United Left kick out SWP

January 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm (Jim D, SWP, unions, Unite the union)

The following statement was issued on 7th January 2013, following the SWP’s decision to back Jerry Hicks in the forthcoming election for UNITE General Secretary. We publish it for the information of readers, especially those in Unite. I will be commenting on the statement and related issues shortly – JD

Logo showing the Unite Union flame. With link to their website.


Following the SWP’s decision this weekend to back Jerry Hicks for UNITE General Secretary, the UNITED LEFT must regrettably carry out the decision previously made to exclude SWP members from all our activities.

There is no doubt that the UNITED LEFT has tried very hard to keep the SWP within the fold in order to maintain the unity of the Left. Once before during the 2010 General Secretary election, the SWP also backed Jerry Hicks in spite of a clear and overwhelming decision at a properly constituted hustings meeting to back Len McCluskey. UNITED LEFT decided on that occasion to suspend SWP members for the duration of the election campaign but they were readmitted into the fold on the clear condition that there was no repeat of this lack of basic discipline.

The SWP’s decision to back Jerry Hicks a second time comes after an even more decisive resolve of UNITED LEFT to reconfirm its support for Len McCluskey. Unlike before, this decision comes after experience of Len’s exemplary role for 2 years in office as UNITE General Secretary. His achievements as a Left General Secretary can be summarised as follows:

  • Real leadership in the fight against austerity – UNITE’s message is clear: “no to all cuts-don’t make workers pay for the crisis”
  • Very rapid progress to consolidate the merger
  • Real progress in branch reorganisation to      create workplace branches
  • Genuine empowerment to members with the branch as the base
  • Harmonized branch funding implemented to all properly constituted branches
  • £25M dispute fund set up
  • Leverage strategy developed and now major resources devoted to further work
  • A genuine fighting back strategy that is seeing real wins for UNITE workers when they take strike action
  • Community membership introduced – a first in the union movement
  • 50,000 new members from a relaunched 100% campaign
  • Plans for a new conference/training centre in Birmingham city centre
  • A real fightback in the Labour Party with a brand new UNITE political strategy – no more blank cheques!
  • A culture of openness, tolerance and democracy throughout the union
  • New ecoms strategy giving UNITE the best website and member contact in the union movement
  • Membership data systems overhauled and simplified
  • No repudiations of any dispute since Len took office
  • Root and branch review started of every UNITE department to make it “fit for purpose”
  • New impetus to our international work -developing a fighting back organising strategy in all the Global Union Federations
  • Ending the TGWU/AMICUS divide and genuinely uniting our new UNITE Union

In fact, what is that Len hasn’t done that means he does not deserve the vote of UNITED LEFT supporters and indeed the UNITE membership as a whole?

For Unite members, this has been an extraordinary success. Len has exceeded our expectations of him when we first selected him as our UL candidate for GS in 2010. And together with a progressive unified Executive we are building the best and biggest fighting back union in Britain and Ireland.

In the light of the above it is even more extraordinary that SWP have chosen once again to back Jerry Hicks rather than Len McCluskey, bearing in mind that Jerry Hicks is unemployed, takes no part in any UNITE constitutional committee anywhere and represents no-one, and has no administrative experience. Would you really trust this man to run a £150M organisation like UNITE is these extraordinary times? Apparently the SWP would!

The decision to exclude the SWP from the UNITED LEFT should rightly include any other UL “supporter” who similarly is backing Jerry Hicks, whether in the SWP or not. We are an open and tolerant organisation but surely no-one can argue that following such a decisive round of consultation and discussion within UNITED LEFT where near unanimous decisions to back Len have been the norm across the country, we should remain open to those who flout this most basic requirement of left discipline? If those within our midst cannot support our candidate Len McCluskey who has proven true to the UNITED LEFT in every principle, who has excelled himself in his delivery of UNITED LEFT objectives in office, and who is widely regarded as the most impressive and most effective left General Secretary in the UK and Irish Trade Union Movement, then they really are in the wrong organisation.

