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Posted on 15 December 2010 at 20:59 GMT

National Shop Stewards Network

Majority reply to an attack


National Shop Stewards Network lobby of TUC, Manchester 2010, photo Suleyman Civi

National Shop Stewards Network lobby of TUC, Manchester 2010, photo Suleyman Civi   (Click to enlarge)

We send this reply to NSSN supporters and those outside of the NSSN who have had Dave's email. It wasn't our choice to have a public debate in this way and we regret his damaging actions but we have a duty to respond and give our side of the story.

If you've read his email, you will understand the unavoidable sharpness of our response.

Dave Chapple has circulated a critical email about the decision of the NSSN Steering Committee to launch an Anti-Cuts Campaign at its Conference on January 22nd.

The real facts of what happened are the following. After a debate in the Steering Committee lasting around three hours and 39 attending, where all those wanting to speak did speak, a vote was taken.

On a show of hands Dave's view did not prevail. Behind the disparate opposition to the NSSN majority is a clear difference on programme, strategy, and tactics and this will now go to the conference for debate. This isn't a crime but normal democratic trade union procedure.

The decision of the NSSN steering committee was taken 10 days ago. Only now, on the eve of a meeting of the Trade Union Coordinating Group (TUCG) of the left unions in the TUC, did he choose to attack this decision.

In an unholy alliance with the SWP and their front organisation the Right to Work (RTW) he hoped to put the NSSN in the dock before fellow trade unionists as unprincipled splitters and sectarians.

This completely failed, not least because the accusers are, themselves, guilty of the "crimes" they impute to the NSSN majority, and particularly to the Socialist Party.

It is enough to remind ourselves that it was the SWP who launched the sectarian attack on the fire-fighters at the end of their recent dispute.

As RTW, they also invaded the ACAS talks in the BA dispute, and were widely criticised by rank and file Unite members.

In a similar sectarian fashion they attacked the Lindsey strikers, as well as the left-led PCS leadership - particularly its general secretary Mark Serwotka over the alleged pension "sell-out" (in 2005).

National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of TUC conference in Manchester 2010, photo Suleyman Civi

National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) lobby of TUC conference in Manchester 2010, photo Suleyman Civi   (Click to enlarge)

It is they who set up RTW 18 months ago as a rival to the NSSN.

In the London Student Assembly this week, they actually voted against supporting the January NSSN Conference but now say they want to build for it to 'save' the NSSN!

Those who voted in favour of an Anti-Cuts Campaign recognise that trade unions are already located in fighting cuts in the workplace, but that there are other aspects to the struggle.

Community campaigns to save services are springing up everywhere. Witness the marvellous student rebellion of recent weeks.

Those against these proposals believe that NSSN should step back, and leave leadership matters to other organisations, particularly like RTW.

The NSSN Conference statement in June declared that NSSN should take our work into the wider community. Dave Chapple did not disagree. The October Steering Committee, which Dave Chapple chaired, built on this by agreeing nem. con [without contradiction] to call an Anti-Cuts Conference.

Dave Chapple also accuses us of not wanting unity. This is a lie. It was RTW that split away from the NSSN last year, and then not clearly as an anti-cuts campaign.

National Shop Stewards Network conference July 2007, photo Dave Carr

National Shop Stewards Network conference July 2007, photo Dave Carr

Actually, the NSSN was formed four years ago - originally as an initiative of the RMT transport workers union, well before either COR or RTW.

Yet now he implies we are the splitters. We want unity in action, and will do our utmost to get that action. It was us who suggested at an Officers meeting recently that we send invitations to RTW and Coalition of Resistance to convene a meeting to iron out practical problems, initially. Both have agreed, though with all the activity no date has yet been fixed.

We did send people to the RTW Forum. Dave Chapple attended this, denounced the NSSN decision and promptly left without hearing further discussion.

Rob Williams attended the Trade Union Coordinating Group on behalf of NSSN on Tuesday. His explanation of the NSSN majority position was not criticised.

In fact he received support when he criticised the SWP in particular for their continued support of Labour councillors intent on carrying through cuts. As this criticism of the SWP grows, they will undoubtedly try to do another somersault. To even attempt to forge a genuine unity in action with such people requires, above all, an open recognition of their history and record.

What workers are interested in is a fighting programme to defend ALL jobs and services. No other campaign other than NSSN has such a programme. That is why we are getting such a good response to the Conference.

Moreover, Matt Wrack General Secretary FBU pointed out that campaigns like NSSN, freed from any bureaucratic obstacles, are well placed to react quickly and effectively in conjunction with fighting trade unions to fight the cuts.

An anti-cuts committee, democratically elected at the conference but linked to our NSSN steering committee, will make us even more able to intervene effectively in this movement at this volatile time.

We hope all supporters are building for the Conference, where Dave Chapple and others, will be able to put their case. We believe that the active fighting campaign of NSSN - shown in action on the TUC lobby, and on the October 23rd demos - will be supported.

For a principled active intervention in the coming battles!

Linda Taaffe
Rob Williams
Bill Mullins
NSSN officers, representing the majority of the steering committee

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