The Socialist 4 July 2012
Kick 'em out!
Unite needs fighting socialist policies
Unite has recently led or participated in a number of prominent disputes: as well as the public sector pensions' dispute, Unite has been involved in the sparks' protests, Coryton and the London bus workers.
This has been assisted by the election of a left general secretary and executive council (EC). So it could have been expected that the union's 2012 policy conference would affirm socialist policies. Instead, there were signs that the old right wing, defeated but not routed, are regrouping. Conference reflected these contradictory forces.
Unite has developed more left-wing policies in recent years. For example, conference supported nationalisation of the banks and nationalising without compensation hospitals built and funded by PFI schemes.
In manufacturing, despite a number of important defensive battles, the loss of jobs and factories has continued. But delegates voted for 'balanced' statements from the executive on Trident and the arms industry, and on nuclear energy. These did not make the case for alternative uses of skills or a plan of production of goods that people genuinely need and are safe. Resolutions opposing Trident and nuclear energy were both superseded by the statements.
Despite the turmoil in the eurozone, conference voted against a motion calling for a referendum on EU membership and for one supporting the bosses' market! On the Labour Party, Unite will continue its strategy of working to 'change from within' with its radical policies. The aim is to recruit 5,000 Unite members to the party by the end of the year.
A resolution calling for the withholding of a proportion of the affiliation fees from Labour until it fights for the repeal of the anti-trade union laws was defeated.
Labour leader Ed Miliband's speech was met with only polite applause, while victimised electrician Steve Acheson received a standing ovation for his long struggle against his and other workers' blacklisting!
Miliband called for the 'full force of the law' to be brought down on the heads of the bankers involved in the interest rate setting scandal. But he won only lukewarm applause when he called for negotiations rather than strikes in the London bus workers' dispute.
But the EC was overturned when its proposals for dealing with financial packages for retiring and redundant officers were defeated in favour of a composite calling for stricter controls. This was in the wake of the scandal involving ex-joint general secretary Derek Simpson's massive and controversial pay-off.
Socialist Party members will continue to campaign for officers to be elected and subject to accountability, and to receive no more than the wages of the members they represent.
A resolution calling for the union to support the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) was remitted. 25 delegates and visitors attended the first ever NSSN meeting at a Unite conference. At it, Kingsley Abrams, a supporter of the strategy of sending activists into the Labour Party, spoke of his disappointment that the union had not been able to prevent his suspension from the Lambeth Labour group for advocating Unite policy!
The United Left in the union should work out a clear socialist programme, and Socialist Party members will play a role in that process. Delegations to this conference were elected on the basis of committees almost three years old and may not have accurately reflected those workers who have been in struggle.
Socialists who have recently been elected reps and branch officers must attend the Regional Industrial Sector conferences due in September to elect committees that reflect the union's fighting ranks.
In this issue
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party LGBT
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party appeal
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party review