What next for TUSC? – Proposals from the Independent Socialist Network

What next for TUSC? – Proposals from the Independent Socialist Network

We present this paper in the spirit of comradely participation with our comrades in TUSC. We believe that TUSC is a significant achievement that should be maintained and developed. We present the ideas in this paper to assist that aim.

This document proposes that the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition should establish individual membership, so that supporters of TUSC can join it.

I begin with a restatement of the position of the Independent Socialist Network.

  1. The Independent Socialist Network stands for and argues for a mass united socialist party.
  2. By that we mean a party that openly states that its aim is to bring about the abolition of the capitalist profit system and its replacement with socialism, that is, a system in which the exploitation of labour is abolished and the means of production – transport, factories, technology, science, land and the minerals and water – are owned in common so that they can be planned democratically in the interests of all.
  3. We believe that the task of abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism is the task of the working class, that is, the majority class in society that survives by selling its labour power.
  4. The act of fundamentally changing the way our society is run from one based on exploitation and profit to one based on common ownership, solidarity and production for need rather than profit will only be achieved by the majority working class acting for itself to bring about this change. It will be the most democratic act ever in history.
  5. We believe that a mass party is necessary to persuade the working class of the need for this change and to help carry it out.
  6. It would have to be internationalist.
  7. To build such a party it would need to be engaged actively in all the struggles of the working class. It would also need to present its programme at elections with a view to winning councillors and Members of Parliament, Assemblies etc.
  8. The party would have to be completely democratic, with membership and a branch structure. Its leadership would have to be democratically elected and accountable.
  9. It is self-evident that we are a long way from achieving such a party.
  10. The ISN is committed to working with all those who share the goal of creating a new party, and all those who take even small steps towards that goal.
  11. We favour a simple structure based on membership, with each member having an equal vote on each issue or election. We saw the establishment of Left Unity as an advance in this respect. In fact, there is a very strong case to argue that had TUSC allowed individual membership, there would have been no need for LU to have been formed.
  12. We are not in favour of a federal structure that allows a minority group or individual to override the wishes of the majority.
  13. We favour a party that allows groups (it doesn’t matter whether we call them factions, tendencies, platforms or parties) who accept the party’s aims and objectives to organise openly within the party to promote support for their political ideas and actions. Stated very simply, the aims and objectives of the party would be the socialist transformation of society. [The ISN would argue for the adoption of its own Aims and Principles as the defining boundaries.]
  14. The ISN recognises that working-class political representation is in a severe crisis. The ideas of socialism are not advanced by any major party. We share a belief with others in TUSC and elsewhere that there is a need for a socialist alternative to be presented to the electorate. We welcomed, therefore, the establishment of TUSC in 2010 to bring together socialists from different parties and none, and the RMT union, to present an alternative programme at the General Election that year. We have continued to support its interventions in council elections and in this year’s General Election. The continued existence of TUSC is an achievement and must be sustained and developed.
  15. We saw it as a significant step forward that rival and sometimes antagonistic socialist parties – the SWP and SP – were prepared to unite in the coalition, even if it is only for a temporary period at election times. We hope that working together will lead to more permanent unity in a single party. That ought to be the aim of all socialists.
  16. We do not believe that the differences between the various socialist groups (both in and outside TUSC), serious though some of those differences may be, justify the separation of those socialist forces into competing parties. We are much weakened by these divisions and would be much strengthened by uniting in a single party with a shared common goal.
  17. Unity in a single party would not mean the end of differences or disputes, but it would put them into a different context – differences between comrades who share the same ultimate goal of socialism. A healthy party would encourage debate and discussion. That is what can lead to greater clarity and understanding.
  18. However, others in TUSC may not share our approach on all or even any of the points set out above.
  19. We know that at the moment the SP at least is committed to maintaining the current federal structure of TUSC. Possibly others in the Coalition

 

  1. Background:

 

