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.