People’s Vote or General Election? An open letter to all who want to see an end to Tory rule

We publish here an open letter from Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party, as a response to the calls for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the EU, where we argue that the focus across the trade union movement should instead be on a general election to sweep the Tories out of power.

Dave Nellist

Dave Nellist, National Chair of TUSC

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Tories are in trouble. There is open civil war in the ranks of the government. Recent months have seen high profile resignations from the Cabinet, including Boris Johnson. It is clear to everyone that Theresa May is weak – and that the entire government is in crisis.

This should be of interest to everyone who has experienced the terrible effects of austerity promoted by the Conservatives – whether that be the bedroom tax, the tens of thousands in our city who have had to use food banks, workers in the private and public sector who have not had a proper pay increase, the many on zero-hour con-tracts to name just a few of the pitiless policies that have been introduced.

Key issues facing our movement

The question as a movement we have to ask ourselves is this: how do we get the Tories out of office as soon as possible, and a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government in with socialist policies?

At the time when the Tories are teetering on the edge, unfortunately much of the talk from the recent meeting of the TUC, from some union leaders, and from generally right wing Labour MPs has not been about getting the Tories out.

The main focus for them has been to support a “People’s Vote” regarding Brexit. We want to explain why we think this is a mistaken and indeed dangerous approach to adopt.

Firstly, we want to be clear: a People’s Vote, despite pretences of being democratic, is an attempt to have a second referendum and to overturn the original vote. Its supporters want to see us re-main signed up to the European Union, with all that involves, including the Single Market – the key mechanism for corporations to maximise profits across the continent.

Who are the main forces pushing for a People’s Vote?

Although some celebrities are promoting a People’s Vote, the key movers promoting the campaign are right-wingers such as Tony Blair, Chuka Umunna, various other Blairites, the Liberal Democrats and others. The majority of the British and European Establishment are also supporting this campaign.

George Soros, one of the richest people in the world, has also donated funds (£70,000) to groups such as Another Europe is Possible, who act as the left-wing appendage of this coordinated ruling elite drive. Of all the aforementioned people and organisations – since when have they been champions of ordinary people to have a real say? It was Tony Blair who gutted the Labour Party of virtually all democratic channels – the Liberal Democrats propped the Tories up in government between 2010-2015. How much did Blair want to listen to the people when 2 million marched through London in 2003 against his crazy war in Iraq? None of this motley crew are interested in the democratic rights of working-class people. They act in the interests of the class they represent – ruling elites here in the UK and abroad.

Trade unions and the People’s Vote

The leaders of the unions, particularly the likes of the TUC general secretary and Dave Prentis of UNISON, are completely wrong to support the call for a People’s Vote. When the Tories are on the edge of the cliff, it is the job of the unions not to rescue them (wittingly or unwittingly) with this diversion of the People’s Vote, but to campaign for a change of government and specifically to get Jeremy Corbyn in on a radical socialist programme. It would be a disaster for the unions if they were seen in the eyes of millions of people to attempt to undermine and frustrate the original referendum result.

The danger of the far right

If the unions prevaricate on this and sections of the Labour Party continue to campaign for a second referendum it will aid not just the Establishment, but also the far right in this country. We can’t allow a situation where the unions and the Left abandon the ground to Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, who will not hesitate to take their divisive and racist politics to working class people who voted Leave. A boost to Theresa May is not ruled out if our movement is seen to be trying to keep us in the EU.

If you support the PV, who will you be uniting with?

It is best to be concrete about this. The People’s Vote campaign is an Establishment operation. Advertised speakers at the Coventry meeting of PV are Anna Soubry MP of the Conservatives and Beverley Neilson, former Liberal Democrat candidate for West Midlands mayor. These two parties were in government together for 5 years, helping to decimate the lives of working-class people in our city. We would urge any trade unionist, any person who is against austerity and wants change, to consider whether uniting with these parties is the way forward.

The capitalist crisis requires socialist policies

Jeremy Corbyn has been at his best when he has pushed back against the policies that enrich the 1%. The call for a general election can unite working class communities, whether people voted Leave or Remain, in an effort to bring a government to power on socialist policies. By contrast, the call for a PV is divisive and is a recipe for disaster. The labour and trade union movement does best when we fight the establishment, not tie ourselves to large sections of it.

