May elections – TUSC: Opposing all the cuts

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is standing candidates for the London assembly and elsewhere in the local elections on 3 May. Red Pepper spoke to Nick Wrack, a member of the TUSC national committee and number two on its slate of candidates in London
April 2012

What is TUSC?

It is exactly what the name says. It is a coalition of trade unionists and socialists who want to support a different set of policies from the other parties. There is now a three-party consensus in favour of cuts, privatisation and austerity; that aims to make the working class pay for the current capitalist crisis. TUSC opposes that agenda entirely.

Who is involved?

TUSC has the backing of the RMT national executive and in London it has the backing of the London region of the FBU. TUSC has been endorsed by three trade union general secretaries: Matt Wrack (FBU), Bob Crow (RMT) and Steve Gillan (POA). Alex Gordon, the president of the RMT, is heading our list in London and it includes union executive members from Unison, NUT, UCU and the FBU as well as rank and file activists. The Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party are both involved along with the Independent Socialist Network, which was set up for the many socialists who are not members of any organisation.

It also has the support of Ken Loach, Paul Laverty, solicitor Imran Khan, Mike Mansfield QC and ex-soldier Joe Glenton amongst others.

What does it stand for?

TUSC is opposed to all the cuts. We reject the argument that some cuts are necessary.

We are against privatisation and outsourcing. We want the repeal of the anti-union laws. In contrast with Labour, we are not embarrassed to support workers on strike.

We are unashamedly socialist. We call for democratic public ownership of the banks and major industries and the renationalisation of all the industries and services sold off in the past. We want a democratic socialist society run in the interests of the millions, not the millionaires, so that production and services can be planned to meet the needs of all and not just a rich few.

What does it hope to achieve?

This time, TUSC hopes to win a seat on the London assembly. We need just 5 per cent to do that. The result in Bradford West shows that Labour cannot take its working-class voters for granted any longer. We hope to cause an upset in London. Of course, we’d like to win council seats elsewhere but that’s much more difficult for a small party like ours with very little profile, when it’s first past the post.

How does TUSC differ from the Greens?

In lots of ways but, most importantly, TUSC opposes all cuts. The Greens say they’re against cuts but they’ve just voted for a cuts budget in Brighton where they run the council. That’s useless. There is no point saying you're against cuts, and marching against them, if you then go into the council chamber and vote for them. That’s what puts so many people off politics. Voters want representatives who will do what they promise. TUSC promises to fight and puts forward an alternative.

Secondly, we argue that capitalism cannot solve the problems of the economy. You cannot have a ‘good capitalism’. We argue for a different, socialist society. While some individual Green members might agree with us, that isn’t the position of the Green Party.

Isn’t a vote for TUSC a wasted vote?

No. I think it’s important to vote for the party whose polities you support, not just for the least bad option. The old argument that you must vote Labour to keep out the Tories is wearing very thin.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have said they won’t reverse the Tory cuts, that they support the public sector pay freeze and they support privatisation.

Labour was in government for 13 years and continued privatising. The anti-union laws remained intact and the privatisation of the NHS and education began. How can anyone think that they will behave differently next time?

Those who believe we need something different have to start somewhere. We can’t guarantee that TUSC will win, any more than the pioneers of the Labour Party could. But you’ll never win unless you make a start.

There is a real chance under proportional representation that we can get 5 per cent across London and win at least one seat in the assembly on 3 May. That would make a huge difference to the political debate in Britain. By standing and arguing our case we are helping to pull the entire debate to the left.

What does the future hold?

Lots of hard work. At the moment TUSC is a coalition. I would like to see it develop into a new, united socialist party. But that won’t be easy. The left is fragmented. It’s been a great achievement to get this coalition up and running and it will take time to build it. I would like to see TUSC branches all over the country, carrying out activity all the time and not just at elections. I expect more trade unionists and activists to draw the conclusion that we need to build an alternative to Labour. There will be lots of discussions about how best to do that.

We need to build a mass socialist party, which argues and fights for a democratic, socialist society. That requires a party with millions of members and supporters. It won’t happen overnight. But what we’re doing at the moment can be a beginning.


After the election: picking up the pieces

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'Don't mourn, organise' – OK, but how?

