from Solidarity - Vol. 3 No. 8 - 31 May 2002
The National Moderate Group, the faction which organised the coup in PCS, comes from the CPSA (Civil and Public Services' Association), one of the unions which merged to form the PCS. It was formally launched in 1976, but had a stranglehold on the CPSA from the 1960s.
The Moderates have never had a large active membership. Their funding and politics have been shrouded in mystery.
In the fifties, a grouping called the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists was instrumental in ousting Communists from what was then the Civil Service Clerical Association. This was the forerunner of the Moderates.
Other links can be traced back to the fifties with a group called Common Cause, which exists to this day. This group linked "better dead than red" militiary men and Tory right-wingers with union officials under fire from the rank-and-file left.
Common Cause established a trade union front, under the name Industrial Research and Information Services (IRIS), in 1956. In 1963 the Tory government gave IRIS 40,000 pounds (equivalent to 500,000 pounds in today's money) from the intelligence budget, twith the stated intention of influencing elections in unions where Communists had a base. IRIS got almost as much again from the private sector, including oil company Shell and motor manafacturer Rootes.
In the seventies, IRIS was joined by TRUEMID, the Movement for True Industrial Democracy. TRUEMID was initially financed by Colonel David Stirling, the founder of Special Air Services (the SAS), who at this time was also working on plans to establish a private paramilitary strike-breaking force.
The general secretary of TRUEMID, Bob Matthews, was a former CPSA general secretary. Three other ex-CPSA activists also took paid posts at TRUEMID. TRUEMID lent money to finance the publication of the Moderates' newsletter, 'Daylight'.
IRIS was busier than ever in the late eighties, when the Militant Tendency was at the peak of its influence in the CPSA. IRIS - traditionally orientated to blue collar unions - suddenly began to show strong interests. Its newsletter, 'IRIS News', reprinted CPSA election results in full, with extensive commentary openly backing the Moderates.
By this stage, most of IRIS's money came through a charity called the Industrial Trust. This body was established by Tory and Labour peers, and raised up to 147,000 pounds a year, handing the bulk over to IRIS.
IRIS wound itself down in 1992, believing that the collapse of Stalinism and the defeats suffered by the working class in the eighties meant the end of the red menace.
No doubt the Moderates' desperate tactics now reflect that panic at the discovery that there is a real left in the unions, strongly anti-Stalinist, which is not dead at all.