Revolutionary leadership, Grangemouth and the CWU

10/11/2013 by socialistfight

Revolutionary leadership, Grangemouth and the CWU

Socialist Fight 13/11/2013

In 1929 in his article Communism and Syndicalism Trotsky wrote:
“Those who, in principle, counterpose trade union autonomy to the leadership of the Communist Party, counterpose thereby – whether they want to or not – the most backward proletarian section to the vanguard of the working class, the struggle for immediate demands to the struggle for the complete liberation of the workers, reformism to Communism, opportunism to revolutionary Marxism… The correctly understood task of the Communist Party does not consist solely of gaining influence over the trade unions, such as they are, but in winning, through the trade unions, an influence over the majority of the working class.” [1]

In analysing the fiascos that are Grangemouth and the privatisation of Royal Mail without a fight as Communists we must place them in the context of the current global debt crisis of capitalism that burst upon the world with the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US in late 2007 and the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. That in turn raises the question of the crisis of working class leadership and the tasks of revolutionaries in building the party that can solve that crisis. The Trotsky quote above is our guiding principle in tackling these questions.

The economic and political background.
In an article on 31 October in the Oil and Gas website, Oil and Gas Refining overcapacity hits oil majors, they point out the following: “Squeezed margins in the global refining industry are hurting the world’s largest oil companies, as Royal Dutch Shell, Total and ExxonMobil all blamed poor quarterly earnings on a decline in their downstream businesses. Results from Shell were the most disappointing Thursday, as its profit dropped almost a third to $4.5bn. ExxonMobil’s profit fell 18 per cent to $7.87bn, while Total’s declined almost a fifth to €2.72bn. All the majors have been hit by refinery overcapacity and weak demand for petrol and diesel in slowing western economies, which has hit earnings in their downstream – refining and marketing – divisions.

The problem is most striking in Europe, despite refinery closures that have taken some 1.7m barrels a day of capacity out of the system since 2008. Figures from the International Energy Agency show European demand for refined products will average 13.5m b/d, almost 2m b/d less than in 2008.

This weakening demand has coincided with the construction of a new wave of giant refineries in Asia and the Middle East that are putting pressure on older and less sophisticated plants in more mature markets. The IEA says global crude oil distillation capacity is set to rise from 86m b/d in 2005 to 101m b/d by 2017 once all the planned new capacity comes on stream”. [2]

Once we have grasped this global economic picture then it is clear that Len McCluskey’s capitulation and betrayal at Grangemouth has only “saved the jobs” of these workers in the short term. We can clearly dub him a class traitor on the definition we supplied for our obituary to Jimmy Reid in Socialist Fight No 5:

“A class traitor is someone who betrays the long-term interests of the whole class, and that class is globally constituted with national sections, a few temporary concessions to a local workforce to ‘outwit the class struggle’ in no way excuses this treachery. Anti-EEC/EU economic nationalism was central to Reid’s politics and campaigns … Clearly capitalisms as a whole was greatly assisted by this work-in which removed some of the most militant workers from the political confrontation with Ted Heath”. [3}

As Trotsky observed in 1930: “The trade union bureaucracy is the most powerful instrument for your oppression by the bourgeois state. Power must be wrested from the hands of the bourgeoisie and for that its principal agent, the trade union bureaucracy, must be overthrown.” [4] And, as Rob Sewell observes, the sell-out at Grangemouth was foreshadowed by McCluskey’s earlier betrayals; the deal at Vauxhall on Merseyside, where the workers were forced to accept big changes to their terms and conditions particularly for new starters in return for keeping their jobs, was an obvious example. Similarly with the defeat of Unite over the British Airways dispute, where again the workers were forced to grant significant working changes to keep their jobs.

Politically we must look at the whole Labour movement and how the machinations of the existing leadership of the working class, both the trade union bureaucracy and the Labour party leadership, have conspired together to land these blows on the working class. As Trotsky observed later in that same article: “The Labour Party, the trade unions – these are not two principles, they are only a technical division of labor. Together they are the fundamental support of the domination of the English bourgeoisie.” [5]

These betrayals were procured by Ed Miliband and the Labour party leaders who could have instantly saved the Royal Mail by promising re-nationalisation. An occupation of Grangemouth under workers’ control might well have forced Miliband and Alex Salmond to promise nationalisation also. Miliband is still committed to the defence of capitalism in lockstep with the TU bureaucracy from right to left despite his recent feign to the left. The conflicts between McCluskey and Miliband over Falkirk and the trade union link played a central part in this dispute.

