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The Socialist Party and Socialist View Split in the PCS Union Grows.

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The PCS Internal Dispute Grows.

The world may have forgotten about the Socialist Party, although it is said that copies of Militant by Michael Crick (1984) are still selling and valued like gold dust.

This week they made a raft of demands including the following, a call for

An emergency labour movement conference, open to all genuinely anti-austerity forces to discuss the transformation of the Labour Party along democratic, socialist lines. This should include discussion on: restoring the policy-making power of Labour Party conference – including the trade unions playing a full democratic role; the introduction of a new socialist ‘clause 4’, replacing the one introduced by Tony Blair with one committing to democratic public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange; the opening up of the Labour Party to all socialist and anti-austerity forces to participate on the basis of a renewed, federal structure.

This prospect, sure to be welcome across the labour movement and in the Labour Party, for those who’re interested, part of their, “Editorial of the Socialist issue 1020. For a socialist alternative to the EU – mobilise to kick out the Tories!“.

Some may relish the prospect of solving the present politics crisis by, “mass action, including organising an emergency national demonstration to kick out the Tories.”

Alas, what most people are interested in is something that concerns people, active and solid people on the left, active in the civil service Trade Union, the PCS.

When the present row began the Socialist said,

The dispute within the left of Britain’s largest civil service union raises key issues for the whole labour movement.

After the left won control of the union, there have been important moves to democratise and transform PCS. Unfortunately, however, we now see the danger of that process being thrown into reverse, with power increasingly concentrated in the hands of unelected officials. Pressure in this direction is inevitable, given the difficult period the trade union movement is going through, but it is vital it is resisted.

PCS: the real issues at stake 20th of August.

In the course of this comradely debate the SP said,

Unfortunately, it is typical of some of Janice’s supporters’ false methods of argument to put up straw men in order to attempt to bombastically smash them down.

Despite the outrage expressed at the concerns we raised about the undermining of the democratic traditions of PCS, the SV reply repeatedly confirms this danger.

……

The SV authors accuse us of lying when we said that “arguments for affiliation [to Labour] will be put” in the new consultation on political representation that was agreed at this year’s PCS conference. We never suggested that the consultation would call for affiliation. This is clearly unlikely given the response to the last, 2016, consultation which raised affiliation as one option. Mark was sympathetic to looking seriously at that, arguing in a Policy and Resources Committee paper (published on 5 October 2015), “I’ve been approached by a number of people inside & outside PCS on the question of affiliation to LP… I do believe that we have a duty to consider this question.” However, “responses did not support” it.

In a woeful attempt to denigrate Chris’s record, the SV authors write: “Chris doesn’t take the average wage of a skilled worker”, and add that Janice has committed to do so. They and Janice turn their fire on Chris, but what demands have they made on Mark Serwotka? When Chris first stood for AGS he pledged to move to London, relocating his family at considerable expense and upheaval, in order to be based in the union HQ and be able to do his job effectively. Despite the financial demands of relocating, he pledged in his election address – with the agreement of other Socialist Party members including Janice Godrich – to repay part of his salary to union funds and make regular donations to strikes and labour movement causes in Britain and internationally. Chris has consistently met that pledge.

…..

They have not formally resigned from the Socialist Party, but the SV article, written by one Socialist Party member and one non-member, makes clear that they no longer see themselves as part of our party. It is not accidental that at one stage they refer to the Socialist Party as “their party”, meaning Chris and his supporters. They suggest that the Socialist Party’s “end objective” of “winning the leading positions in the union for their party justifies any actions, no matter how dishonest those means may be”.

PCS: the real issues at stake – a reply to Socialist View

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary

Recently qualified Leftist Trainspotter, Howie, posts this, keeping us up to date:

Socialist Party lose first stage of PCS Assistant General Secretary Campaign.

The influence of the Socialist Party begins it’s final decline as incumbent PCS Assistant General Secretary Chris Baugh failed to win the Left Unity nomination. Janice Godrich as expected won. Only the interim result has been published though as you guessed it the Socialist Party are contesting the result.

They are indeed,

Throughout the campaign and emphasised by Chris at a number of debates, a fighting strategy and positive approach has been given that can take the union forward. Chris won a majority in three of the five election debates that he took part in, with Martin Cavanagh and John McInally deputising for Janice Godrich. This included London, which was attended by Mark Serwotka who argued against Chris.

We thank all those Left Unity members who took part in the debates, particularly those who supported our candidates.

On the AGS election, the interim report indicates 139 votes for Chris Baugh and 167 votes for Janice Godrich. However, Left Unity members are still waiting for the final results. This is because a whole number of votes have been ruled out – some postal ballots and those cast at three voting meetings, including London.

Despite this, the ‘interim’ results were published. Many Left Unity members are shocked and angry that this was done when there are issues still outstanding. Despite the claims of Janice’s supporters in Socialist View, the ruled-out votes could materially affect the results of three key positions: AGS, Left Unity chair and Left Unity editor.

The only way to clarify this is for the full report to be published, with all the results included, along with explanation for those omitted. This is not an attack on the integrity of the scrutineers, as Socialist View claims, but a call for transparency and democratic processes.

