Policy paper for March 10 Socialist Alliance conference, drafted on behalf of the executive committee by Mark Hoskisson Every local Socialist Alliance is entitled to submit one majority and one minority amendment. Supporting organisations are allowed two amendments
There were 17 submissions to the programme commission (15 circulated in advance, one from the International Socialist Group arriving on the day of the Liaison meeting and one, from the Workers International, arriving after the Liaison meeting, but apparently submitted prior to the original deadline of February 8). There are a number of amendments which I have not seen since they were not circulated with the documents.
My understanding of the decision on February 17 is that the executive should attempt to composite, out of these documents, a single policy statement draft that can be discussed and amended on March 10. It was suggested by several executive members that I try to produce such a draft as quickly as possible to give all comrades time to consider amendments prior to March 10. The idea behind such a draft is that it attempts to incorporate all of the areas of policy on which there is broad agreement across the alliances - and is therefore relatively inclusive - but one that also allows differences on this or that policy to be discussed on March 10 via amendments.
In order to do this I have produced a draft that is strictly a statement of policies. I have left out altogether the various preambles/introductions/statements of intent and lengthy explanations of policies. Instead I've given a title, an introductory general policy sentence, followed by the policies. The reason for this is that commentary is best dealt with by a small committee (or even a single author) charged with writing up a manifesto that is acceptable from a literary point of view rather than by a conference of several hundred people. Providing the manifesto includes all of the policies agreed at conference there should be no problem, from a democratic point of view, with proceeding in this way. However, I have included a short introduction, in note form, which could be agreed as the political basis for a preamble/commentary in such a manifesto.
Nearly all of the contributions included a commitment to a socialist society over and above the immediate policies advocated in the various programmes. I have therefore included a statement on this at the end which I hope will be acceptable to the different viewpoints within the alliances.
Several of the contributions did - as Steve Freeman's report pointed out - have different emphases and different end goals (republic, workers' government, future form of workers' state, etc). I believe that it is legitimate to debate these at conference precisely so that the various forces within the alliance have the opportunity to try and convince comrades of the value of the inclusion of such positions or emphases in the manifesto. Comrades can move such positions as amendments (either from supporting organisations or as minorities or majorities within local alliances) to the policy document draft. This will ensure that the procedure is fully democratic and that nobody in the alliance is left feeling that their right to put their point of view has in any way been blocked.
The order of the policies in the draft below is not meant to signify any sliding scale of importance with regards to demands. It just seemed to me to be a logical order to follow for a manifesto. The question of prioritised slogans should be the subject of a separate discussion and decision at conference (ie, the small number of demands - the key pledges, as the Coventry conference protocol calls them - that we put on all leaflets).
Finally, given that we agreed two amendments per local alliance and supporting organisation, we will need a conference arrangements committee on the day that can recommend to conference either the compositing of particular amendments or their acceptance 'nem con' (without dissent) so that time is not taken up at conference discussing things over which there is no disagreement within the alliances and time is freed up in order to clarify and discuss those areas over which there may be disagreement.
The text of the policy document is 2,356 words, which is well short of a traditional general election manifesto length. Anyhow, here it is. Plus, at the end, I have put in for consideration the versions of the 'prioritised pledges' that we have received so that maybe we can get a version of that out for amendment prior to the conference as well.
Substantive policy document
The Socialist Alliance is standing against New Labour because New Labour is pro-big business and anti-working class/oppressed.
New Labour has betrayed those who voted for it in 1997 - e.g. privatisation, education, pensions, benefits, NHS, etc.
The Socialist Alliance exists to give people the chance to vote for a socialist alternative and a working class voice which aims to tackle the injustice of a world in which massive wealth and power is in the hands of a tiny minority while millions face low pay, joblessness, poverty, racism, etc.
The Socialist Alliance is different because it actively supports all struggles of workers, poor, oppressed, those fighting the destruction of the environment, etc; is a campaigning organisation, not a cynical 'here today, gone tomorrow' vote-grabber; is a democratic alliance of socialists and activists from various backgrounds, traditions, etc; and because any of its candidates who get elected will only take a workers' wage for the job and will stay accountable to those who elected them.
Vote Socialist Alliance, become part of the growing anti-capitalist movement worldwide, put people before profit.
