Are the main players in TUSC really interested in building the biggest left alternative at the election? Dave McAllister of Communist Students and the CPGB wonders what they’re afraid of
As residents of Walthamstow, myself and two other CPGB comrades were keen to get involved in the election campaign of Nancy Taaffe, member of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, branch rep for Waltham Forest Unison and general election candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.
My first port of call was the Tusc website (which has now relegated the Taunton Ukulele Strummers Club to number two in the list of most requested Google searches for ‘TUSC’). Finding no local contact listed, I tried the national number, but received no reply.
Next I investigated the Walthamstow Socialist Party website, but no phone number or even email address was shown. I ended up requesting information by leaving a comment on the home page. The next day I received a call from SPEW member Sarah Sachs. I said I would like to go out campaigning with them, and had experience from the Socialist Alliance campaign in 2001. The comrade seemed happy to have us along; until, just as our conversation was drawing to a close, she asked if I was a member of a political party.
After I informed her that I was a member of the CPGB, comrade Sachs sounded nervous and told me she would have to consult with other branch members before we were allowed to join the campaign. Half an hour later, the comrade called back wondering why we wanted to get involved, given that the Weekly Worker has been very critical of the Tusc platform and the manner in which it was conceived (the CPGB and Workers Power have both been barred from standing candidates as part of the coalition).
I explained that, while we did have criticisms, Tusc was a working class political formation which we would like to see getting the biggest number of votes possible, and that while canvassing we would be arguing for support for the Tusc candidate. Perhaps because she did not believe this assurance, or perhaps because of a directive from higher up, the comrade made clear that we were not welcome on the campaign trail.
Another Walthamstow comrade tried again the next day, getting through to a male comrade who knew the script and asked for political affiliation. Once again, CPGB membership was apparently incompatible with supporting a socialist candidate.
At first, it genuinely surprised me that trying to support a campaign should involve so much work. One would think that a tiny leftwing coalition would want all the help it could get. Of course, the power players in Tusc are well aware that it will likely dissolve after the election. Having no vision for politicising the masses and organising them into a party, they seem happy for campaigns to be run by the handful of ‘usual suspects’ and are making no apparent effort to involve more people. If they had dozens of volunteers, surely a couple of communists would hardly be noticed? What are they afraid of?
All that is asked of the working class person who comes across Tusc is that they throw it a vote in this election. Where is the vision? Where is the strategy? It is a sobering reflection of the sectarian culture of the left when, even in times like these, able-bodied and experienced comrades are denied the opportunity to canvass for socialist candidates.