Miliband succumbed to Cameron’s jibes that he was in the pay of the trade unions by attacking the constituency party at Falkirk and by seeking to destroy the link with the trade unions, the historic road for the working class to exert some pressure on the Labour party, however bureaucratised this link is. Miliband handed “information” about vote rigging to the police and a member of his own party to Ineos on a plate. By signalling publicly that Labour was going to throw Grangemouth Convenor Stevie Deans to the wolves over the Cameron fiasco to inflict a blow on McCluskey, Jim Ratcliffe was given the chance to mount his attack in the way he did. Ratcliffe clearly had the measure of McCluskey and called his bluff.Grangemouth Workers ProtestThose who defend McCluskey’s left flank; the CPB, SP, CPGB and AWL
We lay no blame whatsoever on the Grangemouth workers, and a far lesser share of the blame on the local shop stewards and convenors who would have had to be educated in revolutionary politics to defy this bureaucratic leadership successfully. Workers will not go into battle without a leadership and one cannot be built overnight. Those who blame the workers for their supposed lack of militancy have only one aim in view, to defend McCluskey’s treachery. But there are others who defend the bureaucracy from the left.

His left flank is defended in the first place by the Morning Star (CPB). In a cringe-making front page piece by Rory MacKinnon on 25 October entitled Grangemouth’s workers call bully-boy Ineos bosses’ bluff he blubbered:
Grangemouth’s workers have called bully-boy Ineos bosses’ bluff by saying they are willing to accept cuts if owners back down on a brutal closure threat… The Unite union representing the workers had bitterly opposed the scheme, but said they would accept it in full so long as the company reversed its decision to close the plant. The new deal would see Grangemouth’s workers lose their final-salary pensions, while wages would freeze and bonuses would be scrapped entirely for four years. [6]. This is not from the left at all on reconsideration. It is a straightforward defence of its chief paymaster by the TU bureaucracy’s daily mouthpiece.

The Socialist party Scotland statement, Trade unions must learn lessons from Grangemouth setback, on 25 October 2013 said:
“There was huge pressure on the shop stewards at Grangemouth following the closure announcement on Wednesday 23 October. More than half of the permanent workforce at the whole Grangemouth site had been told their jobs were gone. The oil refinery was closed. According to Ineos it would remain so, unless the union agreed to huge cuts in workers’ terms and conditions. The possibility of closure enduring was a real one. In addition, the Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, supported by the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, was at that point urging that the union sign up to the company’s demands”. [7]

It laments more in sorrow than in anger McCluskey’s “mistake”. Then on the 28th on the Sunday Politics show hosted by Andrew Neil Bob Crow said he “takes his hat off” to Unite for saving jobs. On the 29th the Socialist party piece was reposted but “This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 25 October 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.” The only difference we noticed was that the words, “supported by the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey” were gone so that it was all down to that nasty Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty. They really cannot fart now without Bob’s say so.

Of course they can attack the Labour party leaders and Miliband for starting the whole affair but that is because, unlike the Socialist Appeal, they are no longer in the Labour party. But essentially their politics are the same. So the SA can be fighting syndicalist and the SP can be fighting anti-Labour and still end up in the same place. They bow, like Rob Sewell, to Stalinist class traitor Jimmy Reid also. And of course there is no mention of their voting for McCluskey against Jerry Hicks in the election and no mention of a rank and file movement to defeat and replace the bureaucracy. However they did mention elsewhere the fact that Jerry Hicks got 80,000 votes as evidence of the strength of the left in Unite (which obviously excludes themselves as leftists in Unite). Even ‘sadder’, they thought, were the actions of Billy Hayes, another sponsor of the NSSN with Bob Crow, who likewise expects and gets no criticism in return:

The sell-off of the remaining publicly owned parts of Royal Mail was completed over the last week. This represents the sad passing of the last remaining form of publicly owned communications. [8]

Of course genuine revolutionary socialists, trade union militants and fighters for the class are not ‘sad’ at these betrayals at all but hopping mad and even more determined to expose these class traitors and replace them with a genuine revolutionary and fighting leadership.

