Local elections: the TUSC fantasy world

May 25, 2014 at 10:54 am (Andrew Coates, elections, fantasy, posted by JD, Socialist Party, TUSC)

Comrade Osler writes on Facebook:

So TUSC stands 561 candidates and gets 40,000 votes … that’s a little over 70 each. The only successful candidate was a former Labour councillor who ran under an entirely different label.
This is a humiliating defeat that must be demoralising for all concerned, and on any objective yardstick, is actually a *setback* for any attempt to build a rational socialist current in Britain.
So is there an a master plan at work here, or am I missing something?

Comrade Coatesy agrees, adding an interesting French comparison:

There is a strange group in France, commonly known as the Lambertists, the  Parti ouvrier indépendant, POI,  who have been  standing in elections  for a very, very,  long time.

They get derisory votes.

But they do have a few councillors (basically the equivalent of Parish members).

In fact they got over 40 in the last municipal elections (always bearing in mind that these ‘councillors’ represent in many cases communes with three inhabitants and a cat).

TUSC (who are part of rival Trotsykist  tradition) sees to have joined this doomed path.

Great TUSC victory in Southampton

Keith Morrell has re-won his council seat Coxford, standing as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Keith was previously kicked out of the Labour Party for fighting against cuts.

He has been decisively re-elected with 1,654 votes, 43%. This is a great result and vindication for his stand, alongside fellow rebel councillor Don Thomas, in opposing all cuts.

Ukip came second with 796 votes, Labour third with 724 votes, the Tories fourth with 500 votes, and Lib Dems last with 168.

The result has lit up the idea that fighting councillors can help build support for a real alternative to austerity. It is in sharp contrast to the close shave for Labour council leader Simon Letts who nearly lost his seat to Ukip after two years of implementing Tory cuts.

The devil is in the detail as they admit from the figures for 100 candidates they got a round total of ….

 50,000 votes.

Do the maths baby.

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Meanwhile TUSC themselves (or, to be precise, the main force behind TUSC, the Socialist Party) put a determinedly brave face on their performance:

The complexities of calculating percentage shares in multi-seat contests, especially with the variation in information provided by different councils (over a bank holiday weekend!), is one of the reasons for the delay in collating the results. But as soon as we can we will post up a comprehensive seat-by-seat and council-by-council report on how all the TUSC candidates fared.

What is clear from the results so far, however, is that ‘the party that doesn’t exist’ for the national media (TUSC still doesn’t appear in the BBC’s website’s guide to the English council results – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26434025 ) has made its mark and prepared the ground for broader and deeper electoral challenges in the future.

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A flood of xenophobia

February 12, 2014 at 10:02 pm (Daily Mail, Europe, fantasy, internationalism, Jim D, populism, Racism, reaction, Socialist Party, stalinism, TUSC)

Nigel Farage, in full wader mode, has proposed spending foreign aid money on flood damage.

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Working on the assumption (which I hope is true) that most readers of this blog are not regular readers of the Daily Mail, I thought it might be a good idea to let you know that the  Mail’s petition calling for foreign aid money to be diverted to the UK flood crisis has achieved over 100,000 names in support, and a Comres poll for ITV showed that 73 per cent of Britons agree. The above information comes from today’s Daily Mail, so of course should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt. But the rising tide of anti-foreigner, anti-EU and anti-foreign aid xenophobia at the moment cannot be denied. The words of sanity that have been expressed on the subject of migration, by EU commissioner Laszlo Andor and his splendidly combative colleague Viviane Reding, have been of little avail: the UK public seems to be in the grip of isolationism, whether that be anti-EU sentiment, anti-immigration hysteria, or even the slightly more rational reluctance to endorse foreign wars. The current floods have given the fanatically anti-EU Daily Mail the opportunity to bring all these currents together into a vicious, nationalistic and semi-racist campaign against foreign aid: the anti-EU idiot- “left” should take notice … but, sadly, they seem too stupid to do so:
The Guardian‘s development network (which is linked to ‘EurActiv‘) reports:

A campaign by the UK Independence party (Ukip) and the Daily Mail newspaper to divert Britain’s overseas aid budget into domestic flood relief has been condemned as “disgraceful” by Lord Deben, the former Conservative environment minister.

