Hello, I’m Spartacus so I am.

So it seems to be a thing now where candidates feel they have to state they are “anti sectarian” in their General Council election blurbs. Why would they have or feel the need to do that? Is it perhaps because of the spectre of political sectarianism that has already been evidenced in the expulsion of two members due to their political leanings still hangs heavy in the air around certain groupings?

I don’t know about you folk but if someone’s introductory statement to me was “Hi, I’m so and so and I’m anti sectarian” I would assume one or more of the following to be the case.

1; They feel the need to distance themselves from association with past behaviours.

2: They think it is some form of validation that differentiates them from everyone else (whereas it is by and large the norm that the majority of people are not, by default, sectarian).

3: They think it makes them special (see 2 above).

4: They think people are stupid enough to be as impressed with such glib statements as they themselves are.

The whole General Council election has a depressingly familiar ring about it where rhetoric and slogans are to the fore and there is a complete absence of any strategy of substance to be seen anywhere.

Here we are nowhere.

Vitriolic and divisive in defeat.

The Socialist Party have released the following statement on the rejection of their candidate in the recent NIPSA General Secretary election. An abject lesson on how to sell a defeat as a victory and yet more divisive rhetoric. Nothing new here.

Socialist Party’s Patrick Mulholland gains 44% – Broad Left emerges stronger throughout NIPSA

Kevin Henry, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Belfast

The last six weeks has seen one of the most high profile trade union elections in Northern Ireland for decades. The election was for general secretary of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA), the largest union in in Northern Ireland, with members from across the civil and public services and the voluntary sector. Socialist Party member, Patrick Mulholland, stood as the Broad Left candidate in the election, against the candidate of the NIPSA establishment, Alison Millar.

Patrick’s campaign distributed tens of thousands of leaflets to hundreds of workplaces. It waged a high profile campaign which provoked discussion among people outside of NIPSA, about what type of trade union movement we need. Patrick’s campaign focused on the policies and programme necessary to make a difference to NIPSA members.

He committed to only taking a worker’s wage if elected and ensuring the trade union movement develops a real strategy to fight cuts. As general secretary he would have implemented decisions of NIPSA conference including advocating a democratic socialist alternative to austerity.

Patrick had the opportunity to speak at hustings and meetings across the country to put forward ideas that could transform the trade union movement and the fight against austerity

Alison Millar’s campaign had the support of the majority officials in NIPSA and the resources that comes with it. It did not stop a tirade of vile religious sectarian abuse being waged at Patrick and his supporters, which should be condemned by all in the trade union movement.

Build a movement against cuts

The victory of the Millar campaign is no doubt welcomed by the main political parties in Northern Ireland. For example, Jim McVeigh, the leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council, and Nelson McCausland, former Democratic Unionist Party minister at in the devolved local government ‘power-sharing’ Assembly, both warned of the danger of the left in NIPSA winning the general secretary position. Their parties dominate the ruling Assembly Executive, which will decide on making huge cuts that will drastically affect NIPSA members, their families and the wider communities.

Patrick gained an impressive 44% of the vote, with 4,958 votes. The NIPSA Broad Left, many of who are members of the Socialist Party, still has a majority on the general council in NIPSA, holds the union’s elected president position and will be stronger in every area of the union in the turbulent years to come.

Socialists should now use this strength to build a movement against cuts, oppose attempts to link with sectarian parties and build a left-wing alternative in Northern Ireland.

If Carlsberg did irony. One for the slow learners out there.

Courtesy of the Collins English Dictionary here’s a handy “cut out and keep” ready reckoner for those members of factions within NIPSA who like to harp on and wax lyrical about their own anti-sectarian credentials and how they are going to “fight sectarianism”.

Is it starting to make sense yet?
Is it starting to make sense yet?

Do you see the problem? Yes, that’s right, by definition you’re the problem.

Makes uncomfortable reading, doesn’t it?

This.is.sectarianism.

Sore losers anyone?

It seems barely had the results been announced that the victim mentality recriminations began.

Rather than try to analyse where they might have improved on their performance in the General Secretary election or how best they might now, for the sake of all of the members, set about building bridges and forging alliances seeking to work together with those they have attacked and sought to demean, their political sectarianism and mud-slinging has begun.

Gone is their “building an inclusive union” aspiration that was parroted during the campaign. They are not, nor were they ever, interested in the membership and the struggles they face. They are interested in themselves, power, control and how they might progress their political agenda.

Even in defeat they have to politicize everything.

Sectarianism at it's best.
Sectarianism at it’s best.
More political sectarianism
More political sectarianism

According to the above Padraig / Patrick campaign posts, Alison Millar and anyone, yes that’s right anyone, who voted for Alison Millar is by default “Rightwing”.

Well done. They’ve reverted to form and have once again exposed their narrow parochial political sectarianism for all to see. It seems  earlier expressed concerns were well founded.

They are about division, that is all.

So much for all their rhetoric and pretence about democracy and anti sectarianism. The mask has slipped, again. When they said “Elect one of your own” they meant it in a way only they could.

The union is dead, long live the union.

The sad reality surrounding the General Secretary election is that neither party is offering anything new.

Setting aside the ironic project fear red herring of sectarianism which, up until it was exposed as such, formed the back bone of Padraig / Patrick’s campaign, let’s look at the facts.

Padraig / Patrick and the bulk of the current General Council have had three years to deliver anything, yes anything, that constitutes an actual fight against the cuts. What have they done? Nothing, that’s what they appear to have done.  We hear daily this mantra about some strategy that Padraig / Patrick has yet, like Padraig / Patrick’s supposed ability to operate at the highest levels of negotiation, we have seen no evidence of it.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the apparent inaction of the predominantly Broad Left / Socialist Party controlled General Council during Padraig / Patrick’s term as President was an intentional ploy in order to turn this General Secretary election into a battle of personalities whereby blame for their inaction was, and is, apportioned to others / the status quo.

Deflection is the name of the game. Deflect from the fact that nothing beyond traditional tried and tested protesting and some lobbying has been done in real terms to fight the cuts in the public sector over the last three years. Nothing.

No meaningful measurable consultation has taken place with the membership and we have a situation where a political party and its foot soldiers are running the campaign for Padraig / Patrick. Their reward? In the event that Padraig / Patrick wins their reward will be the NIPSA union and it’s mandate to use as they see fit to further their own political agenda / ideals. There is, of course, nothing wrong with socialism or holding socialist views but the issue here is the covert acquisition of a union based not least on the instruction of the Socialist Party but also on election manifesto promises and rhetoric which the maker of same refuses to debate in public (Facebook / Twitter)  and which are not available for anyone to view or consider.

If anything Alison Millar offers more of the same, whether good or bad, as far as the current status quo is concerned. But she does so without the political instruction / interference of an outside political party, with no political affiliation or influence having a bearing on her choices and decisions and, of course, a far greater degree of experience than that of Padraig / Patrick.

Again she offers nothing in the way of a visible / debatable strategy to fight the cuts but there is one very important difference. If Alison Millar wins this election the union will still belong to the members and not a political party. Of course she will be attacked, frustrated and stymied at every turn by the current General Council in an attempt by them to portray anyone not subscribing to their political ideology as being inept and incapable of leading a union. But it is within the grasp of the ordinary membership to address that at the next General Council elections now that they are aware of how we have arrived at the position that we are now in, fighting not only for the political independence but also the very survival of NIPSA as an independent fighting union fighting for it’s members and not for the political interests of an outside political party which currently manages to hold so much sway.

Whatever the outcome NIPSA as we know it is over. Whoever is the victor in this General Secretary election will have very serious challenges facing them in trying to keep the union together, truly democratic and effective. That’s assuming they still have a “union” to save.

 

EDIT: 10:00am 01-November-2015.

Some may justifiably take issue with some of the content of his post, but even Padraig / Patrick agrees that NIPSA will never be the same again.

"NIPSA will never be the same".
“NIPSA will never be the same again”.

“Elect one of your own”…

…..says the man who is supposedly standing on an  anti sectarian ticket. Padraig / Patrick has hinged his entire campaign on what he understands to be anti sectarianism.

The phrase “One of your own”, especially in a Northern Ireland context, is the epitome of sectarianism.

Clearly, given the banner headline of his election material, Padraig / Patrick has some issues with his interpretation of what constitutes sectarianism.

It’s embarrassing that his supporters and campaign members are engaging in the distribution of election materials encouraging the very thing their collective conscience is supposed to detest and rail against.

If Carlsberg did irony….

img_1064

It’s worth noting that there’s a rather touching endorsement on the reverse of the pamphlet which, rather conveniently, forgets to mention that one of the signatories (NIPSA President Carmel Gates) is also his partner.

An analysis of the “Five reasons to elect Patrick NIPSA General Secretary” will follow.

How much is this costing the membership?

Many if not most NIPSA members will be unaware that earlier this year the (predominantly Broad Left) General Council and the then President (Padraig / Patrick Mulholland) decided, contrary to legal advice received from the NIPSA solicitors McCartan Turkington Breen, to expel & revoke the membership of two members.

Despite various questionable reasons having been put forward for the expulsions there are grounds to believe the reasons behind the expulsions were politically motivated. Both of the expelled members apparently hold political views which differ from those of the Socialist Party, the political party behind the planned takeover of NIPSA. They were identified as representing a threat to the planned takeover and were dealt with as such with the General Council and President using an allegation of a flawed membership admission process as the reason for their expulsion.

