REPORT FROM TUSC INDEPENDENT SOCIALIST NETWORK MEETING 19/05/12 – further progress made
REVIEW OF THE MAY ELECTION RESULTS
Pete McLaren introduced this first session. He began by giving a background;• TUSC had stood a total of 134 candidates in the Council elections and had stood a candidate in the Liverpool mayoral contest and a list of candidates for the GLA electionsHe went on to outline the results:• Although TUSC lost one Councilor – Dave Nellist in Coventry despite a massive swing to TUSC, it gained two TUSC endorsed Councilors – Michael Lavellette (Independent) in Preston and Pete Smith in Walsall (DLP)• In the local elections in England and Wales TUSC candidates averaged 6.2% of the poll. This was up from last year’s average 5.2% vote.• There were 74 council wards contested by TUSC candidates in 2012 where there was also a TUSC candidate in 2011. In these direct ‘comparator wards’ our average share of the vote rose, from 5.4% in 2011, to 6.8% this year.• In the local council wards that TUSC contested, the ratio of Labour voters to TUSC voters this year was 1:9. Last year it was 1:10. In Rugby this year it was one TUSC to three Labour (one to four last year)• 13 TUSC candidates – 10% – obtained above 10%: in Preston, Walsall, Coventry, Salford, Cambridge, Knowsley, Gateshead, Sheffield and five in Rugby• TUSC averaged 0.8% in the GLA elections, which was comparable with past left regional results.• Tony Mulhearn did well in the Liverpool mayoral election, coming 5th out of 12 with 4.86%, beating the Tories, UKIP and the BNP, and finishing less than 4% off 2nd place.He concluded by outlining why he felt Rugby TUSC had increased its vote from 7% to 10%. Rugby TUSC was a branch with 20 supporters and 10 members. Roots had been laid by constant campaigning – stalls, public meetings, regular leafleting, speaking at meetings in nearby towns to promote TUSC, actively welcoming and accommodating the Jarrow marchers, working with DPAC to oppose welfare cuts, and fighting against every local cut that was announced. This was then turned into publicity to promote TUSC: 31 Media Releases had resulted in 62 Press articles, radio interviews, letters in the press, articles on web sites- TUSC had developed a local profile.
Points made in the following discussion from individuals (i.e .not necessarily agreed by the meeting) included:• It was important to work in localities throughout the year, not just at election time. This has the added advantage of showing the media there is an alternative• Standing regularly in an area can improve electoral performance• The TUSC results nationally were encouraging• Although the results in London were not good, it was more about building TUSC. However, this became difficult when the SP and SWP were reluctant to work together, instead doing their own thing. The London performance was not helped by being squeezed out by the Ken/Boris battle, by TUSC not being a brand name, and by losing out on the publicity that standing for mayor would have given• The London electorate numbered 5.8 million. TUSC was only able to put out 400,000 leaflets. Organisational problems did not help either• Being a Coalition that operated by consensus prevented TUSC standing for London Mayor• There was not as much visible support on the ground for TUSC from trade unions as had been expected• Borough wide TUSC Committees should have been established – and still could be• Labour still gets working class support despite their policies, and we have to deal with that. Workers vote Labour to keep the Tories out• We have to be less sectarian towards Labour Party members whilst presenting a positive socialist alternative• The Labour Party is not another Tory Party – it is a Social Democratic Party• TUSC has to be present all year round, active with branches• We need to relate to a broader range of people, some of whom will not be in TUs• A major problem is that the SP/SWP rarely work together within TUSC• Individual members of the SP/SWP do support our ideas – we need to develop that• We should not concentrate our efforts on London as success is more likely in smaller communities• We can build a new Party, initially outside London• We need to understand the changes that are being made to electoral registration• Everything comes back to the central issue: the absence of a Left Party. We need to be united and put over our alternative. Few people put forward arguments against austerity or capitalism. We can fill that void – but how do we do it?• Recent election results in Greece and France are significant
The session ended with Mark Boothroyd from the Anti Capitalist Initiative giving comradely greetings. He described the development of the ACI as a project to create local forums and activism with maximum autonomy at local level – a genuine bottom upwards democracy. The web site – www.anticapitalists.org – encouraged open debate. ACI was open to all, and it wanted to work closely with TUSC/ISN as there was much common ground
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS TO CREATE A NEW SOCIALIST PARTY?Nick Wrack opened the session by outlining the difficulties we face.