Aid agencies, MEPs and officials from the EU and UN also told EurActiv that such a move would breach Britain’s international obligations.

The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, riding high in polls for European elections in May, first raised the issue on a visit to flood-hit parts of Somerset last weekend, saying it would take “a tiddly per cent of the overseas aid budget” to help flood victims.

The Daily Mail picked up the issue, running a front-page editorial on Tuesday calling on its readers to “put UK flood victims first” and “tell the PM where our foreign aid is needed” in a petition it initiated.

The tabloid, which has often championed climate-sceptic views, railed against “waste” in the UK’s €13bn (£10.6bn) aid budget and called for the money to be spent at home.

“Britain has given hundreds of millions towards flood relief overseas,” the editorial said. “Today, it is our own people who are enduring the misery, and the Mail believes there could no better use for the aid budget than alleviating Third World conditions at home.”

But the hint of a gathering bandwagon around an issue that had previously been the domain of the far right sparked condemnation across the political board.

“It is a disgraceful proposal to take from the poorest people on earth in order to avoid paying the cost of flooding from Britain’s own resources, resources which the prime minister has already promised,” Lord Deben told EurActiv.  

Since 2000, overseas aid spending has notched up some significant successes. It has funded the vaccination of 440 million children against preventable diseases and the immunisation of 2.5 billion children against polio.

Aid spending has also provided antiretroviral drugs for 6.1 million people and helped detect and treat 11.2m cases of TB worldwide. Much of this work has taken place under the aegis of the UN’s eight millennium development goals for 2015.

European aid, in particular, has helped almost 14 million new pupils enrol in primary education and connected more than 70 million people to improved drinking water, since 2004, according to the European commission.

“You simply cannot compare the resources of the UK with those of the poorest countries in the world, where they go to bed hungry, lack any access to water, sanitation, electricity,” Alexandre Polack, an EU development policy spokesperson told EurActiv. Claims of waste were simply not true, he added.

One UN official said that channelling overseas aid into domestic flood relief would risk isolating the UK in talks about a post-2015 successor to the millennium development goals, which David Cameron previously chaired.

“Overseas aid is part of the UK’s foreign policy and how they position themselves in the world and contribute to development discussions on the post-2015 dialogue,” the source said. “How can they contribute to that if they have no money to offer the causes that may arise out of that by 2015?”

“Overseas aid is meant for overseas,” the official continued. “If we spent it on national issues, it would be a perversion of its original intent and a breach of regulations governing that part of the budget.”

Headlines in the UK have been captured by the floods, which have submerged large parts of the country’s south-west, and thousands of homes have been evacuated from towns around the river Thames.

But Cameron clarified on Tuesday that the question facing his government was “not either protecting our overseas aid budget or spending the money here at home. What we need at home will be spent here at home,” he said.

Graham Watson, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the UK’s storm-battered south-west, said that there was little support in his constituency for the Daily Mail’s campaign. “Most people recognise that it is an attempt to mix chalk and cheese,” he told EurActiv. “We have a duty to help people in difficulty everywhere, and our aid budget is being extremely well spent.” Watson queried why Farage’s “blind opposition to everything European” prevented Ukip from supporting a relief application to the EU’s solidarity fund. “I have been pressing the government to make an application, and they have three weeks left to do so,” he said. “I have had talks with the commissioner and with government ministers and I am [still] hoping they will. At present, the Treasury is resisting as we will lose some money from our rebate, but there would still be a net gain for the UK, and as taxpayers have paid into the fund I think we should be taking advantage of it.”

Oxfam said that money should be redistributed from the UK’s wealthiest population sectors to help alleviate suffering in the sodden flood plains.

British bankers had received more than €70bn in bonuses since the onset of the financial crisis – far more than the UK’s aid budget, according to a statement by the aid agency. “At the same time, billions of pounds of tax are dodged by companies and individuals who are not paying their fair share,” Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of policy and advocacy said. “The choice should never be between helping those overseas or people in the UK when there’s enough money to do both.”

