Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/663/11511
Elect working class fighters!
Dave Nellist at NSSN lobby of TUC, photo Suleyman Civi
Councillor Dave Nellist, Acting chair, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
On 5 May millions of voters will pass judgement on the Con-Dem coalition in elections to local councils, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. But as all three establishment parties say "cuts are inevitable," the only debate could be over the speed of cuts. Council seats being shuffled between the three main parties will not slow the axing of council jobs, which the GMB union now estimates puts over 170,000 jobs at risk.
Last month in Coventry, for example, Labour brought forward a cuts package that accepted the £38 million reduction in government grants and core funding and sought to cut 500 jobs this year alone. Coventry's Tories proposed an amendment accepting the total amount to be cut, but varying the detail by £1.5 million.
The main parties accepted 100% of the austerity, but argued about 4% of the detail.
We need councillors who refuse to implement cuts in jobs and services. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), established in 2010, with the Socialist Party's full support, (see right) is organising a challenge in many towns in May's local council elections.
That challenge will bring together socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners to argue against cutting tens of thousands of jobs and massacring essential local services.
The May elections are the chance to elect councillors who could stop many of the cuts being implemented locally. 30 years ago, 20 Labour councils united in a strategy to fight the then Tory government's plans for cuts in local services. Unfortunately today there aren't even 20 Labour councillors on Labour run councils prepared to vote against cuts. So we have to find new councillors we can rely on.
Today's Labour councillors say they can do nothing until a general election in 2015. By that time, if the cuts package is not successfully challenged, councils will be spending £8 billion a year less on local services, a cut of almost 28% in four years.
But councillors do have a choice. And electing even a single radical councillor could make a difference, provided they used that position (as we try to do in Coventry) to help organise community campaigns and trade unionists to fight against the cuts.
TUSC councillors would pledge to oppose all cuts in council jobs, services, pay and conditions. We will campaign against the idea that 'some cuts' are necessary.
We refuse to allow divisions between council staff, service users and communities, which are inevitable unless we oppose all cuts. TUSC councillors would vote against privatisation of council services, or the transfer of services to 'social enterprises' or 'arm's-length' management organisations.
TUSC councillors would seek to use all the legal powers open to councillors to delay or obstruct government policies which lead to cuts or the transfer of public services to private bodies. For example, councils could refer local NHS decisions for further scrutiny.
They could initiate referenda, public consultations (for example of parents over the creation of divisive academy schools) and commissions as part of a wider campaign.
Councils with housing stock, or with representatives on a social landlord's board, could refuse to use the government's proposed fixed term tenancies, oppose raising social rents up to 80% of market rents and make a policy not to evict tenants in arrears due to housing benefit cuts.
TUSC supporters will work with every anti-cuts campaign, and fight the implementation of the cuts agenda, library by library, swimming pool by swimming pool, youth club by youth club. It's one thing to pass a budget, it's another to implement it!
We will support working class communities in those fights. But out of many such campaigns will emerge new TUSC candidates for those struggles themselves to challenge the big three parties in future elections.
Campaigners in many towns successfully challenged the main parties over issues such as PFI hospitals and the closure of comprehensive schools in favour of academy schools. In Kidderminster, Barrow in Furness, Preston, Wigan, Walsall, and Wellingborough independents, socialists and trade unionists have captured seats. In Coventry, Lewisham and Huddersfield, Socialist Party members have won seats.
These small but significant victories show the possibilities of a wider challenge. And whilst TUSC's initial results may be modest, breakthroughs cannot be ruled out.
At the very least, candidates standing on an open anti-cuts platform will pull the debate towards the left - and away from the overlapping agenda of the big three parties.
TUSC was set up last year with the backing of fighting trade unionists, including RMT general secretary Bob Crow, leading national officers of the PCS civil service union, and Nina Franklin, vice president of the National Union of Teachers.
TUSC is a federal 'umbrella' coalition with an agreed core policy statement. Its core policies include opposition to public spending cuts and privatisation, student grants not fees, the repeal of the anti-trade union laws, and the clear socialist commitment to "bringing into democratic public ownership the major companies and banks that dominate the economy, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and to protect the environment".
- See those detailed policies on the coalition's website - www.tusc.org.uk.
Nominations to stand in May's council elections have to be submitted to your local council by 4 April.
Organisations and groups that want to be involved in the 2011 TUSC local council election challenge should urgently contact TUSC at:
TUSC election campaign launch meetings
Sunday 3 April, 3pm
Concert room, Charterhouse club, David Road, Stoke, CV1 2BW
Alex Gordon - RMT president
Dave Nellist - Coventry Socialist Party councillor
There is a canvassing/leafleting session for Rob Windsor, the Socialist Party candidate in St Michaels ward before the rally. meeting at 11.30 at the Charterhouse club if you would like to help the campaign.
Tuesday 29 March, 7pm
St Mary-le-Wigford's Church, St Mary's Street, next to Lincoln train station
Bob Crow, Railway workers union general secretary, RMT, addresses NSSN lobby of TUC, photo Suleman Civi
In The Socialist 23 March 2011:
PDF of issue
War and occupation
Socialist Party youth and students
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition