A report from the Hackney Alliance To Defend Public Services meeting on 25th January 2011
“Over the past months I’ve been using every opportunity I can to urge the Coalition Government to not make these devastating cuts to Hackney’s budget”, promises a puppy-eyed Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney, on leaflets currently distributed by Labour Party activists. Granted, the east London council “is facing some tough decisions ahead”, but the “protection of vital frontline services” will always be Pipe’s “absolute priority”. The aspiring Mayor of London, who touts himself as being “on your side”, guarantees that any cuts to spending will be “fair” and not hit lower and middle income families “so hard”.
One may well wonder how Jules can “fight the cuts” when he is simultaneously implementing them. And yet, he and his fellow ‘soft cuts’ advocates are currently enjoying unlikely support for their sly class collaboration. When Labour Representation Committee members called Islington Labour councillor Charlynne Pullen a scab, none other than the Morning Star’s John Millington rushed in to Pullen’s defence. To refuse to implement cuts, claimed the journalist, would mean to risk prison. This, of course, is a myth.
Those less swayed by slick Jules are organising in the Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services, from which CPGB comrade Bev James has reported in more detail in the Weekly Worker. SWP dominated though it may be, the alliance produces the excellent No Cuts! bulletin, with more than a little help from The Commune members. Refreshingly, the paper’s February issue does without any sub-SPEW sectariana. Instead of warning the reader not to touch the Labour Party lest they might get their hands dirty, it goes in for the kill and outlines in a few short, sharp bullet points what actually happens when a councillor votes against government cuts and sets an illegal budget.
The Hackney Labour Party branch has affiliated to the Hackney Alliance, if only for ornamental purposes. Following an official statement of affiliation in the Hackney and Stoke Newington Gazettes, most local Labour activists chose to abstain from the monthly Alliance meeting in January. In LP branches, councillors have been warning against the “sectarians” that dominate the Alliance, especially those that raise “crazy” demands such as calling on councillors to refuse to pass any cuts budgets. Though there is a certain amount of debate in the ranks of the Labour Representation Committee, most of Hackney’s LRC members are not prepared to vote against these[i].
Given its toothless, Janus-headed stance, it comes as no surprise that many anti-cuts activists in Hackney do not regard the Labour Party as their first port of call. But our arguments and those that the No Cuts! bulletin is putting forward must be carried into the ranks of the Labour Party itself. A lone council refusing to implement cuts such as Liverpool in the 1980s is easily isolated and crushed. But if we win the argument and – to misquote Che Guevara – create two, three, many Liverpools, we might see a very interesting situation indeed.
[i] See ‘Hackney faces both ways’ in Labour briefing, February 2011, p. 11