I’m going to vote TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) in my constituency, Cardiff Central, in the General Election 2015. After much consideration of the various self-proclaimed left wing General Election candidates standing in my constituency, and despite my serious criticisms of TUSC, I agree with TUSC (a ‘party’ that most working class people have never heard of, but would do well to look up) that working class people need a new mass party that fights for them and at the minimum, actively opposes the cuts when elected, fights to protect our jobs, homes and services.
This is also basically the position of Left Unity (another related socialist and feminist party that I critically support) and I welcome the joint election campaigning approach of TUSC and Left Unity in parts of Exeter (read this statement by TUSC candidate Edmund Potts). The existing socialist component of ‘the left’ needs to learn from this and look further outwards and focus on organising within and as part of the working class to help popularise support for new political representation for working class people.
The Labour Party is a dead end for the working class
It seems daft to have to say this as the evidence is so clear, but it’s worth re-iterating: The Labour Party, though still funded by major trade unions, is an openly anti-working class and pro-rich party. Labour’s role in the trade union movement is entirely negative, sucking the life blood, money and fight out of the movement with their no strike deals with certain leaders of major trade unions, whilst austerity continues to batter our living conditions. Labour are a significant reason why the ConDems are getting away what they are doing. Labour uses its trade union links and funding to stop effective resistance to the cuts. Miliband and co are committed to capitalist economic policies, not least austerity. I support trade unions breaking the Labour link, putting up a fight again and funding trade union, socialist and community campaigners standing elections instead.
What about Plaid Cymru instead? Aren’t they anti-austerity?
As for Plaid Cymru, their leader Leanne Wood is an effective, left wing sounding and working class woman from the Valleys who knows how to play to an audience. Consequently, Plaid appeal to some lefts (although not myself, I must add), with their claims of opposing austerity and their apparent appeals to the socialist traditions of South Wales in particular. Unfortunately, as a minority party in the Welsh Government, Plaid have helped the ruling Labour Party to pass austerity budgets, such as the Welsh Government 2013 and 2014 budgets which has led to massive cuts for the Welsh working class. Plaid is not socialist in name or action and instead limit themselves to demands for ‘parity with Scotland’ e.g. greater democratic powers for Wales but keep the bosses’ system intact.
The Green Party is not the answer
Although both TUSC and Left Unity are small and mostly unknown, The Green Party is not the answer. The Greens are growing rapidly right now and are supported by many progressive working class people, but unfortunately, the GP have an actual record of implementing austerity and cuts whilst in power in Brighton and Bristol councils. The bare minimum of the anti-cuts struggle is that no politicians implement cuts – any party which implements cuts cannot be trusted, no matter how lovely and sincere some of their activists are. Many GP activists are new members and are simply enthused by the GP’s declared anti-austerity, left wing message. That’s great, but we need an honest discussion about the actual voting record and actions of all elected GP members, not just focus on the seemingly positive features of the GP. What is more, we need to critically examine the policies and manifesto of this party – indeed, all self-declared left wing parties, including TUSC (which is actually a coalition of socialist and trade union organisations rather than a party itself, strictly speaking) and Left Unity.
I cannot vote for The Greens when there is a Socialist candidate standing. If any trade unionists or community campaign group were standing in my constituency on a clear no cuts platform I would consider supporting them, but that is not the case in Cardiff Central (like TUSC and Left Unity, I support anti cuts campaigners and trade unionists standing in elections as a further step towards working class people once again creating left wing political representation for ourselves – an urgent task for the class).
The role of women in struggle and the under-representation of women in political parties
Women are leaders of prominent political parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and The Greens (witness the performances of Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Natalie Bennett vs Cameron, Miliband, Farage and Clegg on the ITV televised leaders’ debate screened on Thursday 2nd April 2015, for example). The fact that the declared ‘anti-austerity’ parties – The SNP, Plaid and The Greens – are all led by women is attractive to well, many women because women have been long underrepresented in politics and equality is now recognised as an important political issue as a result of the campaigning efforts of working class women and feminists of all stripes. Nevertheless, it is a mistake to only consider the gender and apparent feminist stance of the so-called ‘anti-austerity’ opposition parties listed above.
