Letter from Scotland, by Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)
Above: Kezia Dugdale voted for Murphy’s “reforms”
“Can the Scottish Labour Party listen and learn from its defeat on 7 May?” asked Katy Clark, former Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, at last Saturday’s Campaign for Socialism (CfS) conference in Glasgow.
The 70-plus Scottish Labour members attending the event were clear about some of the things that Labour needed to do in response to that question. The same cannot be said of the Scottish Labour Executive Committee, meeting at the same time.
Speakers at the CfS conference emphasised the need for local Labour Party branches to turn outwards and campaign alongside of trade unionists and community groups, instead of just going door-knocking and asking for people’s votes.
As an appeal from one of the strikers in the Glasgow City Council homelessness caseworkers dispute highlighted, this includes campaigning against Labour-controlled local authorities which implement Westminster and Holyrood austerity dictates.
The need to expose the SNP’s record in power at Holyrood since 2007 was also emphasised: cuts in Further Education, growing inequalities in educational attainment in schools, real cuts in NHS spending, undemocratic centralisation, and not a single redistributive policy.
(Other than the council tax freeze, which serves as a tax cut for the better off.)
In fact, the SNP’s only real achievement over the past decade has been to replace class-based political affiliations and voting patterns by ones based on Scottish national identity, for which the enemy is not unaccountable wealth and power but “Westminster”.
In a conference session on trade unionism in Scotland a speaker from the Fire Brigades Union highlighted the reality of what the “left-wing” SNP and its policies mean for unions. Read the rest of this entry »
The Communist Party of Britain and its mouthpiece the Morning Star, are all over the place on the forthcoming EU referendum. Never mind their contortions over Tory plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (and – yes – I am aware that the ECHR is separate from the EU, but the Stalinists’ arguments about ‘unaccountable transnational bodies’ and the need for ‘national sovereignty’ logically should apply as much to the ECHR as to the EU).
As recently as its May 9-10 edition, the Morning Star carried this wretched piece of ‘analysis’ of the general election result, including the following criticism of Labour:
“Support for an EU referendum and a more critical attitude towards EU anti-democratic institutions and neo-liberal policies might have stopped at least some working-class voters defecting to Ukip.”
Now, have a read of this, from today’s (May 25) Morning Star:
No vote for membership for EU citizens
Labour drops opposition to in/out vote
by Our News Desk
MOST EU citizens living in Britain will be barred from voting in the referendum on whether to sever ties with Brussels, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.
The franchise for the referendum, promised by the end of 2017, will be based on that for a general election — meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in Britain will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.
Details about the planned public vote were revealed as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to hold talks with Mr Cameron at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence.
Legislation for the referendum will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday — the day after the Queen’s speech.
A Number 10 source said: “This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom. That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”
It comes after Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman announced a U-turn on the issue, saying her party would now support Mr Cameron’s planned in/out referendum on EU membership.
She said: “We have now had a general election and reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps throughout the country.
“The British people want to have a say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum Bill when it comes before the House of Commons.”
Ms Harman added that the party will “make the case for our continued membership” and does not want to see Britain “stumble inadvertently towards EU exit.”
But unions have warned against Labour kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue after Ms Harman accepted she shared some of the PM’s concerns about the need for reform, including freedom of movement.
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said Labour “must not give Cameron a blank cheque and should beware of the CBI agenda to turn the clock back on employment rights.”
He added: “Labour is sleepwalking into a two-step Europe, with UK workers having the worst rights in the EU for which a big price will later be paid by the party at elections.”
It’s difficult to know were to start in commenting upon this level of political incoherence: having urged Labour to drop its opposition to the Tories’ referendum, the Star now (fairly obviously approvingly) quotes unions warning against Labour “kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue” and the danger of “turn(ing) the clock back on employment rights.”
Didn’t you realise that attacking employment rights (along with attacking immigrants) is what the campaign for a referendum has always been all about, you Stalinist muppets?
The pitiful incoherence of the little-England Stalinists would be almost laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous to working class interests.
We need a socialist campaign to critically defend the limited working class gains that have come from EU membership, and to oppose the little-England, racist and anti-working class anti-EU campaign of both right and “left”.
