“Pasokification” of the Labour Party: A Workers’ Party is Needed

“Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.” This certainly seems to ring true when looking at the current state of the Labour Party. When analysing the comments and actions exuding from Labour representatives and thereby extrapolating its current direction or lack thereof it is clear that it is reaching a political cul-de-sac.

Recently, Sadiq Khan expressed that cuts to legal aid cannot be reversed:

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/mar/02/labour-cannot-reverse-tory-legal-aid-cuts-sadiq-khan-says

This might have come as a shock if it were not for the fact that this is only the latest statement in a mounting list of evidence for the Party’s complete degeneration. No matter which area of policy is looked at, the Labour Party seems to barely go beyond apologism for the last 5 years of Con-Dem austerity in a political manifesto that is as anaemic as it is sophistic.

This is to be expected of a party which long ago did away with even giving lip service to the ideas of Socialism with the purging of Clause 4 under Blair. This, coupled with the effective neutering of the Trade Union voice through the Collins Review is very telling of the Party’s gradual but inevitable bourgeoisification. As the leadership continue to break away from the party’s historical roots they will only hasten their demise; a fate which is evident in that their entire existence has become that of simply putting the brakes on Conservative austerity and privatisation rather than seeing any reversals.

The significance of this is crucial because it is evidence that the Labour Party’s leadership is ailing from the fact that it has no alternative to offer and so spends its entire time reacting to Conservative policies rather than offering up anything that goes beyond being the lesser of two evils. If the Labour leadership were to listen to the diminishing number who still cling to the Labour Party in the hope that it will shift direction, or better yet listen to those who have been completely disillusioned it would easily be able to put together a bold programme.

Rather than simply increasing spending on the NHS why not reverse the privatisation which has opened up the funding gap? Rather than promising to freeze energy bills, why not renationalise the utilities? Rather than reducing fees from £9,000 a year to £6,000 a year why not scrap fees altogether? It’s insulting enough that the Labour Party are dressing up a reduction of fees as a step forward when students graduating as late as September 2014 will have only had to pay £3,000 a year. How much angrier will the firefighters, teachers, NHS workers, local government workers and many others be when Labour offers up nothing but excuses for why Conservative policies that have led to the degeneration of pay, terms and conditions to all these workers cannot be undone?

The point that needs to be stressed is that it simply is not true that the damage done by the Con-Dems cannot be undone. What is clear is that the Labour Party is not the vehicle through which to effect this change. The very fact that Labour members are floating the idea of a grand coalition of Tories and Labour in the result of a hung parliament is evidence that Labour is reaching a political cul-de-sac:

http://labourlist.org/2015/03/labour-mp-says-party-shouldnt-rule-out-a-grand-coalition-with-the-tories/

Such a move will only bear the same result as their disastrous coalition with the Tories and Lib Dems on the issue of Scottish Independence.

The Pasokification of the Labour Party appears to be a question of when rather than a question of if as it is following the same course of action as Greece’s Pasok party. Pasok continued to implement austerity when it was voted into power in 2009 and has now completely collapsed as Syriza’s anti-austerity message propelled them to take the most seats, largely at the expense of Pasok.

The troika’s (European Central Bank, IMF and EC) strangulation of the hopes of Greek the working-class cannot last as anti-austerity parties gain traction in countries like Spain and spread across Europe. Moreover, unless Syriza stops retreating from its pre-election promises, the working-class could potentially sweep away the current leadership to secure the relief from austerity it was promised, so long as disillusionment does not set in. However, for this to take hold there is a need for the development of a socialist leadership which has the confidence to take on the Troika even if doing so means Grexit.

The feeling around for a vehicle through which to oppose austerity resonates with the current picture in Britain. It seems that even some of the trade union leadership, in anticipating backlash from its rank and file membership which have been at the receiving end of cuts made by Labour led councils, are cautious about putting forward Labour as a solution to the problem of the Tories. A pamphlet recently sent to Unite members urging them to register to vote so that their voices can be heard in the elections clearly gives tacit support to the Labour Party but dares not mention them by name.

Instead, the pamphlet talks about tuition fee hikes, the bedroom tax and the NHS and pushes union members to vote for a party which can protect these things. It seems that the trade union officialdom are just as embarrassed of putting forward their alleged political voice as the Labour Party leadership are embarrassed of strikes and its party’s historic working-class roots.

