Thursday, 5 February 2009

UPDATE - Nepotism and The Subverting of Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s Democracy


I have been contacted by Bernie Regan asking that his personal e-mail address be removed from the memo he sent round to selected members of PSC asking them to support stuffing PSC's Executive with Socialist Action and Communist League members. I'm happy to do so.
But perhaps Bernie could comment on information I've just received regarding the appointment of 3 staff members to PSC's office. All of whom happen to be supporters/members of Socialist Action.
Socialist Action gained a rather unfortunate reputation in Ken Livingstone's administration for having their apparatchiks placed as advisers to Livingstone, in extremely well-paid jobs. It would seem that though PSC jobs aren't that well paid, the tried and trusted road of having political appointees to an organisation, the better to control that organisation is underway.
There is an old tradition on the British left. It’s called packing a meeting. The aim is to get people to turn up to a meeting who will then vote the 'right way' regardless of the arguments. It makes a mockery of the meeting of course. It is even more helpful when those who you are asking to turn up, trade union bureuacrats like John McGee of the Fire Brigades Union, carry 3 votes instead of 1.

Bernie Regan, PSC’s trade union officer, and once someone on the left of the trade union movement, a member of the International Marxist Group, was an Executive member of the National Union of Teachers for the Socialist Teachers Alliance. Those were the days. Now he hobnobs with trade union witch-hunters like Keith Sonnett Deputy General Secretary of the UNISON local government workers union.

I was sent the memo below by someone who will have to remain anonymous. The accompanying letter, which is being anonymised, speaks volumes. After all, why should a note encouraging people to come to a PSC AGM be headed ‘This is a personal note - not for circulation’ Surely if he was trying to get people to come to the AGM, why not circulate it?

But of course this was no ordinary note. Bernie speaks of ‘the need to get the focus of the campaign firmly fixed on the events in Gaza and to keep trade unions at the centre of the PSC.’ But no one disagrees with that. How does breaking links with the Apartheid Zionist ‘union’ Histadrut go against that? Boycott is one of the main weapons of solidarity. It is a mischievous and dishonest argument. What Bernie really means is keep demonstrating but never think what you are demonstrating for. We'll take care of that when we meet the PLO ambassador.

But of course if your main goal is achieving a Palestinian Bantustan, with Mohammed Abbas as chief quisling in charge, then the last thing you want to do is annoy the Israelis too much by boycotting them. After all you can't reach a settlement without them. Two states means recognising Israel’s right to be a racist state and do what it wants with the Palestinians in Israel.
The argument about Histadrut is about two things:
1. Whether PSC should be criticising Israel itself and whether a solidarity organisation should be anti-Zionist.

2. Whether PSC supports a 2-state solution, which most people believe is not only impossible to achieve but undesirable in any case, since it means in practice renouncing the right of return and imperilling the position of Israel's own Palestinian citizens (as Tsipi Livni recently confirmed).
The position of British trade union leaders is one of ‘even-handedness’. There are 2 rights. They support the Palestinians of course, but they also support the Israelis! Bernie is happy to go along with the General Secretary of the TUC, Brendan Barber, coming along each year to the PSC fringe meeting each year, having hotfooted it from the Trade Union Friends of Israel meeting, to tell us we mustn't boycott Israel!

If this approach had been taken by Regan and his Stalinoid supporter in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, that there was no difference between the oppressed and oppressor, then there could not have been a successful outcome to the struggle against Apartheid.

That is why Bernie Regan was prepared to support a ludicrous motion from the Communist Party of Britain, the group that runs the the Morning Star. The motion said that one of the aims of the Gaza invasion was to destroy the Palestinian Authority of Abbas when anyone with a couple of brain cells know that one of the purposes of the invasion was to impose Abbas on the people of Gaza. Yet Bernie, who doesn’t believe this nonsense, was prepared to support this in order to cobble together an unholy alliance with the CPB.

This is therefore about what type of solidarity organisation PSC should be. Should it have nothing to say about Zionism? Should it pretend that the Palestinians were dispossessed by an accident of history? That the Histadrut, which more than any other organisation helped create the Israeli state, is now a nice, reformed organisation since it lost most of its industries to privatisation?

A solidarity organisation is about putting pressure on Israel and PSC leadership wants to confine its activities to lobbying MPs, diplomatic letters, petitions and requests. It is no accident that when we picketted Windsor Castle last April, there were no representatives of PSC Executive there. It will be interesting to see if they turn up for the picket of Agrexco this Saturday 7th February.

At the PSC AGM, Bernie Regan stated, with a pained expression, that some people were suggesting that opponents of the Scottish PSC motion to break links with Histadrut were somehow not opposed to Histadrut. By his letter Regan makes it quite clear that he has no fixed views about Histadrut. Nor does he care much. What the trade union leaders want will be his command. He and the rest of the PSC Executive value trade union affiliations to PSC. And that is right. But what point is there to being affiliated if in turn you do nothing and even worse, then exercise a malign influence over the solidarity body itself?

The worst thing about Regan’s manouvres is just how undemocratic they are. He has a recommended slate of people like Ben Sofa, a member of another ex-IMG group, Socialist Action, who was a member of the Executive last year . Meanwhile good people like Monika Wusterman of the York Branch were defeated by these manouvres even though the Executive is almost entirely filled by Socialist Action and Communist League hacks in London. Almost no members come from branches outside London and the South-East and Brighton’s representative, Zoe Mars, only got on by the skin of her teeth.

The Socialist Action/Communist League majority group, who never have the honesty to declare their politics openly, don’t want activists taking control of PSC. Hence the Trade Union Advisory Committee is filled with petty bureaucrats. No one knows who its members are, still less who elected them. But they seem to have an iron grip on PSC Executive.

