Ending the Amicus sweetheart era

Submitted by on 13 November, 2002 - 2:05

by Dale Street
It was standing room only at a meeting organised by the Amicus Unity Gazette and MSF London Left on 20 October and addressed by Derek Simpson, the joint General Secretary-elect of Amicus.
Simpson stressed the need for further democratisation of Amicus, the product of a merger between the MSF and the AEEU.
The National Executive of the AEEU section of Amicus remains dominated by the right wing. And in the MSF section of Amicus, Roger Lyons and his hangers-on remain in control. The left is the merged union therefore needed to work together in the run-up to next year's National Executive Committee elections.

Simpson stressed his opposition to the sweetheart deals so beloved by Ken Jackson, the outgoing AEEU General Secretary, and, of course, by employers..

Simpson argued for maintaining union funding to the Labour Party almost as a matter of principle. The unions might not always get their way - but the unions could not hope to influence Labour Party policy if funding were cut.

There is no doubt that Simpson's election victory in July marked a major defeat for the right wing in the AEEU and the right wing in the trade union movement as a whole. However at last Sunday's meeting Simpson's Communist Party (CP) past came through on more than one occasion.

After initially seeming to take an abstentionist position on the euro he then argued for opposition to the euro on the grounds of the "democratic deficit", i.e. that decisions would be taken abroad rather than in the UK, thereby reducing the accountability of the decision-makers.

Simpson stated his opposition to war against Iraq. He argued for a position of "no war without UN backing". It was unclear whether he thought that a war with UN backing would be okay.

Worse still, Simpson also argued that there must now be people regretting the collapse of the Soviet Union. For all its faults, it was at least a nuclear superpower which kept the USA in check, he claimed.

But the most striking thing about the meeting was not Simpson's old CP ideological baggage but the fact that the meeting was taking place at all.

Such a meeting would never have taken place in the heyday of Jackson and Lyons. It was symptomatic of a new mood in Amicus - a feeling that the right wing is on the run, and that democracy and open discussion are back on the agenda.

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