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!

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

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

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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

Communication Workers Union backs Jeremy Corbyn

Communication Workers Union backs Jeremy Corbyn

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Jeremy Corbyn with CWU general secretary Dave Ward – pic from BBC

The below article by Coventry Socialist Party and CWU member Lenny Shail was carried in this weeks issue of The Socialist newspaper. The trade unions have a key role in building support for Jeremy. 

A special press conference organised by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) alongside Jeremy Corbyn himself, saw the union announce its official support for Corbyn in the Labour leadership election.

Before the press conference, a special political briefing by CWU general secretary Dave Ward on behalf of the union’s executive committee was given to branch representatives, explaining the unanimous decision of the executive committee to continue support for Corbyn.

Dave highlighted the significance of motion 47 from CWU conference that was passed, which “predicted the attacks” and the need for the union to do everything it could to organise to defend Corbyn against the right-wing Blairites. Motion 47 was moved and seconded by Socialist Party members at the conference in May.

A small number of CWU branch officers in attendance, who were often the main speakers in opposition to any motions calling for an end to the union’s blind support for New Labour before Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, were the only opposition to the decision.

Brian Kenny from Merseyside branch, before Dave Ward had even spoken, demanded to know why Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith hadn’t been invited. Another branch officer simply reminded the meeting and Brian that the CWU is independent of the Labour Party and can do what it wants in the interests of its members!

It will be of no surprise to many to hear that Brian Kenny also happens to be a Labour councillor in Wirral.

Mobilise for Jeremy Corbyn

Socialist Party members and others at the meeting raised that the immediate task is to mobilise in support of Corbyn’s re-election – pointing to the many #keepcorbyn rallies and meetings that have taken place across the country. But to also consolidate the mass support for Corbyn by organising and preparing to remake Labour as a socialist, working class party that really can be a voice for the 99%.

The scaremongering threats of a Labour split that were raised by the tiny number of Smith supporters were answered simply by one Socialist Party member: ”Let the Blairites go and if they don’t, mandatory re-selection is needed to kick them all out and the same with the cuts-making councillors”.

The need for an overhaul in the democratic structures of the Labour Party and opening up to the workers’ and socialist movement, and a return to a federal structure, was raised and received support.

Socialist Party members speaking at the meeting finished by making the case for a fighting socialist programme of renationalisation of key industries including the whole of the communications industry, workers’ rights, better pay, more affordable housing and defence of the NHS, etc, to inspire and win over the mass of working class to the battle against the Blairites, Tories and austerity itself.

Jeremy Corbyn gave a passionate speech to end the meeting with a call to arms for CWU members to get involved in the fight for his re-election and change the course of the Labour Party.

We very much welcome and support Jeremy’s clear call for Royal Mail to be taken back into public ownership, however it was unfortunate that when asked by the press whether he would support the renationalisation of British Telecom he said that wasn’t being considered.

The Socialist Party supports the complete renationalisation of Royal Mail and BT but we would go further and call for all the main postal and telecommunications industries to be brought under genuine democratic workers’ control and public ownership – to be run in the interests of society as a whole and not the profits of major private communications companies.

No compromise with Labour right wing – #KeepCorbyn

No compromise with Labour right wing – #KeepCorbyn

The below article is in this week’s issue of The Socialist – please read and share!

The next few months will decide the fate of the Labour Party. Although he claims to be ‘as radical as Jeremy’, the leadership challenger Owen Smith is in reality the candidate of all those with a vested interest in keeping the Labour Party a safe, New Labour-style version of the Tories.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Labour was set up 116 years ago by trade unionists, socialists, women suffrage campaigners, the working class co-operative movement, and others, as ‘our party’.

But over the course of 20 years under the leadership of Blair, Brown and Miliband it was completely transformed into another party of big business and the 1% capitalist elite.

Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected victory in last summer’s leadership election created an opening to roll back the New Labour transformation. His anti-austerity message, and support for trade union rights, free education, council housing etc, changed the terms of political debate.

Even Tory prime ministers are now forced to speak of ‘working class families struggling to get by’ from the steps of Downing Street!

But because Jeremy Corbyn’s victory offered the hope of change, a showdown with the capitalist establishment and their representatives within the Labour Party was inevitable.

And now, as the Socialist warned from the outset, the two-parties-in-one are in a desperate fight for control of the Labour Party brand.

The immediate task is to mobilise for Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election. But also to organise to ensure that this time victory is consolidated by remaking Labour as a working class, socialist party that really can be the voice of the 99%.

Labour at the crossroads

The Labour Party right-wing were never going to accept Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Standing behind them are the capitalist establishment, the 1% elite, who have benefitted enormously from the transformation of Labour into Tony Blair’s New Labour and the domination of political debate by pro-market ideas which that allowed.

