Around 100 people attended the Leeds Anti-Cuts Convention which had been organised by Leeds Against the Cuts and was supported by an array of anti-cuts groups locally and nationally including the NSSN Anti-Cuts campaign and Youth Fight for Jobs.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
The first session was a plenary with one of the left NUS NEC candidates speaking, alongside Michael Tippett of Leeds Teaching Hospitals UNISON, Michael Hall of Leeds Tennants Federation, all speaking about how cuts were affecting their particular area, and Rosie Watson of the CWU who reported on a succesful skirmish with Post Office Counters management over pay, but with a bigger battle to fight in stopping post office closures in the near future.
This was followed by workshops on several issues from Health Cuts to the Right to Protest. The workshops themselves showed the links Leeds Against the Cuts has begun to build with community campaigns, with Day Centre services users addressing the session of Leeds City Councils cuts and Leeds Tennants Federation running a workshop on the governments attacks on housing.
The final session allowed for report backs from all the workshops as well as brief discussion on these points and some suggestions for the future, before discussing and voting upon a statement which in effect outlines the programme of Leeds Against the Cuts
As well as amendments to the statement highlighting the cuts to the voluntary sector and opposition to the governments planned expansion of nuclear power, Socialist Party members moved two amendments that were unanimously passed, firstly an amendment highlighting the £91m of cuts carried out by Leeds City Council.
Secondly we also amended the part of statement which originally called on national anti-cuts groups to come together to organise a single united anti-cuts campaign. We changed this to emphasise the key role in this that the trade unions nationally would have to play in bringing this into being (in particular those in the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, the left trade unions around John McDonnell MP), as well as that such a national campaign should be basing itself upon the basis of opposing all cuts.
The most controversial moment of the day was when Andy Young of Workers Power and the Coalition of Resistance put forward an amendment to the statement adding after a line saying that LATC will support all trade unionists, students and community campaigners engaged in struggle that ‘We will fight with the official leaderships wherever possible and without them where necessary’. This led to a reaction from members of Leeds Trades Council present who pointed out that such a formulation would mean that the full Trades Council may have to seperate itself from Leeds Against the Cuts.
Whilst the Socialist Party agrees with this sentiment that trade union activists should not be constrained in their struggles where strikes and other actions is needed, such as in the engineering construction workers disuptes at Lindsey Oil Refinery in 2009. This amendment was put forward in such a crude way that it is predicting that all union leaderships and leaders will always sell out workers struggles (which was added to when Andy commented in his remarks that ‘we don’t want to break with the Trades Council at this stage’, when the reality of this period of fighting against the cuts and austerity agenda is that mass of their memberships will push them supporting action that they may not be advocating at this stage.
In the end the motion was withdrawn, but an indicative vote still took place which could still have the same effect. This was added to throughout the day by the SWP making calls for 3 different demonstrations at the end of May, stating whilst doing so that there isn’t going to be a Leeds-wide anti-cuts demonstration since the TUC’s massive 26th March demonstration in London. This conveniently ignores the fact that the Trades Council has themed it’s annual May Day demonstration around the need to fight the cuts, and the SWP want to repeat the mistakes of the students movement in organising demonstration after demonstration, burning the movement out and dwindling those participating in the movement, whereas the 26th march showed the impact a well organised and built for demonstration can have, particularly when it involves mass participation from the trade union movement. The next task for anti-cuts campaigners is to draw all our trade unions and anti-cuts groups we are involved in to make this a big demonstration in Leeds and show both the government and Leeds City Council that we don’t accept their cuts.
Leeds May Day ‘March for the Alternative’
Assemble 11am, Victoria Gardens (outside the Art Gallery), Leeds
See final convention statement below.