Mail red-baiting: let’s hope it’s true

March 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm (Champagne Charlie, elections, labour party, politics, red-baiting, unions, workers)

Unite assistant general secretary Len McCluskey, pictured speaking to BA strike supporters this week, has promised to 'reconstruct' the Labour Party if elected as leader of the union
Len McClusky
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The loathsome Daily Mail (together with the Murdoch press) is gearing up for the general election with lurid red-baiting about Unite taking over the Labour Party. I do hope it’s true.
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The gist of the Mail’s articles can be summed up by their headline this Wednesday: “BA MILITANTS AND A PLOT TO CONTROL LABOUR.”
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According to the Mail , “The hard-left clique which runs the giant Unite union plans to ‘reclaim or refound’ Labour, dumping the policies in favour of old-style socialism.”
 
The Mail’s evidence seems to be a series of leaked private emails from Graham Stevenson, Unite’s Passenger Transport national secretary, to a historian called Pavel Stroilov, who contacted Stevenson via his (Stevenson’s) website, which is largely devoted to British Labour movement and Communist Party of Britain history.
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Stevenson’s emails (the authenticity of which have not, as far as I know, been challenged) include the following shock-horror observations:
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* The Labour Party is broke. As millionaires desert them, it has been forced to go back to the unions for funding. We will have a huge number of MPs who are members…in the past both unions that formed Unite had large parliamentary groups but few actually bothered to take account of our policies. This will change!
 
* There is a plan to restore a more rigorous control in the next parliament. Much of the rest of our strategy will also come into play then. It will be in that period that unions will have to make a judgement about Labour – whether to give up on the reclaiming approach or to simply refound it.
 
* There’s now a struggle going on (in Unite), with an entirely new General Secretary elected this year. We’re backing McClusky, a left Labour man from the T&G, who is strongly allied to us. It’s no accident that McC is leading the BA strike. We are very confident he will win the election.
 
* The trade union leadership looks to the (Communist) Party for strategic direction and much of the left is prepared to accept the Party’s proposals for policy.
 
That last point aside (I’ll come back to it in a moment), what’s wrong with most of that? Unite and its predecessor unions Amicus and T&G,  have pumped millions of their members’ subs into the Labour Party through thick and thin, but have (up until now) never flexed their muscles within the Party, sought to discipline sponsored MPs or even mandated their representatives on the Labour Party NEC to vote in line with union policy. Meanwhile New Labour has maintained the anti-union laws and done the bosses’ bidding while treating the unions with disdain. Stevenson is simply saying that all that should change and the likely victory of Len McClusky (backed by the union’s United Left) will help bring that change about. Then the union movemnent as a whole will have to take stock of its relationship with the Party and decide whether Labour is “reclaimable.” Sounds pretty sensible to me – as I’m sure it does to millions of working class people in Britain today.
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Where Stevenson’s analysis becomes considerably more dubious are the exaggerated claims about the influence of the Communist Party of Britain (of which he’s a member – albeit part of the saner, more labour movement-orientated wing), which are frankly nonsense. The CP does wield some ideological influence on the left (and, indeed, the not-so-”left”) of Unite, but it does not control the United Left and is not running McClusky’s campaign. Unlike some Labour-lefts in the past, McClusky is not a CP fellow-traveller  and most certainly not  (as Jack Dromey was at one time) a secret member. McClusky’s background is in the Trotskyist ‘Militant’ tendency rather than the CP.
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But apart from that little bit of wishful thinking, Stevenson’s analysis of where we’re at and what needs to be done in Unite, the trade unions generally and the Labour Party, seems to me to be pretty much spot-on. Thanks must go to the Daily Mail for publicising such sensible policies and for giving Len McClusky’s campaign a big boost.
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More good stuff in today’s edition.

8 Comments

  1. maxdunbar said,

    The current Tory propaganda line is that Labour are letting the unions take over the country and it’s the winter of discontent all over again. This is what Cameron is saying at the dispatch box and the Tory press are saying in its papers.

    But it’s not convincing anyone. Everyone knows it’s not the unions who have fucked the country – it’s the bankers.

  2. shug said,

    I used to clean my arse with this paper,to remind me of what shithouses the press can be.

  3. resistor said,

    Interesting take on this from Max’s chum, right-wing skinhead Edmund Standing

    http://edmundstanding.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/far-leftists-plot-to-take-over-labour-party/

  4. maxdunbar said,

    Resistor

    Your comment on that piece made me smile.

    I think dear Edmund has let his imagination run away with him this time.

  5. voltairespriest said,

    Hahaha – I can’t think of a more unlikely candidate for left-wing bogeyman of 2010 than Len McCluskey. He’s always come across to me as a very mild-mannered figure, kind of like a benevolent turtle.

  6. charliethechulo said,

    No, Volty: according to the ‘Mail’ and the ‘Telegraph’, he’s “Red” Len McClusky: a threat to all we stand for. Just like Derek Robinson.

  7. Rosie said,

    Quite like old times, that kind of stuff from the Daily Mail. A change from going on about Anjem Choudary, anyway.

  8. resistor said,

    The EDL fascists share right-wing skinhead Edmund Standing’s view of trade unions

    http://barrykade.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/edl-show-their-true-colours-and-embark-on-anti-union-red-baiting-witchunt/

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