11 April 2024

Having Tried to Prevent Unite Members Expressing Solidarity with the Palestinians, Sharon Graham Has Just Issued a Statement Supporting NATO and Attacking Those Trying to Prevent Arms Going To Israel

Graham is a War Monger – Not Once Has She Shown Her Face or Spoken on the National Palestine Solidarity Demonstrations

Unite 4 Palestine Activists Meeting

Wednesday 17 April 6.30 p.m.

Please register here

https://tinyurl.com/mpc6h77t



Why is Unite's Sharon Graham silent on Gaza genocide? Not the Andrew Marr Show

When Sharon Graham was elected as General Secretary of Unite in August 2021 most socialist groups welcomed her election and breathed a sigh of relief that Gerard Coyne, a corrupt right-winger and the darling of The Sun, had come bottom.

They did this despite Graham describing herself as ‘non-political’. All that mattered was that she supported strikes. That Graham had nothing to say about capitalism, imperialism, racism or anything that affected Unite members outside the workplace was overlooked. It is as if Unite members never used the NHS or opposed climate change.

Typical was Socialist Worker whose headline was Boost for left as Sharon Graham wins Unite general secretary election. Both the SWP and the Socialist Party supported her candidacy. The SP was a particularly enthusiastic supporter.

Graham has supported striking members but she has been lousy on just about everything else. At the TUC Conference in 2022 Unite supported a GMB motion calling for increased military expenditure.

There are also concerns about her nepotism, indifference to racism, cronyism and her authoritarianism. Her husband Jack Clarke was promoted to a senior position in Graham’s team after she became general secretary without following the union’s normal procedures

Racists posts are acceptable as long as you are a friend of Graham's and you take them down quickly!

Graham has refused to respond to allegations that she tried to have evidence destroyed regarding her husband, Jack Clarke’s bullying. Clarke was on a final warning at the time. The evidence of racism against a close associate Tony Seaman was binned as “the posting was take down quickly’.  


The Story of Graham's Victimisation of Brendan Ogle

Brendan Ogle was Unite’s senior officer in the Ireland Region who went off sick with cancer. When he returned he found that he had been demoted. He was told that there was no place for him under Graham. When he asked why, Gail Cartmail, Graham’s bag carrier, stated that “Sharon operates on the basis of loyalty.” Ogle had supported Graham’s election opponent, Howard Beckett.

Brendan Ogle, Unite Ireland's most senior officer victimised by Graham

There is at the moment a hearing taking place before the Workplace Relations Commission, the equivalent of an employment tribunal in Ireland.  Ogle is alleging disability discrimination. John Douglas, former General Secretary of Mandate had this to say about Ogle:

Brendan had one of the highest profiles of any trade union official in the country as leader of Right2Water; [he was] the leader of very many other campaigns, so to see Brendan being humiliated in the way he was after the way he came back from cancer to do the job he did on behalf of the working class ... it was shoddy.

The case is extremely high profile in the Irish press who are making the most of Graham’s reluctance to appear as a witness.

The first inkling that Graham was a Zionist and anti-Palestinian came on 8 June when South-East Regional Secretary Sarah Carpenter, who has now been appointed as Graham’s Chief of Staff, informed the Chair of my branch, Unite SE 6246, that she had asked for screenings of the film Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie to be cancelled ‘whilst I seek further guidance. I have not had any instructions to cancel.’


Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City - 'mission accomplished' according to Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant

I wrote to Carpenter, as Branch Secretary, to ask why, if she had not had any instructions to cancel the film, she needed to seek guidance.

That suggests that you were advised to cancel the booking. Perhaps you would enlighten us as to who gave you this advice? Otherwise your need to seek guidance makes no sense.

On 13 June Carpenter wrote back:

The issues covered in the film are pertinent to internal Labour Party matters and that is not the focus of our union.  Unite’s members are working on issues linked to our local communities and to industrial issues, and union resources are prioritised in these areas.  Resources include use, maintenance and security of Unite buildings.

