Grass Roots Left Relaunch

Brothers and Sisters, Comrades and Friends,

We must do a Corbyn in the Trade Unions if the movement that sparked by Corbyn’s election in September 2015 is to advance now.

Calthorpe Arms
The Grass Roots Left is having its very important Relaunch meeting on Saturday, 20 October 2018 from 12:00-16:00 at the Calthorpe Arms 252 Greys Inn Road, near Kings Cross, London WC1X 8JR. Jerry Hicks, who challenged Len McCluskey for general secretary in April 1913 and for almost 80,000 votes, close to 40%, will speak on the necessity for the grass roots movement today.

The Officers have decided that it is far too long since its AGM last January, the question of the Unite General Secretary has just been finally decided in favour of Len McCluskey against the right-winger Coyne.  

Jerry Hicks
The crisis of capitalism globally both politically and economically has escalated since then. The political crisis in Britain was never more severe and uncertain. Brexit has split both Labour and the Tories, the latter more severely but nonetheless the bogus anti-Semitism crisis attacks on Corbyn and the left have starkly highlighted the pernicious role of the entire trade union bureaucracy in attacking the 555,000 left-moving mass membership of Labour, the biggest mass party in Europe. And its own membership, and union policy on Open Selection in the case of Unite.

On 4 September the three right wing general secretaries, Unison, GMB and Usdaw, were joined by Len McCluskey on Labour’s NEC in forcing through the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which practically makes criticism of Israel impossible. They even joined with John Lansman and Rhea Wolfson in defeating Jeremy Corbyn’s caveat, which would have at least made a position of condemning Israel as racist possible.

Almost all of the trade union bureaucracies (with the honourable exception of the FBU), voted to block open selection and to force through the new nomination system for future leadership elections at Labour’s conference at the end of September. This is an outrage and opposed to Unite’s Conference policy.

Make no mistake, it is the working class itself and the inevitable return of its militancy that these bureaucrats fear.  They are a separate social layer from the working class they proport to defend, their interests are to defend the capitalist system itself and their corrupt relationship with it. However, they are working class leaders and therefore must defend the interests of workers to some extent or they will be replaced by more militant leaders. It is to this contradiction the Grass Roots Left addresses itself and aims to exploit by building a militant mass grass roots movement in Unite and in all unions eventually.

The importance of having a platform that all elected candidates of a Grass Roots Left are committed to should be obvious. The aim would be to stop the constant problem of people being elected on “left policies” and then them turning right and kicking those who elected them in the teeth: the Derek Simpson syndrome. Accountability to the grass roots is crucial, and withdrawal of electoral support an important method of control. But far better is only electing those with a proven commitment to the grass roots of the union.

It is necessary to reject what is called the syndicalist version of the grass roots where a group seeks to educate, mobilise and agitate for industrial action whilst not standing for any union position at all on the basis that power always corrupts. This outlook results in a division of labour, the bureaucrat is safe in his office and the grass roots mobilise the members when necessary as an adjunct to the bureaucrat, whilst bitterly criticising the corruption of the bureaucrats in their propaganda.

Of course, we will critically support left candidates who are not our members and do not support our full platform on the basis of the united front tactic against the right bureaucrats. This is because such candidates talk more left, proclaim to be on the side of the workers more than the pro-boss right bureaucrats and it is necessary for the grass roots to learn about these in the practice of the class struggle. For instance, if Jerry Hicks was not standing in the 2013 Unite election it would have been correct to support Len McCluskey, despite his fake leftism and hypocrisy, because whilst we may understand this well the ordinary membership do not and will not until they begin to struggle themselves in strike actions, occupations etc.

And we make no apologies for supporting Ian Allinson in April 2017, as he represented the struggles of the grass roots.

So, it is not a question of electing better leaders but of mobilising the grass roots to fight for their own interests by defeating the bureaucratic opponents within the trade unions.

Whilst our first priority is to build a Grass Roots Left in Unite we are for such  structures in all unions. We welcome as members all trade unionists committed to the grass roots principles like the building workers and others to facilitate the formation of grass roots organisations in their own unions.

Model Motion to the GRL Relaunch on 20 October Gerry Downing.

This branch of Unite the Union condemns the behaviour of our union’s delegation to the NEC of the Labour party in the month of September.

