Notice: Independent Socialist Network 2014 AGM 12 Noon Saturday 4 October 2014 Central London

The Annual General Meeting of the Independent Socialist Network will take place on Saturday 4 October at 12 Noon at The Meeting Place in Vauxhall, London.

All independent socialists are welcome.

Voting will be open to ISN members. You can join the ISN here:

More details to follow.


Schools, Tunnels, Rockets – and terrorising the Palestinian people

That famous first casualty of war is these days sustained before the first rocket is launched. The truth of the most recent Gaza incursion is now a prisoner of war in Israel, and its release will take some time. Purportedly because the tunnels have now been destroyed, a truce of sorts has been concluded. As was once said of the Romans, ‘They make a desert and they call it peace’.

After operation ‘Cast Lead’ in late 2008/early 2009, in which UN shelters and stores, schools, hospitals, ambulances, and a university were bombarded and civilians were targeted by the Israel Defence Force (IDF), there were recriminations and investigations, and we can expect these once again. The investigation of themselves by the IDF will once more find honest mistakes, unavoidable collateral damage and Palestinian perfidy of ‘human shields’. In the recently concluded military operation, named with breathtaking chutzpah, ‘Protective Edge’, over 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, more than 73% of them civilians and some 450 of them children. Three United Nations schools were bombarded in Gaza over ten days by the IDF − with civilians sheltering in them.

It is a war crime to target a school like that, to target civilians deliberately, to target a hospital, to target ambulances. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the most recent school bombardment as ‘a moral outrage and a criminal act’. Some, apparently unconditional, supporters of the Israeli state would say that this is failing to recognise Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’. Yet any such right is heavily circumscribed in international law by the boundaries of proportionality and the duty to protect civilians. Not even Israel’s staunchest ally, arms supplier, and frequent user of that phrase, the United States, will defend the attacks on schools, hospitals and UN shelters.

We have heard so much about the tunnels and the rockets from Israel’s official spokespeople. The killing of children and other civilians is rationalised by Israel’s need for defence against them. This well distributed mantra is part of ‘Psyops’: the psychological operations that are part of modern warfare and amount to what used to be called propaganda. In World War 1, tunnels were used to plant mines under enemy lines; such is a tunnel that needs defending against. These Palestinian tunnels have no such offensive purpose: at least there has never been any evidence that they do. The only ones detonating high explosives in them have been the IDF. The Gazan tunnels have a far more plausible explanation. Gaza is under blockade – unlawfully, as it happens, but very effectively – by land and sea. How then, can sufficient means of living be brought in? That’s what the tunnels are primarily for.

The other purpose of the tunnels is defensive. Consider a comparison. It is a fairly well known fact that Havana is underscored by a complex of tunnels: a legacy of Cuba’s constant threats and indeed attacks from the USA. It’s a strategy the Cubans learnt from the Vietnamese experience of defending themselves from the same aggressor. In both cases, the tunnels were defensive. Cuba was hardly going to attack its neighbours through them! There were even provisions for classrooms and crèches. Perhaps the Palestinians will in future need to put their schools underground if their children are to be safe from missiles and shells? I am not saying that the Palestinian tunnels have not been used to move and store weapons (as Cuban ones also have been); it’s logical that they would be. I am arguing that their purpose is quite obviously defensive, and it is the defence of a people under encirclement, blockade, and repeated attack. Israel, that is to say, is not defending itself against tunnels.

Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ from rockets is also a complete red herring. For all of 2014 to July 14, there had been but one person killed by a rocket launched from Gaza, and he was a non-Jewish casualty, a Bedouin. Twelve people had been killed over that period by (presumably more accurate) mortar fire from Gaza: eleven of them military targets and one a non-Jewish casualty: a Thai worker (

This whole military operation has had little in reality to do with tunnels and rockets. It has been about destruction – unlawful under international law – of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, once again to destroy the viability of any Palestinian state. Just look at what has been destroyed above the ground. It has been about terrorising the Palestinian people. It has done so very successfully, but it has manifestly not succeeded in destroying their will.

Scott Poynting

Professor in Criminology

University of Auckland

Is austerity an act of violence?

