McCluskey and Labour: a view from Scotland

December 7, 2014 at 7:21 pm (elections, Guest post, labour party, scotland, unions, Unite the union, workers)

Guest post by Mick Rice

A CUNNING PLAN?

McCluskey: ultra left?

In 1968 I became a socialist. In 1969 I joined the trade union movement. In 1970 I got a job as a Research Officer for my union, the AEU.

One of my tasks was to prepare a report on what had happened to the union’s policies. In 1969 the union had sent a motion to the Labour party requesting an incoming Labour Government to nationalise the British chemical industry. I phoned the Labour party to find out what had happened. I was put through to Margaret Jackson (subsequently Margaret Beckett ) in the Research Department. Now I have a bit of a soft spot for Margaret Beckett as any politician who admits to ordinary enjoyments (she is a caravan holiday enthusiast) cannot, in my book, be all bad.

She told me – one researcher to another as it were – that the Labour party conference arrangements committee would have merged all such motions into a great big composite. The composite motion would have been written to sound as radical as possible whilst committing the Labour party to nothing whatsoever. The motion would have been rendered meaningless. I was shocked – I was still quite young – that I actually asked why the Labour party would do such a thing. She told me that an incoming Labour Government always sought maximum freedom to do as it pleased. The Labour leadership didn’t want to be saddled with policies decided by members and the unions. She was just telling me how it was and I do not believe that she was a supporter of such behaviour.

I had suspected that the Labour party was not quite “what you see is what you get”, but I was now made privy to the dark arts of political chicanery and double-dealing. Labour, then as now, was a top-down organisation where the members do the work to maintain a “Westminster elite”.

If anything it has become worse. Shortly before the 1997 election how we all ached for a Labour Government. Eighteen years of Tory rule had almost been too much – immigration or Dignitas beckoned if the Tories won a fifth term!

After a hard day’s campaigning one of my mates opined: “You know after 6 months of a Labour Government we are going to feel terribly let down”. The tragedy was that we all knew that it would be true.

In government, the Labour leadership maintained a vice like grip over the party machine and ensured that only its supporters were selected as parliamentary candidates. Some of us thought that things would loosen up a bit once we were in opposition – but not a bit of it. In Falkirk the disgraced Labour MP announced that he would not stand again following his arrest for a punch up in a House of Commons bar. My trade union, Unite, sought to secure the nomination for a union friendly candidate.

The Chair of the constituency Labour party, Steven Deans, who was also a union convenor at Ineos, campaigned to recruit more trade union members into the party. The right wing leadership was horrified as this would mean that their favoured candidate would probably lose. In consequence Ed Milliband called in the Police to investigate Steven Deans for potential fraudulent recruitment! The Police found “insufficient evidence” for a prosecution (basically he had done nothing wrong). By this time his employer had sacked him. Clearly Ineos were encouraged in their anti union victimization by the way the Ed Milliband treated Comrade Deans.

As far as I am aware the Labour party never apologised for its treatment of Steven Deans!

Political bodies are never willing to amend their constitutions when they are winning elections. After all there can be no justification for improving internal democracy when the electors support you! But next year in Scotland the SNP are likely to do very well – some polls indicate that Labour will lose 37 of its 41 Westminster MPs!

Len McCluskey, forced a fresh general secretary election last year because he believed that the union should not be distracted by an internal election campaign around the time of the general election. His re-election means he has a further 2 years as general secretary. He also said that if Labour loses that Unite could disaffiliate and support a new Workers’ Party. It is not often that union general secretaries can be criticised for ultra-leftism, but McCluskey is wrong, a thousand times wrong! Instead of asking union members to disaffiliate he should ask Unite’s Scottish levy payers the simple question:

Do you want the Scottish Labour party to be an independent body?

With the “vested interests” significantly cut back through electoral defeat in Scotland the trade union component of the party must have greater weight! Accordingly, most affiliated unions in Scotland would follow Unite’s lead and do likewise.

Even if Labour doesn’t lose the election and forms a coalition with the LibDems, or has a confidence and supply deal with the SNP, who have vowed never to support a Tory government, Unite should still raise this with its Scottish members.

