When the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) met on Saturday 26 September, the hot topic for discussion was how socialists should respond to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Labour Party.
But, according to reports on websites of two of TUSC's affiliates, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (but not in any detail on TUSC’s own), TUSC will, just do what it usually does. It welcomes Corbyn’s victory, but it will stand in the May 2016 local elections on a very limited socialist platform, for what are likely to be, especially in the new situation, very poor results.
However, reading between the lines, and reading a report from the Independent Socialist Network, a more strange and ambivalent set of attitudes emerges.
The Socialist Party (SP) website (28 September) reports Peter Taaffe's speech which focuses on the likely attack from the right against Corbyn. To continue with the spirit of pointing out the obvious, this line of argument does leave the SP open to the criticism that it should not be standing outside Labour, letting the Labour right get away with such an attack.
Perhaps it is the case the Taaffe, in true SP tradition, has a grandiose scenario in mind: that if only TUSC “keeps its powder dry” and waits for the split there is the prospect of a TUSC-Corbynite party in the future. Taaffe: "The Corbyn surge is looking for a way forward and they won't find it in the current Labour Party structures".
On a more micro level TUSC will be pursuing a “united front” with Corbyn supporters on the basis of building groups composed of people who are anti-cuts in local government. But this is somewhat contradicted by SWP member Jenny Sutton saying: “"There can't be any hard and fast rules — that they have to be in the Labour Party or have to be out of the Labour Party or have to be opposed to all cuts.”
So TUSC wants to build a united front of people who are opposed to some cuts, and says to those Labour Party members who are engaged in an intense struggle to win ground inside the Party, don't bother with that, just fight the cuts.
In sharp contrast, the Independent Socialist Network, another affiliate of TUSC, argues (on the Project website* 21 September) that the Corbyn group should organise a “twin track” fight against austerity, inside and outside Labour. But the emphasis is on a supportive orientation to the fight within the Labour Party.
Thy argue: “[Corbyn] must now use his position as a new party leader with a massive mandate to open up the Labour Party to all who want to join it, including those who have voted for or stood as candidates for rival left-wing parties. All those socialists who have been proscribed or otherwise prevented from joining the Labour Party must be allowed in. The internal party structures must be completely democratised... Conference must be democratised and become sovereign, making policy to be implemented by party MPs, MEPs and local councillors... policy must be made democratically by the Labour Party members.”
The approach of the Independent Socialist Network (although we might argue about its inflated perspective of building a mass socialist party quickly) is much more grounded in reality.
It won't have much sway inside TUSC and, on the face of it, they don't intend to stay in TUSC for very much longer.