The new Broad Left Network (BLN) grouping set up within PCS, and a minority of its supporters, have recently taken to social media posting articles in the group’s name which require serious scrutiny by members and activists alike. The two most recent articles in particular show exactly why BLN needs to be seen for what it is – a Socialist Party front within PCS. Disingenuous from the start, the statement that ‘we were just a group of like-minded comrades who came together and agreed unanimously to support Marion Lloyd for PCS General Secretary’ masked what was really going on and disrespects members intelligence.
Presumably, with no democratic process, this like-minded group agreed that Marion would be the candidate most likely to stand against Mark Serwotka, following the SP’s recent defeat in the AGS election.
Lack of support for GS candidate and false allegations
With great fanfare BLN announced Marion’s intention to stand, during the Left Unity (LU) nomination process, but when it became clear that she had received embarrassingly few nominations for general secretary, Marion quickly withdrew her nomination, claiming that the LU process was corrupt and favoured one candidate. That candidate we can presume is Mark Serwotka, who received 16 nominations compared to Marion’s 4 and Hector Wesley’s 1.
Members should be clear Marion did not pull out because the election process was flawed, but because of a humiliating lack of support. Of the four nominations that she received, one of those was only submitted when there was a tie between her and Mark Serwotka, and of the five individuals that took part in the process, the sole supporter of Hector Wesley was asked to re-vote for either Marion or Mark, something BLN do not seem keen to publicise.
In the same way as the Left Unity scrutineers were attacked during last year’s AGS process, now attempts are being made to discredit the Left Unity National Committee (LUNC), without any political arguments being put forward at all.
In the latest article ‘LU General Secretary Nomination: Where We Stand’, all credibility is lost when claims that individuals had been “arbitrarily removed from membership” are made. An allegation already made by Marion in writing to the LUNC and one which received an LUNC reply sent to LU members. The inference that LU members were removed to prevent them from voting is a complete fabrication and needs to be called out as such.
The individuals, all of whom joined LU in the week leading up to the cut off date to participate in the AGS election in September 2018, the majority of whom were recruited as voting fodder following the Socialist Party’s public call to “just recruit anyone, friends, family, colleagues, anyone who will vote for Chris Baugh” have now voted in two AGS elections, alongside the NEC elections, leading up to 2018 LU conference without paying subs.
To date none of them have paid a single penny in subscriptions, despite the Left Unity rules that Marion alludes to being clear that only those paying subs at the cut off date will be eligible to vote. As soon as this came to light by the treasurer providing a payment update in May 2019, all received a letter stating that if any of them had any evidence of having paid they would be included in the process – none did.
The inclusion of these non-payers in the AGS elections made a material difference to the result but this appears to have passed the SP by in their haste to attempt to blame the elected LUNC for the lack of support for Marion. Socialist View believe any rationally minded union member will accept that, rather than these individuals being “arbitrarily” removed from the membership list, as accused by Marion and BLN, these non-members had no right to take part in this process and it would have been perverse to allow non-paying members to vote. Rather than engage in the false debate and tactics deployed by the BLN in these articles, Socialist View would urge the LUNC to use the review of the LU constitution – it was was instructed by LU conference to carry out – to focus on ensuring that, never again, can the votes of non-paying LU members materially affect the outcome of an LU election, as it did in January in the AGS re-run between Chris Baugh and Stella Dennis.
Much has been made by SP, and some BLN supporters, of LU members supporting a non-LU candidate in this year’s AGS election, but very little has been made of whether the LU candidate should have been declared as such. This development warrants serious analysis and consideration.
Socialist View would urge those who have fallen behind BLN to seriously look at this issue and consider whether the Socialist Party narrative, that it is SV and its supporters who are the enemies of democracy is reality, or whether their claims are in fact SP projecting their own behaviours for political and sectarian purposes.
BLN promote exclusion
During this LU nomination process for the GS candidate, which is being held during the peak holiday period due to the timing of the official election process, the LUNC sought to maximise participation, and agreed to the inclusion of email nominations where they were requested. For example, in Dundee, where it would take members several hours to travel to their Glasgow nominating meeting by 6pm, many reported that this would make it impossible for them to participate; following a request from LU members via the Scotland LU convenor, the LUNC agreed that they should be able to submit an email nomination to be taken into account at the meeting, as long as all members were afforded the same opportunity.
The SP supporters behind the Broad Left Network did their best to prevent the participation of those who could not attend meetings in person, for varying reasons including matters of equality, and in Scotland BLN supporters staged a coup in an attempt to remove the existing convenor, who had suspended the meeting to seek further advice from the LUNC. The LUNC, at its meeting on 3rd August, having considered a number of complaints from individual LU members in Scotland, the majority of whom wanted email votes to be included, eventually ruled out the Scotland vote but to then attack the LUNC in this article for trying to maximise participation demonstrates how desperate BLN have become.
Lack of support for BLN platform
On 4th August, BLN issued their missive ‘Pay Campaign, Next Steps’ describing the Senior Lay Reps forum taking place on 6th August as a ‘platform for continuing the national pay campaign in 2019 and preparing the ground for a successful national ballot in the future’. They went on to say ‘The Senior Lay Reps Forum is a chance to receive reports from delegated areas but more importantly, to discuss how PCS nationally can both support and actively coordinate a response in the 2019 pay round.’
