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ISN Meeting re-affirms support for working within TUSC whilst helping build Left Unity REPORT FROM ISN MEETING May 18th, by Pete McLaren

THE MEETING BEGAN WITH A REPORT FROM THE TUSC STEERING COMMITTEE

Pete McLaren spoke to his written circulated report. It is available in full on the ISN website at http://www.independentsocialistnetwork.org/. He highlighted

THE COMPOSITION OF THE SC – Socialist Resistance attended for the first time in May following the decision to admit them without the right to a veto. The RMT have now elected 7 delegates, and 4 attended the May meeting.

ELECTIONS

TUSC won a town Council seat in March in Maltby with 60% of the vote

European Elections 2014 – RMT have called a meeting of the original No2EU partners – SP, CPB, AGS, RMT – and TUSC– to discuss 2014. Concerns were raised about the racism likely to be engendered during the Euro Elections, and this should influence our campaign and electoral title.

County Council Elections May 2012. Clive Heemskirk had compiled a comprehensive report – it was on the TUSC web site

  • 120 TUSC candidates had stood in 20 Councils contesting elections (60%) – 5% of the seats available, an increase on 2012 – there were no left candidates in the comparable 2009 elections. TUSC averaged 2.5% this year
  • The TUSC candidate for mayor of Doncaster got 3.1%, putting her in 6th place ahead of the Lib Dems.
  • The ratio of TUSC to Labour votes rose to1:14. The ratio to the Green party was 1:3, and to the Lib Dems, 1:5

THE FUTURE OF TUSC – including LEFT UNITY and TUSC’s relationship to it

Clive Heemskerk had outlined the decisions to appoint a TUSC Local Group Development Officer and to elect a National Council type body. Pete McLaren was elected as the Local Group Development Officer at the May meeting. Clive Heemskerk had expressed concerns about how independents not in the ISN could participate and be represented within TUSC. The RMT agreed we needed to organise more at a local level and encourage greater involvement.

At the outset of the discussion about the Left Unity Appeal at the March meeting Dave Nellist stated we should try and collaborate with it. Charlie Kimber of the SWP had agreed, as did the RMT and ISN

Nick Wrack made a number of points at the March meeting, including

  • We need to tap into the swathe of people that TUSC has been unable to reach
  • Responses to the Appeal show how much potential support there is for a new Left Party
  • It’s almost impossible to build TUSC rather than its component parts.

The ISN position of engaging with, and participating in LU, whilst continuing to work within TUSC, was outlined

It was agreed in March to write to Ken Loach inviting him to address the SC, and in May to try and address the LU National Meeting on May 11 as well as writing to the newly elected National Organising Committee following that May 11 meeting to seek talks on collaboration

Following Pete McLaren’s report, points made in the following discussion included:

  • It is disgraceful SR has been given a ‘lower’ status than others on the SC
  • It is ridiculous that it is still not possible to join TUSC – we must push for individual membership
  • We should play a leading role in LU pushing for basic rules like membership and use this to put pressure on TUSC to do likewise
  • We should produce a Paper on how TUSC should develop
  • The TUSC SC has been holding things up and is not promoting TUSC
  • TUSC is only an electoral alliance
  • Left Unity has already influenced the left, including TUSC
  • LU is too hostile towards left groups
  • The ISN had hoped TUSC would be a stepping stone to a new Party – that is now not looking likely
  • We must push for LU to be socialist whilst still trying to reinvigorate TUSC
  • Rugby has shown TUSC branches can be set up – if these spread, the SC would have to respond
  • A future ISN meeting needs to discuss UKIP’s surge, and sort out its attitude to the EU
  • The Tories have failed to win the last 5 general elections: the 2015 general election is not likely to be good for the left as people vote to get rid of the Con-Dem coalition
  • TUSC being an umbrella group for trade unions is even less likely now that LU has been launched
  • LU is a response to the weakness of TUSC
  • TUSC and LU are expressions of the same movement – we need to work to put them together
  • LU is unstable and it is not guaranteed to be socialist
  • We should work for a socialist platform within LU
  • If LU is to succeed, it needs new members, not just recruits from left groups. We must not keep pandering to left groups who tend to walk out of left projects leaving independents on their own
  • Areas like Rugby with a TUSC and LU branch will need to choose between the two
  • If LU does become a membership organisation, that gives us room to operate as independent socialists

LEFT UNITY – AND TUSC’s RELATIONSHIP TO IT

Nick Wrack began the afternoon session by reporting back from the LU national meeting the previous Saturday. He described how the content of the Statement written by Kate Hudson and circulated by the ad-hoc Organising Committee had not been discussed and approved by that Committee. Twenty three other Statements, amendments to the Statement, and resolutions had been sent in just before the national meeting, and before any LU groups could discuss them. This is why he moved a Procedural Motion not to vote on them – apart from the practical steps needed to launch the new Party. There were genuine fears expressed at the LU meeting about left groups taking over, and a number of individuals were clearly opposed to left groups becoming part of LU. He argued the ISN must seek to make sure LU is democratic and accountable. All socialists should engage with it, he concluded.

The following were amongst points in the discussion which followed

  • OMOV could make a left group takeover more likely – a federal structure could encourage greater participation
  • It should be possible to allow representation of left groups alongside OMOV without allowing left group takeovers
  • There was a lot of sectarianism on the LU web site and elists against left groups
  • Not all left projects have failed eg ANL, Anti Poll Tax campaign
  • Left groups need to be part of LU
  • We need an organisation like the ISN within LU just as we do within TUSC
  • If LU has a democratic structure, the influence of left groups will not really matter
  • LU has already registered ‘Left Party’, suggesting it will contest elections
  • We need to discuss the relationship between TUSC and LU in the lead up to the 2014 and 2015 elections. The bottom line is: we must avoid clashes. We should work for a shared platform
  • LU consists of many different strands which we can influence through a socialist platform.
  • Although we must promote socialism within LU, at this stage we may need to accept it might not be as full on as we would want
  • LU should encourage Trade Union branches, tenants and community groups to come on board – through affiliation. This might necessitate a partly federal structure
  • LU needs a constitution – rules to guide it
  • LU is a ‘party’ of individuals – if it wants to incorporate left groups, so be it. Federalism can stop an organisation moving forwards
  • LU must be inclusive
  • We should continue to work within LU even if the Founding Conference does not commit to socialism
  • LU should learn the lessons from TUSC with its insistence on left organisations having ‘social weight’ before they could obtain representation. LU should welcome representation from all supporting left groups as long as they are serious in their support
  • With being an individual membership organisation eventually barriers will fall and left groups will dissolve themselves
  • We can not insist that left groups disband, but if they join as individual members we need a mechanism in place to avoid any one group taking over

Replying to the debate, Nick Wrack made a number of points, including;

  • The ISN should not pull out of TUSC
  • LU needs time – it is only 9 weeks since Ken Loach made his call for a discussion about a new left party
  • LU should be an individual membership organisation with no privileged status for left groups. Why would a new Party want a small left group of 30 people to have a constitutional right to representation? They can all join as individuals and should be able to form platforms which can put forward candidates
  • We should help form a platform for socialism within LU. It is not about the social management of capitalism, we must work to win LU to socialism

At the end of the discussion, it was agreed to continue working within TUSC and LU, to pursue the idea of a platform for socialism within LU, and to encourage independent socialists to help form and join local LU groups

The next ISN Meeting was agreed for Saturday July 13th.

Pete McLaren reminded the meeting of its previous decision to upgrade the ISN blog into a web site, and he offered to find someone who could do that if no one else could

Pete McLaren 21/05/13

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