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McDonnell’s “traditional British Compromise” over Brexit.

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Should These People Dictate Labour Policy?

John McDonnell has backed a Labour colleague who warned that a second Brexit referendum could lead to social unrest.

The shadow chancellor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he agreed with Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, that anything seen as an attempt to undo the result of the EU referendum could embolden the far right.

But despite those reservations, McDonnell insisted that the Labour party was not ruling out a second referendum and that another vote remained an option if parliament was deadlocked in the autumn.

Guardian 24th of August.

Last Night:

Lindsey German of the groupuscule Counterfire and the Stop the War Coalition (one of whose allies is a McDonnell adviser) gave advice to Labour in this vein on Monday.

The stakes are very high in the Brexit argument. If the Labour right and the centre get their way, there could be a second referendum or an aborting of the referendum vote. That would immediately fuel the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson, Gerald Batten and Nigel Farage being some of the unpleasant political figures who would benefit from such a move. That might lead to fissures within the Tories, and with a further recomposition of the political centre pulling in remain Tories, Lib Dems and social democrats, and the right flank of Labour, into a new party.

These are exactly the mirror of pressures on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, where there is growing clamour among large sections of the party for a second referendum. This is now being taken up by trade unions, including the GMB and the TUC itself. This week’s TUC congress will see further moves in that direction, motivated largely by people who are hostile to Corbyn.

The pressure is therefore increasing on Corbyn to abandon his people’s Brexit campaign. Far from helping him win the next election, this would be a suicidal move which would lose votes for Labour, most obviously to right wing formations. It would also strengthen his enemies in the party who have been on a relentless attack against him throughout his three years of leadership.

Counterfire.

It would be interesting to hear more about this “People’s Brexit’ campaign, its rallies, its leaflets, its marches, the workers who’ve occupied the factories to “take back control”…..

It is all very well to set out a list of demands for the best possible Brexit, beginning with “No deregulatory bonfire”, and ending with this, directed at the major partner most Brexiteers are wooing, “We reject a foreign policy based either on a special relationship with Donald Trump’s US…”

It is all fine and good to talk of a Universal Basic Income and backing for worker co-ops….

How can these plans, and overall ambitions for “capital regulation”  deal with the boss of Jaguar, Ralf Speth’s warning that, “friction at the border could jeopardise production to the value of £60m a day. He also warned that traffic jams on the approach to Dover meant that “bluntly, we will not be able to build cars”.” (Guardian)

Socialist Worker rails in the same vein as Counterfire  against the TUC backing for the option of a People’s Vote this week,

Trade unions join call for ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit. Tomáš Tengely-Evans

A second referendum would be a gift to the far right, which will claim betrayal.

The TUC General Council statement was deliberately broad enough to be all things to all union leaders who are split over Brexit.

The various sops in it guaranteed O’Grady could push through her support for the EU’s neoliberal single market and the People’s Vote.

Only the RMT rail workers’ union—and two rebel Unite delegates—voted against the statement.

The composite motion on Brexit kept support for the EU single market and the option of a People’s Vote.

But it had more emphasis of forcing an early general election in order to win over the leaders of unions with members who voted Leave.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the People’s Vote option “must be left on the table”.

But he said the “vote we will need above all is a general election that can deliver a Labour government”.

The issue is not just one for the sidelines, from where Germain and the SWP are comfortable shouting from.

It is of concern that anybody “compromise” agreement looks entirely one-sided: giving in to Brexit.

The worst possible way to try and shut down debate is to brandish the scarecrow of the far-right, populism, and UKIP> 

There is still time to call for a pause in the negotiations over British withdrawal.  

There is a need to have a vote on the issue of Brexit.

Could demanding a General Election, a gift not in Labour’s hands, be an answer out of these difficulties?

No: the issue of the EU will not go away.

 

 

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Morning Star Warns Against Trade Union Influence and Support for a People’s Vote on Labour Brexit Policy.

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Blairites and Tories in backing a “people’s vote.”

UNIONS could undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda for change if they back a referendum on the EU exit deal, Mick Cash warned today.

TUC 2018 Backing ‘the people’s vote’ could undermine the Corbyn project

RMT’s Mick Cash issues warning against joining the Blairite’s call.

The piece notes (see above) that “delegates at TUC Congress voted to ratify a general council statement saying the option of a “final say” referendum should not be “ruled out.” and the general union GMB has publicly backed a vote on the Brexit deal, but other unions would prefer to push for an early general election.”

Mr Cash warns, in the light of this decision, against the TUC and trade unions having an influence on Labour Party policy on Brexit.

“The RMT leader said the labour movement should refuse to “line up” with Blairites and Tories in backing a “people’s vote.””

Mr Cash, whose union represents transport staff, seafarers and oil workers, said: “We need to understand those in the Westminster bubble are calling for a people’s vote for the sole reason of a second referendum on the EU. They are your Chuka Umunnas, your Chris Leslies, your Peter Mandelsons your Tony Blairs, the Lib Dems.”

In other words the Left Against Brexit, part of the campaign for a People’s Vote, and the much broader section of the Labour party in the over 200 Consistencies which have backed motions supporting Labour for a People’s Vote, are all in the ‘Westminster bubble”.

Worse it seems we are acting to thwart Jeremy Corbyn.

He said these politicians “want us in the EU so that the EU can stop Jeremy Corbyn’s plans for nationalisation and for state aid and for workers’ rights.”

He stormed: “We, the trade union movement, will be lining up with people who are seeking to force the hand of Jeremy Corbyn and with people who want to attack the socialist leadership of the Labour Party and who want to attack socialist policies.”

The RMT is not affiliated to Labour.

In the 2009 European Elections they aligned with fringe groups (such as the Communist Party of Britain and the Socialist Party) to stand against Labour as No2EU – Yes to Democracy

The won a handsome 153,26 votes nationally  – below 1%.

In 2014 they got 31,757 – 0,2%.

The Morning Star then cites the opinion of another union leader.

Citing something they call the “consensus position” they refer to Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.

(he) told the hall: “I understand the argument for a so-called ‘people’s vote’ on the deal — not on leaving the EU. That people’s vote has already happened.”

Can the People can only vote once?

No: because,  McClusky adds,

He said the referendum option “must be left on the table,” arguing: “Let’s focus on the prize — sweeping this government away in a general election and giving a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn the chance to repair two wasted years of Tory wrangling.”

The article tries to marshal another recruit to their fading cause:

“…public sector union PCS leader Mark Serwotka argued: “We are not with Chuka Umunna, but neither are we with Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“We are an independent working-class movement.”

As the PCS is also not affiliated to the Labour Party it is by definition independent of the debate at the Labour conference.

Addressing Congress earlier in the day, TUC leader Frances O’Grady described EU laws as “the rock that national laws and union agreements build on.”

She said the TUC would “throw its full weight behind a campaign” for a “popular vote” if the government “come back with a deal that doesn’t put workers’ first.”

Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward said he wanted “a people’s government” rather than a “people’s vote,” warning: “We have got absolutely no reason to support a second referendum that re-runs the debate that divides our country at the moment.”

Royal College of Midwives policy director Jon Skewes suggested an election was unlikely, arguing: “They will change the guard rather than do that.”

At a fringe meeting, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union official Sarah Woolley said: “We need to embrace that the UK is leaving the EU. A decision was made and we need to be proactive and make sure that our members are protected.

“The only thing that is certain is that next April we won’t be a member of the EU.”

She said unions should threaten PM Theresa May with a general strike “if you are not going to do the deal we want.”

No doubt a helpful suggestion.

We shall contact Seamus Milne again offering the services of the Ipswich workers’ militia to help ensure workers’ defence,  but what of the People’s Vote?

Mick Whelan, who leads train drivers’ union Aslef, told the same meeting that the EU Fourth Rail Package could enforce British-style privatisation across Europe.

“We don’t apologise for being protectionist about where we want to be for our railway,” he said.

Was the nationalisation of the East Coast line stopped by EU rules?

And what business is it for Brexit protectionists what policy the EU adopts?

And economist Costas Lapavitsas, a former Syriza member of the Greek legislature, said: “There’s a considerable ignorance in this country about what the European Union is.

“[The] Maastrict [treaty] basically created a union which is a neoliberal machine.

“We need an internationalist position on this … but internationalism of labour is not the same as internationalism of capital.”

An “internationalist” position is precisely the Left Against Brexit’s position.

What is the opinion of union members?

Perhaps the Morning Star could have asked McDonnell to explain why he wants a debate that answers the concerns of this section of the ‘Westminster Bubble’?

Here is the ‘Blairite’ Labour for a People’s Vote motion,

Oppose Tory Brexit and win a radical Labour government

This CLP supports the earliest possible election of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn. The current government is putting Tory Party dogma first, not jobs first – and they have no mandate for their agenda.

We note and support Labour’s six tests for Brexit, which aims to ensure that the post-Brexit settlement preserves the benefits we currently get from collaboration with Europe, defends our rights and protections, and delivers for all parts of the UK. It is increasingly clear that the Tories’ Brexit deal will fail these tests.

We believe that only Labour can lead the British people into a progressive and economically sound relationship with Europe.The Brexit deal being pursued by Theresa May is a threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland, and the future of the NHS and public services. Tory Brexit will wreck the British economy, will commit us to a series of long-term trade deals which will enforce American-style deregulation, and will undermine the rights, freedoms and protections currently enshrined in EU law. All of this will bind the hands of a future Labour government, and will make it far harder for us to deliver on our promises.

We therefore urge Labour to oppose the Tories’ destructive Brexit and unite the country behind a radical vision for the future. In government, Labour could rally left-wing parties across the continent, and create a Europe for the many, not the few.

The social problems that caused the Brexit vote – inequality, declining public services, falling pay, a lack of quality affordable housing, and so on – will be made worse, not better, by Tory Brexit and the continued austerity that would result. The problem is the policies of the political establishment, not immigrants, and the solution is a radical social and economic programme.

We must make the election of a radical Labour government our first priority.

We note that given the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the most likely route to a general election before 2022 is the collapse of the government’s Brexit agenda. This motion supports all available avenues to bring down the government: voting down the EU exit deal in Parliament, calling for a snap election, and a popular vote on the deal.

We note and support the 2016 Conference commitment to a public vote on the Exit Deal so the people have the final decision on whether to accept the government’s deal or to stay in the EU.

We call on the Labour Party to:

1. Oppose any Brexit deal that does not satisfy Labour’s 6 tests.

2. Call for an immediate general election, and make a manifesto commitment to call a public vote on the Brexit deal with an option to remain in the EU if the public rejects it.

3. If we cannot get a general election, to campaign for a public vote on the deal with an option to remain in the EU; and following a defeat for the government, to call for an immediate general election.

4. To place radical social and economic policies at the heart of our programme of government – taxing the rich and big business to pay for better public services, rapidly expanding common ownership, abolishing anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment.

Delegates from this CLP to Labour Party conference should vote in line with this policy.

It is far better to back the Labour for a People’s Vote motion than the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy one, which many believe is more subtle attempt to ward off commitment to opposing Brexit.

Brexit: living standards and jobs must remain Labour’s priority

Conference notes:

1) that following the UK/EU talks on 16/17 August the government still has no agreement on departure terms from the EU, despite the departure being scheduled for March 2019.

2) on 23 August the government started publishing some ‘technical notices’, advising people what to do in the event a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit.

3) the 6 August publication of ORB’s poll, indicating disapproval of the government’s handling of the Brexit negotiations has reached an all-time high of 76%.

Conference deplores the Prime Minister for prioritising negotiations within the Cabinet over those with the EU and her ministers for talking up the possibility of a ‘No-Deal’.

Conference notes any agreement the government negotiates is unlikely to protect the economy and people’s rights.

Conference continues to support Labour’s six tests, the commitment to a customs union and seeking full access to EU markets.

Conference calls on the Shadow Cabinet to continue with its policy of securing living standards and jobs, which requires free trade between Britain and the EU.

Conference agrees that Labour should vote against any agreement the government reaches with the EU which does not secure this objective, and how Labour achieves its objective should be decided in light of the situation at the time of the conclusion of any agreement negotiated between the government and the EU. At this stage in the UK/EU negotiations Labour should not exclude in advance any means or tactics to prevent a Brexit outcome which hurts jobs or living standards.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Burston Rally 2018: a Report.

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Ipswich Trades Council’s New Banner on the Burston March.

The annual Burston Rally (“to commemorate the longest strike in history and to celebrate the people who continue to fight for Trade Union rights, working class education, democracy in the countryside and international solidarity” on Sunday was well attended (See: Eastern Daily Press. Burston Strike School Rally in Norfolk.)

Eastern Daily Press.

Arriving on the full Ipswich/South East Suffolk Coach the Village Green was already full of stalls.

There were all the main trade unions and linked organisations – Norwich Trades Council had an impressive display – a long list of Norfolk and Suffolk Labour parties (although many IPswich Labour councillors were apparently filling out the sparse ranks of a local Temperance event in Alexandra Park), and campaigns (Amnesty, Palestinian Solidarity, Norfolk anti-fracking group) and fringe groups, such as the Communist Party of Britain,  the SWP the Socialist Party and the Jewish Voice for Labour.

In the morning we were entertained by bands and by the comedian Kate Smurthwaite.

Trade Unionists, such as Sean McGovern (UNITE) angrily attacked the anti-Labour media campaign, and concentrated on the injustices faced by the disabled, and the hard time imposed on workers and consumers by those in charge of the privatised public services.

There was comradely atmosphere, only occasionally spoilt by SWP activists attempting to gather support for their ‘Defend Jeremy Corbyn’ petition, and to raise backing for their autumn anti-racism demonstration.

It was noted that a Momentum group, calling itself  Norfolk Momentum, displayed material in support of a policy backed by other break-away bodies, such as Camden Momentum, against Labour’s National Executive taking a position on the 4 September, to oppose the adoption of the  International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Anti-Semitism (IHRA definition) of antisemitism.

I bought the highly recommended  The Village in Revolt: The Story of the Longest Strike in History.  Shaun Jeffery.

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I also got  the – very far from esteemed  – Britain in the World Front, Palme Dutt, (1942) from the CPB bookstall.

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The march, around the village in the tracks as the original school strikers’ first protest, was enlivened by trade union bands.

In the heat of the early autumn sunshine we returned to hear the afternoon addresses to the crowd.

Mick Cash (RMT) followed earlier speakers was rightly angry at the way the media had run down Jeremy Corbyn, stirred up division in the Labour Party, and diverted attention from the disaster of privatised companies. Concentrating on the policies of his rail union he called for nationalisation and a the creation of a genuine public transport service.

It was unfortunate that a divisive speaker from Jewish Voice for Labour (recently founded – 2017)  was called.

He outlined his group’s position on the Israel Palestine conflict.

While people are dying in next-door Syria, amid mass murder and torture, and millions have been made refugees this appeared as if it were the sole issue in the Middle East.

Denouncing Israel, whose policies he compared to apartheid, he advocated opposition to  the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

There were other contributions, more in line with labour movement traditions of unity.

The best speaker of the day was, without a doubt, John McDonnell.

Beginning with references to the Middle East (though not Syria) he called for justice in the region.

But the heart of his talk was – and the words are weighed – a brilliant outline of Labour’s plans to bring serious change in the economy and public services, from education to local government.

McDonnell pitched his plans as an effort to transfer wealth and power to ordinary people. His plans for nationalisation, of the utilities and transport, did not include a return to old style Morrison-style administration, but democratic bodies under Parliamentary, consumer, worker and community control. Tackling ‘Magic Money tree’ – that is the money pumped out to tax shelters on the Paradise Islands – would provide some of the basis for the funds the project would need.

Finishing, the Labour Chancellor raised the issue of a People’s Vote on Brexit. After cries from the audience in support of the campaign against Brexit (there were campaigners for the Left Against Brexit present all day), McDonnell defended the Labour Line of attempting to defend the best possible deal that could be got at present. He added, that while the best People’s Vote would be a ballot  to remove Theresa May, he did not rule out a future referendum on EU membership.

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John McDonnell hears the Tendance Line.

To  the chagrin of those trying to divide the labour movement this has just been published,

John McDonnell says he expects Labour’s ruling NEC will adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism

The shadow chancellor said he hopes the Party can move on from the bitter row which has dominated the news over the past few months

John McDonnell says he expects Labour’s ruling NEC to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism after a crunch meeting.

The shadow chancellor said he hopes the Party can move on from the bitter row which has dominated the news over the past few months.

He told BBC Radio Kent: “I think what will happen, I’m hoping what will happen is exactly what people are saying is an acceptance of the IHRA definition and examples, that’s what people are pressing for.

“But also to ensure, exactly what Rabbi Sacks said yesterday, that there’s freedom of speech so people are free to criticise Israel and its policies free to advocate the rights of the Palestinians but at the same time make sure it’s done in language that’s acceptable.

 

Socialist Party (former ‘Militant’) Makes Public Dispute Between Leading Members in the PCS Union.

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SP Makes Public PCS Row.

This Blog has little time for the politics of the Socialist Party.

They are centred on the lingering influence of a certain strain of Trotskyism, one based on assembling ‘leadership’, through a variety of bureaucratic ‘fronts’.

These include  the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and by its preponderant influence in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) which stands candidates in Parliamentary and local elections – or stood candidates, and, perhaps will again….

A few years ago Andrew Murray, then in the Communist Party of Britain, now in Labour, described very accurately this strategy as

…trying to create a shadow labour movement around itself, with its own electoral front, its own shop stewards’ network etc.

Left Unity or Class Unity? Working-Class Politics in Britain. Andrew Murray. Socialist Register. 2014.

More recently the SP has become Jeremy Corbyn’s best friend even, by attempting to create a New Workers’ Party through TUSC,  to have helped him gain the Labour leadership through standing candidates against his Party. It has also – though few will have heard of this – campaigns to be a Labour Party ‘affiliate’.

They regularly offer Corbyn friendly advice:

Corbyn must end false unity with Labour’s right. Tories and Blairites must go. General election now!

(The Socialist 4th August 2018)

The Socialist Party is also noted for its unrelenting backing for a “Socialist Brexit” as part of its strategy to build a socialist Britain, a wish-list of nationalisations, and legislation through a truly sovereign Parliament, under Socialist (that is, their) leadership.

One aspect is particularly controversial on the left.

The socialist and trade union movement from its earliest days has never supported the ‘free movement of goods, services and capital’ – or labour – as a point of principle but instead has always striven for the greatest possible degree of workers’ control, the highest form of which, of course, would be a democratic socialist society with a planned economy.

It is why, for example, the unions have historically fought for the closed shop, whereby only union members can be employed in a particular workplace, a very concrete form of ‘border control’ not supported by the capitalists.

September 2016.

The group has, with other forces hostile to the EU, promoted resolutions in the labour movement calling for some kind of ‘Socialist Brexit’ – though how this can come about in the absence of ‘socialism’ is not clear.

Faced with the reality and costs of Brexit (above all a ‘No Deal’ Exit) few people now believe in the prospects for a “Socialist Brexit” any more than they do in a “People’s Brexit’.

Even fewer pay much attention to the idea of putting immigration and borders under ‘workers’ control’ or in terms of the ‘closed shop’ these days.

But….

The SP has members in a number of trade union positions as their upbeat report on the 2018 UNITE conference indicates,

The executive committee statement on the European Union was passed and rightly defeated motions explicitly calling for a second referendum. This superseded a motion moved by Socialist Party member Kevin Parslow from LE/1228 branch which called for a socialist Brexit in the interests of workers.

Socialist Party members have big impact as Unite conference kicks off

The Socialist 4th July 2018.

While claims about their great influence in UNITE can be taken as a case of the mythomania many see as a trait of some types of Trotskyism  there is little doubt that the Taafites (as they are known, after their decades long leading Cadre)  are important in the largest civil service union, the PCS.

There is much to say on this but one thing should not be doubted: they are serious people who, by the majority of accounts, have played a largely positive role in keeping this union going.

Attentive readers will have noted that the first sentence of this post says the “politics” of the SP,  not the People.

Now there is a really deep dispute between the SP and “a small number of Socialist Party members” over the election for Assistant General Secretary.

