding back the development of society there can be no justification for austerity. And with the replacement of the profit system and the private ownership of the world’s resources, production could be planned rationally to meet the needs of everyone and talk of austerity would disappear.

Ed Miliband’s call for a ‘better’ or ‘fairer’ capitalism is nonsense. Capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of those it exploits. Even some on the left look to the economic ideas of Keynes, which attempt to make capitalism work better, for solutions. We need something much more fundamental.

So long as we have private ownership of industry and services, transport and finance, land and the mineral resources within it, there will always be a struggle between those who labour and produce and those who own and profit. There can be no end to unemployment and the constant battle over wages, no ready access to services or confidence in a secure future in old age so long as we have capitalism. The profit system will allow nothing to stand in its way. If we want to achieve a society in which this constant strife is left behind, then we have to leave capitalism itself behind.

A new party, then, must set itself an ultimate goal: a breach or rupture with the present system and the establishment of a socialist society, based on the common democratic ownership of the world’s resources. The struggles of today must be linked with that longer-term objective of changing the very nature of present society (this is just small part of the full article). Full article HERE.

Link: TUSC

Perspectives for TUSC - from Tom Delargy

Perspectives for TUSC - from Tom Delargy.

I don’t think the Portsmouth SP article is spot on - link HEREI agree on most of the substantial points made in the Independent Socialist Network article by Nick Wrack and Will McMahon (link HERE), which I suspect most TUSC members already agree with, although many in the SWP and SP are probably waiting to see which way the wind blows before endorsing the key points.

The Portsmouth SP article doesn’t address the issues raised by Nick and Will. It also introduces straw men that distracts us from what we need to be talking about. For instance, who seriously thinks the alternative to the existing TUSC constitution is to prioritise recruiting Maoists? Not me. Not Nick or Will. Not the ISN. No one does that. What about recruiting Trotskyist grouplets and giving them the same rights as the SWP, SP or RMT? Who supports that? If such comrades do indeed exist within parts of the ISN (and I doubt it), they don’t speak for me. I opposed that anarchistic shambles in the SSA, and I think it contributed to the collapse of the other Socialist Alliance. Such a change would further paralyse TUSC, adding to the existing problems, rather than solving those we already know about.

The issue Nick and Will want addressed is how to recruit those who are uninterested in, or ineligible for, joining the SWP, SP or RMT. The Portsmouth SP comrades propose no solution to that. With nothing to join, all those comrades who want an electoral challenge to Labour from the left are given no option but to vote for, and donate to, an organisation that isn’t interested in their democratic input. But isn’t that precisely the argument we use against Ed Miliband’s Party: taking trade unionists’ cash and votes while jumping to the tune of the richest 1%, parroting SKY News and BBC bullshit?

Recruiting people far to the left of Miliband’s shadow cabinet and all but a handful of their MPs is key to building TUSC. These potential recruits are often young and full of energy and enthusiasm for taking on all the vested interest. They’re vital for TUSC in every sense of the word. Such people will canvass for us in by-elections including those just around the corner. But they will only do this if we care about what they think. And that means having a public profile between the handful of elections that punctuate Britain’s anti-democratic society. Recruiting these people will prove good for TUSC in so many ways. They will help us moderate excesses of sectarianism by individual comrades in the SWP and SP. The caricature of the left as squabbling by the Peoples Front of Judea and the Judean Peoples Front is funny cause it’s true. Or, to be precise, it’s funny to those who want to see socialists squbbling amongst ourselves while the global economy burns and the mass of the exploited and oppressed are disoriented.

Comrades looking for any opportunity to fight with other TUSC comrades over anything however petty, forever dragging others in, out of tribal loyalty,have to be put back in their box and told to grow up. Both the SWP and SP share this problem. The majority of both organisations try to rein them in, not always successfully. The anti-sectarians in both organisations would be infinitely strengthened by fresh blood who don’t care about why Tony Cliff split from Orthodox Trotskyists on the theory of State Capitalism literally generations ago, long before most of us were born. If someone can relate theoretical questions to the struggles of the day let them become the preoccupation of groups, groups that are free to try to persuade the rest of us why they are right and why these issues do have practical significance. Those new to left wing activism will help all of us learn to behave ourselves. I know this for a fact because I witnessed the strength of this in the Scottish Socialist Party.

All the big battalions in the SSP (SWP, CWI and ISM) needed to build coalitions to get anything through SSP conference, and most were ordinary members who listened to what everyone said. We had genuine debates. No one could win an automatic majority, as Arthur Scargill could with his block vote in the SLP. And this brings me to the RMT.

Yes, the RMT is the most militant union in Britain today. Great. But we want others. We want TUSC to become a workers’ party, not simply a railway workers’ party. And that means recruiting union activists in all unions. These activists who will act as TUSC scouts, winning workmates on the ground for switching affiliation from Labour to TUSC. And that means switching affiliation, not jumping on a bandwagon alongside the Tories, Lib Dems, CBI, IOD etc in calling for simple disaffiliation from the Labour Party.

