REPORT OF THE LEFT UNITY MEETING JULY 03 2010 LUCAS ARMS
PRESENT: AWL (Martin Thomas) RDG (Steve Freeman); Socialist Alliance (Gerry Byrne; Pete McLaren); Socialist Party (Clive Heemskerk); DLP (Dave Church)
APOLOGIES – CNWP; Convention of the Left. It was agreed that Gerry Byrne would chair
REPORT FROM May 15 MEETING - agreed as correct.
MAIN DISCUSSION ITEM – A STRATEGY FOR THE COMING STRUGGLES AND HOW THEY COULD BE LINKED
Pete McLaren (SA) began the discussion by wondering if there was enough information yet as to where specifically the cuts would fall. Anti cuts campaigns were beginning to emerge, in Coventry for example, but the level of anger would take time to gauge and relate to. He expressed some concern that the argument for the left to join/re-join the Labour Party was gaining prominence, arguing that the lack of internal party democracy and any pretence at socialism made that a non starter for most on the left.
The following were among the points made in the discussion:
- The Budget cuts of 25% across Departments was unworkable; more would thus come off benefits
- Although the cuts will be huge, profits are likely to rise
- There is an unprecedented programme of cuts across Europe, and responses will be replicated
- Initially, no Trade Union leaders said they would fight the cuts, although Bob Crow has done so recently
- All we can do is to wait until the action starts
- 29 million people voted for pro-cuts parties, 300,000 against
- Consciousness is not high, and many think the Budget was acceptable
- The impact of the cuts will shake that up
- We need political arguments as well as industrial struggle – the vote on AV next May gives the left an opportunity
- The Party question is becoming more important, taking up demands like nationalization of the banks and parliamentary reform
- Voters only returned to Labour out of desperation, and because there was no actual or perceived alternative
- We urgently need to build a Left alternative, within 12 months. We must support industrial struggle, but, in itself, that is not enough
- There will be massive attacks on the working class – either we fight back, or there will be misery
- There will be serious affects of the cuts in areas like the NE where half the economy is based on the public sector
- State intervention, as with Northern Rock, gives us an opening into the debate about public ownership and the need for democracy
- We need to explain what should be done instead of the cuts
- We must respond to the fast tracking of Academies
- The left has much it agrees about, including nationalization and democratic control – why can’t we all be in one Party?
- How will left trade unionists react if they are told to implement cuts on others, eg in Benefit Offices?
- There will be parallels with the anti poll tax struggle in terms of the explosive mood that will develop, but there are also differences as the cuts will be more generalized
- People voted Labour or even Lib Dem to keep the Tories out, not to support cuts
In terms of strategy, Martin Thomas suggested
v There needs to be a fight back across Europe to unite workers
v As international finance markets have enormous powers to influence governments, we must raise the issue of public ownership and democratic control of financial institutions
v We must fight for greater democracy within trade unions and the TUC
v We need more than just one day general strikes as in Greece
v Part of the fight back will be in and around the Labour Party, and the left should work through affiliated unions to demand the restoration of democracy within the Labour Party
Gerry Byrne spoke about the public sector trade union alliance that had been launched in the NE
Clive Heemskerk argued we should already be organizing against the Academies that have been identified, and demand a ballot of all affected parents as the Lib Dems successfully did in Sheffield in 2008. We should be positive – the SP membership had risen to nearly 2,000, the best since 1983. We are on the verge of an unprecedented period of history, he argued, and how we relate to it is important. It is also important that Bob Crow and other left TU leaders help to build a new left party, as is happening through TUSC
NATIONAL MEETING OF PROGRESSIVE, COMMUNITY AND SOCIALIST PARTIES IN RUGBY ON JULY 24th, AND DEVELOPMENTS WITHIN TUSC
Pete McLaren explained how the initiative had developed. All locally registered community/socialist parties like the Barrow Socialist Peoples Party had been invited, as had all national left/green left organizations that saw the need to build a left alternative to Labour. The aims of the meeting were to share good practice, network with each other and discuss the establishment of a national network body of regional and local parties with a representative from each affiliated organisation. It was also hoped to feed into any discussions on the formation of a new party of the left, but not try and launch one on July 24th! Separately, he circulated the future steps agreed by the TUSC Steering Committee. Its core task was to provide an opportunity for local groups of trade unionists, community campaigners and socialist organisations to stands as TUSC candidates in forthcoming elections. It will continue with a Steering Committee as presently constituted. Other organization s could apply to join. It was accepted that this structure was only an interim arrangement and that discussions will need to take place on the best way to organise the coalition as it develops, with a broader conference to include a debate on this issue in 2011. There would be a Conference in Autumn 2010 open to local groups who are planning to stand candidates 2011. Finally, he referred to a recent meeting of CNWP Officers which had agreed a motion from the SA to establish the prototype of a new Left Party in the next 18 months and discuss its constitution. It had also been agreed to organise a Members Meeting taking resolutions, like a mini Conference, in September, and a full Conference in the first half of 2011.
Gerry Byrne expressed concern that both TUSC and the Rugby initiative were framed around electoral challenges. She also felt TUSC lacked structure and democracy. It was, she felt, a Coalition of important individuals and representatives from the SP and SWP, and not from other supporting organizations. Whereas that could be justified in order to mount a General Election challenge, that was no longer the case. TUSC should be broadened, she argued. She was also not clear about the role of the CNWP alongside TUSC.
Dave Church expressed the concern of DLP members at the absence of a national structure they could join. He hoped TUSC would become more democratic, and he expressed concern that the CNWP was little closer to building the party it was campaigning for.
Steve Freeman felt we needed to move faster than we had been doing towards the creation of a new Left party. All we had at present were electoral fronts. The working class were more likely to continue moving back to Labour in the continuing absence of such a new Party, a Party which needed to be socialist, democratic and republican, he concluded.
Pete McLaren pointed to the CNWP report he had circulated – it showed the CNWP had made moves towards planning for a new Left Party by adopting the SA resolution with its 18 month time limit without any opposition. TUSC could move the process further forward, although he agreed it should be broadened out.
Clive Heemskerk agreed that no one wanted to move slowly. Discussions were on going. We had to take reality into account however. Even the RMT leadership was becoming under pressure to reconsider its relationship with the Labour Party, and support for rejoining Labour was growing in many trade unions
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
It was agreed the next LULC Meeting would be on Saturday September 18th, 2 – 4pm, at the Lucas Arms. This has subsequently been confirmed and booked. The main item would be to discuss what came out of the Meeting in Rugby of Progressive, Community and Socialist Parties on July 24th, and the CNWP Members Meeting scheduled for early September – and where this all left us.
Pete McLaren 04/07/10
Report from Left unity meeting July 3rd 2010