Why Socialist Appeal, the Socialist Party and the AWL supports McCluskey in the Unite General Secretary election By Laurence Humphries

10/04/2013 by socialistfight

The British section of the International Marxist Tendency, is Socialist Appeal an opportunist centrist organisation deeply embedded in the Labour Party. In issue 215 of their paper Socialist Appeal they report on a recent speech Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, gave at the London School of Economics. They state “Len McCluskey has moved to the left in response to pressures from below” [1]. Nothing could be further from the truth; McCluskey is a bureaucrat who at times sounds left in response to pressure from his membership. He has no intention of carrying out the policies he advocates at these gatherings. Bureaucrats are forced to feign left on occasions. They further assert, “his main demand on a Labour Government would be to re-establish freedoms for Trade Unions to organise decide and take action” [2].

Miliband and the leadership of the present Labour party are no different from the Blair and Brown governments. Miliband and Balls are determined to carry out the diktats of capitalism. Most Labour councils are cutting services, and making large sections of workers redundant. Not one Labour council has set an illegal budget or sought to defend council tenants, who are being evicted and refused housing benefits. McCluskey is part of this charade.

In passing Socialist Appeal makes reference to the General Secretary Election in Unite, but fails to mention the real reason why they are supporting McCluskey. There is no mention of Jerry Hicks, the Rank and File candidate, who is standing against McCluskey in this election. The difference in the candidates’ policies are there for everyone to see. “ Rank and File fighter Jerry Hicks who calls for All officials to be elected not appointed, a fight to repeal the anti-union laws in the UK and the EU and left bureaucrat Len McCluskey who plays at revolution whilst endorsing the austerity programme of the bankers friends Balls and Miliband and earned £122, 435 last year”. [3]

Socialist Appeal, which has pretentions to be a Trotskyist organisation, covers up for the role of bureaucratic non-elected apparatus in Unite. Socialist Appeal mentions “Community Membership” [4]. I have answered this subject in my reply to the United Left in SF 12. Community membership is a device by McCluskey and the leadership to dupe Unite member who are Unemployed Students and others who are not in work that they have a real say in the decisions that Unite makes. That is false community membership is a second tier of membership in Unite with no rights under rule and are treated as second class members.

Further on in the article Socialist Appeal makes reference to McCluskey’s call for a general strike. This nothing more than posturing by McCluskey which most of the left bureaucrats support. It is hot air and is mainly done to give the impression to his members that he is going to lead a general strike movement. In fact the opposite is true. Socialist Appeal makes comments on the recent construction workers dispute “the wave of militant strike action across the private sector including the BESNA Sparks dispute of construction workers” [5]. This dispute was led by rank and file construction workers including Steve Kelly and Jerry Hicks. It defeated the original aims of BESNA and the main Construction Employers who were determined to attack the conditions and pay in the construction industry. McCluskey and his officials only became interested when they felt the dispute was not under their control.

Socialist Appeal attempts to give McCluskey some credibility “In this respect, McCluskey is far ahead of his peers and has de-facto became the leader of the left in the recent period” [6]. McCluskey together with Bob Crowe of the RMT, Mark Serwotka of PCS and Matt Wrack of the FBU are bureaucrats and they are not leading anything. Blacklisting, sackings and the anti-union laws remain. McCluskey’s talk is all hot air, because in practice he intends to do nothing. Thatcher’s and Blair’s use of the anti-union laws means that all of these Trade Union leaders are terrified of sequestration and other financial penalties and do not have the stomach or the will to conduct a serious struggle against the bosses and capitalism.

These centrists then state “Len McCluskey’s speech presented a militant stand against austerity and the coalition government. This support for McCluskey and the bureaucracy is against everything that Trotsky stood for and fought for “The bureaucracy of the Trade Unions is the backbone of British Imperialism, The trade Union bureaucracy is the chief instrument for your oppression by the bourgeois state” (our emphasis) [7].

