I was glad to read Paul Embery‘s reply (Letters, September SR) to Martin Wicks‘ claim that various rank and file groups were ’SWP organisations‘.
This type of criticism will be familiar to any trade union activist.
The recent troubles of my union, the PCS, will also be familiar to most readers. The immediate problem was solved by a very broad-based campaign. This was followed by a successful electoral pact combining the broad left organisation, Left Unity, and the softer of two right wing factions, currently trading under the meaningless title of PCS Democrats, who are quite clear that Left Unity remain their ’political opponents‘.
This joint approach meant that most of the leading positions went to a broad-based coalition not dominated by a single political organisation. In fact, their determination to get rid of the ’Moderate‘ faction aside, the two have little in common. The success of the operation may create future problems, but we sometimes have to take risks. A scratch is easier to deal with than gangrene.
Despite the experience of generations, there is no automatic feeling that betrayals by trade union bureaucracies result from the specific role they play rather than from some ’original sin‘ in the thinking of individuals who can be replaced. The solution is not to simply dismiss existing broad lefts as electoral dead ends or rank and file groups as sectarian fronts. We have to work within - and help build - the first, arguing for the position of the second and, where rank and file groups exist, help to build them.
A plague on both their houses is hardly constructive.