Mark Serwotka, as general secretary of PCS and outgoing chairman of the TUC, delivered a blistering speech to this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton, for which he received a rapturous standing ovation. He attacked Boris Johnson and highlighted the plight of millions of working - and non-working - people and the dramatic change that has taken place in Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
“Boris Johnson pretends he speaks for the 52% who voted leave,” said Mark. “In fact he speaks for the 1% of the elite and rich. The TUC was clear - we must unite, whether we voted remain or leave, to fight a no-deal Brexit. Our priority is to get Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.”
Perhaps more importantly, Mark Serwotka made the historic announcement that PCS, which is not affiliated to Labour, and whose predecessor union was banned from doing so in the aftermath of the 1926 General Strike, is going to formally campaign for a Corbyn-led Labour government. This is the first time in the history of PCS and demonstrates the importance of a Corbyn government for ordinary civil servants.
It was under Mark’s leadership that PCS has shifted from one of the most right-wing unions, to becoming the most left-wing of unions.
That is why Socialist Appeal is supporting the re-election of Mark Serwotka as the general secretary of PCS.
In a previous issue, we stated that Mark had won the nomination from the union’s broad left, Left Unity. We hoped that the left would therefore unite around Mark.
Unfortunately, soon afterwards, we had news that the Socialist Party were standing a candidate against him, namely Marian Lloyd, who failed to get the broad left nomination. In this election their aim is not to win, but to simply undermine Serwotka. But they are very much mistaken and will only succeed in further discrediting themselves.
Furthermore, the Socialist Party is attempting to sabotage PCS’s new support for Labour in the forthcoming general election. At a recent meeting of the union’s NEC, SP members and supporters abstained in the vote to support Labour, arguing that such blanket support meant voting for right-wing Labour candidates. The SP wanted to pick and choose which Labour candidates to support.
‘Supporting candidates just because they are Labour is going to lead to division among our members and political incoherence, as we back people who are openly campaigning against Corbyn's anti-austerity ideas on the doorstep,’ stated the SP’s newspaper.
But when faced with a clear choice between a Corbyn Labour Party and a Boris Johnson government, prevarication is the height of sectarian folly.
To hum and haw over this is a betrayal of millions who are looking to Labour for fundamental change. It is an attempt to put the narrow sectarian interests of a tiny group above the general interests of the class.
The fight between a Tory government and a Corbyn government is a class question. “Which side are you on?” is not a secondary question. We would say it was a question of principle.
We know as Labour members that we have unfinished business in the Labour Party. We need to clear out the Blairites. We do not need any lectures from the Socialist Party on that, thank you very much. But we are faced with an immediate general election. It will be one of the most important and bitter we have ever faced. Now is not the time to sit on the fence, but to unite to kick out the Tories and elect a Labour government on socialist policies.
It is like being involved in an industrial dispute with a ruthless employer. You may have different opinions about the union and its leaders, but when the battle is on, you must support the striking workers (and their union) against the bosses. If you don’t, you will correctly be seen as a strike-breaker. In a similar way, in a general election, you must back the workers’ party against the bosses’ party. It is as simple as that.
The task facing the left is to fight for a Corbyn-led Labour government on socialist policies, and to re-elect Mark Serwotka as the general secretary of PCS.
The path chosen by the SP is a road to nowhere. The movement will not forgive easily such sectarian antics.
We unequivocally say: Bravo to the PCS in throwing its weight behind the Corbyn Labour Party! It is a historic decision that will be welcomed across the Labour and trade union movement.