Our right to work
New Labour is standing by while jobs are massacred in manufacturing and cut to the bone thanks to privatisation in the public sector. The Socialist Alliance stands for:
- The guaranteed right of all to work
- Take all companies threatening closure and redundancies into public ownership under the control of those who work in them
- For a 35-hour week without loss of pay
- Scrap the Job Seekers Allowance and Welfare to Work
- Double benefits now and link them to earnings
- For quality job training schemes at union rates of pay
Our rights at work
Deregulation, short-term contracts, cowboy and anti-union bosses mean that thousands of us face insecurity and harassment at work. The Socialist Alliance solution to this is:
- Full employment rights for all workers from day one; end the casualisation of work
- For the right to join a union and to union recognition in all workplaces
- For unions to be democratically controlled by members - officials to be regularly elected, accountable and to receive the average wage of workers they represent
- Repeal all the anti-union laws and support all workers defying them; for the right to strike, picket and take solidarity action
- For a minimum wage of £7 per hour (the European Union Decency Threshold) with no exemptions
Health before profit
The NHS is not safe in either Tory or Labour hands - both have opened it up to the private sector, both have run down patient services and staffing levels, both have under-funded it. The Socialist Alliance will create a first rate health service free to all:
- Stop and reverse all Private Finance Initiative schemes in the NHS and abolish trusts
- Nationalise the multinational drugs and health supply companies and the private health companies such as Bupa
- Bring back free prescriptions, eye tests and dental treatment
- Stop cuts and closures and finance a hospital and health centre building programme in the communities that need
- Abolish low pay and long hours in the NHS to recruit and retain staff at levels
- Inject massive investment into the service to abolish waiting lists as an immediate priority and to rebuild an NHS that is publicly owned and run by those who work in it and by the communities who use it
Education is a right
Tony Blair wants to end "bog-standard" comprehensive education, introduce selection and create a two-tier system that benefits the well off but leaves countless children as fodder for Britain's low wage economy. When the Socialist Alliance says, education, education, education, we mean it:
- For a fully comprehensive, high quality schools' system - abolish private schools
- Stop and reverse all Private Finance Initiative and Public-Private Partnership schemes in education
- Abolish Education Action Zones
- For free after-school clubs and play centres for all who need them
- For access to free education and training facilities for people of all ages
- Abolish tuition fees and student loans - for free education and a living grant to all further and higher education students
- For the return to local democratic control of education inclusive of representatives of education workers, students and the wider community
Stop the warfare on welfare
Behind New Labour's rhetoric about getting Britain back to work lies a relentless attack on every aspect of the welfare and benefit system. The Socialist Alliance will stop this and rebuild the welfare system with:
- Earnings-linked benefits for all those out of work
- Restore benefit rights and housing benefits to 16 and 17 year-olds and students
- No means-testing of benefits or pensions
- Double the state pension and restore the link with earnings
- Bring all privatised benefits agencies back into public ownership
- Full benefits for all prevented from working by childcare, disabilities, injuries, etc.
