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14 May 2021

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Starmer moves against Unite

No to the attack on Beckett

Howard Beckett speaking at NSSN rally

Howard Beckett speaking at NSSN rally   (Click to enlarge)

Howard Beckett, Unite assistant general secretary and Labour Party national executive committee (NEC) member has - like Jeremy Corbyn and hundreds of others before him - been suspended from the Labour Party.

The formal reason for his suspension was a tweet, after half an hour correctly deleted, in which he had intended to show support for the heroic community action in Glasgow to prevent two asylum seekers being deported.

In protesting against the vicious racism being implemented by Tory home secretary Priti Patel, he tweeted that she "should be deported, not refugees. She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism". As Howard said later, his tweet, for which he apologised, "was never intended to be literal. My intention was to emphasise that racist policies should be rejected", and later that "no one should be deported".

Patel, of course, should not face deportation, but the trade union movement should build a mass movement to force her out of office, along with every other member of the Tory government. Just as Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister, worsened the lives of women, Priti Patel, acting as a supporter of the capitalist system, is carrying out viciously racist policies.

The real motivation for Howard Beckett's suspension is clear; it is the latest step in the current Labour leadership's drive to annihilate even the memory of Corbynism. Beckett has led the rear guard fight on Labour's NEC against Starmer's successful campaign to make Labour once again a reliable tool for the capitalist elite. As Tony Blair's 'prince of darkness', Peter Mandelson, put it just six days ago, he wants to stop "hard left factions seeking to control our largest trade unions" from having "a guaranteed place in its governing counsels".

Beyond trying to remove a thorn in Starmer's side on the party's NEC, the Labour leadership is also trying to have an effect on the Unite general secretary election, where Beckett is one of the left candidates. They are working to ensure that the next leader of the biggest Labour-affiliated union will be to the right of the present leader, Len McCluskey, and will not oppose the decisive shift to the right that has taken place in Starmer's Labour. That is why it is so important, as the Socialist Party has argued, to ensure that at least one of the two fighting left candidates - Howard Beckett and Sharon Graham - make it onto the ballot paper (see 'Make sure there is a fighting left challenge on the ballot paper').

Beckett's suspension drives home not only the need for a left, fighting general secretary of Unite to be elected, but also that the battle for a political voice for Unite members and the working class as a whole cannot remain within the confines of the undemocratic pro-capitalist Labour Party. The task of building a new mass party of the working class is urgent.

A Socialist Party statement

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 14 May 2021 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June, photo by G Freeman

RMT picket at Nottingham station - East Midlands Railway dispute - Sunday 13th June. Photo G Freeman

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