Unjustified attack

I feel it necessary to write in order to defend myself from an unjustified attack upon me in the article from John Bridge, ‘SLP left splits - again’ (Weekly Worker January 15). In the article John Bridge accuses me of being a “policeman” for Socialist Perspectives and writes that I “ensured that any communist ... was fin­gered and duly excluded”. This is not true.

Firstly, there were communists at the meeting who attended throughout - un­less the position of John Bridge is that only members or supporters of certain organisations can be truly regarded as communists.

Secondly, at the meeting it was agreed by everyone (including John) that after the vote on whether comrades felt peo­ple should leave or stay in the SLP the meeting would split into two on the ba­sis of the vote. This took place. It was subsequently only members/supporters of the CPGB (CPGBers) who refused to abide by the decision.

Thirdly, It was also agreed at the first meeting that both groupings would meet jointly immediately after their respective meetings to discuss joint work. This meet­ing did take place.

Fourthly, I was fully aware that those leaving the SLP were adamant that they did not want the meeting to include CPGBers on this occasion. As such, I informed leading CPGBers of this and expressed my fraternal concern that by attending the meeting the CPGBers’ ac­tion would only further serve to isolate themselves from this embryonic group­ing. I was not excluding them from the meeting.

Fifthly, at the second meeting a brief exchange of views took place - including a contribution from John Bridge - and the vote that the CPGBers should leave the meeting was unanimous.

I was aware at the time that John and Stan, despite the eloquent contribution from John, might be upset at two people being unanimously asked to leave. By not being present at the discussions of Socialist Perspectives/Democratic Plat­form over the last 12 months it might well be the case they did not correctly assess the view of the people they were hoping to influence. Such a misjudgement is un­fortunate, but not surprising in this in­stance.

Contrary to the views expressed by John Bridge, the excluding of CPGBers does not make Socialist Perspectives an organisation whose origins are anti-com­munist. This is an infantile approach to politics and not one I have come to ex­pect of John.

In a different article in the same issue of the Weekly Worker it is written that only after a heated exchange was it agreed to approach Socialist Perspectives for joint work. It would be useful if this could be elaborated upon. This debate was in stark contrast to the discussion at the Socialist Perspectives meeting where it was agreed, without dissension, to con­tinue working with those comrades stay­ing in the SLP. So much for Socialist Perspectives being an anti-communist organisation on this score.

The article in the same issue from Jan Berryman is far more accurate in a de­scription of Socialist Perspectives: “The new Socialist Perspectives group is in essence the majority of the independent left forming themselves into something more than a campaign for democracy.” Many communists would see such de­velopments as potentially progressive (the need for organisation and wider poli­tics being essential) and rather than be­ginning a process of dismissing the organisation as anti-communist would be attempting to enter into a serious, and fraternal, dialogue with those associated with it.

It is heartening to know from discus­sions with other currents that the com­rades in both the Revolutionary Democratic Group and Marxist Bulletin (who were both present at the Reading meeting) do not share the views about my conduct that have been expressed by John Bridge. 

Lee Rock
East London

Rotten actions

Re: articles, ‘Abolish the block vote’ and ‘Fisc in a twist’ (Weekly Worker January 15 and January 22).

The membership of this branch are angered by your action in publishing a letter from one of our members in spite of his specifically declared wish that it be for internal use only.

You deliberately disguised (by deletion of the first paragraph) that this was a let­ter written because the comrade con­cerned was unable to attend the meeting and simply wished to raise a few points for discussion. Instead, you quite falsely claimed that this was a document repre­senting the views of a mysterious (and as far as we know nonexistent) organisa­tion called the Fourth International Sup­porters Caucus.

We wish to protest that your action is a gross violation of the democratic rights of our rank and file members and demon­strates a contempt on the part of the CPGB for the SLP and its membership. This episode is yet more evidence (if any were needed) of your organisation’s op­portunism, sectarianism and dishonesty. Worse still, that you are prepared to pub­lish the real names of our members in prominent positions in your paper whilst your own journalists hide behind noms de plume inescapably raises the ques­tion of where your real loyalties lie.

