Local groups build on election momentum to prepare for 2015
Four weeks on from May's elections local groups of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) have been using the momentum generated by the election campaign to prepare serious plans for the ten months to polling day 2015.
This date, Thursday May 7th, will not only be the date of the general election but will also see elections for over 7,000 council seats in 279 councils across England.
As the post-election letter sent to TUSC's candidates by the national steering committee argues (see http://www.tusc.org.uk/17005/03-06-2014/tusc-steering-committee-sets-out-plans-for-2015-in-letter-to-candidates ) these contests will be as important for the task of building working class political representation as the general election. There will be many trade unionists, community campaigners and working class people generally who will want to see the back of the Con-Dems at Westminster but who at the same time will be prepared to support council candidates - or stand themselves - who will defend local public services against the austerity agenda of whoever the new occupant of No.10 will be. But preparing for the 2015 challenge starts now.
This has been the approach of Salford TUSC, which picked up some good post-election coverage of its results - 2,150 votes across the nine wards contested, at an average of 9.9% - in the local Salford Star (see http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=2277 ). The Salford TUSC agent Paul Gerrard reports: "TUSC is now a standing item on the agenda of our monthly Salford Against Cuts meetings. We've produced a leaflet to use in door-to-door canvassing on Sundays to keep the TUSC name in people's minds. We're focussing on four wards, two in each of the two parliamentary constituencies and are also organising a fund-raiser - we'll need some serious cash as we are considering a TUSC challenge at the general election in 2015 too".
Ensuring the profile of TUSC is maintained, "not just in elections (crucial though they are) but also in the industrial and community struggles that occur in the two boroughs", was the theme of the first Sutton and Croydon TUSC post-election meeting on June 11th. The branch agreed plans for regular meetings and activity, including purchasing a Sutton and Croydon TUSC banner, set-up a new e-address - SuttonCroydonTUSC@gmail.com - and can also be found on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/SuttonandCroydonTUSC and their blog at suttoncroydontusc.blogspot.co.uk.
Plymouth TUSC already has a local banner, paid for with a donation from a local RMT branch. Their post-election meeting saw an eleven person steering committee established which, among other things, is planning for a big splash on the 10th July public sector strikes.
Meanwhile, 'We have raised the profile of TUSC' was actually the heading of a post-election item in the Grimsby Telegraph (http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/raised-profile-TUSC/story-21137613-detail/story.html ), quoting the West Marsh candidate David Mitchell as saying "We are certainly not going away. We will start again on Monday morning".
TUSC was also featured in the Tottenham Journal's coverage of the election results. Under the heading, "Conservatives cite 'a terrible result for democracy' while left-wing party hails 'good' election debut", the Haringey TUSC election agent Simon Hester was quoted saying that the results "shows the support is there for those who don't support government economic plans of cuts in services and jobs, and we are going to build on this for the May 2015 general election" (click here for article). A key aspect of the campaign in Haringey (and the neighbouring boroughs of Enfield and Hackney) was the participation of the Turkish-Kurdish socialist organisation DayMer, which has now been invited by the TUSC national steering committee to discuss whether it could become a national constituent organisation of TUSC.
Preparations for 2015 in Leicester, where there weren't local elections this year, have been boosted by the recent defection of two Labour councillors, sickened by the cuts and the 'culture of fear' the city mayor has created on the council. They are now participating in a Leicester TUSC steering committee and will co-host a conference for the autumn bringing together trade unions, community groups and service users to draw up a 'people's budget'.
As a previous Leicester TUSC candidate Tessa Warrington explains, "this would be a no-cuts alternative to the Labour group's austerity budget, just as the TUSC councillors in Southampton have done.
"We've got our banner and pink t-shirts ready to go at local festivals and events, as well as the joint strike rally planned for 10th July. With a petition to remove the anti-democratic mayoral position, leaflets and a sign-up sheet we're asking people to come to the conference, get involved with TUSC and stand against cuts next year".
A more 'traditional' way of using the momentum of an election campaign is a 'thank you for voting' letter in the local press. TUSC's national chair Dave Nellist had the following letter printed in The Coventry Telegraph, summing up the message that needs to be spread in the months ahead:
"Could I use your columns to thank all those 2,592 people across Coventry who voted last Thursday for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and especially the 974 people who were good enough to support me personally in St Michael's.
"Although not large enough to win a seat I know that, in many cases, those voters are people who have supported socialist ideas through many elections.
"I suspect over the next two or three years they will be joined by many more who, having put their faith in larger parties at this election, will be disappointed.
"The Local Government Association, the national body of councils to which Coventry belongs, brought out a report three weeks ago.
"In that report the LGA predicted, whichever party wins the general election next year, cuts in local services, for example leisure centres, libraries, youth services and many others, will continue until the end of the decade.
"If that is the case, then I believe many thousands of people in the city will be looking for a socialist and trade union based alternative to parties which either instigate those cuts in Westminster, or fail to defend us from those cuts on the council.
"It was for that reason that the late Bob Crow, then the general secretary of the transport union RMT, co-founded TUSC four years ago.
"It's also the reason why a growing number of active, and in some cases senior, trade unionists including firefighters, local government workers, civil servants, teachers, prison officers, as well as union activists in private industry, feel the need to start again and build a new political party for working people rooted in the organisations and communities of the working class.
"TUSC is only at the beginning of that road.
"Once again, my thanks to all those who supported us on May 22".