Crow win boost

It is excellent news that Bob Crow has been elected general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT). With 12,051 votes he easily beat the rightwingers Phil Bialyk (4,512) and Ray Spry-Shute (1,997). Around 30% voted in the postal ballot, a relatively good turnout in circumstances where the working class is currently short of self-belief. Socialist Worker is quite correct to observe that, in view of the red-baiting campaign launched in an effort to blunt the RMT's campaign of strikes, comrade Crow's victory will have "boosted the confidence of union activists to push for industrial action" (February 23). However, whether the currently 'suspended' RMT action against South West Trains can be re-ignited remains to be seen. Comrade Crow's victory can undoubtedly be seen as a leftwing anti-Labour vote. He has openly spoken out for the renationalisation of the railways - even if he has failed to emphasise that it should be run under the democratic control of workers and passengers (ie, no return to old-style, top-down BR nationalisation). He has noted the obvious problem of railworkers being represented by three rail unions. Encouragingly, comrade Crow is explicitly for the abolition of the monarchy: "I've got more in common with a Chinese coolie than with Princess Anne" (Daily Telegraph February 16). Unlike the SWP, comrade Crow does not seem to view the fight for a republic as a diversion from the class struggle. Also, he has no compunction about describing himself - openly - as a communist (even if the mainstream press insist on calling comrade Crow an "ex-communist"). Six years ago he left the Communist Party of Britain/Morning Star grouping to join Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party. He has since parted with Scargill and in the general election supported Louise Christian as the Socialist Alliance candidate in Hornsey and Wood Green, but has so far held back from backing the alliance itself. Despite that, comrade Crow told The Observer that the reason why he let his SLP membership lapse was because he believes "that all UK socialist parties should unite" (February 17). Like other socialists in the trade unions, he should of course join the SA. However, from the above sentiments we can see that comrade Crow's politics is more advanced than anything offered up by Scargill or even the Socialist Party's Dave Nellist - former national chair of the SA - who preferred to remain loyal to the sectarian project of Peter Taaffe than embrace left unity. Nevertheless, Bob Crow's politics still betray his 'official communist'/Scargillite background: "I don't think communism failed - the problem was the lack of democracy. They had far better hospitals, far better education. I went to Cuba and they may not have had satellite dishes or DVD players, but they had a doctor on every corner, they had good schools. If the communist regimes had got more people involved in democratic decisions, they would still be there now" (The Daily Telegraph February 16). Real socialism, let alone communism, surely requires a little more than the 'involvement' of the working class. In the same way, real militancy does not come from union leaders. Without constant pressure from a fully informed membership, there is always a danger of union leaders 'not delivering'. The Observer reminds its readers that, for example, "Mick Rix and Dave Prentis have not proved as awkward as was feared" (February 17). We only support comrade Crow and other leftwing trade union leaders insofar as they act in the interests of the working class. We must always judge them by their actions, not their words or their distorted media image. Are those leaders working to build a confident and fighting rank and file movement? Are they using the most democratic means available to keep in contact with members and canvass their opinions as often as possible? Are they fighting sectionalism? Let us hope that these expectations are not dashed. Tina Becker