On Young and Precariat Workers

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Above photo taken by Mary Finch

Below is an editted version of my contribution to the discussion on British Perspectives at the Socialist Party’s March 2017 National Congress:

Ryan Aldred, Plymouth and South West

Comrade chair, comrades.

For many youths growing up in the 90’s, those putting forward a so called “alternative” to the Tories would have been Tony Blair, promising a university education for everybody and a life of prosperity thereafter. And how prosperous we are now! This was followed by Nick Clegg, promising to end tuition fees and put a brake on Tory austerity; well done there Cleggy!

It should therefore come as no surprise that in some of the most deprived areas, that young and precariat workers take a very jaded approach to Corbyn. There is some mileage in more boldly putting forward our programme among these layers. It is mainly a layer of older workers returning to the Labour Party and more politically engaged students who identify with Corbyn and recognise that he is qualitatively different from his neo-liberal predecessors.

There is a backwardness in class consciousness and particularly combativity compared to previous periods. This, coupled with the atomisation of young and precariat workers especially along with their abhorrent living conditions which can explain the increasing prevalence of mental health issues working class people are struggling to overcome. With poverty contributing to isolation and social exclusion leading to depression and the constant worry of living hand to mouth resulting in greater levels of anxiety.

It is these same material conditions which give rise to an often inchoate and elemental anger which can quickly rise to the surface and potentially spill over. Thus in this volatile period there is a danger that we could see a return of the riots which took place in 2011 as the conditions are still there which caused the riots to erupt.

Likewise, we could see a new occupy style movement albeit one on a higher political level due to the increased pace at which processes and events are taking place compared to the original occupy movement. Moreover, we’re likely to see the explosive injection of youth on demonstrations such as we have seen with the anti-Trump protests for instance.

With the lack of generalised industrial struggle in this period compared to some of the heroic struggles that took place in the Thatcher years, combined with the lack of organised opposition from Corbyn and general lack of momentum in Momentum, we could see the frustrations of youth finding expression in a resurgance of ultra-left and anarchist ideas. We have already seen this in embryo in the anti-party mood in the indignados and occupy movements and this will no doubt increase if we see further betrayals by left populist parties such as Syriza in Greece.

With all this unpredictability and volatility, one thing remains glaringly obvious, we will continue to see the accumulation of capitalist contradictions, agitating and radicalising the working class and especially the youth and more precariat layers. Improving technology is exacerbating this, self-service machines replacing shop workers and, as reported in the Financial Times this week, electronic lecturing displacing even this once secure profession.

We’ve seen the opportunities for super exploitation with apps such as deliveroo and uber eats, this has been compounded by Phillip Hammond’s budget, targetting the self-employed which will hit those in the rising gig economy hardest.

There is a desperate need for a bold and audacious alternative and in the absence of a serious fightback from the Corbynistas, TUSC is well placed to build towards that, even with the disappointing withdrawal of the SWP from TUSC. By showing confidence in our ideas and our programme, as evidenced by our strong intervention in the March 4th NHS demo, we can win new layers to our ranks and capture and hopefully harness some of that anger.

By being patient, flexible and resilient when building amongst casualised and particularly young workers, accommodating for comrades’ daily struggles, we can build confidence in these layers to take their first steps organising in the harsh conditions of zero-hours living.

This can help us to sink deeper roots into the class to ensure workers don’t internalise feelings of failure for not being productive members of a capitalist society which sees fit to discard them. By agitating among these workers to express their rightful indignation at a system that is failing them, whilst linking their struggles into the wider struggles of the working class by helping to organise these layers, we can prepare the ground for the revolutionary idea that we can instead discard this capitalist system and build with our class towards a socialist alternative.

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All Circus and No Bread: Plymouth City Council Cuts Budget and Democracy

Councillors sat today (Monday 27th February) to move the annual budget and yet again it’s the people of Plymouth that are being made to suffer.

With Labour having lost control of the council after the 2016 elections ending four years of Blairite Labour branded austerity the Conservatives and their allies in UKIP are now wielding the axe and they are certainly wasting no time.

