Wednesday, February 9, 2011
BEFORE Linda Taaffe could say 'Easy-Peasey!', or 'Higgledy-Piggledy!', or 'Hop-Skip-and-a-Jump!' Big Bob Crow had jumped into bed. Or so say some of the 'malas lenguas' - foul mouthed folk on the left who don't take a shine to the Socialist Party. Within a day of issuing an open letter to the National Shop Stewards Network and Socialist Party urging the 'maximum possible unity' and insisting 'there can be no question of any political party or organisation seeking to assume leadership of this struggle or setting up a new national organisation that would create disunity', Bob Crow seemingly went to bed with the Socialist Party. That is what his critics are now saying.
Readers must decide for themselves but on the 12th, January 2011, a statement was issued in the name of Bob Crow (RMT general secretary), Alex Gordon (RMT president), Bill Mullins (Socialist Party & co-organiser of the NSSN) and Linda Taaffe (Socialist Party and secretary of the NSSN) in which it was announced that 'Bob Crow and Alex Gordon agree with the proposal of the NSSN steering committee of 4th, December 2010 to launch an anti-cuts campaign...' That proposal was the motion that the Socialist Party and only the Socialist Party supported on the 4th December: all other parties, the syndicalists and those of no party opposed this motion preferring to avoid the process in which the NSSN became just another protest group or rent-a-mob.
What does this mean? It means, if the Socialist Party's critics don't resign, that the NSSN will become a junk shop for every fashionable fancy that the Socialist Party wants to use it for; and the other parties - the SWP, Permanent Revolution or the syndicalists - will serve the purpose of providing a fig leaf for a smelly little orthodoxy that has its roots in some distasteful politics on the left. Witness the recent perjury conviction of Scottish Tommy Sheridan, on behalf of whom Nancy Taaffe, daughter of Linda, shamelessly strode up to the NSSN rostrum on 22nd, January to uphold as a 'victim of capitalism' when what he seems to have done is roam around the downtown suburbs of Swinton with a woman journalist from the News of the World or offer himself as a copper's nark after the poll tax riots in the early 1990s. Or take Derek Hatton in Liverpool a prominent figure in the Militant Tendency, the forerunner of the Socialist Party, now there's a fine specimen of political rectitude for you. This is the unsavory politics which the Socialist Party is knee deep in. The only reason we had owt to do with them on the NSSN is because we thought they may have grown out of it. But alas, it seems we were wrong!
Where does Bob Crow stand on this and why did he turn a somersault overnight and line up with the Socialist Party knowing that it would lead to divisions? In the week following the 4th, December 2010 NSSN steering committee meeting at which the Socialist Party had asserted its control over the other groups on a vote of 21 to 17, I discussed the outcome in Manchester with Alex Gordon, President of the RMT, and he indicated that he was in touch with Linda Taaffe and disapproved of some of her critics. Alex Gordon, some will remember was formerly a member of the Direct Action Movement in the 1980s: an anarcho-syndicalist organisation linked to the Spanish CNT. I had a distinct impression then that he would side with the Socialist Party.
Bob Crow for his part has veered from taking a tactical position close to anarchist type direct action proclaiming a belief in civil disobedience and Swampy during last September's TUC Congress, but later on Radio 4's 'Any Questions' denouncing 'anarchist-style' actions at Millbank when it was raided by the students because it 'only benefited the insurance companies'. The Millbank attack was later shown to be a spontaneous student action. Now it seems with local elections looming in May, that Brother Crow is focused again on ballot box politics and that means the candidates of the Trade Union Socialist Coalition (TUSC). In the TUSC the Socialist Party is the dominant force and the current conflict in the industrial NSSN must now be an irritation if not a distraction.
When TUSC was formed in January 2010 the blog 'A Very Public Sociologist' asked: 'can TUSC break down the awful sectarian culture of the far left, and does it constitute a step toward a new left alternative'?
By provoking a vexatious conflict in the NSSN over the issue of anti-cuts the Socialist Party is closing down a culture of unity and creating resentment. The syndicalists which represented the fastest growing group on the NSSN steering committee - increasing from 3 or 4 to 14 in twelve months - have conducted themselves well in this dispute thanks in no small part to the skillful leadership of Dave Chapple (Chairman of the NSSN, Secretary of Bridgewater TUC and member of the CWU).