28/02/2009 by socialistfight
The United Left must reject Bj4Bw and build an all-inclusive Rank-and-File organisation that fights the bosses and the class treachery of the trade union bureaucracy
How does British jobs for British workers go down in your workplace? On the London busesresponses were unprintable and the anger against Unite for promoting this slogan was very strong. And they immediately linked it to the disgraceful scenes at Cowley, where again the Unite bureaucracy had sought to divide the workforce, this time between agency, i.e. temporary workers with no employment rights and permanent staff. Of course very few drivers on the buses are ‘British’. And the Poles, some quite pro-management ones, were among the angriest, they know they are the most vulnerable because they are the latest arrivals and could speak out because were not under pressure from fellow workers like in the building crafts to ‘support’ Bj4Bw.
Unite in Turmoil
It clearly is true that Unite is in absolute turmoil. John Haylett, Communist Party of Britain (CPB) leaderand former Morning Star editor, had an extraordinary article on 9th February supporting Derek Simpson and attacking the SWP and SP for supporting Jerry Hicks in the upcoming election for General Secretary of the Amicus/Unite section beginning on 16th February. He says the right wing press have attacked Simpson alleging ‘a secret house-for-life guarantee’; but this is nonsense, there was no secret about it, it was quite open, above board. No mention of whether it was morally defensible, however. And he used an amalgam by equating the attacks of the right wing press with those of the left, which, incredible all seem to be ‘designed to force radical change in Unite to bring about a revival of ‘business unionism’. Woodley supporters were charging Simpson with just this orientation just a few short weeks ago. Some more critical observers have understood that Woodley himself was a long way down that road.
This seems to be a declaration of a split in the United Left before it is off the ground because it had promoted Woodley as theleft counterposed to Simpson as the right. This was implicitly endorsed by both the SWP and the SP. And now Simpson, a former CP member, is ‘the left-progressive candidate’ according to Haylett and is supported by ‘other Amicus Unity Gazette supporters, including those in the influential north-west region…the union’s Workers Uniting Group and Communist party members’. This is on the basis that he was the best supporter of the ‘recent successful struggles by Unite construction workers against their unjust exclusion by subcontractors from engineering industry projects’. Hicks had also supported the strike but this was accompanied by ‘strident attacks on the union leadership’. ‘The SWP, meanwhile, demeaned the strikes, declaring they were based around the wrong slogans and targeted the wrong people”, claimed Haylett. There was, of course, no mention of British jobs for British workers or the outcome of the strike which achieved just that, 102 out of 195 to be precise. But what else would you expect from an advocate of socialism in a single country? All this clearly has nothing to do with Simpson’s ‘decision to support the Morning Star as the labour movement’s only daily paper’. How cheap they come!
The world of the left has changed
The world of the left in the TUs really has changed after these strike, time for the SP, and the SWP (who had a far better line on Bj4Bw) to stand firm in defence of all workers against all bosses, build genuine rank and file organisation and turn to occupations as a unifying tactic in defence of all jobs.
It is difficult to square support for the strike with the report in 16 Feb.’s Standard that a Latvian worker on the Olympic site had been counted as a ‘local’ whereas he clearly was not ‘British’. ‘Local’ is another word for ‘British’ they were absolutely sure and reported with glee that Labour-controlled Newham council has become the champion of the ‘British’ by demanding the names and addresses of those who worked on the site so they could ascertain their ‘Britishness’ against the electoral register. Those who compromised on Bj4Bw have allowed the right wing media, in alliance with Brown, the Unite and GMB leadership to witch-hunt all ‘non-British’ workers. Theyhave assisted to provide the class enemy with a stick to beat the entire labour movement. The strike started about Bj4Bw, it was spread on that basis and its conclusion was negotiated on that basis – how many jobs did ‘the British’ get? 102? Not enough so we have a job to do now on all the other sites in the country as the recession deepens to ensure ‘our lads’ are treated ‘fairly’.