The following event hosted by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies might be of interest to ISN supporters and members

Violence in society in peacetime is often thought of as being mainly inter-personal. This event will discuss how the period of austerity has produced structural violence that is experienced by both communities and individuals. It will focus on the health service, housing, poverty and also on the impact of austerity on violence against women.

The four speakers at the roundtable will be:

Dr Sarah Steele – Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Vickie Cooper – Liverpool John Moores University
Ewa Jasiewicz – Fuel Poverty Action
Heather McRobie – Open Democracy
There will be four introductions of 15 minutes followed by a discussion about whether this form of social harm might be better understood as a form of violence in society created by austerity.

For more details visit:

TUSC starts to prepare for the General Election – and seeks discussions with Left Unity, reports ISN delegate Pete McLaren

In attendance: Paula Mitchell (SP); Charlie Kimber (SWP); Mike Seargant (RMT); Pete McLaren (ISN); John McInally (PCS Vice-Pres); Dave Nellist (Chair); Clive Heemskerk (Agent)

It was agreed Clive Heemskerk would attend a meeting of the Leicester TUSC SC to discuss how best to support the two ‘rebel’ councillors who now sat as TUSC councillors


Left Unity discusses left electoral challenges – but no decisions on them reached!

Compiled by Pete McLaren – with notes from Colin Piper (Emergency resolution taken late Saturday, and Sunday) – for the Independent Socialist Network
Chairs: Mathew Caygill (Leeds) and Liz Davies (London)
There were 51 elected members present.
The meeting began, as such left events do, with a number of procedural questions. Matthew Caygill, in the Chair, announced that the Disputes Committee was in on-going discussions with Glasgow South LU, and that therefore their motion on a certain lack of democracy within the LU in Scotland, calling for a meeting of all Scottish LU members, should be deferred. There was also a dispute as to whether the Glasgow branch had been formally set up. Matthew Jones, from Glasgow, argued that the motion needed to be dealt with now, as the next NC was not until September. As the Scottish referendum question was part of the issue, that would be too late. It was agreed by 30 votes to 12 with 9 abstentions to defer the motion.
The next issue Continue reading

For a united socialist electoral challenge – suggested branch resolution

Although the left in Britain remains small, efforts to bring it together and heal its divisions are an integral part of building it up on solid foundations. Left Unity’s policy, as voted for at the March conference, is that “Left Unity should open discussions with other left groups, coalitions and parties to avoid electoral clashes and move towards electoral pacts – with the initial aim of creating the largest ever left challenge in the 2015 General Election”. Left Unity’s goals therefore coincide with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) who have set down a significant marker by standing 561 candidates in the recent local elections, and who are now committed to building upon that in order to be even stronger next year. We feel that we have a duty to working class communities everywhere to present a credible, united socialist alternative for which they can vote and campaign. We urge you to show support for that aim by passing this resolution.

This motion was passed by Exeter Left Unity at its AGM on 11th June. A corresponding version for TUSC activists will follow.

This branch notes:

  • Left Unity has got off to a promising start, with over 2000 members
  • The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stood 561 candidates in the May 22nd 2014 local elections, an achievement not seen in left-of-Labour politics since the end of the Second World War;
  • TUSC has written previously to Left Unity, offering temporary co-operation on the limited basis of support for an anti-cuts platform fully compatible with our party’s current policy;
  • As a party the time is approaching when we must decide which seats we wish to contest in 2015; as yet there has been no wide-ranging discussion as to how this may fit in with other socialist activists;
  • In several key areas, Left Unity and TUSC activists have been involved in supporting each other’s campaigns, electoral and otherwise;


This branch:

  1. Calls on the National Council as well as the party’s elected officers to facilitate a thoroughgoing debate on the potential for intensive and structured collaboration (as opposed merely to non-aggression) between serious forces on the left at the 2015 elections;
    1. the records of this and relevant communication to be promptly minuted and circulated to branch co-ordinators, as well as the general membership via the website.


  1. Affirms that while talks should be held at the highest level and take priority given the tight timeframe at hand, local activists in communities and branches are best placed to take the lead in determining the nature of co-operation far in advance, in order to present the most united and strongest possible socialist challenge at the 2015 elections.