What is need now in PSC if it is not to develop into a private club for Regan and friends, is for activists to actively fight for democracy with an open democracy faction in PSC.

Tony Greenstein

Secret Memo to Members of TUAC & Friends
From: Bernard Regan

Sent: 22 January 2009 14:22

To: BR List

Subject: Saturday - Palestine AGM

This is a personal note - not for circulation:

I am writing to you to encourage you to come to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign Annual General Meeting this Saturday. The AGM takes place from10am-2.30pm at the University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW (nearest tube Oxford Circus).


It is finishing early because of a demonstration on Gaza from 3pm starting across the road at the BBC.

This will in my view be an extremely important AGM because of the need to get the focus of the campaign firmly fixed on the events in Gaza and to keep trade unions at the centre of the PSC.

There is an opposition within PSC which I firmly believe would take us well away from these objectives. I urge you to come and if you are able to encourage others then please do so.

The Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) of the PSC has agreed to put forward an emergency motion (attached) on the situation in Gaza and to respond to the statements of the Histadrut (also attached) which gave complete backing to the attack by Israel on Gaza.

The motion we are putting forward would propose a series of campaigning initiatives in the trade unions and propose that a discussion is begun in the unions about the positions of Histadrut whichabsolutely correctly have come under criticism here, in Europe and from South Africa in particular. The Trade Unions affiliated to PSC are opposed to a motion which seeks to call now for a boycott of Histadrut by unions here. Whilst that may be a decision that unions take - jumping to that position at this time should be opposed because it would divert us from the need to keep the focus on Gaza and for some it would be wrong and for others it would divert attention from the need to put the Israeli Government under the spotlight and to demand the British Government breaks with its uncritical attitude towards Israel. An inform discussion on the subject of the Histadrut is what is needed not a rushed decision. Those pushing this issue do not in my view have a real sense of proportion about what needs to be addressed in relation to Palestine - namely political solidarity with the Palestinian people, trenchant criticism of the Israeli Government, condemnation of the British Government's failure to condemn the Israeli action in Gaza.

I hope you are able to come to the AGM either as an individual member (should have been member 3 months) or as a delegate from an affiliate. In addition I wish to urge support for the followingcandidates in the upcoming Officer and EC elections - which are all contested. I do so because these candidates have consistently recognised and supported the work of the trade unions on Palestine as a central component of PSC and endorse the line that I express above.

Name Position

Biog

Hugh Lanning Chair of PSC DGS PCS

Sarah Colbourne Campaigns Officer Current Chair - key organiser in recent Gaza demos.

Sue Plater Treasurer Formerly worked for Amos Trust - a key church body active on Palestine

Bryony Shanks Student Officer Supports positions outlined above.
Executive Committee

Carole Regan EC Member Former Chair PSC, ex President NUT

Nicolette Petersen EC Member current EC Member, Parliamentary liaison - works with

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Kevin Courtney EC Member NUT Exec Member Vice Pres SERTUC

Karen Mitchell EC Member Member PSC Delegation June 2008 - solictor at Thompsons law fimr

Maha Rahwangi EC Member Current EC Member Palestinian member active in Brent PSC

Ben Soffa EC Member Current EC Member Member Jews for Justice for Palestinians

Gill Swain EC Member Journalist - willing to work on Palestine News.
(If Sue Plater is elected as Treasurer, then vote for Pauline Fraser) (If Sue not elected then vote for Sue for the Executive)In addition following officers are unopposed:Name Position

Biog

Betty Hunter Gen Sec current Gen Sec

Kamel Hawwash Vice Chair current

Bernard Regan Trade Union officer currentTUAC

Hugh Lanning PCS If Hugh is elected Chair the TUAC will need to nominate an alternative at its next meeting.

Joni McDougall GMB

Bernard Regan
Letter received accompanying Bernard's memo


Tony,

Just in case you have not seen this, I thought I would send it to you. It went out to a selected TU list before the AGM. You will see that it calls for either members, or "representatives of affiliates" (ie. non members) to come to the AGM to save the Histadrut's skin.

The affiliates carried 3 votes each and succeeded in thwarting the wishes of the AGM. I dont think many of them had ever been to a PSC meeting before, let alone the AGM. Without the stitch-up, the two motions on Histadrut would have been carried.

Now that Hugh Lanning is Chair he will be replaced by another unelected trade union functionary on the EC. That makes 4 (counting the woman from Thompsons).

Moves are afoot to add another 2 unelected unionists. This was a motion which was to go before the AGM but was dropped on the advice of Hugh Lanning, but it will be revived soon as part of a further amendment to the constitution.

The unelected union functionaries have a post for life on the EC. As they are appointed by patronage, there in no machinery for removing them. This frees them of any obligation to be bound by AGM decisions as they can never be unseated.

These people are appointed without scrutiny of the AGM or any part of the membership, by the TUAC aka Bernard Regan. The TUAC is itsself unelected, it does not report to anyone and does not circulate minutes.

When the process is complete the exec will have 6 TUAC people Bernard, Hugh, the Thompson's woman, Joni and the 2 who will be appointed next year. Together with the SA group, on the exec (I think there are 5) they have a permanent majority, and since they control the machinery, PSC is theirs.

Of the 19 on the executive, only two are from a functioning branch. Only one is from outside the London/SE area (Kamal) One who was been re-elected did not appear at an EC meeting last year, or so I am told. Another only attended a couple of meetings, but they are regarded as "safe"

It's a funny old life

1 comment:

Mr Andy C said...

Thank you for bringing this to the attention of PSC members. I unfortunately couldn't make the AGM but did have concerns when no advance agenda was sent out.