Socialist View Statement
The Left Unity National Committee (LUNC) have published the result of the re-run election to decide Left Unity’s (LU) candidate for assistant general secretary (AGS) and issued the agreed Democracy Alliance slate for the 2019 national elections. Chris Baugh, having been defeated by Janice Godrich in the first LU election for AGS, stood again following Janices’s decision not to accept the nomination due to ill-health. While acknowledging Chris Baugh narrowly won the re-run against Stella Dennis by 16 votes, Socialist View (SV) share the concerns of a number of LU members about what this means for Left Unity, during these elections and beyond, and the union itself.
SV have not resorted to making scurrilous attacks against the democratic process, and elected LU scrutineers, in the way Chris Baugh and his supporters did following his earlier election defeat. SV accept Chris Baugh is the official LU AGS candidate, but we support those comrades who continue to raise objections to him standing alongside those elected on the Democracy Alliance slate. SV acknowledge these concerns are firmly based on the serious political grounds of defending PCS’s national pay campaign and the national union, as well as LU democracy.
Prior to and throughout the re-run election Chris Baugh consistently opposed PCS, NEC and LU policy on the national pay campaign and called for a disaggregated ballot, including the addition of a series of demands grafted on to the central claim for a return to national pay bargaining. In advocating this destructive and divisive “alternative” both informally, and in his position as the second most senior elected full-time official in PCS, he went way beyond the boundaries of legitimate debate. Had he been successful with his co-ordinated opposition to the pay strategy, overwhelmingly endorsed by the NEC and LU conference, it could have led to the abandonment of the national pay campaign itself, at a time when the conditions for winning on pay and achieving national pay bargaining for our hard-pressed and low-paid members have never been better. Time will tell how damaging his public opposition has been to the campaign, but it has already fed the nervousness of a number of activists and dented their confidence in a strategy, forged around the need for a collective response to win on pay. This has been a key factor in the NEC’s decision to put back the start of the ballot timetable.
We can all see the government is in crisis and while activists were working hard to build the union’s workplace strength to apply the leverage that can win for our members, Chris Baugh chose precisely this time, for selfish factional and electoral purposes, to create false division and elevate his campaign to secure what he describes as his “job” above the interests of PCS members.
As we have previously stated, in opposing PCS, NEC and LU policy for an aggregated ballot, by arguing for a disaggregated ballot on the basis of adding other employer based demands to those on national pay, he was completely aware that this would not constitute a legitimate and legal national pay campaign, and it would have allowed the government and departmental heads to divide, weaken and defeat PCS’ national demands on pay, condemning our hard-pressed members to further years of financial misery.
SV are clear, rather than this merely constituting “healthy debate and dissent” in manufacturing this “difference” he was not just seeking to overturn PCS, NEC and LU policy but was actually dragging the union back to the days of a strategy based on separate group campaigns rather than united national action: a policy previously adopted by the former right-wing leadership of our predecessor union. Such a position is sectarian. But worse than that it is reactionary and based on an appeal to those lacking confidence that the union could win on pay.
Support the LUNC
It is for these reasons, amongst others already debated in recent months, that a number of LU members have written to the National LU Secretary raising serious concerns following the election.
Having previously been defeated by Janice Godrich and seen his defeatist “strategy” on pay overwhelmingly rejected by both LU conference, and by members and activists in the recent NEC consultation, it is clear that Chris Baugh remains a divisive figure who does not have the support and confidence of the bulk of activists who deliver for LU and the union.
As a result, the PCS Democrats have decided that they cannot support him and therefore the LUNC have rightly taken the decision that, in order to maintain the Democracy Alliance, Chris Baugh, while standing as the LU AGS candidate, cannot be added to the agreed Democracy Alliance (DA) slate for the 2019 elections.
The impact his presence on such a slate would have on the votes for other DA candidates, as well as for the alliance with the PCS Democrats itself, has rightly drawn the LUNC to the conclusion that separate campaign materials should be produced for the national/conference and AGS elections.
Supporters of Chris Baugh have taken to condemning the decision of the LUNC in Socialist Party articles, calling it an “attack on LU democracy” and personalising criticism towards the LU National Secretary.
SV believe it has been the democratically agreed policies and the principles which we adopt, that have always set PCS LU apart from other factions. It is what we stand for and our determination to deliver it as a collective, while accepting the broad spectrum of socialist views of our members, that make LU what we are. This has always been as significant as the ability to vote in an election and yet Chris Baugh has wilfully ignored democratically agreed LU policy in his pursuit of an “alternative” strategy on pay.
Some of AGS Baugh’s supporters are now calling for anyone who does not support him to be named and expelled from Left Unity. Their hypocrisy is of epic proportion and of course has no basis within the LU constitution. It could even be argued the constitutional rule which outlines the expectation that LU NEC members are guided by PCS and LU conference policy, is equally worthy of scrutiny by the LUNC, than anything that mentions electoral slates.
The LUNC’s job is to protect the interests of LU, carry out it’s democratic process and implement LU’s democratically adopted policies. They are doing just that in making this decision and must be applauded for listening to the legitimate concerns of LU members.
Win on Pay – Conservative strategy rejected
Thankfully, despite the attempts by AGS Baugh and his supporters to co-ordinate a strategy that would have left the national pay campaign in ruins, the recent consultation throughout the union has overwhelmingly endorsed the collective strategy proposed by the NEC, Left Unity and supporters of Socialist View.
With over 14,000 members responding to the consultation exercise – alongside activists, branches, equality groups and group executive’s – the national union has reached out to unprecedented numbers of PCS members, and have more than vindicated their decision to reject earlier calls for a special pay conference which would have reached a fraction of those we have now consulted, and with significantly less expense.
The positive response to the strategy proposed by the NEC, around a further national aggregate ballot across the Civil Service, core national demands on pay, raising additional money for the fighting fund, and a return to national pay bargaining, to harmonise pay, has enabled the NEC to unanimously endorse our pay claim and call a national aggregated ballot across core civil service groups and other employer groups who have expressed a desire to take part.
There is no doubt that the union’s engagement with members is way ahead of where it was prior to last year’s statutory ballot, and shows the members determination to win and willingness to support the union’s demands, that in some ways is ahead of many activists. It is this positive response from thousands of members that gives us real confidence they are ready for this ballot and we can beat the government imposed threshold.
No one is under any illusions as to the size of the task ahead of us. We must leave no stone unturned in driving out the vote that will give us the maximum leverage, and allow us to put the maximum pressure, on this divided and weakened Tory government. We have a unique opportunity to deliver on our demands if we get past that 50% threshold. We must now seize that opportunity, to build our workplace strength, deliver a resounding YES vote in the forthcoming ballot and smash the government’s threshold. We can then launch our campaign and achieve the win on pay our members so desperately need and so greatly deserve.