Sunday, 10 November 2013

Far from United

The continuing crisis around Len McClusky's roll in both the Labour Party and within his own union took a particularly strange twist today. The front page headline of The Sunday Times read Union boss "elected by phantoms" (£) and told the tale of uber-militant Jerry Hick's (somewhat belated) decision to go to the Trade Union Certification Officer to complain that "almost 160,000 of those balloted (in the recent General Secretary election) were not members. Hicks is reported by the paper as claiming that:

...the election was unlawful because it included people who had left the union were included in the ballot. Hicks said dead former members were among those sent voting papers.

Hicks then goes on to link the Falkirk Labour Party with his complaint. He tells The Sunday Times:

"Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi? There are serious questions that need to be answered about these tens of thousands of non-members of the the union who were sent ballot papers".

Of course Hicks is seeking to overturn the recent election result which he lost by 80,000 votes to McCluskey's 144,000. A further election is indeed a possibility as the solicitor he has obtained, Jody Atkinson, was behind the successful move to force a re-run of of the General Secretary election in the building union Ucatt.

Hicks (an unemployed member of Unite) of course is one of those demagogic activists that pretends he's speaking to thousands no matter how small an audience he addresses. A former member of the Socialist Workers Party ,who was surprisingly backed by the SWP (who were then unceremoniously kicked out of the Unite Left group) he is less interested in representing Unite members and their actual interests, rather he promotes the far-left.

Hicks has garnered support from the breakaway International Socialist Network who write:

Hicks stood on a clearly radical platform, calling for rank and file militancy, democratisation of the union, and socialist politics. Given that McCluskey, who gained 144,570 votes, was the incumbent, and had the whole weight of the bureaucracy behind him, this was an impressive result. His campaign clearly tapped into a mood among many Unite members. This campaign built on the result of Hicks’s previous campaign in 2010, out of which the Grassroots Left was launched. Following the substantial vote gained this year, activists involved in the campaign aim to launch a new rank and file organisation in an attempt to build upon these gains, Unite Fight Back, which is now called Grassroots Rank and File.

Of cousre this is typical fare for the Trot left. Unions exist for their benefit, for use by their supporters to overthrow capitalism, blah, blah. This is clearly outlined:

....socialists need to argue that, whether they claim left wing credentials or not, the full-time officials and bureaucrats in Unite’s leadership are never going to create the mass action needed for the fight against the Tories. What is needed is a democratic, rank and file-led union. This would be a fighting union, not just in its rhetoric, but in its actions. The idea behind Unite Grassroots Rank and File is to provide an organisational focus for this aim, and all socialists should support it.

The ISN continue:

Socialists are involved in similar organisations in PCS, UCU, NUT, Unison and others. This approach is often described as the “broad left” strategy, where socialist organisations and militants unite with those on the left of the trade union bureaucracy in the hope of pulling them towards more militant action, and uniting against the right of the union. 

Of course this is not unique. Such formations do exist in other unions and in the PCS the Left Unity group have succeeded in actually making the union weaker and more irrelevant to it's members through an overtly political strategy than either it or any of the predecessor unions have ever been. The far-left is a disaster for PCS members and would be for Unite members if Hicks and his allies get their way.

It is highly unlikely that there was any actual attempt by McCluskey or any of his supporters to benefit from poor membership records. These are notoriously difficult to keep up to date in any large union. Rather Hicks and his allies are seeking to capitalise on the obvious fallout from Falkirk and make another bid for power.

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