Socialist Worker

Build the Unite union's left base after election

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2553

Ian Allinsons challenge to the leadership showed the mood for left wing ideas

Ian Allinson's challenge to the leadership showed the mood for left wing ideas (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The Unite union’s recent general secretary election—in which incumbent Len McCluskey only narrowly beat a right wing challenge—revealed problems in the union.

Rank and file challenger Ian Allinson’s strong vote points to the opportunities to address them.

Allinson held meetings in Manchester and Glasgow last weekend, with more planned in London and Birmingham this weekend, to “keep shaking up Unite to make it more effective”.

Activists discussed building an organisation out of the campaign.


This would focus on building solidarity for disputes, challenging some of Unite’s policies and giving a voice and an organising forum to like-minded activists.

The small size of left groups and the relative lack of mass activity by ordinary Unite members are an obstacle to building a true rank and file movement.

But it’s essential to build some organisation at the union’s base and challenge the grip of its complacent full-time bureaucracy.

The new organisation should not be an electoral group but—as Allinson has argued—be open to members of United Left.

Many activists are in United Left to back McCluskey supporters in union elections but are open to the argument that more is needed.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.