Tuesday, April 06, 2010

2010 Election special: Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

As part of our Pre-Election Guide, Dave Semple explains the policies and background of new pro-workers party TUSC.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition isn't going to win the next General Election. It probably won't even get someone elected. Only forty-two constituencies will have TUSC candidates, all well-known local campaigners.

To put this into perspective, this is far smaller than the ninety candidates plus that the BNP are going to run at the election. Yet if you live in one of those constituencies, you should vote TUSC. Here are some of my reasons for supporting them, on the streets and at the ballot box.

First, no other party intends seriously to fight for workers' rights. At every turn, Labour's leadership have bowed and scraped before the Press and the Tories when they demanded a disavowal of workers' decisions to strike. In fact, based on the consensus at Labour List, workers' rights won't even be on the agenda for this election.

Meanwhile, the Labour government has provoked PCS into a strike by trying to cut down on pensions and redundancy remuneration, to make it cheaper to fire people.

Whoever wins the election, workers will fight - for jobs, for wages and against the straightjacket of anti-union laws - and workers will be right. TUSC offers a platform that will tie together demands from different sections of the working class and develop them into a comprehensive political programme.

Second, after the election we're facing cuts in public services. Perhaps 25,000 council job losses and many more central government jobs besides threaten to stretch service provision to breaking point.

Both Tories and Labour are trying to be as vague as possible - but in education, for example, our final wave of academy-funding was signed off Friday fortnight ago and headteachers are already whispering 'the R-word.'

That's redundancies, for the uninitiated. That's larger class sizers and poorer lessons for your kids.

TUSC won't have the chance to pass laws preventing this, but we will be out on the picket lines with your kid's teachers, when they inevitably strike to protect their jobs and the quality of education.

Third, a lot of the cuts are likely to be trumpeted as 'local democracy'. Concrete Tory proposals for local authorities will free them from the spending ringfences imposed by central government, and allow them to gut funding of the voluntary sector and public services. Unfavourable 'public consultations' will simply be ignored.

'Local democracy' is the catchphrase being used by Tories to annihilate the universality of public services. Through 'top-up fees', Barnet Tories plan to allow rich people to bunk queues and get additional services, while the general public can lump it, and, oh, have staffing levels in public services cut.

Only a socialist alliance, advocating working class solidarity and action from the ground up, can stand up to a class-based attack on what little wealth redistribution and equality remains. This won't be Labour, still living in the shadow of its capitulation to Thatcherite economics.

It certainly won't be the racist BNP, to which a lot of working class Labour voters have fled.

It can be TUSC.

Dave Semple blogs at Though Cowards Flinch.

Click here to access our 2010 Election Special Feature.


socialist sam said...

About time!

Stan Moss said...

I appreciate where the TUSC people are coming from, but we cannot split the leftist vote any further. The writer himself here says that it's unlikely any TUSC MP will get in.

Dave Semple said...

The left vote isn't split, except across constituencies. In certain constituences vote Labour, in some vote TUSC, in some vote Green etc.

Unless you mean "vote labour in all circumstances", in which case you're not really talking about a left vote.

Paul said...

(Cross-comment from Though Cowards Flinch)

As I’m a member of the Labour party in elected office, as well as co-blogger at Though Cowards Flinch, I should just state for the record that these are Dave’s views, not the Though Cowards Flinch position. I know that’ll be obvious to regular readers, but I make it clear just in case.

I’ve written a fair bit on here on why I think lefties should continue to support the Labour party electorally, and I suppose I really should try to summarise it in a 500 word statement too, not least because I think Bob Piper’s effort at Hagley Road didn’t really cover the key reasons I still support Labour, focusing as they did on Labour achievements in office rather than its potential for the future.

Briefly, though, I do respectfully reject Dave’s position that the Labour party can play no part in ‘a socialist alliance, advocating working class solidarity and action from the ground up, can stand up to a class-based attack on what little wealth redistribution and equality remains.’

