REPORT OF THE LEFT UNITY MEETING MAR 6 2010 LUCAS ARMS
PRESENT: CNWP (Terry Pearce); RDG (Steve Freeman); Socialist Alliance (Toby Abse, Gerry Byrne; Pete McLaren); tUSP (Steve Ballard); Socialist Party (Clive Heemskerk); CPGB (Peter Manson)
APOLOGIES – DLP; Green Left (it was reported GL could not attend because of LULC support for TUSC)
It was agreed that Gerry Byrne would chair
REPORT FROM FEBRUARY 6th MEETING - agreed as correct. A report from the RSC will be circulated at the next LULC Meeting
TRADE UNIONIST AND SOCIALIST COALIATION
Clive Heemskerk (SP) reported that the TUSC Steering Committee had met twice since the previous LULC Meeting. Thirty eight candidates had now been endorsed, including eight from Scotland, and six more were pending. The candidates included 4 UNISON Branch Secretaries; 5 UNISON Branch Officers; 2 RMT and 1 ASLEF Branch Officer; I UNITE Convenor and 4 former Labour councilors/Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. Parties represented included the SP, SWP, SR, Lanarkshire SA and Solidarity. Two candidates had been rejected. One was because the local RMT branch had not been sure whether to endorse, but the individual subsequently appealed to the Branch which then agreed to approve, and the Steering Committee also agreed to endorse. The other had wanted to stand against a RMT sponsored Labour MP, and this would not be acceptable to the RMT members of the Steering Committee. He explained every member of the Steering Committee had the right of veto, and went on to outline how the RMT were now coming on board with Branches applying to the RMT Executive, and 13 RMT Branches have now backed TUSC. This has encouraged political debate within the RMT between Labour and TUSC. He concluded by explaining that he felt the project was a modest step forward, especially by raising the arguments about the need for working class political representation, and this despite leading trade union figures only being involved in an individual capacity – but each one is part of, and a leader of, a mass working class organization. In answer to a question from Toby Abse, he confirmed London Underground RMT had backed Jill Mountford (AWL) in Peckham.
The following general points were made in the discussion
- The veto allowed on the Steering Committee is undemocratic – there should be majority voting
- The veto reflects the fact this is a Coalition, not a Party
- The AWL has not applied for TUSC endorsement of its candidate
- The Coalition is bound to throw up problems and issues
- Labour right wingers should be opposed even if sponsored by a Trade Union
- The RMT veto is wrong, and the Steering Committee should address its lack of democracy
- TUSC should be inclusive and allow Supporting Organisations onto the Steering Committee as was originally envisaged
- With TUSC unlikely to contest more than 50 seats out of 650, we should not be concerned at whether or not we oppose trade union sponsored candidates at this stage. Building TUSC for developments after the General election is more important
- TUSC is an interaction between the trade union and socialist movement led by the SP
- Our aims for the General election should be ambitious but achievable, establishing the left as a champion of democracy and working class political representation and into one united organization which was part of the labour movement. TUSC is the only vehicle for such a project.
- Those not supporting TUSC have fallen away from the LULC
- We need to build on the ground for what will be needed after the Election which will be savage cuts, anti trade union initiatives and attacks on civil liberties
- The lack of democracy within TUSC will make it difficult for TUSC to champion democracy
- Giving trade union bureaucrats a blank cheque is a dangerous road to go down
- Defence of trade unions is the key issue. We should ask all candidates where they stand on the anti trade union laws
- It was disappointing that left organizations like CPGB had not received candidate endorsement
- We need as many TUSC candidates as possible
In addition, specific points were raised, as follows:
Steve Freeman (RDG) wanted a TUSC branch and candidate in Peckham, Southwark. He argued there were not enough resources in Sothwark to stand in more than one seat.
Toby Abse (SA) pointed out that the AWL's Jill Mountford was already standing in Peckham and that Southwark had two other constituencies. He also hoped London would have more than 4 TUSC candidates, and he asked that we promote the 'Defend the Welfare State' demonstration on April 10.
Peter Manson (CPGB) wanted to know why their 3 candidates had not been endorsed. They had wanted to be open and avoid clashes. The CPGB had opposed No2EU because it did not include demands for open borders or republican democracy, including the right to bear arms, but these were not conditions for the General Election
In his reply, Clive Heemskerk explained that the SP was concentrating on Lewisham and thus not Southwark. He suggested Steve Freeman do the groundwork for a TUSC candidate in Southwark. He accepted the slowness of the process had been frustrating. Time constraints had prevented detailed discussions at Steering Committee meetings. However, a Coalition had been formed for a limited purpose which enabled RMT branches and socialist organizations to put forward candidates. TUSC candidates had to be accountable to TUSC. In the CPGB's case, they had not specified which seats and candidates they wanted to be endorsed, simply asking for three unnamed candidates to be endorsed. In the European elections, the CPGB's decision to support Labour and not No2EU was based on the refusal by Lead No 2EU candidates to commit to supporting a workers' militia – this did not help their cause. Also, the CPGB had not answered the questions around 'social weight'. Regarding Liverpool, which had been raised by the tUSP delegate to the meeting, Pete Glover had stood before and was the SP's nominated candidate.
There was further discussion. Pete McLaren could see why TUSC had concerns about an organization who felt it crucial in any election that a Coalition supported workers' militia, but on the other hand he had hoped TUSC would have been more open and inclusive. The CPGB needs to be more serious about where it intends to stand, and he hoped the SP could move on from No2EU and those who had opposed it. It was crucial that we build on both No2EU and TUSC immediately after the General Election, and that we do so in an inclusive and non sectarian way. Terry Pearce (CNWP) agreed TUSC was a step forward and argued we should all work to make TUSC more effective. We should relate to all anti cuts initiatives. Peter Manson asked that if the CPGB came back with specific constituencies, would that then be considered by the TUSC Steering Committee, or would lack of social weight be more important?
Clive Heemskerk replied to the discussion. He outlined how there had been more discussion within the RMT than had been the case with No2EU. He reminded organizations TUSC was a temporary coalition, not a perfectly formed party. He re-iterated his concerns that the CPGB had not answered the social weight questions, and suggested they obtain RMT branch support for constituencies they wished to contest before coming back to the Steering Committee.
It was agreed to call a further meeting of the LULC as soon as possible after the General Election to reflect on it and decide where we go from there – this was subsequently agreed as 3.30 – 5.30 pm on Saturday May 15th, at the Lucas Arms
It was also agreed that
v The LULC would circulate publicity in support of cleaners working for Swiss bank UBS, employed through the Lancaster agency, whose conditions were under attack – the Defence Committee can be contacted at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=321918197556
v The LULC would ask constituent organizations to support the Four UNISON members banned from holding office E-mail letters of protest should be sent to: – UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis: email@example.com; - UNISON London Region: firstname.lastname@example.org; – UNISON Head Office: 0845 355 0845
Further information from email@example.com.
PLEASE NOTE: NEXT LULC MEETING SATURDAY MAY 15th 3.30pm Lucas Arms
Pete McLaren 15/03/10
Report from Left unity meeting March 6 2010