Wed Jun 19, 2024
June 19, 2024

OSAC: A shining example of communities fighting austerity 

The results of the UK elections of 5 May revealed the continued shake-up of loyalties to the old established parties and showed increased for the anti-austerity struggle. The elections were for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assembly, local elections in England, London Mayor and London Assembly, and directly elected mayors in Bristol, Salford and Liverpool.

By Martin Ralph – ISL

 

No confidence in Labour

The Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn did not inspire workers. There is no rousing call to fight and take to the streets from Labour’s leadership. There is the exception of Labour’s gain London’s and Bristol’s mayor, but the new London mayor wants to be the most pro-business mayor yet.

Labour lost heavily in Scotland but did not gain much ground in Wales and England. The main reason for not inspiring a mass of workers is because of Labour’s empty anti-austerity talk or their support for austerity and cuts continues. The failure to fight austerity brings Syriza’s capitulations to mind.

 

A great achievement

A member of the International Socialist League, Martin Ralph, was the candidate for OSAC and stood as “End Austerity Old Swan Against Cuts”. The six candidates standing included the Greens.

OSAC came second, with 395 votes and nearly doubled their percentage with 12 per cent. The Labour councillor was re-elected with 2,260 votes, 69 per cent. The Liberal Democrats, who were hoping to come second (they have the second number of seats in the city), came third with 278 votes. OSAC gained 117 votes more than the Lib Dems; that is 42 percent higher.

Team OSAC was delighted that all the hard work paid off. We delivered over 8,000 leaflets, and we were out on the streets almost every day, to talk to people and listen to their opinions. For the first time in an election, we started to receive emails and Facebook texts from new contacts expressing their intention to vote for us. Messages sent included “Labour are Tories in red ties” and “you’re against Tory and Labour? You mean capitalism.”

Over 300 anti-austerity candidates stood in England and Old Swan Against the Cuts (OSAC) came within the top ten.

Why did OSAC come second?

During the election, OSAC said: “The Labour party under Corbyn’s leadership claims to be anti-austerity. But we need to fight austerity now, not wait for promises in the future”.

We explained that the only way to achieve our demands was “by mobilising on the streets with communities and unions to push Liverpool City Council to vote … a [needs] budget and by build a local and national campaign that links councils who set a needs budget, with the trade unions who are willing to fight and with mobilising communities in a common struggle against Tory austerity”.

Our programme was developed out of years of struggle and making contacts in Old Swan, Liverpool, nationally and internationally. All the connections we have made are invaluable. As OSAC said, “while we stand, our fight before the elections will continue afterwards, whatever happens.”

Fight austerity on the streets, not just by promises

Our workers and socialist programme for the elections included the idea that only a workers’ solution can find a way out of austerity and only in the active struggle for socialism. We explained time and again we were against Tory austerity and its implementation by the Labour Party. We were therefore against all cuts.

  • Our demands included:
  • A socialist welfare state
  • Free, high-quality public services – under public control.
  • All refugees welcome – full rights and access to work, services and benefit.
  • Support for all international struggles against austerity!
  • End the bombing of Syria and the Middle East.

It was also important to talk about the “anti-austerity” positions of Jeremy Corbyn by explaining that the Labour Party will never lead the working class against austerity or in the fight for socialism. The Labour Party is a capitalist party with one outlook — reformism.

Corbyn’s leadership team fully endorsed Labour’s right-wing mayor and council leader Joe Anderson, who is pro-business. These type of statements prove that support for Jeremy Corbyn ends up as support for Labour’s right wing. And they control all Labour councils and most elected Labour mayors.

Throughout the campaign, it was not Corbyn’s name that came up in discussions but Joe Anderson. He received just over 50 percent in the mayoral election BUT is very unpopular amongst workers and the poor.

One supporter summed up the OSAC result, “Let’s get this straight…Old Swan Against The Cuts is a small community-based party based in the Old Swan area of Liverpool. They have no financial backing what so ever and yet they have got more votes than the Tories, the Lib Dems, the Greens and UKIP. Let’s just think about that for a moment. With the right backing just imagine how many more votes they would get if they stood in more areas”.

Workers, check your votes

During the count on election day, one of our observers spotted 50 OSAC votes placed underneath 50 Liberal Democrat votes. Fortunately, she raised the issue and an apology was given.

Other irregularities included three staff counting agents of votes making a joke about the OSAC name. Whether this was an attempt at intimidation or not remains an open question, but this behaviour was brought to the attention of the council representative in charge of Old Swan count, who dealt with the problem.

Left Unity and elections

As the national council of Left Unity took a majority decision not to stand against in the elections against the Labour Party, OSAC offered one of our names, End Austerity, to all those who had wanted to contest the elections, such as in Stockport and Wigan.

John Pearson and Left Unity’s Stockport group opened up another front against the government’s austerity and its local implementation by the Labour Party and others.

John increased his vote of 0.7 percent from last year to one per cent, in a city that was ruled by the Liberal Democrats. Now Labour is in control. This year will see draconian cuts by the new Labour leadership.

TUSC

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (an electoral alliance of the Socialist Party, Socialist Workers Party, activists and the railway workers union RMT) stood 302 candidates. Three ex-Labour Party councillors standing for TUSC did well and one of them won. Another candidate in Warrington achieved 20.8 per cent. In Coventry, one candidate got 19.8 percent. In Liverpool TUSC stood 17 candidates, achieving up to 10 percent of the votes. The TUSC candidate for mayor in Liverpool, 5.07%.

However, at the same time TUSC and the Socialist Party look towards the Labour Party and think it can become an anti-austerity party. In Coventry, they did not put forward a candidate in a by-election in February “in an attempt to open up a dialogue with the Labour Party on fighting austerity” (TUSC website).

