Len Mccluskey Speaks on the State of the Labour Movement

This is the full text of Len McCluskey’s “Ralph Miliband lecture” at the LSE, via Left Futures

lenmccluskey0For me personally, the three strands of this lecture: working class politics; the labour movement; and protest; are subjects that have been clear defining features of my life – from my upbringing in Liverpool and throughout my adult social and working life. Indeed for people of my generation working class politics was instilled as a birth right.

In the same way that birth determines your sex, it determines your class, often your career, your financial prospects as well as a great many other things. Therefore politics, protest and the labour movement were the only vehicles by which you could affect change.
Let me congratulate the LSE for their role in remembering Ralph Miliband’s work. Ralph Miliband may not have been brought up in the movement in Britain, but he did all his political work here, addressing the history and controversies of British labour, so I think it is fair enough for us to claim him – the more so since his two sons have risen to such eminence in the Labour Party today.

Indeed, it is sometimes said that there is a common thread linking the generations of Milibands – the father spent his life trying to convince our movement that there was no possibility of a parliamentary road to socialism, while his sons have been loyally putting theory into practice, and proving Ralph right! So let me start on my subject, working-class politics in the contemporary world, with a quote from Ralph Miliband:

All concepts of politics, of whatever kind, are about conflict──how to contain it, or abolish it.”

That is how I understand politics based on my own experiences, and on my own reading of our history. I say that not to celebrate conflict – still less violence – but merely to state a fact. Politics is about struggle, about the clash of interests and, for me, ultimately about how to create a society and a world where there really are common interests.

So let’s take a contemporary example straight away – “One Nation”. I applaud Ed Miliband for the way he has raised this idea – or perhaps re-raised it – and for the content he is trying to give it. But let’s not pretend that we are “one nation”, or that we will become one without the conflict that Ralph Miliband placed at the heart of politics.

Remember Disraeli talked of “one nation” to reconcile the working-class to Empire, and more recently Tony Blair claimed that New Labour was “the political wing of the British people”, when it too often turned out to be the mouthpiece of the City of London and even the Pentagon.

So if we are on a march towards “one nation” and ultimately “one world”, it is a road that leads through struggle and conflict. We cannot create common interests across a society that is now more unequal than for generations simply by wishing for it. So how do we get to “one nation” and what part does working-class politics play? One thing that is certain, as the Swedish sociologist Göran Therborn has written:

While there are a number of plausible labels that might be attached to the 20th century, in terms of social history it was clearly the age of the working class”.

For me, the labour movement has been the backbone to political change and progress for generations; if the 20th century was the century of the working class, it was so because of organised labour and the trade union movement.

The trade union movement is the child of conflict – the conflict between wage workers and employers over pay, hours, employment conditions, safety in the workplace – in short, over who should benefit in what proportion from the wealth generated by industrial capitalism. And that is why the ruling class was so keen to keep trade unions in legal shackles for so long.

Britain was the first country of trade unionism – a point I was pleased to see reflected in Danny Boyle’s inspirational opening ceremony at the Olympics. In the History of Trade Unionism written in 1894 by the founders of Fabianism, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, trade unions were described as “a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment”. And trade unions were initially opposed to ‘state intervention’ or ‘interference’ in their relationship with employers.

It was only when the entire existence of trade unions was challenged at the turn of the last century, with adverse decisions in the Courts, particularly Taff Vale, that unions found themselves fighting for their survival on the national political stage.

Rising out of these turbulent times was a new agenda. Trade unions had to extend their reach into parliament and government. The labour movement needed a political voice to fight for the interests of organised labour on the national political stage. The labour movement had to obtain influence on the machinery of government. The British trade union movement was unique in establishing its only socialist political party.

This was a step towards politics in its thinking, but still a long way short of socialism, as Ralph Miliband would certainly point out if he were with us today. The limited objective was to protect the rights of organised labour and trade union action through legislation. Moving beyond this, to using legislation to win universal rights for working people and go on to take control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, was not a step taken until after capitalism had passed through the great economic crisis of 1910-11 and the far far greater disaster of the First World War.

This is a reminder that socialism is placed on the agenda not so much by the admirable work of socialist propaganda groups, but instead by people’s actual experiences of capitalist society.

But working-class politics, defined as broadly as it should be, has been about more than “politics” as conventionally understood (What goes on in Westminster and at election time). It has been rooted in a sense of community too.

Prior to the creation of welfare it was the labour movement that established the first elements of social provision. No-one thought to call it the “Big Society” in those days. Whole communities, often only established around the sinking of a mine or the building of a mill – or a dock – became microcosms of what would become our nation’s welfare state.

Before any national Government had the foresight to create a National Health Service or social insurance systems, there was a proud tradition of self-reliance and widespread community provision.

In mining communities there was socialised medicine and health care:

■Homes were built for retired miners or their widows.
■Funeral arrangements were made and paid for by trade union committees.
■And before universal education was secured, trade unions were the bodies that wanted to educate working class communities – the Workers Education Association was established in 1903 and provided working men and women with the opportunity to get an education.
The slogan ‘Educate – Agitate – Organise’ encapsulated how workers could improve their lives.

If we measure the success of the labour movement as the extent to which it re-shaped the behaviour and responsibilities of government, the 20th Century saw victories on an unimaginable scale, albeit victories achieved at the price of great suffering and almost exclusively through conflict.

It is a remarkable feat that – at the height of industrial power, at a time when wealth was accumulated at the top and poverty imposed for working people who lived ‘hand to mouth’– the labour movement (the arm of the working classes) was able to secure such radical change and take control of high office, influencing government through the Labour Party.

The working classes, against all odds, transformed society. If you were to have a Monty Python moment and say “what has the trade union movement ever done for us” some would of course talk about better pay and improved conditions at work. I would go much further, and say that the political activity of the working class has secured or guaranteed almost everything we value today: Let me list some:

Democracy – there has never been any strong democracy based on universal suffrage without a powerful working-class movement. And it was the working-class which was the backbone of the fight to defeat fascism when much of the European elite was flirting with Hitler, Franco and Mussolini.

■Peace – the working-class has always led the opposition to war time and again.
■Equality – inside and outside the workplace, it is working-class politics which has established the right of men and women of all races and backgrounds to be treated equally.
■Welfare – education, the NHS and insurance against hardship in old age or unemployment are products of working-class agitation and struggle.
The idea that capitalism or the ruling elite would have introduced democracy or social equality or welfare on their own is entirely fanciful. Such civilisation as we have today we owe to generations of working-class activists who organised collectively to benefit their own class and thereby society as a whole.