Every one of Carpenter’s excuses was a lie. The reference to ‘internal Labour Party matters’ suggested that she was trying to please Keir Starmer. Our branch unanimously passed a motion saying that

The film is about the orchestrated attack on Jeremy Corbyn and the socialist leadership of the Labour Party from 2015-19.  We do not believe that the following issues are irrelevant to Unite members.

·           increased privatisation of the NHS, which Starmer supports

·           public ownership of water, rail and the utilities

·           Zionism and Apartheid Israel

·           the racist treatment of refugees

·           worker’s struggles which Keir Starmer opposes and

·           Tory legislation restricting the right of protest and civil liberties

Although Carpenter would not reveal who had given her the advice Skwawkbox revealed that it was Graham.

The far-right anti-Palestinian Campaign Against Antisemitism boasts of working with Graham to ban a film about the 'antisemitism' smears that brought Corbyn down

I then discovered that the Campaign Against Antisemitism were claiming credit for Unite having banned The Big Lie. The CAA is widely believed to be an Israeli Government proxy whose purpose is to co-ordinate the ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks on Palestinian supporters.

Following correspondence with Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Unite union has cancelled the screening of a propaganda film about the antisemitic former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn that was due to be shown alongside a book signing and talk from Asa Winstanley....

following contact from Campaign Against Antisemitism in which we pointed out that the scheduling of the event appeared to be contradictory to the reports that the film has been banned in all of Unite’s buildings, it was cancelled....

Campaign Against Antisemitism commends Unite for its swift and decisive action to cancel the screening as soon as we brought it to its attention.

I wrote to Gail Cartmail, on August 30 2023 about this:

Your decision to take advice from the racist CAA... as to whether Jeremy Corbyn - The Big Lie is antisemitic is an outrage.

... You know very well that ‘antisemitism’ is the standard line of defence when Israel is accused of war crimes.... It shows that your vain boasts about Unite’s support for the Palestinians is just virtue signalling. You can’t hold hands with the masters of Israeli apartheid and pretend you support the Palestinians.

Your ban on Corbyn The Big Lie shows that both of you are just old-fashioned imperialist supporters masquerading as anti-racists.

Why have your officials lied and lied about the banning of ‘Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie’? Who has given you the right to decide what Unite members can or cannot see?

Clearly I had stung Cartmail because within 2 hours she replied:

Your disagreeable attack is based on a falsehood. No one in Unite took advice from the Campaign Against Antisemitism, on ‘Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie’, nor indeed any other matter. I suggest you don’t believe everything you read on social media or elsewhere.

Unite as a union is outstanding in both our commitment to anti-racism and solidarity with the Palestinian cause, actions speak louder than words.

I suggest you fact-check before launching another ill-informed and blatantly untrue broadside.

I then asked Cartmail if Graham had written to the CAA asking them to retract their false allegations against her. I received no reply.

Soon after Palestinian Resistance groups broke out of Gaza Ghetto on October 7. On October 16 Unite put out a statement which

unreservedly condemns and expresses its revulsion at the recent appalling acts of violence by Hamas against innocent civilians in Israel. We further deplore the subsequent suffering and loss of life being endured by civilians in Gaza arising from the actions of the Israeli government.

Another Hamas Base? Israel destroys the PGFTU Palestinian Trade Union  Building in Gaza City which housed a kindergarten and bakery

There was no mention of the carpet bombing of Gaza’s civilian population or its mass murder of civilians. By this time 2,750 Palestinians had died and 9,700 were wounded. Israel’s Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant had made clear what Israel’s genocidal intent was when he said, on October 9 that

I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.

Israeli spokesman Daniel Hagari made it clear that “right now we’re focused on what causes maximum damage”. Numerous Israeli government ministers made genocidal statements. President Herzog said on October 14 that ‘There are no innocent civilians in Gaza".


Meanwhile Sharon Graham and the Unite Executive continued to do nothing. They refused, in line with the position of Keir Starmer, to call for an immediate ceasefire.