There is a desperate need for a political alternative that has a programme that reflects the growing feelings of anger at the relentlessness of cuts that have been passed by a rainbow coalition. Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems are committed to continuation of current spending plans and the likes of UKIP and the Greens have posed as an alternative but have shown themselves to be more of the same. Whether it is UKIP Councillors in Plymouth voting against an implementation of the living wage for agency workers employed by the council or Greens in Bristol attempting to close down 7 libraries, it is clear that actions speak far louder than words.

This is where the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) enters, stage left. TUSC mounted a mammoth 560 candidates in the local elections last May and is set to mount over 130 parliamentary candidates this year as well as 640 candidates in local elections taking place at the same time. TUSC has a growing number of Councillors up and down the country putting forward a principled stance of refusing to administer cuts as a means to protecting jobs and public services.

Having now achieved the threshold to qualify for a political broadcast, the national media blackout on TUSC can finally be lifted meaning that millions of people up and down the country can finally hear about TUSC and embrace the only party that will offer a genuine alternative to austerity and misery this May. A vote for TUSC is a vote against cuts but moreover the growing support for building local TUSC groups and steering committees means that the foundations of a new workers’ party are firmly being laid down. TUSC has a comprehensive programme and can only build on its accumulating success to replicate the anti-austerity mood which is starting to sweep across Europe. Capitalism offers no way out of this protracted crisis, Socialism is the only way forward for working-class people and the future of the planet.

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Council Tax Benefit Cuts Hit Plymothians Hard, Plymothians Hit Back Harder

Plymouth City Council (PCC), which is a Labour-run council, chose to implement a 25% cut to Council Tax Benefit on April 1st despite sitting on reserves of £31.3 million when the cut was implemented. As a result of choosing to safeguard their reserves rather than some of Plymouth’s most poverty-stricken, nearly 8,000 Plymothians have gone into arrears as a direct result of cuts to Council Tax Benefit. PCC issued a mass summons of Plymothians for non-payment of Council Tax on Friday 16th August, the second mass summons since the cuts were introduced.

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The court hearings were listed for 14:00 and I’m sure the council officers were expecting just another day at the office. What they instead witnessed was a defiant message from people who are just starting to see the benefits of fighting back against these barbarous cuts.

Plymouth Against Benefit Cuts (PABC), the local campaign group set up by Socialist Party members to oppose the Bedroom Tax and cuts to Council Tax Benefit, organised a demonstration outside the court starting from 13:30. More than 25 people gathered outside the Magistrates’ Court in protest, including the local Unite Community Branch, a strong Socialist Party presence, campaigners involved with PABC as well as general supporters and the local press.

However, this was only the beginning as 6 campaigners, 1 of whom had been summonsed, went into the Magistrates’ Court to speak to others who had been summonsed. Campaigners encouraged those summonsed to speak out rather than accept that they should plunge themselves further into poverty to pay their council tax, which the Council Officers were more than happy to bully them into doing.

The Council Officers, who refused to identify themselves by name, were telling people that they could avoid the court costs if they made an arrangement to settle with the Council Officers outside the courtroom (It has since come to my attention that some of these Council Officers were actually Unite members so I only hope that these Council Officers can work in solidarity with us in the future to oppose these cuts). This would seem like a merciful gesture if it weren’t for the fact that the Council were the ones responsible for dragging these people to court in the first place, instead it has clearly been used a way of intimidating people into paying up.

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However, when one Socialist Party member who had been summonsed demanded to see the Magistrate others quickly started demanding the same. Not only that but thanks to some leaflets provided by Unite the Union, people were encouraged to use Unite’s payplan service. This is a service provided by Unite to give advice and help for those in debt. By using a debt management service like this, court proceedings have to be adjourned for 30 days which Council Officers were not too impressed about.

Many of those who attended court expressed an interest in PABC and want to come along to the next meeting to organise against these cuts. PABC, Plymouth’s Unite Community Branch and the Plymouth Branch of the Socialist Party have all vowed to return every time people are summonsed to court and are prepared to make the implementation of these cuts completely unworkable. Moreover, all 3 groups will be taking the fight to the Council next month as a lobby of the Council will be taking place on Monday 16th September.

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If Labour do not listen to this outburst of anger now, they are likely to be punished in the polls as the Socialist Party is organising a TUSC meeting in September in preparation for next year’s council elections. The Plymouth Branch of the Socialist Party is working with the RMT union as well as anti-cuts groups and is aiming to put forward 18 TUSC candidates in the May 2014 elections who will oppose cuts. If Plymouth’s Councillors will not listen to the outcry of those affected by the cuts they have chosen to make then maybe they will start listening as they begin losing their seats in the council.

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