And if much of this is under pressure today, it is a consequence of the deliberate drive to destroy the trade union movement and working-class politics which the elite has embarked on over the last generation or so. Eric Hobsbawm makes the great descriptive point that if we had a long 19th century, from the French Revolution to the Russian Revolution, then we had a short 20th century, from the First World War to the fall of the Soviet Union.

For the working class in the west, the century was even shorter than Hobsbawm’s insightful analysis describes. For everything that was achieved in the 20th Century, there was to be a radical backlash from the mid-1970s onwards.

Let’s recall the situation in the 1970s, that much-reviled decade: Trade union membership was at an all-time high; public ownership of major industries and services secured and there was full employment. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it did offer working-class people something we had never had before – security and growing horizons.

In the words of my fellow trade union leader and Liverpudlian, Billy Hayes, “the 1960s were great. Everyone in Liverpool was living in a better house at the end of the 1960s than at the beginning, and we had the Beatles on top.”

That is what the elite couldn’t abide – working-class people who did not know their place, who interfered with management’s sacred “right to manage” who assumed the right to the same quality of life at work and in their communities that middle class people had long enjoyed.

The neo-liberal offensive which began in the mid-1970s was not mainly about economics. In fact, growth rates in Britain got worse as a result of its imposition. It was about restoring what our rulers regarded as the proper social hierarchy, including getting the working-class out of politics.

The neo-liberal attack has lasted until today and despite the great crash of 2008 it is still un-dead, as they say of vampires, as the policies and priorities of Cameron and Osborne prove. Its main front was, and has always been, attacking trade union power, destroying the main organisations through which the working-class has found social expression.

If Thatcher held that private companies should operate without any interference from government; she demonstrated dramatically the extent to which government could obstruct the freedom of workers to organise.

The rhetoric of de-regulation was reversed when it came to trade unions. Decades on, New Labour did little or nothing to change this situation, and today of course some Tories are wanting to go still further with fresh laws.

It is not just trade unions as collective bodies that have paid a price for this offensive. Society has suffered.

The neo-liberal “Washington Consensus” on which every government since Thatcher has based its policies, requiring trade unions to be shackled, can now clearly be seen to have failed the majority in this country. The downward trend in support for collective bargaining agreements nationally and across sectors has been a key factor in increasing inequality, now a matter of broad concern. Between 1975 and today, the share of our national income used to pay the wages of ordinary people fell from 65% to 53%, an astonishing figure.

Other, associated indicators of growing inequality in the Anglo-American world have of course been set out in great detail by Wilkinson and Picket in their revealing book, The Spirit Level. Public support for privatisation has quickly diminished, and individual shareholding, once trumpeted as the great alternative to trade unionism, is now scarcely greater than it was before the whole exercise started.

■Instead of creating an army of wealth-creators across communities, it established enormous private corporations that amassed power and money in rapid time.
■Instead of creating mass individual share ownership, it handed power to pension funds and insurance companies, all effectively controlled by the City.
■Instead of creating competition to improve services, it created monopolies which have abused their power –most notably in the energy and rail sectors.
So much for the past. When we look to the future what type of politics can we imagine?

First of all, as I have outlined, we need working-class politics. Democracy itself dies when it becomes the preserve of a small elite, as we are seeing today. Working class life and politics were relatively easy to comprehend and define when I was growing up. The demarcation lines between them and us; the exploiter and the exploited, was clear for all to see. I grew up in vibrant and politicised communities – life was centred on the Liverpool docks. Around work were formed the circles of working-class life – trade unionism, community, the Labour Party. Today, we cannot simply start from there. We cannot build a future working-class politics on a basis which has long eroded.

Perhaps the more significant change is the decline in secure and stable employment. This more than anything else makes today’s working class different from that I grew up amongst. In many communities where there was a large industrial working class population that may have existed for a century or more, today there may exist a new population. Descended from the old – but depressed, economically inactive and demonized by the media and the better-off.

Take mining communities such as Easington in the North East or Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales: two of the most economically inactive and poorest communities in the UK. These were once the capitals of British industry in mining, powering the country for over 100 years and through two world wars.

Now these are the communities that are economically barren – smashed by the neo-liberal experiment that sent ‘old’ industries elsewhere in the world and offered only a bloated financial sector and a housing bubble as replacements. Not all communities have suffered as much. But none are unchanged.

People often have to move to find work and that link between work and communities was broken. Communities that were once proud, hard-working and thriving became hit by the surges of unemployment – depression, drug abuse and alcoholism.

Research from IPPR tells us that the long-term ‘out of work’ are more often concentrated in the same disadvantaged communities that have weak local economies with little chance of finding work. A working class without any prospect of work.

Whilst our communities have changed and the economic model has been transformed, the demarcation lines between them and us remain: the concept of the exploiter and the exploited still exists. And these people share another key attribute in common with their working class predecessors: both were demonized by press and politicians. Let me read an extract from George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937:

In his early boyhood George Orwell thought that ‘to nearly all children of families like mine, ‘common’ people seemed almost sub-human. They had coarse faces, hideous accents, and gross manners, they hated everyone who was not like themselves, and if they got half a chance they would insult you in brutal ways. That was our view of them, and though it was false it was understandable. For one must remember that before the war there was much more overt class-hatred in England than there is now.”

Today’s media-hyped demonization of the unemployed and those on benefits bears a stark resemblance. ‘Wayne and Waynetta Slob’, ‘Vicky Pollard’ and television series like Shameless are the fictional portrayals of the feckless, criminalized and ignorant ‘new-working class’. For the Daily Mail if you’re not middle class and if you’re not in work, they have the right to demonize you and attack you and your communities.

I have a different view. Capitalism is the only system which has normalised unemployment. It is the responsibility of any system to offer work to people, and if it fails in this basic obligation, don’t blame the victims. In the last two weeks 11,000 jobs have been lost – HMV, Jessops, Honda to name a few. Today’s hard working poor; tomorrow’s benefit scroungers – if you listen to the right wing press.

So how do we reorganise and rebuild in today’s environment, with the working class as it is, not as it was. If we consider that the condition of the working class improved during the 20th Century; it did so because the working class – through the trade union and labour movement – learned and fought together as a class.

We must, today, focus on the starting point of this progress.