We think the movement should fight for a general election to get rid of the shambolic Tories, and for a socialist Brexit in the interests of ordinary people. The crisis and inequality ridden system that is only working for the top 1% and not the 99% needs system change. In or out of the EU they’ll continue their attacks on our services and living standards. But if things are to be changed it will have to be done outside of and independently of the EU, but together with the working and young people of Europe.

The root of the problems facing working class people is the capitalist system of exploitation of the majority by the tiny minority. The EU does, however, act to facilitate that exploitation through the Single Market, its policy of undermining national collective trade union rights, and its favouring of corporations over working class people. It is Thatcherism on a continental scale. We only have to look at the example of Greece, where the Greek people suffered a form of collective punishment from the EU – enforcing privatisations, poverty and anti-trade union laws.

We need genuine international solidarity and co-operation

We are not ‘Little Englanders’ but we do not think we should outsource the valued and necessary internationalism of the working class to international capitalist institutions like the EU.

For example, the Socialist Party is part of a revolutionary international organisation which is present in nearly every single country on the continent, and in nearly 50 countries around the world. We need international solidarity, but it needs to be on our terms, through workers’ organisations such as the trade unions and other campaigns. A Corbyn government introducing radical socialist policies of public ownership, for example, will come under intense pressure from the capitalists.

In doing so our movement should appeal not to Macron and Merkel, but the millions of workers around Europe who will see our fight as their fight. That is the international co-operation that will be vital, not an international capitalist club designed to aid exploitation. These are key questions that our movement faces:
• No to a People’s Vote – Yes to a General Election
• Tories Out now! Labour to power on a socialist programme
• Break with capitalism, fight for a Socialist Europe and a Socialist world

In solidarity,
Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party

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Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

Build the fight against austerity – get the Tories out now! A contribution to the debate

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Marching against cuts to youth clubs in Coventry

A Coventry Socialist Party member and active trade unionist in the city responds to the letter supported by local Labour MPs and Jeremy Corbyn


Anyone walking through Coventry will see the impact of austerity. Empty shops, a visible increase in people being forced to sleep in doorways and under bridges. Public services stretched almost to breaking point. An NHS in crisis. Students taking on tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt just to get an education.

It seems like a long time since George Osborne said “we’re all in this together”.

It is very welcome that local Labour MPs are supporting the letter to Prime Minister Theresa May highlighting the damage being done by cuts to local government funding. Any and all pressure that can be put on the Tories is a step forward.

At the same time, we need to think about what is the way forward in the fight against austerity, and what our MPs and local councillors can be doing to put the maximum pressure on this weak and divided government to force them out of office at the earliest opportunity.

With the Tories in such a crisis, we think if even a small number of Labour councils said to the government that they would not continue to implement austerity cuts, it would add to the pressure immensely. As we have consistently argued, we think it was mistaken that since the formation of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Coalition in 2010 and then the Tory government of 2015, our Labour council has consistently passed on local government cuts to the people of Coventry. This has seen school transport charges levied on families of children with disabilities, cuts and closures in youth services, thousands of jobs lost at the Council, attacks on the terms and conditions of staff that provide vital services in our city to name but a few.

Our elected representatives should work with the people of Coventry, the trade unions, local communities, anti-cuts campaigns, and all those affected by Tory austerity to demand more money for our city. Letters will not be enough. The Labour council, with the support of the MPs, where possible linking up with other Councils doing the same, should say to the Tories we demand the restoration of all funding stolen from our city. The reserves that the council have built up, more than doubling since 2010 to over £90 million could be used as a temporary measure to set legal no cuts budgets to “hold the line” to allow time for a mass campaign to be built. And with May teetering on the brink, a future Labour government should pledge to restore all funding as soon as it was elected.

It is timely that at both Labour and Tory conferences, the spectre of Liverpool City Council was raised. Labour MP Dawn Butler invoked a frenzied response from the Blairites for remembering in a positive fashion that conference was taking place in the city where in their 1980s battle with Mrs Thatcher, the councillors said it is “better to break the law than break the poor.” Esther McVey of the Tories in her conference speech compared the left-wing group Momentum to Militant.

