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
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.
United Left Chair
United Left Secretary