Full-time union officials: defeated amendment 6.3

Submitted by martin on 20 May, 2007 - 7:01

Delete paragraphs 6, 25, 27, 28 and 30 and insert: "The group needs a proper debate on union organising". (The conference voted to insert "The group needs a proper debate on union organising", but not to make the deletions. For the preamble to this amendment and to amendment 6.1, click here).

Paragraph 6 reads:

This means, generally, going for jobs in those sectors where there is a higher level of class combativity in the workforce, a higher level of union activity, a greater political life in the union, and/or an already-established nucleus of AWL people in the sector and in the union.

So, with its deletion, paragraphs 5 and 7 would read:

Thus we should encourage our activists and sympathisers, when they are looking for jobs, to go for jobs which will give them the best chances of building a base for intervening in working-class struggles from "the inside".
We summed it up in our 2005 conference document:"The unions are a critical element in the work of a Marxist organisation that aspires to lead the working class. Persuading student comrades and sympathisers to take certain jobs and to add their commitment to our campaigns in certain unions has to be made a priority once again. The NC must set out the political arguments for, and strongly encourage, student comrades and sympathisers to get jobs in the Post, BT, health service and on the tube".

With the deletion of paragraphs 25, 27, 28, and 30, the final section of the document reads:

In that sense, it is much easier to pursue that general orientation today. There is, however, also a new problem.

An ex-student leftist absorbed in an NGO job will do very little workplace organising. The workplaces are generally small. The life of the workplace is geared around getting in the grants that will finance its continuing "good work", not around producing goods or services for an employer. It is almost impossible for the leftist - who will have chosen the NGO job because it is "more interesting", and seems to offer them a chance of "doing good" more immediate than the long-term perspectives of revolutionary socialism - not to get sucked into the terms of reference of the NGO, i.e. of their employer.

Part of the degeneration of the WP/ISL current in the USA was the drift of many of its activists into full-time union official jobs. Of course, it was an effect of previous political softening and adverse circumstances; but it also in time became a cause of degeneration in its own right, a "social" factor skewing the activists' perceptions.

A Rank and File Youth Project will have organisational implications for the AWL. Union fractions must be prepared to improve communication and coordination to accommodate and support new comrades in this work. Such changes will be of benefit to our trade union work as a whole and to the wider functioning of the AWL.

The group needs a proper debate on union organising.