Liverpool City Council won back the equivalent of £60 million in today’s terms from the Tories. Despite the lies of the right wing, not a single worker was made redundant. Decent housing, leisure facilities and public parks were created.

We need our public representatives to show some of the audacity and determination of the Liverpool councillors.

To build on the letter sent to the Tories, words should be turned to action. Our MPs should call mass public meetings in conjunction with trade unions in the city which would bring together union members, campaigners and all those hit by austerity to hammer out and discuss the tactics and strategy needed for us to win.

The trade union movement also needs to discuss what demands we should be fighting for.

For example the letter that MPs and councillors across the West Midlands signed finishes by demanding “complete reform of local government funding to make councils more sustainable and more accountable to the local electorate. Local authorities should be given the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue, allowing the proceeds of growth to be kept locally“. The letter doesn’t actually specifically call for the cuts of the last eight years (which now amount to over £100 million a year in Coventry) to be refunded, but for “government to reverse the disastrous policy of austerity” which is not quite the same.

Without a restoration of national government funding then “the power to set local taxes and retain local revenue” might be okay for some richer boroughs, but not for poorer.

We think mass meetings organised by our public representatives would take the struggle forward in terms of the fight for public services, but also help build the movement that can drive the Tories from office, and bring Jeremy Corbyn to power. Socialist policies are what are needed to end austerity, which is a direct result of the capitalist crisis triggered by the collapse of the banks. We are still paying for it. Working class people have paid enough. Time to stop all the cuts, get the Tories out and fight for socialism.

If you agree with this, please share this contribution and consider joining the fight for socialism.

 

Coventry Socialists start 2018 campaigning to defend the NHS

Coventry Socialists start 2018 campaigning to defend the NHS

NHS stall

Signing the petition calling for Jeremy Hunt to go

Coventry Socialist Party kicked off 2018 in the city centre with the continuation of the campaign to defend the NHS against cuts and privatisation.

People were understandably angry with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who was forced to apologise over Christmas for the latest crisis in the NHS, with around 55,000 operations cancelled. SP members spoke to a number of NHS workers as well as patients and their relatives who are having to pay high sums of money to use the car park at Walsgrave – another result of the Private Finance Initiative rip off.

With a campaign stall also taking place in Radford’s Jubilee Crescent, Coventry Socialist Party are looking forward to building the movement to save the NHS during 2018.

Michael Fallon resigns! Time to get the Tories out

Michael Fallon resigns! Time to get the Tories out

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Michael Fallon has resigned – picture from Huffington Post

News has broken this evening that Tory Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has resigned stating that his conduct had ‘fallen short’ of what is expected.

His resignation illustrates once again how weak and fragile the Tory government is – not the ‘strong and stable’ that was promised by Theresa May. The Tories are split over Brexit and are currently relying on the DUP to stay in government. But the Tories won’t just go of their own accord, they need to be forced out.

We need to get them out as soon as possible and campaign for a Corbyn-led Labour government to power on bold socialist policies to fight austerity and capitalism.

A great opportunity to come together and discuss the current situation and what action, programme and policies we need to fight for to get rid of the Tories will come on on 11/12 November at Socialism 2017, a weekend of discussion and debate organised by the Socialist Party. Get your ticket and make sure you are there!

Give May and the Tories their real P45

Give May and the Tories their real P45

Today’s speech by Theresa May will go down in history as the one where she was famously handed a P45 by a protestor.

Millions of working class people around the country will have great sympathy with this action; little wonder when May’s Tories continue to cut benefits, refuse to fully break the pay cap, when foodbanks exist in every major town and city throughout the UK and our standard of living is dropping.

The only thing better than this stunt today will be when we can give May her real P45 and the Tories are turfed out of power. We all need to put maximum pressure on the Tories to get them out of office, particularly with the trade unions co-ordinating action on the issue of pay and austerity.

Lets get the Tories out and campaign for Corbyn-led Labour government on socialist policies.

