‘Unite the Resistance’ – A Principled Initiative or Sectarian Project?

A Principled Initiative or Sectarian Project by Stephen Hall

The fight against the Government’s and bosses attempts to make the mass of ordinary people foot the bill for the crisis of the Capitalist system requires the greatest possible unity on our part. We cannot hope to succeed without such unity. However, there are clearly differing views as to what is meant by ‘unity’ and how we might bring it about.

The recent  ‘Unite the Resistance’ (UTR) initiative promoted by the Socialist Workers’ Party is a good case in point.  Is it a principled initiative whose aim is to promote a genuine grassroots unity of the resistance movement, or is it as some suggest, merely yet another top-down bureaucratic sectarian party building project on the part of the SWP which will foster nothing but disunity, but might gain them a few recruits?


Most of the present publicity produced by UTR talks of “…bringing trade union activists together to discuss how we can ensure that the new pensions offer is rejected – and how we can organise further action to defend our pensions in the coming year.” It also talks of working “…collaboratively with other forces (e.g. the National Shop Stewards Network, the Coaliton of Resistance and Right to Work), relevant broad left and grassroot activist organisations within the unions and, wherever practicable, Trades Councils and local anti-cuts campaigns. Put abstractly, all this sounds great stuff, but how does this match with the reality of the ‘rolling out’ of UTR at a local level?

This is especially relevant for us in Greater Manchester, where there is to be a ‘Unite the Resistance launch meeting’ with Mark Serwotka on the 29th February. This is because despite, the appearance of a willingness to ‘open’ the project out to the grassroots (the implication of that, and likely truth of it being, it is currently closed to the grassroots of the movement) its launch on that date, and efforts around it, so far reveals little evidence of the SWP really wanting to work collaboratively with other forces on the Left on the ground outside their own supportive and influenced orbit, and which a great many on the Left across GM, likely a clear majority in fact, outside of the SWP, are already highly sceptical of the outcome and success of, based on their current and previous experiences of the party in Manchester and their own areas, in some cases over very many years.


A first, but less important criticism of the UTR GM project is the apparent over arching and almost exclusive emphasis and focus on the pensions issue, and the lack of tie-in to the ongoing fights also being waged against local Government & NHS spending cuts, the Health & Social Care Bill and the Welfare Reform Bill (to name but a few) which gives the whole project the appearance of a campaign solely, or predominantly focused on pensions, involving primarily trades union activists in the public sector (although there is some mention of the private sector) rather than an attempt to build a genuine rank and file alliance of all those wanting to build the fightback on every front.

A second and more important criticism is that few prominent activists it would appear, outside of the SWP and its supporters that is, and from the other nine local authority areas in GM outside of the City of Manchester, have so far been directly approached, at any stage, to become involved in, and collaborate with the Unite the Resistance project nationally, and until a few of us attended the first ‘Organising Committee’ last week, in its proposed launch in Greater Manchester either.

This is something which few on the GM Left will likely expect to change much if it is left in the SWP’s hands. Their only efforts in the direction of collaborating with Trades Council, individual union, anti-cuts and anti-privatisation activists outside of its own ranks across GM so far being the circulation of a general e-mail to invite everyone to an ‘organising committee’ meeting to oversee and mobilise support for the launch of UTR Greater Manchester, which will be taking place on the 29th, come what may, due to Mark Serwotka agreeing to speak at it.

His speaking is probably one of the few things that adds any element of credibility to the entire project. It is also why the launch meeting of UTR in Greater Manchester, despite having all the appearance of becoming yet another SWP sectarian front initiative, which left to its own devices will invariably alienate everyone else on the Left, cut across other more genuine and honest unitarian initiatives of a similar nature, and which would ultimately fail as a result of that, might actually provide the opportunity for the majority of the more serious Left forces across GM, who are genuinely wanting to overcome the current disunity on the Left and wider resistance movement, to bring their combined weight to bear to create something altogether different. This at the same time as inflicting a major blow to the narrow, top down, bureaucratic, “Do what we say” conception of unity and sectarian method of operating that has hitherto prevailed on the Left across GM as well as nationally. It can be done!


The Greater Manchester Anticapitalists network which has recently come together to oppose sectarianism, promote anti-Capitalist unity and work towards building a united and effective struggle against the ruling class’s austerity programme, are appealing to all the serious Left across GM who recognise the urgent need for the greatest possible unity in action in the unfolding struggles ahead of us, who recognise the need for greater collaboration and working together in a comradely manner on the part of Left in general in order to help achieve that, to join with us in working to make any UTR GM initiative, a genuine, bottom-up, democratic, pluralist alliance of grassroots activists, that might actually be something which is useful to us and worthwhile being a part of.

If we write the thing off in advance as destined to have the opposite negative outcome then we will all gain little from it. If on the other hand we collectively build the event and argue strongly at it for this general idea or something similar, and in the run up to it, of what something genuinely worthy of the name ‘Unite the Resistance’ might look like, i.e.

(i) an alliance of those wanting to work together to build the mass movement in a comradely and non-sectarian way across Greater Manchester area.

(ii) an alliance which is pluralist and democratic, which everyone might believe they have a genuine shared ownership of, and a say in

(iii) which might see itself everywhere as a pro-unifying current of non-sectarian facilitators of the fightback by workers and the mass of ordinary people in general’ rather than its divinely pre-ordained leaders

(iv) which would seek to win support for its views via open democratic discussion and debate rather than bureaucratically imposing its views

(v) which would seek at all times to get the ‘official’ structures to take the lead, rather than seeking generally to by-pass them and thus counterposing itself to the ‘official movement’ in a sectarian fashion, or worse substituting itself for the mass movement, and

(vi) which might rightly take the lead, if the official structures don’t act, falter or even betray the movement provided there is sufficient support for it – then by the time of the proposed GM UTR launch meeting with Mark Serwotka  –  it might well be possible for us to win this position resoundingly, and those arguing to the contrary shown clearly to be in the minority.

The forces already exist out there to achieve this outcome, in the various GM based anti-cuts groups, unions and trades councils, in and around the Convention of the Left, Occupy Manchester, the Manchester Ecosocialists, Socialist Party, Green Left, Sol Fed, UK Uncut, the Autonomous Students, various Union Lefts, etc, and there are even a few within the LP who might support it. It’s about time they collectively asserted themselves and came together to create a real fighting unity which might have a measurable effect on events.

Though small in number, our network currently embraces activists from Wigan Borough Green Socialists, Occupy Manchester, Socialist Resistance, Workers’ Power, Permanent Revolution, Manchester Against Fees and Cuts, SolFed, Manchester Ecosocialists and Communist Students as well as non-aligned individuals from across Greater Manchester. We do not claim to have all the answers. However, by our all working together we do believe we might help to develop more thought-through strategies and actions which might help take the entire resistance movement forwards rather than backwards.

Our next meet up as a network is on Saturday 4th February at 11.00 am at The Friends’ Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester, before the Manchester Coalition Against Cuts annual meeting, which those comrades who live in Manchester will also be attending.

This entry was posted in Campaigns & Events, Programme & Policies, Trade Unions, Viewpoint and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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