Finally we wish to pay a special tribute to Frank Wood, UNITE Executive Council member for Health, who has immediately renounced his membership of the SWP following this weekend’s decision and will be backing Len. Thank you Frank for your courage and your conviction. You are welcome back into the fold and may others like you follow swiftly as well.

Martin Mayer

United Left Chair

Paul Birkett

United Left Secretary


  1. ACA The Underground said,

    Never been a fan of the SWP. They always seem too populist, even at one time seeming to support Islam despite how contradictory to Socialism it is.
    I think this is a good move.

  2. Mike said,

    I think the decision of United Left is right. But they don’t do themselves any favours with statements like this in the letter by Mayer and Birkett:

    “…bearing in mind that Jerry Hicks is unemployed, takes no part in any UNITE constitutional committee anywhere and represents no-one, and has no administrative experience. Would you really trust this man to run a £150M organisation like UNITE is these extraordinary times? Apparently the SWP would!”

    That Hicks is currently unemployed is neither here nor there. Nor should experience of running a $150m organisation be a condition for being considered a credible candidate. A candidate in a union election should be judged on their proposed strategy for the union and their record as an activist.

    That aside, I hope the SWP’s ultra-leftism deals them a fatal blow as a credible force within Unite. They deserve nothing less.

    • Jimmy Glesga said,

      The SWP or a United Left should let the real paying trade union members decide at branch meetings their concerns. The lefties if they were truthfull think the working class are stupid and need them. I never needed them during my 26 years of paying my subs.

  3. Jim Denham said,

    Here’s what I heard from an SWP’er about their decision to back Hicks:

    “We had a debate at conference about Unite. Briefly, we decided to back Jerry Hicks because he is the “Rank and File” candidate, the line was that Len McClusky hadn’t called enough strikes and that although he “talks left” he was “all bark and no bite”. The United Left was’nt worth being in, it wasn’t a “proper rank and file” grouping because the current General Secretary of Unite is in it.”

    • Andrew Coates said,

      Jim that just about sums up the SWP approach to unions, flippant doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    • Mike said,

      By that reasoning the SWP should not be in Left Unity inside PCS because the General Secretary, Mark Serwotka, is also member of Left Unity. But they are.

      The SWP really are a juvenile sect. It is depressing that a major group on the left has such a facile grasp of union strategy and politics.

  4. David Lindsay said,

    Why does the SWP matter? After all, it shouldn’t.

    Partly, it matters because of the media concentration on the SWP in their treatment of opposition to the Iraq War and thus to the wider neoconservative war agenda, an opposition which embraced and embraces 90 per cent of the British population. Such are the media’s backgrounds that the SWP was and is the only part that they could even begin to understand.

    That suited the SWP down to the ground. Meanwhile, the mainstream opposition to that war and to those wider war agenda has been as ignored as the left-wing opposition to the EU, or the work of trade unions in promoting high-employment energy independence, or the entire tradition of rural Radicalism, to cite only three of the most obvious examples.

    Bringing us to the main reason, which is the very British lack of anything to anchor the Left while engaging fully in the battle of ideas at every level of cultural life and of the education system; while refusing to consign or to confine demotic culture to “the enormous condescension of posterity”; while co-ordinating broad-based and inclusive campaigns for human rights and civil liberties, for peace (including nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological disarmament, and including against the arms trade), for environmental responsibility, and for the defence and extension of jobs, services and amenities; and while acting as a friendly critic and a critical friend of, in British terms, the Labour Party.

    At best, and just imagine what the worst must be if you do not already know, we have to make do with the SWP, “Workers” who have never so much as ironed a shirt or changed a light bulb in their lives.

    • Jimmy Glesga said,

      The left have always engaged in ideas but the voter has not endorsed.
      That is the left problem!

    • Monsuer Jelly More Bounce to the Ounce (Much More Bounce) said,

      utter lunatic on the internetts. green ink spraying cuernt

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