Thursday, April 21, 2016
The future of UNISON?
What would people who care about the future of UNISON be doing in the run up to our National Delegate Conference?
I suppose that part of the answer to that question depends upon identifying the people to whom it is (implicitly?) addressed.
Those who care about the future of UNISON are not those who confuse loyalty to leadership with loyalty to our Union.
The difference between a good (or - which is another word for the same thing - left-wing) union official and a bad (or right-wing) one is that, when confronted with a vociferous critic, the right-winger thinks \'how can I silence this trouble-maker\' and the left-winger thinks \'how can I encourage this trouble-maker\'.
The very worst of the right-wing are those who wonder how they may gain the assistance of \'sympathetic employers.\'
But what should good (left-wing) people be doing now in UNISON, in anticipation of our National Delegate Conference?
We should be organising.
I hope very much that plans are in hand for a meeting on the Tuesday evening of Conference, and I hope that those making such plans have the good sense not to have involved, at the outset, a troublesome blogger with a knack for oppositionism.
I also hope that those making these plans have the sense to ensure that activists involved in parties with the word \'socialist\' in their title are neither central to, nor excluded from, such a meeting. There is a tightrope to be walked between the failures of the last two decades (in which we have organised \'the left\' from too far to the left) and earlier failures (in which a \'secret left\' was so secret it failed to announce itself to the left).
It is also essential not to take sides in the never-ending squabble between the SP and SWP. I have made the mistake (in the past) of taking each side (and have also made the mistake of being sectarian in hostility to each party). I hope not to be the only person who can learn from my mistakes.
We cannot organise around the idea of agreeing now a single candidate in a re-run General Secretary election when such a re-run is so unlikely. (Anyone who read the papers for the recent Industrial Action Committee meeting will appreciate the difficulties with such an approach).
We cannot, at this moment, unite around an individual. Nor would we be wise, now, to seek to unite around a \'programme\' or \'platform\' of policies or demands - these are precisely the ways in which we may divide ourselves.
What we do need is some organisation.
We need to ensure that there is a constructive, democratic challenge for each seat on our National Executive Council (and on many other elected bodies in our trade union) - and we need to make sure we make the best such challenge available in each case.
We also need to network in support of those trying to use the structures of our trade union to fight in the interests of our members - to maximise UNISON\'s effectiveness in the here and now as we try to improve it for the future.
So, as I say, I hope that those to whom circumstances have given this responsibility are taking that responsibility seriously.
And I wish you luck.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.