As I’ve written, whether Labour wins, loses or draw the coming election there are real opportunities for a resurgence of the left in the LP, akin to that experienced in the early 1980s but, I hope, without the same mistakes. This conviction is, as agreed with Dave, a matter of qualitative judgment at the moment.

Second, there is a need to be crystal clear that a Tory government will be MUCH worse for the working class than a new Labour government, and for that reason TUSC should not be seeking to split votes and allow Tories (or LibDem connivers) seats via such splits.

It is easy to make the casual assertion (not something I accuse Dave of), from a leftwing standpoint, that Labour and the Tories are as bad each other, but it is not true. The Tories have specific plans for the dismantling of local authority services (which Dave alludes to)in a way which deliberately harms the poor; Labour does not. The fact that people in the Labour hierarchy fail to see the importance of what the tories are up to with their behind the scenes preparations is disappointing, but does not make what they are up to irrelevant.

Third, there is TUSC itself, and the generality of new parties getting established as electoral forces. I have no problem with new leftwing parties seeking votes in principle. I am not one who believes in the immutable right of the Labour party to claim the votes of the left on the basis that they are the only ones who can win; nor do I believe that the Labour party is always destined to be the party that can most effectively represent the interests of the working class.

But I do think alternative left parties need to work first to put themselves into a position where they have a realistic chance of electoral victory before they stand in general elections. Part of this may be through the establishment of a local government base, though there are dangers in getting too hooked into the minutiae and relative unimportance of local government (only 5% of public spend etc.) in a way which detracts from the real business of trade union engagagement and solidarity. Quite simply, that groundwork has not yet been done (although of course I can’t say there won’t be a very special case or two amongst the 40-odd local campaigners standing).

Patrick Gray said...

Not much point in having someone to vote for if it means there's less chance of getting represented, is there?

Would be more sensible to vote for a party pushing for proportional representation first, even if that means the Lib Dems.

Alternatively, they could all get involved in the Labour party and change it.

There's not much point setting up yet another leftist party that will be forgotten in six months' time. Hands up who remembers No2EU, Socialist Alliance in 2001, or even Socialist Labour from 1997

David said...

People keep bringing up No2EU. "ENo2EU, Yes to Democracy" was a formation explicitly for the European elections. It would make no sense to run it for the national elections.

Moreover, this includes the key group from No2EU and more besides. It isn't called the Socialist Alliance, but the spirit of the Socialist Alliance very much hangs over it.

Two more points: one, I have been involved with Labour and I don't believe it can be changed simply by as many socialist activists as possible joining. Many of our number were actually expelled, and serious constraints exist on party democracy.

Two, the Lib-Dems aren't going to win; looking over the polls, they're going to lose quite a number of seats, more than likely. I'm as in favour of PR as the next person, but "vote Lib-Dem" isn't a solution, just a campaign slogan.

Patrick Gray said...


"the Lib-Dems aren't going to win; looking over the polls, they're going to lose quite a number of seats, more than likely. I'm as in favour of PR as the next person, but "vote Lib-Dem" isn't a solution, just a campaign slogan."

Do you really think that's the point? Do you really think that's why I said we sould vote Lib Dem?
I'll repeat what I mean. The LibDems have the best chance (in the not unlikely event of a hung parliament) to force the issue of electoral reform in exchange for a coalition government.
That's what it is.
Course you can believe that a vote to TUSC or the Greens or Respect will clear your conscience. But in essence it's a vote for either Labour or the Conservatives.

Dave Semple said...

That's IF there's a hung parliament, which I don't imagine there will be. And that's IF the Lib-Dem leadership have the stomach for it.

Bearing in mind how often I'm told the Liberals are the part of "our freedoms" and then half the party didn't vote against the DE Bill, I have nothing but contempt for them.

It's got nothing to do with conscience either. In the case of TUSC, every vote that goes TUSCs way is a step towards convincing TU leaderships like the RMT or the PCS that it's time to put some skin in the game.