    1. TUSC has been in existence since 2010 – five years. It is an electoral coalition comprising of the RMT transport union, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Independent Socialist Network. All of these four component parts are represented on the Steering Committee, which meets monthly. In addition, there are named individual members of the SC, who do not represent others.
    2. At present, the Steering Committee acts on the basis of consensus. Each member group represented on the SC and each individual member of the SC has the right to veto any proposal.
    3. TUSC has just run 135 Parliamentary candidates in the 2015 General Election. Notwithstanding the low votes this was a positive step.
    4. TUSC also ran 613 TUSC local election candidates, contesting seats in 111 councils, at the same time. In general these candidates performed better than the parliamentary ones.
    5. Quite a large number of people contacted TUSC during the election period and since to express an interest and to ‘join’. I believe that some 1,500 people (at least) have given their details. I do not know if this is everyone, or only those who got in touch via the national website. In any event, it shows a potential for TUSC to attract people to it.
    6. The main issue arising from this is how we ensure that these supporters (and others who get in touch) can become active campaigners for TUSC.
    7. The electoral campaigns will only remain positive steps if they are built on. If TUSC rolls up its banner, or lowers it, then the recent election campaign will have been little more than a very expensive eight-week foray into the electoral arena.
  1. Problem A – Lack of consistent work in name of TUSC
    1. In modern Britain a party can only grow to a significant size and presence in society by contesting elections. The fact that TUSC stands in elections is a necessary and essential requirement.
    2. A party that seeks to win working-class support to socialist ideas can only increase its vote if it is visible, known and actively participates in working-class struggles on a regular basis, throughout the year.
    3. This means participating in those struggles as they arise in the name of the party that will present itself at election time.
    4. If TUSC does not operate all the year round in between elections but simply reverts to its component parts (in terms of presence on the ground, this means primarily the SP and SWP), then it will never achieve the sort of vote that would otherwise be achievable.

 

  1. Problem B – You can’t join TUSC
    1. Due to the fact that TUSC stands in elections most people who know of it see it as a political party.
    2. People expect to be able to join a political party. Many of them want to get involved in TUSC. Not unreasonably they think it is a political party – it stood in elections; it had a party political broadcast; it is registered with the Electoral Commission; it has a website that talks about joining TUSC etc.
    3. The interest expressed by the 1,500 who contacted TUSC during the election campaign is indicative, we suggest, of a larger body of potential supporters who would be prepared to join TUSC.
    4. Because people cannot join TUSC, they cannot participate in any meaningful way in its development. Most importantly, they have no democratic say over what TUSC does or says or how it develops. In contrast, members of the SP or SWP or ISN or RMT do have some say on the direction and development of TUSC via those respective affiliated organisations.
    5. It is not good enough to say that people can get involved in the campaigns; help to deliver leaflets or make a donation. People expect to have a say in something that they are helping to build. At a branch level individuals who are not part of the SP or SWP will expect to have an equal role in decision making about local campaigns – this is an elementary aspect of working class democracy.
    6. By not allowing membership TUSC is depriving itself of potential growth and of significant sums of money (membership fees).
    7. At present there is no way to increase the size of the Coalition significantly.  It can currently grow only in two ways:
  1. The Coalition can gain new adherents, i.e. new organisations can apply to join the Steering Committee.
  2. The current groups who are members of the Coalition and who are represented on the SC can recruit new members who would then be affiliated through the group to the Coalition.
    1. Neither (a) nor (b) offers much comfort for anyone who wants to see the Coalition grow in size and influence. In respect of (a) there is no serious prospect of any other union applying to join TUSC. In respect of (b) any recruitment of members to the SP or SWP is hardly likely to make much difference in terms of numbers being active in TUSC.
    2. There is a real danger that TUSC stagnates, even as it contests further elections. Instead, we need to ensure that there is a real dynamic to TUSC: we start recruiting members, building branches and go into the next election campaign with some enthusiastic, lively campaigning activity under our belt, involving the new members.
    3. The issue of membership is linked to the question of permanent campaigning activity in the name of TUSC and to the issue of TUSC branches.

 

 

  1. Problem C – lack of an effective national centre
    1. Currently, we have the TUSC Steering Committee, which meets once per month. However, this is not efficient for the day to day running of TUSC. The bulk of the work of running TUSC falls on individual full-time workers of the SP. They are to be thanked and congratulated for this. But we need a TUSC centre.
    2. We need to involve representatives from each of the component parts in the running and administration of TUSC.