The same method that justifies unions switching affiliation from Labour to TUSC has to inform how TUSC behaves towards Labour voters, and those members who are trade union activists, or other activists in the fields of racism, anti-war, disability, students, pensioners, etc, etc, etc. We have to adopt towards the best of the Labour left criticism with the tone of ‘more in sorry than in anger’. Focusing all our anger on Labour leftists like Owen Jones plays right into the hands of Labour, right as well as left. TUSC cannot recruit in substantial numbers employing such sectarian methods.

What if those we galvanise don’t want to join the SWP or SP and don’t work on the railways? What then? What do we do with them? Here’s a suggestion: Let’s raise the profile of the Independent Socialist Network. Let all of TUSC promote them as the membership component of TUSC. Let’s use them as a thought experiment, to test exactly how popular the idea of an official membership organisation is.

Additionally, let Counterfire and Socialist Resistance comrades join the ISN today, if that’s what they want. Alternatively, set some minimum threshold for political groups to have equal affiliation rights. If either of these other groups pass it, then let them join in their own rights. But keep the threshold relatively high. TUSC must never become a federation with a large number of components. That paralyses everyone, and helps our class enemies.

And TUSC has to keep in mind that we want all these groups to partipate partly for the negative reason of denying them a credible excuse for splitting the socialist vote. The Independent Socialist Network (part of TUSC) should remain the organisation for everyone to join who can’t join one of the existing affiliated political groups because they’re insufficiently strong."
Link: Full article link (and many thanks to Tom Delargy for this excellent article).

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition Conference report 22/09/12

REPORT FROM TUSC CONFERENCE 22/09/12 compiled by Pete McLaren for the TUSC Independent Socialist Network.

There were 104 supporters present. Dave Nellist took the chair and opened the meeting


Alex Gordon (RMT President) opened the session. He spoke about the role the RMT had played within TUSC, and he outlined the resolution unanimously passed at the RMT AGM supporting TUSC candidates. He explained why, at this stage, the RMT would not support TUSC becoming a membership organization, and he suggested we should work harder to get other Unions on board

John McInally (PCS Vice Pres) described the process leading up to the PCS ballot to support anti cuts candidates, describing it as an important step forward. He also outlined the discussions around the need for a General Strike at the TUC Conference

Charlie Kimber (SWP Sec) spoke about the many struggles that were taking place world wide. He pushed the need to make the General strike call a reality, but also called for a political alternative, and to unite around an electoral alternative as otherwise the anger against Labour would go towards Labour.

Rob Griffiths (CPB Gen Sec) accepted that Labour had remained right wing and that ultimately there was a need for a new mass party of labour based on the working class once the conditions made it possible, such as mass campaigns and co-ordinated strike action. It would not be built by one party/coalition/union, but by the left converging. Reclaiming Labour would be the most direct way to achieve it, but he accepted many people thought that very unlikely.

Will McMahon (ISN) felt we had the same opportunities as in Europe to build a Left party over a period of time – we needed to make TUSC a home for all militant trade unionists, relate to single issue campaigns that knew that Labour would never deliver on their issue, and involve them with TUSC, and orientate towards communities as had happened in Brighton, Wigan and Rugby. TUSC needed to campaign for branches. Different structures would be appropriate for different areas – as long as they were democratic and open. We needed to be prepared for some results to be poor if we stood a large number of candidates because it was all about building TUSC. It was important to work out how activists could get involved with TUSC.

Hannah Sell described the modest achievements TUSC had made in two years. Outside of London 120 candidates had averaged 6.2% in May, a 1:9 ratio to Labour, and two councilors were elected. Even if we did better, she doubted we would get the media attention afforded to UKIP. We should aim to stand at least 385 candidates in the County Elections next May in order to get a media broadcast. Our most important task is how we build TUSC amongst trade unions and the working class – we can repeat what has happened in the RMT. There is anger amongst the rank and file against Labour and support for a new workers’ party.

The following were amongst contributions made from the floor:

§ We must campaign against the anti trade union laws.

§ Local and single issue campaigning was essential, such as against hospital ward closures.
§ TUSC has real opportunities with Labour saying they will not reverse the cuts.

§ We must fight alongside disillusioned youth and amongst black communities.

§ TUSC should be built outside election times as well as during them.

§ Now is the time to organize for the Oct 20 TUC Demo – we must push the need to break the Labour link.

§ It is important we promote equality at all times, which includes having full disabled access at meetings.

§ TUSC should get involved in all campaigns against discrimination, prejudice and abuse.

§ It is important TUSC does not have a celebrity leader.

§ TUSC should be prepared to debate the issues we are not united about, for instance the PCS recently opposed immigration cuts on the basis that would weaken our borders: that view needs challenging.

§ Labour started the privatization and cuts agenda. Labour does nothing to oppose them now.

§ Trade Union branches will support us and donate to us if we go out and talk to them.

§ We need to find a way of winning over disaffected Labour councilors and members.

§ We have shown in Manchester Central how to meet together and decide to stand a TUSC candidate, and a campaign is developing built around workplaces (this is only a small part of the full report). Lots more HERE (full eport).

Link: TUSC