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Battle steps up in Unite general secretary election before start of voting
Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser
Voting for the Unite general secretary and executive council election opens on 27 March until 19 April. The Socialist Party is backing Len McCluskey for general secretary and we have four members on the United Left slate - Suzanne Muna (London and Eastern), Jamie Cocozza (Scotland), Jimmy Tyson (Construction) and Kevin Bennett (GEMS).
It is no accident that a week before voting starts, Labour Party deputy leader Tom Watson was on Radio 4 attacking Len McCluskey, showing that the anti-Corbyn forces in Unite and Labour are coordinating their attack with the full approval and assistance of the media.
They understand the significance of the Unite election for the struggle in Labour. Behind the right-wing candidate Gerard Coyne are the Blairites and the whole capitalist establishment, who were defeated in last year's attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn.
A Coyne leadership would also represent a retreat from the more fighting stance of the union under Len McCluskey's leadership.
Unite has become more militant and more responsive to rank and file pressure. Len has ended the practice of repudiating unofficial action, which has given confidence for unofficial walkouts, for example on Crossrail. He has consistently supported and resourced workplace battles against exploitative employers.
For example, the union is currently leading up to 3,000 BA mixed fleet cabin crew in a dispute against poverty pay, which has so far taken 26 days of strike action. Last summer at Fawley Oil Refinery strike action ensured that migrant workers were paid the nationally agreed rate.
We believe that the left in Unite should support Len McCluskey. The Socialist Party has disagreed with Len McCluskey and others in Unite's leadership on occasion, and will continue to put forward an independent position. However, it is clear that the union has become stronger, more coordinated, more left-leaning and better organised since Len's election.
It must continue on this trajectory in the interests of Unite members and the wider labour movement. We should not ignore the seriousness of the challenge from Coyne. Nor do we agree with the third candidate, Ian Allinson and his supporters, who dismiss the right-wing challenge.
His campaign represents a needless risk which could split the left vote. In the current climate, any weakening of support for Len McCluskey will be trumpeted as disillusionment with socialist ideas and will be presented as a reaction to Unite's support for Corbyn.
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