The CPGB/Weekly Worker’s Eddie Fords joins the rest of the soft left apologists for Len McCluskey’s betrayal at Grangemouth. [9]So the “the CPGB’s Draft programme (section 3.7) says that, when “faced with plans for closure”, we should raise the demand to “nationalise threatened workplaces or industries under workers’ control” – and under certain circumstances it would be a perfectly legitimate tactic for workers to occupy the workplace in order to back up this demand. Indeed, it would be a matter of pure self-defence.” But on this occasion it just isn’t appropriate because the “Grangemouth workforce were unlikely to vote for an occupation” and, anyway, McCluskey “is a left bureaucrat at the end of the day” with “political limitations” so what could he do except perform a “temporarily retreat in order to fight another day”.

Not as bad an excuse as the Morning Star of 25 October but getting there. So we have a programme for occupation up to the point when one becomes necessary and then when the capitalist owner attacks us viciously by closing the plant we outwit him and the entire class struggle by running away! What else could any decent left bureaucrat do? If you are a pig then you surely must grunt.

The AWL backed Len McCluskey in both the general sectary election with right wing Zionist member Jim Denhan supplying particularly venomous attacks on Jerry in the Socialist Unity blog and elsewhere. They completely to avoid the question of removing McCluskey for his treachery and concentrate on defending “Unite”. This is obviously a popular frontist uncritical defence of the union leadership against both the right wing capitalist attacks and the left wing rank and file oppositionists:

Britain’s biggest union is under concerted attack from every element in British society possessed of a visceral hostility to trade unionism and to the right of trade unions to demand political representation from the party which founded. The unholy alliance against Unite stretches from big business, Tory MPs and the mainstream media through to right-wing Labour (and ex-Labour) MPs and union officials. In its slipstream it is dragging along the disorganised and the demoralised who buy into the line that Unite – rather than Ineos’ owners – nearly put 800 workers (and thousands of sub-contractors) on the dole. Confronted with such a witch-hunt, socialists and union activists must first and foremost stand side-by-side with Unite. The witch-hunt is not just an attack on Unite but on any trade union which fails to roll over and die in the face of bosses’ ultimata.” [10]

Syndicalism: Socialist Appeal, Workers Power and the SWP
Syndicalists are those who seek a reformist road to socialism with revolutionary verbiage. The first is Socialist Appeal who are still pursuing Ted Grant’s and Militant’s goal of transforming Labour and achieving socialism via the passage of an Enabling Act in parliament; the old CPGB and current CPB parliamentary road to socialism programme. This is reflected in the piece by Socialist Appeal’s Rob Sewell on 29 October, The lessons of Grangemouth: labour movement needs fighting leadership! which sounds like a fighting, militant approach and does not excuse McCluskey:

The Ineos bosses had thrown down the gauntlet. However, instead of calling a mass meeting and organise a mass campaign to resist the closure, starting with an occupation of the plant and sending pickets to other plants, the Unite union hoisted the white flag and accepted the Ratcliffe terms. Len McCluskey went to Grangemouth to sign the deal “warts and all” to keep the plant open and save the jobs… Despite the fighting words, it represents a capitulation without a fight, the worse kind of capitulation, which the bosses will use to drive home their advantage. You should not make a bluff without being prepared to carry it through. The “agreement” represents a defeat for the workers at Grangemouth and for workers elsewhere. It will mean a blow to the confidence and morale of workers, at least in the short term. [11]

However it is a syndicalist article which does not see any crisis of the capitalist system itself apart from formally. For instance it does not refer to the overcapacity of oil refineries in Europe and globally. Because they are Labour party entryists it does not criticise the Labour party leadership and its role in the victimisation of Stevie Deans and giving the ‘in’ to Ratcliffe. There is no call for a rank and file movement to replace these leaders and they advocated a vote for Len McCluskey against Jerry Hicks in the last Unite GS election.

The second pure syndicalist article is from Workers Power’s Jeremy Dewar. Since the 2006 split Workers Power have moved from supporting the Socialist Party’s Campaign for a New Workers’ Party to the Anti-capitalist Initiative via apologia for the French New Anti-capitalist Party as radical reformist alternatives to Labour and in the end has rejected them all. They are currently for a non-existent (even in embryo) “mass anticapitalist political alternative to the Labour Party”. This abandonment of consistent class politics has involved tactic alliances with the Tories and right wing mass media (and Miliband and McCluskey now!) in seeking to break the Labour party trade union link. This is syndicalism. This danger was pointed to by the 2006 expelled (anti-Leninist) oppositionists who became Permanent Revolution:

It (WPB) now calls on trade unionists to disaffiliate from Labour even though there is no “workers’ party” to affiliate to. This is a recipe for encouraging the growth of apolitical trade unionism – a danger that now faces the FBU since its disaffiliation from Labour. The WPB leadership calls for a general abstentionist position in elections – calling on workers not to vote is somehow “relating to the vanguard”. Worse, in one document they went so far as to say WPB was not “putting demands on Labour in this conjuncture.” So, no demands on them to repeal anti-unions laws, anti-asylum seeker laws and so on? This was getting ludicrous. [12]

And the chickens have come home to roost in Jeremy’s article:
Rank and file alternative: Jerry Hicks, who gained 36 per cent of the vote against Len McCluskey in the Unite general secretary election earlier this year, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying, this was “botched from the very beginning” and “ended in surrender”. He is absolutely right. Unite could have altered the whole history of the dispute by organising the immediate occupation of the plant as soon as the lock out was threatened in mid-October. Its members would have been called on to close down the refinery; with union backing they could have refused and the workforce could have seized control of the equipment and the dispute.

Flying pickets and solidarity action around Britain’s other refineries would soon have had an effect in the petrol stations across the country. From a position of strength, Unite should have demanded that the British and Scottish governments nationalise Grangemouth, and that the Labour Party and the TUC support the workers. Workers could have demanded that no compensation should be paid to filthy rich parasites (Ratcliffe is one of the 10 richest people in the UK) and that the plant be run under workers’ control. In return for all the millions that Unite donates to Labour, this was an ideal opportunity to demand the party backs nationalisation. After all, Ed Miliband was elected as leader with Unite’s support. [13]

There is no assessment of the role of the Labour party leadership and Miliband in bring about this crisis, there is no estimation of the global crisis of capitalism and its effects on Grangemouth and there is no political estimation of the effects of the lack of revolutionary leadership. Trotsky’s quote at the start of the article was written against just this type of article.

The SWP leader Alex Callinicos has penned a forthright but syndicalist attack on McCluskey’s conduct, Grangemouth was no test of strength on 30 October:
“Trade union leaders, whatever their political stripe, make up a distinct social group whose role consists of seeking to reconcile the interests of capital and labour. This means that they don’t have the same interests as the rank and file workers who end up paying the price of their deals, like the workers at Grangemouth did. The real difference between McCluskey and Scanlon and Jones is that the latter had to tame the powerful shop stewards’ organisation that threatened the future of British capitalism. More than anything else, the resulting decline of rank and file power made possible the defeat of the miners, and of many other groups of workers. This decline has also allowed McCluskey to posture as a lion, only to turn into a mouse when the bosses cut up nasty. Rebuilding rank and file organisation is essential if we are not to remain dependent on trade union leaders who almost without fail disappoint us”. [14]

Like Rob Sewell’s and Jeremy Dewar’s articles it has no mention of Miliband’s treachery, no mention of the global crisis of capitalism and the global over capacity in the oil refinery industry. And it identifies, like the other two, the central problem as the betrayals of the TU bureaucracy and the lack of a rank and file movement but significantly it does not call for the ousting of the TU bureaucracy; pressure from below to force them to fight is the traditional SWP objective. And, of course, like the other two it does not identify the need for the revolutionary party, making it too in contravention of Trotsky advice at the start of this piece: “The correctly understood task of the Communist Party does not consist solely of gaining influence over the trade unions, such as they are, but in winning, through the trade unions, an influence over the majority of the working class”. 

But the three groups have put forward fighting syndicalist orientations to the trade unions and the need for building a rank and file movement in the unions. United front co-operation is implied in all these cases.

