TUSC: For a new, united socialist party
Nick Wrack and Will McMahon plead with the SWP and SPEW to take Tusc seriously
Bob Crow: Tusc boss
ruling class is waging a vicious war against the working class. The
profit system is in its most serious crisis since the 1930s and this
government is determined to defend both the system and those who
benefit from it at the expense of everyone else.
is not just a national crisis, but an international one. The euro
crisis shows the depth of the crisis, with Greece, Portugal, Ireland
and Spain showing the economic fault lines in sharpest relief. But no
country, not even Germany, can escape. Unelected ‘technocratic’
governments, as we have seen in Greece and Italy, make a mockery of
‘democracy’. Bailouts are awarded only if massive cuts in
government spending are implemented.
the world, the same policies are enforced both by governments of the
right and those that claim to be of the left: austerity for billions,
but billions for the few.
of pounds of public money have been poured into the world economy in
a desperate attempt to stabilise the economy and save capitalism. It
is ordinary people who are being made to pay. Meanwhile, the
super-rich owners of capital wallow in their obscene wealth, created
by the work of those who are now suffering.
capitalists and companies are sitting on a huge stockpile of money,
which they refuse to invest because they cannot obtain the profits
they want. They are hoarding this money, waiting for better
prospects, or squandering it on a luxury lifestyle that is a million
miles removed from the day-to-day existence of mere mortals. The
private ownership of the means of production by this tiny class is a
complete obstacle to tackling the urgent issues of living standards,
debt, unemployment, housing, health, education, leisure time, as well
as the developing ecological crisis.
political and economic policies of austerity are designed to create
the conditions for an increase in profitability - public sector cuts
in jobs and pay, increasing unemployment as a means to drive down
wages and pensions, smashing open the public sector to private
investment, forcing the unemployed and disabled to work for poverty
pay by cutting benefits.
most vulnerable are swept to the side, but even those in work fare
little better. Almost seven million adults in Britain are just one
bill away from penury, despite being in work and not dependent on
benefits. All the past gains won by struggle are being smashed before
our eyes. The health service and education have been opened up to the
market, where decisions are made according to profit, not need.
of those who consider themselves middle class are finding their
standards of living, job security and pensions evaporating. In
reality, this section is just a slightly better-off sector of the
working class. A university education can now only be obtained at the
cost of accumulated debt of £40,000-£50,000. Young people cannot
afford to buy a home, while their housing benefit is cut or removed.
all this and more, we have no party in Britain that even begins to
address these issues. There is no party that champions the interests
of the working class against the opposite interests of the bosses.
of seeing the market and the profit system as the cause of the
crisis, all the parties believe that only the market can resolve the
crisis. This includes Labour. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls support cuts,
but say they should be implemented more slowly. They both support a
public sector pay freeze. Labour supports the cuts in pensions and an
increase in fees for university. It supports privatisation. In
government Labour maintained the anti-union laws, which hinder trade
union action in defence of jobs, pay and conditions.
of siding with those under attack, Labour plays the role of a false
friend, feigning sympathy, while doing everything to ensure that
austerity goes ahead. In short, Labour supports austerity just as
much as the Tories and Liberal Democrats. A cut is a cut is a cut, no
matter who implements it.
urgently need a new party that will fight against austerity. Any
party that seeks to win the support of the working class must have
one basic principle: it must never make things worse for the working
class. It must reject completely the austerity agenda that intends to
place the burden of the crisis on the working class. This means that
a new party has to refuse to vote for cuts in jobs, pay or pensions.
It must refuse to make working class people pay more for services by
increased taxes, rents or other charges.
new party, therefore, has to be resolutely committed to defending the
interests of the working class. It must fight alongside all those who
seek to resist austerity - defending jobs, pay, pensions and
services. That means supporting workers who take strike action,
supporting communities who occupy to prevent library closures and
students who protest against the increasing cost of education.
is essential. But it is not enough. Any party that seeks to represent
the working class must not only be determined in defending what has
been achieved in the past: it must also show how society could be
different and fight to make it so. This means arguing for an end of
the profit system - capitalism - and for its replacement by a
completely different system, one based on common ownership of the
means of production, with investment being decided democratically in
the interests of all.
the capitalist class squatting on its vast wealth and holding back
the development of society, there can be no justification for
austerity. And with the replacement of the profit system and the
private ownership of the world’s resources, production could be
planned rationally to meet the needs of everyone, when talk of
austerity would disappear.
