Socialist Worker came out early this week as the comrades prepare for their own internal "bun fight" this weekend, but the paper carried on as usual with its' distorted reports of events and one in particular caught my attention. As readers will be aware the PCS union has balloted for a strike. The turnout was far from satisfactory and the number of members voting for the dispute was actually only around 15%, a figure that has already attracted derision form the Government.
This doesn't stop Socialist Worker from claiming that:
A quarter of a million PCS members backed strikes by 61 percent in a recent ballot
Indeed this is the official view of the PCS union who also write:
A series of walkouts and protests by almost a quarter of a million civil and public servants will start with a strike on budget day on 20 March, the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) has announced today.
Not exactly the case as we saw on Monday. Just 38,000 members voted for action despite the huge effort that was put in to it. Indeed the PCS Grandees will have also been shocked by the high No vote of over 24,500. With nearly three quarters of the membership remaining unengaged with the union such proclamations by the Socialist Party PCS leadership are quite dangerous.
Already the media are calling it a strike about Pay & Pensions, which is true(ish). The real reason for the left pushing this dispute is the desire of the Socialist Party to (a) press for a General strike and (b) utilise the dispute to retain its' iron grip on the PCS union itself.
The Pensions issue is long over and pay, well as much as I'd like a decent pay rise (who wouldn't) the Government is sticking to the pay freeze and has seemingly led PCS into a dispute it will be unable to win. The left have claimed that strikes win victories as strike votes did prevent a small number of threats in a couple of Departments including the DWP.
Trouble it was easy for the Government to back down when the numbers involved were small because if they wanted to take on the union over issues where public sympathy would be less they knew Serwotka and his cronies were going to oblige.
This dispute starts at a time when trade union facilities for civil servants are being virtually wiped out by Francis Maude, something he got the go-ahead to do when Serwotka threatened a strike just before the Olympics on the basis of just 11% of UK Border Agency supporting it.
The left have not learnt their lesson and the Socialist Party's determination to place itself at the helm of any movement against austerity has made them arrogant in their misuse of the union that they control. Chief SP enforcer John McInally (PCS Vice President) has been ensuring that nothing distracts from the fight for the General Strike.
The left are hoping for other unions to join them. Their main hope was that the National Union of Teachers would join them. The last reported vote from their NEC showed the left were only 2 votes away from winning and they demanded a re-run at the NUT Executive Committee meeting last week. However the NUT has instructed its' members not to leak details of the meeting whilst their "negotiations" with the other main teaching union the NASUWT took place.
There remains no guarantee at all that these two unions will join the fight and may prefer its own continuing policy of "action short of industrial action". The left wing Solidarity newspaper confirms this:
..the Executive chose to prioritise a continued focus on pursuing joint action with NASUWT, the other large teaching union, rather than striking now. There is no indication that the NUT, with or without NASUWT, will take action in time to fight Gove’s proposals properly.
PCS is very much on its' own. There are no other civil service unions involved in the forthcoming strike on Budget day. A time incidentally which will see news of the strike buried by budget news. But then fighting the capitalist system is not the only concern of the comrades of the Socialist Party. They also want to use members sacrifices to continue control of the PCS which gives them a toehold in the unions.
This is outlined quite clearly in a leaflet issued by their front organisation Left Unity/Democratic Alliance as they write:
The Democracy Alliance led NEC has and will continue to campaign tirelessly against the Government’s “Austerity” agenda
...a strong leadership with a proven track record is required, and only a Democracy Alliance NEC has that
There then follows a list of the comrades they want the members to vote for, which given they rely on a small turnout is quite achievable for them.
Unfortunately for the members such achievements will be made on their backs because the Socialist Party and its' fellow travellers (including the now thoroughly discredited Socialist Worker Party) live in a dream world of Marxist revolution. That's not the world members live in.
Patience and careful planning need to replace knee jerk Socialism.
PCS members have been misled by the political parasites of the Socialist Party and the SWP for long enough.
The time ahead will be difficult, but there does remain hope even at this late hour for a change of union leadership, policy and direction.