The Unite union helped with resources for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign for Labour leader, and by all accounts Unite’s leaders are influential with the team round Corbyn.
So a long article by Unite “chief of staff” Andrew Murray about Corbyn’s Labour, first published on the web in mid-October and widely circulated since, deserves analysis.
It’s an odd article, written in the style of a jaded but worldly-wise oracle addressing young devotees. And vague when it gets to the point.
It castigates Blair-Brown “New Labour” at length, chides Ed Miliband’s weakness, and observes that battles inside the Labour Party are now central to left politics. Then it gets to how to consolidate Corbyn’s victory in face of hostility from the parliamentary Labour Party, from the media, and from the ruling class.
Murray advocates “a measured and radical approach to economic transformation”. Who would wish for a haphazard and conservative one? Murray is bland even when regretting that Jeremy Corbyn has (rightly in our view) committed himself to opposing British exit from the EU.
Most interesting is what’s missing.
The article says nothing about Corbyn’s Labour, or the Momentum movement launched by some of the Corbyn team, campaigning on the streets, to mobilise and to convince people.
It mentions the Tories’ new laws restricting trade unions, but makes no proposal to mobilise Labour’s new members to campaign against them. Or for the NHS. Or for public ownership and democratic control of high finance, which is TUC policy.
It mentions “restoring a greater measure to democracy to the Party”, but says nothing about what measure. And why only a measure? Why not just democracy? To make a democratic, policy-making, debate-rich Labour conference the decisive authority, and require all Labour’s old-regime “chiefs of staff” to follow the democratic mandate or step aside, is crucial.
So is creating space for an open, democratic, lively Young Labour and Labour Students movements. (The existing heavily-controlled Young Labour and Labour Students structures make real life difficult).
He says “wait and see” about the Momentum movement, but nothing about letting it develop a democratic structure and a campaigning profile, as it must.
Looks like Corbyn supporters who want to press ahead on those fronts will have to do it without help from Murray.
Murray has been chief of staff of the Unite union since 2011. Although theoretically he is an appointed functionary responsible for backroom organisation, rather than a person elected by union members to represent them, he has moved motions for Unite at the TUC, sat on the TUC General Council (though he is not there now), and spoken to the press on behalf of the union.
He is also an avowed admirer of the supposed “socialism” of the old USSR and a member of the Communist Party of Britain. He is a long-time leader of the Stop The War Coalition, which gained credit for organising big marches against the US invasion of Iraq but more recently has responded to Ukraine by pointedly not opposing Russia’s war and to Syria by implicitly backing Assad.