TUSC Steering Committee endorses more candidates, agrees further discussions with Left Unity, and agrees plan to gain further Trade Union support following Collins

REPORT: TUSC STEERING COMMITTEE April 2, from Pete McLaren for the ISN
Please note – the number of TUSC candidates for May 22 has risen from the 440 mentioned below to 560 as of April 16th
IN ATTENDANCE: Mike Sargent (RMT); John McInally (PCS); Hannah Sell (SP); Pete McLaren (ISN); Alan Thornett (SR); Charlie Kimber (SWP); Clive Heemskerk (Nominating Officer); Dave Nellist (Chair).
Dave Nellist opened the meeting with a tribute to Bob Crow, including comments on the vital role Bob had played in initiating TUSC – and sustaining it in its four years of existence – as a step to attempting to resolve the crisis of working class political representation. Mike Sergeant reported that this year’s May Day march on May 1st will be dedicated to the memory of Bob Crow and his trade union and political legacy.
Clive Heemskerk reported that, with the applications before the meeting, TUSC had reached 440 candidates (see note above) standing across 76 councils. Continue reading

Local activist elected to national position in new left party

A media release from Rugby TUSC

Pete McLaren, Secretary and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), has been elected to the National Council of Left Unity, a new socialist party set up as the result of an appeal by film maker Ken Loach for such a new foramation last year

“Although only formally launched last November, Left Unity already has nearly 2,000 members and is growing by the day,” Rugby TUSC spokesperson Pete McLaren informed us. “I am delighted to have been directly elected by the membership to one of the 15 positions on the National Council. I stood on a bold socialist platform, stressing the need to organise the political fight back against austerity, promote socialism and combat UKIP. I also promoted my positions in, and support for, TUSC.

“Left Unity and TUSC are part of the same left movement to build a new socialist party, and I see both as stepping stones towards that party Continue reading

The ISN & its Project

The ISN brings together socialists who want to build a mass socialist party. We are independent in the sense that we are not subject to the undemocratic discipline of the leadership of any socialist group. We are not independent in the sense that we share a common goal. We are bound together in our determination to work for the democratic and socialist transformation of society. We see ourselves as part of the working-class movement and work to see the working class in power. We see our status as independents to be temporary. We are independents who do not want to be independent. We want to be members of a mass socialist party, based in and on the working class.

We reject both Stalinism and Social Democracy. In their different ways these twin political strands have served to discredit the idea of socialism in the eyes of many working class people, setting back the struggle of the working class to emancipate itself.

Similarly, we reject the model of the various small (or less small) socialist groups. We reject their interpretation of ‘democratic centralism’, which is more centralist than democratic. We believe that all Marxists should be able to co-exist within a single, united party with the right to discuss and debate freely and openly. In the modern world, particularly, in which most things are broadcast via the world wide web within moments, when most people are used to seeing internal factions of bourgeois parties openly airing their disagreements in the media, it is ridiculous to think that our differences can or should be kept hidden from those we seek to influence.

We believe that the influence of socialists will grow when we can show that we are capable of disagreeing and yet still act together to advance our cause; when we can rid ourselves of pettiness. The ISN is a place for serious – and sometimes sharp – discussion among comrades on socialist theory and practice, on our strategic goals and the tactics with which to achieve them. No working-class organisation could exist without differences. Disagreement is inevitable. It can bring clarity and, through that, a greater unity.

At the same time, we recognise that there are different political strands within the workers’ movement. Some, such as Stalinism and reformism, are alien ideas within our ranks and have to be defeated. Many workers will come under the influence of these ideas and Marxists have to argue their corner.

We think that there are some core ideas that are essential for a socialist party. Those ideas are set out in the ISN’s statement of Aims and Principles (previously The Socialist Platform). We will be addressing them in articles and discussions over the next year, amending, deleting or adding, as and when agreed.

We reject the model that predicates its existence on supposed ideological purity, leading to continuous splits. This is particularly ridiculous when these differences relate to issues of tactics or methods of work. This has more to do with personal egos than any real need to separate.
Fundamentally we disagree with the approach of those socialist groups who adopt a minoritarian, elitist view of how socialist change will come about. These parties believe that somehow a small party of a few thousand can leap to the head of a mass movement and catapult themselves into power.

We believe that the socialist revolution must be the act of the working class itself. It will not be the act of any individual, or big leader, or parliamentary group, or small revolutionary party.

We believe that the act of abolishing capitalism and inaugurating working-class rule must be carried out by the working class democratically, that is, acting as the majority in society – or it will not be carried out at all.

To this end we need to build not a sect – not even a party of tens of thousands. We need a party of millions, capable of influencing millions more. This means beginning the long task of reintroducing genuine socialist ideas into the working-class movement. Our task is to make socialist ideas popular. We can do this only by stating those ideas openly and patiently explaining why they should be supported. There are no short cuts. Nothing will be achieved by watering down the ideas, or hiding them. To do that would be to build on sand.

