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Sunday 5 February 2017

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TUSC conference debates election plans and anti-cuts campaigning

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) met in conference last Saturday to discuss its plans for 2017. The main session was a forum under the heading, 'TUSC's role now and the 2017 elections', exploring how TUSC should operate in the welcome new political situation opened up by Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party.

This included the question of whether or not TUSC should stand candidates in the local elections taking place this May, with platform speakers from the three constituent organisations of TUSC - the RMT transport workers' union, the Socialist Party, and the SWP.

Reports of this debate have appeared in The Socialist, at http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/24360/01-02-2017/tusc-to-stand-or-not-to-stand and in Socialist Worker, at https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/44016/TUSC+tackles+the+elephant+in+the+room. A resolution was agreed by the conference (see text below), which will now go to the TUSC national steering committee meeting on February 15th.

The fight for council 'no cuts' budgets

There was also a conference session on TUSC's campaigning tasks in the battle against council cuts, as local authorities prepare to set their 2017-2018 budgets by the end of March.

The mantra of all bar a handful of councillors has been, 'there is nothing we can do', 'we have no option' but to pass on Tory government cuts to council funding. But TUSC has explained that this is just not true, councillors can fight back.

TUSC has pioneered the idea in its previous electoral campaigns that councils can use their reserves and borrowing powers to set legal no cuts budgets as a first step to building a mass campaign to force the Tories to retreat and properly fund local government. This is winning growing support, in the council workers' unions in particular.

A TUSC briefing document, Preparing a No Cuts People's Budget, is available at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/355.pdf, and a model letter to Labour councillors asking them to join the anti-cuts resistance at http://www.tusc.org.uk/txt/389.pdf.

The message to councillors is simple. Enough with austerity - fight the cuts now.

TUSC and the 2017 elections

The following motion was agreed by the conference, with five votes against:

"This conference re-affirms the support that TUSC has given to Jeremy Corbyn against Labour's Blairite right-wing, from his initial leadership election victory in September 2015 and during his re-election campaign in 2016.

"We recognise that his leadership of the Labour Party has opened up the political situation compared to the first five years of TUSC's existence and that his defeat by the Labour right-wing would be a serious blow for the working class movement.

"TUSC was set-up in 2010, co-founded by the late Bob Crow, to enable trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists to stand candidates under a common anti-austerity and socialist banner, with an agreed minimum platform of core policies. Establishing an electoral coalition of this character, involving a mix of constituent organisations and individuals, was conceived as a step towards solving the vacuum of working class political representation that had existed since the triumph of 'New Labour'.

"Clearly Jeremy Corbyn's leadership victory, potentially a terminal defeat of New Labour, required TUSC to re-calibrate its electoral activity and conference supports the steps taken by the steering committee to do so. In the May 2016 local elections, for example, no TUSC candidates were even considered to be run without local TUSC groups seeking a dialogue with the sitting Labour councillor or prospective candidate on the critical issue of their preparedness to resist cuts to local council jobs and services.

"Conference calls on the steering committee to continue with this approach for the 2017 elections.

"We recognise that this will be more challenging in the 33 English county councils and unitary authorities with elections in May, only six of which have Labour-led administrations. That is not the case, however, in Wales - where right-wing Labour is the dominant force in local government - or Scotland, in a different political context and with councillors elected under a proportional representation system in multi-member wards. The preference vote system used in mayoral elections also makes it easier for TUSC candidacies to be supportive of Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity message while making sure that the Tories do not make electoral headway.

"Notwithstanding the differences between the various contests taking place in May, conference calls on the steering committee to ensure that, for whichever elections candidate applications are received, TUSC's electoral interventions are part of a serious campaign against cuts to local public services and will strengthen the battle against the right wing in the Labour Party and the unions".