Join us in this struggle and the fight against capitalism

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Book your place on Coventry transport to July 1st Tories Out protest in London

Book your place on Coventry transport to July 1st Tories Out protest in London

A mass demonstration has been called in London on Saturday 1st July. The Socialist Party is fully supporting this protest – we need to build maximum pressure on the Tories to evict them from office, as soon as possible. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has called on 1 million people to take part. We urge all organisations, including the trade unions, the entire Labour Party and the TUC to actively support and build this movement to get May and the Tories out, and to help a Corbyn-led Labour government in to power. From cuts to emergency services, to coalition with the DUP and now the corporate and capitalist murder of innocents housed in Grenfell Tower in West London, we need to get them out and to fight for socialism.

There is transport being organised from Coventry by Coventry TUC and others, details are being finalised but fill in this form below and we can reserve your place.

 

Who are the Democratic Unionist Party?

Who are the Democratic Unionist Party?

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Ian Paisley

Following the disastrous results for Theresa May in Thursday’s snap general election the Tories are now in negotiations with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Many are rightly asking ‘who are the DUP?’. We are pleased to publish this article from 2014 written by our comrades in the Socialist Party (Northern Ireland) looking at the life of Ian Paisley who is the figure most associated with the DUP. It outlines some of the history of that party and as the article concludes, we believe that ‘A united working class will sweep away all the detritus of the past and all its rotten sectarian representatives’.


Ian Paisley: peacemaker or warmonger?

How will Ian Paisley, who has died at the age of 88, be remembered? As the firebrand preacher who stoked the fires of conflict in Northern Ireland or as a peacemaker and the partner in government of Martin McGuinness?

Many people struggle to make sense of what appear to be entirely contradictory phases in his life. Most of the media, the British and Irish governments, and even Martin McGuinness who describes him as a friend, choose to focus on his 2007 decision to form a coalition with Sinn Fein. The media have made much of Paisley’s nicknames, claiming that for years he was known as “Doctor No” because of his rejection of all attempts at compromise but that at the end of his life he and Martin McGuinness together were known as “the chuckle brothers” because they were seen laughing together so often. The use of both of these nicknames is largely confined to the media. Most simply knew Paisley as Paisley, his creed as Paisleyism, and his followers as Paisleyites. And for decades the name Paisley struck fear into the hearts of not just Catholics but Protestant working class activists. The lauding of Paisley grates with most Catholics, who cannot forget the role he played, but also in the throat of the many Protestants who reject everything he stood for.

So how did a preacher who led his own church (the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster) for six decades, and his own political party (the Democratic Unionist Party or DUP) for nearly as long, become the most prominent politician in Northern Ireland? After all this is a man who defended the most repressive approaches on social issues such as sexuality (in the late 1970s, for example, he launched his odious “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign to oppose even limited rights for gay men).

Paisley’s initial base was not built in industrial working class areas but in the North Antrim area around the large town of Ballymena. His first following was largely rural, conservative and religiously fundamentalist. Even in Ballymena itself it took time before he seized control of the council. When he did in the mid-1970s he imposed his fundamentalist ideas on everyone else, closing the swimming pool and chaining up the park swings on Sundays. It was members of Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) from a Protestant background who lead the opposition in this largely Protestant town, protesting against the Sunday closure policy and challenging the DUP in council by-elections.

Working class Protestants gave Paisley little support in the 1950s, 1960s and well into the 1970s. In Protestant areas he was a figure of fun and contempt for anyone who was forward looking or left inclined. This changed over time. In the late 1960’s there was a sense that change was in the air, represented politically by the growth of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) but as the Troubles spun out of control “hard men” on both sides came to the fore and the sense of working class solidarity and unity weakened.

There was nothing inevitable about this development however. The leaders of the labour and trade union movement abdicated their responsibility to provide an alternative, and their responsibility to stand up to right-wing and anti-working class demagogues like Paisley. As a direct result the previous NILP stronghold of East Belfast fell to the DUP in the 1979 General Election. The victorious candidate was today’s DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson. The DUP gained its working class base in part by deliberately cultivating an image as the representatives of the Protestant working class, in opposition to the “big house” unionism of the Ulster Unionist Party or UUP (the party which governed Northern Ireland from partition until the imposition of direct rule in 1972).