Over the last week a number of posts have circulated on Facebook about this.

In fact the Scottish wing of the Socialist Party issued this statement in May:

Threat to unity of PCS left – Support Chris Baugh’s re-election as AGS

Given that the players in this row centre around  Mark Serwotka, one of the best known figures in the labour movement, this disagreement, which appears to herald a split in the SP, is of wider importance.

Now according to sources a new group, Socialist View, has been formed – a breakaway from the SP.

Socialist View’ (SV) has been launched by those in PCS who are supporting the candidature of Janice Godrich for assistant general secretary against Socialist Party member Chris Baugh who is the incumbent and has been in office since 2004. We believe that this is a further divisive step in splitting the left in PCS, following the announcement of Janice’s candidature at PCS conference in May, which for many delegates overshadowed the launch of the strike ballot on pay.

 

PCS: the real issues at stake

The dispute within the left of Britain’s largest civil service union raises key issues for the whole labour movement. Above all, the need for democratic, lay-member control of fighting trade unions. HANNAH SELL and ROB WILLIAMS explain the background to the current situation in the September issue of Socialism Today.

For a decade and a half the leadership of the civil servants’ union, PCS, has been dominated by the left. Both the senior elected officers and the majority of the NEC are members of Left Unity (LU), the broad left organisation in which the Socialist Party plays a leading role. But at this year’s PCS conference, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, launched a campaign to support Janice Godrich, currently union president, for the position of assistant general secretary (AGS), in opposition to the incumbent, Socialist Party member Chris Baugh, who has held the position since 2004.

Of course, within a democratic left any individual, including those in key positions, has every right to stand for any position. Nonetheless, PCS activists were rightly concerned by this development. This was partly because such a divisive campaign was irresponsibly launched at the same time as the start of a major battle to try and win a ballot for national industrial action over pay. And because they understood that it could lead to a serious rupture on the left, which might weaken the union’s fighting capacity.

Of course, within a democratic left any individual, including those in key positions, has every right to stand for any position. Nonetheless, PCS activists were rightly concerned by this development. This was partly because such a divisive campaign was irresponsibly launched at the same time as the start of a major battle to try and win a ballot for national industrial action over pay. And because they understood that it could lead to a serious rupture on the left, which might weaken the union’s fighting capacity.

Mark Serwotka had previously approached the Socialist Party, giving us an ultimatum that, if we selected Chris Baugh as the Socialist Party’s nominee for the LU candidate for AGS, he would put forward another candidate, and that his preference was Janice Godrich, a fellow Socialist Party member.

It has since become apparent that Janice had already agreed to this proposal and was determined to press ahead, regardless of the outcome of discussions in our party. As is our tradition, the Socialist Party had a comradely and democratic internal discussion, with both sides listened to and given equal time to put their views. An overwhelming majority agreed that Chris should stand. Unfortunately, a small number of Socialist Party members, including Janice, disregarded the party’s decision.

Mark Serwotka initially attempted to argue that his opposition to Chris Baugh was personal. However, it is not credible to suggest that such a serious conflict could develop for purely, or even primarily, personal reasons. To date, Mark has refused to engage in a debate about his political criticisms of Chris, something he would correctly demand of any left standing against him for general secretary. We, however, conclude that potentially serious political and industrial differences lie behind these events, as will become clear as the debate over the LU AGS candidate unfolds.

This is a very long and serious article.

But the conclusion is clear enough.

Of course, there are numerous good left activists in PCS who are not members or supporters of the Socialist Party, many of whom support Chris for AGS. And, unfortunately, Janice Godrich agreed to be Mark Serwotka’s preferred candidate to replace Chris despite being a member of the Socialist Party. Nonetheless, being part of a Marxist party – with a programme for the transformation of the union movement, and of society – has aided Chris and others in standing firm under considerable pressure.

Not for nothing did MI5’s Subversion in Public Life organisation – for monitoring ‘extremists’ in the 1980s – consider us the “most threatening Trotskyist group in Britain” in the civil service. It said our “greatest strengths” were our clarity of ideas and “the dedication of its members” to fighting for the interests of the working class.

We call upon all rank-and-file PCS members not to go down the dangerous road represented by Janice Godrich’s candidature for AGS, and to support Chris Baugh and the Socialist Party’s well-tested methods of building open, democratic, fighting broad lefts as a lever to transform the trade union movement. This discussion has relevance not just for PCS members but for every trade unionist and worker.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 24, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Trade Unionists Against the EU – “Former” Leading Communist Party of Britain Member worked with Arron Banks

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Worked Hand in Hand with Hard Right Millionaire Arron Banks.

Trade Unionists Against the EU was a key front for the Brexit left, supported by, amongt others, the Morning Star and the Socialist Party.

It is a strange beast, as today’s Unherd outpouring from their national Organiser Paul Embery illustrates,

…for those of us on the more traditional Left, the concept of family, far from being antithetical to our socialism, is the very essence of it. It is within the family unit that we first learn about obligation, sacrifice, loyalty, compassion and solidarity. It is one place where the common good will almost always transcend self-interest, where you are in every sense your brother’s keeper. What better example is there of socialism in action?

That’s why we socialists should defend the family unit against all-comers. And that means resisting not just the cultural war against it, but the economic one too. Austerity, low wages and poverty have all weakened family ties, as has the explosion in the number of families in which both parents go out to work, often not through choice but financial necessity.

..

Confucius had it right 2,500 years ago when he said, “When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation.”

Why won’t our spineless politicians stand up for the family?

In a more traditional vein Trade Unionists Against the EU made much of their imaginary support amongst the European left.

It is true that some on the Continental  left – generally known as ‘sovereigntists’ and others who could be called anglophobes – resented the UK and some may have backed Brexit.

I recall one of the leading figures of TUAEU,  Enrico Tortolano, speaking loudly in public about his internationalism, and citing in evidence the ‘millions’ of Greeks who has stated that they wished the ‘Leave’ campaign would win.

Yet, as we known, the Greeks actually voted in a pro-EU left government, for all its faults, led by Alexis Tsipras.

The only concrete evidence of this pan-European  Lexit alliance,  came from a, they claimed at the time, a mass Paris Rally. In reality this was a hook up with the French trotskyist splinter (too small to stand in the most recent Presidential elections), the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique, (POID One of its best known members, Gérard Schivardi,was the last Presidential candidate (standing on a platform of backing for local Mayors’ power)  from this current, in 2007. He got  0,34 % of the vote.

Is this an “internationalist” movement?

POID is known for its support for reasserting  French National sovereignty against the European Union. The EU, they assert, has deprived Parliaments of their sovereign will, and reduced them to a subsidiary role to the EU  which imposes its will directly on nations. (“Parlements privés de toute velléité de souveraineté étant réduit à un rôle subsidiaire, les décisions de l’Union européenne s’imposent directement à toutes les nations. La Tribune des travailleurs).

That particular jamboree (2017) can be viewed here: LE GRAND MEETING INTERNATIONALISTE DE PARIS PORTE DE CHARENTON’ en 20 minutes et version sous-titrée:

 

More recently Trade Unionists Against the EU has developed a good rapport with the Spiked-on-Line linked Sovereigntist, grouping, the Full Brexit, which includes Murdoch’s Man in Brussels “The founding statement of a group called ‘The Full Brexit’. Good to see the statement signed by some well-known figures in the labour and trade union movement.” (5th of July): Trade Unionists Against the EU

Yesterday John Rogan  published:

Lexit and Brexit collaboration-what did the Morning Star know?

One long standing Lexiter is leading Communist Party of Britain member Brian Denny (also of the RMT union who backed Brexit). He has written extensively on the need to get out on the CPB’s website (“Trade Unionists need to take the lead against the EU”14 Aug 2015) and was a co-ordinator for NO2EU (Lexit electoral alliance), organiser for the (“Eurosceptic Labour Movement”) Campaign Against Euro-Federalism (CAEF) and a founder of Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU).

Image result for Brian Denney rmt and arron banks

Denny’s contributions also take up some space (see here)  on the Trade Unionists Against the EU site.

Rogan continues,

Denny (CPB) and Banks (Ukip) worked together to maximise the Leave vote. Here’s an extract from Arron Banks’s “Bad Boys of Brexit” (28 Jan 2016) where Banks saw Labour voters as key to winning and the need to fund an anti — TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) leaflet produced by Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU).

Here is some evidence of the collaboration between the leading Communist and the far-right Brexiteer.

Rogan Notes,

Arron Banks is currently under investigation by the Electoral Commission for funding of Trade Unionists Against the EU (£54,000) and other organisations. Some more background to this can be found here and here.

So far we have heard nothing from those accused of collaboration with the hard right.

Brian Denny, meanwhile, regularly retweets Spiked-on-Line….

 

Britian’s Biggest Union, UNITE, on Brexit, “open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal.”

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Image result for unite union conference brighton 2018

UNITE on Brexit, ” open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal….”

The Guardian reports,

Britain’s biggest union has left the door open to another referendum on the government’s Brexit deal.

Unite, Labour’s most generous donor, also said it was highly unlikely that Labour would vote for Theresa May’s deal on leaving the European Union.

The development is being interpreted by some observers as an incremental move towards accepting a second referendum, and could increase pressure upon Jeremy Corbyn to do the same.

It also makes it clearer than previous statements that Labour may well vote against the EU withdrawal agreement. Earlier this year, senior frontbench figures including the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, were arguing that it was likely that Labour would vote in favour of the deal.

In a statement issued at the union’s annual conference in Brighton, the executive said: “It remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour frontbench with its six tests which must be met, have set.

“At such a moment, Unite will mobilise against the deal. Our priority will be to force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government which would, among other things, reach a better deal with the EU and improved relations with Europe all round. We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances.

It is understood that Corbyn’s office insist they are relaxed about Unite’s policy development.

By contrast the pro-Brexit Morning Star, with links to the hard-right Arron Banks Funded Trades Unionists Against the EU (such as its chair, Doug Nichollsgave this report,

 

UNITE threw its might behind Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today, vowing to get him into No 10 as the union said No to a second referendum on Brexit.

Speaking at the union’s biennial policy conference in Brighton, general secretary Len McCluskey took aim at the media misrepresentation of the union’s position on a second referendum, telling delegates: “Let me be clear – we are not calling for a second referendum.

“Our decisions are made by our conference, not by any unrepresentative opinion polls commissioned by God knows who.”

His attack was aimed at a poll briefed to the press last week by anti-Brexit organisation Open Britain, which claimed that a majority of Unite members do not trust Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit and desire a second referendum.

The union’s executive statement condemned the government’s “abysmal” handling of Brexit negotiations and advocated Britain’s “barrier-free” access to the single market as well as securing a customs union with the EU.

As it remained “highly unlikely” that the final Brexit deal negotiated by the Tories will satisfy Unite members, the union’s priority will be to “force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government” which could “reach a better deal with the European Union” and improve British-European relations.

Mr McCluskey warned of the dangers of a no-deal “cliff-edge” Brexit and said that the British people voted to leave the European Union, not for increased unemployment or the erosion of social rights.

People voted leave, said Mr McCluskey, because they “wanted control over political decisions to be returned to our elected politicians in Westminster” and “as democrats we respect that vote.”

Mr McCluskey condemned the “shadow of job losses” hanging over the heads of Unite members and criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s “nightmare of uncertainty” in her Tory Brexit plan.

“Theresa May has lost all authority, she has lost all capacity to make decisions, or all power of initiative,” he said.

“She is being held prisoner by the dogmatists and fantasists of the far right.

“These people see in Brexit the chance to turn Britain into the low-wage, deregulated, race-to-the-bottom society of their dreams.”

Reiterating Mr Corbyn’s calls for Britain to stay in a customs union and access to, rather than membership of, the single market, Mr McCluskey said that “staying or leaving the EU matters less than getting Jeremy in office.”

Delegates engaged in debate over several hours about their attitude towards a Britain outside of the European Union.

This was the occasion for the Morning Star to give a voice to those who agreed with its pro-Brexit policies.

Nabila Ahmed, a Unite young member from Watford, expressed her concerns that a second referendum “would give a boost to the far right” and claimed that the “ultimate agenda” of “Europhiles” demanding a second referendum would be to “break Jeremy Corbyn.”

Damian Bailey, chair of Unite’s north-west young members’ committee, told conference that that “the most important thing for young members is not to re-enter the European Union, but electing a Corbyn government.”

He told delegates that “union members should not be grateful for the meagre rights the European Union gives us” and that “we should have unions fighting for us, like Unite.”

Mr Bailey warned delegates to ignore the fearmongering spread by employers, highlighting that “the same people who threaten to move our jobs abroad after Brexit are often the same people who would threaten to move our jobs abroad if a Labour government gets elected.”

But Mick Graham, convener of the Land Rover plant in Solihull, also reminded delegates that “we are internationalists, and we must reaffirm our commitment to solidarity across all borders.

“Defending our members and communities has to be our priority.”

Contrasting with the statement made by the Lexit leaning Morning Star Unite’s official statement says (as the Guardian notes),

 it remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour front bench with its six tests which must be met, have set.

At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal. Our priority will be to force an early general election which can lead to the election of a Labour government which would, among other things, reach a better deal with the European Union and improved relations with Europe all round. We are also open to the possibility of a popular vote being held on any deal, depending on political circumstances. Within these principles, the Executive Council has authority to respond as it thinks best to a fast-changing political situation.

Unite policy conference 2018 – Executive statement on Brexit

UNITE’s criteria for an acceptable deal include the following,

  • deliver barrier-free access to the Single Market to ensure ongoing exchange of the goods and services which thousands of our members’ jobs rely on.
  • secure a customs union with the European Union
  • enshrine and enhance working rights, social and environmental protections which are currently based in EU law. These must be transferred into UK law through primary legislation, open and democratically.
  • not undermine the Good Friday Agreement or the economic integrity of the island of Ireland. There must be no hard border between the Republic and the north.
  • protect the integrity of Gibraltar and the right for Gibraltarians to determine their own future.
  • grant the immediate and guaranteed right to remain for European citizens in the UK and their dependents and secure the rights of UK citizens working in other EU countries.
  • retain membership of beneficial European-level institutions or regulatory bodies which are vital to our industrial sectors such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), ECHA (REACH) and Euratom.

And, ” it remains highly unlikely that the final EU-UK Brexit deal due to come to parliament in the autumn 2018 will satisfy the criteria that Unite and the wider labour movement, including the Labour front bench with its six tests which must be met, have set.  At such a moment Unite will mobilise against the deal”.

So in other words, Brexit is a disaster. UNITE policy is not that of Trade Unionists against the EU and all the other Lexiters’ who say, “Embrace Brexit and Shape the Future”.

Opening up to a possible challenge to the whole process of leaving the EU, and negotiating new world trade deals with the such as Donald Trump, is bound to be complex.

But as commentators have remarked, this statement reflects a ” a shift in tone” away from a pure and simple acceptance of Brexit as a fact.

As does the reminder that the union is not going down the path of a national go-it-alone ‘Lexit’ (left Exit).