Apparently the two individuals have taken legal steps to have the decision on their memberships reversed. The General Council have sought further legal advice (using members subscription money) to try to bolster their position. Unfortunately for them the second set of legal advice is rumoured to confirm what the original legal advice stated.

This raises very serious issues and questions.

Why will the General Council not reply to letters from branches asking for a breakdown of the costs incurred so far?

Is this the future of NIPSA where if you disagree or show dissent or are perceived to think contrary to a certain political mindset you are expelled?

Where does this tie in with the supposed open, accountable “democratic union” we are being told we are to be afforded?

Will either Padraig / Patrick Mulholland or Alison Millar be up front and honest with the members and tell them what the legal advice was (both sets) and how much of the memberships monthly subscriptions have already been spent on what appears to be a futile exercise in political sectarianism and political bureaucracy and how much the solicitors anticipate the potential costs and reputational damage to be in the event that NIPSA is taken to task and loses?

Since Padraig / Patrick is making such a big issue out of financial accountability to members on what he might spend his additional salary on in the event that he wins the General Secretary election we can only but wonder why he and the General Council are so tight lipped on how they are spending our money in relation to this issue.

As for the sets of legal advice received, we’ve paid for them so we’d like to see them.

Let’s think about this.

Why are NIPSA, notably the Padraig / Patrick element, calling for protests today over the additional work that members will have to undertake when colleagues leave under the Voluntary Exit Scheme?

Cynical electioneering?

I mean what in real terms are they doing or have they done to address the problems facing the members now tasked with increased workloads? 

Nothing. That appears to be what.

About this “sectarian threat”…..

On the matter of the alleged threat of a supposed lurch towards sectarianism on the part of NIPSA, as highlighted by Padraig / Patrick Mulholland when he states “It has recently been suggested by some that trade unions should form alliances with political parties that are based on the sectarian divide”, one would have to ask who are these “some” that Padraig / Patrick refers to? What exactly have they proposed and why, more importantly, does Padraig / Patrick think that NIPSA will bend to the wishes of the few? We, as a democratic union, ought to be told.

Somewhat contradictorily Padraig / Patrick states “It is my very firm view that if unions align themselves with either green or orange then our movement will fracture. I believe the trade union movement should be political but it should also be independent; our politics should be the politics of jobs, pay, pensions, homes, the NHS and education and it should be the politics of anti-sectarianism. We should not allow ourselves to become part of sectarian politics”.

It’s strange that Padraig / Patrick has such narrow focus that he sees the threat of a fracture as coming from only an alignment to parties based on orange or green politics yet he appears happily oblivious to the threat of other political “shades” having too much say.

Padraig / Patrick states “I will never take risks with the unity of our movement. Note “movement”, not “union” and here it is again with the clear distinction being made “I am asking all members of NIPSA to stand with me in defending the unity and independence of our union and our movement.”

Sectarianism is not confined solely to religious beliefs. Sectarianism is also evident in politics and a union controlled mainly, if not almost entirely, by the Socialist Party is neither “independent” nor, for that matter, anti-sectarian from an industrial or political point of view.

Clearly there are risks being taken with the unity of the union, not least because of the Broad Left and Unity caucuses which exist within the union. Is Padraig / Patrick calling for the disbandment of both or either of those groupings? If he is we’re not hearing about it. Why is that?

Anti sectarianism has been the bedrock of NIPSA since its inception. To listen to some of the rhetoric doing the rounds you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a modern concept dreamed up as recently as two or three months ago and in the ownership of one particular political ideology. This is clearly not the case.

Are we to take from Padraig / Patrick’s constant referencing of the threat of sectarianism that NIPSA’s track record and credentials in that regard will be abandoned should he not be elected General Secretary? Are we to believe that Alison Millar, the only other contender in this General Secretary election, will not continue the strong anti sectarian message and work of NIPSA? Hardly.

Why then is this so called threat of sectarianism of such importance to Padraig / Patrick in the course of this campaign? NIPSA has a strong track record of dealing with and tackling sectarianism everywhere that it is encountered. NIPSA will continue to do so in the future irrespective of who the General Secretary might be as the members, and society in general, would and will expect nothing less.

The fact is that the politics of fear and the division of a union based on the political divisions of groupings allowed to wrestle for control within that union are as divisive as sectarianism itself.

The real agenda.