It was not for nothing that the former Tory deputy prime minister Geoffrey Howe said of Margaret Thatcher that “her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two”, with New Labour’s embrace of capitalism.

While for example, average household incomes have only just returned to the levels at the start of the ‘great recession’ in 2008, the richest 1,000 people in Britain have more than doubled their wealth to £547 billion in the same period. The New Labour era was good for the elite.

The Labour right have shown how ruthless they are prepared to be to defend the interests of their establishment backers. Only the protests of thousands of Labour members and trade unionists secured a narrow majority on the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to stop Jeremy being effectively excluded from the ballot paper.

But this attempted coup having failed, the right went on to plan B and limited the franchise compared to last summer’s election, after Jeremy and other supporters had literally ‘left the room’.

Also, for the first time since world war two, all regular party meetings have been closed down, removing the chance for ordinary party members to hold anti-Corbyn MPs and councillors to account.

Angela Eagle’s Wallasey constituency party has been suspended and the election of new, left-wing officers of the Brighton & Hove District Labour Party, the biggest local party unit, annulled.

Meetings necessary

Local parties should defy these edicts and continue meeting, or #Keep Corbyn meetings should be organised independently, including by trade union branches – and involving Corbyn supporters inside and outside the Labour Party.

After all, the dictatorial rule-or-ruin approach of the Labour apparatus in this battle gives a glimpse of the type of regime that will operate if Owen Smith were to win.

The idea that the social movement developing around Jeremy Corbyn could conduct an effective struggle within the confines of the Labour Party in the event that he is unseated from the leadership is utopian.

By the same token, it is clear that if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected this time his victory must be properly consolidated. This means taking on the main bases of establishment Labour, in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), the national party apparatus, and locally, the big majority of Labour’s 7,000 councillors.

Challenging the latter will be vital to show in practice what an anti-austerity party really is, in contrast to the actions of the Labour right.

It does not mean a party voting for cuts! The fact is that Labour councils this year will be sacking three times the number of workers who are losing their jobs from the collapse of BHS, denounced by MPs as ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

If Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected he must organise for Labour councils to defy the Tories, including refusing to implement the new Housing and Planning Act, with local parties pressing councillors who refuse to fight to resign. The situation where council Labour groups and not the members decide council policy must be reversed.

Inclusive structure

The national structures of the Labour Party would also need to be opened out and democratised. To mobilise the maximum possible support, there should be a return to the founding structures of the Labour Party which involved separate socialist political parties coalescing with the trade unions and social movements like women’s suffrage campaigners and the co-operative movement.

That federal approach applied to today would mean allowing political parties like the Socialist Party and others involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), and anti-austerity Greens, to affiliate to Labour as the Co-op Party still does.

While mandatory re-selection would allow local parties to replace their MPs at the next general election, more decisive action would need to be taken before then to bring the parliamentary party into line.

MPs should have the Labour whip only if they agree to accept the renewed mandate for Corbyn and his anti-austerity, anti-war policies.

It is necessary to take on the forces in Labour defending the capitalist establishment, not seek ‘unity’ around their agenda.

Their attempted coup has shown that if there was a Corbyn-led Labour government they would play a similar role to those parliamentarians who joined Syriza as it overtook Pasok, the Greek equivalents of New Labour, but who were then to the fore in pushing for it to capitulate before the interests of capitalism.

A party of struggle with fewer MPs but a fighting socialist programme, would have a bigger impact in defence of the working class than a party with a couple of hundred MPs but which accepts the policies demanded by capitalism.

Winning new support it could regain the seats that may be temporarily held by anti-Corbyn MPs and go on to win a general election.

The right-wing have moved against Jeremy Corbyn and the most important question now is how the social movement that has begun to mobilise in his defence can be organised for the battles to come.

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Coventry Labour MP Fletcher joins anti-Corbyn coup

Coventry Labour MP Fletcher joins anti-Corbyn coup

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Colleen Fletcher MP

Colleen Fletcher, Labour MP for Coventry North East, resigned from her secretarial position today as part of the attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn. Fletcher, who was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Kerry McCarthy MP, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, has also called for Jeremy to resign as Labour leader.

Fletcher’s resignation will have come as a shock to many, not because she was seen as a Corbyn supporter but because they did not realise she had a PPS position to resign from. Despite this, she has resigned in an attempt by the right-wing of the Parliamentary Labour Party to force Jeremy to resign as Labour leader. Like many MPs she is completely out of touch with the daily struggles of the ordinary working people she claims to represent. When heroic junior doctors went on strike in Coventry, with a picket line at Walsgrave Hospital in the heart of her constituency, Fletcher was nowhere to be seen – but when there’s a chance to attack the elected leader of the Labour Party she grabs it with both hands!