Of course, an independent Scottish Labour party must also mean that the English and Welsh parties would become independent also. At one stroke the Westminster elite of careerists, ne’er-do-wells and apparatchiks that has dominated the party for so long would be dealt a death blow! Of course there is nothing to stop the new independent Scottish Labour party seeking electoral packs with its sister parties in the UK but control would be in Scotland and the leadership would be in Edinburgh! It will be somewhat easier to ensure leadership accountability on a more local basis and it will also mean that power right across the party will become regional.

Just at a time when Labour becomes more amenable to trade union interests, McCluskey is suggesting abandoning the historic party of the labour movement and setting up a new Workers’ Party.

Members of Unite should force him to see sense.

Affiliated unions in Scotland can change the party for good

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Soul Deep: Jimmy Ruffin and Paul Weller support the miners

November 20, 2014 at 8:41 am (good people, music, posted by JD, RIP, solidarity, unions)

In memeory of Jimmy Ruffin, May 7 1936 – Nov 17 2014

The Council Collective performing the extended version of Soul Deep live on Channel 4’s The Tube, 14th December 1984 at the studios of Tyne-Tees Television in Newcastle Upon Tyne. In aid of the striking miners this single featured Paul Weller, Mick Talbot, Dee C. Lee, Jimmy Ruffin, Junior Giscombe, Dizzy Hites and Vaughan Toulouse.

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Hicks’ claims against Unite rejected by Certification Office

October 28, 2014 at 8:30 am (ex-SWP, plonker, posted by JD, SWP, unions, Unite the union)

Jerry-hicks.jpg

 Above: Hicks

Press release from Unite:

No re-run of Unite election as regulator dismisses claims against Len McCluskey

The Certification Officer has dismissed attempts to force a re-run of the election which saw Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey elected to hold office until 2018.
 
Following hearings earlier this month, Certification Officer, the trade union regulator, rejected claims by Unite member Jerry Hicks, the other candidate in Mr McCluskey’s 2013 re-election contest,  relating to the eligibility of some members to vote in that election.
 
The challenge centred on claims of supposed ‘phantom votes’ cast, but this was overwhelmingly dismissed by the Certification Office who ruled against Mr Hicks on the substantial issues he had complained about.
 
Commenting, a Unite spokesman said:
 
“Unite was always confident that we had acted within the rules of our union and the law at all times.

“We are pleased that the certification officer has dismissed the key claims against Unite and we hope that media who gave such credence to claims of `phantom votes’ will now give this legal decision comparable attention.
 
“Unite’s members have had to endure repeated – and as we now are clear, baseless – smears against their union. With this decision our union’s integrity is upheld, and our focus on the vital task of standing up for working people can continue.”
 
The decision by the Certification Office concludes a year of legal proceedings on the matter.

***********************************************************************************************

JD adds: shame on those irresponsible and/or opportunist leftists who’ve supported Hicks and the campaign he waged in the Murdoch press against Unite.

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Support the demo, London, this Saturday!

October 17, 2014 at 1:37 pm (posted by JD, protest, solidarity, TUC, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

October 18 2014 - March and Rally

Let’s make this the start of a real fightback on pay

Local Government and School workers’ unofficial blog (GMB, Unison, Unite), here

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Local government pay proposals: rubbish now and rubbish in the future!

October 12, 2014 at 7:04 pm (Cross-post, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, UNISON, Unite the union, workers)

Cross-posted from Local Government Worker Activists , a new unoffical blog for Local Government and School workers (whether in GMB, Unison and Unite) to organise to defend members terms and conditions and coordinate a rank and file network against cuts, for decent pay and conditions and against privatisation and the break up of local government.

Unison members on the half-million strong TUC demo, central London, 26 March 2011, against the government's cuts , photo Paul Mattsson

Analysis of the proposal -

The pay proposals from the local government employers are rubbish now and rubbish in the future.

Rubbish now

In the current year the new pay proposals from the local government employers offer;

  • No more money in 2014/15 than if we had accepted the employers’ first offer for everyone who earns more than £430.41 gross a week;
  • A pittance extra in 2014/15 for those earning less – barely enough to buy a round of drinks and much less than has been lost by those who took strike action on 10 July;
  • Coming nowhere near our objective of a flat rate increase of at least one pound an hour;
  • Failing to achieve the living wage for workers up to spine point 10.

