Stalinist in-jokes won’t build a healthy union

Posted in Off The Rails's blog on Tue, 24/11/2020 - 16:14,
RMT Young Members badge & Red London supporter

The RMT Young Members Committee has designed a new badge. Nothing wrong with that. But the slogan on the badge, "Always vigilant", has a meaning that is less than edifying. While “vigilance committees” in the unions under the influence of the Communist Party of the 1920s are worthy of study, if not necessarily emulation, the more recent use of the term has a wholly different meaning.

A clique of young Stalinists who once organised around the Red London Facebook page have used the term as part of a witch hunt against Trotskyists, anarchists, and other anti-Stalinist leftists, "rad-libs", and others who object to their brand of “edgy”, ultra-Stalinist workerist identity politics. Their preference for anonymity, sick jokes, and obsession with branding their opponents as “nonces” is a stain that needs removing from healthy political discussion.

Their take on “vigilance”, often accompanied by a one-finger salute, owes its heritage to the Communist Party of the 1940s, by then entirely Stalinist, which urged their supporters to be “vigilant” against the “Trotskyist menace” and exhorted their membership to “treat a Trotskyist as you would a fascist”. The “crime” of the Trotskyists at the time was to oppose laws banning strikes during the Second World War, laws which the Communist Party supported.

Most RMT young members will be totally oblivious to the origins of the slogan, and who can blame them. If our edgy Stalinist friends think the Communist Party of the 1940s, with its support for bans on strikes and its organised scab-herding, are good models for contemporary trade unionism, they should organise open political discussion to argue this, where the history and politics of the issue can be debated.

Instead they're using union resources to promote a cultish in-joke.


Picture shows a "Red London" supporter doing the "vigilance finger" salute

Off The Rails topics
Trade Unions
The AWL, Labour and the Left

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