TUSC Steering Committee reflects on progress made during election campaign and builds towards 2015

This was another well-attended and representative Steering Committee meeting with positive outcomes
(i) Elections Report
Clive Heemskerk spoke to his circulated report. TUSC had made considerable progress, standing 553 candidates, representing the largest left of Labour challenge for over 60 years. There was a breadth to the campaign in terms of involvement from both trade unions and left organisations. TUSC obtained 64,098 votes in the Council elections, at an average of 3.4%, with a further 3,933 votes from the 3 mayoral contests. There were some noteworthy results, including the re-election of Southampton rebel Labour councilor Keith Morrell as part of TUSC, Dave Nellists’s 30% in Coventry and 20% in one Salford ward. He outlined how UKIP had impacted on TUSC’s vote, and also how the media had constantly refused to include TUSC, showing the importance of reaching the media threshold in future. The BBC had used TUSC’s non-standing in the Euro elections as an excuse to exclude TUSC from coverage.
The following were amongst comments made in the lengthy discussion which followed:
• We need to keep promoting the need for local TUSC groups and to do more between elections
• We should discuss the merits of standing as TUSC rather than TUSC Against Cuts
• We did well to field 553 candidates, and the reasonable results show the potential
• Not standing in the Euro elections affected TUSC’s results
• Results were quite reasonable given the political context: a low level of class struggle compared to when these seats were contested in 2012, and the emergence of UKIP. TUSC is clearly up and running
• Politics is volatile and the mood could quickly swing our way as it has done for the left in Spain and Greece
• The left is too fragmented and needs to get its act together. TUSC is the only organization attempting to do that. There needs to be just one organization on the left contesting elections, and we should take the high ground on that. Maybe a Conference of the left should be organised
• Standing so many candidates can lead to some low results
• TUSC suffers from being a Coalition not a Party. The best left results in Europe were achieved by Parties
• We should aim for at least 100 General election candidates and thus 100 local TUSC groups
(ii) Letter to candidates and agents & approaching other organisations
A draft letter to TUSC’s candidates and election agents was circulated. It congratulated them on this year’s achievements and suggested preparations start for the 2015 General and Council Elections. It suggested TUSC groups lobby Labour PPCs over the Trade Union Freedom Bill and stressed the importance of TUSC being organised locally, offering SC speakers for local meetings where requested.
Points made in the discussion included:
• We should aim to stand Council candidates in every ward within a Constituency we are contesting, and aim for the 15% media threshold of 1,000 TUSC candidates
• We need early discussions with other left organisations likely to have candidates. We must promote unity and avoid clashes
• Our strategic position should be that TUSC will be standing in both the General and Council elections
• Establishing local TUSC groups must be a priority. They should function by consensus to avoid any one component part dominating
• We can give guidelines for local groups as to how they could move forward
• We must involve local trade unions and build roots within communities
• We should make clear our total opposition to UKIP and refer to their policies as racist
• We may need to concentrate our resources and not necessarily stand so widely
• TUSC may not be the final answer, but it is an electoral coalition that works at present
Following the discussion, the following actions were agreed:
• Send the letter to candidates and agents as circulated with additions requesting that local groups
begin general election planning now re: finances and personnel; an appeal for standing orders be
included in the letter; and that plans for 2015 be reported to the steering committee before our next
• To continue with approaches to other socialist and anti-austerity organisations conducting electoral
activity that are not currently within the TUSC umbrella to ask them to become participating
organisations or at least come to an electoral arrangement for 2015.

(iii) Preparations for the 2015 elections
It was agreed to set up a sub-group to bring proposals to the next meeting, including a list of local councils with elections in 2015 and suggestions on how TUSC’s general election ‘core policies’ platform, prepared for the 2010 contest, should be updated for 2015. Nick Wrack and Clive Heemskerk were the initial volunteers for the sub-group but other steering committee members were invited to come forward.

It was agreed to invite the left members of the NUT NEC who might wish to participate in TUSC to select representatives from amongst themselves to sit on the TUSC steering committee. It was further agreed to invite the Turkish-Kurdish socialist organisation DayMer, to the next SC meeting to present their case for representation on the SC.

A letter was circulated from two Leicester city councillors expressing a wish to set up a TUSC group on the council. It was agreed that Dave Nellist and Clive Heemskerk should contact them for a meeting, with Cllrs Keith Morrell and Don Thomas to be involved if possible.

