Tuesday 28 April 2015

Anticuts Campaigners Should Unite and Stand Against The Austerity Parties in Elections

Ross Saunders,Secretary of Cardiff Against The Cuts and TUSC candidate for Cardiff South and Penarth

Austerity has been brutal, and, as many made clear in the People's Assembly meeting last Thursday, we've had enough of it.

But how can we defeat it? How can we put an alternative onto the agenda?

There is agony in society, but there is even more coming our way, whoever wins the next election. 

And not only has Labour refused to reverse the funding cuts, the party plans to make more: all but five Labour MPs voted with the Tories and Liberals last month for another £30 billion cuts to welfare and public services. (UKIP wants £35 billion.) Although Labour has been forced by protests to pledge to scrap the bedroom tax - one of the most hated of the ConDem's attacks on the vulnerable - benefits spokesperson Rachel Reeves has promised to be "tougher than the Tories" on benefit claimants.

The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have pledged to help Miliband carry out this programme if Labour doesn't have a majority of its own. Those parties are also currently implementing austerity at council level. There are many good activists currently attracted to them but, because they're not rooted in working-class communities and organisations, and because they accept the status quo of big business dominating our economy, when tested they do what capitalism wants them to do, even though refusing to carry out cuts is essential if the Welsh language is to get the support it needs and if we're going to tackle climate change.

We should fight the attacks with every fibre and with our last breath, in every way possible. That's why I believe the anti-austerity movement is making a big mistake if we don't gather our forces, organise them, unite and stand our own candidates in elections.

As things stand we come together to decry the brutality of austerity on protests and rallies, but when it comes to elections we are spread thinly across several parties. We can make a big impact on marches and demonstrations, but our energy and influence is dissipated at election time because our forces are divided and diverted, and in a direction that props up austerity and the parties that support it. Ironically, many of us are anti-cuts campaigners planning to vote for pro-cuts parties next month. That's why they get away with it: because we haven't resolved that contradiction by founding our own party.

Some people will be worried about letting the Tories in. But it is precisely the absence of a party that would fight for all ordinary working-class people that is strengthening the Tories. After five years of brutal cuts, any real opposition party should be leagues ahead in the polls. But the Tories' divide-and-rule tactics, turning low-paid workers against benefit claimants, the old against the young, native against immigrant, are still working because there is no party credibly promising to improve living standards for all ordinary people. In any case, without such a party we will get Tory policies whoever forms the government.

Of course it's not true that we should wait for the creation of an anticuts party before fighting the cuts. It's not true either that we can't win any concessions until we do: nationally the Coalition has been a coalition of u-turns. And locally, in the five years that I've been Secretary of Cardiff Against The Cuts I've fought alongside campaigners who have stopped the closure of primary schools, playcentres, libraries, youth clubs, swimming pools and many other facilities.

This year Cardiff Council was forced to back off from more cuts than ever before, and more than anywhere else in Wales. Building the protests was key to this, but so was the threat many campaigners made to stand as anticuts candidates, independently of the main parties but linked up with one another. What happened this year in Cardiff is proof that, if you're aim is to pull Labour to the left, the best way of doing that is to drag them to the left from the outside. But what this year also shows is that protesting isn't enough - Cardiff Labour Council still got away with making another £41 million of cuts to services. To stop the cuts we must continue to march, protest and strike together, but we need to take a stand in elections together too.

There are 135 candidates in the General Election this year who have committed to that project, including in a third of the seats in Wales. They're linking up through the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, known as the "Coalition Against The Cuts." They're all community campaigners or trade unionists who have experience standing up for their community and workmates, and ALL of them would make better representatives than the politicians we confront in our campaigning work.

But so would many of the people reading this article. TUSC is standing to broadcast the idea of building a new party out of the anti-austerity movement. If you want to find out more about that project, or get involved, or help us fight this election, get in touch with me at Wales.TUSC@gmail.com. Or come to the meeting at 730pm on Tuesday 5th May in the Holiday Inn on Westgate Street. It's time to stop buying the bullets for the firing squad aiming at us, lending our votes to parties that are demanding we pay for the recession instead of the billionaires who caused it.

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