A UNISON member responds to Dave Prentis over by-election results

A UNISON member responds to Dave Prentis over by-election results

corbynprentis

Prentis looking on as Jeremy Corbyn addresses UNISON conference (RT)

We are pleased to publish the following comments from a UNISON member in Coventry in response to an article by UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis in the aftermath of the Stoke and Copeland by-elections. The original article by Prentis was originally carried on the website of the New Statesman. We welcome comments and discussion on the issues raised here.


The votes in the two by-elections that took place this week in Stoke Central and Copeland had barely finished being counted before UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis had an article published in the New Statesman. This article can hardly be considered helpful from the point of view of Jeremy Corbyn and those hundreds of thousands of people who support his anti-austerity policies and wished for something better than the ‘same old Tory lite’ of New Labour.

The article was quickly and unsurprisingly picked up by the right wing press as another example of how Corbyn’s position is becoming untenable as his ‘friends’ start to lose faith in him.

Let us be clear from the outset. Despite the soothing words of Prentis, the fact that UNISON supported Corbyn in the leadership contests was a result of the massive pressure from ordinary members in the union to do so. Prentis would not have wanted to support Jeremy in a million years.

In fact he would have felt threatened by the mass influx in to the Labour Party and people signing up as supporters to support Jeremy. No doubt Prentis would be thinking – if it could happen in the Labour Party, could a ‘Corbyn moment’ happen in UNISON to get rid of him as general secretary? (We think yes, more on that later)

Prentis rightly points out

‘There will be those who seek to place sole blame for this calamity at the door of Jeremy Corbyn. They would be wrong to do so. 

The problems that Labour has in working-class communities across the country did not start with Corbyn’s leadership’.

However timing counts for a lot in politics. And in this case timing says it all – with the knives inevitably coming out once again for Corbyn’s leadership this article from Prentis only adds to the pressure.

Prentis could and should have turned his fire on the Blairites and in particular Tristam Hunt (who took his ‘dream job’ with the V and A) and Jamie Reed (moving on to a highly paid job in the nuclear industry). He could have said that Copeland would still be a Labour seat if Reed had not resigned to pursue higher wages. He could have attacked Tony Blair for his intervention over Brexit, timed to destabilise Labour in the days running up to the by-elections. But no, we get an attempt to undermine Corbyn disguised as comradely advice from a ‘friend’.

Socialist Party supporters in UNISON have raised comradely criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the role played by sections of Momentum. In particular Jeremy’s willingness to placate the right wing in Labour (for example on the issue of the democratic policy of mandatory re-election), the changing of his traditional position of opposition to the EU (if he had held to his position he would have been in a good place to change the whole debate over Brexit – the left wing, internationalist case against the EU as a bosses club would have been heard by a wider audience which could have undercut UKIP) and the unwillingness to organise and mobilise the hundreds of thousands of people against the Blairites in favour of a ‘broad church’ where the right control the PLP and the party machinery.

Unfortunately Jeremy and John McDonnell have also allowed the right wing to get their way with regards to Labour Councils implementing Tory cuts. These concessions have not consolidated or strengthened Corbyn’s position – they have greatly weakened it.

However we do this from the position of wanting to see the building of a mass, anti-austerity socialist movement and that the election of Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party is a big step forward.

That is not the position of Prentis. The general secretary of UNISON is also on the Board of the Bank of England and receives a 6 figure salary which is far removed (to say the least) from the majority of members he purports to represent. Under the leadership of Prentis, our union has failed to mount any sort of campaign to defend jobs or services – with hundreds of thousands of posts being lost in local government and the Tories declaring open season on the NHS. Where is our union? Where is our leader Prentis? There have also been accusations that Dave and his team in the general secretary elections broke the rules of which more can be read about here

Socialists in UNISON have been involved in building support for the UNISONaction Broad Left in the forthcoming elections to the union’s National Executive Council  – this will be a key opportunity to elect activists who are united in their belief that the leadership of Prentis is not fit for the purpose of building a fighting, democratic UNISON. The intervention of Prentis in the aftermath of the recent by-elections further confirms why we need change in our union.

For more analysis of the elections results and what they mean, click here

Video: Dave Nellist talk and Q&A at Warwick Politics Society

Video: Dave Nellist talk and Q&A at Warwick Politics Society

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, a Coventry Socialist Party member and national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, recently spoke as a guest at a Warwick University Politics Society Q&A event about the current Corbyn movment and battles inside the Labour Party and his experiences as a ‘Militant’ supporting Labour MP.