- Provide free, high quality childcare and state nurseries with flexible opening hours to suit working parents
- Increase child and maternity benefits, guarantee adequate paid maternity and paternity leave and restore full benefits to single parents
Homes for all
The Tory sell-off of council housing has been followed by Labour's attempts to privatise remaining public housing stock. The Socialist Alliance believes that homes for all is a basic human right and will:
- Stop the privatisation of public housing
- Release the billions made from council house sales to help finance a massive house-building and repair programme
- Freeze rents and give tenants greater control over the administration of estates
- Nationalise unoccupied commercially owned properties to provide immediate emergency accommodation for the homeless
Restore local democracy
Local democracy has been eroded and now Blair has even replaced the limited democracy of the councils with elitist cabinets and powerful mayors. The Socialist Alliance stands for real local democracy:
- Restore local government powers to regularly elected local councils - abolish all quangos, executive mayors and local cabinets
- Restore central government grants to their 1979 levels
- Grant local government the right to raise money through local wealth and business taxes so that the council tax can be abolished
- Stop and reverse the privatisation of local government services; no more Best Value and Public-Private Partnership deals
- For a massive extension of free leisure facilities at both a local and city-wide level; no sell-off of publicly owned parkland
End the transport chaos
Privatisation has wreaked havoc on the country's transport system, yet Labour cannot bring itself to renationalise the railways. The Socialist Alliance will end this mess:
- Renationalise the entire rail network and place it under the control of those who work on and use it
- Renationalise the bus system and establish a cheap, environmentally friendly, integrated public transport system
- Stop the privatisation of the London Underground and of the Air Traffic Control system
- New road building to be carried out only after genuine democratic consultation with the communities affected
Save the planet
Prescott and Blair are fiddling while the globe gets ever hotter, not to mention polluted water, the threat to our health from BSE and, potentially, to crops by GM trials. The Socialist Alliance is committed to doing everything possible to stop the developing destruction of the environment:
- Emergency action to reduce fossil fuel use and slow down global warming; for massive investment in the development of sustainable alternative energy sources
- The planned closure of nuclear energy plants with workers involved transferred to jobs at equivalent rates of pay
- Improve public transport to discourage reliance on private car use
- Renationalise the water industry, scrap water charges and finance a clean-up operation of rivers, lakes and the sea
- Stop the commercial use of GM foods; a moratorium on crop trials pending further scientific research
- For the workers' movement to launch an independent enquiry into the BSE scandal and for full compensation to those harmed or killed by it so far
Where will the money come from?
Gordon Brown preaches prudence and "living within our means", yet Britain is a country of huge wealth and means; but it is in the hands of a tiny elite. The Socialist Alliance stands for a transformation of society that will enable this wealth to be used for the benefit of the great majority:
- Abolish VAT and replace it with a tax on the rich - for a steeply progressive income tax and a massive increase in corporate taxes
- For a swingeing tax on the profits of the oil companies like BP
- End arms spending and use the defence budget to rebuild the NHS and other public services
- Bring all of the privatised utilities back into public ownership and run by workers and consumers - no compensation to the fat cats
- Centralise all pension funds into one national fund run under the supervision of the workers who have paid into these funds
- Nationalise the banks, major insurance companies and the giants of the financial sector
Against all forms of discrimination
New Labour has shamelessly scapegoated asylum-seekers, hounded single mothers, called for curfews on young people and has buckled before the House of Lords' bigotry against lesbians and gay men. The Socialist Alliance opposes every variety of discrimination:
- Defend asylum-seekers, scrap all immigration laws
- Stop police harassment of black people; justice for those whose relatives have died in police custody
- Combat racism in all walks of life and in all its institutional forms; total opposition to fascism
- End discrimination against women in jobs and society at large
- Fine all employers who refuse to grant equal pay for equal work
- For a woman's right to choose to have an abortion
- Repeal Section 28 without delay; for equal rights of lesbians and gay men with heterosexuals in all legal matters (child custody, housing, etc.)
- End the exploitation and harassment of youth - no curfews, restore benefits and increase facilities for youth at every level
- End the exemptions from the minimum wage for young people
- For the right of school students to organise their own unions
- End discrimination against senior citizens; raise pensions, lower the retirement age
- Provide free, quality residential care to those who need it or resources to enable senior citizens to live in their own home with free phone, TV and internet access, free fuel and transport
- No discrimination in employment and other aspects of social life against disabled people
- For investment in resources - building design, transport, leisure facilities etc - to make disabled access a reality
How democratic is Britain?
