Splits in the left and the Rank and File

With attempted coups and splits within the Left in Unite, you would be forgiven for asking, what’s that got to do with the Rank & File? Well let’s examine this question.

The United Left in Scotland is a lay member group within Unite that promotes a progressive agenda, both industrially and politically, that they believe, the union should pursue. Senior members of the Rank & File in Scotland are, in fact, also members of the United Left in Scotland. However that is not the only reason.

According to Anne Field, in the Shiraz Socialist blog, the leading light in this coup or split, is none other than Mark Lyon, former Unite convenor at Ineos, Grangemouth. Isn’t he the one that called the Rank & File rent-a-mob during the Besna dispute, I hear you ask? Well, allegedly, yes, apparently he is. He is also vice chair of Unite’s Executive Council and Chair of the International Committee.

So what is Unite’s response to attempted coups and risks of splits? Well, if you look at the trouble within the Labour Party and the vote of no confidence, by the PLP, in the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, that resulted in another leadership election, Unite’s response was one of condemnation of the PLP and quite rightly so. At Unite’s Policy Conference Len McCluskey said “…. And most of all, we are a union of principle.  We do not throw words to the wind or indulge in pointless gestures or posturing.  We reach agreements where possible and fight for our members where necessary. We don’t dwell on dogma, but we don’t confuse right with wrong. We debate difference and we cherish unity.  We stand proud in the British, Irish and international labour movement, and we do all this because of YOU, you here in this hall and thousands of our workplace representatives around the country. We have much still to do my friends; And we will do it together, while we remain united, we will remain strong”. Furthermore the Scottish Regional Secretary, in a press release, said “At this time of tremendous political and economic uncertainty, our country now looks to the Scottish Labour Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party at Westminster, to preserve our members’ jobs and working conditions, and to protect industries under increasing pressure in the uncertain climate following the decision of the UK to leave the European Union……..our members and the people of Scotland will be looking with dismay at the co-ordinated attempts to undermine the democratic mandate of our elected Leaders in Scotland and the UK”. Both very laudable indeed, but what about their response to the split within their own union in Scotland.

The splitters held a meeting in Glasgow on the 27th of August and guess who was there? According to the Shiraz Socialist blog, it was none other than the Scottish Regional Secretary and 13 other officers of the union. This group have said that they do not recognise the democratic decisions taken by United Left Scotland members at their AGM in June of this year, including the election of the new chairperson, who happens to be a prominent member of the Rank & File in Scotland. Len McCluskey apparently said, that he doesn’t support a split, but if there was a split and there was two groups claiming to be the left in Scotland, he would support a group who has Mark Lyon and the Regional Secretary as members. Eh, really? It is worth noting that when talking about the wasted three month fighting against the coup in the Labour Party, a leading member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet was heard saying that “If this happened in a trade union, they would nail them to the wall”. Well….. eh no!! As it happens, they are backing the splitters. Why hasn’t Mark Lyon been nailed to the wall? Where is the principle in denouncing one coup and supporting another? All within the same labour movement. The shameful betrayal of members of United Left Scotland, including the Rank & File, shows a complete disregard for the lay member democracy of the union and one that is under threat.

However, we believe that worrying developments may present the Rank & File with further concerns. Apparently, the chair of the Scottish Building, Construction and Allied Trades’ RISC who also happens to be vice chair of the NISC, turns out, it seems, to be one of the co-conspirators in this whole sorry affair, and was also at the meeting on the 27th August. So, it seems, we have someone with a prominent position in the Construction sector, actively working against the Rank & File members in Scotland and possibly the UK. He also holds a position on the Scottish Executive as a result of being elected from the Risc. This person, who purports to be a supporter of the Rank & File, has attended our Scottish and national meetings, and has now, its believed, been working to undermine our members. We, the Rank & File, are trade unionists, we campaign on industrial matters and on political matters. We believe in solidarity and we support workers in struggle, both here and overseas. We are against those who try to split us for their own ends, and we don’t like betrayal. An attack on one of our members is an attack on us all, whether from employers or elsewhere.

Coups and splits are never pleasant, as damages inflicted could be irreparable and trust, even harder to reconcile. There are moves to try and bring this coup to an end and there is an open meeting planned for the 12th November. It may be resolved, it may not. But the unforgiveable thing, is witnessing comrades turning their back on good people within the Rank & File and that betrayal will never be excused.

Unite’s opposition to the coup against Corbyn, and its support for the coup within the Left in Scotland, is so obviously contradictory as to be staring you right in the face. So, how can you be a fervent advocate of unity one minute, then, back a coup and a split, the next. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of Unite’s leadership needs to be challenged or the splitters will win….. Who’s next? Over to you Len.

Splitters of the world unite. Aye right.

The Scottish Rank & File Executive Committee







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