Britain: For Critically Support for the Rank and File Candidate Ian Allinson in the Election for General Secretary of UNITE in 2017!

By Joseph Adams, RCIT Britain, 09.01.2017, https://rcitbritain.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

Len McCluskey, the Genera Secretary of Unite, announced on 7th December that he is resigning as General Secretary and seeking re-election in 2017. It was also decided that the executive council would organise the Executive Council elections and the General Secretary election at the same time.

 

“Unite confirms the timetable for the general secretary election in 2017

 

06 December 2016

 

The Executive Council of Unite the Union has today (Tuesday 6 December) agreed that the timetable for the election of the union’s General Secretary will be brought forward to the first months of 2017. This will ensure that the ballot for Executive Council (EC) members and the ballot for General Secretary are conducted simultaneously, minimizing the enormous costs caused to the union by the legal requirement to conduct the ballot by post and not by modern voting methods, thereby saving the union in the region of £1 million. Following a period of candidate nominations, the ballot for both elections will commence on 27 March 2017, concluding on 28 April 2017. General Secretary Len McCluskey immediately tendered his resignation to the Unite EC, announcing his intention to stand as a candidate. The EC also agreed that Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail, should become acting General Secretary for the election period. Len McCluskey said: “I intend to be a candidate in the upcoming general secretary election and to submit my record to the vote of Unite members. “Unite’s Executive Council has agreed that my resignation will take effect from 28 April, when the elections for general secretary and the Executive Council itself end.  I will remain general secretary until then – after that it is in the hands of the membership.” [1]

 

The election which is going to be brought forward will mean that if McCluskey is elected he will be in his 70’s when his term of office ends. McCluskey is part of the labour bureaucracy and during his term of office he has presided over austerity attacks both by the Cameron and May governments.

 

 

 

Treacherous McCluskey Leadership

 

 

 

His response at every turn has been to betray dispute after dispute and at all costs prevent strike action. The Grangemouth Oil Refinery dispute is an example of where the Unite Leadership capitulated to the INEOS management and agreed to the sacking of the convenor and agreed a no strike deal.

 

“This was a rout. One of the best organised workplaces in the country, Grangemouth, suffered one of the worst defeats of the trade union movement in years. Barely a shot was fired. The union was stunned; this wasn't the dispute they thought it was. Lured into a limited battle over the witch-hunting of a union organiser, the real stakes were quickly revealed when the boss locked workers out of the plant and threatened to close it down. The union's retreat was humiliating. They conceded everything: pay freezes, an end to final salary pensions, the end of full-time union convenors on site, and no strikes for three years. Employers across the country will look enviously on what Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire boss of INEOS, has achieved. Why did they lose so badly? After all, this was not the first time that Ratcliffe had gone after the final-salary pension’s scheme. He was comprehensively defeated in 2008. His battle with tanker drivers in March this year met with no greater success.” However, it seems that in March Ratcliffe began planning for a new confrontation, and stockpiling oil reserves to see out any strike. The basis for an offensive was provided by the Falkirk controversy in which Unite officials were supposedly involved in rigging Labour's selection procedures. It was a candyfloss controversy: mouth-watering, but fuzzy and insubstantial. However, the Labour leadership used it to launch a wide-ranging attack on the union link, forcing the Unite leadership onto the back foot”. [2]

 

In December 2016 the Tata steel management presented a deal to the unions at Port Talbot. Both the Unite leadership under McCluskey and Community under Roy Richaus are recommending acceptance although it means that the final salary scheme will go and there will not be a satisfactory Pension scheme in place. The workers are going to be balloted on whether they will accept the deal or not. It is just another example of McCluskey’s leadership. All that has been organised is meetings with the government and one march in Port Talbot when Tata threatened to close all of its plants.

 

“A deal to safeguard production at Britain’s biggest steelworks in Port Talbot has been secured with Tata Steel, according to trade unions, including commitments on jobs and £1bn of investment in its wider UK business over the next decade. As part of the rescue package Tata is proposing to the close the £15bn British Steel pension scheme, which has become a serious financial burden on the company. In return, the Indian group has committed to keep Port Talbot’s twin blast furnaces running for a minimum of five years and to reinvest in the older of the two. It has also promised to try to avoid any compulsory redundancies over a five-year period. Britain’s steel industry was thrown into uncertainty when Tata Steel announced it wanted to sell its troubled business there in spring. Global oversupply, a wave of cheap imports from countries such as China and a plunge in prices for the metal triggered a crisis last autumn, leading to plant closures and thousands of job losses. The Community, Unite and GMB unions said that they will ballot their members on the proposal in the new year”. [3].

