Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Is a new workers party possible, What is next for TUSC ?

So in my previous post of this two part series we looked at the possibilities of the Labour party being regained by the workers and the chances for a workers representation on a mass scale in politics.

We drew the conclusions that at the moment regaining the labour party would be difficult but not impossible but also very unlikely.

SO you ask what should we do instead. As working class people still have no voice on the political stage while they are being hit by cut after cut day by day.

So we in the socialist party support the idea of a new workers party. Much similar to how the labour party was started. By trade unions forming a alternative to what was the status quo back in the early 1900's with just tories and liberals to choose from.

Both these parties at the time were thought to be the same much like we have today with the 3 main political parties tories, lib dems and labour are all very similar.

There is currently no one standing up for the working class hense why these cuts are going through so easily so far. With some resistance from trade unions doing the best they can with limited room for action with the hrshest anti trade union laws in europe constantly hovering over them.

This year TUSC not a new workers party i must stress is a umbrella which is funded by individual trade unionists backed by Bob Crow and his union the RMT. We stood nearly 200 candidates across the country in the last local elections in may polled over 25000 votes across the country. Given this was only our first 18 months in existence and we have practically no profile at all this was very encouraging.

This saturday is a conference in London to bring together all who stood in this years elections under the banner of TUSC- against all cuts i might add where no other party did. To come together to discuss the way forward for TUSC and the possibility of a new workers party.

Conference of TUSC candidates and campaign organisers, Saturday 16 July, 11am-4pm, ULU, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY, Registration fee £5 waged/£3 unwaged.

The Socialist Party participates in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC www.tusc.org.uk) an electoral alliance involving leading militant trade unionists from the RMT, PCS and NUT.

TUSC plays an important role, enabling trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates against the pro-austerity consensus of the capitalist parties.

For the Socialist Party TUSC is also part of a campaign, which we have waged for well over a decade, for the trade unions to stop funding Labour and to begin to build a new party that stands in the interests of working class people. Both the objective need and potential for such a party has never been greater than it is today.

At the 30 June London strike rally Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the ATL, the most 'moderate' union to take part in the strike, attacked the Labour leadership which is "laughingly called an opposition". She called on trade unionists to 'do it for themselves' (see pages 8 and 9), receiving the biggest cheer of the whole rally.

If any platform speaker had argued for trade unionists to do it for themselves - by striking but also by standing in elections on a clear anti-cuts programme, it would have had a huge response.

This year's PCS conference agreed that, within the next twelve months, a full membership ballot would be held "to decide whether the union could stand or support candidates in national elections".

If that ballot is passed it will be a major step forward for the trade union movement and would open the possibility of a trade union based electoral alternative on a wider scale.

All TUSC candidates have signed up to the following local election platform:
Oppose all cuts to council jobs, services, pay and conditions - we reject the claim that 'some cuts' are necessary to our services.
Reject above inflation increases in council tax, rent and service charges to compensate for government cuts.
Vote against the privatisation of council services, or the transfer of council services to 'social enterprises' or 'arms-length' management organisations, which are first steps to privatisation.
Use all the legal powers available to councils, including powers to refer local NHS decisions, initiate referenda and organise public commissions and consultations, to oppose both the cuts and government polices which centrally impose the transfer of public services to private bodies.
When faced with government cuts to council funding, councils should refuse to implement the cuts. We will support councils which in the first instance use their reserves and prudential borrowing powers to avoid passing government cuts on - while arguing that the best way to mobilise the mass campaign that is necessary to defeat the cuts is to set a budget that meets the needs of the local community and demands that the government makes up the shortfall.

The list of TUSC sponsors continues to grow, reflecting the enthusiasm of many workers that, at last, there is a prospect of a trade union rooted challenge to the 'savage cuts' pro-capitalist consensus of all the establishment parties.