 

    1. We lack a party press, press officer, social media, membership and finance. Consideration should be given to electing officers to undertake these responsibilities.

 

  1. Proposals:
    1. People must be allowed to join TUSC. We must have TUSC membership.
    2. We can assume that people who apply to join TUSC or to get involved in TUSC are doing exactly that. They are not applying to join either the SWP or SP; otherwise they would do that. Of course they might eventually join one or the other as well.
    3. We can assume that those who apply to join TUSC will expect to have some democratic involvement in TUSC.
    4. The only way for that to happen in the present federal structure would be to have a membership section for all those who are independents, i.e. not members of the SP or SWP. Every member must have a voice through representation on the national Steering Committee.
    5. At present the Independent Socialist Network organises TUSC supporters who are not members of democratic centralist parties such as the SWP or SP but it does not organise them all. One of the main reasons for the ISN not organising all the independent supporters of TUSC is because there is no formal way of joining TUSC. The ISN does not know who the independent supporters of TUSC are. They are not integrated into any formal TUSC structures. They are not on any central list.
    6. Everyone who currently supports TUSC should be asked to join TUSC and should be given a membership card.
    7. Membership cards give a sense of ownership, participation and belonging. They convey a democratic right to the owner of the card.
    8. All members will be given a card that will contain wording along the following lines: “TUSC member 2015 – SWP/SP/Independent Socialist Network/RMT (choose appropriate one)”. The cards should be attractively designed and have some suitable phrase about the aim of socialism.
    9. There should be a membership fee. This is complicated because members of the SP, SWP, RMT and even the ISN all pay membership fees to their respective organisation.
    10. We propose that every current member of the ISN, SP and SWP pays £10 to become a formal member of TUSC.
    11. Members of the RMT who support TUSC should pay £10 to join it.
    12. Membership of the ISN is currently £10 per year.
    13. We propose that every person who contacts TUSC with a view to supporting it or joining it receives a letter/brochure setting out what TUSC is and pointing to its constituent parts.
    14. All applicants who are not members of the SP or SWP (or any other democratic centralist organisation) will be automatically joined up to the ISN and told that the annual fee is £20 (10 goes to the ISN and £10 goes to TUSC). This would be reduced to £10 (split 50/50) for the unemployed and students.
    15. The ISN would guarantee to hold an annual conference for all these independent members. That conference would decide policy and elect ISN representatives on to the TUSC steering committee.

 

  1. Branches
    1. Branches will play a central role in developing TUSC at both a local and national level. They are the building blocks of a national organisation. They will be responsible for keeping TUSC alive, active and visible in the periods between elections.
    2. At present, it is unclear how local branches of TUSC function. There is no formal structure or set of rules that local branches are expected to follow.
    3. Although the national steering committee is run on a federal basis with a veto available to each of the affiliated organisations and individual members of the SC, there is no need for this to be replicated at local level.
    4. A local branch of TUSC should be run on the basis of individual membership, with each member – whether SP, SWP, RMT or independent – having an equal say, and an equal vote on all matters.
    5. Each local branch of TUSC should have an AGM at which branch officers are elected. Standing Orders for local branches should be drafted by the national steering committee.
  1. National TUSC
    1. The ISN believes that the national Steering Committee should abolish the veto and that decisions should be taken on the basis of a simple majority. The national SC should be elected by the members. We recognise, however, that other component affiliates are not prepared to move in this direction at this stage. We are not sure if they are ever prepared to move in such a direction.
    2. We believe that it is essential for the Coalition to continue in existence to be able to contest elections and to actively campaign in between.
    3. We reluctantly recognise that to enable this to happen there will have to be some constitutional arrangement that maintains the present federal structure and the right to veto alongside individual membership.
    4. We therefore propose that votes at national conference are taken on the basis of individual membership (similar to the present situation) but that the national steering committee, while taking note of the votes at the national conference, would retain the right of veto. Of course, any organisation that were to use the veto against a decisions of conference taken by a majority of individual members present would have to take the consequences in terms of its reputation and authority.

We present this document for discussion.

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