Marx’s distinction between a “class in itself”, which capitalism creates and recreates spontaneously, and a “class for itself” which expresses its own interests in the public arena through its organisations and culture, is a valid one. Rebuilding a “class for itself” presents challenges, but they are not entirely new ones.

At the turn of the 20th century the trade unions had to undertake the job of recruiting members from the working men and women of new industry, of building “general unions” and establishing a Labour Party in parliament and the country. It was a long struggle. Today, we must first confront the crisis of confidence born of a generation of defeats and increasing marginalisation.

We have to say that we speak for the working class, that the working class speaks for a better world for all, and we have to organise and fight on that basis – not as a special interest or as a lobbying group, but as the motivators of the only real alternative to the crisis of capitalism and the multiple failures of the present ruling elite.

As unions, our first job is to organise workers and secure a better deal for them at work. Simple objectives – but again, fraught with conflict when you face so many exploitative and anti-union companies. But working-class politics must go further. My union Unite is leading the way with an ambitious new programme to recruit, organise and educate across the whole of our communities: the unemployed, the disabled, carers, the elderly, the voluntary and charity sector – it is time for these people to be organised and to be given a voice. Who better to do this than the trade union movement?

Unions cannot continue to watch on idly as successive governments leave so many on the scrapheap – a scrapheap which will grow ever larger as the so-called “welfare reforms” kick in. We need to reconnect unions with the wider community, and rebuild a bond which has been frayed as a result of the changing nature of work – or its complete absence. Our aim is to get communities to act together. This sits comfortably within our traditions.

Trade unions have always provided social spaces (the working man’s clubs is one example) where communities got together over a drink and organised social and political events. It is these roots we must return to, in a modernised form. Too many people in our country are being pushed to the margins of society. They deserve to be heard; they too deserve the support to organise collectively.

It is with this in mind that Unite has founded its community membership scheme. Those not in work aged 16 to 116 can join our family for 50 pence a week. That is why we now have community branches springing up across the country, and community organisers working in every part of the country. We offer training to individuals who want to become community activists. Our activists go into their communities and build groups, empowering people to do something for themselves.

■In Leeds community groups are campaigning against workfare and organising regular demonstrations against employers like Argos who are using this modern day slavery.
■In London they have organised ‘benefit buddying’ – linking the unemployed with people in work.
■In Sheffield they have set up a phone tree to protect their members in case of eviction.
■In Glasgow our community members are working with our industrial members to save a much loved community café.
We have seen Community Members demonstrating their support for our industrial members in their disputes by supporting pickets and protests. And Unite is working to meet the needs of our members through the creation of a new credit union. High-street and internet loan companies say they provide a much needed service which would otherwise be out of reach.

My union says they have no place in our society profiting off the misery of people on poverty pay. A trade union cannot stand idly by as its members are preyed upon by capitalist vultures. So our members will be able to obtain credit without having to resort to the ruinous interest rates of the pay-day loan companies.

The people today who say there is nothing left to fight for – that the trade union and labour movement is now irrelevant – are the ideological grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those that fought every progressive gain achieved for working people in the last century. This is the reason the right wing seek to divide the working poor from the out-of-work poor; the public sector worker from the private sector worker; those in the north from those in the south. Their tactics have not changed. And neither must ours.

The 21st Century is not ringing out the death knell of the labour movement; it is sending out a call to arms. The apparently endless economic crisis which began in 2008 is seeing to that. In 1992 Margaret Thatcher claimed, after the election of another Conservative Government, ‘It is a great night. It is the end of Socialism.’

A few years later Tony Blair declared ‘that the Class war is over’ . No doubt from the boardroom of JP Morgan or wherever he is now, it may look that way. John Prescott claimed “We’re all middle class now!” Of course, the entire evolutionary human history of socialism and class was not eradicated by New Labour.

Would anyone – two and a half years into this Bullingdon Club Coalition – have the pomposity to claim that class has ceased to be an issue in politics today? Of course this is not political reality; it is a tactic; it is political posturing. It is used as false evidence that we have nothing left to fight for. It is part of the rhetoric fed to us that says we should not challenge the decisions taken by our elites.

We are taught to believe that democracy is the cornerstone of a modern civilised society; but our Lords and Masters want to define democracy, limiting us to an ‘X’ on a Ballot Paper every 5 years. This is not my definition of democracy.

They tell us strike action, civil disobedience, direct action and protest are all somehow unpatriotic. Our history tells us they are not. That is because our rulers are deeply afraid of Ralph Miliband’s assertion that politics is about conflict. They believe that, for example, those without hope, without jobs, now looking at cuts in their meagre welfare, that families being shunted out of London because of housing benefit changes should simply out up with it.

Wait for the next general election – that’s if they are registered to vote. Well I note that some council leaders from our major cities have warned that people might respond with anger and civil disorder. I would not be surprised. The one thing worse than suffering is suffering alone and in silence. We have seen remarkable local protests in recent years: from 20,000 defending a hospital in Eastbourne; 15,000 on the streets in Lewisham to 350 people protesting against a library closure. Look at the 2011 riots in England they exposed the growing ‘disconnect’ in a broken society but it was not without reason.

Young people spoke of their frustration at not being able to find employment. They were excluded from society in the first instance, so what was there to lose? Those events showed that at a certain level of inequality, the whole concept of “society” starts to be drained of meaning. The labour movement, protest and working-class politics will continue far beyond the 21st century.

Protest is alive and well.

Protest against inequality is already alive and well – look at the work done by UKuncut to challenge outrageous tax avoidance by Vodafone and other giant corporations. Their message is – if you want to trade in Britain and benefit from our infrastructure and skilled workforce, then pay your taxes. Last year protests focused on Starbucks. Initially, of course, protestors faced hostility, vilification and attacks by the media. But the truth is these tactics work. When the right-wing media realised that these protestors were on to something, their attention then focused on Starbucks and what followed has been a remarkable public boycott of the company.

It takes courage to risk unpopularity and vilification. But the truth does prevail. The labour movement’s message must be one of ‘hope’. It must talk more about its victories and the positive future that it aspires to.

Britain is broken. But it is the system that is broken, not the people. Trade unions and the labour movement must continue to give hope for a better way of doing things. They must work to ‘educate – agitate – organise’.

I am proud to associate Unite with these initiatives, and to hope to form a longer-lasting alliance between organised labour and radical protest, even if it comes from outside our traditional movement. And, as I have made clear before in relation to the trade union laws, while I do not ever advocate violence, nor do I preach worship of the law at all costs.

So my message to capitalism – if you can send a message to a system – is this: Mend your ways or risk mounting social breakdown and disorder. Whatever the upshot of electoral politics, working-class politics must grow and develop, based on the socialist education Ralph Miliband called for. There will be those here tonight waiting to hear my message to the Labour Party. Well I won’t disappoint. Here it is:

People need a political voice now. As the working-class reasserts itself, Labour is the natural, historic, vehicle for their voice. Not to the exclusion of others in society wanting a better future.

Every Labour victory has been based on an alliance. And that is the alliance I see delivering a victory for Labour in 2015. But let me be clear – if in the future there is any return to the discredited recipes of Blairism the Labour Party will be over for me and I believe millions more besides. Put simply, workers need a voice, and they should not be taken for granted.

Whatever the upshot of electoral politics, working-class politics must grow and develop, based on the socialist education Ralph Miliband called for. In the midst of an unending economic crisis, with what Ralph would have called a discredited ruling class at the helm, it is past time for the working class to step forward with its own vision and alternative. Our values are eternal. We need to be courageous like those that have gone before us. To seek a better world.

51 comments on “Len Mccluskey Speaks on the State of the Labour Movement

  1. Very Impressed by Len’s speech. The potential for Unite’s Community Membership to grow, to consolidate into active branches that campaign visibly in working class communities and to rebuild confidence and combativity is something all socialists need to actively support and promote.
    2 days ago I travelled to Worcester for the inugrual meeting of Worcestershire and Hereford Unite the Union Community Members Branch. I was the only person to attend. This might sound a bit of a farce but what impressed me was that the Regional Co-ordinator for Unite who was in attendence to facilitate the meeting informed me that several hundred people had joined Unite as Community members in the District during the past six months with significant numbers of the unemployed joining in Redditch. Turning this paper membership into a functioning branch with active campaigning is not something that can be achieve by a mail shot out of the blue advertising a meeting on a cold January evening. Maybe the next step in the West Midlands could be the establishment of a Regional Meeting of those Community Members who are already committed to activity in the Union and working on a programme of campaigning aimed at building a genuine mass membership.
    Anyway, Hats off to Len McCluskey… forward to working class self organisation and the continuing struggle for a better world.

  2. mark anthony france,

    In the SW, Brett, the UNITE Community members organiser is contacting trades councils as well to give a talk on cmmunity membership, which may also help to build networks of solidarity.

    I hope the inititive goes well

  3. Andy Newman,

    Good News about the work Brett is doing in the South West… we are hampered in the West Midlands as this Region of Unite have not recruited a new full time officer to build up the Unite Community Membership… but it appears that despite this unemployed people and other’s marginalised by austerity are joining Unite as Community Members in the West Midlands in significant numbers. If during 2013 this dynamic continues and is encouraged across the country then Unites Community Members could represent a new form of working class self organisation rooted in the very best traditions of the Labour Movement that Len talked about during his LSE speech. My only fear is that this embryonic form of organisation could be distrupted if the various lefty ‘sects’ like the SWP, SP, AWL etc attempt to intervene into Unites Community Membership structures in parasitic fashion which could confuse and demoralise new members. Hopefully, the weakness of the sects and the growing confidence of Unites new community members will prevent this particular baby being suffocated at birth.

  4. BombasticSpastic on said:

    I’ve found traces of SWP infiltration into Unite Community branches in London.

  5. Manzil on said:

    BombasticSpastic:
    I’ve found traces of SWP infiltration into Unite Community branches in London.

    Another, more accurate word for which would be ‘participation’.

    Which is a good thing. Broadening the appeal of the trade unions to the community, especially in conditions of mass unemployment, should be supported by socialists everywhere.

  6. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    “Resist the cuts and stop worrying about your careers, trade union leader Len McCluskey tells Labour councillors”

    “ONE of the country’s most powerful trade union chiefs warned on Tuesday how some Labour councillors did not want to “rock their careers” with bolder opposition to government-ordered cuts in public spending.”

    http://www.camdennewjournal.com/news/2013/jan/resist-cuts-and-stop-worrying-about-your-careers-trade-union-leader-len-mccluskey-tell#.UPkzTMKtvoM.facebook

  7. Charles Dexter Ward on said:

    “Infiltration” is the word. SWP manipulation would be the kiss of death so far as initiatives like this are concerned.

  8. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    While I may oppose the SWP politically and tactically and so on, and some, not all, are a pain in the arse, and that is pot calling kettle here, I certainly would never call for or stop the SWP members for participating in the trade union movement I think that is an atrosious attitude to have. The object is to counter their ideas and tactics by arguing against them to win trade union member to one’s own ideas and tactics whatever they may be.

  9. Manzil: Another, more accurate word for which would be ‘participation’.

    Which is a good thing. Broadening the appeal of the trade unions to the community, especially in conditions of mass unemployment, should be supported by socialists everywhere.

    Manzil. Involving the community is spot on and correct. Involving an unrepresentative caucus whose main aim is to recruit to their own organisation? Is that involving the Community?

  10. Ian: Manzil. Involving the community is spot on and correct. Involving an unrepresentative caucus whose main aim is to recruit to their own organisation? Is that involving the Community?

    Not if you define community as precluding those who are socialist and politically active.

    As in, if you are talking complete sectarian nonsense.

    This is like those people who idealise ‘the rank and file’ in the unions and reject building support amongst officials as inherently compromising, or talk about political engagement and focus exclusively on the disinterested, rather than those who fundamentally disagree with the mainstream.

    God forbid anyone have an opinion. Or join an organisation. The horror!

    @ Andy Newman. Probably this, probably that. Or members of socialist groups could be honestly engaging with what they think is a useful and welcome development.

  11. BombasticSpastic on said:

    Manzil: Another, more accurate word for which would be ‘participation’.

    Which is a good thing. Broadening the appeal of the trade unions to the community, especially in conditions of mass unemployment, should be supported by socialists everywhere.

    Good, I suppose if you’re looking for a milch cow to batten onto.

  12. prianikoff on said:

    I was just wondering about the M.O. of the “Straight Left” faction of the old CPGB, which Noah used to be a part of, prior to producing 21st Century Socialism.

    I remember coming across them in the late 70’s when they were publishing an open magazine, which Seamus Milne was business editor of.

    Some say that George Galloway was close to them too.
    Rather ironically, one of their founders Fergus Nicholson, a former YCL Student Organiser, went on to found Harry’s Place!

    I understand why Straight Left had to operate rather secretively, as the CPGB banned permanent factions.
    So they put out anonymous bulletins like “Congress Truth” and various pamphlets critical of the Eurocommunists.

    They also developed a supporters network in the Labour Party, where there’s always been a strong CP entryist presence.
    What’s happened to them?

  13. prianikoff,

    Ask Nick Wright, they were strong in Hackney CP when I was a full timer for the Hackney Borough Committee- on the whole a good bunch of comrades,strong trade unionists, CND activists and AAM stalwarts, just as long as they didn’t slip into one of their Moscow worshipping trances.

  14. prianikoff on said:

    Wasn’t Andrew Murray, the “Chief of Staff” of Unite a ‘Straight Left’ Supporter too?

  15. If organised members of organised left groups join unions and participate in an open manner without the fetter of discipline from elsewhere than the union itself or its members then I have no problem.

    The trouble is that the SWP and others act under instructions from above (however ‘democratic’ the origins of such instructions may have been). As of course do members of some union left caucuses, but at least they are composed of union members.

    How you can deal democratically with a situation where there is a concerted attempt to manipulate a trade union body where no rules are being breached is beyond me though.

    Even though it’s probably just as damaging for a left sect to use the fact that a body is small and modestly attended to put forward their unrepresentative agenda (for example) WITHIN the rules as it would be for the supporters of a candidate in a union election to send people who aren’t members to try and pack a union meeting (for example) OUTWITH the rules.

    Difficult question.

  16. Manzil: Not if you define community as precluding those who are socialist and politically active.

    As in, if you are talking complete sectarian nonsense.

    This is like those people who idealise ‘the rank and file’ in the unions and reject building support amongst officials as inherently compromising, or talk about political engagement and focus exclusively on the disinterested, rather than those who fundamentally disagree with the mainstream.

    God forbid anyone have an opinion. Or join an organisation. The horror!

    @ Andy Newman. Probably this, probably that. Or members of socialist groups could be honestly engaging with what they think is a useful and welcome development.

    Manxil. When I have worked out what you are trying to say I will respond. The Secterian nonsense as you say usually comes from groups like the SWP so accusing me of that (if that is what your trying to do, cant work that one out) I have to disagree.

    Community Organising against the cuts is all about reaching out to the unorganised who want to take on the Government and not sit in meetings where different competing left groups argue the toss, grandstanding over whose Central Committee perspectives are the best.

  17. Vanya:
    If organised members of organised left groups join unions and participate in an open manner without the fetter of discipline from elsewhere than the union itself or its members then I have no problem.

    The trouble is that the SWP and others act under instructions from above (however ‘democratic’ the origins of such instructions may have been). As of course do members of some union left caucuses, but at least they are composed of union members.

    How you can deal democratically with a situation where there is a concerted attempt to manipulate a trade union body where no rules are being breached is beyond me though.

    Even though it’s probably just as damaging for a left sect to use the fact that a body is small and modestly attended to put forward their unrepresentative agenda (for example) WITHIN the rulesas it would be for the supporters of a candidate in a union election to send people who aren’t members to try and pack a union meeting (for example) OUTWITH the rules.

    Difficult question.

    Vanya. You put that better than I could!!

  18. Manzil on said:

    Ian: Manxil. When I have worked out what you are trying to say I will respond. The Secterian nonsense as you say usually comes from groups like the SWP so accusing me of that (if that is what your trying to do, cant work that one out) I have to disagree.

    Community Organising against the cuts is all about reaching out to the unorganised who want to take on the Government and not sit in meetings where different competing left groups argue the toss, grandstanding over whose Central Committee perspectives are the best.

    So when you take part in community organising, it’s fine. When people in socialist groups you don’t like do it, it’s “infiltrating”. When you participate, it’s out of selfless desire to help out. When people in socialist groups do it, they’re only in it to recruit. Now do you see how block-headed you’re being?

    And your sneery attitude really isn’t that impressive.

    @ BombasticSpastic – Or if you want to help. Believe it or not, the world is not full of rational economic man-types thinking only of self-interest. Be careful of your community-membership trade union activities, comrades, the Swappies are coming to recruit you!

    Christ, Vanya, even you’re buying into this? If they’re being successfully manipulated by the fucking SWP, there’s a problem with your unions!

  19. prianikoff: “Straight Left” […] one of their founders Fergus Nicholson, a former YCL Student Organiser, went on to found Harry’s Place!

    Completely untrue.

    This misinformation may have its origin in the fact that the founder of the pro-imperialist and war-mongering website Harry’s Place (whose actual name according to posts on various blogs is Simon Evans) has used, as one of his nom de plumes, the appellation ‘Harry Steele’.

    This was presumably an ironic reference to ‘Straight Left’, as the monthly newspaper of that name used to feature a regular back page analytical / comment article under the by-line Harry Steel.

    NB. I was a member of the ‘Straight Left’ editorial board from about 1982 until the paper’s demise in 2006. I was also for several years the editor of the theoretical & discussion journal ‘Communist’, which was published by the Communist Party faction that was associated with ‘Straight Left’.

    So I think I can reliably vouch that nobody who had any significant involvement with Straight Left has had any role whatsoever in founding or supporting Harry’s Place.

  20. prianikoff: Straight Left had to operate rather secretively, as the CPGB banned permanent factions.
    So they put out anonymous bulletins like “Congress Truth” and various pamphlets critical of the Eurocommunists.

    Correct so far.

    They also developed a supporters network in the Labour Party, where there’s always been a strong CP entryist presence.

    No.

    There was no ‘entryism’ from the Communist Party as far as I’m aware. But many people at that time who joined the Labour Party and became activists in it, or were Trade Union activists and thereby became involved in the Labour Party, rejected the intense Cold War propaganda and were very sympathetic to socialism and with the socialist countries including the USSR.

    So it was natural that many of them would develop a relationship with the Communist Party, and / or with the faction within the Communist Party that was most sympathetic with the Soviet Union.

  21. Manzil: So when you take part in community organising, it’s fine. When people in socialist groups you don’t like do it, it’s “infiltrating”. When you participate, it’s out of selfless desire to help out. When people in socialist groups do it, they’re only in it to recruit. Now do you see how block-headed you’re being?

    And your sneery attitude really isn’t that impressive.

    @ BombasticSpastic – Or if you want to help. Believe it or not, the world is not full of rational economic man-types thinking only of self-interest. Be careful of your community-membership trade union activities, comrades, the Swappies are coming to recruit you!

    Christ, Vanya, even you’re buying into this? If they’re being successfully manipulated by the fucking SWP, there’s a problem with your unions!

    Your sneery attitude leaves a lot to be desired but then again I only raise it because you do. The problem, dear boy, is with you and your outdated view on how the left should operate in Community Organising. Nothing you have said has made me think that what you say offers any change to the disaster area that has been the left in the UK for the last 20 odd years.

    You dont like what I say?

    Blimey ,another sleepless night!!

  22. @27. Manzil. I forgot to say

    You seem to be the pig headed type that puts your party first and not the class.

    I would deal with that if I were you. Workers arent impressed with that crap.

  23. Manzil on said:

    Ian: Your sneery attitude leaves a lot to be desired but then again I only raise it because you do.The problem, dear boy, is with you and your outdated view on how the left should operate in Community Organising. Nothing you have said has made me think that what you say offers any change to the disaster area that has been the left in the UK for the last 20 odd years.

    You dont like what I say?

    Blimey ,another sleepless night!!

    Ian:
    @27. Manzil. I forgot to say

    You seem to be the pig headed type that puts your party first and not the class.

    I would deal with that if I were you. Workers arent impressed with that crap.

    That’s me put in my place!

    I thought I was suggesting that maybe your obsessive distrust of SWP members was a bit mad, but in actual fact I’m responsible for the left’s failure over the last two decades.

    And I put the party before the class! (What party? I’m not even a member of the SWP!)

    And apparently I’m not even a worker!

    Even I’m starting to hate me, I’m such a bastard.

    Christ, do you have some sort of file on me?!

    This combination of folksy sectarianism is a brilliant comedy routine, but it doesn’t really offer much of a way forward, beyond ‘these socialists are the enemy of the working class’, does it?

  24. Manzil:
    Did you honestly just pull out the ‘I know you are but what am I’ card?

    Do I know what your on about is the question you should be asking yourself! You are all over the place!

  25. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Post 31 I find it quite amusing that anybody who continually and constantly puts a coherent argument and analysis that is against the someone’s point of view is continually accused and berated of being a “pig headed type that puts your party first and not the class.” Yet the accusers never, ever, elucidate and/or enlightens us with is what the exact composition of putting the party first and not the class. What the hell does that mean? What I am laughing out loud now is that Manzil was the new kid in town a couple of weeks ago and was being praised for having a level headed ‘non-sectarian’ even though s/he is a member of one of these ultra-left groups that is so despised; and now has become one of these pig-headed types only interested in the Party and not the class.

    Do not know who you are Ian or where you are coming from, and by that I mean in the social/political context, but your arguments come over very vague and shallow, especially when you offer no evidence for your assertions. Socialist and left wingers, as individuals and as groups, have been involved in the trade union movement since the days of the Robert Owen’s Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1830s. So it is being a bit naïve to suggest that Marxist, or any other type of, Socialists should not be involved in the trade unions and advocate a programme that both defends the class against the actions of the capitalist system and offers the class a coherent social programme against the capitalist system.

  26. Jim. Im not saying that though am I. Socialists can be involved its just that in my view many Socialist groups seem to replace the class with themselves. They are viewed with bewilderment by many new workers enthused by the nti cuts campaign and are then put off and alienated,

    Jim. You carry on with what you and your organisation, whoever that is, are doing but ultimately you have to balance up how successful your methods and tactics are. In the last 20 odd years in my personal view the left out side the Labour Party has been a disaster. What have they buiolt apart from new splits and tendencies when you all fall out with each other?

    Im not against the far left. What I can understand is how all the groups on the left ‘dont get it’!!

    I dont know what Manzil is or does. Im just reacting to his comments and I dont understand where he is coming from. I agree with what you are saying in your last para but dont know why you say it. I am not saying socialists shouldnt be involved. Im trying to say that left groups shouldnt lecture workers in a finger wagging way when you cant even offer a united position.

  27. Manzil on said:

    Jimmy, my knight in shining armour. :D (Although I detect a hint of reproach in the ‘new kid’ comment…)

    I’m a he, incidentally.

    Ian: I dont know what Manzil is or does. Im just reacting to his comments and I dont understand where he is coming from. I agree with what you are saying in your last para but dont know why you say it. I am not saying socialists shouldnt be involved. Im trying to say that left groups shouldnt lecture workers in a finger wagging way when you cant even offer a united position.

    But when did I remotely imply that socialists should ‘lecture workers in a finger wagging way’, Ian?

    And how else was I supposed to interpret your comment about ‘unrepresentative caucus’, if not as an argument that you don’t think socialists (who are members of socialist groups) should be involved?

    You say you don’t understand where I’m coming from. Fair enough. Broadly speaking…

    I don’t think the involvement of members of the SWP, the CPB, the SP or anyone else in trade unionism is anything but a good thing. I certainly don’t think that talking about SWPers ‘infiltrating’ Unite’s community membership scheme, or casting aspersions on their motives, is helpful. If anything, SWP engagement with actual, practical working-class politics would be a healthy sign re: its development as a group.

  28. Good speech by Len. The Unite Community Membership Scheme seems a really good idea. Had a quick look over their website, but can’t see anything which talks about specific regions. Anyone know if there’s specific websites for specific areas, giving you an idea of what they’re doing there? Or is it just better to e-mail/write them?

    And Ian, you’ve really misjudged Manzil. His posts here show he’s nothing like the type of person you try to paint him as. For once, I agree with Jimmy Haddow – the horror! ;)

  29. Aw, feel the love. To be fair though, he’s convinced me: I’m starting to think this Manzil’s a bit of a git.

    Re: community membership. Unite’s website has contact details for their district officers (just view your region). They did for the south-east, anyway, when last I needed it. So you could always phone them up if email’s a bit impersonal. Or… shall we form (infiltrate?) an online branch, Feodor?

    Keyboard warriors of the internet, unite! One Big Website!

  30. It’s meant to be a secret faction you ass! You’re expelled for this breach of discipline: onwards with the party of one!

    I’m looking at the wesbite, and by the looks of their map, they don’t have any community branches in Wales. Maybe the map needs updating though…? I know where their local offices are, will have to pop in one day soon.