Dave was elected for Coventry South East in 1983 and took only half an MP’s wage, basing his income on the average skilled workers’ rate in Coventry factories. He was expelled from the Labour Party in 1992 for his refusal to pay the Poll Tax. He was elected as a Socialist Party city councillor in Coventry from 1998 to 2012. Mr Nellist is currently national chair of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), which in the last two years has been the sixth largest party in terms of the number of candidates stood at elections.

We would like to thank Warwick Politics Society again for inviting Dave and Warwick Socialist Students for coming along in their numbers to support Dave.

Coventry Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson fails to oppose Saudi war in Yemen

Coventry Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson fails to oppose Saudi war in Yemen

Millionaire Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson didn’t oppose the Saudi bombing in Yemen 

By a resident of the Coventry North West constituency

Over 100 Labour MPs shamefully abstained in Parliament this week on a motion opposing the Saudi Arabia-led bombing campaign in Yemen. The motion was proposed by Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry – the abstentions should be seen as another blatant attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

The motion was not explicitly anti-war, and only called for a suspension of UK support for the bombing while an investigation takes place into whether the Saudi-led coalition has committed war crimes. Just one Tory MP supported the motion, with the rest unsurprisingly underlining their credentials for putting the interests of the arms traders and establishment before the interests of ordinary people in the Middle East and UK.

Despite the mild nature of the motion, even this was not acceptable to the the right, who disgracefully used the situation in Yemen as a political tool to attack Corbyn.

When Jeremy was re-elected he said he wanted the party to unite, and that he would “wipe the slate clean” and work with the plotters. After yet another deliberate plot to attack him, it has to be said that talk of unity with the right wing will only create further difficulties for those seeking to build an anti-austerity Labour Party. If Labour MPs can’t even support a mild motion like this, what are they in Parliament for? The vote this week once again shows the need for mandatory reselection for elected representatives of the Labour Party. We need MPs who, unlike Geoffrey Robinson, will put the interests of ordinary people first.

Do you agree? Are you disgusted by Geoffrey Robinson’s actions? Get in touch!

UNISON backs Corbyn – comments from a member in the West Midlands

UNISON backs Corbyn – comments from a member in the West Midlands

jcunison

Jeremy Corbyn addressing UNISON conference – photo by Paul Mattson

The following article was written by a UNISON member in the West Midlands following the union’s decision to support Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership. The comments were published in The Socialist newspaper several weeks ago. Although the ballot has now closed we are reproducing them here to further the debate within UNISON and the wider trade union movement on how Jeremy’s likely victory can be consolidated and the policies that we believe are needed to change society. There are also strong warning signs from some parts of UNISON who would rather see Jeremy defeated – and see the movement around him as a threat to their positions.


Many Unison members will be pleased that our union has officially backed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. Jeremy is the only candidate, as was the case with the leadership election in 2015, who is fully supportive of the trade union movement and who is in line with the union’s anti-austerity policies.

The immense support and enthusiasm that he receives from activists was witnessed at our annual conference in Brighton in June. When Jeremy spoke he got a huge standing ovation and was mobbed by supporters when he finished speaking – the fact that we have a Labour leader who is unashamedly pro-trade union is a big step forward!

However make no bones about it, there are plenty in our union who would have liked to have ‘done a GMB’ and supported Owen Smith. General secretary Dave Prentis made a statement on 12 August which talks of Labour becoming the ‘nasty party’ with many veiled attacks on the Corbyn campaign.

Prentis fears a Corbyn-type movement in UNISON that could transform our union from top to bottom. Unison members would do well to remember that Prentis and his bureaucracy spent hundreds of thousands of pounds witch-hunting Socialist Party members in UNISON in an unsuccessful attempt to ‘get the Trots’ – sound familiar to the Labour Party today?

The key issues for UNISON members are first of all ensuring a Corbyn victory but then making sure we properly finish the job – no more compromise with right-wing Labour councillors cutting our jobs or Labour MPs who are happy to take our union donations but don’t support union policies.

Importantly we need to discuss how exactly we can get the fairer society that Corbyn supports and many UNISON members want to see – Socialist Party supporters in UNISON believe that means breaking with the failed system of capitalism and introducing widespread public ownership of the banks and major industry.

Then we can truly put people before profit!

Unison member in the West Midlands

Agree? Then get in touch for more info! Fill out the form below

 

Packed meeting discusses Trotskyism, Corbyn and socialist change

Packed meeting discusses Trotskyism, Corbyn and socialist change

Militant

It was “standing room only” at a packed Coventry Socialist Party public meeting on Thursday 25th August.

People came from all over Coventry to hear Socialist Party General Secretary Peter Taaffe speak on “Trotskyism, the Militant tendency,  the Corbyn insurgency and the struggle for socialist change.

Introducing the meeting former Coventry  Labour MP Dave Nellist put the current attacks on the Socialist Party, formerly Militant, in their historial context.

