Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/707/14041
Why I'm standing for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition in the London Assembly election
Alex Gordon, RMT President (personal capacity)
Alex Gordon, photo by Paul Mattsson
I am pleased to be leading the excellent list of candidates standing as TUSC in elections for the Greater London Assembly (GLA) in May 2012.
It may not be an original observation, but nonetheless it's true - this election is an historic opportunity to gain a voice for ordinary working people fighting against the crisis of the capitalist system.
The most right-wing British government since the 1930s is punishing young people and pensioners, the unemployed and those in work, with a poisonous policy cocktail of job cuts, pay freezes and compulsory workfare schemes, while sharp-eyed lobbyists from private health companies and firms specialising in privatisation and 'out-sourcing' urge them to ramp up attacks on the NHS, the welfare state and public services - the great social achievements of the labour movement.
Labour Party leaders, scandalously, have chosen this precise moment to declare in Ed Balls' words, 'we are going to have to keep all these cuts'.
Local authorities of all political persuasions have not so much fallen into line, as fallen over each other in their eagerness to implement cuts and prove their fitness for office by attacking the workers and services that our communities rely on. And we have only just begun to feel the impact of the £81 billion of public spending cuts promised by chancellor George Osborne in October 2010. The full force of austerity will fall between now and the general election in 2015.
In every country in Europe attacks on workers' rights and the welfare state - policies enshrined in the European Union (EU) - are carried out by national governments. But in every country working people are rejecting these policies.
The dictatorship of bankers and finance capitalists, which the EU embodies, is nowhere more evident than in London, a city dominated by global financial institutions. The failed policies of global finance capitalism - austerity for us and bailouts for the bankers - demand a clear and uncompromising voice of opposition in the GLA.
One key voice challenging the race to the bottom has come from our trade union movement. On 26 March last year we took over the streets of London in the largest demonstration in living memory against spending cuts and austerity with the TUC's "March for the Alternative".
On 30 November we took part in the largest mass strike in Britain since 1926 in defence of public sector workers' pensions and for fair pensions for all. Huge marches and demonstrations took place in hundreds of towns and cities across Britain and Northern Ireland.
These were highlights of the fightback by ordinary people against government austerity policies, but we have also seen significant direct action by workers and local communities taking on greedy bosses and the destructive policies of local and national politicians.
The successful campaign waged by electricians against plans by the Electrical Contractors' Association to cut wages by 34% across the construction sector has shown there is a new mood of resistance among workers to 'almighty' bosses.
At the bottom end of the pay scale, sub-contracted cleaning workers at St Pancras railway station took 48-hours of strike action against the refusal of their skinflint employers to award them a pay rise for the last four years!
That hundreds turned out to support their picket lines is a sure sign that ordinary people have had enough of low pay, attacks on working conditions, increasing job insecurity, bullying bosses and the politicians who back them up.
There is a tangible sense of anger and a will for real change among working people in Britain. What there is not is an electoral platform to speak up unashamedly and unambiguously for the people who are fighting back against the waves of attacks on working class living standards and the welfare state.
Diligent and hard-working socialists remain in the Labour Party and a stalwart minority of Labour MPs continue to demonstrate solidarity with striking workers, claimants fighting attacks on benefits and communities and families fighting racism and injustice. However, the sneering and pompous condemnations by Labour leaders of public sector workers fighting to defend their hard-earned pensions undermine these efforts.
TUSC is a coalition of socialists (some in political organisations and others not) together with prominent trade union activists and elected officials who understand the need for a voice in the GLA to speak up for ordinary working people in their struggles.
TUSC is standing candidates in the London-wide list section of the GLA election. We need to reach the 5% threshold to be in with a chance of winning one seat. If we are able to achieve this, one added bonus will be that the party most likely to be bumped out of the GLA is the far-right BNP.
The next two months offer an opportunity for all socialists and trade unionists to put the socialist arguments for an alternative to cuts in pay and jobs, unemployment, privatisation and destruction of public services.
I hope that you will help us strike a blow for socialism by assisting TUSC's election campaign. See you on the doorstep.
In The Socialist 29 February 2012:
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