Many trade union leaders, however, still clinging to New Labour, don't see the situation in that way. This, of course, will have an effect amongst some rank and file trade unionists also, who are increasingly apprehensive about the unlikely prospect of the Labour party fighting for their cause following the 30th June strike by 4 public sector unions. The NUT, UCU, ATL and the PCS.

Surely in this situation, the argument goes, trade unionists should back the 'lesser evil'?

This is a strong arguement often in workers minds when voting. This was one of the main reasons why TUSC may not have polled so well as we thought it might in may of this year. Workers still feeling that clinging to labour is still better than letting the tories in. Thisis a sad reality of workers contiousness at the moment and something we must deal with as we go on.

The Socialist Party believes that the Labour Party has now been totally transformed into New Labour, which bases itself completely on the brutal logic of capitalism. Previously, as a 'capitalist workers' party' (a party with pro-capitalist leaders but with democratic structures that allowed the working class to fight for its interests), the Labour Party always had the potential to act at least as a check on the capitalists. The consequences of radicalising the Labour Party's working class base was always a factor the ruling class had to take into account.

Now the situation is completely different. Without the re-establishment of at least the basis of independent working class political representation, the capitalists will feel less constrained in imposing their austerity policies.

TUSC will not fully provide the necessary alternative but it is still an important step forward. Above all, by drawing in the most combative sections of the working class in defence of jobs, public services and workers' rights, it can help to prepare the necessary forces to take forward the argument for a new political vehicle for workers in the post-election period. Not to do everything possible to help that process is a mistake.

TUSC has attracted support from many RMT members but has also sharpened political debate in the union. No doubt New Labour apparatchiks are looking on for any opportunity there may be to undermine a militant trade union leadership, in the same way they aided the Blairite candidate who unseated the left wing general secretary of the Aslef train drivers' union in 2003. In this context, the enthusiastic participation in TUSC in a personal capacity by leading trade unionists - in the RMT and other unions also - is highly significant. It is a clear signal that 'non-political' trade unionism will increasingly be seen as 'not an option' when the axe men are coming.

Role of trade unions
A new mass political vehicle for workers, a new workers' party which could fill the present vacuum, will not necessarily develop through the official structures of the unions. It is certainly unlikely that a majority of the larger unions, at least nationally, would initially embrace a new party - in the same way that the biggest unions remained wedded to the Liberal Party in the early days of the Labour Representation Committee (the forerunner of the Labour Party).

But big events loom, as the next phase of 'the great recession' unfolds, which will relentlessly pose before trade unionists in struggle that there must be an alternative. TUSC can play a critical role in developing this consciousness.

Trade unions are still the basic organisations of the working class, which gives them enormous social weight. It is not for nothing, for example during the British Airways dispute or the postal workers' strikes, that the capitalist media routinely denigrate the unions as 'holding the public to ransom' or 'crippling the economy'. For long periods, it is true, the formal structures in some unions can atrophy, with limited participation by rank and file members, but even these unions still possess social reserves.

For the Socialist Party the importance of TUSC lies above all in its potential as a catalyst in the trade unions, both in the structures and below, for the idea of working class political representation. It can also play a role in drawing together anti-cuts campaigns, environmental campaigners, anti-racist groups etc. It is, however, only secondarily a vehicle for developing 'left unity', in other words, of socialist organisations collaborating for specific goals, or 'left regroupment', the bringing together of different socialist groups into one organisation.

TUSC HAS been established as a federal 'umbrella' coalition, with an agreed core policy statement but with participating candidates and organisations accountable for their own campaigns. The steering committee welcomed the support of a number of socialist groups, including the Walsall-based Democratic Labour Party and its councillor, Peter Smith. Amongst the first tranche of TUSC candidates approved, are members of four different socialist organisations, including Socialist Resistance and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

The admission of the SWP to the coalition was not automatic, however. TUSC is a federal coalition but each component, its candidates and participating organisations, will be scrutinised, certainly by New Labour opponents inside the trade unions. With this in mind the record of the SWP was questioned and will be continued to be i feel.

THE FOUNDING of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) in February 1900 was greeted by The Clarion, a popular socialist newspaper of the time, as "a little cloud, no bigger than a man's fist, which may grow into a United Labour Party".

TUSC is certainly not a new LRC, which itself was not pre-ordained to develop into a mass party. It contested just 15 seats in the 1900 general election and affiliated union membership halved in its first year.

But the capitalists' offensive then against the workers' movement, typified in the Taff Vale court decision to open up the railway workers' union funds for strike damages, compelled the unions onto the political plane.

The period ahead will be no less turbulent than then, in fact more so. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is today just a modest step on the road to establishing independent working class political representation but its potential role, as it fills out or as a precursor to future developments, could be immense.

So to conclude i feel that TUSC as a umbrella for further developments towards a new workers party is just one step. A modest one at the moment but certainly has raised workers contiousness that we have spoken to in stevenage at least. This has not automatically transfered into votes first time out but we have created a base now. A base to build on and contacts to work on.

I as others dont believe TUSC is the new workers party but is certainly a good step towards such a idea. When we have a labour party today not worthy of its name carrying out big savage cuts at a local level doing the tories dirty work for them.


  1. There are several main reasons why the left outside Labour hasn't managed to organise itself into anything remotely resembling a viable political alternative, and why I believe that in the short to medium term it will now not be possible

    Blair coming to power in 1997, and his subsequent kow-towing to Bush and open handed dismissal of trade unionism, particularly after the 2001 election, saw the opening of the best window of opportunity for the left to organise an alternative since the formation of the Labour Party. 1 million on the streets for the anti-war much was a high-water mark that could have led to the formation of a strong left alliance. Sadly, the various self-serving left leaderships squandered the moment by allowing the Lib-Dems to capitalise on the day by speaking, and by not agreeing on an allied electoral platform to stand under subsequently.

    On the trade union angle, it has been largely forgotten some epic industrial battles did break out under Blairs watch, including the FBU pay strike. Many, many trade union activists at the time, including myself, took the decision that New Labour was no friend of the unions and there was clear space for an alternative.

    Indeed, around the same time, you had the pre-split SSP breaking through in Scotland and many trade unionists looking to it as a beacon of hope. No need to comment on what happened to that.

    This all culminated in the actual collapse of credit-card capitalism in 2008 - something the entire left had been predicting. Unfortunately at the time the left was so divided and marginal, it was unable to capitalise at this crucial moment. Many, many activists, myself included, were hugely dispirited at this decade of sectarian failure and reluctantly decided an alternative wasn't possible.

    Unfortunately, the left party and grounp leaderships just refuse to get on with each other. That is why the Socialist Party, for example, has stood candidates in England under a different banner name at every single general election since 1997 depending on who they are able to work with. (Militant Labour, Socialist Alliance, Socialist Green Unity Coalition, TUSC). And the awful facts are that each time the electoral results for each banner are getting poorer and poorer.

    I am also dubious about the electoral strategies of Comrade Crow and the RMT leadership. They are excellent, proven trade unionists and organise their members brilliantly. But as evidenced by the confused No2EU fiasco, they are clearly not experts in winning wider public support in elections. The Socialist Alliance regularly used to poll better than any of the TUSC or No2EU incarnations, before it self-destructed in a huge sectarian hissy fit.

    Finally there is the awkward reality that the current government does not include the Labour Party. The vast majority of people I know, contrary to assertions that they should all hate Labour, are looking again to the party as a route out of the mess we are in. Indeed, Miliband is now regularly polling higher than Blair ever managed. People, for reasons known only to themselves, are clearly ready to give Labour another chance.

    My main belief is that you need to stick to one banner. Had the Socialist Alliance not been selfishly destroyed by party full-timers in 2001, I think by now it would have had hundreds of councillors and even MPs and could have been on a par with what UKIP has managed on the right.