Miliband’s call for a ‘better’ or ‘fairer’ capitalism is
nonsense. Capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of those
it exploits. Even some on the left look to the economic ideas of
Keynes, which attempt to make capitalism work better, for solutions.
We need something much more fundamental.
long as we have private ownership of industry and services, transport
and finance, land and the mineral resources within it, there will
always be a struggle between those who labour and produce and those
who own and profit. There can be no end to unemployment and the
constant battle over wages, no ready access to services or confidence
in a secure future in old age, so long as we have capitalism. The
profit system will allow nothing to stand in its way. If we want to
achieve a society in which this constant strife is left behind, then
we have to leave capitalism itself behind.
new party, then, must set itself an ultimate goal: a breach or
rupture with the present system and the establishment of a socialist
society, based on the common, democratic ownership of the world’s
resources. The struggles of today must be linked with that
longer-term objective of changing the very nature of present society.
are now a long way off from such a party. The left in Britain is
fragmented, divided and mistrustful of each other. This will not be
easily overcome. But every section of the left must have a sense of
proportion and a sense of perspective. Divided and antagonistic, we
are much weakened. There has to be a serious commitment from all to
attempt to unite.
are millions of potential supporters for a new party that sets out
its stall in the way described. Every day a million people ponder how
things can improve; a million conversations discuss what can be done.
are tens of thousands who would broadly describe themselves as
socialist. They are not presently members of any particular party or
group. But they might be persuaded to join a party in which they had
a say and in which they could participate. The same is true of many
thousands of trade union members who would gravitate towards a new
party that was seen to identify with their class interests.
are many thousands of young people - students, workers and unemployed
- who have already concluded that this system needs to be replaced.
Many have turned their backs on the established parties. Along with
millions who no longer vote, they have concluded that all parties and
politicians are essentially the same - self-interested, careerist and
must show themselves to be different. We must reach out and engage
these layers in debate and discussion about how change can happen.
All those who believe that the effects of capitalism must be opposed
should unite to resist them. All those who believe that capitalism
has to be replaced with a system based on common ownership and
democratic planning should unite to fight for that.
new party would have to set itself the objective of persuading the
majority of people that capitalism is the problem and that it must be
replaced with socialism. It would have to explain why this is so and
how it could be achieved. Any systemic change is impossible without
having achieved this. But we are a long way from that. A start must
be made. It cannot constantly be postponed.
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is an important step in the
right direction. It has the support of the RMT, one of the most
militant unions in Britain, representing some 90,000 members. It
brings together the two biggest socialist organisations in Britain
today - the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party - in
limited joint work around elections. It also incorporates the
Independent Socialist Network, which aims to bring together those
independent socialists who want to build a new, united socialist
party. The Tusc steering committee is made up of representatives of
those four organisations - RMT, SWP, SP and ISN - and some prominent
individual trade unionists.
the local elections in May 2012, Tusc candidates outside of London
polled an average of 6.2% - not an insignificant vote, given the size
of the coalition and its lack of resources and public profile. There
is no reason to doubt that this vote can be repeated and extended.
there is a problem in the way the coalition is presently constructed
which must be addressed, because there is a danger that the potential
for winning supporters and voters will not materialise.
coalition is made up only of the four component parts. There is no
basis for individual membership. No-one can participate directly in
the coalition unless they are a member of one of those four
organisations. They can make donations and give out leaflets, but
they have no democratic right to vote on policy or strategy. This
will not inspire people to get involved. It means that the coalition
is limited in size to the membership of the present four
organisations. There is an inbuilt barrier to growth.
obvious answer would be to create a membership party, with democratic
rights for all members. Ultimately, only in this way will people feel
inclined to put their energy, time and money into building it. It is
difficult to be enthusiastic about supporting something that will not
allow you to join it.
the moment, however, the RMT and the SP, at least, are not in favour
of moving to a membership organisation (we are unaware of the
position of the SWP). And there is a lot of sense in that position.
Given the experiences of past attempts at building left-of-Labour
electoral coalitions or parties (Socialist Labour Party, Scottish
Socialist Party, Socialist Alliance, Respect), there is an
understandable nervousness about how Tusc will develop.
