Britain: Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Standing against cuts and privatisation

TUSC Launch rally, London March 2010, photo Alison Hill

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) has been set up to stand candidates in the coming general and local elections – expected on 6 May – who are against the pro-big business agenda of the main political parties. Over 40 candidates will be campaigning under the TUSC umbrella.

All the parties, trade unionists and groups that are standing candidates as part of TUSC have full freedom to run their own campaigns, using their own political material. But all of them support the coalition’s programme that is ’for the people, not the millionaires’, and includes defence of public services and opposition to job losses and low pay.

Many TUSC candidates are socialists and trade unionists who have long records of leading struggles against council and government attacks on workers’ rights and living standards.

TUSC launch rally in London

TUSC held an election launch rally in London on Thursday 18 March, attended by over 250 people, that received coverage in the national media. Below are edited extracts from two of the platform speeches delivered at that successful event.

Chris Baugh at the TUSC Launch rally, London March 2010, photo Alison Hill

"I welcome the launch of this coalition, that can at least start to fill the massive void that’s been opened up on the left of British politics, as a result of New Labour’s ’pact’ with big business and its abandonment of working class interests. It can begin to challenge the new consensus that workers, including those in the seven million strong British trade union movement and importantly the millions unorganised, some of the most exploited sections of British society, will have to pay the price for this economic crisis.

The NHS, access to free education – the list is considerable, all of the things won through struggle – are under attack. The crisis is being used to unravel and dismantle all of those social gains.

We’re told that poverty must now increase and that we should meekly accept the obscenity of the growing gap between the richest and the poorest in our society.

Tucked away in the FT, was an article that summarised a Mori survey. It showed that the public is utterly unconvinced of the need for cuts. Only a quarter believe there’s a need to cut services to reduce the national debt, 50% don’t think cuts are necessary, 48% think more, rather than less, should be spent on public expenditure.

Principles of trade unionism

This coalition provides the opportunity to restate the principles and practise of trade unionism. You never see an article in the media that supports a trade union in struggle. We’ve been confronted by an absolute torrent of abuse against the principles and practice of trade unionism.

This coalition is about offering an alternative, about supporting trade unionists and the democratic right of workers who feel the need to take strike action in defence of their interests. We’ve got to challenge the anti-union laws that try to tie us up, the most repressive anti-union laws in western Europe.

The recession and climate change are both the result of massive market failure. It’s entirely technically and financially feasible to create at least a million new jobs, by investing in insulating homes and public buildings, investing in renewables, through a sustainable publicly run transport system, and utilising the skills and know-how in society for socially useful production. But none of this will happen if we leave it to the market.

It’s not just about further regulation, we’ve got to restate the case for public ownership, proper public ownership of the banks, bringing the public utilities back under public ownership, and looking at democratic models of running society. This coalition can restate the idea that another world really is possible.”

Chris Baugh, PCS assistant secretary (personal capacity)

Dave Nellist at the TUSC Launch rally, London March 2010, photo Alison Hill

"Tory leader David Cameron has described the coming election as a ’change’ election. The reality is, it’s going to be a ’no change’ election, whatever mix of MPs of the main parties takes office after May. Because there’s already an overlapping agenda which says that the billions borrowed to bail out the bankers and their financial system, has to be repaid out of the wages, pensions and public services of ordinary working people.

The only difference between the main parties is that Labour proposes to cut £66 billion from raising taxes and making cuts over seven years, while the Tories say they will do it in six. What sort of an alternative is that for working people?

TUSC has been brought together to address a number of issues. The top 10% in Britain today own 44% of the wealth. The bottom 10%, not only don’t own any wealth, they’re £500 million in negative equity because of debt and mortgages. New Labour has failed to eradicate poverty, particularly child poverty. So the first job of a coalition like this is to say that we want to reorganise society, so that those problems can be dealt with.

New Labour is also guilty of taking Norman Lamont’s privatisation of services and accelerating it since 1997, into prisons, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools. PFI contracts in the country now total hundreds of billions of pounds. Money pours out of the public purse into those contracts, with much of it becoming sheer profit for the firms involved. If there are cuts to be made, this coalition will argue for the renationalisation of all PFI contracts.

Bob Ainsworth and Alistair Darling have confirmed that the cost of the Afghanistan war is £21 billion. It has also cost almost 300 young soldiers’ lives, thousands of young soldiers coming back with horrific injuries, and tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan who have been killed or injured. This coalition will stand full square behind the demand to bring the troops home and end the war in Afghanistan.

Behind a lot of people’s disillusionment with the political process and parties is the sleaze of MPs. Hundreds of dodgy claims have been put in by MPs for duck ponds through to second homes. Over 40 New Labour ex-ministers, once they had stopped getting contacts in the departments they worked in, rushed to take jobs and consultancies with private companies, usually in the same field.

We’re going to stand, in this coalition, for a new clean form of politics. But with an old tradition; and that is, if any of our candidates are elected, they will live in the communities they represent, and on the same wages and conditions as the people they represent.

In physics there’s a saying that nature abhors a vacuum. It’s the same in politics. One of the consequences of Labour losing over four million votes between 1997 and 2005 has been the movement of a significant number of former Labour voters, especially in white working class areas, towards the politics of the far right. The BNP got a million votes in the European election last year and we see the EDL on the streets of Britain.

TUSC will try to inoculate with an alternative some of those who might think that the only way to cast a protest vote is to vote for the BNP. We are going to plant a flag in front of working people, to counter the three main parties that are assuming that cuts in public spending on our communities have to come. We will argue instead for Trident to go, for the ID scheme to go, for PFI schemes to go. We will not stand by while pensions, benefits and public services are attacked.

Picket support

Also, we are virtually the only party in this election that will stand on the picket lines with the BA cabin crew, with the PCS members, with the firefighters who face cuts, with the TSSA and the RMT members who are facing struggle.

The one thing that will measure our success, beyond 6 May, is whether we have widened and deepened the network of trade unionists who can struggle and campaign together, so that whatever mix of MPs forms the government, they will face determined opposition. This Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition seeks to build a new political independent voice for working people, that is rooted in the communities and organisations of working class people."

Dave Nellist, Socialist Party councillor, Coventry

Brian Caton, POA, at the TUSC Launch rally, London March 2010, photo Alison Hill

“The only way in which we’re going to fight back, is by fielding our own candidates, having our own party, that is truly engaged with working men and women. We’re going to have a party ’for the people’ and ’by the people’ that’s going to support working men and women and not abandon them to the scrapheap in favour of bankers, bent businessmen and big business more generally. This is a time when socialism becomes real….

We need to bring morals back into politics and the only way we can do that is by fielding good honest candidates, not those who seek to enhance their own financial standing.”

Brian Caton, general secretary, Prison Officers Association (personal capacity)

See for more information, updates, and to get involved and make a donation.

Go on the Socialist Party website ( see the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition launch video

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April 2010