As our contribution to that task the ISN is launching a new journal called, simply, The Project. The Project represents a modest step in taking forward the struggle for a mass, democratic and socialist approach to become the dominant trend within the workers’ movement. We are re-asserting the view that socialist change can only be the self-emancipating act of a politically aware working class, organised in mass parties of millions; that our road to socialism is democratic – not in the constitutional or parliamentary sense but in the sense that only through the active participation of workers empowered with unrestricted access to ideas, debates and arguments, and possessed of the ability to elect and control their leaders can a force for real social change be built. At the heart of The Project is the attempt to make an unashamed and clear case for socialist revolution in opposition to the passing radical fads, a confused reformism and the lingering tumours of Stalinism.

The magazine brings together a number of views and analyses from within the workers’ movement about the world we live in, our struggles, our daily lives and how to build support for our ideas. With Marx we say that nothing human is alien to us, so we will cover all aspects of our lives, including art, culture and sport. We aim to learn from the past to inform our practice. We do not claim to have all of the answers – some can only be provided by the struggle itself – but offer a space for a real exchange on the way forward.

We welcome submissions from across our movement that address the struggles we face. If you would like to submit an article please send a brief outline to our editorial team: editor@socialistproject.org

If you would like to collaborate in our project, in whatever way you think possible, please get in touch.

Tolpuddle Martyrs to return to The Bussey Building, Peckham

Fresh from an acclaimed run at this Edinburgh Fringe, Townsend Productions are set to return to The Bussey Building as part of the new writing festival We Will Be Free will be performed on the 30th April 2014 at 7.30pm.

Set in 1834 We Will Be Free follows the extraordinary true story of George and Betsy Loveless. He was a Methodist preacher and the leader of the six Dorsetshire farm labourers who were tried, convicted and condemned to harsh transportation by an oppressive Government for having the temerity to swear a secret oath and form a union to fight against a succession of wage cuts inflicted by the local landowner.

This vitally important story is told using the entertaining theatrical style developed through our production of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists; through Andy Vine’s powerful political cartoons and animation; through puppetry and the exquisite musical arrangements by revered folk singer and squeezebox player John Kirkpatrick, of the songs and rallying hymns of the Dorset labouring classes that resound down the years.

The play has had the backing of the unions ACCORD, NASUWT, UNITE, SWTUC and SW UnisonTickets for We Will Be Free are priced at £10 (£8 concessions and £5 unwaged)and can be purchased at the Box Office on: 020 7732 5275 or online at www.clfartcafe.org

For more information visit www.townsendproductions.co.uk
Interviews are available with Neil Gore & Liz Eves call Louise Townsend (Producer/Director) 07949635910

What’s happened to the Socialist Platform?

The Independent Socialist Network and others instigated the Socialist Platform, which served a very useful purpose during the process of founding Left Unity as a party. Although the Socialist Platform was defeated at the Left Unity founding conference our arguments ensured that the final statement agreed by the conference was well to the left of the original positions argued by the Left Party Platform.

We continue to support the Socialist Platform statement and are proud of the contribution it made to the debate but we feel that the platform organisation as constituted has now run its course.

The ideas of the Socialist Platform still need to be fought for. To that end, at its meeting on 11/01/14 the ISN voted to adopt the platform as its statement of aims and principles, in order to more effectively organise independent socialists. This will now form the basis of our political work and orientation. We invite all independent socialists who support the Statement of Aims and Principles to join the ISN.

Left Unity Policy Conference: a further small step forward, but…… Pete McLaren reports

Chairs: Jim Hollingshead (Liverpool) and Sheila Mosley (Leicester)
There were around 180 members present. Conference was presented with the two chairs, and both generally did a reasonable job in the circumstances given sometimes conflicting advice from the Standing Orders Committee (SOC)
The Agenda and SOC report were accepted, but following a challenge to them from John Pearson, it was agreed that the Chair could be challenged. A call to reduce lunch and comfort breaks was defeated
Kate Hudson spoke to her written report which listed the Acting Officers, outlined achievements so far including the high amount of media coverage, LU public meetings, publications, involvement with campaigns, membership and region information. Membership as of today stood at 1750, 200 g=having joined in the last 48 hours following the Guardian article by Ken Loach and BBC Politics Show appearance by Salman The financial report showed a balance of £9,961
Chris Hurley spoke to her circulated written report on the LU internal elections. 475 had voted – a 35% turnout. For certain regional posts, and the Disputes Committee, nominations needed to be re-opened for unfiled positions. The report explained that the elections had been run under the Constitution put up on the web site, which had removed the requirement for 20 signatures for nominations (and apparently to move amendments). Continue reading

ISN Bulletin 3: Unity and Socialism (LU Policy Conference)

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Osborne delivers typical divisive Tory budget, but with general election in mind

As today’s Budget was being delivered, it became increasingly obvious it was a budget with next year’s General Election in mind. The headlines Chancellor George Osborne will hope for will be the changes made to ISA’s as part of a package to make it easier for pensioners to access their pension funds and to save more; the freezing of fuel duty; the cut of 1 pence a pint on beer; the freezing of duty on cider and Scotch whisky; and the small increase in personal tax allowance.

