Unions & politics

Industrial news in brief

Author: 

Gemma Short and Ollie Moore

On Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 April, National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) members at Forest Hill school in Lewisham struck for the fifth time in their on-going dispute against a management proposed restructuring to deal with a £1.3 million deficit. The management’s proposal sheds 15 teaching jobs, significantly increases teachers’ workload, radically reduces the depth of the creative aspects of the curriculum, ends any specialist English as an Additional Language (EAL) support, and massively diminishes the support for students with Special Educational Needs.

Forest Hill teachers strike; cinema workers to strike on May Day; Tube round-up; NUT: close vote on Labour; DOO strikes continue; UCLU cleaners strike.

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McCluskey only just re-elected

Author: 

Ann Field

Gerard Coyne — the candidate of the right, backed not just by the right-wing media but also by the most right-wing elements of the Labour Party — came within 5,500 votes of being elected the new General Secretary of Unite the Union.

McCluskey got 59,000 votes (45.5%); Coyne 53,500 (41.5%); and rank-and-file candidate Ian Allinson 17,000 (13%). McCluskey was re-elected, but in every other respect the election result was a major setback for McCluskey and the trade union politics which he represents.

The dominant left culture within Unite has an excessive focus on elections. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win elections. The problem arises when political life degenerates into electioneering at the expense of rebuilding grassroots organisation at branch and workplace level.

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Re-elect Len McCluskey!

Author: 

Ann Field

Ballot papers for Unite the Union’s General Secretary and national Executive Council elections have been sent out to the union’s 1.4 million members. Voting runs to 19 April, and the result will be out on 28 April.

West Midlands Unite full-timer Gerard Coyne is the right-wing challenger to Len McCluskey, the incumbent General Secretary seeking re-election for a third time. Ian Allinson is also standing as the candidate of rank-and-file democracy.

Unite members should vote for Len McCluskey in the General Secretary election. But that is no more than the first stage of the campaign needed.

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The dangers of Stalinism in Labour

Author: 

Martin Thomas

24 September 2016 gave me a condensed snapshot of the problems which are now generating unease among Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the Labour Party.

The pressures and blockages on the left-wing Labour leadership cannot be defeated by panic-stricken manipulations, but only by helping the new left-wing members to organise, mobilise, debate, learn, and win democratic control.

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Ian Allinson — an inconsistent critic

Author: 

Dale Street

Ian Allinson is standing as “an experienced workplace activist”, “the grassroots socialist candidate”, and “the only candidate who knows first-hand the experiences and frustrations of our members”. By contrast, writes Allinson, Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne have both been “been paid officials of Unite for many years.” McCluskey stands for “more of the same” and Coyne stands for “turning the clock back”.

An assessment of Ian Allinson’s campaign to become Unite General Secretary.

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McCluskey moves ahead, but not left

Author: 

Dale Street

In the election campaigning for the post of Unite the Union’s General Secretary, the McCluskey election machine continues to deliver the goods.

With a while still to go before nominations close on 17 February, over 300 branches have nominated Len McCluskey, who has been general secretary since 2011 but has stood down early so he could run for a third term. A statement supporting McCluskey has been signed by 60 out of 64 Executive Council members and a similarly overwhelming majority on other top levels of the union.

The slick campaign being run for Len McCluskey conceals a number of problems, including the gap which separates McCluskey’s election rhetoric from reality, and the gap between McCluskey’s policies and the policies which Unite should be championing.

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Trump’s “America First” means workers last

Author: 

Lance Selfa

Perhaps it’s foolish to take anything Donald Trump says as an articulation of core principles or beliefs. But this passage from his inaugural address hit many like a bolt of lightning: From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.

Labour leaders like Jimmy Hoffa Jr. are giving Trump the cover to paint his economic programme — which in reality is based on tax cuts for the rich, allowing corporations free reign, and selling the US as a low-wage economy — as “populist” and pro-worker.

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Marxist Theory and History: 

Letter: Nuclear not the answer

Author: 

Neil Laker and Mike Zubrowski

In Solidarity 428 “Copeland, Corbyn, and the future of nuclear”, Luke Hardy reminds us that “socialists should deal with facts”. True, but socialists should deal with all the relevant facts; and in the case of nuclear power, some facts point in one direction, others in another.

Recognition that nuclear fission is better than many on the left see it as does not mean we should necessarily support new nuclear power stations.

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Any future for the steel industry?

Author: 

John Cunningham

I was born in a steel town – Stocksbridge, about 9 miles west of Sheffield. The steelworks were huge and employed at its peak 6,500 workers. The sirens which marked the start and end of shifts, the roar of furnaces, the clanging of shunting trains and machinery, were constant background noise to my early years.

In 1971, the steel industry employed 320,000. Today that figure stands at around 18,000.

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