On 17 October Herzog Peter Kavanagh, the Regional Secretary of London and Eastern Region Unite, wrote a letter to Graham asking why there had been no Unite banner or speaker at the previous Palestine demonstration in London on October 7 and why Unite had done nothing to advertise the demonstration on its web site.

Kavanagh asked that this be rectified immediately and that Graham should write to all branches urging that members attend the demonstration. No reply was ever received.

On 26 October an Emergency Executive Meeting on Palestine broke up in disarray having voted 24-14 against making any statement on Israel’s genocide.

After a ‘fraught meeting’  supporters of Graham issued a false briefing claiming that Graham was all for an unconditional ceasefire call but was stymied by ‘factional’ exec members. As was noted:

Graham’s reputation has been further badly damaged – after a series of controversies and undenied allegations about her conduct in the union – by her public silence on Israel’s genocide in Gaza and her attempts to block a Palestinian solidarity event.

On 27 October Cartmail sent me another email stating that

The General Secretary has been actively promoting that the union should put out a statement calling for a ceasefire.... She is also clear that the Unite position must be that we do not stoke division through anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism.

Why should British Jews be the pretext for not condemning genocide? Was Graham saying that Jews support genocide? This is the Suella Braverman/Sunak/Starmer line.

On November 1 I sent an Open Letter signed by 135 members of Unite to Graham demanding that the Union call for an immediate ceasefire and take part in and publicise the national demonstrations.

On November 3 Graham finally issued a statement calling for a ceasefire although it was pitifully weak, failing to mention still less condemn Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

Mick Lynch of the RMT, one of a host of trade union leaders speaking at the national Palestinian demonstrations - only Sharon Graham is absent

On December 19 166 Unite members sent another letter to Graham pointing out that in the statement of Novemer 3

There was no mention of genocide or ethnic cleansing. There was no mention of the war crimes perpetrated by Israel - the bombing of hospitals, the targeting and murder of journalists, academics and doctors to say nothing of the bombing of residential areas or the murder of children, which now stands at over 8,000.

There was no mention of the fact that Israel has imposed a food, water and fuel blockade on the Gaza strip resulting in starvation according to the United Nations. Collective punishment of a civilian population is a egregious breach of international law yet the statement treats the Palestinians and the Israeli state as equally responsible.

It is not Hamas which possesses an airforce but Israel. It is the Israeli state which is carrying out the carpet bombing of Gaza with the intent of forcing Palestinians out altogether.

The statement treats the genocidal attack on the people of Gaza as equivalent to the break-out from the world’s largest open air prison on October 7. Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip for 56 years imposing a suffocating siege on it since 2007.

We quoted a report from Vatican News of 16 December as just one example of Israel’s war crimes:

‘Israelis have opened fire on Gaza’s Christians. Following heavy bombardment overnight of the area around Holy Family Latin parish in Gaza City, dozens are reported dead… and reports continue to arrive that shooting by Israeli snipers continues during these hours. A statement released by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem confirmed that an Israeli sniper murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish where the majority of Christian families have taken refuge since the start of the war.’

An even more horrifying massacre took place on 17 December. Al Jazeera reported that Israeli bulldozers have crushed Palestinians who were taking shelter in tents outside Kamal Adwan Hospital.

Dozens of Palestinians are reported to have been buried alive. These are Nazi-style massacres and yet you have said nothing and done nothing since issuing your statement. You were happy to wave the Ukrainian flag but you haven’t waved the Palestinian flag or expressed any sympathy with the thousands of murdered Palestinian civilians, not least children

Graham was happy to support dockers refusing to unload fuel from Russia but not happy to support Palestinians under attack. Why? Because Graham is an unashamed supporter of US imperialism and Ukraine is a NATO proxy war.

For 4 months after the statement of November 3 Sharon Graham did absolutely nothing to campaign against Israel’s genocide. There was no national Unite presence on the London demonstrations, no publicity for them, no transport.