However TUSC hasn’t yet had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy to discuss what he can do to encourage Labour councillors, in Coventry and elsewhere, to help lead a serious campaign against the Tories’ massive funding cuts to local government”.

Do they believe that the Labour Party will start fighting austerity in practice and reverse their retreat since September? Do they believe that those who always fight for a reformist outlook and that will not break with the right-wing can be with the working class?

It seems they do.

Scotland

The Scottish election was held to elect 129 members to the Scottish Parliament. It was the first parliamentary election in Scotland in which 16 and 17-year-olds were able to vote. The Scottish National Party got 63 seats (down 6), the Tories got 31 seats (up 16) and Labour got 24 (seats down 13), the other seats went to the Green Party ad Liberal Democrats.

The humiliation the Labour Party received last year in the general election continued as the party that used to rule Scotland is now in third place behind the Tory Party! Those who oppose austerity rejected this second fiddle of support for the Tory government’s policies for Scotland.

The Scottish National Party is a national bourgeois party, but it is further to the left than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, over some issues. For example, there are no tuition fees for universities in Scotland and they stood up to the bullying and blackmail of both Tory and Labour parties last year in the Scottish independence referendum.

Northern Ireland

Gerry Carroll, who describes himself as a revolutionary socialist, stood for People Before Profit and he topped the vote in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams. Carroll won after years of community and anti-austerity activism.

Eamon McCann, People Before Profit, achieved a seat in the Foyle (Derry) constituency for the first time in 46 years and celebrated his historic electoral victory with the singing of The Internationale. He was a leading civil rights figure in the late 1960s; McCann has long campaigned on left wing issues.

These votes for People Before Profit are against austerity and the support Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic Labour Party give to neo-liberalism.

The passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics held sway with working class families in the Republican areas as both areas have high levels of unemployment and deprivation. People Before Profits are 32-county campaigning organisation.

While Sinn Fein speaks left in Dublin, they implement cuts and privatisation policies in the north. They accepted the division of Ireland a long time ago and cemented that position in the peace agreement they made with Thatcher.

London

The Labour Party’s Sadiq Khan became mayor, replacing Tory Party control. He is the son of an immigrant, whose father was a bus driver and his mother was a seamstress. The Tory candidate attacked the Labour staunch right-winger as a dangerous radical, who had links with Muslim terrorist organisations. Bot Obama has sent his congratulations.

There was no left-wing anti-austerity candidate as TUSC did not stand for mayor, the working class in London had no choice in these elections.

No doubt workers including immigrants (whose communities form a majority of the population in London) wanted to vote against austerity, privatisation and racism but they elected someone who will continue the right wing policies of Tory Boris Johnson, who was Mayor.

Khan will support the city bankers and attack the tube and other workers. Although public transport and housing are in profound crisis, his capitalist solutions will only deepen the crisis for huge numbers of workers.

Building a socialist and workers alternative to Austerity

It is essential to raise the flag of working class independent candidates who are fighting against austerity and for socialism.

During the election campaign, Martin Ralph spoke, on behalf of the UCU (education union) at student meeting organised to fight tuition fees, cuts and the privatisation of education. It was a good meeting with new connections made and involved the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

However, two or three members of the Labour Party, including the chair of Liverpool’s Momentum (a Labour controlled organisation) said the way forward was to join Labour and fight for socialism. This point was answered. Jeremy Corbyn had abandoned his no fees election promise and that the leadership endorsed Joe Anderson. None of the protests organised against council cuts over the last six years had been supported by Labour party banners or any Labour Party member speaking against the cuts.

Martin promised that as before future protests will have an open microphone for any Labour Party member who wanted to speak against the cuts. All the eyes and chins of the Labourites in the meeting then pointed towards the floor.

The Tory government is applying extremely harsh austerity plans that can within a few years see the end of local public services, the National Health Service and public education. No one on the left would dispute that opinion.

The differences are over what to do about the Tory onslaught.

The problem is the vast majority of the left think that Jeremy Corbyn is a way out and could even open the road to socialism (including the SP and SWP). However, many of the promises made by Corbyn have been abandoned. He abandoned the fight for nationalising energy companies and is suspending left activists, including Jewish activists, for opposition to Zionism and support for BDS, etc. Before he was Labour’s leader he was against the EU. Now he campaigns for a YES vote in the EU referendum.

Corbyn and the shadow chancellor have instructed Labour council groups to make or support what they call a “legal” budget. That means to maintain the status quo of cuts.

In other words council and public services continue being cut as Labour did under Ed Miliband even in places where they have overall control such as in many fire service and public transport regional committees.

Labour’s programme means implementing Tory Austerity not fighting it. No Labour council is calling for a national struggle against the Tory government, they are not seeking to mobilise against the attacks, they follow Corbyn in making promises about the future while implementing the cuts. Labour Party activists do not even speak on public platforms against Labour’s cuts and privatisation policies.

Those who fight austerity in deeds, as well as words, are part of the increasing struggle on the streets in Europe against austerity.

OSAC made it clear it supports the general strikes in Greece, Italy and France. We want a workers Europe, not the dictatorship of the EU and IMF. We want to help link the struggles nationally and internationally. We need the joint struggle of workers across the world.

OSAC has proven that workers not only will respond but will fight where there is trust and a call to action.

The election campaign, the OSAC leaflet explained, was dedicated to Kathy Laird, who was a member of the ISL and OSAC. She died, aged 62 in December 2015. She was a tireless frontline worker and we all think she would have been proud of our campaign and result.

Check out our other content

Check out other tags:

Most Popular Articles