    I would also worry less about the "official" trade union support. People don't identify with their trade unions as much as they did in the 1900s, so they won't automatically do what their leaders tell them to do when it comes to public elections. Forget about parading union gen-secs as celebrities because outside of our little lefty world they are not celebrities. (cont)

  2. (cont) I think the wider left needs to:
    1) Get on with each other and get over minor differences. If full-timers throw toys out the pram over semantics, then sack them off for the greater good of unity.
    2) Pool all your resources to have a coherent, truly multimedia agitational platform instead of trying to compete by producing and selling largely boring newspapers nobody wants to buy.
    3) Have confidence in your beliefs and opinions to stand without formal trade union support in the first instance.
    4) Most importantly Stand in elections, consistently under one banner for at least a decade, so the public recognises who you are. This is largely how the BNP eventually gained a foothold where I live by simply always standing. Not a pleasant example, but eventually people gave them the benefit of the doubt after all that time.

    I think recognising where it has gone wrong is the biggest barrier to the "outside left" being able to organise itself, and my suggestions are born out of my experiences trying and largely failing to build an alternative.

    I wish you luck, but I must say I have very little confidence that your leaderships will make any of the necessary changes to defeat sectarianism and bring about real left unity.

  3. Hi there thanks for your comments firstly. i agree with some of what you put but not with others, i covered a lot of your points and i sense a tinge of not wanting a new workers party to succeed. i agree with your points above about standing under one banner. But so far TUSC as i said in my post is not that new workers party. Even the independtant labour party in the 1900's had stallings. No one is claiming it is going to be easy and a quick over night solution. But god dammit i'd rather put my efforts into forming a new workers party which has a chance and has had chances to go forward but for one reason or another has failed. I am not sure all the left are into the new workers party idea at this stage anyway certainly the SWP consider themselves as the revolutionary party already and are more up labours ass than we are. I'd be interested to know where you stand politically, are you a labour party member ? as you seem to have some good ideas but largely negative about the prospects of us forming a new workers party with the help of militant trade unions. As Marx says nothing stays the same forever and the formation of a new workers party could be the spark that lights up workers in the movement to give them a platform to go forward. Certainly now where workers have no voice at al in mainstream politics seems like as god as time as ever to try and get this going.

  4. Yeah, I'm in the Labour Party - was in the SP for years. But I'm a union officer first and foremost.

    I genuinely do want there to be a serious left political voice for the simple reason that the wider political debate in this country has swung far too far to the right. Look at Germany with Die Linke - the simple presence of that party in the Bundestag has led to a far more left economic and political discourse.

    Sadly, I am now of the belief that the chances of an alternative making serious headway in the UK with the leaders in place are non-existent. I point again to the declining "outside left" electoral fortunes over the past decade and ask that these are not forgotten about, but in fact examined in the whole. TUSC is not year zero - it as another banner in a long line that have so-far failed to breakthrough.

    The fact that in 2001 thousands of people were willing to put a cross in the box next to the Socialist Alliance name and it could have worked if people had stuck to it rather than having rows with one another

    Good luck turning the tide, I wish you well.

  5. hi, its disapointing you felt you had to leave the socialist party we'd always welcome you back. but choosing labour which has headed to the right for years and years is a odd choice i must say. It is clear from your labour party stance your views ona political alternative have been blurred by the fact you are in teh labour party. they see anything outside labour party as not worth bothering with and no threat. they sit on the status quo thinking they will always be the place where working class people turn to, wrong i'm afraid resting on your laurels, if you can call them that is partly the reason why the SNP battered labour in scotland, labour thought they would always get the working class vote just for being labour. quite rightly they got smashed, i'm no SNP supporter but they spoke to people much better and appealed to people in scotland having free prescriptions, no tuitian fees and much much more. Labour or shouldi say new labour which you are apart of is no different to the tories today. they offer privatisation and cuts on a plate. There may well be left MP's in labour like John Mcdonnell but they do not speak for the partys majority and are tolerated to speak out as they do not speak for the majority of labour. thanks for the good luck wish's but i think you need more luck in trying to turn labour around. its a sinking ship i'm afraid