The SEP/WSWS and the Workers Revolutionary Party
Now let us take the Socialist Equality party (SEP/WSWS). Steve James has a piece entitled Unite union hands victory to INEOS in Scotland’s Grangemouth refinery lockout on 28 October. It gives good professional details and outlines the treachery in an excellent fashion. But it finishes in a really appalling anti-trade union, almost scabby way:

“Unite’s miserable capitulation expresses the completed transformation of the trade unions into industrial enforcers concerned primarily with the suppression of workers’ interests. Faced with globally organised and integrated outfits like INEOS, the unions play their role of defending investment and profitability in whichever region they happen to be based. Workers’ rights, conditions and livelihoods are viewed as negotiating positions to be sacrificed by a wealthy union hierarchy seeking to defend its own privileged relations with top management. New workers’ organisations are needed right away. Their point of departure must be the struggle for the socialist reorganisation of the world economy for social need”. [15]

What hope for the future of the working class and oppressed globally if their only productive method of struggle is to build and fight within those “new workers’ organisations”, which we will discover elsewhere are actually rank and file movements led by David North, CEO of Grand River Printing & Imaging (GRPI), a multi-million dollar business in Michigan and the SEP in Britain, Germany, Australia and Sri Lanka, amounting to no more than 200 souls at the outside? [16]

The Workers Revolutionary party reported that:
“All Trades Unions Alliance national secretary Dave Wiltshire told News Line: ‘This stinks! The Unite leadership should be thrown out for their treachery. They’ve accepted a no-strike deal and completely sold out their members. They call a one-day strike, then call it off and then agree pay and pension cuts – everything the company demanded and, on top of this, a no-strike deal. They should be replaced by a new leadership that will organise an occupation and demand the whole of the trade union movement defend the Grangemouth workers with a general strike”. [17]

Can’t argue with that but might be a bit more helpful if they had a few practical proposals of who to fight against within Unite and how to mobilise the ranks to oust McCluskey and the entire bureaucracy. They did not even manage to advocate a vote for Jerry Hicks against Len McCluskey in either of his two general secretary election campaigns.

However on the Royal Mail privatisation there has been an unexpected development. Having spent years reporting the left sounding phrases of Billy Hays and Dave Ward (and even the TUC) as good coin in opposing privatisation suddenly they penned an editorial of 21 October which launched a full scale all-out attack on these class traitors, Sack the Hayes-Ward CWU leadership!:

“The fact is that the battle against privatisation was over long ago as far as the leadership of the CWU is concerned. At this year’s CWU conference, both Ward and the General Secretary, Billy Hayes, did their best to promote the idea that a ballot for strike action to stop privatisation would take place. They supported a motion calling for a consultative ballot over boycotting the delivery of competitors’ mail, with the promise that strike action over a boycott would be the same as a strike against privatisation. The consultative ballot recorded a massive vote of 92% in favour of strike action over the boycott, and 96% voting to fight privatisation.

Immediately, Hayes and Ward ran a mile from any fight, surrendering before battle was even engaged rather than risk breaking the anti-union laws. Having completely capitulated on the fight against privatisation and accepting it as a ‘done deal’, they then called a strike ballot on the terms and conditions after the sell-off. This ballot took place in October when it was widely known that the government intended to privatise Royal Mail that month – all Vince Cable had to do was juggle the dates to ensure that any vote came after the event. For Hayes and Ward to claim that they will lead any kind of fight to preserve terms and conditions under the newly privatised Royal Mail is beyond belief given their record of evasion and capitulation. Already, Cable has made it clear that not only will terms and conditions only be guaranteed for three years but also that this extends to union recognition. The CWU is in a fight for its very existence as a union under privatisation…

Postal workers, having proved time and again their determination and willingness to fight the government and its privatisation plans, must now demand that the CWU call an emergency conference to sack the leadership of Hayes and Ward and replace them with leaders prepared to take indefinite strike action in defence of jobs and conditions, and demand that the TUC call a general strike to kick out this government and replace it with a workers government that will stop all privatisation and re-nationalise every privatised service”. [18]

Again can’t quarrel with these sentiments. Surely this was penned by Dave Wiltshire, their ATUA national secretary and CWU Bristol & District Branch Secretary (and if not why not?). Again there are no proposals on how this might come about, no call for a rank and file movement to oust this leadership, who would only be replaced by more bureaucrats if they were sacked as things stand. And the CWU is the union that has displayed the most rank and file militancy over the years. Here the SWP has played a treacherous role, always keeping an alliance with the CWU bureaucracy and only sacking CWU president and SWP member Jane Loftus when she obviously crossed class lines by voting to call off the rising strike movement in late 2009.[19] And the SWP’s Unite the Resistance Conference on 19 October this year still had CWO general secretary Billy Hayes as a speaker after his betrayal as outlined above in the WRP editorial. But the WRP do not attack the SWP or attempt to use the union positions they have to build a rank and file opposition to the bureaucracy; it is allowed to remain at an empty objectivist call which they are mobilising no one to implement.

