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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 September 2016

#CorbynWins: New tasks for TUSC

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) was set-up in 2010 to push forward the process of re-establishing a mass party for working class political representation. With Jeremy Corbyn re-elected as Labour leader, Socialist Party executive member and TUSC's national election agent Clive Heemskerk examines what role TUSC should play in the next period.

TUSC parliamentary candidates in 2015, photo Senan

TUSC parliamentary candidates in 2015, photo Senan   (Click to enlarge)

Jeremy Corbyn's re-election triumph is a significant defeat for the capitalist establishment - the corporate bosses, media tops, and their political representatives, both those outside and inside the Labour Party. Prior to Jeremy's election as leader last summer this elite had achieved unchallenged control of the Labour Party for over 20 years, effectively disenfranchising working class voters by removing any choice at the ballot box.

The capitalists benefitted enormously from the transformation of Labour into Tony Blair's New Labour and they will not lightly accept the new situation. Consolidating Jeremy's victory against their continued opposition - by really transforming Labour into an anti-austerity, socialist, working-class mass movement - is the critical task facing socialists in Britain today.

The first meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) national steering committee after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election takes place on 12 October. The Socialist Party will be presenting proposals on how TUSC can contribute to the central task at hand.

TUSC and Labour

TUSC was established in early 2010 and initially involved the Socialist Party and a number of leading trade unionists participating in a personal capacity.

These included Bob Crow, the general secretary of the 80,000-strong RMT transport workers' union, which had been expelled from the Labour Party in 2004. The RMT's predecessor union was one of the founding organisations of the Labour Party.

In 2012 the RMT's annual delegate general meeting (AGM) agreed that the union would formally participate as a constituent organisation of TUSC, with representatives appointed to the coalition's steering committee. The RMT's continued involvement has been endorsed, not without debate, at every AGM since.

The Socialist Workers' Party was invited into TUSC in 2010 and independent socialists also participate. By providing a common electoral umbrella for trade unionists and working class community campaigners to challenge establishment politicians at the ballot box in defence of core socialist policies, TUSC's aim has been to push forward the process of re-establishing a vehicle for working class political representation.

The TUSC founding statement recognised that there were "different strategic views" about the way to advance this cause, "whether the Labour Party can be reclaimed by the labour movement, or whether a new workers' party needs to be established." But aside from recognising that there would be Labour candidates "who share our socialist aspirations" who would not be challenged by TUSC, to date TUSC has not taken a policy position on what would be required to transform the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn's re-election poses this question point blank.

Role of the unions

The Socialist Party is proposing that TUSC makes a clear policy statement that a critical step would be to re-establish within the Labour Party a role for trade unions, the biggest voluntary organisations in Britain, commensurate with their importance as the collective voices of millions of workers.

Under Blair, Brown and Miliband the unions' power within the Labour Party was gutted. The real social weight of the RMT, for example, is shown when it is routinely denounced by the capitalist media as 'holding the country to ransom' every time it is forced to take strike action to defend its members and public safety on the railways.

But if the union was to affiliate to the Labour Party today it would have less say than the House of Lords Labour Group in the party's national policy-making forum! As the RMT's political strategy endorsed by this year's AGM says, Labour does not currently have "structural/constitutional arrangements that would make affiliation in the union's interests."

The Socialist Party is not proposing that TUSC draws up an alternative constitution for the Labour Party. TUSC is a coalition whose component parts have different views. But it could agree a broad policy to take into the labour movement: that the unions must have their collective representation and proportionate weight restored in the formation of Labour Party policy, the selection and re-selection of Labour Party candidates, and the administration of the party locally and nationally.

Space for socialists

The RMT rulebook commits the union "to work for the supersession of the capitalist system by a socialistic order of society." There should be no problem for TUSC to also adopt policy that socialists excluded from the Labour Party should be allowed in.

The best way to achieve this - above board and undercutting media scares about 'infiltrators' - would be to allow for affiliation to the Labour Party for socialist parties and organisations. This right should also be extended to anti-austerity, anti-racist, socialist feminist, and Green campaigners and organisations, in a modern version of the early federal structure of the Labour Party which encompassed trade unions, the co-operative movement, women's suffrage campaigners, and a number of independent socialist parties.

But this call obviously raises the question of TUSC's electoral activity.

The Co-operative Party, an independent party separately registered with the Electoral Commission, has an affiliate status agreement with the Labour Party on the basis that it does not contest seats against Labour. The Socialist Party will be proposing at the October steering committee that TUSC should campaign for a similar arrangement for its constituent components.

The 2017 elections

Since Jeremy Corbyn's initial victory, TUSC has already re-calibrated its electoral activity.

In the May 2016 local elections, for example, no TUSC candidates were even considered to be run without local TUSC groups seeking a dialogue with the sitting Labour councillor or prospective candidate on the critical issue of their preparedness to resist cuts to local council jobs and services (see www.tusc.org.uk/txt/380.pdf for a full report of TUSC's participation in the 2016 elections).

The Socialist Party is proposing that TUSC continues its campaign for Labour councils to join the resistance to the Tories' austerity agenda. TUSC supporters have played an important role in winning backing for a fighting strategy to oppose cuts to local public services in the main local government unions, Unison, Unite, and the GMB, as well as this year's Wales TUC conference.

This campaign should be resumed in the autumn, as councils begin preparing their 2017-18 budgets, with the added urgency of the need to coordinate an organised defiance of the new Housing and Planning Act. Labour councillors should be pushed to fight the Tories or resign and make way for those who will.

However the responsibility for removing alleged 'Labour' representatives who implement Tory policies does not rest with TUSC alone. TUSC candidates have polled over 350,000 votes in various elections since its formation and the prospect of an electoral challenge from the left can add to the pressure on 'Labour' cutters.

But with Jeremy Corbyn's re-affirmed mandate it is not the only way to bring them into line. The councillors on the Labour-controlled Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service Authority, for example, who are planning to sack one in five firefighters and re-employ the rest on worse contracts, should be suspended from the Labour Party unless they back down.

Consequently, the Socialist Party is proposing that TUSC agrees to make no further preparations for contesting the May 2017 local elections in England and Wales pending discussions with Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters on the new possibilities opening up following his re-election victory.

Unity

Many other organisational and political steps would need to be taken for the Labour Party to be fully consolidated as a working class, socialist, anti-austerity mass movement. This would include measures to defeat the opposition that will continue to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership from Labour's right.

TUSC's constituent components will have different views on how best a movement can be built that is capable of defeating the pro-capitalist consensus upheld by the establishment politicians, their media, and other institutions.

But October's steering committee discussion, in welcoming Jeremy Corbyn's re-election triumph, provides an opportunity to signal that TUSC will fully participate in that struggle.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 28 September 2016:


#CorbynWins

Consolidate the Corbyn victory

Labour Party conference: campaigning to reinstate socialist ideas


Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

#CorbynWins: New tasks for TUSC


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