Comparing the proposals to the original offer in 2014/15 (national pay spine) at various points demonstrates just how trivial the “gain” for the lowest paid is in these proposals compared to the previous offer;

Spine point Value of previous offer £pa Value of “proposal” £pa Gain £pa Equivalent gain per month Equivalent gain per week
5 580 591 +11 92p 21p
10 175 182 +7 58p 13p
21 193 207 +14 £1.17 27p
26 224 224 0 0 0
31 265 265 0 0 0
41 349 349 0 0 0

Even for those who make some gain in 2014/15, this is far less then the cost of having taken a day’s strike action on 10 July (based on the national pay spine);

Spine point Gain Deduction at 1/365th Deduction at 1/260th
5 £11 £34 £48
10 £7 £38 £54
21 £14 £53 £74

Rubbish in the future

The proposal doesn’t achieve the living wage or anything like it.

For the low paid, we sought to achieve the living wage of £7.65 per hour (£14,759 a year, for a full-time worker based upon a 37 hour week). The “proposal” leaves everyone on spine point 10 and below earning less than the living wage (set in October 2014) until at least April 2016.

The proposal does nothing to make up for the decline in our earnings.

The UNISON online pay calculator shows how much worse off we are as a result of the pay freeze. A worker earning £12,435 (well below the living wage) is £2,248 a year worse off but is being offered only £1,065 to make up for this, with nothing more until April 2016. A worker earning £24,982 is £4,905 a year worse off but is being offered only £547.62 to make up for this, with nothing more until April 2016.

The proposal does not break the Government’s 1% pay policy.

The appearance of a 2.2% increase in 2015/16 can only be achieved by sleight of hand, ignoring the fact that this is a two year deal (paid nine months late) and that the very worst we could have expected anyway, without any campaign or industrial action, would have been two successive 1% pay awards, which together would have been worth a combined 2.01% anyway. A settlement on the basis of this “proposal” would be gambling away our opportunity to fight for a decent pay rise in 2015 (a year in which a General Election will be fought in large part on the issue of living standards) in return for an increase 0.19% larger than the worst we could otherwise have expected.

Spine point (national pay spine) Annual salary in 2015/16 under the “proposal” £pa Annual salary in 2015/16 based upon two 1% increases £pa Benefit of the “proposal” £pa in 2015/16 Monthly benefit of the “proposal” in 2015/16 Weekly benefit of the “proposal” in 2015/16
11 15,207.36 15,179.09 28.27 £2.36 54p
21 19,741.97 19,705.27 36.70 £3.06 70p
26 22,936.75 22,894.10 42.65 £3.55 82p
31 27,122.86 27,072.43 50.43 £4.20 97p
41 35,661.67 35,595.37 68.30 £5.69 £1.31

 facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Local-Government-workers-deserve-a-decent-pay-rise/590019704361076?fref=ts  from which people can download placard covers, leaflets for the TUC demo, etc. 

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After the referendum: Scottish left falls in behind SNP

October 3, 2014 at 7:25 am (Cross-post, left, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", scotland, Sheridan, Socialist Party, SWP, unions)

bag piper in kilt with rippled Scottish flag Illustration Stock Photo - 3474908

By Dale Street
Cross-posted from Workers Liberty

The working class voted “yes”. The Labour Party is finished. And we need a new mass socialist party.

To one degree or another, and in one form or another, these have been the three main responses of the pro-independence left to the result of the 18 September referendum.

The first element has some degree of truth to it. Three of the four regions which had a “yes” majority (even if not a very large one) are traditional Labour strongholds. The fourth (Dundee) used to be a Labour stronghold, until New Labour decided the sitting Labour MP John McAllion was a liability.

But it is also true that large sections of the working class voted “no”. In any case nationalist separatism stands at odds with the basic labour movement principle of uniting people of different nationalities and national identities.

Any socialist welcoming “the working-class ‘yes’ vote” is welcoming the divisive poison of nationalism penetrating into working-class politics. To try to build on that basis — as the pro-independence left is now attempting — amounts to adding another dose of the same poison.

The demise of Labour? According to the Socialist Party (Scotland):

“13% of USDAW members in Scotland have resigned from the union in protest. Unite is receiving many requests from members looking to cancel their membership because it is affiliated to the Labour Party. Unison is also reporting a series of resignations as workers’ anger over Labour’s role escalates.”
Unlike the SPS, the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has pointed out that resigning from a trade union is not a good idea. The SSP Industrial Organiser proposes a different way to “punish” Labour:

“We should organise mass withdrawal from payment of members’ fees to Labour in those unions affiliated to Labour. Demand instead that the unions make the break from Labour and help build a mass, working-class socialist party.”