What was wrong with Jimmy’s Reid’s UCS work-in? (box)
The Socialist Appeal, the Socialist party and the SWP put forward Jimmy Reid as the model trade union leader. Rob Sewell says, “The example of UCS in 1971, where the workers organised a “work-in”, became a cause celebre and an inspiration to all those workers fighting closures and attacks”. The Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party similarly point to this work-in as the way to go. That work-in was, in fact, a political defence of capitalism as was analysed in SF No 5, Jimmy Reid: “It cannae be Lenin — he’s deid” [20] Reid accepted the Rectorship of the Caledonian University of Glasgow in the famous 1972 Rat Race speech. The New York Times printed the speech in full and described it as “the greatest speech since President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address”.

Reject the values and false morality that underlie these attitudes. A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?” [21]

As Tony Fox commented on this:
“His message to the Presbyterian students of Glasgow Caledonian University, worried by a radicalising working class, was the rat-race can be overcome by cleansing our souls of greed and evil and he will then guarantee their privileges against the threat of socialist revolution. This is why Reid’s moral humbuggery went down so well with the capitalist establishment and its defenders. It had its origins in the crashing banalities of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, delivered (or later invented to gut the message of the messianic Essenes, Christ’s sect, of all oppositional, egalitarian content) to protect the Roman Empire against the impending Great Jewish Revolt led by the revolutionary Zealots (66-70 AD). Its function was to ward off threats of revolution articulated in the main in those days, if not seriously practiced, by the Trotskyist zealots of Gerry Healy’s SLL”. [22]

The article finished with the following observation:
“Lastly we will sum up by examining the remark of the ship yard worker who misheard John Lennon’s name when it was announced that he had given a £5,000 cheque to the work-in and said “It cannae be Lenin — he’s deid”. That worker clearly knew who Lenin was, he knew his spirit would be on his side in the class struggle and he had discussed Lenin with fellow workers, no doubt as a result of attending or taking to those who had attended CPGB meetings.

Lenin was indeed ‘deid’ for the CPGB even if they still used his name, with a history of some forty years of class betrayal behind them by then and he is clearly ‘deid’ for those leaders without enough class consciousness to recognise what was wrong with what Jimmy Reid did and said back in 1971-2. But we are confident there are enough who still understand the revolutionary heritage of Lenin and Trotsky to forge a genuine Leninist-Trotskyist revolutionary party by learning those lessons today”. [23]

Socialist Fight Statement on the witch hunt: Defend Unite (box)
Socialist Fight totally condemns the current witch hunt against Unite and its union organisation in Grangemouth conducted by the Sunday Times. Prime Minister Cameron flagged up the agenda by jibing that Labour was totally in hock to Len McCluskey of Unite – and generally to the trade unions. Driven on by this Miliband then pursued an anti-trade union organisational offensive – including the referral to a police enquiry in an attack centred on the Unite organisational work within the Falkirk constituency and the Labour party’s MP selection process. Now The Sunday Times and others are pursuing this witch hunt with gusto to de-legitimize trade unionism and serve the right-wing agenda. We are fully aware that their target is union organisation itself and we are totally in support of victimized official Stevie Deans and the Unite union organisation in Grangemouth and nationally.

But in so doing we will not misuse this principled united front tactic as an uncritical defence of all the methods of McCluskey and the Unite bureaucracy, who are in many ways the authors of their own misfortunes, by their refusing to fight Ineos’ attacks on the workers with clarity and steadfastness at Grangemouth. We are with McCluskey and Unite when they fight, or are under assault firstly, as trade union representatives in this way, criticising, when need be, their tactics and their failings but not siding ever in any way with the right wing offensive.

We repudiate the tactics of the Sunday Times in linking the legitimate claims of Jerry Hicks against the conduct of the Unite general secretary incumbent McCluskey during the April 2013 ballot which they are now divisively conflating it with the Falkirk CLP selection process. Socialist Fight defends the Labour party trade union link. We assert the legitimate right of Unite to fight to get its policies adopted by the Labour party and, to this end, in getting Unite members to join the local constituency Labour parties and to get candidates adopted who will fight for union policies in parliament. On the evidence we have seen this is all Unite did in Falkirk and is doing in the other constituencies they are involved in. Clearly a united front against Murdoch and the Tories means defending Stevie Dean AND McCluskey in this way.

