The two members of the SWP on the Executive of the civil service union PCS, Martin John and Sue Bond, voted to approve the Government-TUC pensions deal.
Yet an article in Socialist Worker that same week, personally signed by SW editor Chris Bambery, and featured as the lead item on the SWP website, had already denounced the deal in the most strident terms as an “abject capitulation”.
SWPers are saying that John and Bond just “made a mistake”. In fact they followed the SWP’s rule of the last few years — never to say or do anything, within their earshot, which might offend trade union leaders who support or might support their rotten “Respect” coalition.
In the 1980s the SWP retailed an ultra-militant rhetoric — “all out, tomorrow, forever” as the answer to almost all industrial situations. In the 1984-5 miners’ strike it vehemently criticised Arthur Scargill for not organising militant-enough picketing. It was always a “fake ultra-leftism” — confined to demanding ultra-militancy when the SWP was safe in knowing that it was in the minority — and that was revealed in the early 1990s as the SWP took control of a few union branches, starting with Sheffield City Unison. But the Respect coalition has brought a further and sharper turn.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka is the only trade-union leader who supports Respect. Ironically, SW’s denunciation of the deal concludes by declaring: “We should redouble our efforts to build Respect as a political alternative. It is the embrace between union leaders and Labour which leads to [the poor deal]”. Actually the main apologist for the deal was the one union leader who “embraces” Respect.
Early in 2003, in the political crisis created by the US/UK drive to invade Iraq, SWPer Jane Loftus, on the Executive of the post and telecoms union CWU, blocked a proposal from a Solidarity supporter for the CWU to declare no confidence in Blair. The proposal would probably have passed, but Loftus withdrew the (uncontentious) motion it was an amendment to.
Why, when the SWP had “Blair out!” on its posters and placards? Loftus said that she had consulted with leading SWPers and been told to “maintain the unity of the left”. In other words, not to embarrass CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, who was then speaking with the SWP on Stop The War platforms.
In early 2004, the same Jane Loftus, on the CWU Postal Executive, voted for the job-cutting “Major Change” deal. Her explanation, again, was the need to “maintain left unity”. Probably that meant, not to antagonise Dave Ward, the leading CWU official who had negotiated the deal, whom the SWP then hoped (vainly, as it turned out) to corral into Respect.
In most unions there are no prominent leaders even quarter-likely to support Respect. RMT general secretary Bob Crow may however license a few local RMT branches to support Respect, or speak at SWP-sponsored events. There are no SWPers on the RMT Executive, and no sharp vote-yes-or-no choice has arisen, but the SWP on the Tube has consistently downplayed any conflicts with Crow.
In March 2005, Martin John and Sue Bond voted on the PCS Executive to support Mark Serwotka calling off the union’s planned strike action on pensions, jobs, and pay.
Socialist Worker deplored the calling-off of the strike, and claimed (ridiculously) that if the strike had gone ahead it would have brought instant and complete trade-union victory against the Government. But the SWP made no public criticism (and, as far as we know, no great private criticism either) of John’s and Bond’s vote then.