  31. Manzil:
    Keyboard warriors of the internet, unite! One Big Website!

    Will have to employ the fuhrerprinzip though. All hail comrade Newman, our dear leader…

  32. Noah,

    I remember a funny story told to me by a former Straight Left comrade about a SL school in Bulgaria. The comrades all duly turned up at the airport only to spot the International Secretary of the CPGB in the airport lounge, so they all disappeared into various shops, loos etc- an ever more confused Jerry kept bumping into them as they gave wilder and wilder reason why they were there and where they were going to.

    May have grown a bit in the telling.

  33. Pilgrim on said:

    @all who have commented previously

    Unite Community membership is starting to gain real momentum, and its good to see so much interest and discussion on it here. Its a fantastic initiative with very exciting potential.

    We had an excellent first meeting in Lewisham/Greenwich this evening, other groups are already meeting regularly in London, and within the next couple of months it is likely that there will be groups established right across the London and Eastern region.

    We welcome any honest activist who wants to engage on a local level to fight this sickening austerity agenda. And be reassured that if any political group were to seek to ‘infiltrate’ or dominate any of our community groups for their own purposes it would not be successful – the staff and lay members involved in setting this up are not naive, and would prevent this happening.

    People from a range of political backgrounds are getting involved, including greens, trotskyists, communists, anarcho-syndicalists, labour party members, occupiers, un-cutters, hippies, but most importantly a very large proportion of people who dont have any particular affiliation but are just sick of being screwed over by our real enemies and want to do something about it. All working very productively together – quite a good vibe really.

    You can make contact through the emails on the website for info on whats going on locally (Wales is being covered by Brett with the SW region)-the new pages that are going up on the new website will soon show much more detail of local groups and activities. So join and see for yourself whats going on – but please keep the bickering away from our meetings and other activities as it can be extremely off-putting for the ordinary folk who just want to take action to get us out of this sorry mess we are in :-)

  34. BombasticSpastic on said:

    The Broad Left of the old T&G experienced the corrosive nature of this bunch during the early merger period. Attending meetings simply to score on points of order; so as we ended up debating the number of magical winged beings in Jimmy Choo shoes dancing on the head of a needle.

    They, the Swappies, drove away from our meetings young bus drivers fighting to equalise wages for drivers across London; local authority workers attempting to stop the haemorrhaging of services to the private sector; security guards resisting the imposition of licensing fees; car workers fighting racism in their plants.

    Manzil, thankfully Unite has rid itself of any SWP ‘problem’. What we don’t want is their corrosiveness seeping into our burgeoning community structures, lest they fail to make it out of infancy.

  35. Apologies in advance for copying a large bit of text, I couldn’t find a link to post instead.

    I was emailed this today and copy it here because it may be of interest and so that Jerry’s case gets an airing.

    I have not (for the benefit of anyone who knows me) decided whether to support Len or Jerry myself (not that my views carry enough weight to influence many people anyway :) )

    I’m posting it here as it appears to be the most recent relevant thread.

    As some people are aware of my professional backround, I did not wish to be seen as promoting a firm of solicitors so I have removed a bit at the end, and I’m sure Jerry will give the details to anyone interested.

    “Press release: Press release: Press release: Immediate 24/01/2013

    Blacklisted Jerry Hicks candidate for Unite General Secretary speaks out

    Blacklisting of workers is a ‘National scandal’. And the scandal is that it has gone on for so long and not enough was done by those shouting the loudest now. 

    Millions of people would be forgiven for thinking that the illegal blacklisting of over 3,000 construction workers has suddenly been discovered. Yet it has been the worst kept secret for over two decades that those who spoke up with concerns for Health and Safety on construction sites or defended wages and conditions were punished and denied employment. Brave people paid a heavy price as each year, each month, each day brought more discrimination – more lives were being wrecked, houses lost to repossession, stress induced ill health, heart attacks and even worse. It was more than 3 years ago in 2009 when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) raided the offices of the Consultancy Association and found the illegal records of files kept on 3,200 workers.  Ian Kerr was fined a paltry £5,000 for storing information contrary to the Data Protection Act. To add insult
    , the fine was paid not by Mr Kerr but by the employers who had enlisted his services.Then last year before he met with his untimely death Ian Kerr ‘spilled the beans’ when he gave evidence to the Scottish Select Committee.

    Jerry Hicks who is on the illegal blacklist says “there are those that liken this to the ‘phone hacking’ scandal, but I believe this has more similarities to the Jimmy Saville scandal. How many institutions knew or suspected? How many employers outside of the contributors knew? How many MPs suspected or knew? How many union officials suspected or knew and perhaps benefitted? What and how much did the police know?”

    Why the lack of effective action? Why has it been left to the determined struggle of the Blacklisting Support Group along with some very courageous people already on the list to expose the abuses and attempt to redress the wrongs and bring those responsible to book.As a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office rightly pointed out to today’s outcry from trade union leaders, “Where were the unions 3 years ago?”

    Jerry Hicks, the only challenger in the current election for Unite General Secretary, said “The union had the perfect opportunity to confront blacklisting employers. The Olympics could have, should have been the time and the vehicle to take on and defeat the blacklist, It would have propelled the abuse into the national news. It was an opportunity lost.”

    Back in 2010 Jerry Hicks was among those protesting at the Olympic site over workers failing to find employment there. At the same time trade union leaders at the TUC conference only a mile away made speeches about the need for ‘civil unrest’, yet not one of them came to the protest.

     It would seem that some band standing is going on here. After all who spoke out the loudest or even at all during those long grim years? Labour in office? Unite’s leadership?

    Jerry Hicks pointed out “Two years ago during the last election for the top job in the UK’s biggest Union I was the only one of four candidates that made blacklisting in construction an issue and to promise to redress the wrongs – both in my campaign and election address. Mr McCluskey and Ms Cartmail also candidates chose not to mention it. They obviously had other priorities. Perhaps for them it has only just become a National Scandal.”Now there is another election on for Unite’s General Secretary, it having been called ‘out of the blue’, brought forward 3 years and fast tracked.

    To many it seemed as though it would go uncontested, allowing McCluskey to extend his term of office without actually going to the members. But Jerry Hicks has challenged and is well on his way to securing the 50 branch nominations required to force the ballot of 1.5 million members.

    Jerry Hicks said “There are two candidates, one on the blacklist who has always spoken out and acted against it and one who decides to shout about it now it has hit the headlines. In life everything is about timing. I have my views as to why Mr McCluskey has chosen now, but I leave it to you to draw your own conclusion.”

