The Socialist Party And The United Left

AT THE United Left (UL) meeting at UNISON conference, Socialist Party
members in UNISON announced that they were withdrawing from the UL. They
give their reasons for this decision below.

After a great deal of careful consideration and discussion Socialist
Party members in UNISON decided to withdraw from the UNISON United Left
(UL) group.

Socialist Party Members in UNISON

It is with some regret that this decision was taken, given our desire
to see the maximum possible unity on the left against the right wing and
the right-oriented bureaucracy. This was demonstrated by the prominence of
Socialist Party members in establishing the UL group, and its precursor
the Campaign for a Fighting Democratic UNISON, and our attempts to work
constructively within the UL group since its formation.

Our primary concern is that the UL, under the political influence of
its largest component the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), is drifting to
the right. This is at a time when the attacks of the New Labour government
on the working class in general and on public sector workers in particular
is giving rise to increased militancy and radicalisation amongst the
grass- roots membership. This situation presents us with major political

Political fund and the Labour Party

This situation is illustrated most clearly in relation to the political
fund and the Labour Party. In less than a year’s time UNISON members will
vote in the statutory ballot on the continuation or not of the political
fund. Against the background of the decision of the RMT to support non-Labour
Party candidates and parties, their expulsion from the Labour Party, and a
similar debate about to take place in unions like the FBU, this is clearly
an issue of fundamental importance to the working class.

The Socialist Party believes that the pro-capitalist policies of New
Labour have alienated it from vast sections of the working class, and that
the destruction of internal democracy in the Labour Party means that
attempts to reclaim the Labour Party for socialism are futile.

We call for the formation of a new mass workers’ party, and believe
that the trade unions have a major role to play in this process; we
therefore support in principle disaffiliation from the Labour Party.

The Socialist Party has always been open and honest about our position
and have not sought to hide it from the membership. Whilst calling for
disaffiliation we have and will support all steps towards freeing the
political funds.

The UL on the other hand not only continues to support affiliation to
New Labour (which saw £3 million of union members’ money handed over last
year alone). It has also singularly failed to even seriously implement the
UL position of opening up the funds to allow support for other candidates
as well as New Labour.

Outside main conference debate

Recognising the peculiar nature of UNISON’s political fund arrangements
and the power of the union’s bureaucracy in manipulating the agenda of
conference we advanced a ‘Third Fund’ position as a tactical way of
progressing the debate within UNISON.

This was opposed by the SWP and therefore the UL, and our predictions
that the preferred option of the UL, that of a single fund which could be
used for Labour Party and non-Labour Party electoral interventions would
not be debated at conference were brushed aside. Our predictions, (based
on our involvement in this issue over several years) were correct,
resulting in the UL placing itself outside the main debate on this issue
at conference in 2003.

"Don’t mention the Labour Party"!

Given the conference decision to support the status quo, the Socialist
Party now calls for a second, parallel ballot to be conducted along with
the statutory political fund ballot, which would give ordinary members the
opportunity to express their views on how the political fund should be

This too is opposed by the SWP, who seemed more concerned with not
alienating the handful of Labour ‘lefts’ in the UL. These Labour ‘lefts’
have advocated a somewhat dishonest strategy for the political fund
ballot, arguing in the Greater London Region that the Labour Party link
should be played down for fear of losing the ballot!

The Socialist Party rejects completely such an underhand approach; our
maxim being: "Let the members decide"! But the UL cannot go to
the members saying nothing at all in a political fund ballot about the
Labour Party. The UL should make it clear that it thinks that a call for a
‘Yes’ vote to retain the fund should also say that this fund will not be
used to finance the Labour party and that in the future the union will
consult the members once it becomes clear that a credible workers’ party
develops to replace the Labour Party that is more in line with the
objectives and interests of the union.

Sectarian manoeuvres

Socialist Party members are also concerned at the increase of sectarian
manoeuvring against us within the UL by the SWP, which is clearly similar
to actions within the Socialist Alliance, that have resulted in the
splitting and effective dumping of that organisation.

In the Greater London Region, the Socialist Workers Party voted to
remove Socialist Party member Glenn Kelly from the UL slate for the
Regional Committee, (despite this Glenn held his position, calling into
question the support for the UL amongst activists in the region). They
then voted with the right wing to remove Glenn Kelly from the trade union
side of the Provincial Council in favour of a right-winger.

SWP members in the Camden Branch opposed the election of Socialist
Party member Hugo Pierre as a delegate to the London Regional Committee
and tried to prevent his election as a delegate to annual conference.

In Greater London, the SWP have pushed the UL to oppose UL and
Socialist Party member Brian Blake in the elections for the Local
Government Service Group Executive, to the extent of printing 10,000
leaflets in support of his opponent who is not even a member of the UL!

In the event, Brian came within 141 votes of taking the position, an
amazing vote given the UL/right wing bloc against him. Clearly to the SWP,
left unity takes second place to unity with the right wing against the
Socialist Party.

Lack of influence

Despite the shift to the left among the membership, the UL in reality
lacks influence in the union as a whole. In practical terms, on the ground
it is only an organised force in the Greater London and North West
regions, (and in the latter case meetings are poorly attended).

This contrasts strongly with the position that the Campaign for a
Fighting Democratic UNISON had built up, where for example it came within
a handful of votes of defeating the iniquitous Single Status Agreement at
a Special Local Government Service Group Conference. Given the problems
outlined above, this situation is understandable if regrettable.

Left unity

Whilst defending our right to argue our independent position, Socialist
Party members in UNISON will continue to seek maximum practical unity on
the left against the right wing, and, where we can, we will cooperate with
all lefts including the UL in this endeavour.

We call for the creation of a genuine democratic left grouping, based
on socialist policies, free from sectarian manoeuvring, with a broad base
amongst activists and rank-and-file members.