Amidst the revelations about footballer's private lives, rancid misogyny and horoscopes that filled the News Of the World recently, there was a interview with Les Bayliss titled "Union chief slams walk-outs over cuts". What makes this article particularly destructive is that rather then being a rant by a embittered and marginalised right-winger on the eve of retirement, Bayliss happens to be the Assistant General Secretary of Unite and a leading contender in the election for General Secretary.
Bayliss said "Public sector strikes will only deprive the vulnerable of services the Tories want to cut". If the strikes happen Bayliss argues: "The story will get changed from government savagery to union militancy. The Tories will hit us with even more restrictive laws and working people will look away in disgust.". He then lays into the BA Cabin Crew "They had a good case — but the public and many of our members were so horrified they lost sympathy. If I am general secretary of Unite there will NEVER be any strikes called over Christmas."
News Of The World and the other News International publications are amongst the most mendacious and persistent opponents of the right of workers to fight for decent pay and conditions, Bayliss has joined in this bosses chorus against his own members. The very least that you want from union officials is to publicly defend democratically decided action in the bourgeois press, Bayliss proves he cannot even be trusted to do this.
Workers Liberty is calling for a vote for Len McClusky in Unite's forth coming General Secretary election. This is not because we think Mclusky is a rank file candidate, he is not. Neither do we think his programme for the union is anything but inadequate. However the pledges McClusky has made to fight the Tory cuts, democratise the union and end the gravy train whilst inadequate massively differentiate him from the recipe of class collaborationism, centralism and craft chauvinism offered by Bayliss. Len McClusky also won the overwhelming backing of the United Left grouping within the union and has managed to coalesce a lot of rank and file support in workplaces and branches.
Whilst this in itself is not decisive it is these forces who will lead the any rank and file transformation of the union. We take our intervention in Unite seriously and we seek to influence these workers and we cannot do this if we simply disregard their democratic decisions. Finally Len is the only candidate who has any hope of stopping Bayliss. The prospects for the left and any future rank and file movement would suffer if Bayliss won the election, a victory for McClusky would be a limited a victory for the United Left.
Some socialists are advocating a vote for Jerry Hicks. Jerry ran against Derek Simpson in the Amicus section General Secretary election last year and we backed Jerry at that time. We believe it is wrong to back Jerry in this election. Jerry is not going to win but neither has he shown he is interested in building a permanent rank and file movement that would outlast the election. He has not coalesced more then a small number of activists behind his campaign and his support mainly comes from socialist groups outside the union. Hicks does stand for the election for officials and argues that these officials are on on a average workers wage, we agree with Jerry on this. However both his record in resorting to using the certification office and his policy of equal voting rights for retired members are anti-democratic.
Jerry and his supporters must recognise that the danger Bayliss poses to union democracy is real and that only McClusky can stop him. For socialist groups at this time to call for a vote for Hicks in the face of this threat is both self indulgent and sectarian. We call on Jerry and his supporters to stand down and offer critical support to Len McClusky, but also to join with us in the fight we need to transform Unite into a rank and file led combat organisation of our class.