A comrade of mine once described the anti-EU “left” as like a little boy who sees a march passing by, led by a big brass band, and – keen to join in – he rushes out with his tin whistle, putting himself at the head of the march: he’s playing The Red Flag on his little tin whistle, but the band is playing Rule Britannia. When will these  idiots ever learn?

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AWL on developments in ‘Left Unity’

September 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm (AWL, capitalist crisis, CPGB, ex-SWP, posted by JD, reblogged, sectarianism, socialism, trotskyism, TUSC)

Left Unity

By Martin Thomas (at the Workers Liberty website):

Two and a half months’ debate: socialism or vote-catching?

Over the next two and a half months, a fundamental debate will be run among some hundreds of left activists, most of them at present politically homeless and looking for a way forward.

At the founding conference on 30 November of the Left Unity group, the main debate will be between the “Left Party Platform” (LPP), proposed by Kate Hudson and others, and the “Socialist Platform” (SP), proposed by Nick Wrack, Soraya Lawrence, Will McMahon, Chris Strafford, Cat Rylance, and others.

Former Socialist Worker journalist Tom Walker, now a member of the SWP-splinter ISN, explains his support for the LPP in these terms: “The Left Party Platform stands explicitly in the ‘European Left Party’ tradition, encompassing parties like Greece’s Syriza, Germany’s Die Linke, Portugal’s Left Bloc, France’s Front de Gauche…

“We’re told that it’s a statement that almost anyone to the left of Labour could agree with. Yes — exactly! That’s the point!” The LPP’s proposed political basis is, as Walker puts it, “inclusive of socialism”, but not explicitly socialist.

The (rather manipulative, but also very unrealistic) philosophy behind this approach is that masses of people can be inveigled into left-wing politics, or at least into voting for a new leftish electoral effort, by offering them something just a bit to the left of Labour but vague enough not to startle them.

The SP people, some of whom have in the past been involved in other projects based on a similar philosophy (Respect, TUSC, etc.), declare, on the contrary, that any worthwhile left-wing project must clearly declare itself socialist and working-class from the start, and look to building up through patient activity to convince working-class people rather than catchpenny schemes for instant electoral glory.

The SP met on 14 September in London. It was a difficult meeting, but we got through it. The scene is now set for arguing the issues among people attracted to Left Unity over the next two and a half months.

The core numbers are not large. So far the LPP has 140 signatories and the SP 106. At its national coordinating meeting on 7 September Left Unity was told by a central organiser, Andrew Burgin, that LU membership “ran into hundreds”. No more precise figure could be elicited, despite the story from the Burgin camp in LU that LU can quickly become a British equivalent of Syriza or Die Linke.

Even those hundreds include some who are not activists, but have just clicked on a website to pay a nominal amount. But there are said to be another 9,000 who have clicked on the Left Unity website to express some level or another of interest. The challenge facing the SP is to reach out to them.

Some people at the 14 September meeting spoke about that. Ruth Cashman of Lambeth LU said that so far the LPP has been able to build an image of being more “outward-looking” than the SP. As well as arguing the general issues, SP supporters should argue in their LU groups for practical and principled proposals for week-to-week activity. Matt Hale of Sheffield LU spoke about the need to link up with trade-union struggles.

Most of the time was taken up with other things. The meeting opened with a wrangle about rival agendas. It then debated a proposal, put jointly by the Weekly Worker group and Ian Donovan (ex-member of the WW group, and ex-member of many other groups too), to expel AWL members from the SP on the grounds that we are “pro-imperialist”!

The quality of their bill of indictment can be judged from the fact that it included the claim that the AWL supports the USA bombing Syria. The issue of Solidarity on sale at that very meeting carries a headline: “Against US bombs” [in Syria].

Replying to the WW/ Donovan proposal, Ruth Cashman pointed out that only a couple of months ago Tina Becker of the WW group had proposed to her, Ruth, that AWL and WW cooperate in starting a left platform within Left Unity. This report caused outcry among the WW people, subsiding into the claim that it was just “something said in a pub”.