1979 was a turning point: the DUP now had three MPs and could not be ignored. Its support reached a ceiling over the next twenty or so years however, as many potential supporters could not stomach Paisley’s on-off flirting with paramilitary organisations and paramilitary methods. As far back as 1956 Paisley was one of the founders of Ulster Protestant Action (UPA). From the start violence wasn’t far away. In June 1959, after Paisley addressed a UPA rally in Belfast, some of the crowd attacked Catholic-owned shops and a riot ensued.

During the 1964 general election campaign Paisley fomented the so-called “Tricolour riots”, the worst in Belfast since the 1930s. In April 1966 Paisley and Noel Doherty founded the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) and a paramilitary wing, the Ulster Protestant volunteers (UPV). Around the same time, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) emerged, led by Gusty Spence. Many of its members were also members of the UCDC and UPV, including Noel Doherty. In May 1966 the UVF set fire to a Catholic-owned pub and caused the death of an elderly Protestant widow who lived next door, and shot John Scullion, a Catholic civilian, as he walked home. He died of his wounds on 11 June. On 26 June, the group shot dead a second Catholic man and wounded two others as they left a pub on Malvern Street, Belfast. Following the killings, the UVF was outlawed and Paisley immediately denied any knowledge of its activities. This established a pattern that was to be repeated over the following decades and led to those who became active in Loyalist paramilitary organisations to hate him with a vengeance. One of those convicted for the 1966 killings was explicit in his words: “I am terribly sorry I ever heard of that man Paisley or decided to follow him”.

Paisley spent the rest of his career playing with violence: he enrolled the help of mainstream loyalist paramilitary groups in two work stoppages (in 1974 and 1977) and established several groups of his own, including the “Third Force” in 1981 and “Ulster Resistance” in 1986.
When the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 Paisley and the DUP were opposed. Over the following decade he sniped at the UUP but ensured he and his party had their hands on whatever levers of power were available. In these years the uncertainty and fear felt by most Protestants delivered Paisley want he wanted – majority support amongst the Protestant electorate. This support was built on a clear platform of opposition to Sinn Fein in government. As late as July 2006 Paisley stated that Sinn Fein “are not fit to be in partnership with decent people. They are not fit to be in the government of Northern Ireland and it will be over our dead bodies if they ever get there.”

The lure of power, created its own momentum however. Once the DUP were the dominant and largest party the question of going into government was concretely posed. The rigid structures created by the GFA (the aim being to maintain peace by copper-fastening sectarian division) made it difficult to stand aside. Personal factors may also have played a part-Paisley reportedly had a near death experience in 2004, and younger members of the DUP such as Robinson were keen to do a deal. It was also easier for Paisley to go into government when he could credibly claim victory, pointing to the fact that Sinn Fein agreed to support the police and the IRA to destroy its arms.

On 8 May 2007 Paisley was elected First Minister with Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister. Ironically when he made his decision the fiercest opposition came from his original base in rural areas, especially in North Antrim. He was forced out of his positions as DUP leader and Free Presbyterian moderator and retired to snipe at his successors. Attempts to canonise him as a peace maker were hampered by his own words and actions. As late as 2013 he stated in a television interview that the 33 innocent civilians who died in UVF no-warning car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan in 1974 had “brought it on themselves”.

Everything had changed but nothing had changed. Political theorists argue that it was necessary to bring the most extreme representatives of each community together in order to deliver a stable peace. The reality is that the most extreme representatives of each community can only deliver division and conflict, even if for now there is less violence on the streets.

Paisley certainly stood out but it would be a mistake to see him as unique. If Paisley had never lived someone like him would have come to the fore. And whilst the entire generation of politicians who emerged to prominence in the turmoil of the late 1960s and early 1970s now bask in the “success” of the peace process all played a negative role in that period. One day there will be an historic reckoning. Paisley won’t be around to see it but his ilk and his successors will be. A united working class will sweep away all the detritus of the past and all its rotten sectarian representatives. Remembering Paisley’s real role is one step on the road to that reckoning.