Concluding that ‘The Broad Left Network welcomes this vital discussion at the Senior Lay Reps Forum. With an open and honest assessment of where we are, we can maintain pressure on pay in 2019 and prepare the ground to win the decisive legal mandate vital for reversing the decline in members pay and winning the union’s demands.’
Given all of this, it is somewhat surprising then that most of BLN’s supporters, including the author of the article, missed the forum, despite attendance by over 50 activists from across PCS, and this valuable ‘platform’ was therefore missed, when the forum took crucial feedback from pay negotiators in groups about the 2019 pay round that will help inform the union’s next steps.
Rather than engage in this important process BLN supporters and SP members continue to suggest that if their strategy of a disaggregated ballot had been utilised “we would now be in a situation where a number of areas would be taking action over pay”. This is a deliberate falsification. Specific Trade Disputes would need to be registered in each of the areas concerned for legal industrial action to follow, and the effect of this is a series of different Group ballots which may be co-ordinated where practical to do so. BLN supporters on the NEC know this full well as they would have been party to the NEC decision following the appropriate legal advice earlier this year. Yet they persist with consciously misleading members to further their own agenda. Members should be aware that when the CWU obtained a strike vote which exceeded the 50% turnout threshold in late 2017, Royal Mail won an injunction to stop the Union taking action because it had not exhausted its agreed mediation process, so there are serious and credible threats to the course of action being proposed by a number of BLN supporters.
None of the areas listed in the BLN bulletin, as having exceeded the ballot threshold, argued for this strategy at the SLRF and not all of them have concluded their 2019 pay talks yet. Of course, where members vote to reject their respective pay offers, and this results in any Bargaining Unit making a case to the National Disputes Committee for industrial action, SV would support all steps to deliver that and seek to co-ordinate multiple BU actions wherever possible.
If the above were not enough to question the seriousness of the BLN ”leadership”, their article posted on 8th August, as well as repeating the lies about the election process, goes on to state that Hector Wesley, the only remaining candidate standing against Mark Serwotka in the LU process, ‘is not in agreement with the way in which LU is being run by the LUNC’. They fail to mention that Hector is a member of the LUNC which met on Saturday 3 August, a meeting that Hector attended, and where he agreed with the current process and said that he was content that it was fair. Hector voted with the rest of the committee, in support of the Secretary’s recommendation that the Scotland vote be excluded, while the sole SP member at the meeting argued that the votes taken after the convenor and his supporters had left to seek advice, should still be included.
The article goes on to attack Mark Serwotka claiming that ‘for over 20 years, he has increasingly centralised power and decision making’ along with other sectarian untruths, aimed at spreading dissent and appealing to all those disaffected. Further evidence, if any were needed, of the Socialist Party lashing out as they fall apart and become increasingly irrelevant both within PCS, and elsewhere. The truth is that PCS is one of the most democratic unions in our movement with a proud record of lay involvement and leadership.
Their call to support Hector Wesley ‘as a protest’ is a particular low point for SP. To be clear Socialist View unequivocally support Hector’s right to stand in this election, but it is clear from his election address that he is not standing on a political platform that offers a radically new direction for PCS or one that, compared to Mark Serwotka’s programme, would take the union forward and ready to meet the challenges we face. In any other time Hector’s candidacy for the LU nomination would never have drawn support from SP; their hiding behind the BLN platform to offer him this support is blatant opportunism and makes SP’s ‘Anyone but Serwotka’ strategy wholly transparent.
They have completely abandoned politics, following their betrayal during the PCS pay campaign and, as is the case internally within their own organisation, have turned on former comrades and jettisoned decades of political principle, with their England and Wales section effectively voting as a minority bloc within their International to set up a new International organisation over which they can retain control from London.
They have also exploited trans rights within PCS in order to personally attack Mark Serwotka, besmirch his character, and create division. All acts that are both contemptible and void of political principle. This is exposed as all the more hypocritical when you read Peter Taaffe’s recent attack on what he describes as ‘identity politics’ which begins to expose their real position in relation to trans rights.
We need a united leadership for the good of our members
SV believes the task for all Left Unity members moving forward is to build a genuine, non-sectarian left in the interests of our members. We urge all on the left to join with us in this task and not allow ourselves to be pushed off course by the sectarian attacks of those who are becoming increasingly irrelevant throughout our movement.
Mark Serwotka is not the enemy or a threat to our lay led democracy. Supporters of Socialist View are not poodles to the General Secretary or involved in a bureaucratic take over. It is those who put themselves and party loyalties above the interests of our members and union who risk destabilising PCS.
Left Unity have worked tirelessly over the last two decades and more, to build PCS in to a lay led union of which we can be proud. SV understand that we must build on that history and grow if we are to face future challenges head on. We urge members and activists to not allow a fading force on the left to continue to dominate our time and risk side tracking us from our aims.
Debate and disagreement is healthy in any democratic organisation, but only when the debate is meaningful and the disagreement legitimate. Dissent based on false narrative and accusation is politically illegitimate, and should never form the basis of engagement, as it has for the last eighteen months.