The election of Sharon Graham as new Unite General Secretary has given the best activists in the union a huge boost in our campaign to build Unite as the fighting union it needs to be at workplace/shopfloor level.
It was clear throughout the campaign that the more combative reps were rallying behind Sharon’s campaign to get back to the workplace and rebuild from the ground up. This is essential for the union to defend our members from the inevitable attacks of the bosses in both the private and public sectors. Her emphasis on the need to rebuild the shop steward structures at local and combine level has energised those of us who have consistently argued for this approach against the more entrenched passive elements at lay and officer level in the various committees and regions.
She has made some significant commitments in her manifesto and her and her key supporters have recognised the need for a new open and democratic Left organisation to be established to ‘hold her feet to the fire’.
It is significant that the official United Left candidate Steve Turner failed to get the expected support which the left was traditionally able to muster. The openly right wing Starmer candidate, Gerard Coyne supported by the Murdoch press was beaten into third place and lost 20th votes compared to 2017 when he ran Len McCluskey close.
Militant Left Unite members in Ireland joined with hundreds of other socialist activists throughout the regions in campaigning for a Sharon Graham victory, despite the fact that her campaign was hampered by the Covid restrictions and lacked the resources available to the Turner campaign. No doubt this has sent shockwaves throughout the more complacent officer layers in the regions.
It was significant that the, at times, vitriolic attacks on her campaign accusing her of vote splitting backfired spectacularly. Those who took part in this should seriously re-examine their attitudes. Disagreement is one thing, abusive campaigning something else.
Militant Left along with our counterparts in the CWI in England, Wales and Scotland is calling for Sharon and her supporters to establish a new Open, Democratic Left organisation starting with the policy conference in Liverpool in October. This could quickly attract the more committed activists from the official United Left which has shown itself no longer fit for purpose and also those left supporters of Howard Beckett who withdrew from the election in favour of Turner. A new era has opened in our union.