Sunday, 20 October 2013

Unison United Left splits over continued involvement of SWP

Whilst members of the Socialist Workers Party continue to squabble over control of the corpse of the organisation, the continuing effect of the Martin Smith affair continues to have an impact elsewhere on the left and in the unions. Back in February the SWP were firmly rebuffed over the issue of rape apologism at the Unison Women's conference, the details of which you can find here .

The SWP hold leading positions inside a number of broad left type formations inside the trade union movement including the Unison United Left. A number of well known activists have decided to quit the organisation as they can no longer work with the SWP. They have issued the following statement:

We are UNISON activists who are committed to organising a democratic rank and file organisation within our Union, not least because we believe that such an organisation could maximise the effectiveness of the Union’s opposition to all forms of oppression. We have involved ourselves with UNISON United Left because we have believed that it has had the potential to become such an organisation. We have decided that at this point it is necessary for us to resign from UNISON United Left. This is not a step we have taken lightly – we have been committed to the project of building a vibrant left movement within UNISON for many years and we believe this is needed more than ever at the moment, given the scale of the attacks on UNISON members across all sectors and the failure of the UNISON leadership to mount a sufficient challenge to this government.
However, we feel that within any left movement certain basic principles must always be upheld, one of which is a commitment to fighting for women’s liberation and against sexism, and it is clear that in the United Left we are working with some people who have betrayed this principle in a very serious way. We are speaking of supporters of the leadership of the Socialist Workers’ Party, who have stood by the leadership of their organisation over the past year as details have emerged of the rape and sexual harassment of female members of the party, and the utter failure of the organisation to support these women and to take appropriate action against the perpetrators. We do not propose here to go into detail about the specifics of these cases – details are available in many places for people to find, and we are happy to speak individually to anyone who wants more background and evidence for our claims.
We feel that remaining in an organisation with and supporting (ie in internal unison elections) those who support the leadership of the SWP In their denial and cover up of rape allegations would betray the principles of a safe space for women which should be at the centre of our rank and file organisation of UNISON. The cover up and trivialisation of rape is not compatible with a commitment to left wing politics, and it is not possible to see those who do this as part of the left. We are committed to encouraging more women to be part of the labour movement, and we think women should be able to expect rank and file trade union organisation to be a safe space. The SWP is clearly not an organisation that is safe for women to be part of, and will not be until it takes serious steps to become one. The attitude the party has taken to the rape cases endangers female members of that party, and women in general.
We will continue to work alongside all members of the left within UNISON who do not take the position of the leadership of the SWP, in order to further our common aims, and we will look to create organisational spaces for this kind of work to happen. It is vital that the rank and file UNISON members organise within UNISON for the reasons outlined above and we will seek to create an organisation that organises electorally, works with the wider left in the union, supports disputes and campaigns throughout the union, an organisation that is a space for women. We will seek to endorse candidates in elections who stand up for the socialist, feminist, anti-racist principles that should be common sense on the left.
We believe that rank and file UNISON members have an opportunity to organise to realise the potential of our trade union to defend our interests, including by resisting all forms of oppression. Developments in the SWP have highlighted that UUL, as an organisation in which avowed supporters of the leadership of that Party are prominent, cannot realise this potential. We call upon all UNISON activists who are committed to building an inclusive, democratic rank and file organisation to sign this statement, resign from the United Left and to join us in building such an organisation.
Marshajane Thomspon Chair of UUL
Jon Rogers UUL National Committee UNISON NEC (pc)
Terry Conway UUL National Committee
Andrew Berry UUL National Committee
Mark Boothroyd UUL
Steven Ellis London UUL
Naomi Bain London UUL
Lynne Moffat UUL
The SWP does not belong in the Labour & Trade Union movement and members of similar formations in the unions such as PCS Left Unity should break with this degenerate organisation.

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