So members of the CWU — which polled its members in Scotland and then adopted policy in favour of a “no” vote at its national conference — should demand that their union disaffiliate from the Labour Party because Labour took the same position on the referendum as their union?

And so too should members of USDAW and GMB who took democratic decisions in favour of “no”?

Labour advocated a “no” vote. The majority of the electorate took the same position and voted against independence. The usual name for something being decided and implemented on the basis of a majority vote is “democracy”.

The call for unions to disaffiliate from Labour because of Labour’s support for a ‘no’ vote amounts to a divisive nationalist attack on the workers’ movement.

No “no” supporter would support disaffiliation on that basis. And it elevates the nationalist demand for an independent Scotland over and above the right of trade unions to base their policy on internal decision-making processes.

The SWP boasts that “we have sold thousands of copies of Socialist Worker and recruited dozens of people.” The SPS makes similar claims. The SSP boasts that “2,200 (at the time of writing, over a mere five days) have applied to join the SSP”!

That’s nothing compared to the 18,000 new members claimed by the SNP. Not to worry about that. An article on the SPS website explains: They join the SNP. They discover that it does not have a Marxist programme. They quit in disgust. They join the mass socialist party which the SPS is building.

In terms of building something broader than their own organisations, the SPS advocates building its Trade Union and Socialist Coalition:

“TUSC represents the best opportunity to ensure that anti-cuts, pro-trade-union and socialist candidates stand in the elections in Scotland next May.”

The SWP calls for a new, broader party to bring together “yes” supporters: “It can agree on a basic set of anti-capitalist policies, be democratic, grass-roots-based and centred on activity. It would stand in elections but not be obsessed about them.”

Generously, the SWP would allow “no” supporters into such a party. That people voted ‘no’ “doesn’t mean they are scabs.”

But the last attempt to build a united left party in Scotland collapsed when the SWP and SPS split the SSP by backing Sheridan after he walked out of the SSP. And the political fallout from that split continues today.

The SWP gets round this issue by simply declaring: “This party (i.e. the new party) cannot be defined by the splits in the Scottish Socialist Party a decade ago or about splits in the left at some point.”

The SSP has not put forward any proposals for a broad party of the left. This is because they think that they already are that party, presumably because they are hoping for many more recruits.

The “yes” campaign provided a natural home, playing a leading role in the new mass workers party. Both the SWP and the SPS look forward to Tommy Sheridan for Sheridan’s bandstanding demagogy.

According to the SPS: “If a political figure with a mass base of support among the working class like Tommy Sheridan made such a call, backed by leading trade unionists, socialists, etc., a new working-class party would become a force of thousands within a couple of weeks.”

The problem for the SWP and SPS scenario is that Sheridan has come out in favour of a vote for the SNP in next year’s general election:

“I suggest that we in the Yes movement promote continued unity by backing the most likely independence-supporting candidate at next May’s election. In concrete terms, that means advocating an SNP vote to try and unseat as many pro-No supporters as possible.”

Despite the entrenched hostility between the SSP and Sheridan, the SSP Industrial Organiser, who carries some weight within the SSP, has come out with a similar position:

“In the 2015 Westminster elections, I personally would support the idea of a Yes Alliance, a pro-independence slate of candidates (whatever the exact name) embracing the three parties that were in Yes Scotland – SNP, SSP and Greens – and others who were part of that coalition.”

That’s one of the things about abandoning class-based politics and selling out to nationalism: it develops a dynamic of its own.

The SSP Industrial Organiser is equally enthusiastic about the prospects for the 2016 Holyrood elections:

“All those tens of thousands who fought for a Yes vote could fix their sights on winning an absolute majority of pro-independence MSPs in 2016.

“Referenda are but one means of winning independence. The democratic election of a majority of MSPs who favour independence in 2016 would surely be equally a mandate for Scottish independence?”

Despite its aversion to an electoral alliance with the SNP, the SPS shares the SSP’s perspectives for 2016:

“If the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections resulted in an overwhelming majority for parties that back independence, it could also be a trigger for a mandate for independence… Or it could lead to an immediate referendum in 2016 or 2017.”