Despite having the 'mother of parliaments' countless decisions that shape our lives are made behind our back by people who are neither elected nor accountable, a system riddled with sleaze and corruption. The Socialist Alliance believes in consistent democracy:
- For regular democratic elections, based on proportional representation, and for the accountablity of all MPs to their constituents, with legally enforceable disclosure of interests
- Abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords
- For the right of self-determination to Scotland and Wales
- All judges to be elected and accountable - defend trial by jury and the legal aid system
- Disarm the police, disband all special units, and support all reforms that make them accountable to democratically elected bodies and stop their use against workers in struggle, black people, progressive demonstrations and young people
- Disband Special Branch, the secret services and all the surveillance installations - for a real Freedom of Information Act
- Repeal the Criminal Justice Act, the Terrorism Act, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the Emergency Powers Act
- Legalise cannabis and decrim-inalise all drugs - for accessible health facilities for users who need them
- End the monopoly of the media barons - internet access in every home; for state-funded, public-access TV, radio and printed media open to all
Socialism is international
Bomber Blair stands for the unchecked rule of global capitalism. The Socialist Alliance stands for international solidarity with all workers and oppressed peoples struggling against the poverty, famine and military repression inflicted on them by the big global powers and multinationals:
- Stop the bombing of Iraq; lift the sanctions now
- British troops out of the Balkans, the Gulf and Ireland
- Self-determination for the whole of Ireland
- Disband Nato, end the arms trade, for unilateral nuclear disarmament
- Cancel the Third World debt
- Abolish the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation, oppose the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS)
- For a democratic European Union of the workers, based on solidarity and cooperation, on socialism and anti-racism; against the Europe of the bosses and the 'Fortress Europe' which is a bastion of racism
- No to the monetarist criteria for European Monetary Union
The Socialist Alliance stands for a totally different society to the one we have today. We believe that people should come before profit, that decisions should be made by the people themselves through democratic means. In short we stand for a socialist society in which need comes before greed and in which the economy is democratically organised to achieve this.
Within the ranks of our Alliance there are different views on how to achieve this, on whether we require a revolution, a struggle through parliament, or a combination of both. But what we are all united on is one principle: the decision on how to fight for socialism will be made by the working class itself, through its own democratic organisations.
Socialism will never be achieved behind the backs of the working class by decree, or by some committee or other. It will be their choice and theirs alone. Because we are united on that we are also united in our support for every struggle that takes the working class forward.
In this election that makes the Socialist Alliance unique. It is socialist, it is democratic and it is honest. Vote for us. Join us. Join the fight for socialism.
Prioritised pledges - proposals
From the Alliance for Workers' Liberty
We advocate an emergency plan for the workers and jobless.
Tax the rich and slash the arms budget to provide proper healthcare, housing, education, childcare, public transport and other public services.
Restore benefits and pensions; free access to high-quality education and training for all.
Guarantee decent jobs for all by expanding public services and cutting the work week. A 35-hour week without loss of pay and a minimum wage of £7 an hour.
Every worker should have the right to join a union and oblige their employer to recognise and negotiate with the union. Unions should have the right to gain access to workplaces, to inspect company plans and books, to strike, to picket effectively, and to act in solidarity with other unions or social causes. Repeal the Tory anti-union laws.
Companies threatening closures should be taken into public ownership. Profiteers should not be allowed to cut jobs.
From the Socialist Party
For a minimum wage of at least £5 an hour as a step towards achieving a minimum weekly income for all of £280 a week - the European Union decency threshold.
For an immediate 50% increase in the pension as a step towards a living pension for all pensioners - with annual increases linked to average earnings.
Stop the privatisation of education, health, London Underground and Air Traffic Control.
Bring the NHS back under democratic public control to rebuild a top quality service free at the point of use.
Renationalise rail and other public utilities with compensation only on the basis of proven need. No compensation for the fat cat shareholders.
Stop council housing sell-offs. For a massive crash building programme of decent, affordable public housing.
From the Socialist Workers Party
Stop privatisation in all its forms and bring the rail back into public ownership l Ensure a fully funded NHS and an end to privatisation and cuts. l Provide decent earnings-linked pensions. l Oppose the sell-off of council homes and end homelessness. l Raise the minimum wage and restore union rights for all. l Establish tough controls over water, ground and air pollution. l End discrimination on the basis of racism, sexism and homophobia and defend asylum-seekers.
End student tuition fees and provide high-quality education for all.
Tax the rich to rebuild the welfare state.
Cancel Third World debt and abolish the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade organisation.
From Workers Power
The Socialist Alliance will:
Stop privatisation in all its forms and bring every privatised utility, including the railways, back into public ownership and under the control of those who work in and use them; no compensation to the privateers.
Implement a minimum wage of £7 an hour, real equal pay for youth and women and repeal of all anti-trade union laws.
Guarantee the right of all to work by implementing 35-hour week now with no loss of pay.
Tax the rich to pay for public services that meet people's real needs.
Abolish all immigration laws and defend asylum-seekers.
Establish a government fighting for workers' power and international socialism.