Jeremy is rightly resisting these attacks, and his supporters inside and outside the party are building a movement to defend him, including a petition which now has over 200,000 signatures and a demonstration outside Parliament. The Blairite coup has been on the cards since Jeremy became leader, and is now in full voice – we need to come out fighting to defend him.

Nicky Downes, who stood as a Socialist candidate against Fletcher in the 2015 elections, said “There is clear support for Jeremy from the public, with 10,000 people on the streets tonight at a protest in favour of his leadership. Colleen Fletcher has shown her true colours by resigning from the shadow cabinet along with the Blairites. It’s time to deselect her. Coventry needs an MP that will share Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to austerity and fight for this city.”

A crucial weapon for those who want to defend the leadership of Corbyn and John McDonnell is to demand the reintroduction of mandatory reselection of MPs, meaning that local Labour Party members can hold them to account for their actions. Jeremy could even go further and remove the Labour whip from the plotters who are attempting to remove him!

Labour members and Corbyn supporters in Coventry North East who are angered by Fletcher’s actions should mobilise and pass a motion in their constituency party condemning her actions and demanding she faces reselection before a general election is held.

Jeremy is absolute right to stand up to the plotters and should continue to do so, and fight to defend his leadership in a fresh contest if necessary. We will continue to support his leadership as part of the fight for an anti-austerity party that will represent ordinary people.

Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

Thursday’s elections showed anger and fragmentation

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While the media has attempted to spin last week’s elections as a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn, the reality of the situation is far more complex. The 25% increase in the Socialist vote in Coventry reflects a growing radicalisation and dissatisfaction with the right-wing policies of Labour in Coventry. The below article by Hannah Sell reflects on the situation nationally. Hannah is the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party and will be speaking at our post-election rally on Thursday 12th May.

Running up to the May elections the Labour Party right wing – with the full backing of the capitalist class – set out to damage their own party’s chances in order to achieve what is, for them, a greater goal: undermining Jeremy Corbyn. The anti-Semitism uproar – initially relating to comments made by Naz Shah when Ed Miliband was leader – was a cynical attempt to try to prepare the ground for a coup against Corbyn, hoping that the local election results would then provide further ammunition.

Widespread predictions were made by Blairite MPs and in the right-wing media – now included in which is the Guardian – that Labour was on course to lose 100 or more council seats because of the supposed unpopularity of opposing austerity. That didn’t happen.

In Scotland Labour suffered a resounding defeat. That was partly inevitable given the hatred of Scottish workers for the role Labour played in the Scottish independence referendum, acting as the voice of big business’s Project Fear campaign. However good Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Scotland, he would not have been able to quickly overcome workers’ view of Labour as ‘red Tories’.

Unfortunately, however, Jeremy Corbyn has not taken a clear position of supporting the right of self-determination for Scotland which would have begun to win some credit back for Labour among the Scottish working class. Of course, had he adopted the pro-austerity ‘red Tory’ approach demanded by the Blairites – who are now blaming Corbyn for the result – Labour would have fared even worse in Scotland than it did.

But in England Labour maintained the same number of councils and only had a net loss of 18 seats, while slightly increasing its share of the vote from the general election. Far from a mass exodus from Labour in the south of England, Labour retained control of key councils including Southampton and Exeter. Significantly, it won the mayors of Bristol and London – the sixth biggest city and the capital – with clear majorities.

The racist campaign by the Tories in London backfired and London is now the first city in Europe with a Muslim mayor, while Bristol – a city built on slavery – now has the first mayor in Europe of African-Caribbean descent.

Labour won the two parliamentary byelections in Sheffield Brightside and Ogmore, with an increased majority in the former. That inconvenient fact may have temporarily stayed the hands of Corbyn’s enemies. Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, openly appealed on Radio 4 to Labour MPs to “have patience” – suggesting not that they should support Jeremy Corbyn, but that they couldn’t move against him yet given the election results and the size of his mandate.

Labour’s right and left

That has not prevented, however, an escalation in the civil war in the Labour Party. Endless successions of Labour MPs are touring the TV studios to explain why – even though their dire predictions did not materialise – this was still a truly terrible election result for Labour. Leading the charge has been the newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan who, as we predicted, is setting out his new position as a platform against Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, the leadership of Momentum, which purports to organise Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters, has spent recent weeks uncritically mobilising in support of Sadiq Khan, without even warning its membership about the role that he – a man who has said he wants more billionaires in London – was clearly set to play.

The pro-Corbyn wing of the party has not as yet fought back like it should against the blows being rained down on it, but has vainly attempted to paper over the gaping chasm. Left MP Clive Lewis has appealed to Corbyn to “compromise, reach out”, including on policy questions. As if events of the last weeks don’t prove conclusively that there is no compromise that could successfully pacify the Blairites.