RMT sensibly will not allow its members and resources to be used by
organisations over which it has no control. The SP and the SWP are
wary of each other and of being outvoted on issues that would be
problematic. So the issue of a membership party is not, for the time
being, on the agenda.
this issue will not go away. The component parts of the coalition as
currently constituted will have to grapple with the issue of how to
build beyond its present participants. At some time the question of a
fully-fledged membership party will have to be addressed.
period of time working together is valuable in breaking down barriers
and obstacles to unity. The Tusc steering committee should commit
itself to setting a timetable and a process for discussing how Tusc
can grow and what sort of constitution should be adopted to satisfy
the component parts, while also ensuring democratic rights for those
the absence of individual membership of Tusc, the Independent
Socialist Network can play a very important role. The ISN has been
set up to bring together all socialists who are not currently members
of existing socialist organisations who believe that we need a new,
united socialist party. It aims to provide a place where individual
socialists can debate and discuss in a non-sectarian environment,
without fear of being ridiculed or condemned for holding particular
points of view.
ISN sees Tusc as an important stepping-stone towards a new party.
No-one can be sure about how it will develop. It has the potential to
grow and incorporate large numbers in its ranks, but this will depend
on how it opens up to others - both groups and individuals.
who agrees with the need to build a new socialist party who has not
joined one of the existing socialist parties should join the ISN (it
is a membership organisation) and help it to campaign for that new
party. This would also allow for an indirect route to participation
in the discussions about the policy and practical steps to be taken
by Tusc. While not a satisfactory position, it would go a long way to
bring new individual supporters towards Tusc.
addition to individuals, there are also socialist groups which may
want to get involved with Tusc. For example, Socialist Resistance has
applied to join. In our opinion, Tusc should open up participation to
SR. This would immediately bring a new group on board, even if it may
be argued that it is only a small group. That is not the most
important thing. It is important that Tusc conveys a sense of
dynamism, showing that it wants to expand and recruit new groups and
individuals. We need to find a way to involve national and local
groups who want to help fight for an alternative to austerity.
the Tusc steering committee to enable someone from SR to participate
would not alter anything substantially. The RMT could not be bounced
into doing something it did not want. Nor could the SP or SWP or the
ISN. At present each participating group on the coalition steering
committee has a veto, so nothing is done unless it has the support of
obstacle to the growth of Tusc and one which restrict its electoral
appeal is the fact that Tusc has a very limited national profile. If
Tusc is to do well at elections, it must be active in between them.
Again, this is an argument for Tusc to move towards becoming a party
rather than a federation or coalition of parties. In between
elections, inevitably, the SWP and SP turn to build their own parties
and the profile built up during the four weeks of an election
dissipates. We have to find ways of preventing this happening.
party that hopes to win the trust and support of the working class
cannot just turn up at election time and then disappear once polling
day has past. It has to be involved in workers’ struggles at work
and in the communities, day in and day out. This raises the need for
permanent Tusc branches across the country doing consistent work
round the year.
has to find the resources to develop its profile, through media work
and publicity. It has to develop a national profile, utilising the
prominent figures we have within the coalition. It has to begin a
serious intervention into the trade unions, with leaflets, pamphlets
and fringe meetings at the union conferences. Tusc should have stalls
at students’ freshers’ fairs. We must have a Tusc leaflet on the
TUC October 20 demonstration.
the last two years Tusc intervention at elections has been very
belated and limited. Inevitably this impacts on the vote. It takes a
lot of hard work, carried out regularly over a long time, to build up
a profile. We have to start work now, planning our intervention for
elections over the next three or four years. In 2013 there are local
elections; in 2014 there are elections in all the London boroughs. In
2014 there are also the European elections. These would provide an
excellent opportunity to Tusc to present candidates across the
country. But this will be very expensive. We need to start discussing
now whether it will be feasible to stand in the European elections.
2015 there will be a general election. Tusc should start planning
now. We should be identifying constituencies and starting the
campaigns now. We need to start raising funds. We should stand in at
least 100 constituencies (at least enough to get a parliamentary
political broadcast on the television). We should be drawing up lists
of supporters in every area of the country and be pulling them
together to set up Tusc branches. In 2016 there are the London mayor
and assembly elections.
must all take Tusc seriously. There is no other force on the left
that is capable of presenting a serious alternative to the
pro-austerity parties at the next general election. The task is
enormous. But we cannot avoid our responsibilities.