The ideas of socialism are not as prevalent as in the past with a retreat dating back to working-class defeats in the 1980s compounded by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was not socialist but paradoxically reinforced the idea that there was no alternative to capitalism, and the rise of individualism. However the crisis of world wide capitalist production needed to be challenged.
A party is a collection of people with a set of shared ideas and objectives – we need to create a party. This Party must argue and work for a socialist alternative to capitalism whilst also defending our class within the present system.
Although Syriza in Greece is not the model to follow, it shows that it is possible to win electoral support, and it has gone from 5% to 16% very quickly, albeit in a period of acute crisis.
We need a Party to represent the working class – it will be slow and hard unless events dictate otherwise. In the meantime, the ISN should be more confident and outward looking, he argued, suggesting it should:
• Develop its web site• Work with others with a pro-Party perspective• Not behave in a sectarian way towards others on the left, pointing out any differences and using persuasion and argument in a comradely fashion• Argue within TUSC for it to set up TUSC branches where independent socialists and trade unionists can work together with the other parts of TUSC to build a socialist alternative.He concluded by outlining the decisions made at the recent TUSC Steering Committee. It had been agreed to hold a Conference in September open to all supporters, partly to discuss TUSC’s future structure. An open working group was being set up to look at a constitution/structure. The ISN should argue for the setting up of branches. All of this would be helpful in our pursuit of a new Party. Finally, it had been agreed to write to Respect, and he suggested Galloway’s victory would have an impact on left developments.
The discussion which followed included the following points from individuals (i.e. not necessarily agreed by the meeting):• All events must be fully accessible• We need to form branches and break down the factions• We need to get more young people involved• The purpose of any organization is more important than what it is called• We should encourage people to organize locally under whatever name they choose• We have problems on the left, not enemies.• We must use social media more effectively• TUSC is not a political party – it is a half way house.• We need a new party that is relevant to peoples’ lives, democratic, and is a clear break from Labour and its politics• Local initiatives do not wait for the revolutionary left who only want to build their own party• We all want TUSC to continue and succeed and become a stepping stone to a new party, but we are not sure that will happen.• The TUSC Steering Committee does not agree with TUSC being a membership organization at this stage• The RMT will not be dictated to by the SP/SWP, and the SP will not do what the SWP wants, and vica versa. Where does this leave independents?• We must build TUSC branches• We must be ready for the local elections in 2013 and 2014, and the Euro Elections in 2014, as well as a General Election• Despite being clumsy, the TUSC name has started to resonate. It has now been used in three consecutive elections• It is difficult to build the ISN as well as building TUSC at local level• Local branches can introduce local branch membership as Rugby has done. This could influence national developments• The September TUSC Conference is important, and we must build for it. Last July’s Conference has already agreed that there should be TUSC branches – although that has not been progressed. It also agreed there should be representation on the Steering Committee from TUSC branches, TU branches and supportive political organizations• In the build up to, and at the TUSC Conference, we should argue for TUSC branches and TUSC membership• We should build ISN branches as part of TUSC• TUSC is an alliance of the RMT, SP, SWP and ISN. The problem is that SP/SWP have their own agendas. We need something for people in local areas to relate to – a diverse, non-sectarian left. We need an honest debate with them to ascertain the extent to which they want to build TUSC.• The SP/SWP will not commit to future plans. TUSC must be our focus• So much of this has already been said so many times before• Most left organisations have the same ideas as us, but their very existence stops them from pursuing them• Consensus politics stops development• We need to connect with activists, like the Occupy Movement, whether or not they are fully socialist• We should organise public meetings to encourage the involvement of the contacts we have made during the elections• We must do what we can to encourage independent socialists to join the ISN, and we should trawl through old lists to speed up the process. We hope that the SP/SWP, RMT and others want to continue with TUSC. We should aim to invigorate the Steering Committee and demonstrate to others the potential for a left alternative. We must push membership and branches.• We could be more pro-active in promoting the existence of the Independent Socialist Network in the TUSC Bulletin• Let’s see what progress we can make and then see how organisations in TUSC react.
IMMEDIATE ACTIONS AGREED
• TUSC Steering Committee Structure Working Party – Pete McLaren nominated to represent the ISN
• TUSC Conference Arrangements Ctte – Will McMahon nominated to represent the ISN
• Next meeting of ISN – Saturday 21 July 2012 in London
Pete McLaren, 23 May 2012