NB: See also Comrade Coatesy
By Dale Street
When Jim Murphy announced last Saturday that he was standing down as Scottish Labour Party leader, he took it as an opportunity to lambast Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey for his supposedly “destructive behaviour” towards the Labour Party.
Murphy claimed that he had been “at the centre of a campaign by the London leadership of Unite the Union, (who) blame myself or the Scottish Labour Party for the defeat of the UK Labour Party in the general election.”
“Sometimes people see it as a badge of honour to have Mr. McCluskey’s support. I see it as a kiss of death to be supported by that type of politics. … We cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.”
“The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”
Len McCluskey has twice been elected Unite’s General Secretary, in 2010 and again in 2013.
If McCluskey really is guilty of “destructive behaviour” and his politics the “kiss of death”, then the Unite members who have twice elected him their General Secretary must be either: really thick not to have seen through him; or willing accomplices of his destructive behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »
This footage below was sent to me by one of the teachers taking part in the widespread strike by the Iranian teachers. They are demanding better pay and conditions.
“Most of the martyrs in the war were from our ranks, the teachers and pupils, so we have paid our fair share for this revolution, but sadly we have received the least just rewards for our sacrifices, during these days of strike, I read things that saddened me, I want to address the Friday Prayer leaders who in their sermons speak against us teachers, they say “when a teacher talks about money, it means knowledge has been abandoned in exchange for wealth”! I ask these clerics who have put on the prophet’s robes, who wear the messenger of Allah’s turban on their heads, why is it that when wealth comes your way, it doesn’t mean your religion has been abandoned for wealth? Why is it that most of the factories are owned by your lot? [crowds applause] Is religion just for me, a teacher? I am proud that I am a teacher, we are the faithful servants of real Islam, for us the first teacher is God and then his messengers, yet they say if there is talk of free lunch somewhere, the teachers will run to there, this is sad, Yes, I, a teacher am hungry, because there are many greedy stomachs in our country, [crowds applause] Yes, I a teacher have no money, because all the cash has been plundered by the children of the officials running the country, [crowds applause] My pockets are empty, because the sons and daughters of this country have such grand villas in Canada and European countries, [crowds applause] ..”
Andrew Murray: Popular Frontist
” … the [Labour] party’s leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace” – Counterfire
It hasn’t been widely publicised, but for the last couple of years Unite leader Len McCluskey has been saying that in the event of Labour losing the general election, Unite would seriously consider disaffiliating from the party.
Many of us considered this a bizarre position to take: surely the aftermath of a Labour defeat, and the ensuing ideological struggle between the Blairite right and various more left-wing currents, is precisely the time when affiliated unions should be exerting their influence?
McCluskey’s strange position seems to have been a concession to anti-Labour forces within the union, which include the Socialist Party (and their pathetic TUSC electoral front), various free-lance syndicalists within the United Left, a significant number of Scottish members (antagonised by Miliband’s handling of the Falkirk row, and now pro-SNP), and -perhaps most importantly – his ‘Chief of Staff’ Andrew Murray, to whom he has in effect sub-contracted the running of politics within the union. Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain who is on record supporting North Korea, has a record of deciding the union’s political “line” without reference to the union’s executive, in accordance with his own Stalinist predilections.
Murray is part of the current within the CPB that favoured closer links with Galloway and Respect and, through his prominent involvement in the Stop The War Coalition also has a close relationship with John Rees, Lindsey German and their small ex-Trotskyist organisation Counterfire.
This influence over the union’s leadership accounts for the enormous resources Unite has poured into Counterfire’s initiative The People’s Assembly, the union’s declared (but undebated) support for Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, and also for McCluskey’s unwillingness to call for a Labour vote in Scotland.
Counterfire and its Stalinist friends have two prominent supporters in the mainstream press, Seumas Milne (in the Guardian) and Owen Jones (in the Independent and New Statesman), both of whom, immediately prior to the election, were promoting the idea of a popular frontist anti-Tory coalition, and the idea that a Tory minority government would be, in effect, a ‘coup’ against the anti-Tory parliamentary majority. There was even a ‘Counterfire’-inspired proposal for a demonstration against the ‘coup’, although this didn’t take place under its planned slogans, due to the reality of the Tory absolute majority.
