Now that the members have spoken and the results are in it’s time to look to the future.
Clearly the Socialist Party and its caucus the Broad Left ran and funded a very slick, and clearly expensive, campaign on behalf of Padraig / Patrick but the posturing, hypothetical sloganeering, revolutionary socialist calls to action, lack of experience, lack of policy or strategy detail and tokenistic gestures were democratically and demonstrably rejected by the majority of the voting members. No doubt there will be much soul-searching on the part of the Padraig / Patrick campaign as to how things might have ended differently.
The result shows that clearly it’s time to break with the past.
One thing this election has taught us is that NIPSA members want change and they want action beyond rhetoric. They want effective representation and as much protection from the Government led attacks on their rights and livelihoods as their union can realistically afford them.
One potential stumbling block which stands to prevent that is the current almost exclusively Broad Left / Socialist Party General Council.
Does anyone really believe that a faction whose leader has been defeated in a democratic election will work with the victor?
For example, in the interests of the entire membership will Padraig / Patrick share with Alison his often referenced, though never seen, strategy to fight the cuts?
The answers to these, and other questions, remain to be seen but on past experience it seems entirely likely given that Alison Millar has defeated Padraig / Patrick in the General Secretary election that they will not be supportive of her and, in doing so, may through their actions / inaction cause detriment to the general membership and reputation of the union.
It is a fact that since holding the majority of seats on the General Council the Broad Left / Socialist Party have set about and have been primarily focused on achieving their aim of taking over the union and the mandate of its members to further their own political aims.
They have a control fixation. They are obsessed with achieving their objective and their actions to achieve this whilst largely ignoring the plight of and attacks on the rights of the membership until after the fact is disgraceful. Throughout the election process the Padraig / Patrick campaign supporters implemented strategies on social media which they have for years denied using in real life situations. If you questioned them you were maligned as “right-wing” if you challenged them you were hectored, bullied and marginalized.
This exposure of their behaviours via social media proved to many to be a line too far and shone a rather uncomfortable analytical light on some of the strategies employed. Perhaps the most damning act was feminists attacking Alison Millar for having the audacity to be a female participating in an election. Moving forward these types of reactionary and ultimately bullying behaviours must stop.
It should be remembered that many of the majority Broad Left / Socialist Party current General Council members are long-standing on the General Council. What have they done in that capacity, in real terms, over the past three or four years other than push their particular political dogma? Cheap slogans, media soundbites, the cult of TV & radio celebrity and no action – that’s what. They are politically led, they seek to undermine colleagues and members who do not share their political ideology, they do not consult with the members, they seek to restrict the publication or circulation of anything that does not serve them or their political ends. They are highly selective in their support of members and likewise in their disciplining and expulsions. They appear to see and use the union as a means to an end.
It must also be remembered that whilst they hold the majority of places on the General Council they are not the only faction within NIPSA who appear intent on or capable of causing difficulties for the union as a whole.
It’s time for change.
Alison Millar stood on a non aligned ticket. She was clear and vocal about the fact that she was neither influenced by nor aligned to any political party or faction. This is the way forward that the membership have democratically chosen.
Politics, of whatever hue, has the potential to cause division and sectarianism and that is a fact we have seen during the course of this election. The voting majority in the recent General Secretary election agreed with Alison that politics and political influence should certainly be valued and held but that in a truly democratic union context they should be left at the door when it comes to fighting collectively for the rights of members.
We owe it to ourselves to unify and collectively support her efforts to stave off and ameliorate as best she can the attacks on us and our colleagues and in doing so proving to them the worth and value of true trade unionism and solidarity in order that we may grow in number and strength.
Ultimately, if people are so interested in and driven by a particular brand of politics – particularly one with a stated objective of taking over unions – then perhaps they ought to consider getting into politics for real and concentrate on that instead of using a union as a platform or vehicle, because a democratic union fighting for all irrespective of colour, religion, or political leaning should not be constrained by a singular political dogma and is not the place for them.