Unite and a new Popular Front

Submitted by AWL on 19 May, 2015 - 6:20 Author: Jim Denham

“ … The [Labour] party’s leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace”, Counterfire

It hasn’t been widely publicised, but for the last couple of years Unite leader Len McCluskey has been saying that in the event of Labour losing the general election, Unite would seriously consider disaffiliating from the party.

Many of us considered this a bizarre position to take: surely the aftermath of a Labour defeat, and the ensuing ideological struggle between the Blairite right and various more left-wing currents, is precisely the time when affiliated unions should be exerting their influence?

McCluskey’s strange position seems to have been a concession to anti-Labour forces within the union, which include the Socialist Party (and their pathetic TUSC electoral front), various freelance syndicalists within the United Left, a significant number of Scottish members , and — perhaps most importantly – his “Chief of Staff” Andrew Murray, to whom he has in effect sub-contracted the running of politics within the union.

Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain who is on record supporting North Korea, has a record of deciding the union’s political “line” without reference to the union’s executive, in accordance with his own Stalinist predilections.

Murray is part of the current within the CPB that favoured closer links with Galloway and Respect and, through his prominent involvement in the Stop The War Coalition also has a close relationship with John Rees, Lindsey German and their small ex-Trotskyist organisation Counterfire.

This influence over the union’s leadership accounts for the enormous resources Unite has poured into Counterfire’s initiative The People’s Assembly, the union’s declared (but undebated) support for Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, and also for McCluskey’s unwillingness to call for a Labour vote in Scotland.

Counterfire et al have two prominent friends in the mainstream press, Seumas Milne (in the Guardian) and Owen Jones, both of whom, immediately prior to the election, were promoting the idea of a popular frontist anti-Tory coalition, and the idea that a Tory minority government would be, in effect, a “coup” against the anti-Tory parliamentary majority.

Counterfire is small and politically insignificant, but via Murray, it wields influence within Unite. Therefore Unite activists who understand the vital political importance of maintaining the Labour link, should prepare for battle against the defeatists, class collaborationists and syndicalists who’ll be arguing for a break with Labour and the creation of a lash-up with the SNP, the Greens and even (according to the schema put forward by Seumas Milne) sections of the Lib Dems!

They may present it as “an English Syriza” reacting to the “Pasokification” of Labour (“English” because the SNP’s autonomy in Scotland must be respected), but in reality it would be a new variation on an old, class-collaborationist theme: the Popular Front.