Despite the 55%/45% vote against independence in the referendum a fortnight ago, the pro-independence left wants to keep the issue of independence centre-stage, seeks to win trade union disaffiliation from the Labour Party on that basis, and proposes an electoral alliance with the SNP.

And while denouncing the Labour Party for supposedly “denying the Scottish people democracy”, it also looks forward to, and advocates, independence for Scotland in the absence of any further referendum.

Is the pro-independence left now politically dead and beyond resuscitation?

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Hong Kong workers strike for democracy

September 29, 2014 at 6:06 pm (democracy, Eric Lee, LabourStart, posted by JD, protest, solidarity, unions, workers)

From LabourStart:

Support the online campaigns!

  • International Union of Foodworkers – http://www.labourstart.org/go/hkiuf
  • Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions – http://www.labourstart.org/go/hkctu
  • The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) – the only independent union in China – has called for workers to strike in support of the democracy movement as mass civil disobedience actions come under heavy police attack. The Swire Beverages (Coca-Cola) union and the HKCTU unions of school teachers and dockers are striking and will be joined by other member unions.

    Tensions have been building in Hong Kong since the August 31 government announcement that candidates for the position of Chief Executive would have to be vetted and approved by a pro-business, pro-Beijing committee.

    The protests, originally organized by the students’ federation and the Occupy Central coalition, have drawn increasing numbers of supporters. The mainland government has harshly condemned the protestors’ demands and the “illegal” protests.

    On September 28, the HKCTU declared “we cannot let the students fight alone”, and called for workers to strike in support of 4 demands: the immediate release of all the arrested, an end to the suppression of peaceful assembly, replacing the “fake universal suffrage” formula with the genuine political reform workers have been demanding, and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying.

    The HKCTU has been the backbone of the democracy movement, before and following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. Their courageous action deserves the support of trade unions everywhere.

    Show your support – click on the links above.
    Then, spread the word – via facebook, tweets, etc.

    Thank you.

    Eric Lee

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Unison to call off Oct 14 action?

September 26, 2014 at 12:14 am (Jim D, unions, UNISON, workers)

UNISON home

* Breaking News:  the strike of Local Government employees on October 14 has been called off after an improved offer from the employers’ side.

 A Unison activist has told us:

“It is true that an informal offer has been made to unions of an average 2.2% pay increase which will mean some members getting less than 1% to pay for a better increase for others.

“The offer will need to go to NJC. I imagine there will be a call for a lobby of NJC. This is a lot more than I thought we’d be offered early on. I don’t know exactly how it’s being divided out, but it  appears to involve a rise of  2.2 % from 1st of January with one off payments ranging from £250 for lowest grades. going down to £100 for other grades which will be paid in December.”

Trade unionists should still mobilise for the TUC demonstration.
BRITAIN NEEDS A PAYRISE: Join us at the MARCH and RALLY, Saturday 18 October 2014

The march starts on Embankment 1pm , with form up from 11am. We suggest joining from the rear at Blackfriars to avoid a crush further up Embankment. After moving off, the march will go along Embankment to Northumberland Avenue, across Trafalgar Square, along Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, and then along Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner, where it will enter the park. The rally in Hyde Park will start as the march reaches the stage.

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Pride! When Lesbians and Gays Supported the Miners

September 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm (AWL, cinema, class, gay, history, Jim D, lesbian, LGBT, solidarity, Thatcher, unions, workers)

I ran into Comrade Clive Bradley over the weekend, and he was warm in his praise for the film Pride, which depicts (albeit in “feel-good” style à la The Full Monty and Made in Dagenham) the role of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the great 1984-5 strike.

Clive was a prominent member of LGSM at the time, although he’s not portrayed in the film.

Here’s an interview that Workers Liberty’s paper Solidarity did with Clive a couple of weeks ago, just after the film’s release. There is also a review of the film, which I haven’t republished, but which can be read here.

“The miners needed solidarity”

Solidarity: What was LGSM and what did it do?

Clive: It was a group that was set up of lesbians and gay men set up to support the miner’s strike. It has to be said it was initially mainly gay men, but more and more women got involved over the time. Practically it raised money for the miners who were on strike for a year. Mainly by standing outside lesbian and gay pubs rattling buckets, it raised quite a lot of money. This was sent to a particular mining community in south Wales, in the Dulais valley, with which connections had been made.

