Podium: Room for a new mass workers' party

DAVE NELLIST

From a speech by the joint convenor to the conference of the Network of Socialist Alliances in Rugby

IN THIS room today, we've brought together a significant number of active socialists together with MEPs, trades unionists, former Labour Party members and those involved in green and direct action. We already have several thousand members of our constituent bodies, but now we're here to discuss how to bring that number closer together in campaigning for socialist change.

With Clinton bombing Sudan and Afghanistan, the Russian economy in free fall and daily examples of the Blair government embracing the free market, this launch conference of the Network of Socialist Alliances is most timely. The developing British and world economic recession will cause more and more people to question the present order and to look for an alternative. For a growing number, the Labour Party is no longer a true representative of working-class families, and its abandonment of socialism means that it is wedded to the same economic policies as those of the previous government.

The only real difference seems to be that those policies are now carried out with a smile rather than a snarl.

But what has dogged previous attempts to build a fresh alternative to the big business policies of all the main parties has been a top-down, command organisation and exclusion rather than inclusivity. This network must learn from that. We could, in my view, have 80 per cent common ground on the key policies on the economy, the environment, the rebuilding of public services and action against discrimination, while agreeing to put into their proper context the 20 per cent of differences we have between us. Let us use that 80/20 rule to go forward to build an inclusive alliance that concentrates on the things that unite us, rather than those which divide us. Then we could offer a real alternative to the failed pro-capitalist policies of the three main parties.

There's in fact a growing disillusionment among key sections of the population about politics in general. In one opinion poll before last year's election, 23 per cent felt that there was no difference between Labour and Tory and 42 per cent felt that the election would make little or no difference to their lives. I do not see those percentages diminishing. That is a huge constituency for us to aim for. And already we can see modest success.

In this year's council elections there were a number of successful candidates from among our ranks, and one calculation shows that more than 250,000 people voted either red or green in May. One of our jobs today is to begin the discussion on common slates for next year's Euro-elections. Tony Blair has already said that those elections will be a mid-term test of his government, and we need to make sure that working people have a genuine electoral alternative to Maastricht and monetary union designed for big business's benefit.

We also need to campaign harder on domestic issues, for example, the minimum wage. The pounds 3.60 an hour proposed by the Government is woefully inadequate for the millions in low-paid work. In fact it is 5 per cent less than the average rate paid by the Wages Council before the Tories abolished it seven years ago.

I have often been accused of proposing confiscation when suggesting that salaries above pounds 100,000 a year should be taxed at 100 per cent. But the low-pay trap is just as Draconian. For a couple with two children living in rented accommodation, every pounds 1 rise in wages between about pounds 90 and pounds 190 a week means that family pays extra tax and national insurance, and loses family credit, housing and council tax benefits, to the tune of 97p in the pound. It's not until a minimum wage reaches the European decency threshold of pounds 6 an hour that that family will see real benefit, instead of the Treasury. The gross inequalities in wealth and income, greater now than at any time since 1886, call out for us to take up the mantle of repopularising the ideas of socialism. We should aim to collect through street stalls and public meetings a petition of 1 million signatures calling for a decent minimum wage, which we could link to the national demonstration on low pay which Unison is organising.

There's a vacuum in British politics that cries out for a new mass workers' party committed to fundamental social and political change. The Network of Socialist Alliances will seek to offer support to all those involved in campaigns against social and environmental injustice, but above all we will fight for an alternative to the global, unregulated free market, and for redirecting society's wealth to people's needs. We are establishing a broad organisation that is committed to those aims and open to all.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition