As a member of the CWU I can say what a massive difference it has been to have had Billy Hayes as our general secretary.
It's a big step forward for getting things through at union meetings. I'm extremely pleased that he's been so prominent in support of anti-war activity and the European Social Forum. The piece in last month's 'Socialist Review' was an excellent summing up of where we are and where we want to be.
We'll debate while we struggle how we get there. The big priority is building and maintaining strong union organisation. In the Post Office that means beating back the management offensive that is called 'The Way Forward'. In BT many chances to take the fight to management have been missed. For workers with both these employers the union has been seen as too ready to follow the bosses' agenda.
We're not all in it together--it's us versus them. There is a clear divide between management interests and workers' interests. Our side must resist the whole idea that we have some common interest.
You can't be a good union militant without good, outward looking politics. By the same token you can't be a really serious political activist without involving yourself 'up to your elbows' in building and maintaining basic workplace union organisation.
The 'loony left' tag had some resonance among many loyal trade unionists because, after the failure to stand firm over ratecapping, left-Labour councils didn't have the resources to make some policies, which would have been excellent when fully funded, anything other than empty tokens. We mustn't repeat the mistake.