For the right of the Labour Party – and behind them the 1%, the capitalist class – are desperate to once again make their party safe for big business. That means routing the nascent anti-austerity movement that thrust Jeremy Corbyn into power. The only way to defeat the right is not to retreat but to continue to build that movement around a clear pro-working class programme.

Expressions of the anger

And last Thursday’s elections in no way demonstrated that anti-austerity ideas are unpopular. On the contrary, anger at the misery this government is inflicting on the majority is growing. It was not by any means, however, channelled exclusively in the direction of Labour. Instead it was fragmented.

While many voted Labour, others’ view of that party – which has implemented pro-big business policies in power and at local level for decades – had not changed. Some refused to vote Labour because – while Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed austerity, saying it is a political choice – local Labour councillors and the Labour-led Welsh Assembly have passed on savage government cuts to local public services.

Right-wing Labour councillors and Assembly Members that lost their seats are trying to lay the blame at Corbyn’s door. But they did not stand on Corbyn’s policies, they stood on a pro-austerity programme. That is why some voters showed their opposition by voting for what they saw as anti-cuts parties, whether that was Plaid Cymru in Wales, the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland, the Greens, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), or even in a distorted way for Ukip.

Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood succeeded in defeating Labour in the Rhondda, a traditional Labour stronghold. Her party also increased its share of the vote, making it the second party in the Welsh Assembly. Charlotte Church will not have been alone in voting for Plaid Cymru while continuing to support Jeremy Corbyn, because she recognised that the leadership of Labour in Wales is not anti-austerity.

In Scotland the SNP won 46.5% of the vote for the Scottish parliament, an increase of 1% from four years ago. It had a small fall in its number of seats only because of the vagaries of the electoral system.

The Greens had a net loss of four councillors in England but increased their vote in many areas, overtaking the Liberal Democrats to become the fourth party in terms of vote share. In Scotland they increased their MSPs from two to six and in the London Mayoral contest they scored their highest ever share of the vote.

Similarly they doubled their vote for the Liverpool Mayor to 10,609. Combined with the creditable 4,950 votes for TUSC’s candidate Roger Bannister, this meant that 15% of voters in Liverpool consciously chose to vote for candidates that they perceived as being to the left of Labour and more anti-austerity. Even the votes for Ukip, who won 10% of the votes across council elections in England and came second in both parliamentary byelections, primarily reflect anger and disillusionment with establishment politicians.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Unfortunately, all of those parties, with the exception of TUSC, have implemented cuts when in power at local or national level. TUSC, in which the Socialist Party participates, was alone in standing 100% opposed to austerity and cuts in public services, which are destroying local government. That is why the Birmingham Post called TUSC “arguably the fiercest defenders of local government itself”.

Despite limited resources and a boycott by the national media, it was vital that TUSC stood candidates, in order to offer a socialist and working class alternative to austerity (see www.tusc.org.uk for more detail on TUSC results).

TUSC is a coalition of socialists, trade unionists and anti-cuts campaigners – including the transport workers’ union, the RMT – which stands in elections in order to oppose cuts and give workers a voice at the ballot box. We wrote to Labour candidates before the elections urging them to take a clear anti-cuts stand and pledge not to stand against those that did so. However, where Labour candidates voted for cuts – from library closures to bedroom tax evictions – we were prepared to stand against them.

The 58 Labour-led councils that had elections on Thursday hold over £4.5 billion in general reserves. Pooling these would mean that no Labour council would have to make a single cut this year. They could use the resulting breathing space to build a mass anti-austerity movement capable of defeating a weak and increasingly divided Tory government.

Tory divisions and retreats

In the coming weeks the EU referendum campaign will dominate the political agenda. Historically Jeremy Corbyn has correctly opposed the EU as an undemocratic club acting in the interests of the bankers and big business. If he had stood by that position it would have transformed the EU referendum campaign – which is currently dominated by right-wing big business politicians on both sides. Unfortunately, under huge pressure from the Labour right and the capitalist class, Jeremy Corbyn retreated on this issue.

Nonetheless, the Tories remain split down the middle over Europe. Already they have been forced to retreat on a whole number of issues, including now on the forced academisation of schools. In the aftermath of the referendum Cameron, and potentially the Tory Party, could be ejected from power. A powerful, united movement could bring a halt to austerity and force the Tories to call a general election. Building such a movement requires united strike action – building towards a 24-hour general strike – but it also requires creating a clear anti-austerity political alternative.

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity. Labour is two parties in one: a pro-capitalist party and a potential workers’ party.

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement. This will not succeed if it remains trapped within the current undemocratic structure of the Labour Party, vainly trying to compromise with ‘the 4.5%’ – the Blairite representatives of big business in the Labour Party. Instead it means building an open, democratic movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those who have been inspired by Jeremy Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party.