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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 January 2020

PCS: Time to rebuild the left

PCS members on strike at BEIS, photo Helen Pattison

PCS members on strike at BEIS, photo Helen Pattison   (Click to enlarge)

Katrine Williams, vice-president PCS DWP group (personal capacity)

A meeting called in the name of the PCS Broad Left Network takes place in Manchester on 18 January. The main business will be to agree a programme and candidates to contest the 2020 elections in the PCS civil servants' union.

Following on from the tremendous support for Marion Lloyd in the recent PCS general secretary election - with over 9,000 votes - this meeting marks a further crucial step in the rebuilding of the left in PCS.

Rebuilding the left is necessary because PCS Left Unity is no longer playing the role of a fighting rank-and-file organisation in the union.

In last year's assistant general secretary election, the incumbent and agreed Left Unity candidate was opposed in the election by leading Left Unity members - including general secretary Mark Serwotka. Organised within a group inside Left Unity calling itself Socialist View, they and the Socialist Workers Party opposed Socialist Party member and incumbent Chris Baugh, breaking the rules of Left Unity by supporting a non Left Unity candidate.

Attacks

Furthermore, in Left Unity now, differences on policy questions are seized on and used as an excuse for personal and political attacks - leading in 2019 to a purge from Left Unity slates of left activists who disagreed with Socialist View. This is a turn away from the inclusive history of Left Unity.

For example, tactical differences on how best to win a statutory strike ballot on pay, which PCS failed to do twice, were turned by Serwotka and his supporters into issues of principle and attacks on those who disagreed with them.

In the recent period, the Serwotka-supporting majority have weaponised differences and debate, something entirely alien to the traditions of Left Unity and its Broad Left predecessor.

These are just a few examples which reveal huge differences in how we see the role of a Broad Left and how Mark Serwotka and his supporters see it. Instead of left pressure on the leadership, they increasingly see it as a passive mouthpiece in the service of the leadership.

Instead of acting as an independent left force to develop a programme and fight for it in PCS, Serwotka and his supporters envisage Left Unity acting as a mere support group, as an auxiliary to the union.

We don't agree this is the function of a trade union broad left. It must instead be a constant and critical force with full democratic rights and a militant programme that can attract the best reps and members if it is to continually renew itself and the union.

Marion Lloyd's election campaign has given confidence to many union activists to voice concerns about Left Unity and the direction of the union. A new layer of militant activists have grouped themselves around the new Broad Left Network which played a key role in Marion's campaign.

An open discussion on the left is necessary now to bring together socialists within the union to hammer out the fighting programme that is necessary and to put forward a leadership that will carry out this programme.

We encourage all socialists in PCS to come to the Broad Left Network meeting in Manchester on Saturday 18 January. Join the Broad Left Network and support the campaign to rebuild the left in PCS.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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In The Socialist 15 January 2020:


What we think

Labour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

Labour leadership race: Reverse Unison's undemocratic nomination of Blairite Starmer


News

Low Pay, Long Hours. Bosses rip us off. Organise the fightback now!

Build for strikes to save NHS

No free ride for the airline bosses - nationalise Flybe now!

Them & Us


Workplace news

Hackney school bus workers win pay increase following strikes

PCS: Time to rebuild the left

Northern Ireland: Thousands of nurses continue to strike for better pay

Westex Carpet strike reaches two month mark

London bus drivers ballot to strike

Union lawyer arrested on security guards' picket line


Campaigns

We need socialists in London's City Hall

Stop gentrification in Newham: "We are here, you have consulted us and we're not going anywhere!"

Massive Scottish independence demo marks new stage in struggle

Young people who voted for Corbyn's manifesto will now ask... How can we win those ideas?

London: Protesters return to oppose Middle East war

Cladding scandal: Government steps up defence of landlords

Nottingham: Youth protest against Barclays 64 million fossil-fuel investments

Socialist Party national committee meeting


International socialist news and analysis

Renewed protests shake Iranian leaders

France: Strike wave over pensions - Macron government in retreat


Readers' opinion

Sustainable food production and the need for socialism

TV Review: Apocalypse Cow

The Socialist Inbox


 

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Related links:

PCS:

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trianglePCS members in DWP reject unsafe extension of hours

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Socialist:

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Election:

triangleUCU: election victory for combative rank and file

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: The US presidential election

Marion Lloyd:

triangleStrong support for PCS Broad Left Network

Mark Serwotka:

triangleAn exchange with Mark Serwotka about sales of the Socialist

DWP:

triangleJobcentre reopening: only union struggle will put safety first

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