Here is a fuller account/minutes of the recent founding meeting of the Independent Socialist Network (ISN) within TUSC, cross-posted from the ISN website. A briefer report of this meeting was posted earlier.
There were 16 TUSC supporters present. It was agreed Pete McLaren take notes of the meeting. Those in attendance introduced themselves and described their political backgrounds
There was a lot of general discussion about the significance of TUSC and the role independents could play within it. Some decisions were made about how the ISN should develop – these are listed at the end of the report.
GENERAL DISCUSSION ABOUT TUSC, THE POLITICAL SITUATION WE FACE AND HOW THE LEFT SHOULD RESPOND
The following were amongst the main points made:
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF TUSC
• TUSC is a Coalition with huge potential
• The importance of TUSC is that it has Trade Union backing, along with the SP and SWP
• TUSC must have electoral and non electoral strategies. Campaigning will bring genuine people on board, including those who will not come to meetings. We should use modern technology
ROLE OF THE ISN
• Independent socialists will now have a say on the TUSC SC through the ISN
• The ISN can remain even if TUSC dissolves for some reason
• Independents can come together to provide a coherent voice
• Independents need to relate to the rest of the left
THE NEED FOR A NEW LEFT PARTY
• The Left needs to find a way of coming together with a federal structure to keep everyone on board. People would then join the alliance, not its component parts as happened with the original SA to an extent
• The objective situation is worse today and Labour is no longer reclaimable. We therefore need to build quickly, with democratic structures and individual membership to attract
• It will not be easy – we need trade unionists on board and branches on the ground
• We must learn from the positives from past projects, such as building from below
• There is support for socialist ideas, evidenced by new waves of protest, but no real alternative is being offered. This is where TUSC should step in – and take our socialist ideas to the wider community
• We need to be careful that the far right does not fill the vacuum
• We need to persuade the majority of people of the need to change society. We need a Party to do this, but stepping stones towards it can be laid now. TUSC can be part of that. We need a movement that inspires and encourages socialism in a language people can understand
• Building a new Left Party is not utopian, it is happening in many European countries
TUSC BRANCHES AND MEMBERSHIP
• Building local TUSC branches, and establishing local memberships, will strengthen the argument for TUSC to move towards a national membership structure
• Local branches are emerging and calls are growing for membership to be introduced
• We need to be wary both of sectarianism and bureaucracy, and promote discussions to overcome these problems. We must use our influence as independents
• We must be more inclusive by ensuring meetings are accessible and not by relying only on traditional forces like TUs, many of which have historically been male dominated. The cuts are affecting the most vulnerable groups, those the left ignores. We must avoid excluding minorities
• TUSC must develop its policy on women and reflect women’s’ concerns. Meetings for women should be organised
TUSC AND DEMOCRACY
• Does TUSC have any democratic structures? Why has there been no open Conference?
• Could the ISN have two representatives on the TUSC Steering Committee (SC) to represent different interests?
• Members of the TUSC Steering Committee are wary of moving too fast because of past mistakes with other left projects
• The TUSC Steering Committee is federal with decisions by consensus only
• The Steering Committee has met since July to discuss the London elections: it has not yet addressed the issues raised at the July Conference
• Although we need a new Party, calling for one now may threaten the future of TUSC because it could threaten the existence of existing supportive parties
• The July TUSC Conference broadened out the SC and thus improved democracy within TUSC. Not only has representation of independents been accepted, but it has been agreed to find ways of giving representation to supportive political groups, local TU branches and local TUSC branches
• TUSC has a very underdeveloped programme which must be changed: the question is, how?
WHAT CAN THE ISN DO TO BUILD TUSC AND ITSELF, AND HOW SHOULD THE ISN BE ORGANISED?
Nick Wrack explained the present TUSC programme was limited to what the different groups involved in TUSC could agree on to stand candidates together. The ISN could raise additional policies for consideration. Those present suggested the following ways of building TUSC and the ISN:
• We must intervene wherever we can and be seen to have a national presence as the ISN , eg on N30. To do this we need local contacts on the ground, and then to set up networking/mapping arrangements
• We need a common script – the need for a new workers’ party should be part of it
• We should work to set up local TUSC branches, out of Anti Cuts Groups where appropriate, and then use such branches to encourage local membership
• Local TUSC branches must be recognised by the SC
• Independents should try to build local TUSC branches
• It may prove more difficult to set up branches in areas dominated by the SP or SWP
• As we build TUSC, we build the ISN, but not by acting against existing socialist groups
• We must use the ISN web site to get branches and independents together
• We must not underestimate our potential influence
• TUSC branches should promote TUSC on N30
• The ‘Unique Selling Point’ of the ISN is the arguing for the creation of a new socialist party
THE FOLLOWING ORGANISATIONAL POINTS FOR THE ISN WERE AGREED
• We agree to establish the ISN as a national body working in TUSC
• This meeting becomes a sort of steering committee for the ISN
• ISN members would help develop TUSC branches wherever possible
• ISN members would work within existing left forums to promote both TUSC and the ISN
• A network of local ISN contacts will be established
• Create a map of independent left groups and local independent socialists across the country
• The ISN web site to be developed to become more proactive
• The need for a new socialist party to be central to the ISN’s work
• The ISN will promote TUSC and the ISN on N30
ELECTION OF THE ISN REPRESENTATIVE TO THE TUSC STEERING COMMITTEE
Will McMahon, Pete McLaren and Steve Ballard were nominated. Will McMahon received 8 votes, Pete McLaren received 6 votes, Steve Ballard received 1 vote, with one person not voting. Given the votes for Will and Pete it was agreed to ask the Steering Committee if both could attend meetings, otherwise they will alternate attendance.
The meeting ended with a vote of thanks to Nick Wrack and Will McMahon for organizing the meeting.
It was agreed to hold the next national ISN meeting on Saturday 14 January 2012 in London. A pooled fare would operate
Pete McLaren 06/11/11