It's done. Yesterday a special conference of the National Shop Stewards Network voted by 305 to 89 to set up yet another anti-cuts campaign. As I've said before what with UK Uncut, Right to Work, Coalition of Resistance, Trades Councils and various localised groups already organising opposition, I'm not convinced an additional group patronised by a Trotskyist organisation is anything other than surplus to requirements, especially as many of the charges the Socialist Party makes against their RtW and CoR rivals are somewhat economical about their real positions. But such is life on the far left. With self-defeating sectarianism like this, who needs satire?
We shall now see if Son-of-NSSN offers anything superior to what's already available as it's tested in the white heat of the anti-cuts movement. A conference report from the SP's Judy Beishon can be read here. A more critical take from Martin Thomas of the Alliance for Workers' Liberty is here so comrades who weren't present can make up their own minds.
One thing surprisingly missing from the SP's website at the moment is a report on the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference that took place immediately afterwards. I think the comrades involved are on a hiding to nothing (as demonstrated by TUSC's election results) and are set to do poorly at this May's local elections, in spite of their anti-cuts politics. But that's for another post. Anyway, here's Pete McLaren's report of the conference.
REPORT FROM TUSC CONFERENCE JAN 22 2011-01-22
Dave Nellist opened the Conference by expressing the need for hundreds of candidates in the May elections to fight the cuts and provide opposition to the BNP.
Michael Lavellette (SWP) spoke about his 9 years as a Socialist councillor in Preston. He argued we must stand together against the cuts. Five Labour councillors had informed the local TUC they would oppose cuts only to vote for cuts in the Council vote. He still thought we needed to find ways of working with those 60,000 new members of the Labour Party who had joined since the General Election.
Clive Heemskerk (SP) called for candidates rooted in the anti cuts movement. Councils were at the forefront of the struggle, but, as the TUSC platform spelt out, they did not need to implement cuts. Councils should set a “Needs Budget” and demand the government makes up the rest, as Liverpool did in the 1980’s. Surcharging was no longer a major issue as it only now existed for individual fraud. Any Councillor accused of breaking the Code of Conduct, according to the Standards Board, would be entitled to a hearing, which itself would be a focus for mass protest, and at worst case could only result in a 5 year ban from being a councillor! Councillors should use reserves and prudential borrowing powers.
Owen Herbert (RMT) apologised for arriving late. He outlined how Labour had betrayed the working class and was now calling for cuts, but a slower pace. The results were the same. In Swansea, the Labour Council had threatened to sack its workforce if they would not accept its cuts package and then re-instate workers on new inferior conditions. The Welsh TUC was doing nothing, and a TUSC intervention was essential.
Alan from Darlington UNISON moved the one amendment to the platform - that council tax could be raised above inflation if approved by the electorate.
The platform was opened for discussion, and 22 individuals spoke – 11 from the SP, 2 from the SA, 1 from SR, 3 from the SWP and 5 independents. Points made included the following;
* We need to work with Labour Party members
* There is no evidence of activism amongst the new layer of Labour Party members
* There should be national issues in the TUSC local elections platform
* There needs to be a new Party, and it should champion democracy
* There should be something on pay and conditions within the TUSC platform
* Candidates need to be involved in local campaigns
* We need to build TUSC. The fortnightly Bulletin should help.
* TUSC should stand in Barnsley to help establish itself
* The TUSC Steering Committee has agreed to there being an Independent Socialist Network within TUSC to encourage involvement from independent socialists
* We should use the TUC Demo to publicise TUSC
* We should oppose all cuts, rent and council tax increases as they are all attacks on the working class
* TUSC provides a political direction for the anti cuts movement
* Setting up a local anti cuts group can persuade local trade union activists to come on board, and in the longer term this could be a basis for a new workers’ party
* We should not include Labour councillors as part of our campaign unless they are prepared to vote against cuts
* TUSC should be opened up and become fully democratic
* We should work with all who oppose the cuts, whatever their label
* Green councillors do not vote against cuts in Council meetings
* TUSC should work with Labour councillors who do vote against cuts whilst standing against those who don’t
* We should write to ask Labour candidates whether they would vote against cuts
* We need to discuss our position on police cuts
* We should add our opposition to any attacks on pay or conditions to our platform position
In their replies, Michael Lavalette explained that all SWP members opposed all cuts. He went on to argue there needed to be a clear alternative to Labour, adding that if a Left Councillor was elected it boosted workers’ confidence.
Clive Heemskerk argued for as many TUSC candidates as possible, adding that ‘Trade Unionist & Socialists Against the Cuts’ had also been registered. He accepted that TUSC was a work in progress.
Dave Nellist concluded proceedings by putting the proposed TUSC platform to the vote. It was agreed unanimously. He went on to announce that the TUSC SC would discuss AV, and reminded delegates that TUSC candidates would need formal nomination so there would be a need to communicate with the TUSC SC
Pete McLaren 22/01/11