The actions of the affiliated trade union bureaucracies in September 2018 have clearly applied the brakes to the anti-austerity movement.


29/09/2018 by socialistfight

Image result for Len McCluskey at Labour Conference 2018 imagesThere can be no more pretence that Len McCluskey or the bureaucracy as a whole in UNITE is on the left in any way other than in words, certainly not in deeds.

By Steve McKenzie, GRL Press Officer, 29-9-18

There is and has always been, a very real prospect that the movement, that thrusted Jeremy Corbyn into the leaders position, could be dèrailed from within. This situation could have been mitigated against if open selection had been adopted. Disloyal PLP members would think twice about undermining a Labour government if they knew they would have to face local party members who had the power to deselect them. However it was not to  be as the result of the failure of the unaçcountable trade union bureaucrats to support open selection in the party. An act that leaves PLP members, hostile to Corbyn, free to continue their campaign to undermine, isolate and bring him down.

With an eye to Corbyns departure it is significant that right wing trade union bureaucrats also forced through a proposal on the nominations required to stand in any future leaďership election. Not surprisingly it gave them greater influence over the process.

It should also be remembered that earlier in September three right wing trade union general secretaries made press statements indicating that the NEC of the Labour party should adopt the full International Holocaust memorial association definition of anti semitism including the eleven examples. This was then sold as a forgone conclusion and became such when our own ‘left’ general secretary, Len McCluskey penned a similar article making exactly the same points in the Huffington post.

This was and insult and a betrayal of the Palestinian cause, to the rank and file of the Labour party and to trade union members. It was a betrayal that also gave the green light to the instigators and perpetrators of the bogus anti semetism smear campaign to intensify their disruptive activities.

For many activists and members this was the point when the line had been crossed. There can be no more pretence that Len McCluskey or the bureaucracy as a whole in UNITE is on the left in any way other than in words, certainly not in deeds. Confirmation of this came a couple of weeks later in the run up to and at the Labour party conference

Almost all of the trade union bureaucracies (with the honourable exception of the FBU), voted to block open selection and to force through the new nomination system for future leadership elections. It was sticking two fingers up to ordinary Labour party and trade union members. The question that it raises is what is to be done? Quite clearly the trade union apperatuses in all of the major unions are run by unelected, barely elected and crookedly elected bureaucrats.

Their total domination of the trade union machines has been the case for so long that there is an arrogant disregard at every level for the interests of the members. Some would argue that the process of bureacratization. has gone so far in right-wing uñions like the Gmb that it is a top-down institution that is beyond repair. It is generally felt, by those who know how trade unions are structured that unison is a far more democratic union. It would certainly appear to be the case on the surface. It may be possible for branches to send resolutions directly to the añnual conference which is the policy-making body of the union. It may have policies like those in support of BDS and support for the Palastinian cause in general. However, it also has a bureaucracy that is confident to completely ignore such policies when it sees fit.

Then we come to our own union UNITE. We have a bureaucratic leadership that never tires of telling us that the union is membership led. Anyone who knows how our union operates is aware that such statements are completely untrue. The ‘left’ leadership basks in the glory of having been instrumental in blocking the coup against Jeremy Corbyn in 2016. This much is true, the right wing of the parliamentary Labour party and right-wing unions like the GMB had conspired to remove Corbyn from office and were defeated and pushed back when the ‘left wing’ bureaucrats of UNITE threw their weight behind him.

However, if we examine the facts, in the 2015 leadership election Len McCluskey wanted to support austerity lite candidate Andy Burnham. It was also the case that right up until the 2016 conference McCluskey was against mandatory reselection. It was only under pressure from the left at the Unite conference itself that he chose to back it.

The subsequent Unite support for Corbyn at the time of the chicken coup is something every Unite member should be proud of. However, the decision to throw the weight of our union, in with the right-wing unions, first to force through the adoption of the full IHRA definition of antisemitism and then to oppose open selection was not an aberration but a reversion to type.

Where the organised left had been able to hold paid officials to account their power to continue to do so had clearly evaporated by September 2018. What the leadership of our union has done is wrong and they know it. The demeanour of the delegation when delivering its vote to block open selection, the angry, guilt-ridden outbursts of Len McClusky attacking Chris Williamson with allegations of ultra-leftism, are indications of this.

Grassroots UNITE members disgusted at the antics of a leadership, who act as a law unto themselves,  need to get organised to ensure that the vested self Interest of unaccountable bureaucrats does not take precedence over UNITE policy and the interests of the union’s members any longer.

For that reason a meeting of the Unite Grassroots Left has been organised for Saturday 20th October  (see below ) It is imperative that every genuine rank and file member who wants to see our union truly membership led and controlled makes every effort to attend. The paid officials have ruled the roost in UNITE for far too long. It is time to democratize our unions and take back.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky, tree and outdoor

OCT 20

Grass Roots Left Relaunch


 · Hosted by Gerry Joseph Downing
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    Saturday, 20 October 2018 from 12:00-16:00
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    Calthorpe Arms 252 Greys Inn Road, near Kings Cross, London


2 thoughts on “The actions of the affiliated trade union bureaucracies in September 2018 have clearly applied the brakes to the anti-austerity movement.

  1. Geoff S says:

    Comrade McKenzie’s article re Unite the Union and the Labour Party was both measured and praiseworthy. I am a Unite member in Birmingham and was wondering what had happened to the old GRL.

    My own poor state of health means I am not able to be active much anymore but please accept solidarity good wishes for the Unite GRL relaunch meeting in London on 20 October.


    Geoff S
    Lay member of Unite WM/5112 Birmingham Area Communities Branch.

    P.S. Why not review Ian Donovan’s recent writings on the Jewish question? I certainly don’t claim to be any sort of expert but some his views could easily be misinterpreted and appear to be influenced by people who have nothing in common with revolutionary socialism. Just a thought.


  2. Ian says:

    Just to say that I have moved the comment thread started by Geoff’s post-script above into a separate post

    With this software it is not possible to move comments from post to post, so instead I have copied them into the new opening and the discussion can continue below it as normal.


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