Solidarity: Why did this get started, and how did you get involved?

Clive: It was the idea of two people in particular, Mark Ashton and Mike Jackson. Both are dramatised in the movie. They put out a call at Pride in ‘84 and organised a meeting at “Gay Is the Word” bookshop in London. At that time I was just moving to London from Manchester and was a member of Socialist Organiser [forerunner of the AWL]. It’s not rocket science to see how I got involved.

I went to the second ever meeting of LGSM. I was active in supporting the miners and thought it was a brilliant initiative. It proved to have a very powerful effect on lesbian and gay men and on the miners. The NUM went on to lead the pride demonstration in August 1985. The NUM, a traditional union, not famous for its view on matters such as lesbian and gay rights, became quite prominent in the changing policy on gay rights in the Labour Party.

Solidarity: What impact did it have in the gay community, and what arguments did LGSM make about why gay people should support the miners?

Clive: The strike lasted for a whole year and divided the country, divided everybody. A lot of people supported the miners and didn’t need to be persuaded, but we argued that we needed the miners to win. If the miners lost then the Tory government would be going for everybody, and these lesbian and gay communities would be an easy target. People would put a lot of money into the bucket to show solidarity — presumably a lot of money they didn’t have in many cases. LGSM was the first really concrete example of how an “autonomous” movement of the “specially oppressed” (as we used to say) could struggle alongside the organised working class, and transform working-class consciousness in the process.

Solidarity: Were other left groups involved in LGSM? What was their attitude to it?

Clive: Some members of different left groups were personally involved, even members of Militant [forerunner of the Socialist Party] and the SWP, whose organisations were more hostile to the project. Militant , for example, generally argued that any kind of autonomous organisation was necessarily divisive. LGSM and Women Against Pit Closures, etc. showed that quite the reverse was true.

Solidarity: How was LGSM received in the mining communities?

Clive: The film does this quite cleverly. It is basically a rom com between two communities. The film shows you both acceptance and hostility, but a growing acceptance. That isn’t far off what actually happened.

I went to South Wales twice, the second time when the strike was actually finishing in March ‘85. That was very emotional for all of us. My own experience was that people couldn’t really have been more welcoming.

The first time we went down, there was a minibus load of us, we were being put up in people’s houses, that was the deal. We all went down to the miner’s welfare in the evening to sing songs and get drunk. It was completely fine, no hostility at all.

The reality was we were raising money for them. The miners needed solidarity, and I’m sure if people were at first dubious about where the solidarity came from, need overcame that. And, of course, as you make contact with people you realise that you have more in common than you initially thought. Why the suspicions broke down, as I’m sure there were some, is no mystery. It was the nature of people meeting each other and the power of solidarity.

Solidarity: What do you think members of LGSM learnt from the experience?

Clive: For many people it was their first time going to that sort of working-class community, though certainly not for everyone. We were a mixed group and certainly there were people from working-class backgrounds, it was not all middle class lefties. The vast majority were just people who wanted to do something.

When you have a big confrontation between a section of the working class and the government you have to take sides, more than just in your head.

There have been reunions [of LGSM] recently and many people still seem to hold broadly the same views that they used to. You can tell for many people in LGSM it was an absolutely formative experience in their lives, and very important to them.

Solidarity: Do you think there was rolling back after the defeat of the dispute, both in the gay community and in the mining community?

Clive: The miners were beaten and most of them lost their jobs. Generally speaking in the class struggle, the defeat of the miners had a hugely bad effect. We’re still living with the consequences of it.

I doubt miners’ attitudes rolled back too much with regards lesbian and gay rights. You started to get stories of miners coming out. At reunions we get visits from miners. We often hear “it turns out my son is gay”.

Ex-miners and their families came up from south Wales for the film premiere.

In the lesbian and gay community, struggle wasn’t rolled back. You got growth of the lesbian and gay movement after 1985. Not long after was “Section 28” [the Tory law which prevented the “promotion of homosexual lifestyles”] against which you had enormous demonstrations. The pride parades in the early ‘80s were relatively small, but by the late ‘80s and certainly the early ‘90s they were enormous.

Solidarity: What do you think about the film?