If only the WW arguments had reached the level of drunken pub gossip…

WW had made an all-out mobilisation for the meeting, but their proposal was defeated by 28 votes against the 15 they had from themselves and some ex-members like Donovan.

Some time was then taken up with amendments from WW to the Socialist Platform text. The meeting had already decided only to discuss and take “indicative” votes on these, since it is scarcely practicable to amend the platform on which the political battle is being fought in Left Unity midway through the process to the November conference.

Most of the amendments were literary and textual, and some unobjectionable. I and others abstained in the vote on most of them. One amendment did help, by sparking a little discussion on Europe.

The next major round of elections in Britain, May 2014, includes the European Parliament elections. The RMT and some of the left (SP) will probably push a “No2EU” slate again, as in 2009. UKIP will be prominent. The SWP and the Socialist Party will be vowing that they will vote for “Britain out” if the much-talked-about referendum on EU membership comes.

Refreshingly, no-one in the Socialist Platform meeting dissented from the argument that a capitalist Britain outside the EU is no advance on a semi-united capitalist Europe; that a capitalist Europe with newly-raised barriers between nations is a step backwards even from a bureaucratically semi-united capitalist Europe; that our answer to the bureaucratically semi-united capitalist Europe is not to seek a break-up into walled-off nation-states, but to strive, through cross-border workers’ unity, and a common struggle to level up standards, towards a workers’ united Europe.

Left Unity has a “policy workshop conference” (a non-voting affair) in Manchester on 28 September, and a caucus there will be the next get-together of SP supporters. The main task in the next two and a half months is to get life into the local LU groups and argue the case that nothing less than explicitly socialist and working-class politics can serve as a response to the current turmoil of capitalism.
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The Socialist Platform: what it is, and how to sign up for it
How to join Left Unity and register for the 30 November conference
Nick Wrack explains the Socialist Platform
•Click here for Pete McLaren’s report (as ever, comprehensive and careful) from Left Unity’s 7 September National Coordinating Group meeting.
Documents from when the WW group flipped out in 2008, accusing AWL of favouring an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran.

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Unite and Labour after Falkirk

July 28, 2013 at 11:40 am (democracy, elections, Jim D, labour party, TUSC, unions, Unite the union, workers)

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“Unite welcomes the police decision not to investigate the Falkirk selection, which appears to be based on an overdue application of common sense to the situation.  Unite reaffirms what it has always said – the union broke neither Labour Party rules nor the law in Falkirk.  Those in the media who have smeared the union without evidence or justification should now hang their heads in shame.  We would hope that Labour will now lift the suspensions of Stevie Deans and Karie Murphy, agree to an independent investigation into what happened in Falkirk, and restore full rights to the constituency party as soon as possible” – Unite spokesperson last week.
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Isn’t Wasting Police Time a criminal offence?

Most readers will know that the outrageous decision by the Labour leadership to refer Unite to the police has resulted in the police now stating that there is not enough evidence to even launch an investigation.

A comrade from United Left has drawn my attention to an interesting report on BBC iPlayer:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0377074/The_Report_Fight_Over_Falkirk/

It’s very telling that the national Labour Party refused to take part in the BBC report, but on hearing the police decision issued a statement that they would pursue disciplinary action. It will be interesting to see how far that gets, as Unite insiders assure me that, at worst, any irregularities that took place in Falkirk were utterly trivial.

My United Left comrade adds:

“Also has anyone reminded Ed Miliband of his USDAW video? Oh and also that USDAW nominated his Blairite brother David for Labour Party leader. If you get USDAW to pay for you to join the Labour Party (a rule/policy that was introduced by Tony Blair) it appears to be OK and is fully supported by Ed, but not OK if you are in Unite.”

Paradoxically, the ‘Falkirk’ business seems to me to have demonstrated just how politically important and potentially powerful the unions’ Labour link can be. But some dunderheaded sectarians just don’t get it: ‘TUSC‘ and its ideological sponsor, The Socialist Party, are now stepping up their campaign to get Unite to disaffiliate (spelled out bluntly here). This madness needs to be knocked on the head very, very firmly.

