PCS ADC 2016: Fighting austerity

Support Corbyn and McDonnell in the fight against austerity politics. Reject A36 and A37 and support A38 or E273 if it is placed on the primary agenda 

Conference will welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader and his selection of John McDonnell as shadow Chancellor.  The question for us all is, “what should PCS do now that we have national politicians who oppose austerity and support workers in defence of living standards, jobs and services?”.

It is a critical question because as Corbyn and McDonnell are opposed by the Labour and Trade Union right wing, if the latter can help the Tories in defeating Corbyn (and in our view some would rather see that than a Corbyn victory at the next election), if anti-austerity politics can be said to have failed, then all workers will suffer the consequences. PCS therefore has to play a crucial role in defending Corbyn and McDonnell and in advocating working class solutions to the problems facing working people. The situation we are now in is politically critical.

Unfortunately A36, the NEC motion, is essentially a combination of more of the same (“Continue our political campaign against…austerity policies” and a sensible but so far limited attempt to seek Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s support for some policies which would help PCS members if they are elected to Government) with a review (which we are not opposed to) which would report to Conference 2017. This is nowhere near enough and fast enough to help Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell win.  A36 should be rejected. Motion A37 should be opposed as it is, at best, a recipe for confusion and passivity.  A37 says that:

  • Jeremy Corbyn’s electoral success reflected the bitterness of millions and the desire to see an end to the rightward march of Labour.  However A37 fails to see that many of these people were encouraged by their trade unions to join or register as supporters of the Labour Party so that they could vote for Corbyn.
  • These Unions, whatever nature of their leaderships, played an electoral role in securing victory for Corbyn and thereby helped put alternatives to austerity on to the national political agenda.
  • A37 says that “trade unionists need to do everything we can to support Corbyn/McDonnell in their opposition to austerity.” However it effectively argues not only against PCS affiliation to the Labour Party but also against PCS urging activists and members to join the Labour Party to support Corbyn and McDonnell to defend them against a Labour Right Wing which desperately wishes to see politics fail.

If we want to do everything we can to support Corbyn and McDonnell in their fight against austerity policies then PCS needs to play a far more interventionist political role in and around the Labour Party. We need to go further than encouraging members to participate in Trade Union momentum whilst abstaining from the wider Momentum movement which encourages supporters to be active inside the Labour Party in support of Corbyn and anti-austerity policies.

A38 has the merit of wanting to move more quickly than 2018, when the battle may already have been decided, by throwing PCS’ weight onto the scales in the Labour Party. E273, which the SOC says is covered by the NEC’s motion, is in fact a very different motion to A36. It would critically instruct the NEC to “open up immediate consultation with Corbyn…with a view to…Developing an active, constructive, critical political relationship to advance the policies of PCS within our workplaces as well as in wider society…Enabling PCS representatives and members to actively defend Corbyn and McDonnell inside and outside the Labour Party from the barrage of… attacks…designed to stop them effectively advocating the defence of public services…and… living standards…Urgently open up a branch and membership wide consultation about how PCS might best advance its policies and the wider interests of ordinary working people in the political arena, with affiliation of PCS to the Labour Party being one of the options to be considered, and to issue a report…to be discussed at AGMs in 2017.”

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