Counterfire is a small and politically insignificant outfit, but via Murray, it wields influence within Unite (despite the fact that it has only one known member within the union!) Therefore when articles like this and this appear on the Counterfire website, Unite activists who understand the vital political importance of maintaining the Labour link, should prepare for battle against the defeatists, class collaborationists and syndicalists who’ll be arguing for a break with Labour and the creation of a lash-up with the SNP, the Greens and even (according to the schema put forward by Murray’s pal Seumas Milne) sections of the Lib Dems! They may present it as “an English Syriza” reacting to the “Pasokification” of Labour (“English” because the SNP’s autonomy in Scotland must be respected), but in reality it would be a new variation on an old, class-collaborationist theme: the Popular Front.
Above: workers protesting in front of the Iranian Parliament, January 2015
Statement co-ordinated by Codir (Committee for the Defence of Iranian People’s Rights)
On May Day 2015, we, the representatives of trade unions around the world, raise our voice again in solidarity with the struggle of Iranian workers and trade unionists for fundamental rights and better pay and working conditions. In pursuit of our call on 1 August 2013 on the eve of the inauguration of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, we once again call on him to fulfil the promises he made during his 2013 election campaign to act on the legitimate demands of Iranian workers for a decent living wage and the right to form, join and belong to a trade union of their choice.
We remind the Iranian president that two years after his election on a platform of undertakings to respond to the demands of Iranian people, unemployment is still high and increasing, inflation is sky high, prices of basic and essential goods are out of the reach of workers, wages are not paid on time and destitution has reached catastrophic levels. Conventions on health and safety are openly flouted. Since last July, large groups of workers – including miners, auto workers, teachers, nurses and others, in all provinces – have taken to the streets and demonstrated outside the Iranian Parliament to demand their legitimate rights. These rights are set out in international conventions such as ILO Conventions 87 and 98. It is only by the President and his government responding to these legitimate demands that working people in Iran and their trade union brothers and sisters across the world can be confident that they can rely on his words.
Over the years we have continuously received verified reports of workers and trade unionists being arrested, imprisoned, fired and deprived of their livelihood. Currently, a number of trade union activists are serving prison sentences for the sole ‘offence’ of being trade unionists and campaigning for workers’ rights, decent wages and improved working conditions. We hold that no workers should be detained in prison for demanding their internationally accepted rights.
The trades unions supporting this May Day Call to Action are united in calling upon the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to:
- Release immediately all trade unionists imprisoned for their trade union activities, including Ali-Reza Hashemi (General Secretary, Teachers’ Association), Rassoul Bodaghi (Teachers’ Association), Mahmood Bagheri (Teachers’ Association), Mohammad Davari (Teachers’ Association), Abdulreza Ghanabri (Teachers’ Association), Shahrokh Zamani (Painters’ and Decorators’ Union), Behnam Ebrahimdzadeh (Painters’ and Decorators’ Union), Mohammad Jarrahi (Painters’ and Decorators’ Union), Mahmoud Salehi (Kurdish trade unionist), Ebrahim Madadi ( the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company- Sherkat-e Vahed) and Davoud Razavi ( the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company- Sherkat-e Vahed);
- Halt the sacking of trade unionists and workers’ activists on the basis of their trade union activities and reinstate those who have lost their jobs for campaigning for workers’ rights;
- Remove all obstacles preventing Iranian workers from forming independent trade unions and joining trade unions in accordance with ILO Conventions 87 (freedom of association) and 98 (collective bargaining); and
- Lift the ban on the right of workers to commemorate and celebrate May Day, organise May Day events and mark 1 May as a national holiday.
IndustriALL Global Union,
ICTUR (International Centre for Trade Union Rights),
Amnesty UK Trade Union Network,
PEO (Pancyprian Federation of Labour),
Petrol-Is (Petroleum, Chemical and Rubber Workers’ Union, Turkey),
Tekgida-Is (Union of Tobacco, Beverage, Food and Related Industry Workers of Turkey),
TUMTIS (All Transport Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Deriteks (Leather, Weaving and Textile Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Tezkoop-Is (Union of Commerce Education Office and Fine Arts Workers of Turkey), Belediye-Is (Municipal and General Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Kristal-Is (Cement, Glass & Soil Industries Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Basin-Is (Printing Publishing Packaging and Graphical Workers’ Union of Turkey),
TGS (Journalists Union of Turkey),
CODIR (Committee for the Defence of Iranian People’s Rights).
