Simpson Election and British Union Militancy

Martin Spellman mspellman at
Fri Jul 19 11:58:55 MDT 2002

Dombhall said:
> Incidentally, there is a fight (led by the trade unions)
> to get 'Red Ken' back into the Labour Party and to get him to run
> for office
> under the party - that is sure to get up Blair/Brown's nostrils.
> Ken seems
> likely to get re-elected despite the best efforts of the right-wing press.

	More of a 'move' than a fight. The antics of the Dear Leader (Blair) to get
some fool to stand for New Labour against Livingstone in the next London
Mayor election are documented in 'Private Eye', the establishment satire
mag. But the reality is he will not be let back into New Labour.

	On the election of Derek Simpson as GS of 'Amicus' (a merger of the
Engineering and Electricians Union with MSF (Management Science and Finance)
he is described as a 'former communist'. Simpson is in New Labour, as Brian
Cahill says. The CPGB wound up around 10 years ago and the only thing
remaining in that area is the CPB and the Morning Star.

> This will be a huge blow to the Blairite TU
> leadership and is probably reflective of the aggravation in the
> manufacturing sector surrounding the high interest rate/low
> inflation rate
> approach which has eroded this sector in the British economy.
> While it's a
> long way from having a hard core TU leadership, we can see the
> impact which
> someone like Bob Crow of the RMT is having in leading the
> opposition to the
> austerity measures forced on people by the New Labour Government.

	The preoccupation with the leading bureaucrats in the trade unions is a sad
legacy of 'Broad Leftism'. This movement had its origins in the 1970s with
the 1974 and 1975 Trade Union Acts and the advent of 'facility time' (time
off work for trade union activity). Its weakness always was 1) its lack of
base among rank and file trade unionists and 2) its obsession with union
elections and avoidance of policy and politics. Whilst the CP and Militant
were usually part of the Broad Left (BL) in a union the membership were
generally not socialists and even with the CP and Militant socialism usually
took a back seat to expediency and the organisation of slates for union

	This has been accompanied by unprincipled mergers within the trade union
movement, leading to large, ineffectual but wealthy 'mega-unions' or
'mini-TUCs', and also bureaucratic degeneration where power has moved to
officials as branches have been merged and closed.

	The Morning Star, Tribune, etc are always harping on about left, trade
union General Secretaries and what a step forward this is etc. But it
doesn't matter. Margaret Prosser, the Assistant GS of the TGWU masqueraded
as a left in her election. She is described as 'her own woman' which means
that she is not accountable. All kinds of charlatans now stand as 'lefts' in
union elections when they are only another faction of office hungry
officials, with no discernable political differences from the right wing. In
fact in some unions the 'Broad Left' is the right wing!

	My old union, now merged into history, led a pioneering and partially
successful, campaign for a shorter working week, back in the 1970s under a
right-wing General Secretary and Executive. It could be done because the
rank and file was active and the branches mattered and had clout.

> This new TU militancy has not found its way into the popular
> consciousness
> yet, it appears, although most people I speak to are fully
> supportive of the
> sort of old-style Social Democratic demands being made by the Left of the
> Labour Party/Movement. I'm not sure where this can lead - but it
> is good to
> see it.

	It will not lead anywhere as it does not have a mass basis. Sure there is
discontent and sure there were millions on strike but today's union
bureaucrats do not know how to formulate a policy, let alone a strategy to
achieve it. They do not know how to escalate or maximise action. All they
can think of is more one day stoppages, which are a recipe for wearing
people down for the inevitable 'best possible deal that can be negotiated'.
Today's unions are little more than insurance organisations and are not
organised for struggle but for jobs for useless officials, who often
describe themselves as 'left' but have no socialist perspective. By this I
mean belief in the emancipation of the working class as an act of the
workers themselves.

Martin Spellman

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