REPORT FROM CNWP OPEN STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING SEPT 26th 2010
PRESENT: There were 22 members present
APOLOGIES: Gerry Byrne; Toby Abse; Jon Dale; Andy Price
REPORT FROM SEPTEMBER OFFICERSCOMMITTEE – circulated
Dave Nellist (SP) reported that CNWP anti cuts pamphlet would be circulated in November
a) Membership – Greg Maughan (SP) reported that 244 of our 4,000 supporters were members, and that membership was now by the calendar year
b) Finance – Greg Maughan reported a balance of £6849.42, and urged members to take out standing orders
c) Web Site – Greg Maughan reported an average 9,000 monthly hits from 3,000 individuals. He asked for more reports and articles to be submitted regularly. Our Facebook group had 2,000 members.
He agreed the web site should be used more for up to date reports on anti cuts campaigns, that the blog
should be used more, and to investigate adding members' email addresses to the web site to send out
POLITICAL INTRODUCTION PUTTING THE CAMPAIGN INTO CONTEXT
Hannah Sell (SP) spoke about how the CNWP had grown to have 4,000 supporters, a number of whom had moved resolutions urging TUs to break their Labour link. The CNWP now had to relate to the growing campaigns against public spending cuts which will attack the whole working class and large sections of the middle class. The Government hoped TU leaders would prevent struggles taking place, but there was massive anger from below. Despite lobbies of the TUC by the NSSN and PCS, it was unlikely there would be a TUC organized national demo until March, although some unions were calling demonstrations for October 23 after the Public Spending Review announcements 3 days earlier – and there could be demonstrations on October 20th as well. The TUC view was that Labour would fight the cuts, and support for Labour was growing, but Labour's General election manifesto supported cuts, and newly elected leader Ed Milliband has suggested that is still the case. We should make this apparent, she argued, whilst welcoming any Labour councilors who do actively oppose the cuts. We should also look at how TUSC is developing. The RMT Conference unanimously supported the RMT's financial support for TUSC, and TUSC had called a Conference for January 15th for all anti cuts candidates wanting to stand as TUSC. This could draw in broader forces. There will also be anti cuts candidates that are not part of TUSC. She concluded by saying we needed to keep promoting the need for a new workers' party, especially now that the struggle is moving towards a higher level
Dave Nellist reported that the Steering Committee was meeting on October 13th and would be discussing how to broaden the structure of TUSC, including how to involve independent socialists which Nick Wrack was delivering a Paper on. This would also be discussed at the January 15th TUSC Conference, along with electoral policies
There was general discussion on the political context, and comments made included the following:
- The anti poll tax struggle may have radicalized many people, but it had not led to much long term
- TUSC lacks democracy, with no mechanism to become part of it. It needs a democratic structure
- The character of TUSC will change as local anti cuts groups get on board
- New Labour will carry on under a new form with Ed Milliband as leader
- The CNWP was founded on the idea of fighting New Labour: it now needs to change like the Labour Party has done
- The need to nationalize banks and financial institutions needs adding to the CNWP Declaration
- We need to push TUSC through the CNWP
- The anti poll tax struggle did not have trade union support whereas anti cuts struggles will do
- The RMT constitution still affiliates it to Labour, so it is significant the RMT is backing TUSC
- Local Trade unions are relying on Labour councilors to fight the cuts, and the SWP supports that strategy
- People do not yet understand the effect of the cuts
- There will be massive implications for the voluntary sector, and we need to relate to the voluntary sector
- There will be many anti cuts electoral campaigns, not all of them prepared to stand as TUSC
- Despite what some comrades say, the anti poll tax campaign did have positive results. It got rid of the poll tax and Thatcher, and it made local government finance a sensitive issue
- The General election result has made our job harder, with Labour now being seen as more supportable
- It will be the Tory Government that will be blamed for the cuts, not Labour councils
- As well as the massive attack on the working class, there will be issues of quality and control of services. We need to raise the question of who runs the services
- Attacks on welfare benefits will need strong opposition
- We need to sort out how we relate to the Green Left especially as Caroline Lucas is one of the loudest voices in Parliament against the cuts
- We need to analyse every step in the present struggle, and raise the need for a new workers' party at every opportunity
- New Labour still has a hold on the working class – we must challenge Milliband
- Trade Union leaders are mostly still pro-Labour
- Two years ago we would have been pleased to see a trade union funded coalition contesting the General Election. The process is slow, but leading members of the RMT and PCS are now on board. Because the process is slow, the CNWP is still needed
- TUSC is not undemocratic – the SP and SWP have representatives on it, and the structure will be developed. The TUSC programme will be put to anti cuts groups
- The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament still exists after 50 years – the Campaign for a New workers' Party will need to continue until that Party is established
