TGWU BL victory: we must deliver!

Submitted by Anon on 25 February, 2004 - 1:18

By a TGWU member

Candidates of the Broad Left have won an unexpectedly decisive 21:16 majority on the General Executive Council of the TGWU. The previous majority faction grouped around fake-left bureaucrat John Aitken has been routed. Despite retaining some influence in the union's regional structure, it is no longer a significant force in the national leadership.

The GEC is now controlled by supporters of general secretary Tony Woodley's 'agenda for change', giving him no excuse for backsliding on his promises to reform and democratise the structures and practices of the union.

There should be no illusions about the Broad Left. It is not a militant rank and file grouping. It is primarily an electoral machine whose majority politics can be roughly described as Tribune-ite to soft Stalinist. However, more left-wing forces (notably the Socialist Party and the AWL) have in recent years been able to participate.

AWL sympathiser Tom Cashman stood as the Broad Left candidate in his successful bid to oust key Aitken lieutenant (and chair of the union) Geordie Landles.

A sobering fact is the truly abysmal level of the turnout in this election. For instance, in Region 1B (the South-East):

Number of papers dispatched: 60,319. Number of papers returned: 6,917.
Votes for Tom Cashman: 3,451. Votes for Geordie Landles: 3,316

In other words, Cashman won on 5.72% of the vote. This turnout is typical for the territorial seats.

Involvement in the Trade Group elections was stronger but still very low. In Power and Engineering:

Number of papers dispatched: 47,939. Number of papers returned: 5,338.
Votes for John Aitken: 1,491. Votes for Gordon Fisher (Ind): 1,402.
Votes for Mick Murphy (BL): 2,426

As Tom Cashman comments: "To portray this as a stunning victory would be a misrepresentation worthy of the Socialist Alliance press office. Those wishing to turn the TGWU into an honest workers' organisation defeated the clique who previously controlled it and that is a small step towards regenerating our movement."

Socialists in the TGWU must now ensure that Woodley and the GEC majority deliver on their promises. Crucially, the structures of the union must be re-organised with less power to the anachronistic regional/territorial structure and more to the industrially-based Trade Groups.

All international contacts should be in the hands of Trade Group representatives, ensuring that these links promote class solidarity not bureaucratic junketing.

Woodley and the GEC majority must act upon their promises to open up the union and actively recruit young workers, people on government schemes and sweatshop workers.

We must insist that Woodley's promise to 'reclaim the Labour Party' for the working class becomes a real campaign, not just rhetoric.

The GEC results, and the recent opening-up of the Broad Left, give TGWU socialists the opportunity to get involved and wield real influence for the first time in years. If the new leadership fails to deliver, the fault will be as much ours as theirs.

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