Build Unity to Stop Hackney Cuts

HACKNEY’S COMMUNITY Conference on Sunday 3 December was an excellent opportunity to develop the campaign against the council attacks on jobs and services.

Chris Newby

Five hundred voluntary organisations in Hackney were sent a leaflet about the conference.

However, it seems that the Council for Voluntary Services, frightened by the potential of a successful conference, made attempts to stop organisations attending.

The marvellous 6 November protests show the potential for developing this campaign to stop the cuts and win more funding to improve services and conditions in Hackney.

The critical issue is how to develop a strong democratic united campaign that reaches every estate, every workplace and every community organisation in Hackney.

This conference was initiated by Hackney UNISON, following a resolution moved by Socialist Party member Brian Debus, UNISON Branch Chair.

One of the aims of the conference was to bring unions and service users together in a co-ordinated campaign against cuts and, to this end, to democratically elect a committee with representatives from all the participating organisations.

A campaign organised in this manner could really begin to develop mass support throughout Hackney.

However, incredibly, some people at the conference, most notably the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), seemed determined to undemocratically prevent this issue being discussed and to stop a vote being taken on it.

They argued that the Fightback organisation initiated and dominated by the SWP should be the only community organisation to fight this campaign.

An attempt by the SWP to insist community organisations fight these cuts exclusively under the banner of Fightback could undermine the necessary unity to win this campaign.

Socialist Party members were also shouted down by SWP members when they tried to raise the idea of community candidates based on an anti-cuts programme for forthcoming council elections and by-elections.

While Socialist Party members and the London Socialist Alliance (LSA) will obviously contest elections, it would be wrong to insist that genuine activists from the tenants’ associations and community groups need to stand under the LSA banner.

Whilst some good initiatives came from this conference (many of which were raised by the Socialist Party), particularly about supporting the union’s one-day strike planned for 18 December a big opportunity to fully develop this struggle within the community was lost.

It’s vital that every effort is made to ensure the strike on 18 December is a huge success, through visiting every workplace to prepare for a complete shut-down of the borough.

A very successful Socialist Party public meeting in Hackney heard Sam Dias, our victorious candidate in Pepys ward, Lewisham give full support to the campaign against the council attacks.

A UNISON shop steward at a Hackney school gave horrific examples of how the deterioration was a real danger to the safety of pupils, teachers and other workers. A successful appeal raised £175.