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North-west TUSC conference: "People are looking for an alternative"
Hugh Caffrey, north-west TUSC conference chair
Over 40 people crammed into a north-west Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition conference on Saturday 22 November to map out plans for TUSC over the next year.
Trade unionists, students, community campaigners, socialists and activists from across the region contributed to the discussions. Many were attending their first TUSC event, and all agreed afterwards that it was an excellent conference.
Opening the conference was a video of national TUSC chair Dave Nellist's barnstorming speech at last month's Socialism 2014 event.
Tony Mulhearn, selected to fight Liverpool Riverside at the general election for TUSC, introduced the first discussion. "A madness is infecting politics", said Tony, in the vacuum created by no mass voice for working-class people, and expressed in the rise of Ukip, the return of fraudster minister Laws to political prominence, while unions like the PCS face a massive assault.
"The main enemy is the Con-Dem government and Ukip, but the biggest obstacle to creating the necessary new mass alternative is New Labour", Tony explained. We campaign for the trade unions and union activists to break the link with New Labour, whose ministers have lined up to spell out their promised continuation of Tory policies if they win next year's elections.
"Voting TUSC is a shot across the bows of the main parties, helping to lay the basis for a new mass socialist party."
Reports were given of local cuts and local campaigns, possibilities for TUSC were sketched out, plans for TUSC candidates identified, developments in the unions explained, and the role of Labour and how to challenge Ukip were debated.
The 'People's Vote for the NHS' pledges were highlighted, a series of pro-NHS policies which candidates are being encouraged to endorse (http://www.peoplesvotefornhs.org.uk/ ).
The conference agreed to contact the campaign and support the spirit of the pledges but make clear that we would go a lot further in repealing all the Tories' and New Labour's privatisation and marketisation policies, and will draw this to the attention of prospective TUSC candidates in the region.
Workshops on building TUSC in the trade unions, in communities, and 'involving independent socialists' came up with numerous ideas that were reported back to the full conference, which concluded with a discussion on finance, a contribution from Nick Wrack on behalf of the Independent Socialist Network, and an appeal to attend TUSC's national conference on 24 January.
A powerful speech from RMT regional organiser Daren Ireland closed the conference: "Voting for the status quo is not the answer, we need to build an alternative to the right-wing consensus. People are looking for an alternative and Ukip isn't it. Either we can continue getting kicked, or we can go out and fight!"
Half the conference said they would attend TUSC's national conference, around 20 agreed to be TUSC candidates, and nearly £100 was raised for TUSC funds. We will now build on this through local work, the national conference, and further regional/area events in the spring.