So what's going on in the GMB?
The GMB announced on 7th July
that they will withdraw £750000 of funding from the Labour party, and
following a similar policy to the RMT they will instead direct funds
specifically to Labour candidates who support GMB policies. And what are
the polices that the GMB are promoting? These are spelt out in a letter
by General Secretary, Kevin Curran, to the national press on 8th
"The GMB executive was
clear yesterday that those aims include action to stem the tide of
manufacturing job losses; a new pensions system to avoid millions of
working people being condemned into poverty in retirement; rights for
British citizens at work and an end to the two tier workforce in our
Immediately, Downing Street started a
smokescreen operation, claiming that this was all the work of the
Chancellor Gordon Brown. Indeed, Kevin Curran does occasionally drop the
odd complement towards Mr Brown, but the troubled relations between the
GMB and the Labour Party are better understood by looking at the
policies of New Labour, and the policies of the GMB and noticing that
they are completely in opposition to each other.
This is not a question of personalities:
this is a question of an anti-working class government, and an old
fashioned trade union promoting the interests of its members. This is
the same structural antagonism between the unions and the Labour party
that led to the RMT being expelled, and the FBU voting for
The outcomes that Kevin Curran, wants to
see from a third term Labour government are simply traditional social
democratic demands. It is only because Tony Blair is so right wing that
they seem radical in contrast. These, are spelt out in an article by
Curran in the Morning Star on 21st May.
the first instance, the next manifesto should seek to address the
concerns that individual citizens have.
"This should include action to address
security at work and in retirement. Job insecurity and pension concerns
are critically important and addressing these should be combined with
action to close the gender pay gap, and further legislation on
employment rights and to tackle the issues of work-life balance facing
millions of people today.
"The second crucial area involves the key
issues which impact upon our
communities, in particular in
relation to our public services and infrastructure.
"The third term Labour Government needs
to build on these substantive achievements whilst addressing transport,
public housing and other infrastructure issues with a new determination.
"The third policy area relates to
issues. A sophisticated electorate have concerns that reach way beyond
what used to be called the 'bread and butter' domestic policy issues.
Voters are increasingly concerned about American imperialism, global
poverty and third world debt as well as environmental degradation.
Given these developments between the GMB
and the Labour party, it is a bit is a surprise to learn from
"The GMB and TGWU unions have both
elected new leaders recently. On both occasions the Labour Party and the
TUC were heavily involved in promoting their candidate-with great
success in the case of the GMB. "
Similarly we read on the AWL's
Workers' Liberty webpage:
many in the union, Kevin's election came as a big surprise as he had no
real support from any part of the union structure. Anyone that knew him,
knew he was just another ambitious bureaucrat who had boasted for almost
20 years that he would be General Secretary one day. Anyone who knew him
was also amazed during the election campaign that some sections of the
left accepted his claims to be a socialist at face value."
There are 600,000 members of the GMB and
nearly 100,000 voted in the election for General Secretary, Curran
winning by a very handsome margin. With such a large electorate it would
perhaps surprise the correspondent from the AWL that most of the
electors didn't personally know Curran. The AWL also claims that there
were 16 complaints of electoral irregularities upheld against Curran -
although how this was achieved if he indeed had no support in the
machine is a mystery. Now Mother Courage doesn't know whether these
allegations are true or not, but one of her children - who is a GMB
member - did get a dodgy unauthorised letter recommending a vote for
rival, Paul Kenny.
The SWP and most of the left supported
Paul Kenny in the election, claiming he was the "awkward squad"
candidate. Mother Courage is a simple soul and believes the election may
have been swayed by the fact that Kevin Curran's election address read
by the ordinary GMB members who actually had a vote was left wing, and
said he would defend his members against the Labour government,
including pledges to fight for a minimum wage of £5.40, and an end to
privatization. Perhaps this was the cunning Blairite trick that the SWP
complains about? In contrast Paul Kenny's election address was
completely anodyne machine bureaucrat speak and we searched in vain for
any leftist code words.
Kevin Curran's election manifesto:
Paul Kenny's election manifesto:
So what is the truth of all this? Mother
Courage's children have spoken to some GMB officials who claim there is
indeed a big personality clash at the top of the union. Both Curran and
Kenny are old fashioned GMB officials - the type typical of old style
manual trade unionism. Neither is a militant left-winger, and in
politics there is little to choose between them. The members voted for
Curran because they liked what he said in his election address, and he
has put his money where his mouth is.
Mother Courage has a strange suspicion
that Paul Kenny is preferred by the left groups not because of greater
militancy or left politics but because they like him more personally. It
is perhaps no coincidence that Paul Kenny is the London region
candidate, and therefore personally known to the apparatchiks of the
left groups, whereas Curran was based up "in the cheap seats" in