In her reply to the debate, Hannah Sell accepted that the Milliband effect would galvanise TU leaders, but not the rank and file – 90% of TU members did not vote in the leadership election. Labour controlled Councils are enthusiastically voting for cuts. Despite that, anti Tory feelings still promoted Labour support. Overall, there was a slide in Labour Party membership, and Labour was bankrupt financially. We must oppose all cuts. Newly elected Labour Councils will still carry out the cuts, and opposition to that is what we will relate to. Regarding the anti poll tax campaign, she argued the situation was different as socialism was not popular because of the collapse of the Soviet Union. She accepted the limitations of TUSC, but still felt it had laid down a marker, and there had been complete local democracy for TUSC candidates in the GE campaign. She agreed that if TUSC became a party, it would need to have democratic structures in place. TUSC was not at that stage, so we could not submerge the CNWP into it. We must campaign against the cuts and raise the political questions, and work out how to link all the campaigns together
CNWP CONFERENCE 2011
It was agreed that this would take place in March, as suggested by the Officers, unless this was made difficult by the TUC calling a national demonstration against the cuts in March, in which case it would have to be in June. It was agreed the Officers would make the final decision once the TUC Demo date was known
CO-OPTIONS TO THE STEERING COMMITTEE
It was agreed to co-opt Chris Flood and Julia Leonard
CNWP DECLARATION RE-LAUNCH
Dave Nellist referred to the changes, which related to the advent of the Con/Dem Government and the cuts they were about to unleash. He also read out suggested phrases for a potcard/A5 leaflet. Both were agreed, with the proviso that a statement on nationalization of the financial institutions be added to the political programme
Pete McLaren (SA) moved the SA resolution on moving the CNWP forward. He explained the background – we could not continue with what we are doing electorally, with a multiplicity of candidates, standing in various areas of the country on a variety of different platforms, with some loose coalition type arrangement but no real central organization. This year 18 different left organizations had stood 121 candidates between them. The left vote was decreasing as a result – in 2001 the SA had averaged 1.7%, whereas this year TUSC had averaged 0.9%, and only Respect, with its 3 candidates, had averaged above the left norm. He felt there were two alternatives: we all join/re-join Labour and win it to socialism, or we work in a much more co-ordinated and conscious way towards forming a new Left party. If the Left did not get its act together, Labour would grow, and the far right would fill any vacuum as it was beginning to do.
He moved on to examine the pro Labour Party argument being promoted by the LRC and others, increasingly so at his local SA meetings. There is a difference between the three main Parties, LRC activists claim. The working class always tends to support Labour especially when the class perceives a danger from the Tories. The Labour party changes through time, and it can be transformed again. Most trade unions are affiliated to and finance the Labour Party. Pete McLaren argued those positions can easily be countered – many of us would not be allowed to re-join Labour! Even if we could, the Labour Party had no democratic structures and is now so right wing that it is simply not reclaimable. History tells us that whenever any significant numbers of the left become active in the Labour Party, the establishment changes the rules so they have no influence.
The dominant view on the left was that we should wait until the economic crisis throws up organised resistance, and significant numbers of Trade Unions agree a new Left Party is needed. However, he argued, there needs to be a working class response to the Crisis, particularly the Public Spending cuts. The Left needs to unite and help organise the resistance. That response will be better co-ordinated if it is part of a movement to build a new Left umbrella organization. We need to build a new Party quickly otherwise the LRC view will resonate. If that means trade unions are not initially on board so be it – they are not officially with TUSC. In any case, he argued, Trade Unions – and community groups – may be more likely to take a new Left party seriously than a campaign or coalition for one, as had happened with his local Rugby Against the Cuts.
He concluded by arguing that we need to implement what we agreed at Conference in 2008. We need to discuss what our new Party will look like, including what its structure and constitution might be. We need to put a time limit on these discussions – 15 months. The resolution calls for a Founding Conference – with no timescale, but we commit to holding such a Conference. However, we need a timescale for a new Left Party otherwise we will not move forward.
Dave Nellist moved the following amendment: In the last paragraph, in line 3, delete "Founding Conference" first time it appears, and insert "specific session at CNWP2011 Conference". In line 4, insert "future" before second mention of "Founding Conference"
The SA accepted these as friendly amendments as they were points of clarification
Hannah Sell formerly moved the SP resolution and spoke to the SA resolution. She suggested everyone was frustrated at the pace of developing a new Party, but the forces were not powerful enough yet. Broader forces were needed. There had been some progress – the RMT had moved by setting up No2EU and funding 20 of the 42 TUSC candidates. This was the first tine a trade union had funded non Labour candidates. This had subsequently been ratified by RMT Conference, so was Union policy. She added that the SP agreed with the 6 points put forward by the SA for consideration within the Constitution of a new Party.
