Saturday, 4 June 2011

The 5th annual NSSN conference 11th June, what to expect

So next weekend we return to London for the 5th annual NSSN conference. For anyone who doesnt know the NSSN is the National Shop Steward Netowrk. Organised in trade unions and workplaces to fight for workers rights.

Last year at a one off anti cuts special conference it was voted hugely in favour of setting the NSSN up to become a anti cuts body helping out in industry based and work place disputes. We in the socialist party had the foresight to see that the oncoming cuts will be affecting working people the greatest and to organise within the NSSN was going to be key. We still believe this to have been the right decision to take yet there is still a lot of dissent from others across the left like the SWP for example. Last year when the majority motion was passed many in the SWP were so angry that their motion to keep the NSSN as a simple body to just deal with work place disputes and not fight the cuts was voted down. Many of their activists after the conference decided to resign their membership of the NSSN claiming the socialist party had ruined the organisation and is now a front for the socialist party. This is not the case at all and we within the SP have not kicked the SWP out or refused to work with them. They are still welcome to attend next saturdays conference and i am sure many of them still will do despite their antics last year.

The thing is their walking out last year will not have been forgotten if they do change their minds and do decide to work with us within the NSSN workers will have noted their actions and wondered what benifit their resignation would have helped the movement.

On 22 January, 2011 the very successful National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) anti-cuts conference overwhelmingly agreed to launch an anti-cuts campaign (ACC).

An initial anti-cuts committee involving leading trade union and community anti-cuts activists was established (including Alex Gordon, president of the RMT and Ben Sprung, London regional organiser of the FBU).

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary
Since the conference the NSSN ACC has supported and built for lobbies and demonstrations outside the Labour Local Government and Tory Spring conferences.

It also organised two very successful stages on the 26 March TUC demo, where thousands of workers heard the NSSN's call to oppose all cuts and for the next step to be a 24-hour general strike against the cuts.

The increasingly important role the NSSN is playing in the anti-cuts movement means that the debates which took place at the beginning of the year on whether the NSSN should launch an anti-cuts campaign at all now seem a distant memory.

Events have quickly confirmed that the NSSN was right to do so.

Split from SWP
Nonetheless it is worthwhile briefly commenting on recent developments in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) because they have so clearly confirmed many of the points made by the Socialist Party in the debate at the beginning of the year.

In the run up to the January NSSN conference the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was among the most vociferous opponents of an NSSN anti-cuts campaign being launched on the spurious grounds that it would unnecessarily divide the movement to launch another national anti-cuts campaign when Coalition of Resistance (CoR) and Right to Work (RtW) were already in existence.

In the anti-cuts movement there is rightly and inevitably a mood for unity. Nonetheless, as was understood by a large majority of delegates at the NSSN anti-cuts conference, to attempt to use that mood as a reason to oppose the NSSN launching its own anti-cuts campaign was completely disingenuous.

The NSSN has consistently argued for the maximum possible cooperation between the national anti-cuts campaigns. To give just two examples from recent weeks the NSSN invited RtW and CoR to speak on its stages at the TUC demo and has taken part in joint delegations to discuss with the TUC.

However, to merge the three campaigns into one organisation would only be a step forward if the net result was an open, democratic anti-cuts campaign organised around a clear, fighting programme.

Right to Work's lack of democracy
The Socialist Party warned at the NSSN anti-cuts conference that the political approach and top-down methods of both CoR and RtW meant that this would not be the case.

Our warnings regarding the top-down approach of RtW have been confirmed by events that have taken place in the SWP over the last weeks.

Chris Bambery, secretary of RtW and longstanding SWP Central Committee member, has left the SWP along with a number of others. Both Chris Bambery's resignation letter and the SWP CC's reply demonstrate many aspects of the mistaken political approach and method of the SWP.

However, it is the points he makes on RtW which are of the most pressing importance for anti-cuts activists.

Bambery refers to RtW being "initiated in bizarre circumstances" and adds that he only found out about it when he read it in the SWP's 'Party Notes'. This confirms that RtW is not a broad democratic anti-cuts organisation as Chris Bambery and the SWP have claimed, but is run by the SWP.

It was founded without a democratic discussion in the anti-cuts movement, or even within the ranks of the SWP, or even it seems on their Central Committee!

RtW was set up virtually overnight, without discussion, in order to try to create a rival to the NSSN, as the SWP Central Committee stated explicitly in their 2010 pre-congress discussion documents that said that this was because the NSSN was now "dominated by the Socialist Party with the RMT's blessing".

As on previous occasions - such as in the Socialist Alliance - the SWP have taken a 'rule or ruin' approach to the anti-cuts movement. The NSSN, which was founded by the RMT in 2006, has from the beginning had an open and democratic approach, bringing together militant workplace representatives from across the trade union movement.

After RtW was launched in 2009 the NSSN steering committee passed a resolution which stated:

"We view therefore with some concern the setting up of the Right To Work (RTW) by the SWP and their allies which is attempting to occupy the same ground as the NSSN, to appeal to the same union branches and national unions.

"This will only confuse the situation in the eyes of workers and has the potential to fragment the fight-back.

"We note that previous attempts of this character have failed, because, unlike the NSSN they have not been firmly rooted in the unions and workplaces, and have not been seen as an open unifying force."