Peter Taaffe outlined the role of Trotskyism in the 21st century, the role of Militant and its successes in Liverpool and Coventry, how Militant led the campaign against the poll tax which brought down the Thatcher Government, while also discussing the current Corbyn insurgency and the Socialist Party’s role now and in the future.

Peter discussed the role of the Militant leadership in Liverpool City Council in the 1980’s who refused to make cuts, redundancies and closures, instead setting a needs budget with the support of a mass movement of local trade unions and communities against the Tories to fight for the money the city needed. The  council won, with the Thatcher Government providing millions more to Liverpool council, allowing them to build 5000 more houses and created thousands of jobs, with not one job lost!

Compare the fighting stand taken by Liverpool Council who took on Thatcher, building homes and community facilities with Coventry City Council who are closing libraries, public toilets and children’s centres. Quite a contrast!

On the issue of the Poll Tax Peter outlined how it was the Militant that mobilised the mass non-payment which eventually led to the downfall of Thatcher.

Both Dave Nellist in his introduction and Peter in his speech made clear that it was these huge victories of the working class, aided by the leadership of the Militant, that have fuelled the attempts of the establishment and right wing of Labour to whitewash history and attempt to discredit Trotskyism and the history of the Socialist Party.

He also discussed the success of Dave Nellist and the precedent he set as Coventry MP in only taking the average wage of skilled workers within his constituency, with Peter highlighting that you can only represent working people if you’re going through the same struggles they are, which came up within the contributions with many commending him for doing so.

Talking about the role of the Socialist Party after being expelled from the Labour Party, Peter set out how we have been the only 100% anti austerity alternative within politics. While many would agree that the election of Corbyn was a massive victory for the labour movement, this is undermined when the likes of Sadiq Khan aren’t helping those being evicted in Walthamstow by rip off landlords and it is the Socialist Party that is organising occupations and protests to help these people.

However, Peter argued that the Socialist Party would welcome affiliation to the Labour Party similar to that of the Co-operative Party, if the Labour Party was to open up its structures to a more democratic and federal structure and was to become a truly anti-austerity party as Corbyn and the Socialist Party both want.

Following Peter’s remarks there were many interesting contributions from the floor, from Labour voters arguing for deselection of right-wing MP’s and their disgust at Labour councillors passing on Tory cuts to working people. With another attendee stating that “if [he] hadn’t have joined [the SP] last week, [he] definitely would have tonight!”

The discussion brought forward many good contributions and questions for example the campaign for a £10/hr minimum wage and whether this was “idealistic”, to which Peter argued that in reality tax credits are used to subsidize big companies who, whilst making massive profits, say they can’t afford a proper wage for their workers.

The key question for socialists is the question of the system itself, capitalism. We are a very rich country (and world), the problem is the wealth is concentrated at the top. We support all reforms and campaigns that fight for greater equality and for a better life for working class people. At the same time, we point out that we need to get rid of the capitalist system and replace it with socialism.

As well as this there was resounding support for the demand that Coventry City Council should set a no cuts budget and stop the cuts being passed on to working people, and instead building a movement much like the Liverpool council and taking on the Tories instead of doing their job for them, with this tying in to how to further build the movement against austerity.

The meeting highlighted that the attacks on Trotskyism and the Militant have not deterred people, but have increased the interest in our ideas and organisation with the meeting filled with many young people and also people of all ages. They were not put off by the term ‘Trot’ or ‘entryist’ and instead wanted to learn more about it. One union rep from the railways commented afterwards “I have learnt so much today and am definitely looking forward to Socialism 2016 in November!”

Owen Jones is wrong to oppose mandatory reselection

Owen Jones is wrong to oppose mandatory reselection

owen jones

Owen Jones

Owen Jones has released a new video where he gives his latest thoughts on the Labour leadership election contest between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

Jones has caused considerable controversy in recent weeks with his less than full support for Jeremy Corbyn and is willingness to seek a compromise with the Blairite wing of the Party.

Unfortunately his latest video lives up to his recent form, whilst offering no way forward in the fight for a democratic and socialist Labour Party.

The right wing of the Labour Party, working hand in glove with the establishment media and behind it the capitalist class, is using every trick in the book to try and discredit Corbyn and the movement around him. They are doing this because they fear, quite rightly as it happens, that their domination is being threatened, that their pro neo-liberal (i.e. pro capitalist) orthodoxy is being threatened by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions who are being enthused by the Corbyn campaign.

The very latest attack has come today from Richard Branson in #traingate and whether Corbyn sitting in the gangway of a train was a stunt or not. As many have pointed out, Branson has a material interest in ensuring that Corbyn loses the leadership election – he fears that the renationalisation of the railways and healthcare threatens his enormous wealth and profit. This is just a small example of what Corbyn and any movement that threatens the establishment will face.