 

 

 

Reactionary Role of the Labour Bureaucracy

 

 

 

The RCIT in Britain in its no 11 issue of LIBERATION pointed out the reactionary role of the labour bureaucracy in Britain:

 

“The labour bureaucracy of UNITE; the biggest trade union with over 1.4 million members is a crucial agent for the ruling class in the workers movement. The labour bureaucracy constitutes the most reactionary and conservative element in the working class today. It is composed of sell-serving careerists whose role is to police the working class and make it safe for capitalism in order to exploit the most vulnerable and exploited sections in society”. [4]

 

Further on we explained why it is important to patiently explain the united front tactic to workers and show that it is only through the rank file organisation that they can challenge the power of the bureaucracy and liberate it from the control of the bureaucracy and ensure proper workers democracy not the sham democracy which means only the General Secretary and the executive council are up for re-election. All other positions are appointed.

 

Therefore it is crucial that revolutionaries help the workers vanguard to organize a struggle against the labour bureaucracy. In our “Theses on the Trade Unions” we explained:

 

Revolutionaries struggle for the expulsion of the labor bureaucracy and its agents from the ranks of the workers’ movement. These forces are the biggest obstacle for the working class struggle in the ranks of the workers’ movement. Naturally, this is a long-term task involves the application of the united front tactic (calls to the rank and file, but also the reformist leaders for joint actions, etc.). But communists should state clearly that the trade unions can only become an authentic instrument of the working class if they are liberated from the bureaucracy and brought under workers control. (…)

 

[W]e derive the following set of strategies for revolutionary communists:

 

i) Building a rank-and-file movement in opposition to the bureaucracy, one which can fight both for more democratic rights and a militant union policy, and which has the goal of liberating the union from the bureaucracy.

 

ii) Fighting to change the composition of the unions. This involves driving back the influence of the ‘aristocratic type’ of the upper layer and transforming the unions into an instrument dominated by the ‘mass type’ of the working class, which means the lower and middle strata – i.e. the huge majority – of the proletariat. “The unionization of the lower strata of the working class (especially the migrants, women, precarious workers, etc.) is an indispensable task. These layers must not, therefore, play the role of the infantry in the union, but should play a central role and should also proportionally be represented in the trade union bodies according to their share among the employees.

 

iii) Striving to utilize every class struggle to build action committees which organize the militant workers (including the unorganized workers) independent of the bureaucracy. “In every battle and in preparation for this the Bolsheviks-Communists are therefore keen to establish rank and file committees outside the bureaucratic control. They will often bring together the most active and most militant elements in Action Committees.” [5]

 

 

 

Support for Rank and File Candidates

 

 

 

Most of the centrist organizations in Britain have nothing to say on this election in Unite. Most of them supported McCluskey in the last election for General Secretary, with the principled exception of the Socialist Workers Party who to their credit supported Jerry Hicks, the rank and file candidate.

 

If a rank and file candidate decides to stand we would support them as part of our united front tactic.

 

We therefore propose the following demands.

 

* Vote for IAN ALLINSON, the rank and file candidate for the position of General Secretary of Unite. Establish rank and file committees whose aim should be to remove and expel the bureaucracy and elect genuine rank and file militants in positions of leadership like the forthcoming election for the General Secretary in Unite.

 

* For an indefinite general strike to bring down this government. Build action committees independent of the bureaucracy. Elect workers defense guards to protect workers who go on strike.

 

* For a genuine communist fraction. Support the RCIT Britain in building a revolutionary party as part of a new World Party of Socialist Revolution!

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

1) http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/unite-confirms-the-timetable-for-the-general-secretary-election-in-2017/

 

2) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/09/ineos-unite-union-grangemouth-oil-refinery

 

3) http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/deal-to-safeguard-port-talbot-steelworks-agreed-say-unions/ar-AAlgKFR?OCID=ansmsnnews11

 

4) https://rcit.wordpress.com/liberationno11

 

5) RCIT-Theses on Revolutionary Trade Union Policy, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/theses-trade-union/

 

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