Sunday 10 July 2022

The RMT Leaves TUSC

There are momentous occasions in political history, events on which destinies and trajectories turn. And then there are the footnotes and ephemera. Such as the RMT deciding at their AGM last week to disaffiliate from the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition. Naturally the Socialist Party, the main organised component of this left-of-Labour electoral umbrella, have not communicated a word about it to their membership. Indeed, it members are still happily tweeting about how TUSC has the RMT on board and why socialists should join it.

According to Coatesy, the vote for disaffiliation wasn't close. But likewise details about why the RMT packed it in haven't become public either. You might speculate that General Secretary Mick Lynch didn't fancy buddying up to an "ally" in internal elections that has a recent history of running its own candidate - one whose loyalties would lie with the SP's Executive. Or as is more likely, they've looked at 12 years worth of election results and thought the thousands lavished on a fly-by-night organisation allergic to consistently working the same council and parliamentary seats is better spent elsewhere. Who can blame them? Fractions of a percentage of the vote aren't putting down markers, no matter how many times its repeated in The Socialist.

Born out of an alliance between the SP, RMT, and the sclerotic Communist Party of Britain in 2009 to fight the EU elections on the dismally opportunist No2EU platform, TUSC was only ever an electoral name to be wheeled out at election time. The new organisation never caught the CPB's endorsement, and initially the RMT did not affiliate. But Bob Crow was closely associated with the project, so it appeared to have some legs. Certainly better than the SP's previous but one election alliance, the Socialist Green Unity Coalition, which saw them, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, and a few others lose their deposits at the 2005 general election. As well as being born a very sickly child, TUSC was doomed because of the attitude of its main sponsor and initiator. The SP already saw itself as the party destined to lead the workers in our showdown with capital. TUSC could never be allowed to develop a dynamic of its own and become a centre of gravity that might distract SP comrades from their vital duties of selling the newspaper. For all the blather about wanting to build a new workers' party as an alternative to Labour, the SP's practice in TUSC ran counter to their professed perspective. I said so at the time, then still a SP member on the edge of quitting, concluding it would forever be less than the sum of its parts. And what do you know - subsequent history has borne the argument out.

The RMT's departure is another hammer blow the SP have brought upon itself. Having its perspectives confounded by the left's temporary capture of the Labour Party leadership, bleeding many activists to Corbynism and seeing its recruitment run dry during that period, it suffered the most devastating split in its 55 year history in 2019 because outgoing General Secretary Peter Taaffe preferred to torch its international organisation than be censured and disciplined by it. Then the base within the PCS union, built up over generations by patient work among civil servants, completely imploded following a bust up with general secretary, Mark Serwotka. More recently, in the guise of TUSC, it was ignominiously booted out of the People's Alliance of the Left by Left Unity, the Breakthrough Party, and the Northern Independence Party for buddying up with George Galloway and his Stalinist fan club. And now with the RMT's departure, one can imagine how demoralising this will be for long-suffering activists.

What now? I imagine the eventual bland statement will put a positive spin on things. One can never tell the party the truth about setbacks. But in practice, it won't mean much. TUSC will continue appearing in different elections, it will attract its derisory vote, and it'll get put back in the cupboard until the next poll swings around. Rinse and repeat. It's not going anywhere because it has nowhere to go.

It's funny really. At the moment working class struggle is picking up with big industrial battles, some notable victories in small scale disputes, people out on the streets confronting and seeing off immigration raids, and all the while the explosion in left ideas the Corbyn moment unleashed remains very much abroad, the SP's brand of revolutionary socialism is going backwards. Perhaps clearer sighted members might realise there is an inverse relationship between the two, and start asking if a confessional, tightly-disciplined sect is the appropriate means for organising workers today. Because clearly, its stubbornly microscopic size and ceaseless turnover of membership suggest workers who do come into contact with it don't.

Image Credit


David Lindsay said...

Arriving in a blazingly sunny Durham for the first Miners' Gala since 2019, and the biggest since the Strike, the first thing that I heard was a brass band playing I Predict a Riot. I was soon marching in with the RMT. Who says that there is no Opposition?

Certainly not the Leader of the Opposition, Mick Lynch, whom at least 200,000 people gave a rock star reception before he delivered one of the day's several barnstorming speeches, all of them by trade union leaders or frontline workers, and all of them expressing profound scepticism about party politics at least in anything like its current form.