Socialist Appeal can trace its origins back to Trotskyism after the Second World War. Ted Grant, one of their erstwhile leaders, was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. In the 1950s and 60s they performed a role for the right wing in the Labour Party. When principled Trotskyists were being expelled they refused to support them. When their members who were now part of the ‘Militant Tendency’ were witch-hunted and expelled from the Labour Party by Kinnock and Blair the ‘Militant’ split into two sections over their attitude to the Labour Party. The majority, led by Peter Taffe, became the Socialist Party and abandoned work in the Labour party. Ted Grant, Alan Woods and Rob Sewell formed Socialist Appeal and remained in the Labour Party where they faithfully defend and support the bureaucratic apparatus in the trade unions and the Labour Party. They cannot be called Trotskyist; they are a centrist and opportunist organisation who have decided to support McCluskey in his election campaign. Both the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers Liberty have adopted the same positions as Socialist Appeal and have supported McCluskey in the Unite General Secretary Election.

The Socialist Party insists in its statement on its website of the 11th January that it will be giving “critical support” to McCluskey whatever that means and then proceeds to argue that supporting a bureaucrat against a rank and file candidate is the correct policy to follow and will ‘aid the left’, as I have argued in SF 12 in reply to ‘The United Left’. McCluskey’s politics are based on rhetoric and speech making, nowhere is there evidence that he has encouraged his Unite members to oppose the anti-union laws.

Instead it has been left to rank and file shop stewards amongst electricians, Honda workers, British Airway workers to fight in the teeth of immense opposition from the bureaucracy. Lenin and Trotsky were right when they referred to the role of bureaucrats as “getting the crumbs from the masters table”. Their role is based on class compromise. Betrayals are the order of the day. Socialist Fight is very clear on how we see the role of the trade union bureaucracy, left or right: “Because we see the trade union bureaucracy and their allies in the Labour party leadership as the most fundamental obstacle to the struggle for power of the working class”. The Socialist party, Socialist Appeal and the Alliance for Workers Liberty make great play about their support for rank and file workers, but in practice end up supporting the bureaucracy, the main arm of the capitalist state in the workers movement. Their role which is to police and control the trade unions for capitalism remains very much the same as it was when Ernest Bevin was General Secretary of the TGWU.

The Socialist Party has a trade union arm or rank and file organisation called the National Shop Stewards Network. It is heavily influenced by the RMT and its General Secretary Bob Crowe. It will admit to you that its role is to accommodate a section of the so called “left wing trade union leaderships” in the RMT, the PCS, the POA and the FBU. It is not a rank and file body but the voice of these left wing trade union leaders. When push comes to shove, these so called lefts line up together with right wing trade union leaders as was shown in the recent Pensions debacle when the leaderships of Unite, Unison and PCS failed to give any proper leadership and capitulated. There is much talk of a General Strike but nothing in practice.

In fact McCluskey is supporting Wayne King a Regional Industrial Organiser in Unite in a libel action against Comrade Gerry Downing a Unite Bus driver and Chair of Grass Roots Left, a rank and file organisation. McCluskey has instructed Thompsons Unite’s solicitors to use the capitalist courts to proceed against Cde Downing. McCluskey has given notice that any worker who criticises any of his officials will find themselves in court, a very dangerous precedent to concede to a trade union leader.

As Gerry Downing has commented recently, “Obviously it is not just my democratic rights that are under threat but those of every TU militant who fights against the bosses and their defenders the TU Bureaucracy” The task now is for a concerted campaign to expose this so called ‘leftism’ in the bureaucracy. I will leave the final word to Trotsky. “The irreconcilable and relentless struggle against the left lackeys of Imperialism, both in the Trade Unions and in the Labour Party, is becoming especially urgent now” [8].

[1] Socialist Appeal No. 215 p. 14

[2] Ibid. p/ 14

[3] Socialist Fight No. 12 p. 1

[4] Socialist Appeal No 215 p. 14

[5] Ibid. p. 14

[6] Ibid. p. 14

[7] Trotsky, The Errors in Principle of Syndicalism, http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1931/unions/4-errors.htm

[8] Trotsky, Writings on Britain Vol. 2 p. 197 New Park Publications.Unite GRL

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