Women have always been tenacious organisers, campaigners, and strikers around the world. Women are leaders of protest movements and play a huge and decisive role in the struggles of working class and oppressed people everywhere. Women’s rights, as a political issue, are a key issue in this General Election, unlike other recent U.K. wide elections in the last few years. Many politicians use this opportunistically as part of their election campaigning for their own positions. However, the above mentioned ‘anti austerity’ parties have all in fact implemented actual austerity policies and / or helped majority parties pass and implement such anti- working class policies. I can only conclude, therefore, that the SNP, Plaid and The Greens are not parties based on working class interests and representation (of course, the SNP are not standing in Wales but it’s worth categorizing them clearly nevertheless).
As a result, both working class women, men, the non-binary amongst us and not least children, are not represented by these parties and we need the creation of a new working class political party, which I think TUSC and Left Unity, by working together, are helping to create by laying down some of the foundations for such a project.
So I support TUSC, but what are my criticisms?
If I’m so supportive of both TUSC and Left Unity, why am I not out campaigning for TUSC in my constituency? That’s an interesting question to answer, which I will attempt to do below. But first, clearly, I think it’s in women’s interests to get involved in socialist organisations. The problem is that women face many barriers to getting involved and certain socialist organisations within TUSC and areas of the labour movement are not helping matters.
Whilst I agree with everything in the ‘minimum’ program TUSC asks all candidates to sign up to, I have a little history with one of the main components of TUSC aside from the RMT trade union and the Independent Socialist Network – the Socialist Party. I was a member of the SP for a long time, but thankfully not for the last two years. I find it painful to write and talk about, so will just make the following points.
Socialist Feminism to me has always meant supporting women abused by misogynistic men in practice and not just words. Unfortunately, both the SP and their remarkably similarly named great rival the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) are the two main organisations aside from the RMT and the independent socialist network in TUSC. In my opinion both the SWP and the SP have an unacceptable record of defending actual women in and around their respective organisations from misogynists and these needs to be acknowledged by them before anything can change for the better. This is an important factor in why so many socialist and feminist women on the left are reluctant to endorse TUSC with open arms. The responsibility for this development lies with these two organisations, and not with women who expect solidarity and support from their brothers and sisters in the movement. This is the case even though TUSC can no doubt point to working class women standing and campaigning for them in this election – that’s great, but all left wing women’s experiences matter and our voices can no longer be silenced because we are needed too.
Nevertheless, a strong vote for TUSC and Left Unity (where they are standing in the 2015 U.K. General Election in carious constituencies in Wales and England) and for any other socialist and anti-cuts campaigners, would represent to me an important step forward, however small, for working class people. I think this despite my serious criticisms of the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party within TUSC.
Women are essential to the task of building independent, socialist and feminist political representation for our class. If socialists in TUSC genuinely want to bring about closer collaboration and co-operation on the left both during and between elections, then we need to have an honest and open discussion about how to get more women involved on the left and directly challenge sexism and misogyny wherever it rears its ugly, divisive head in socialist and left wing organisations. Left Unity is doing pioneering work in this respect as are other socialist and left wing women in the movement. The increasing collaboration – mainly informal at this point- between TUSC and LU needs to continue. But this issue must be addressed for the project of building independent working class to really begin to maximise the opportunities before us. Working class people here will fight back again and again – as Marx explained, the class struggle is never over so long as capitalism exists. We are going through a temporary dip in class struggle here in Wales but it won’t stay like this forever. THERE will be more strikes, protests and mass movements again. The revolution is still very much possible. And women are going to be leading it, as they tend to do during class struggle and especially during revolutionary movements. These are our opportunities. Women must be at the heart of socialism and our presence is very much required.
TUSC: TUSC – the largest political party that you’ve never heard of by Alexander Woolley on Apr 1, 2015 – http://50for15.com/?s=tusc
http://www.tusc.org.uk/policy – The TUSC core policy platform for the 2015 general election
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