This review should appear in the next issue of the AWL’s paper Solidarity, as (I understand) part of a feature on blacklisting:
By Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain (pub: New Internationalist)
Trades unionists have known for decades that employers operated blacklists, whereby records were kept on militants and activists (and, indeed, not particularly militant or active trade unionists) in order to exclude them from employment. The practice was especially rife in the construction industry, where simply raising a concern over health and safety could be enough to ensure that you never found work. Countless working class lives were destroyed by the blacklist.
For many years a central blacklist was managed, operated and sold to major employers by an outfit called the Economic League, which in the 1970s employed around 160 staff and was receiving over £400,000 a year in subscriptions and donations. When media exposure (notably the campaigning journalism of Paul Foot in the Mirror) lead to the collapse of the League in 1993, its work was taken over by an organisation called the Services Group (formed by the big construction companies as it became apparent to them that the League might not survive), and then The Consulting Association (TCA), which obtained the Economic League’s database, and expanded and updated it, with files on thousands of workers, including National Insurance numbers, vehicle registrations, press cuttings and comments from managers.
Again, it was construction companies who were the main (but not only) subscribers, using the organisation as a covert vetting operation to monitor job applicants. All the biggest names in construction – Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Keir, Costain and McAlpine – made use of TCA information to exclude job applicants and to sack workers already on site.
TCA was eventually exposed and brought down in 2009 following a raid on their premises by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the body that enforces the Data Protection Act. Blacklisting was not, then, in itself illegal, but breaches of the Data Protection Act were. TCA’s database was confiscated and found to contain the details of 3,213 construction workers.
As a result of the raid, the subsequent publicity and dogged lobbying by the construction union, UCATT (and to a lesser degree, Unite), the Labour government finally introduced legislation (the Blacklists Regulations 2010 – an amendment to the Employment Relations Act 1999) making it unlawful for an employer or employment agency to refuse employment, to dismiss, or to cause detriment to a worker for a reason related to a blacklist and provides for a minimum £5,000 compensation award at a tribunal. But this was , at best, a very small step forward and contained at least one major loophole: as it is civil, not criminal, legislation, it can only be enforced by an individual to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal; and (as the Blacklisting Support Group pointed out when the legislation was under consultation), blacklisted workers can only bring claims against the companies that refused to employ them, which will often be small sub-contractors, and not the big companies actually doing the blacklisting.
This scandal is described in meticulous detail in the new book ‘Blacklisted – The secret war between big business and union activists’ by Blacklisting Support Group (BSG) founding member Dave Smith and investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain.
Perhaps the most fascinating revelations in the book are interviews with HR managers and bosses involved in blacklisting, several of whom claim that they obtained information from officials of UCATT and the EEPTU. It should be emphasised that both UCATT and Unite (the union that now includes what used to be the EEPTU) have cleaned up their acts and now both take a firm stand against blacklisting. However, the book describes a meeting of the Blacklist Support Group in February 2013, at which a BSG speaker, Steve Acheson, was barracked by senior members of UCATT, who accused him of making allegations of union collusion without evidence and demanded he “name names”: in response, Acheson held up a handwritten note from former TCA manager Ian Kerr and said: “If you want me to name names, I will: the name that appears on this note is George Guy” (Guy is a former senior official and acting General Secretary of UCATT: the book notes that he “vigorously denies” the allegation).
This superbly-researched and very readable book was launched in March at a meeting in Parliament at which John McDonnell MP read out a statement from Peter Francis, a former undercover cop who spent four years as part of the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad. Francis’s statement said he infiltrated Unison, the FBU, CWU, NUT and NUS. He had previously infiltrated anti-racist organisations and the Militant Tendency. The Economic League and The Consulting Association may be gone, but blacklisting, spying and dirty tricks against trade unionists and other activists continues – often, it would seem, by the forces of the state.
Left Futures reports:
Dave Ward who has been the deputy general secretary (postal) of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) since 2003 was this afternoon (April 16th) declared elected as general secretary to replace Billy Hayes who has held the post since 2001 and was standing for a fourth term. CWU is the biggest trade union in the communications sector with 200,000 members working in companies including BT, Capita, EE, O2, Parcelforce, the Post Office, Royal Mail, Santander and UK Mail. Dave Ward takes over the role of general secretary from 1 June.