    He [Jerry Hicks] added “Labour ‘shadow business minister’ Chukka Ummna is now calling for an investigation into allegations that firms involved in major projects, including the Olympics and Crossrail, blacklisted workers. Great! But why wait until in opposition? What did Labour do during its 3 terms and 13 years in government? As every year went by demands for justice went unanswered, while trade unions poured money into their coffers.”Unite’s General Secretary Len McCluskey calls for a “Leveson-style enquiry” which is correct but also an easy demand now that it has already hit the headlines. Why didn’t Unite leadership maximise the opportunities that previously came their way to highlight the abuse.

    Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail, who openly supports Len McCluskey in his election campaign, described the 40 or so guilty firms on Radio 5 Live as

      – “an industry in denial, failing even to apologise”. She is right.

    However it’s not just employers Unite officials can be hard on. In 2011 when 8 construction companies gave notice of unilateral withdrawal from a national agreement ‘BESNA’, 500 Unite electricians took matters into their own hands, met, agreed and embarked on a year long campaign of protests and unofficial actions which proved to be a very successful strategy. Official backing did eventually come ‘better late than never’

    . But Unite’s initial response to this campaign beggars belief.

    In an email to Gail Cartmail copied to every Unite construction official and some staff, the National Officer for construction Bernard McAuley began “Good morning Gail, reference to our conversation last night” and went on to spew his bile at those very same members of the union describing them as a ‘cancerous group’, ‘opportunists’, ‘mindless individuals’ and mentioned Jerry Hicks by name.

    When he received this e mail fourth hand, Jerry Hicks challenged this outrageous and libellous diatribe and its wide circulation. No formal apology ever came nor condemnation, and both officials are still responsible for ‘looking after’ construction members. It is easy to see how by design or carelessness names can appear on blacklists.
    Legal action is being taken on behalf of a number of construction workers, who are seeking compensation for having their names on the blacklist. But shamefully this, the only major court case, is a private case brought by the workers themselves and not funded by Unite. It has been left to the good offices of Guney, Clark & Ryan to take legal action on behalf of the construction workersJust as the blacklist was more than just rumoured for years, so was the possible involvement of some union officials in supplying information to the consultancy agency. A Leveson-style enquiry that Len McCluskey now calls for, may embarrassingly prove if union officials were involved, where internal union investigations have failed in the past to find sufficient evidence.

    Jerry Hicks said “In life, chances to really make a difference come and go. The Vestas occupation on the Isle of Wight was one. It was wasted, I believe the best chance to save the Remploy factories would have been protests and occupations during the Para-Olympics but that chance went begging. There will be other chances to fight injustice and the Con-Dem cuts but who will recognise them and act and who will inspire people to believe that big victories are possible.”

    Ends:

    Notes to Editor:
    Unite is the biggest union in the UK with 1.5 million members.
    Unite is currently holding an election for its General Secretary, in which there are only two candidates, Jerry Hicks and Len McCluskey.

    Jerry Hicks was runner up in Unites General Secretary election of 2010 beating two senior national officials and securing 52,527 votes. He can be contacted by mobile 07817827912      or email jerryhicks4gs2010@yahoo.co.ukAnyone who believes they may be affected by the Consulting Association Blacklist should first contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on

    0303 123 1113. …”

  36. And I got this in an email from Unite just now:

    Justice for the Shrewsbury 24
    Yesterday morning I spoke at a packed Parliamentary campaign meeting calling for justice for the ‘Shrewsbury 24’.Actor Ricky Tomlinson, film director Ken Loach and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady were also speaking at the event, alongside MPs, including Tom Watson, John McDonnell and Steve Rotherham.The ‘Shrewsbury 24 Campaign’ has launched an e-petition calling on the government to release all documents relating to the prosecution and imprisonment of union members (including Ricky), who were convicted as a result of the first ever national building workers strike in 1972.The campaign is aiming to overturn the convictions of these trade unionists, punished for fighting to secure decent pay and conditions in the construction industry.I’m asking all Unite members to sign the petition calling for full disclosure of all the papers related to this case. We have seen, through the phone hacking scandal and tragedies like Hillsborough, how vital transparency is to achieving justice.So please sign the petition now: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35394In the afternoon, there was also a Parliamentary debate on blacklisting, led by the Labour Party, which called for the Information Commissioner to adopt a proactive process for informing individual victims of blacklisting so that they can seek compensation.We already know that over 3,000 workers in the construction industry were disgracefully blacklisted. That’s why it is so important that MPs like Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, and London Assembly Members such as Tom Copley, continue to campaign for protection for trade union members from this gross injustice.Unite is calling for a Leveson style inquiry into blacklisting, as part of our campaign to bring an end to the scandalous practice and secure justice for those who’ve been wronged.Yours in solidarity,Len McCluskeyUnite General Secretary 
    Please sign the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign e-petition
    CLICK HEREUnite House, 128 Theobald’s Road, Holborn, London, WC1X 8TNUnite, 15 Merrion Square, Dublin 2©2013 Unite. All rights reserved. All trade marks acknowledged.

  37. Vanya,

    I think that Jerry HIcks’s email here is rather ungenerous in not acknowledging the role played by GMB over the last year in pushing this up the political agenda.

  38. Manzil on said:

    BombasticSpastic: Manzil, thankfully Unite has rid itself of any SWP ‘problem’. What we don’t want is their corrosiveness seeping into our burgeoning community structures, lest they fail to make it out of infancy.

    I’ve never experienced any ‘SWP problem’ in Unite but I’ll take your word for it.

    The community scheme where I live, while small, has been very encouraging and involved members from all sorts of groups – Labour, SP, CP (or ex-members of the same) but a clear majority, like in the trades council, consist of radical but unaffiliated people attracted to the idea of fighting back.

    It has been thoroughly inclusive and democratic, and I think what would ruin that, as much as this (I think, phantom) SWP infiltration, is people using it as an excuse to settle scores. It’s not a playground to exercise our own personal agendas, and treating it like such would be disastrous.

    Thankfully I don’t actually see any of this sniping and paranoia out in the ‘real world’. I think the nature of the internet lends itself to this sort of infighting.

  39. #50 The problem with those who want to combat ultra-left sectarianism is that the cure can sometimes be worse than the disease in terms of undemocratic practices and pissing off the uninitiated.

    #49 I can’t comment as I don’t have sufficient information.

    Out of interest do you feel that Unite as a union have given GMB sufficient credit?

    For that matter, how much credit do UCATT deserve and has it been recognised?

    Genuine questions btw.