Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Unite leadership election: should the left support Len McCluskey or Jerry Hicks?

Unite members are currently voting in the election for their union's general secretary. It is arguably the most important trade union election for generations.

Counterfire editor Ady Cousins has written an article outlining the case for Len McCluskey, with which I completely agree. McCluskey's only credible rival is right-winger Les Bayliss, but there is also a left-wing candidate Jerry Hicks. There is a danger of Hicks supporters splitting the broadly left and anti-cuts vote, thus allowing Bayliss to snatch victory. As Ady writes:

'The massive cuts and job losses being forced through by the Coalition will only be defeated by a mass movement of protest and coordinated strike action by millions of workers. Relying on a strategy of electing left wing leaders to positions of power will not deliver the type of movement that can win.

Trade union leaders of all shades of opinion occupy a contradictory position in society. In order to be taken seriously by employers they have to occasionally sanction strike action. But their role is to negotiate the terms under which workers are exploited not to overthrow the exploiters.

The history of the last century is full of examples of left wing trade union leaders demobilising mass movements when they threatened to go beyond the limits of trade union struggle and sweep away our rulers.

The key to winning the fight against the cuts is building a network of rank and file activists that can organise independently of the union leaders and deliver the action we need.

But if Bayliss wins, or does better than expected, it will be a setback for all those that want to see the unions organise coordinated strike action.

Therefore Unite members should fight for as large a vote for McCluskey as possible - and build a network of rank and file activists to make sure that vote is a mandate for effective resistance to the cuts.'

Read the full article HERE

On the wider political issues around the trade union rank and file, see my recent short article 'Trade unions and rank and file movements'.


1 comment:

  1. A victory for Jerry Hicks would be a huge boost, I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    Len will make little difference but is being pushed to the left by Jerry.

    Bayliss will lose.