As Workers Liberty’s Mark Best pointed out Unite’s Organising and Leverage Department had examined who the investors, clients, joint-venture partners, the directors and other decision-makers associated with the company were in order to force change. This resulted in an in-depth analysis of the company, its directors, investors, partners etc., and the points of vulnerability to aim for within this complex. So they had all the information and they had the recourses to occupy the plant, institute workers control and launch the international campaign to defend the plant, force its nationalisation and not only save all the jobs but defend the wages and conditions of all the workers at the plant.

An occupation under workers’ control immediately raises the question of who owns, or rather who should own the plant and what is production for? Is it for the profit of capitalism or for the production fuel for transport and heating oil and gas needed by workers, the middle classes and their families this winter?

An occupation would have raised the political level of the entire class struggle. Every trade union militant and socialist activist would have rallied vast sections of the working class movement behind it. Of course a trade union bureaucracy will never take such revolutionary action unless severely pressured from below by a rank and file movement seeking to oust them and replace them with more militant and revolutionary leaders who are prepared to take such actions with them if possible but without them if necessary.

Clearly far more concessions will need to be made at Grangemouth to protect “British” jobs and, once the full capacity of the “new wave of giant refineries in Asia and the Middle East” come on stream in 2017, the plant will probably close anyway. Bob Crow’s economic nationalism and Europhobia is a pressing threat to the entire working class movements and those who are revolutionary internationalists must conduct a sharp political struggle against it.[24] McCluskey at Grangemouth and Billy Hayes at the Royal Mail in conjunction with Ed Miliband have struck a treacherous blow at the only force that can solve this crisis; the organised strength of the international working class led by a reforged Fourth International. As Trotskyists we do not therefore collapse before this global crisis but turn towards that class with renewed and urgent struggles to build that leadership that will take forward the struggle to build the rank and file Grass Roots movement in Unite and every other union to oust this treacherous bureaucracy and replace them with more militant and revolutionary leaders who will face up to the central task of overturning capitalist property relations themselves on a global scale.

[1] Trotsky, Communism and Syndicalism (October 1929),

[2] Oil and Gas, Refining overcapacity hits oil majors, By Guy Chazan in London and Ed Crooks in New York,

[3] Jimmy Reid: It cannae be Lenin — he’s deid Obituary By Tony Fox.

[4] L.D. Trotsky, The Fundamental Principle Errors of Syndicalism (1930)

[5] Ibid.

[6] Morning Star 25 October, Unite makes last-ditch bid to save Grangemouth jobs, posted by Rory MacKinnon,

[7] Socialist Party, 25 October 2013, Trade unions must learn lessons from Grangemouth setback, By Socialist Party Scotland,

[8] Socialist Party, 16 October 2013, Fight the Royal Mail sell-off, By Lenny Shail,

[9] Weekly Worker 985, 7 November 2013, Eddie Ford, Grangemouth: Gangster bosses and special measures,

[10] Workers Liberty, Understanding the Grangemouth defeat, Submitted on 29 October,

[11] In Defence of Marxism, Britain: The lessons of Grangemouth – labour movement needs fighting leadership! By Rob Sewell 30 October 2013,

[12] Workers Power split. 1. Statement by Workers Power/LCI leadership and 2. Response of Expelled members,

[13] Workers Power, Grangemouth surrender: time for a rank and file movement, By Jeremy Dewar,

[14] Alex Callinicos Grangemouth was no test of strength, 29 October,

[15] Unite union hands victory to INEOS in Scotland’s Grangemouth refinery lockout, By Steve James, 28 October 2013,

[16] Northites Inc.: Toeing the Bottom Line, Being Determines Consciousness,

[17] News Line, 25 October 2013 UNITE’S GRANGEMOUTH SURRENDER,

[18] News Line 21 October 2013Sack the Hayes-Ward CWU leadership!

[19] Weekly Worker 830 August 26 2010, Jane Loftus syndrome, Gerry Downing wonders why so many ‘revolutionaries’ cannot back the rank-and-file candidate in the election for general secretary of a major union,

[20] Obituary By Tony Fox.

[21] Wikipedia, Jimmy Reid,

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Socialist Fight No 2, Summer 2009, Socialist Fight statement on Lindsey Oil Refinery, 4 February 2009: No support for these chauvinist, xenophobic strikes, Banner (Leadership)

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

WRP Explosion

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