It is not yet clear what practical difference this will make to the union or its politics. Dave Ward is also widely regarded as being on the left, and as a member of the Labour Party he has previously served on its national executive. Whilst Billy Hayes has been a critical friend of Labour, Dave Ward who promises “no more something for nothing, blind loyalty to Labour” may be rather more distant. He does, however, promise to “make Labour and politics work for us” and recognises that “the general election will be very close and we need to fight against austerity and the divisive ideas of UKIP for a Labour victory.” His stance may become clearer in 10 days time when the CWU conference will discuss several motions which seek to break the link with Labour and, in some cases, consider backing other parties including the Grens, Plaid Cymru, SNP and TUSC.
Billy Hayes has been a very prominent figure in the trade union movement, the Labour Party and the wider Left for many years, and has also been a contributor to Left Futures and an active supporter for 35 years of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy at whose AGM he was the keynote speaker earlier this year. More recently, he was an opponent of the changes to the Labour-Union link which were agreed last year in the Collins report.
A CWU member told Shiraz:
“Billy lost for many reasons. One of them is that he is more ‘left wing’ and political than most CWU activists.
“Dave is no better industrially than Billy and in fact is more accommodating in his dealings with Royal Mail. He is not really that militant I don’t think – its just industrial relations in the postal sector are red in tooth and claw so you have to be prepared to take action in a way that would be resolved in other sectors.
“Dave is very limited in his wider union approach for example to organising the whole communications sector, to equality issues etc. The real difference between them is that Billy (though flawed – and I could give you chapter and verse on those flaws!) at least has a broad political approach to his trade unionism.
“The fact that Dave is sceptical about the LP-TU link, something he really played up in this election, and previously, is not of course evidence of him being more left wing or having a political view at all. Its just narrow minded ‘sub syndicalist’ trade unionism I would say.It is my opinion that if Dave had been the GS when Mandelson tried to part privatise Royal Mail we would have a had an unprincipled deal rather than the fightback that Billy led on the political front.
“Dave’s election is a step back for the CWU.”
I have sometimes been asked why Shiraz Socialist pays any attention whatsoever to the small-circulation British daily paper the Morning Star. The answer is because, despite its very limited circulation, it is influential within the UK left and trade union movement and – indeed – since the demise of the USSR (which used to fund it) is kept in business by the largess of major unions, including Unite and the RMT. Unfortunately, quite a lot of honest but gullible left-wingers and trade unionists take what the Star says as good coin.
Its coverage of the fighting in Ukraine has been a dishonest pro-Putin disgrace, branding the pro-Russian forces as “anti-Fascists” and the Kiev government as “pro-Fascist”. But it’s when it comes to the European Union that the Star really plumbs the depths of reactionary little-England nationalism, thinly disguised support for increased immigration controls and sheer all-round incoherence.
The editorial that appeared in Thursday’s print edition (Wednesday in the on-line edition) is truly bizarre. Starting out by playing to the gallery with an attack on Tony Blair, the editorial culminates in a truly extraordinary series of blatant falsehoods, conspiracy theories, non-sequiturs and self-defeating “arguments” on the subject of the EU. It is utter bollocks, even by the wretched standards of the Star’s usual commentary on Europe; so bad, in fact, that I feel the final section warrants being held up for ridicule here at Shiraz:
‘By adopting the “no referendum on EU membership” position, Miliband has put the ball in his own net.
Cameron is no less committed to EU membership than Blair and Miliband. How could he not be when this is the confirmed position of big business, especially the City of London, and it is these vested interests that the Tory leader represents?
Cameron’s plan to mobilise anti-EU feeling by offering the phantom of negotiations to “reform” the EU followed by a referendum is a swindle.
Any reforms achieved would be illusory or would underpin already weak workplace rights prior to the Tories uniting to back a Yes vote to remaining in the EU.
The Tories and their corporate backers are relaxed about their referendum pledge, looking back to the previous vote in 1975 when a concerted campaign of misinformation funded by big business and backed by the mass media swung the decision in favour of staying in.
By presenting itself as the party of EU integration, Labour is needlessly antagonising the anti-EU majority and handing votes to the Tories and their Ukip allies.’