Reject the useless compromise
We reject the useless compromise of Keith Gibson of the Lindsey strike committee and the SP. This did not repudiate the original Bj4Bw demands, which were displayed so openly on the pickets, with the official Unite logo. It was rather a cover for it, hoping we would forget what they were really about. This ‘union control’ is only a demand for ‘local’ communalist discrimination; and the right wing media like the Evening Standard will fight to ensure that this is what happens, having got the green light from the Unite and GMB leadership. The Standard reported that they, ‘found people from various eastern European backgrounds employed at the Stratford site, as well as workers of Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese origin’. .
We reject the SP contention that “Union control of hiring is always preferable to the bosses controlling hiring. Enforcing an illegal closed shop would be a massive advance for the working class movement in this country”. A closed shop ensuring 100% TU membership is to be welcomed, but not ones that enforce job discrimination. When socialists in British trade unions fought discrimination against nationalists in the north of Ireland in the past they were always referred back to the Irish Region (Region 11, Northern Ireland in the case of the TGWU). Here, in the best workers’ traditions, Loyalist craft engineering unions (like we have here), with all the history of privilege and empire loyalty and contempt for other workers, ensured the nationalists did not get to join the craft unions and so did not get jobs.
Discrimination proceeded swimmingly, all in the name of the best trade union practices, the power of the unions was consolidated and the Irish ‘troubles’ ensued. As one comrade said, “But the SP states that it is the bosses who are setting one nationality against another. Yes but why play the same game? It is the BNP, say the SP, who are attempting to sever fraternal relations between workers from different nations, but the SP want union control of a register of locally skilled workers presumably to facilitate local jobs for local people. Some are trying to find socialist gold under this militant dross of nationalism. But that seems like an attempt at alchemy.
We place the blame for this situation squarely on the backs of the reactionary Labour movement leaders; Gordon Brown and the Labour party leaders for endorsing the reactionary slogan, borrowed from fascism and the Unite, GMB and other TU leaderships for tacitly endorsing and pursuing negotiations on that basis. A major weight of responsibility also rests on the shoulders of the CPB, who simply hacked for Unite and the GMB bureaucracy, on Respect, the SP and others who have acted as left apologists for these bureaucratic misleaders of the working class. When similar demands were made on the French TU leaders recently they immediately rejected them as reactionary and insisted on the demands like ‘we will not pay for the bankers/capitalism’s crisis’.
You cannot endorse the strikes and repudiate the aims, they are the same. Endorsing these strikesdealt a blow to the British Labour movement which will prove very serious if not fought in a principled manner. If the Lindley strikers occupied the plant to unite all the workers that would be an entirely different strike, with entirely different leaders. That is the way forward in Cowley and other factories threatened with job losses and closure as the Waterford strikers did—pose the question of who owns, and who should own the factory, should production be for the profits of capitalism or the needs of the workers, the majority of society? To pretend this was a ‘victory’ is to defend the existing misleaders and to prepare more defeats. This is differentiating the left in Britain; it goes to the core of class politics. Fight the reaction without reservations and you will find new fighters who will champion the interests of the class as an international whole.
·Occupy factories like Cowley to prevent plant closures and job losses!
·For a comprehensive programme of public works, council house and infrastructure building to overcome unemployment!
·The trade unions must take responsibility for organising the unemployed now, before they fall prey to fascism!
·For a militant ‘no platforming’ of fascists combined with United Front demands on workers leaders to fight capitalism AND fascism!
·No to Popular Fronts compromises with capitalism like the Peoples Charter!
·Make the bosses and the bankers pay for the crisis – not the workers!
·For a rigorous progressive taxation system, comprehensive prevention of tax avoidance scams by transnational companies and the rich and a wealth tax to make the capitalists pay for the crisis!
·For a genuine rank-and-file movement in the trade unions to fight the bureaucratic labour lieutenants of capital who lead today’s trade unions!
·For direct employment by all firms of all labour, end the pernicious system of sub-contracting and agency working!
·For an open conference of all those political groups and individuals who opposed these reactionary strikes!
·Build a revolutionary socialist leadership to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism internationally!