The following points were made in relation to the SA resolution:
- Why does any internal structure need to ensure any internal Party body is representative of the Party as a whole?
- Although the need for a new workers party becomes more urgent with time, we need take care to avoid past failures
- The CNWP needs to push TUSC and the SA resolution does that
- We all want a new workers' party, but the process was important to maximize involvement. Anti cuts campaigns were the key
- The CNWP needs broader support before it can become a Party
- We could underestimate the speed of developments
Dave Church (DLP and SA) seconded the SA resolution. He explained that we needed to ensure elected bodies did represent the Party as a whole. He explained that his own patience was running out. He was not convinced the anti cuts campaigns would lead to what we hoped. Forces on the ground were looking for a left focus, as was the media – we could provide that. He expressed a concern that individuals present not in the SA who had spoken in favour of the SA resolution would do no more than vote for it – if that was the case, they should vote against the resolution.
In response, Dave Nellist accepted there had not been enough open CNWP meetings, but the significance of the CNWP lay in what it had done within trade unions. He reminded the meeting it had taken 50 years to build the Labour Party. He was proud of what the CNWP had achieved so far, whilst acknowledging progress had been slow. We needed to wait for events to develop.
Both resolutions were put to the vote, and were passed unanimously (with one abstention on the SP resolution) as follows:
The CNWP notes that at its 2008 Conference
- It recognised there was an urgent need for the left to get its act together given the fact that:
v Workers increasingly accept that Labour can no longer be reclaimed
v Labour's shift to the right – or far right – means there is a vacuum which the left could,
and should, fill.
v There is the growing threat posed by the racist/fascist BNP
- It confirmed its view that the best way to confront these issues was to campaign for a new socialist party – a new workers' party – and agreed that, as part of the process of building a new workers' party, it was necessary to bring together as many of the disparate left forces as possible, in addition to the work being done to build the Party within the working class
- It also agreed that the time was right to start moving towards a pro-party alliance or a pre-party formation that, as well as campaigning for a new party, would also begin work to determine the structure and rules for such a party
As part of the process of implementing these policies, we agree that the prototype of such a new Left Party will be established before the end of 2011 at the latest. This process will include a specific session at CNWP 2011 Conference which will consider an outline draft constitution for consideration by a future founding conference which includes
- The long tern aims of the Party
- A federal structure recognizing the rights of both affiliating organisations and individuals,
- A mechanism to ensure that no single affiliated organisation can impose its views on the Party as a whole,
- Clear democratic structures to ensure that any internal Party body is representative of the Party as a whole,
- Recognition that affiliated organisations remain free to campaign externally to the Party,
- Recognition that members are entitled to form open political factions able to campaign both internally within and externally to the Party.
This steering committee recognises the important achievements of the CNWP since its foundation in 2005. We now have 3,495 supporters of the CNWP. In the affiliated trade unions CNWP supporters are running very effective campaigns calling for breaking the link with Labour and moving to support trade union candidates. In PCS a discussion is taking place on whether to back trade union candidates, and CNWP supporters are central to the campaign that they should do so. At the same time CNWP supporters have taken part in founding the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which is the most significant current development towards an independent political electoral voice for the working class, particularly because it involves an important layer of trade union leaders and militants. We therefore welcome the decision of the TUSC steering committee to continue to develop TUSC.
In particular, we welcome TUSC's plan for a conference in January 2011 to bring together all of those trade unionist, socialist and anti-cuts campaigners who are intending to contest elections under the TUSC banner in 2011. The conference will aim to build the strongest possible TUSC electoral challenge in 2011. Such a challenge will have a very important role to play in trying to give a political voice to the anti-cuts campaigns which are going to develop.
However, we also recognise that TUSC is still at an early stage of development and does not yet constitute a new workers' party. For that reason it is we should continue to develop the work of the CNWP.
We therefore agree to:
- Write to all members and supporters of the CNWP explaining the developments in TUSC and urging them to get involved in local anti-cuts campaigns and to consider standing anti-cuts candidates in 2011.
- Agree to produce a pamphlet on the defence of public services and the case for a new workers' party.
- Make sure that the CNWP website and Facebook group is updated at least bi-weekly.
- Agree to hold a CNWP conference in the first half of 2011 to assess progress towards a new workers' party and therefore the future role of the CNWP.
CONFIRMATION OF MEETINGS
It was confirmed the Officers would meet on Thurs Dec 16; the SC late in Jan; the Conf in Mar/June
Dave Nellist thanked everyone for their attendance, confirmed that the Declaration would also be put on an A5 leaflet, and that the pamphlet would be costed. Pete McLaren 30/09/10
CNWP STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING OPEN TO MEMBERS 26/09/10