Comes the response from Socialist View,

Socialist View Statement on PCS Left Unity elections 2018

Following a long campaign to decide the nominations for the Left Unity slate for next year’s PCS national elections the LU Scrutineers Interim Report was published on Sunday 25th November.

 

The report confirms the result of the ballot for all contested elections, including the Assistant General Secretary and National President. We are pleased that the results show both Janice Godrich and Fran Heathcote have been successful in their attempt to secure the LU nomination for the posts of AGS and President respectively. Alongside Janice and Fran all other nominees, supported by the Socialist View campaign, have also been successful.

 

This clear result is testimony to the campaign which has been run by Janice and her supporters, and to the difference in strategy put forward via the Socialist View throughout this campaign.

 

The difference in policy and strategy between those of us supporting Janice, and the supporters of the incumbent Chris Baugh, have become increasingly polarised in recent weeks especially in relation to national pay campaign. The choice between building our union’s capability to improve our organisation in every workplace to win on pay, proposed by Janice and her supporters, versus the strategy, argued for by Chris and his supporters, of disaggregated group ballots linked to other employer based issues, has been a key strand to this campaign. The outcome of this election reflects the positive campaign ran by supporters of Socialist View and indicates wider support for the belief we have in our members ability to win, against the conservative approach of our opponents.

Some  have commented that only a few hundred people voted in the ballot.

It is not unusual for Leninist groupuscules to have ferocious splits.

This one, apparently, involves a far from exceptional degree of personal rancour

It is, however, out of the ordinary to see these disputes played out in public inside a trade union with around  185, 000 members, in an important sector of employment,  and inside an organisation which enjoys wide respect for its work.

The PCS Independent Left meanwhile have their own candidate:

John Moloney to stand for PCS Assistant General Secretary

At its Annual General Meeting, the PCS Independent Left nominated John Moloney as our candidate in the Assistant General Secretary elections next year.

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2018 at 1:26 pm

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

Ipswich PCS Protest.

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Photos from the well-attended Ipswich PCS Protests,there are  PCS and Ipswich Trades Council Banners.

We have been asked to publicise this excellent protest by the PCS in Ipswich against the Government’s attacks on the employment, jobs and the public service.

“On Friday 30th November Lunchtime demonstration/s in opposition to plans by the government to tear up all existing civil service terms and conditions, including hours and holidays, flexible and parental leave and other family-friendly policies.

The demo/s is/are part of a nationwide day of protest organised by the union at workplaces across the country.

In Ipswich PCS members will be gathering in Lower Brook street at 12.30 pm to call upon the Ipswich TUC to co-ordinate action to defend, jobs conditions and services in Ipswich in the year ahead. There will also be a further protest at St Clare House at 1pm

In a move that will hit parents and carers the hardest, the government has ordered a review of all terms and conditions with a view to cutting them back.

During the initial stage of this review deputy prime minister Nick Clegg made a speech saying the government wanted to extend flexible working rights. But the message ministers are sending to businesses is that family-friendly policies are a luxury, not a necessity in a modern economy.

It is pure hypocrisy to tell businesses they should extend flexible working while seeking to cut it back for your own staff.

The protest is also over the public sector pay freeze, cuts to pensions – including a further increase in monthly contributions planned for April – and the tens of thousands of civil service jobs either already cut or in the pipeline [official figures show 60,000 civil service jobs went in the two years of the coalition government].

The union has also announced that in December its national executive will consider a timetable for a fresh industrial action ballot in the new year, which will include the latest attack on working conditions, as well as pay, pensions and jobs.

Under the review – the details of which were leaked to the union last month – departments have had to produce a draft plan of what they want to cut and by when, with final plans due by the end of the year in time to be implemented from January 2013.

It is impossible to separate this from the Tory-led government’s wider political project to unpick the welfare state and drive down pay, conditions and employment rights across the economy, and we are determined to oppose it at every step.

After seeing tens of thousands of their colleagues thrown out of work, and having their pay and pensions cut, civil servants are now being forced to fight to defend everything they rely on to manage their working lives.

* For further information, interviews and comment please contact: Harvey Crane PCS Union, Revenue & Customs Anglia Branch Secretary – Tel 01473 235991, 07757 594401 and/or Email – Harvey.Crane@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk

* PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the union representing civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 300,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies, including 55,000 members in HMRC. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK’s fifth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president Janice Godrich

* For further information on our Tax Justice Campaign and to download a copy of the Tax Justice report visit here.

This is their local response:

“The PCS Union in Ipswich thank the Ipswich TUC for their consistent support in our campaigns to defend Jobs, Conditions and Services.

In the New Year we face even further attacks from a Government that wants the deficit to be paid for by ordinary people while many rich people evade paying their share of tax.

The PCS wants the wealthy to pay their fair share of tax and for a change of direction that will help people in Ipswich and elsewhere. People can’t afford year after year to be on pay freezes or taking pay cuts.

We call upon Ipswich TUC to do all it can in the year ahead to support those unions who will be defending jobs, conditions and services locally.

We also request that you do all you can to unite and co-ordinate campaigns by different unions and campaigners to defend services for the people of Ipswich.

Harvey Crane Paul Nokes

PCS Chair PCS Secretary

Ipswich Town Committee Ipswich Town Committee