We can only assume that your inten­tion in taking this action was to inhibit our internal discussion, create an atmos­phere of suspicion, and destroy our branch organisation. You may be assured that none of your aims will be realised and that the working class movement will judge your rotten, unprincipled organi­sation by its actions.

The content of this letter was unani­mously agreed at our meeting of Febru­ary 3 1998. 

Richard Tisdell
Lewisham and Greenwich SLP

Dockers’ hard decision

After two years and four months the Liv­erpool dockworkers have decided to end their dispute following a recommendation from shop stewards.

Over the past four weeks the shop stew­ards have been debating what direction the dispute had been moving in. The con­clusions that we came to were that in cer­tain key areas the campaign had started to falter and that in order not to see good men and women lose everything or risk a collapse from within, we decided to con­clude a collective agreement on the best possible terms achievable.

We felt that following the last secret ballot in October 1997, in which we gained a 70% rejection of the employers offer, a springboard for greater support­ive actions should have been launched. In terms of a political intervention from the new Labour government by the use of their 14% shareholding that they have in the company and a far more positive role from our own union leadership in calling for an increase in both the na­tional support through the TGWU indus­trial branches and international support via the ITF. That support never material­ised - in fact, both of these organisations decided to support the line of the Mer­sey Docks and Harbour Company, in stat­ing that the dispute was over.

This was also compounded by the fact that the two biggest container companies that use the port of Liverpool, ACL and CAST, had not been touched by indus­trial action for some time. We also suf­fered the sad loss of two of our stalwarts from the picket line who died over the Christmas/New Year period, making a to­tal of four during the course of the dis­pute.

These elements, along with the extreme hardship that the men and women have had to endure over the past 28 months, and the more hard-line tactics of the po­lice on the picket lines, were major fac­tors in our decision to bring the heroic struggle of the Liverpool dockers, their families and their supporters to some form of conclusion.

The terms of the settlement were based on up to £28,000 redundancy payment for all ex-Merseyside Docks men. We have approximately 80 of our dockers who are excluded from this process and it is our intention to raise some financial pack­age to ease the obvious debt burden they have accumulated over the last two and a half years. A number of jobs are on offer in the port and we continue to ex­amine the practicability of this option. A joint approach will be made in relation to the pension entitlements on the majority of dockers. We have to recognise that work in Liverpool is a rare commodity and we expect that all our comrades will expe­rience great difficulty over the next few years.

It is with a great sadness in our hearts that we write to all our magnificent sup­porters and express our deepest grati­tude. We have to build upon our internationalism, upon the experiences of all our struggles. Let the words of a great Irish trade unionist capture our thoughts:

“Who is it to speak of defeat? I tell you a cause like ours is greater than de­feat can know. It is the power of powers” (James Larkin).

Jimmy Nolan
Chairman, Merseyside Port Shop Stewards

Riding roughshod

Unison has won its appeal to the Em­ployment Appeal Tribunal to overturn the original industrial tribunal decision which had thrown out the claims for un­fair dismissal by 27 hospital workers sacked at Hillingdon hospital by contrac­tors Pall Mall Services Group.

Following the decision last February by the London North industrial tribunal Unison lodged an appeal and the hear­ing took place in December. The argu­ment put forward on behalf of the 27 members was that Pall Mall had already decided that they intended to cut wages and reduce terms and conditions but merely deferred the cuts for about a year to avoid being caught by the transfer of undertakings regulations. The workers were dismissed after refusing to agree the cuts in their wages. In upholding the ap­peals, the EAT has set aside the findings of the original tribunal. The cases have now been sent to a fresh industrial tribu­nal which will have to decide whether or not the dismissals were fair.

The EAT agreed that the IT had not approached the case correctly nor had sufficient evidence to support its con­clusions. However, it does not follow automatically that the new tribunal will accept that the dismissals were unfair. Nor does it mean that the 27 members will now receive compensation or get their jobs back. Any legal remedy will be decided by the new tribunal in the event of their claims succeeding.

Commenting on the outcome of the appeal, Unison general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe said: “The significance of this case is to send out a signal that no contractor can ride roughshod over low paid workers with impunity.”

Lyn Bryan