It’s difficult to fathom how UKIP can in any way claim to be an “alternative” when they are lining up with the Tories to dish out more misery for ordinary Plymothians. Moreover, we hear once again about the need to be prudent and fiscally responsible from the Conservatives, yet they are continuing to slash services whilst having the gall to increase council tax for every household in Plymouth by 4.49%. This effectively means that the people of Plymouth will have to pay out even more despite the fact that the Tories and their friends in UKIP are further reducing the services which Plymouth City Council is offering. In short people will have to pay more for less.

The Tories have pinned the council tax rise on the need to raise funds to ensure the council is able to meet its requirements for providing adult social care. Rather than lumping the bill on the poorest and most vulnerable in Plymouth why hasn’t Ian Bowyer (Conservative leader of Plymouth City Council) demanded more funding from central government? If they can find extra money for Surrey, why not Plymouth? The people of Plymouth are being expected to pay out more in taxes whilst simultaneously having to put up with reduced bin collections as well as the potential closure of over half of Plymouth’s libraries to name but some of the cuts.

The Labour Councillors were ridiculing the Tories for making cuts and raising council tax but this is exactly what they themselves did over the four years that they had control of the council. However, their remarks were cut short when the Conservatives and UKIP decided to use their majority to end the debate early and go straight to the vote. It seems that the Conservatives are taking a leaf out of Trump’s book by stifling debate which UKIP fully supported.

Despite being cut short the Labour group could have used what time they had to table an alternative no cuts budget as I have suggested to them year after year before budget setting meetings. Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party have been much more open to discuss such an alternative but so far not a single one of Plymouth’s Labour Councillors has been open to even discussing a legal no cuts budget.

Plymouth is in desperate need of an alternative to austerity. We need Councillors who are going to stand up for public services rather than wield the axe. Whether that fight comes from Corbyn supporting Labour candidates prepared to unseat Blairites and oppose the cuts or whether that fight has to continue to come from TUSC, what matters is that fight needs to be had.

TUSC are prepared to continue in that fight and we are always happy to have fraternal discussions with any and all individuals and parties that are also willing to take up that struggle. Let’s build the alternative.

Ryan Aldred

Socialist Party Secretary and TUSC Election Agent

Corbyn Supporters Gain Momentum: Now to Reject Austerity and Build the Socialist Movement

Momentum Taking Shape

The development of Momentum has the potential to be an important step in the process of organising Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. This is important for mobilising the swelling support for Corbyn as a means to challenging the ideas of austerity and firmly putting the ideas and policies of Socialism back on the mainstream agenda. It is clear that the right-wing Blairites that currently have control of the Labour Party machine are organising a very open coup against Corbyn as evidenced daily in the press attacks by the likes of Ben Bradshaw, Simon Danczuk and John Cruddas. Momentum has the potential to effectively counter the Blairite opposition to Corbyn but it will only realise that potential if it remains open and does not shy away from taking on those who have polluted the Labour Party over the last 30 years.

Momentum has raised the interests of many, whether old Labour members who have been disillusioned in the past by Labour’s lack of opposition to the Tories who are now coming back or new layers, inspired to get involved by Corbyn’s anti-austerity message. It has also attracted those from outside the ranks of the Labour Party to play a part in building the movement. Trade unionists, community campaigners, those not willing to throw their lot in with a particular party at this point and those in various other political parties are currently engaging with Momentum. If it remains open and broad in this way the Socialist Party will continue to support and be a part of this process.

However, Momentum is still finding its feet nationally and because of this it is fulfilling a number of different roles in different areas. In some places it is very open, democratic and welcoming of those from the wider labour movement. Yet, in other areas it is closed off to anybody outside of the Labour Party. This is a mistake as it limits the scope of debate and leaves Momentum being very insular rather than aiming to appeal to broader layers to build a mass working-class movement.