We have a situation where Labour MPs have consistently worked to undermine the elected leader, from the staged resignations from the Shadow Cabinet in the wake of Brexit to the heckling in Parliament whilst Corbyn was attacking the Tories. As an aside Jones states that Labour is doing badly in the polls – has he considered that Labour may be down in the polls due to the possible appearance of ‘chaos’ causes by the right wing sabotage of Corbyn’s leadership?

It is truly astounding that in the current context Jones opposes the mandatory reselection of MPs. This should be a basic democratic process in any working class organisation – its representatives should truly represent the views of the membership and be able to be held to account. Significantly UNITE, the largest union in the country voted at is recent conference to support reselection.

Furthermore Jones suggests that there needs to compromise with deputy leader Tom Watson who has been actively opposing Corbyn and leading a McCarthyite Red Scare campaign against current and former members of the Labour Party. Occasionally Jones acknowledges the fact that there is a civil war taking place in the Labour Party, so what is his advice? Bring these enemies of Corbyn back in to the fold! The likes of Watson and the many MPs who support Owen Smith are firmly committed to keeping Labour safe for the establishment, i.e. committed to trying to keep out any progressive, socialist policies and getting rid of Jeremy.  That Jones wants to compromise with these people is a strategy for not ending the civil war, but losing the fight for the direction of the Labour Party.

Jones raises what he thinks are suitable economic policies and slogans. He states that Labour needs to be ‘The party of investment. The party of growth. The party of opportunity.’ Are these enough though to solve the crisis that working class people face?

The Socialist Party believes that we do not need platitudes but firm and bold socialist policies. We do think that Jeremy and John McDonnell need to go further. It is a great step forward that Jeremy today talked about bringing the whole NHS in to public ownership. But let’s not stop there. There needs to be widespread public ownership including of the banks, financial houses and major industries so we can start to plan the economy in the interests of ordinary people, so we can truly get the fair society that everyone in the Corbyn movement wants to see. That means breaking with capitalism and fighting for socialism. We outlined our position in this article.

A fighting, socialist Labour Party could play a key role in that but it won’t be achieved with the strategy put forward by Owen Jones. The time is not for compromise with the representatives of the establishment in the Labour Party, the time is for mandatory reselection and bold socialist policies.

If you agree with us or want to discuss further, please fill in the form below!

Trotskyism, the Militant tendency and the Corbyn insurgency – Coventry public meeting

Trotskyism, the Militant tendency and the Corbyn insurgency – Coventry public meeting

wp-1471526827678.jpg

A leaflet we have been distributing for the meeting – text below

Thursday 25th August, 7.30pm, Coventry Methodist Central Hall. Warwick Lane, Coventry City Centre, CV1 2HA

The Socialist Party has had a lot of media coverage over the last few weeks, after Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson claimed that Trotskyists were joining the Labour Party and “twisting young arms” to support Jeremy Corbyn. He then submitted a “dossier” to back up his claims, which included reports from Socialist Party members about events they had spoken at. All these reports showed that, rather than secretly joining the party, we are openly attending events as the Socialist Party and putting forward our views – but this didn’t stop the media widely sharing Watson’s claims. These attacks on the Socialist Party, and our predecessor organisation Militant, show how scared the Labour Party right-wing are of genuine socialist ideas.

We have organised a public meeting in Coventry on Thursday 25th August, with former Militant Editorial Board member and Socialist Party General Secretary Peter Taaffe speaking – as seen on Channel 4 news! If you want to hear about the real ideas of the Socialist Party, rather than media distortions, come to the meeting and find out what we stand for.

The deputy leader of the Labour Party has laid the responsibility of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity at the feet of supposed Trotskyist infiltrators.

Why has the Labour Party right wing and the media suddenly become interested in the influence of Leon Trotsky; one of the leaders of the Russian revolution who dedicated his life fighting for socialism and against Stalinism?

The Socialist Party proudly stands in the tradition of Trotsky in fighting for the working class and fighting for democratic socialism.

It was the Socialist Party, then Militant, who led the mass non-payment of the poll tax which was scrapped and led to the defeat of Thatcher.

In recent years Socialist Party members have been at the forefront of fights against privatisation, the bedroom tax and attacks on workers and young people.

It is these ideas that the right are scared of and are trying to discredit.

A programme to improve the lives of majority and a strategy to win. We’re fighting for a different kind of society – a socialist society where the world’s resources are controlled and planned for the good of all not for the profits of a few.

Thursday 25th August, 7.30pm, Coventry Methodist Central Hall. Warwick Lane, Coventry City Centre, CV1 2HA