The booing of the very name of the absent Keir Starmer was a joy almost beyond words. There is nothing wrong with going to the Royal Box at Wimbledon. Given the opportunity, who would not? But when the 1970s trade union leaders used to go to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot in full kit and caboodle, then they were also doing their day jobs.

As Dr Jo Grady of the UCU said in her speech, those who fully understand the power of education fear an educated working class, and are therefore destroying arts and humanities degree courses across England. As part of a new partnership with the Notting Hill Carnival, which saw the Mangrove Steelband here and will presumably see pit village brass bands there, a rapturous reception was given to Yvette Williams of Justice4Grenfell. She looked at the vast crowd and wowed it with the observation that, "There are so many more of us than there are of them." There was also loud applause at this, the Hajj of the white working class, for Dr Patrick Roach of NASUWT when he commended "taking the knee to declare that Black Lives Matter".

Alan Mardghum of the Durham Miners' Association not only demanded justice for Orgreave in no uncertain terms, but also dared to mention the looting of the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme, which had been a taboo subject at the Big Meeting in recent years. The only MPs on the platform were Jeremy Corbyn and Barry Gardiner, neither of whom gave a speech, although the crowd sang Oh, Jeremy Corbyn so loudly and for so long at the very end that Corbyn did come to the microphone to say the one word, "Solidarity."

The talk of the field and the watering holes was like the talk of the platform, about retaining party membership, Labour or otherwise, if you must, but in practice concentrating heavily on trade union and wider campaigning work, and on unifying the two, the unions and wider activism, with a particular emphasis that every worker should be an active trade union member and that industrial action should be coordinated across the Movement.

Offstage, there was unanimity that the Parliamentary Labour Party would never have allowed a Corbyn Government to have been formed. There was the resigned, matter-of-fact observation that Boris Johnson had got from treacherous Conservative MPs what Corbyn had got from treacherous Labour ones. There was derision of Starmer's having been let off over his beer and curry as his predictable reward for scabbing.

And there was vociferous opposition to the Green agenda. Some tried, but this was hardly a day for those who would have celebrated the defeat of the miners as somehow to the greater good. Rather, this was a day for those who would harness the power of the State to deliver energy from every available source. In Brother Lynch's rousing words, "We're back. The working class is back. We refuse to be meek, we refuse to be humble, and we refuse to be poor anymore."

Jim Denham said...

David: I understand that you are anti-Labour (though pro-what I do not know), but please explain your previous claim that Starmer had been fined, but there was some kind of conspiracy to cover this up:

From where did you get this information?

Did you check it before publicising it?

Do you now accept it was wrong?

Will you be more careful in future?

amnonbc said...

Oh dear... This blog post gets lots wrong. I don't know how many people read this blog, so won't bore the readers by a line by line corrections. So I will limit myself just to the one point.

The opening paragraph states that "the Socialist Party, the main organised component of this left-of-Labour electoral umbrella, have not communicated a word about it to their membership".
I suggest people here read pages 10 and 11 of this week's socialist which is also available online, which not only communicates the RMT decision but gives the political background, and answers many of the points raised in Phil's blog post.

amnonbc said...

Anonymous said...

Jim it is best to ignore David Lindsay. See here for more details

Anonymous said...

This blog is dated the 10th. It mentions the RMT AGM took place the week before.

The article you link to is dated the 13th.

That means at the point it was published, and for days after, there had not been any public statement from the SP on this key issue for TUSC.

Do you think it's possible that this blog is not "wrong", but that the SP was very late in making a public comment, and now you come along and make a comment that gives the false impression that the blog was "wrong" in order to detract from the points it makes?

Yes I think that is what you've done here.

Ghost Whistler said...

"Or as is more likely, they've looked at 12 years worth of election results and thought the thousands lavished on a fly-by-night organisation allergic to consistently working the same council and parliamentary seats is better spent elsewhere."

Could you (or anyone) explain this?

I'm a member of the SP. I have some issues with them and am not averse to hearing truth if citicism is valid. It seems to me that TUSC is a good idea: don't we need a new workers party now that avenue is shut to the left wrt Labour?

At local meetings I have raised the issue of TUSC's connection to the likes of CHris Williamson, whom I consider toxic, unfortunately I don't think these were taken to heart, as I would like.

I have no love for factionalism, nor am I an expert in all of this. I just want an end to this rotten system. Thanks