The left must re-think its strategy and methods of organisation after the election, writes Michael Calderbank – not just throw ourselves back into the same schemes that aren't working

Don't believe the claims about Tower Hamlets – the devil is in the detail

Rabina Khan, cabinet member for housing in Tower Hamlets council, defends its record in the face of government-led attacks

Portsmouth’s smeargate: dirty politics in the age of austerity

Democracy takes a hit as local politicians play dirty against anti-cuts campaigners, write Sarah Cheverton and Tom Sykes

Pete McLaren 8 April 2012, 20.44

Excellent article/interview, with Nick spelling out what TUSC is about and what it could become. There are TUSC branches developing in different parts of the country, and TUSC candidates are standing in a number of areas this May. TUSC will be the only ‘Party’ contesting the elections with a firm commitment to oppose all cuts at every level, and with a strategy to do just that

Ben 9 April 2012, 05.23

Fantastic interview. I’m fed up with everyone voting for “who they hate least” at every election. The millionaires have their coalition; finally we have our own!

Nick Long 9 April 2012, 16.19

I am concerned that TUSC will get a poor vote in London and will be a set back for those wanting to see the emergence of a broad left party. Good votes for left candidates are built on going community campaigns and struggles. The Socialist Party have shown it is possible to get people elected through long term polticial work, but not through the planting a flag approach. People Before Profit have forned a broad community party and through serious work have built up our vote and hope to save our deposit for our candidate, Barbara Raymond in the Greenwich and Lewisham GLA seat.The sooner TUSC learn the value of forming a political party the better.
Nick Long Agent People Before Profit

AP 11 April 2012, 09.26

TUSC works as a coalition – you can do whatever you like as long as you agree with the 5 TUSC points – print your own leaflets, campaign the way you want to etc. and theres no time wasted with meetings where theres many different ideas on things from many different groups (a good thing we are able to attract so many btw) which would take a long time to resolve. Its just do your own thing and use the name as a banner, which helps build a national profile and aids the start of a new workers party based on socialism.

I think there may well come the time when it becomes a party, but not just yet.keep those horses held!

james? 20 April 2012, 16.01

tusc has one unique selling point that its councillors would refuse to set a budget. that is a very clear position but they need to be clear with people about what that would mean. also they need to be careful about condemning people who disagree with that position but whom oppose the cuts. it is understandable that trades union members may think they have more chance of keeping their jobs if councillors they have elected implement the cuts rather than civil servants.
tusc need a reply to such people. all of us on the left agree on the basics of ending the wars scrapping trident and ending tax dodging by the one per cent. but this issue at council level is dividing us and maybe the way forward is a unity campaign focusing on westminister. by the way i would hope tusc would try and persuade rather than condemn me as i have changed my mind several times on the question of how councillors should respond im just asking questions of tuscs position i would ask different questions of the actually existing left wing councilors who have on the main taken the make the best of it approach.

Dean 22 April 2012, 16.15

To James.

TUSC’s policy is not to set no budget but rather to set a deficit budget. This is one where the council plans its budget and spends as is planned regardless of what cuts have been implemented by the government to the council’s budget.

The councils compensate by using reserve funds and borrowing if necessary. This must operate in conjunction with the building of a mass resistance campaign in the area with a view to spreading it to other areas. This strategy was what made Thatcher back down from Liverpool city Council in the 80s, under militant control, and hand back the £60million she had raided from the funds.

The only thing that stopped the movement pressing ahead and spreading nationwide as the betrayal of the Labour Party right wing leadership which moved against Liverpool.

We have no such problem with TUSC.

Ultimately, a vote for TUSC isn’t the end of the struggle in defending local jobs and services. It requires further participation with protests, strikes, rallies and direct action. Electing TUSC locally means that measures can be implemented to make the task of building grassroots resistance far easier and also it means that local people have the local council working to help and defend workers, rather than working against them as is the case with pretty much every Labour council nationally.

james? 24 April 2012, 15.31

thank you for your reply dean it does make me wonder why tusc is against council tax rises in that case as they would help you to pursue that strategy for longer. i will read about liverpool as its not in my memory. it strikes me that if you pursued the strategy above you could end up in the same situation refuse to set a budget and let the government come in or make the best of it. if the above is tuscs strategy it needs to spell it out more.

Comments are now closed on this article.

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