Clive: It gets an awful lot incredibly right. It’s in the broad ball park of something like The Full Monty, but much more political. Over the credits you have someone singing Solidarity Forever. It takes for granted that the strike was right. It’s absolutely about the importance of class struggle and solidarity between communities. The portrayals of the real people are very close and a good tribute.

Its good that for the anniversary of the strike, this particular act of solidarity will be remembered.

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TUC: don’t mention the (Ukranian) war!

September 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm (AWL, fascism, posted by JD, scotland, stalinism, TUC, unions)

By Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty):

“Don’t mention the war!” — that well-known line from an episode of the 1970s sitcom “Fawlty Towers” — should have been the header for the emergency motion entitled “Situation in Ukraine” passed by last week’s TUC congress. (1)

The motion ignored Russia’s ongoing political and military attack on Ukraine’s right to self-determination. It misrepresented the (real but limited) influence exerted by fascist organisations in Ukraine. And its concluding demands sounded left-wing but were in fact politically incoherent.

The motion noted comments by the NATO General Secretary that its recent summit in Wales had been held “in a dramatically changed security environment”. It further noted that this statement came only a day after a Pentagon announcement that 200 US troops were being sent to Ukraine for “training exercises”.

But there is a deliberate triple omission here. The “dramatically changed security environment” is the fact that for the first time since the Second World War the territory of a European country has been seized by that of a neighbouring big power.

In March Russia annexed Crimea. This was followed by Russia supplying separatist forces in south-east Ukraine with weapons, munitions, “volunteer” fighters, military instructors, and political leadership.

In August, with the separatists staring eventual defeat in the face, Russia launched an invasion of south-east Ukraine. It still has troops there. All of this has been omitted from the motion.

The second omission is that the “training exercises” now underway are indeed “training exercises”, and were planned long before Russia launched its campaign of military aggression against Ukraine.

The final omission is that while the motion condemns the presence of 200 US troops in Ukraine it fails to mention the tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks periodically concentrated by Russia at the border with Ukraine.

After briefly expressing concerns about the human suffering caused by the conflict, the motion expressed further concerns about “attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups, including the Odessa Massacre which saw that city’s trade union centre burned to the ground.”

The fact that the Odessa trade union centre was not “burned to the ground” is a side issue. More issue is the misrepresentation. Trade unionists should indeed oppose attacks on trade unionists and the empowering of fascist groups. And there are organised Ukrainian-fascist groups in Ukraine, even if they currently enjoy only very limited support: in last May’s presidential elections their candidates each secured only around 1% of the vote.

But there are also pro-Russian and ethnic-Russian fascist organisations in Ukraine. These organisations figure prominently in the separatist leadership, which includes members of the fascist “think tank” Izborsky Club. Russian and French fascists have also been identified in the ranks of the separatist armed forces. (2)

The motion concluded with three demands.

The General Council should consider how best to support those fighting for trade union rights and against fascism in “the Ukraine”.

But this would mean support for Ukrainian trade unions, whose leaders have repeatedly condemned the separatist movement and Russia’s attacks on their country. In fact, given the role played by fascists amongst the separatists, it amounts to a call for support for the Ukrainian military!

There should be an immediate permanent ceasefire and a peaceful negotiated settlement.

But this would require willingness on both sides. As the TUC adopted this motion separatist leaders declared that they were not bound by the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk (3) and that their goal was to sieze the bulk of Ukrainian territory in order to create “Novorossiya”. (4)

And the use of British forces in the Ukrainian conflict should be opposed.

Given that there are no proposals to use British troops in the “Ukrainian conflict”, the purpose of such a clause is – at first sight — unclear.

In fact, the clause fits into the overall politics of the motion.

A few Dave-Spart left-wing truisms (support for trade unionists, anti-fascism, opposition to NATO) grafted onto a Basil-Fawlty attitude of “don’t mention the war” (no mention of Russian troops, Russian weaponry, Russian fascists, or Russian invasions).

Trade unionists should argue for their unions to adopt policy based on events in the real world: Russia, Hands Off Ukraine!; Ukrainian-Russian workers unity against oligarchs and neo-liberalism in both countries; Against fascism — both Ukrainian and Russian!

1) http://www.tuc.org.uk/congress/congress-2014/emergency-motion-e1-situation-ukraine
2) http://www.workersliberty.org/node/23635
3) http://rusvesna.su/news/1410624783
4) http://rusvesna.su/news/1410602639

NB: Eric Lee adds

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