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Submitted by martin on Fri, 28/08/2009 - 14:12

Hi Ben,

A Google search on "temporarily quit" gives 6,470 hits, and on "quit temporarily" another 1,110.

In my article I offered no prediction of what SP would do later in the dispute. And, as I've said before, I did not allege the SP had stopped supporting the Vestas workers, any more than I claimed that the smaller left groups who came to Vestas not at all or only once or twice were not supporting the workers. I just reported that for a while SP had come to Vestas in some numbers, and then it had ceased to do so. Or, to use one word instead of four, quit.

I didn't claim that RMT regional secretary Richard Howard "needed" me on Tuesday 21 July to tell him about the need to call the workers together to elect a committee. I recorded only that I did tell him, he agreed, and that is how the committee was elected. I do not want to diminish the credit due to Richard. (Perhaps, for the sake of readers not familiar with the detail, I should point out here that Richard is not an SP member. He is a Labour Party member).

If Richard hadn't been there, what would AWL have done when Ed Maltby's first attempt to call the workers together to elect a committee failed? I guess we would have approached some of the workers we knew, worked to convince them, one by one, and then made a more concerted effort to convene a meeting, with their help and perhaps also the help of a megaphone. I think we could have done it.

In relation to official union organisation, at the time we saw things in terms of the need to get a workers' committee elected and functioning before Unite officials turned up and tried to take charge. We expected Unite officials to turn up within hours. (The basis for that? Speaking to a Unite Executive member a couple of days before). In fact they didn't turn up at all.

What would we have done if Richard hadn't established the RMT as the alternative union on the spot? I guess we would have approached another union, perhaps the GMB (Barry Brittain's and Liam Cumming's branch, which has been very supportive). Is is better that we had RMT there? Yes. Would the workers have been incapable of organising themselves without the RMT? I think not.

You haven't replied to my points on the food. You write: "I don’t think it was 'their [the climate-camp activists'] successful action' which got food to the occupiers. I think it was the RMT. That point has been made".

It is plain fact that an action initiated by climate-camp activists (though involving many more people than them) on Wednesday 22nd got food to the occupiers. It is also fact that straight after that the Vestas bosses got fencing put up all across the front of the factory - to block further "food rushes" - and agreed to supply food to the occupiers themselves.

That was before the RMT had any members among the Vestas workers, or any official involvement.

I'll leave the rest of your comment, the stuff about "calling for" and so on, for other people to respond to. But I will say something on Militant's role on Liverpool council when it controlled it in 1984-5.

If building council houses (or rather, sitting in the office which administers building of council houses) is the measure of Marxist virtue, then Harold Macmillan, Tory housing minister 1951-4, was a better Marxist than either AWL or SP. The decisive measure of Militant's (the SP's forerunner's) role on Liverpool council is that it ended up by dividing and demoralising the Liverpool working class, and getting Militant itself evicted from the Labour Party with little resistance. Read the story!.

Best wishes,

Martin

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