The NSSN steering committee has been proved correct regarding RtW. And when the NSSN came to discuss founding a national anti-cuts campaign, it took a fundamentally different approach, setting aside a whole day for a democratic discussion at its anti-cuts conference on whether to launch a new campaign - with equal speaking rights for and against doing so.

Chris Bambery also states that internal arguments in the SWP have brought RtW "near to derailment". The SWP CC's reply refers to Chris Bambery, as RtW national secretary, "not effectively helping to build a broad Right to Work".

While they disagree on who is to blame both parties accept that RtW has not developed in a healthy way.

Yet this is the organisation that was counterposed to the NSSN!

If NSSN activists had listened to the SWP and others there would have been no effective intervention by the national anti-cuts organisations into the magnificent demonstration on 26 March.

Instead the NSSN was able to intervene very effectively to popularise a programme to defeat the cuts.

Mistaken approach to Labour
We have dealt with the mistaken political approach of the leadership of RtW (and CoR) in detail elsewhere, in particular their determination to build up New Labour councillors as leaders of the movement.

Our view is that, where councillors vote against cuts we should fully support them. However, we warned at the time of the NSSN conference that there were very few examples indeed of Labour councillors pledging to vote against cuts and that RtW and CoR were misleading the movement by creating illusions that Labour councils would stand and fight by their side.

By contrast the NSSN has warned from the start that it would be necessary to organise a struggle against both the government and local councils in order to defeat the cuts.

For this the NSSN was attacked as sectarian. However, since then our warnings have been proved correct as every Labour council in the country has wielded the axe handed to them by central government leading to hundreds of thousands of job losses.

No wonder that, at a London anti-cuts meeting on 9 April, with fifteen local anti-cuts campaigns represented, including those led by RtW and CoR, for the first time no-one could oppose our consistent position that the anti-cuts movement cannot give uncritical platforms to Labour councillors who vote for cuts.

Unfortunately, in the same week, a RtW public meeting in Leicester had a Labour councillor who had voted for cuts as the main speaker, with the speaker from the SWP also emphasising the need to keep working with Labour councillors even though they had voted to lay off 1,000 workers.

The role that RtW has played is one of many instances where the fundamentally mistaken approach of the leadership of the SWP has acted to weaken the forces of socialism and the labour movement in Britain.

The working class in Britain is now entering a period of tumultuous struggle where the correct programme, strategy and tactics will have a decisive effect on the outcome of coming battles.

The Socialist Party will continue to argue for the maximum possible unity with other forces on the left, but around a clear programme that will increase, rather than decrease, the prospects for victories.

We appeal to members of the SWP, and to those that have left, to fundamentally reassess the programme and methods of their party in order that it can play a positive role in the coming battles.

The National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) conference 2011, that takes place on Saturday 11 June, is a must for all workers willing to play a part in getting our national trade unions to stand up decisively against this government of the rich - and even richer!

We invite shop stewards and workplace reps, in the public or private sector, who daily confront bosses over the driving down of conditions and pay, to come along.

We welcome students, who showed such courage and dynamism in their fees demonstrations last winter, and who now want to link up with workers in similar struggles.

We are also keen to win the participation of local anti-cuts campaigners who see the trade unions as key to their success. So waste no time! Register now. All union reps and stewards are automatically delegates. Everyone else is a welcome visitor.

The conference takes place just a few weeks before a momentous joint strike on 30 June against the Con-Dem pensions robbery. Around 750,000 teachers and civil servants in NUT, UCU, ATL and PCS are likely to take the lead and pour onto the streets in every area of the country.

The NSSN conference hopes to encourage delegates to act as organisers of support in their areas, to help get solidarity activities from workers, especially those in other unions whose leaderships are facing the same pensions attack, but who are, as yet, dragging their feet. It is crucial that this attack is fought off now by all unions.

Leading speakers and militant activists on the ground will spell out to the conference what is needed and encourage discussion and debate on the way forward.

There will also be a range of workers engaged in various battles like those 400 workers locked out at Saltend, like blacklisted construction workers, and sacked tube drivers.

There is no doubt the bosses are prepared to squash militancy by individuals or groups of workers. They know what's coming and will use everything at their disposal, especially the anti-trade union laws, to dampen and render ineffective, a serious fightback.

Two years ago the NSSN conference included the leaders of the inspiring battles at Visteon, Lindsey and Linamar. Last year we affirmed international solidarity by inviting leading trade unionists involved in mass demos and general strikes in Spain, Ireland and Greece.

This year British workers are about to embark on our own very real battle on pensions. Those who come to NSSN conference 2011 could play a vital part in helping ensure success. Make sure you are there!


Speakers include: Alex Gordon, president RMT, rank and file fighters like Keith Gibson, locked out at Saltend along with 200 workers, and Frank Morris, construction worker blacklisted from the Olympic site. Also leaders from NUT, PCS and other unions.
Saturday 11 June, 11.30am-4pm
South Camden Community School, London NW1 1RG
To register for the National Shop Stewards Network conference go to
PO Box 54498, London E10 9DE


So i will be there hopefully with other like minded comrades i hope you can all make it there too whichever political background you have. If you are against teh cuts it will be a key conference for the plans for the next coming months and years i would say.

I am looking forward to the speakers and especially the greek bus union leaders about how the working class has been dealing with austerity measures in Greece where things are a lot worse than here.

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