An ‘Open Letter’ had been sent to TUSC four days before polling day asking the steering committee to repudiate its decision to issue a Certificate of Authorisation to the RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley to stand as the TUSC candidate in Newham council’s East Ham South ward.
The SC agreed to take no action on this except to re-affirm in the minutes that clauses 3(i) and 3(iv) of the TUSC rules state that candidates who are members of organisations participating in the steering committee “can expect to have their nomination papers for elections authorised by the coalition nominating officer as TUSC candidates if they so request”, subject to the steering committee operating by consensus having “the final say on all coalition seats and candidates”, which was the procedure followed in this case.

This was agreed as Wednesday 2nd July, at Unity House, 4pm

ISN meeting on Elections and Scottish Independence: 21st June

All independent socialists are invited to attend the next meeting of the Independent Socialist Network taking place on Saturday 21st June at 12 noon at The Meeting Place, 2 Langley Lane, London SW8 1GB. It a short walk from Vauxhall tube. Vauxhall tube is ten minutes from Euston and Kings Cross and 2 minutes from Waterloo.  The map for the venue is here: The venue is on the ground floor and accessible. As always, some travel expenses will be covered by a pooled fare – which enables members and supporters from further afield to attend.

There will be two main sessions, both with time for discussion:
1. Sandy McBurney of Glasgow will introduce his perspective on the Scottish independence debate.

2. Edmund Potts will outline his views on this year’s local elections, as well as electoral prospects for the socialist left in the run-up to 2015 and beyond.

There will also be time allocated to discuss the work of the ISN and its activities in TUSC & Left Unity.

Please confirm attendance via our facebook event, or if this will be your first ISN meeting please give Ed a call on 07541 937755 or email on edmundpotts *AT*

ISN Meeting on Europe and Ukraine: 26th April

The meeting takes place next Saturday, 26  April, at 12 noon until 5pm at The Meeting Place, 2 Langley Lane, London SW8 1GB. It a short walk from Vauxhall tube. Vauxhall tube is ten minutes from Euston and Kings Cross and 2 minutes from Waterloo.  The map for the venue is here: The venue is on the ground floor and accessible.
There will be a pooled fare.
The day will have a two part agenda. The first part will focus on two inter-related debates on the left. The debates are
1) The Ukraine: what should the socialist response be?
2) Europe: what should the socialist strategy for Europe be?
The day is open to all independent socialists. We welcome contributions on both of these issues in writing and on the day.
The day will also discuss the outcome of the Left Unity policy conference (you can find a copy of the ISN bulletin distributed at the conference held today here:, the TUSC local election campaign, our new journal ‘The Project’ and plans to build an ISN regional contacts network.

Edmund Potts – TUSC Candidate for Polsloe, Exeter

As part of the drive for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) to achieve ‘fair’ media coverage by standing 625 candidates, I will be standing for election in the Polsloe ward of Exeter City Council.

The Southwest in general and Exeter in particular need a socialist alternative at these elections, and that’s why it’s especially important that we give people the opportunity to vote again and again for candidates standing on a platform of ‘No cuts to vital public services’. It has a particular resonance locally given the attack on youth services by Tory-controlled Devon County Council, and their decimation of funding for the Women’s refuge in Exeter. There’s real anger out there, and we need to give that a voice.

Together with comrades from the local branch of the Socialist Party of England and Wales (standing as TUSC) and with the mutual support of local Left Unity members (one of whom will stand as LU), we’ll be contesting at least 9 wards throughout the city, out of 13 in total.

This will be the biggest left-of-Labour electoral challenge since the Second World War, and I think with some patient campaigning work we can make it a [modest] success and lay the foundations for a serious socialist challenge at the next general election.

I see the Exeter campaign as an example of how co-operation is a vital next step towards uniting the left. I think this sort of joint work needs to be emulated nationally, in whatever form local activists see fit. Left Unity and TUSC really have very little to disagree about, and together could be far more than the sum of their parts. This year I’m standing under the TUSC umbrella and am a member of the ISN and Left Unity; next time around it’s my aim to be a candidate of a new mass socialist party, the product of unity between both organisations.