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Socialist election campaign is an alternative to Labour

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Trade unionists, anti-war activists, students, pensioners and other activists have united to form the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Issue 2195
Karen Reissmann
Karen Reissmann

Trade unionists, anti-war activists, students, pensioners and other activists have united to form the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

TUSC is standing candidates in the general election to give working class people a left wing alternative to vote for.

Here, a range of TUSC candidates and their supporters explain why they are standing—and why they need your support.

Karen Reissmann—health worker

Health bosses sacked Karen Reissmann after she campaigned against privatisation in the NHS. She is standing for TUSC in Gorton, Manchester, and spoke to a packed meeting in central London last week to launch the national campaign:

‘There are more people in Britain asking who to vote for than ever before. Workers don’t want the Tories. But there are also lots of people who can’t stomach putting their cross against Labour again.

This has left a vacuum—and the Nazis and the English Defence League (EDL) are trying to fill it.

I was in Bolton protesting against the EDL. It was terrible to see hundreds of racists parading their anti-Muslim, anti-black politics on the streets.

The mainstream political parties are feeding the racism that opens the door to the Nazis. We have to build an alternative.

I get so frustrated watching the media. The mainstream political debate is all about where we should make cuts, how fast and how deep. Where is the voice that asks why we should be making cuts at all?

We don’t need cuts to public services.

You could wipe out government debt by collecting all the tax that the rich evade paying, scrapping Trident and ID cards, and stopping war. And what a better world we would be in for not wasting the money on those things.

The government has raised £2 billion by taxing bankers’ bonuses. If that’s the tax they got from it, how much are the bonuses in the first place?

Alistair Darling isn’t interested in what you or me think about his budget. He is interested in what a few people in the City think about it.

The rules that apply for ordinary people and the sacrifices that we’re expected to make are a world away from the rules that apply to the rich.

If you claim £50 over the benefit you’re entitled to you can go to jail. But MPs claim thousands extra in expenses and half the time they don’t even have to pay it back.

Millions are asking why they should pay for the crisis. The high votes for strike ballots show it.

I’m proud to stand for TUSC. People in my ward say to me, “I’m glad I’ve got a choice in the election.’

My campaign has won support and financial backing from the North West region of the FBU firefighters’ union and a Manchester RMT branch.

We’re not just in this for votes. We want a real alternative on the ground.

This campaign is about building the vote on 6 May—but it’s also about building a fightback whoever is in power afterwards.’

Andrew Behan—Network Rail worker

Andrew Behan is a Network Rail worker and TUSC council candidate for Ordsall Ward, in Salford. He is about to strike to save jobs and protect safety.

‘I’ve voted for the Labour Party all my life and have been an active member for the last six years. But the local Labour Party is like an old boys’ club.

There is a clique of councillors who have been around for decades who aren’t interested in the electorate. If they are voted out they are given another safe Labour seat. There are no new faces.

I broke with Labour because of the expenses scandal.

I tried to contact Hazel Blears and say she should stand down. She didn’t even bother to reply. I have campaigned for her in elections and fought hard for her.

She knew me as an active member—but she couldn’t be bothered to talk to me. To think that I campaigned for her makes me feel ill.

It was at that point that I joined the Hazel Must Go campaign. I’ve been involved in it ever since and we have huge local support.

When it came to the elections we had a discussion and decided to back David Henry as a TUSC candidate against Blears. I agreed to resign from the Labour Party to stand in the local elections in the Ordsall ward.

I think it’s important that we stand at local and national level. It isn’t just MPs that are corrupt, some councillors are too.

Ordsall is a very low income area with many one parent families. People need support and services.

I lived in Langworthy for 12 years in a terraced house. Then the councillors started “modernising”—selling off our council homes. They promised to clear up run down areas and to build new affordable homes. But it was just a front.

We need council housing—not fancy apartments that stand empty or that shark landlords buy up and rent out at unaffordable prices.

There is also the question of unemployment. All that the politicians want for Salford people is for them to work cleaning buildings or putting out garbage. Our kids have nothing to aspire to. There are no real clubs for children, nothing for them to do.

We should be demanding funding and resources for young people.

They should have the opportunity to go to university or to work at the new BBC centre in Salford—and not just as a cleaner.

Hazel Blears doesn’t give a damn about us. She will get people’s votes then disappear.

We are small but we are right to try and pull people who are disaffected and angry to the left.’

Mick Tosh—Ferry worker

Mick Tosh is a ferry worker and RMT transport union member. He was selected at a 50-strong meeting to stand for TUSC in Portsmouth North.

‘TUSC exists to put an alternative to Labour and unify trade union and socialist groups. We need an effective workers’ opposition and TUSC is a vehicle to develop one.

New Labour’s policies follow on from Margaret Thatcher. The party pays lip service to policies such as the minimum wage, but puts in opt-outs that stop some people getting it.

So, foreign nationals working on ships around the coast don’t qualify for it—even though they are sailing on British waters.

I left the Labour Party the day that Tony Blair became leader. But I was still invited to hear the announcement of the leadership election result as a member of an RMT committee.

I listened to 25 minutes of Blair’s speech then walked out. I realised that he would continue privatisation and attack Clause Four. I was acutely aware that Blair wanted to lurch to the right. It was clear that we wouldn’t have an effective change of government even if Labour beat the Tories.

I stand for unity among working people and support workers irrespective of their background.

I have been dismissed from work twice for my trade union activities.

The first time I was 21 and had organised a trade union in a warehouse. That was a wake up call about the way the world works.

Then my present employers sacked me after I returned to work after being released to work for the union. After a campaign, they reinstated me.

The sitting Labour MP in Portsmouth shies away from saying anything about workers’ disputes, unlike better Labour MPs like Dennis Skinner, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

People like these understand the values of what trade unions stand for.

The TUSC campaign in Portsmouth has a number of followers, including my RMT branch, but we need more.

We have a longer plan that goes beyond this election.

We want to build an organisation that brings together socialists and trade unionists and provides a real alternative.

This is what working class people had to do a century ago.

Fighting from within Labour doesn’t seem to work. Fighting from without is the thing to do at the moment.’

Andrew Behan
Andrew Behan
Mick Tosh
Mick Tosh

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