The national council of the Socialist Alliance last week discussed building the trade union conference on 16 March. This is centred on the debate about where money from the unions' political funds should go.
Greg Tucker is an RMT rail union member and Socialist Alliance candidate. He has been prominent in the recent strikes on South West Trains. He told the meeting, 'At every meeting I do the question of the political fund comes up. Why is our union helping to fund Keith Hill, the man who is working behind the scenes to help our employer defeat the RMT? There is the same feeling in other trade unions as well. Many trade unionists are asking why they should continue to give so much money to a government which attacks them.'
The meeting heard from Socialist Alliance trade union officer Mark Hoskisson that around 500 individuals had already registered for the trade union conference event. In addition there are some 40 trade union delegations coming. 'The conference is causing a real stir. The BBC has applied to come. So has the Guardian,' said Mark.
An alliance executive member said, 'The trade union conference is a decisive moment of development for the Socialist Alliance. We are not just seeing a rising strike level. There is also a further decomposition of the Labour government. This is causing many activists to rethink their views. We must spread the net wide, reach out to people who in the past we might not have thought of as possible to get to such events.'
Brian Butterworth from Brent and Harrow reported that a 90-strong Unison union meeting last week had backed the conference. 'The motion was passed overwhelmingly,' he said. 'The question of where the unions should spend their political fund is a mainstream debate. We have to intervene in that debate very strongly.'
The Socialist Alliance has agreed the key slogans of the May election campaign. They include:
Tax the rich to fund public services.
Renationalise the rail.
Defend council housing.
Defend comprehensive education.
Stop attacks on asylum seekers, and fight racism.
Stop Bush and Blair's war.
THE BY-ELECTION in Ogmore, South Wales, last week saw a very good result for the left. Openly socialist candidates to the left of Labour took over 7 percent of the vote. In addition many of those who voted for New Labour did so with a heavy heart. Labour's Huw Irranca-Davies won the rock solid heartland seat. But New Labour's majority in Ogmore has fallen sharply, from 24,447 in 1997 to 14,574 in 2001 to 5,721 this time.
The low turnout, just 36 percent, was a sign that many protested against the government by staying at home. The Socialist Labour Party (SLP) took 1,152 votes (6.27 percent) and the Welsh Socialist Alliance candidate Jeff Hurford 205 votes (1.12 percent). This is an area where thousands of ex-miners and their families live. The fact that National Union of Mineworkers president Arthur Scargill heads the SLP was a powerful influence. The SLP candidate was an ex-miner.
Julian Goss, the election agent for Jeff Hurford, told Socialist Worker, 'The election showed the strong feeling against New Labour's policies. 'The Welsh Socialist Alliance tried hard to make the socialist challenge in this election as strong as possible. We contacted the SLP before Christmas to see if we could work out an agreement. But they said they would not reply until 19 January, and the election was on 14 February! So we stood and are proud of the work we have done.
On election day we were campaigning for the Nawaz family in the area, who have suffered vicious racist abuse. We have met new people in the area and built the Welsh Socialist Alliance. There are thousands of people in constituencies like this throughout South Wales who are looking for a socialist alternative.'