Padraig / Patrick Mulholland is one of two candidates seeking election to the position of NIPSA General Secretary. Padraig / Patrick is a committed socialist and proud member of the Socialist Party, a fact he openly admits and a political ideology he openly champions. These are, quite rightly, decisions for him to make as an individual. There is, however, an objective of his particular brand of politics which he does not talk openly about. That objective is to take over the union to further the political agenda of the Socialist Party, and the Socialist Party only.

We know this how? Well, we know it because the Socialist Party tells us that this is their objective.

The following are extracts from the Socialist Party congress of 2006.

“Trade union activity, however, does not begin and end merely in the official structures. We have to combine it with work from below, as we have done in the defence of our comrade against the dictatorship of the bosses in the bus industry. The points of production – the fortresses of the revolution described by Lenin – are where the real, crucial battles will unfold. The rebuilding of the shop stewards and workplace representatives movement must be seen as a central task for our party. This involves re-pioneering work to forge a militant backbone which will come from the new generation of young workers who will move into action in the next period. We must do everything to facilitate the entry of this new generation. The work in the PCS, in creating a youth structure, of developing workplace representatives, is vital not just for the union but for the general struggles of the working class which will develop.

To facilitate this work, properly organised and disciplined caucuses in the different unions must meet on a regular basis. Their task is to formulate written programmes and pamphlets for their own union and industry. The national trade union school has increased in importance in the past years. There, battle-hardened veterans discuss with and help the new layer of comrades who have entered our party and are inexperienced in trade union work but are eager to learn and participate in this crucial field.

The attendance at the national conferences of the trade unions is still extremely important. Many of these conferences – although not all – are composed of the same people who have attended for years if not decades. The more bureaucratic conferences of bureaucratic unions can, moreover, be a very rough, weak barometer of the real moods developing from below. They are nevertheless important in gauging the mood of more developed workers, in seeking to get our point of view accepted and thereby carried to a broad layer of trade unionists. They are also an important source of influence and potential recruits to the left in general in the unions and to our party. This work up to now has been conducted by a relatively small, heroic ‘band of brothers and sisters’. We must widen the participation of comrades covering the trade union conferences, through the involvement of a new layer, as with the recent USDAW youth conference.

We have to also recognise that the culture of trade unionism has been completely lost, is not immediately present, in the consciousness of big layers of young people. This is a consequence of the attack on collectivism, on socialism, in the neo-liberal crusade of the last era. Events will heighten the collision between the classes and will help to change this. But we can play a role now in facilitating this process with a conscious policy of seeking out and educating the best young workers. We must go into the schools, colleges and universities on trade union issues as well, as preparation for future battles. This must start with the new generation who come into our party. They must be saturated in the spirit, the history and the current situation within the unions. If we carry this out successfully we will create a new generation who can speak to, learn from and convince older workers on the programme, tactics, etc, of our party. Even very young comrades can have a decisive effect on older workers so long as they are sufficiently educated and know how to speak to and above all listen to workers.

The twin pillars upon which our party will be built are amongst the young and in the workplaces and offices, as well as trade unionists. Up to now, we have quite correctly concentrated our efforts in the schools, colleges and universities to win young people to our programme and socialism. This must be continued and stepped up. At the same time we have systematically tried to develop our influence within the trade unions and the workplaces. Only occasionally, however, do both fields coincide, with new young recruits participating on picket lines in strikes, selling at trade union meetings, etc. However, as we grow and recruit a new generation, we must have a systematic and concentrated approach, where this is possible, in directing new young comrades to important workplaces and unions. On the foundations that we create now, in the next year or so, can be built a powerful party as a vital lever for the working class as it moves into action.

The trade unions in Britain have a long history going back even before the French Revolution. They have been the main factor in lifting the working class out of cultural and economic backwardness. To continue this role today, however, they must be renovated and renewed by a new fighting socialist leadership, thereby becoming an agency for change and the creation of a new society. In that new society, out of the ranks of the trade unions, as Trotsky pointed out, can come the personnel and the administration for a democratic, workers’ state, particularly in the organisation of the factories and the workplaces. But in union work, to paraphrase Marx, there is no ‘royal road’ to effective work and gaining influence. It requires systematic and often very unglamorous activity. It is nevertheless vital for the future.”

You are encouraged to read the full article here http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/events/conferences/spconf2006/4.htm or alternatively here https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/events/conferences/spconf2006/4.htm should there be any difficulties in accessing it through the first link.

You can download the entire document from here http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/events/conferences/spconf2006/BritishPerspectives2006.rtf and skip to the “Revolt of the low paid” section.

So, there you have it. The Socialist Party has instructed it’s members to form caucuses within unions and to use these caucuses to steer and ultimately take over the union to further the ideals and power base of the Socialist Party. Sound familiar?

Political sectarianism in the form of a one party controlled union to further the Socialist Party agenda, that is the real agenda.