These are all aimed at attracting votes, especially from pensioners. Whilst they are all supportable measures in themselves, they do nothing to make life easier for those in or near poverty who have suffered disproportionately from the economic crisis, whether it be from low wages or benefits. Also, as usual, it is very much a case of the Tories giving with one hand and taking with another

The public spending cuts already announced, that are increasingly decimating public services, are continuing, and will bite deeper. George Osborne’s Budget speech made it clear that the Government believed even more cuts were needed. This is not surprising as it is already Government policy to cut public spending over a ten year period. He also put a permanent cap on welfare spending which will continue into the next Parliament. There is only one way to cut welfare further, and that is by forcing people onto lower benefits or off them altogether, despite a continuing absence of jobs. Furthermore, the Chancellor has forced a Commons vote on the welfare cap, challenging Labour to say whether it would stick within the spending limits he has agreed with his Liberal Democrat coalition partners. Now that will be interesting!

The hypocrisy of this Government can best be illustrated by the promises made today on housing. George Osborne claims the Budget will encourage some 200,000 new homes to be built: what he forgot to add was that during the life of this Government there has been the lowest amount of house building since the 1920’s.

It is business that will particularly benefit from this Budget –corporation tax on company profits will fall to 21% in April 2014, down from 26% in 2011 and 23% at present, and, at 20%, the lowest levels among G20 countries next year. Under this Government and its Budgets, you gain if you are wealthy and/or own a business. If not, you are made to suffer with reduced services, benefits and wages. Living standards have fallen by over £1,600 per year since the Tories came to power. There are 350,000 people using food banks, an absolute scandal. There was nothing in this budget to address low pay, the gender pay gap, zero hour contracts or other work insecurities. Nor was the 50% tax rate restored to make the wealthy pay more again.

Once again George Osborne trotted out the lie that we are all in this together. This Budget is further proof that is clearly not the case. It does nothing to alleviate poverty, and the low waged can expect to lose most of what little they gain from it. As we have said all along, public services do not have to be cut to pay off the deficit. They are a political choice. There are alternatives to cuts, including:

• A 5% wealth tax on the richest 10% which, alone, would resolve the country’s debt
• Reclaiming the £120 billion per year of unpaid tax that is avoided or evaded
• Nationalising the banks, building societies and financial institutions, with profits used to
maintain and improve our public services.

Pete McLaren, Rugby TUSC

Left Unity finalises arrangements for March 29 Policy Conference and agrees procedures for completion of internal elections, writes Pete McLaren

There were 33 members present, including those directly elected, representing 22 branches. Joint chairs: Merry Cross (Reading, who chaired all the items until the meeting discussed Safe Spaces) and Bianca Todd (Northampton, who chaired the remaining items)
Before the meeting started, there was a minute’s silence in memory of Bob Crow and Tony Benn.
APOLOGIES –Andrew Burgin, Kate Hudson, Guy Harper, Chris Hurley, Tim Nelson, Pete Green, Steve Hall, Salman Shaheen
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed with a couple of additions, including the complaint about agendas not being circulated in advance of the meeting. It was also agreed that future minutes should only include decisions and the main points of anything raised, but not what was said.
Peoples Assembly – Tom Walker reported that Saturday’s re-call Conference had an attendance of around 400. There had not been much debate, apart from on organisational issues, especially around how centralised the PA should be. It had been positive in its opposition to austerity Continue reading

TUSC authorises more candidates for May, and writes to Left Unity seeking dialogue, reports Pete McLaren

Report from TUSC steering committee 26/02/14
IN ATTENDANCE: – Dave Nellist (Chair); Clive Heemskerk (Nominating Officer); Paula Mitchel (SP); Charlie Kimber (SWP); Mike Sargent, Kevin Morrison (RMT): Pete McLaren (Local Group Development Officer & ISN), Nick Wrack (ISN)
MINUTES OF JANUARY MEETING – these were approved. Under matters arising, Clive Heemskerk reported on a meeting with two of the Harrow Independent Labour Group (HILG) councillors. Arising from this it was agreed that, before TUSC approves applications to be a candidate in Harrow in May’s elections, we will discuss with the HILG what their intentions are in the ward, and that we will look to continue the dialogue with HILG after May.

TUSC Local Elections Conference Feb 1st
Clive Heemskerk gave a reported that 199 had attended, and the Conference had paid for itself. It was agreed the Conference had been a success in a variety of ways. Continue reading