As Unite says, “The global trade union movement must respond to these historic challenges by renewing our fundamental principle of internationalism, while offering working people a genuine route for taking control of their own lives, in the workplace and beyond.

Unite will always reject malign and reactionary right-wing nationalism. We will resist any attempts to divide us. Instead we must recommit ourselves to this eternal truth: we are internationalists or we are nothing.”

The immediate issue is how to best oppose the way Brexit is unfolding within the context of the need to elect a Labour Government.

Not at all the ringing rejection of a new Referendum that the Pro-Brexit Morning Star would wish.

 

 

Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. James Bloodworth. The Must-Read of the Year.

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Image result for hired bloodworth

 

Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain. James Bloodworth. Atlantic Books. 2018.

Over the weekend it was reported that last year there were just 79 strikes, the lowest number since 1893. Union membership continues to decline.

The GMB, meanwhile, stated that ambulances had been called to Amazon warehouses at least 600 times in the last 3 years. On half of these occasions patients had to be taken at hospital. The union put some of the blame on the severe working conditions that company enforces on its employees.

James Bloodworth begins Hired in an Amazon warehouse – the size of ten football pitches – in Rugeley, “a place with the atmosphere of what I imagined a prison would be like”. Feel-good slogans were plastered on the walls saying that everybody was having a wonderful time. The workers, mostly Eastern European, were brought there by agencies, who hammered home that they could be sacked the instant they made any trouble. The work as “pickers” – in hard shifts – meant, “dashing around”. There was no real contract and no there were no real rights. People were under a full-time “cloud of suspicion”. Wages – for the author £227 a week but regularly underpaid, or involving tax shambles – barely kept up with ordinary expenses. Not to mention the rent to rapacious landlords.

Bloodworth got to know some of the migrants, from Romania. Life in their country was “bullshit”. If they were slaves in the UK, they still had money. These “anonymous foreign drudges” were like H.G.Wells’ Morlocks, while the customers dwelt, like the Eloi, enjoying cheap products.

Hired  is about  a world in which very few people are real Eloi. In Blackpool working for a company supplying care workers as council services have crumbled over the years, Carewatch, Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

The home caring job with the elderly came with heart-rending incidents. A colleague who told of having to deal with a client “with basically her bowels hanging out”. Payments, as with Amazon, were again a problem. Some migrant workers employed found the English needed for the job near impossible.

South Wales.

Bloodworth explores the Welsh Valley based Call Centre Admiral in cafés and drinking in Ebbw Vale Wetherspoons he hears the rancour of people left behind by the closure of the mines. As in Rugeley there is fear of migrants, and the targeting of Europe for the “pain inflicted over recent decades.”

Hired comes across many Leave voters. But “taking back control”, was not just a product of resentment at migration, unemployment, precarious jobs, and minimum wages. It was, we could note, promoted by the Sovereigntists of the left, and those who considered it a “transitional demand” to install the chaos that would lead to a left Brexit (Brexit). This was not just against the interest of the South Wales communities, whose remaining social projects were funded by the EU. For many workers, and all the major unions, this disruption would snarl up the supply, production and distribution chains that keep what is left of the country’s industry going. The present state of Brexit proves the case for Remain. The right-wing nationalists, who were its real promoters, have drowned any Lexit  (Left Brexit) voice out.

The book concludes with first-hand experience with the ‘gig economy’ of Uber and others in London. Here the workers, in the shape of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) were fighting back, establishing a collective bargaining agreement with Deliveroo.

Trade Unions.

A major theme in Hired is the contrast between the strength of the trade unions before Thatcher and today’s deregulated (that is, regulated by the managers of companies) labour market. Perhaps the example of former mining communities is too strong tot transport to London. My friends in 1970s London worked for cleaning agencies where conditions were not too far off today’s poorly paid posts under heavy surveillance. And the gig economy is not that new. I myself spent a Christmas period as an (illegal) stallholder flogging puzzle rings in Oxford Street., paid cash in hand. Nor were unions that powerful. A shop-steward friend of my parents got sacked from a big engineering company in the Lee Valley for union militancy. The AEU did not get his position back.

The book is the first I have read about modern Britain that talks about the world I live in. It speaks about people I know working in warehouses, to those catching what they can in short term jobs, the experiences of care-workers, the treatment of the out-of-work, to the lives of migrants.  There are cheap stores, like B & M, both where people work for another group of grinders and where we often shop. Bloodworth maps up the incomes and costs of how people get by, the constant worries and the little hopes and pleasures that keep them going. If he is perceived as an outsider, he has clearly touched ground. To those who might question how Bloodworth knows the details of their difficulties one can only say: this is what people talk about.

In low-wage Britain problems do not comes from an “ill educated working class” – terms that, given the intelligence of my mates, would make them laugh. Increased social mobility, meritocracy, is not the answer. The heart of the inequalities generated by the economy has to be tackled. They are fostered by deliberate political choice. The first response lies in exactly the daily grind of trade union politics, for rights, for good conditions, and, above all, for solidarity between diverse groups in their common interest. A Labour government would have to begin by strengthening union power. 

I expected Hired to be good. 

It exceeds that.

It is the essential read of the year.

Every trade unionist and socialist should get hold of it.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 4, 2018 at 11:29 am