On Debate and Dealing With the “Moderates”

It is clear that there is another group which is very interested in Momentum and that group is the so-called “moderates”. The same group of “moderates” that have a stranglehold on the Parliamentary Labour Party and the majority of councils. The same group of “moderates” who are doing all they can to stop the loss of their free ride on the gravy train by trying to shut out and isolate Corbyn’s supporters. Whether it be making members feel unwelcome at meetings, duping the public by speaking socialist rhetoric one minute then putting through swingeing cuts the next or manipulating Momentum meetings to cut out any views that contradict their own, these “moderates” will stop at nothing to keep their grubby mitts firmly at the reins of a party which is steering in another direction.

Corbyn’s election promises struck a chord; a single compromise on austerity would be a betrayal of all those who have engaged and are willing to support a position of Councils coming together to oppose the cuts. Trying to compromise between the tens of thousands taking their first tentative steps into the field of politics who outright reject austerity and the thousands of Labour Councillors who have, up until now, put through austerity without any resistance but “with a heavy heart” would be an impossibility.

It is disappointing that Jon Lansman, one of the directors of Momentum, pulled out of a planned debate at the Socialist Party’s annual Socialism 2015 event recently due to the Sun releasing a “reds under the bed” article:

http://www.sunnation.co.uk/corbyn-aide-to-join-ex-militant-leaders-to-plot-battle-for-labours-soul/

The terms of the debate cannot be allowed to be set by the likes of Murdoch’s gutter press. Likewise, trying to appeal or placate the right-wing in the Labour Party by compromising on policy or on the purpose of Momentum would be a huge error on the part of the Corbynistas. Furthermore, Momentum meetings should not shy away from political debates and discussions. It’s important to build and organise campaigns which people can get behind but at the same time the reasons for why those campaigns are being pursued and focussed on should be up for discussion.

Thus, anybody trying to dampen the call for political discussion or calling for unity above all in the Labour Party has to be seriously questioned on what basis that unity should or even could be achieved. There have, of course, been notable exceptions where Labour Councillors have opposed the cuts such as Keith Morrell, Don Thomas and Kevin Bennett to name but a few but they were expelled from the Labour Party for their efforts. These Councillors all did so whilst the Labour Party was under Miliband’s control but the Labour Party has not been forthcoming in welcoming these Councillors back into their ranks yet and all have found a home in TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition). Those calling for unity without question were deafeningly silent about unity in these cases and yet these Councillors have enjoyed the popular support of ordinary working-class people for daring to actually carry through their promises of opposing austerity in deed as well as in word.

Local Elections

Corbyn’s supporters have come into the Labour Party with the Blairites rushing through the selection process for next year’s local elections in order to ensure they can exclude the new layers, many of whom won’t yet be eligible to vote in these selection meetings. It is clear to the likes of right-wing Labour MP Frank Field that if Blairite candidates were to be deselected then he would be prepared to support them as independent candidates over the legitimately selected Labour candidate. With Corbyn’s supporters effectively barred from influencing who will potentially be representing them in council chambers up and down the country in the 2016 local elections will they be prepared to support independent candidates who genuinely support Corbyn if they are stuck with Labour candidates who don’t support Corbyn?

TUSC and the Socialist Party is in the process of writing to all Labour candidates running in the local elections next year to find out where they stand on opposing the cuts. If Councillors up for reelection are willing to move no-cuts budgets at the annual budget setting meetings and if new candidates are willing to pledge to openly support Corbyn’s call for councils to come together against the cuts then the Socialist Party will be happy to not stand candidates against them. Indeed we will do all we can to help be a part of the campaign to get these people elected. However, would it be right to allow Blairite candidates a free rein to stand unopposed when they will be undermining Corbyn’s policies and doing the Tories dirty work for them by implementing the cuts which are opposed by Labour’s leadership and a quickly growing layer of working-class people?

There are many challenges ahead but unity has to be forged on the basis of a programme which rejects austerity in word and deed and emphatically rejects the ideologically driven cuts which have hammered the poor and vulnerable whilst the rich have been showered with tax breaks, bailouts and massive profits. Workers have a world to win.

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