And it’s not true that “Unite is at a turning point in its relationship with the Labour Party” (as you may have read elsewhere), if what is being suggested is that disaffiliation is now on McCluskey’s agenda. What is happening is that the Unite leadership, together with a wide-ranging group of left wing thinkers (bringing together some unlikely allies) is working on a proposal to put forward at Labour’s special conference. The proposal will address any legitimate concerns raised by the Falkirk affair, but  will clearly reaffirm the right of affiliated trade unions to use the structures of the Labour Party to promote their policies and support union members seeking selection as elected representatives of the Party.

More on this shortly…

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Coventry Launch of Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

April 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm (elections, Socialist Party, TUSC, voltairespriest)

Last Sunday, I attended the Coventry launch meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). This is an electoral initiative set up between the RMT union and some of the various left groups which formed the backbone of the Socialist Alliance in the early 2000s, along with elements of the Communist Party of Britain.

The meeting was relatively large for a party political gathering in a city the size of Coventry. There were about 70 people in attendance, mainly though not exclusively members of the Socialist Party. The original plan had been for the meeting to be addressed by both RMT leader Bob Crow and Coventry Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist, however Crow was tied up with what (prior to subsequent court action by Network Rail) looked like a prospective national strike by his members. Therefore Nellist addressed the meeting alone.

As someone who knows the SP in Coventry fairly well, I found the meeting quite interesting. However it was clearly geared towards the SP itself. Nellist made it very clear that, whilst he would find the votes of the SP’s candidates across the city “interesting”, their overriding priority was to re-elect his comrade Rob Windsor, who is facing a challenge from Labour in the SP’s traditional stronghold of St Michael’s ward.

It isn’t that I can’t see Nellist’s point here. The SP currently has two councillors in the city of Coventry, down from a previous total of three in the same ward. The third councillor in St Michaels is Brownite Jim O’Boyle, a former TGWU steward without any ties to the union’s left of which I am aware. If the SP were to lose Windsor, then they would not be able to form a “group” on the city council, leaving Nellist a rather ineffectual representative in terms of several procedural mechanisms which he would no longer be able to use.

However, let’s not forget that this was the launch meeting in the West Midlands of a challenge to New Labour.. It speaks to a certain lack of political confidence on the SP’s part that Nellist would even raise their worries about the possible (if unlikely) loss of a single council seat, in such a setting.

The substance of the meeting, though, was spent on major national political questions. It was good, standard fayre, laying into New Labour’s support of the banks, supporting the repeal of the anti-trade union laws, and other such issues. There were also issues specific to Coventry mentioned – in particular the enormously costly PFI hospital at Walsgrave, which has set taxpayers back a vast amount of money whilst providing not-noticeably-better medical care. All of this went down well with the assembled audience.

It has to be said that TUSC (cringe-inducing name aside) is a worthy political initiative. It doesn’t have a candidate in my own constituency, otherwise I would probably vote for it. But for me it does have the ring of “more of the same” about it. What’s so different about TUSC that means it will endure and grow beyond the next election? I’ve seen very little to convince me that it has any more likelihood of an enduring political presence than did the Socialist Alliance or the SP/CPB’s wrong-headed “No2EU” slate at last year’s Euro-elections. Indeed, its existence or otherwise seems to me incidental even to the SP’s work in Coventry – they’d be doing exactly the same thing whether TUSC had come about or not.

That having been said, there isn’t a lot else on offer. At this election, there are only various protest votes to the left of the three main parties, other than in rare cases such as Brighton Pavillion where the Greens’ Caroline Lucas has a chance of an upset. In terms of critical Labour votes, the Socialist Campaign to stop the Tories and Fascists sounds to me like nothing more than a warmed-over version of the 1979 Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory. It’s a nostalgia exercise backed by good people who just don’t want to understand that today’s Labour Party is no longer worthy of the name.

Unfortunately that’s the way this election looks – like a deeply unappetising choice between three rotten main courses, or plates of leftovers from a tasty meal cooked some time ago.

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