SWP: Fighting the Socialist Party, Ipswich Trades Council, and the “Dangerous” Left.
“Old, Decaying but Still Dangerous Sectarian Left”, says SWP.
Ipswich Trade Unionists, principally from the Trades Council, set up an anti-cuts campaign with other activists across the county in October 2010 (Here).
This body, the Suffolk Coalition For Public Services, has organised numerous protests.
It has been at the forefront of opposition to Tory-run Suffolk County Council’s cuts and privatisations.
In November 2010 a march of around 1,000 people was held in Ipswich. It was attended not only by the trades unions and concerned members of the public, but by the Labour and Green parties as well as socialist groups.
Labour supporter and Councillor Alasdair Ross commented at the time “the march was made up of, council workers, their families, Labour Party members, unions (FBU, UNITE, Unison, CWU, NUT and others) and students.”
In January 2011 the Coalition worked closely with the organisers to support a protest against the Suffolk Library Service being hiving-off and cuts in its funding. This attracted over 1,000 demonstrators (Here).
On November the 30th that year the Coalition and Trades Council organised a rally and march in Ipswich, with as many attending, over government threats to public sector pensions.
The Suffolk Coalition has held numerous smaller protests outside County Hall to protest against County Council cuts. We have held countless Street stalls, collected signatures for petitions, and have carried out house-to-house leafleting.
What is Ipswich Trades Council?
Ipswich Trades Council is, like all Trades Councils, the local lay wing of the Trades Union Congress.
Its job is to carry out the TUC’s policies – bringing them into the community – and to help voice the views of local trade unions.
The Trades Council has organised street stalls in Ipswich publicising the major TUC London demonstrations (2011,2012) in defence of Pensions and against austerity.
This is not its only function.
A particular job is to help bring unions together through solidarity in their disputes.
At the January meeting of the Trades Council the Postal Worker’s’ Union (CWU) brought up their campaign against plans to shut the Ipswich Sorting Office were brought up. From NAPO we heard of their opposition to plans to privatise the Probation Service.
As the public face of the TUC it operates democratically, and its minutes are a public record,
This is evidently not the view of the SWP as the following illustrates:
Socialist Workers Party. Pre-Conference Bulletin 2 November 2012 (Here).
Building a Branch From Scratch.
John Curtis begins by announcing that the SWP has now set up an Ipswich Branch, with 4 members.
They sell the paper (sometimes) in Ipswich on a Saturdays,
Their main activity has been to set up a ‘Unite the Resistance’ group.
This campaign, we know from Socialist Worker has as its objective to ,
Support resistance to all the attacks on working people”. This includes a range of protests, pushing for more strikes and campaigning for the TUC to call a general strike.
How have Ipswich SWP followed this objective?
Having even a small branch has enabled us to have an intervention around the anti-austerity movement. Our work around Unite the Resistance has begun to shake up the entire left in Ipswich. For decades the Socialist Party have dominated the left primarily through its control of the Trades Council which has acted as its de facto industrial arm.
This is plainly untrue.
Ipswich TUC is the arm of the …TUC.
There are more members of the Labour Party on the Trades Council than the Socialist Party.
Many delegates are simply members of trade unions, and no political party at all.
Few, I suspect, would accuse Andrew Coates of being a supporter of the Socialist Party.
What matters is….
Curtis really does not like the Ipswich Socialist Party.
Not at all.
He accuses them of having done nothing for the last ten years and, worse…
For the last 10 years they have been chewing the fat of their accumulated work by living on their past reputations – there is no SP branch in Ipswich or visible presence. The two members (now one as one died) never get their paper out at any meeting and all their work is done through the TU movement or Trades Council. Outside these structures they are a dead force but a living, breathing obstacle within them.
The ‘one who died’ was Roger MacKay, President of Ipswich Trades Council.
Roger was greatly respected in Ipswich, and the national labour movement. He was the main force in organising the protests outlined above.
Roger’s funeral last year was attended by hundreds.
But Curtis sees the SWP’s main aim as fighting the Socialist Party.
Concerned at the continued influence of the SP and their sectarian friends in the Trades Council’s own anti cuts campaign( there is an almost patriarchal attitude from the still heavily SP influenced Trades Council that every TU issue or anti cuts campaign has to be led by them) we decided to move fast and build for a UTR meeting for four days after the 20th October.
Accusing a woman of having a ‘patriarchal attitude” is unusual, but I let this drop.
In 3 days we booked a room, designed and had delivered 1000 leaflets and arranged for a broad platform of speakers – leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk Council, a Labour Ipswich Borough councillor (and in Ipswich the Labour council build council houses), the CWU’s Eastern Regional secretary, Ipswich NUT President and a PCS member (only the last is a comrade)!
At the meeting Curtis is reported (from numerous attendees) of having screamed at anybody he disagreed with. He accused a Labour Party member and another trade unionist of being “wreckers”., and the Secretary of the Trades Council of being “spineless” (he has used that word for me as well).
Curtis in fact is well-known for harassing people he disagrees with.
The Labour councillors present were not impressed when this went on at a public meeting.
Disgracefully, the Trades Council refused to back the UTR meeting ( our allies and comrade on the TC were away at the last TC meeting) after a nasty ex- IMG member, working in cahoots with the SP, denounced UTR as an SWP front.
It is not difficult to guess who this “nasty ex-IMG member” is.
Curtis ends with some boasting.
The SWP is pushing at an open door in Ipswich. In just one month we have established regular Saturday sales, a monthly branch meeting that acts as a focal point for socialist politics beyond the membership and rattled the cages of an old, decaying but still dangerous sectarian left. If we continue as we have started there are no reasons for thinking that Ipswich SWP will fail in firmly implanting itself amongst the working class.
John (East Anglia & Norwich).
This remains to be seen.
It is unfortunate if Curtis’ behaviour is presented by the SWP as a ‘model’.
It will be interesting to see if others follow,or have followed, his method of “building a branch”.