PCS pick and mix

Submitted by Matthew on 11 July, 2012 - 1:44

In the Guardian of 26 June, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service union, declared that "Labour should be leading the defence of our welfare state... and arguing for... a real living wage, rent controls, a massive programme of housebuilding, and jobs. The unions have been doing this, but we shouldn't have to do it alone".

The thought is reasonable, but out of kilter with what Serwotka, in unison with the Socialist Party which politically dominates his union's leadership, has argued for some time.

The SP reckons that Labour became a through-and-through bourgeois party at about the time that the SP's forerunners ("Militant") chose to quit it in the early 1990s. Calling on Labour to pursue pro-working-class policies, in tune with the unions, is in their view as nonsensical as calling on the Lib Dems or Tories to do the job.

Serwotka's new tack is welcome. Will he act on it? Logically, he should get together with Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey, explore how PCS can chime in with Unite's new Labour Party strategy and add stimulus for that strategy to be taken from nice promise to real action.

PCS could, for example, organise those of its own members who are also Labour Party members to act as a coherent force in the Labour Party.

Elsewhere recently, Serwotka faces in a different direction. In a New Statesman blog, 2 July, commenting on the PCS ballot result which authorises the union, in principle, to support occasional election candidates, he writes: "Our judgement will be based on the individual candidates, their records and what they stand for. We already work very closely with MPs from Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Green party..."

That "pick-and-mix" approach - essentially identical to the policy of US unions to back "friends of labour" from whatever party - cuts across a drive for a coherent and distinct working-class presence in politics.

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