The manoeuvring to stifle debate on open selection ensured, that what should be a basic democratic right for constituency Labour party members, to vote for who their prospective parliamentary candidate is, has been denied.

This is at odds with the policy of our union in relation to mandatory reselection adopted at conference, the supreme policy-making body of the union.

Instead of supporting open selection, that would have been in line with Unite policy the delegation chose instead to support a position that was a compromise that offered an improvement on the corrupt trigger ballot system.

The difficulty that remains with the trigger ballot system, (albeit with a lower threshold of a third instead of a half), is that MPs hostile to the party's leadership will be left in place to undermine the party without being answerable to the membership.

There have been no detailed assurances so far that unions will not affiliate ghost branches on mass to prevent a trigger ballot being called.

It has not been made clear if Labour party branches in a constituency AND/OR affiliated organisations constitutes the whole that the third is derived from

Furthermore, it must be made clear on what basis a branch meeting is quorate when a meeting to decide on triggering a ballot takes place.

That anti-Corbyn MP's will be allowed to remain in place, capable of ensuring that a future Labour government can be prevented from implementing significant reform is deeply disturbing.

That such elements could play an instrumental role in bringing a radical Labour down from within would render the entire work of the anti-austerity movement meaningless.

This branch, therefore, calls on Unite the Union’s Executive Council to ensure that our delegation to the Labour party NEC urges that the question of open selection is revisited at the earliest opportunity.

Gerry Downing GRL Secretary


'Bourgeois Courts' and Karl Marx

Keith Henderson has taken his case against being denied the right to stand for General Secretary of the GMB to the Certification Officer. Here is the case he has put, to which the GMB must now answer:

1) On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47 (1) of the 1992 Act in that the Union’s by-law 13 relating to the Election of General Secretary and Treasurer 2015 prevented Mr Henderson, and other lay members of the union, from contacting branches to advise them of their intention to stand as a candidate in the election for the post of General Secretary and Treasurer.

2) On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47 (1) of the 1992 Act in that the nomination period of 8 weeks was insufficient for intended nominees to gain the required nominations from 30 branches and was insufficient for branches to arrange and hold meetings to decide upon whether to support a given individual’s nomination.

3) On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47 (1) of the 1992 Act in that the Union’s London Central X58 branch was not provided with the necessary papers/information for the election of General Secretary and Treasurer, including the nomination form, until 3 weeks into the nomination period which curtailed the 8 week nomination period thereby leaving insufficient time to write to branch members, arrange a suitable date for a nomination meeting, arrange a venue and give reasonable notice to members of such a meeting.

4) On or around 1 July 2015 GMB breached section 47 (1) of the 1992 Act in that the Union did not provide sufficient information that the election of General Secretary and Treasurer was being held and, in particular, most members did not know of the 22 June to 17 August 2015 nomination period as no written notification to the membership was allowed and there was no notification on the Union’s website.

5) On or around 30 June 2015 GMB breached the Union’s by-law 13 in that Regional Secretaries Tim Roache, Paul McCarthy and Paul Maloney and National Secretary Gary Smith contacted the Morning Star newspaper directly or indirectly which published an article stating that these Union officials were seeking nominations from the GMB branches for the election of General Secretary and Treasurer. This article constituted the issuing on behalf of candidates in the election of a text, circular or other material (whether written, typed or printed and whether communicated electronically or otherwise), other than an election address according with by-laws 6 to 12 inclusive, and so was prohibited under by-law 13.

Grass Roots Left has had various objections from those opposed to Keith Henderson using the ‘bourgeois courts’ against opponents in the Labour movement because this, they say, it is ‘unprincipled’ and is apparently an attack on ‘democracy’. We totally reject this charge.

In 1860 Karl Marx published a pamphlet Herr Vogt: A Spy in the WorkersMovement where he recounts how he used the ‘bourgeois courts’ to expose a state agent. In this instance the use of the Certification Officer to restore some measure of democratic rights to the membership of the third biggest union in Britain is certainly justified and will be understood by all serious socialist and militants in that light.

And today we are entitled to respond to the defenders of the GMB bureaucracy who ludicrously claim that they are defending workers’ democracy against Keith Henderson in the same words as those used by Marx himself against those who criticised his actions in using the ‘bourgeois courts’ over a century and a half ago:
“We excuse the lectures on democracy and democratic organs contained in your letter on the grounds of novelty.” [i]

[i] Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne by Karl Marx 1853,