What's "left" in the NEU?

Posted in Class Struggle's blog on Tue, 23/03/2021 - 19:21,
NEU striker
Author

A Lewisham teacher

The NEU [National Education Union] Left was launched as “a membership organisation” on Saturday 13 March. It was “launched” as a brand over two years ago, at the NEU conference.

Over those two years, it has existed as a nebulous bureaucratic lash up between the Socialist Teachers Alliance (STA) and the Broad Left (BL), both legacy organisations from the NUT, and some invited legacy members of the ATL. The aim from the start has been to create an electoral bloc large enough to control the union. BL controlled the union until 2008, when the STA and CDFU (Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union) took over.

Since the NEU’s “brand” launch, it has struggled to square the competing careerist interests of all its component parts. On paper three of the four candidates in the current NEU Deputy General Secretary contest are “NEU Left”.

Worse, the NEU Left is not really left. The “membership” launch was accompanied by “five founding principles”. It is not clear how they were decided.

The first sections in that document would be agreed by virtually everyone in the union (though when it refers to “one union for all in education”, it still uses the term “professional unity”, which has often meant teachers-only; and the “Equality” section mentions only racism, omitting sexism, trans rights, and LGBT rights generally).

A bland commitment to internationalism and solidarity is made specific only by a call for “solidarity with teacher trade unions in Cuba and Palestine”.

Why only teacher trade unions? Why not school worker unions? Why not all unions? Why not other countries too? The arbitrary focus feeds into “absolute anti-Zionism” and the demonisation of Israel. Workers’ Liberty stands in solidarity with the Palestinian trade unions. But the Cuban union SNTECD is a government-controlled, yellow union.

Sadly, “internationalism” in the NEU and NUT has for too long meant union money for junkets to Cuba.

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