This was why we organised a demonstration outside Unite HQ on March 11 to coincide with an Executive Committee meeting. About 50 Unite members attended from 3 regions.

At the meeting itself, which lasted all week, there were 2 motions on Palestine. Graham and her supporters ensured that the motions on Palestine were not discussed with the aid of the Chair Andy Green.

Graham herself justified not discussing what is happening in Gaza because ‘Palestine is not a service we offer members.’ This one phrase sums up everything about Graham’s chauvinism.

Sharon Graham is firmly wedded to capitalism. She simply wants workers to have a larger share of the imperialist cake.

On March 7 Israel bombed the headquarters of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in Gaza City. The Federation’s five-story building had attached to it a kindergarten that served 380 children, as well as a large automatic bakery.

In a statement, Basheer Al-Sisi from the PGFTU’s Secretariat spoke of how they had “lost thousands of members, union offices, facilities, and other institutions” as a result of Israel’s “wholesale slaughter and forced dislocation—ethnic cleansing”.

In a letter of 26 March to PGFTU's General Secretary Shaher Saeed, Sharon Graham expressed her solidarity and boasted of Unite's record including donating £50,000 to Medicin Sans Frontiere. For a moment I actually thought that her letter was sincere, albeit over 2 weeks after the event.

In Sharon Graham’s Hypocrisy Over Gaza Beggars Belief I wrote:

it is of course welcome that Graham has, at last, written expressing her solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. But it is long overdue. It is also welcome that she has, for the first time, condemned Israel’s ‘war crimes’ but we will never forget that this only came nearly 6 months after Israel’s attack and with deaths and injuries over 100,000.

In her letter to PGFTU, Graham boasted that Unite had donated a paltry £50,000 to Medicins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders. It is reported that Graham and Unite’s legal bill for defending itself against Brendan Ogle is over £1m (1.35m Euros) and that is before Graham starts her defence against a libel action by Ogle. I wrote:

Let us hope that Sharon Graham’s letter to the PGFTU is a sign that she has at last recognised that ... the Union must revert to its traditional position of support for the oppressed not the oppressor. I fear though that Graham’s letter is about as far as she intends to go and that these are empty words.

Sharon Graham's letter attacking Palestine solidarity & anti-war activists & supporting NATO & AUKUS

Little did I know the depths of cynicism which Graham is capable of. The PGFTU HQ was bombed on March 7. Graham’s letter was sent on March 25. Between November 3 and then she had done absolutely nothing. This letter was all that she had done and she had written it solely in order to say she had done something.

The very next day after it was written Graham penned another letter, Important message from the General Secretary and the Chair of the Union’. It was addressed to Unite Officers, Organisers and Staff. It showed signs of being hurriedly written as it is undated. It was written

to alert and inform you about a number of extremely troubling actions being undertaken by a tiny minority of individuals, inside and outside of our Union.

Some of these individuals are linked to the past leadership and a small number are linked to groups who want us to make decisions detrimental to our membership and their jobs.

It was written in the language of McCarthyism and its purpose was to witchunt the left and Palestine solidarity activists. But it was aimed more widely at climate and anti-war activists whose are deemed a threat to jobs. In other words what happens in wider society, with growing militarisation and reduced spending on the NHS is irrelevant. We must tie our fortunes to the military-industrial complex.

I mentioned at the beginning that some socialist groups have been supporters of Sharon Graham. If those groups don’t speak out now, they deserve to be condemned for working with the Right.

Graham’s letter is 4 pages long. I will focus on the section to do with Palestine which demonstrates both the national chauvinism of her politics as well as her dishonesty. It claims that our efforts to get Unite to campaign over the issue of Palestine have been nothing more than the weaponisation of attacks on her. She pretends that she has been at the forefront of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Graham falsely claimed that

Unite, was the first major union to publicly and unambiguously call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.... We were very clear. We have watched on with horror the bombardment and destruction of Gaza, and the unbearable terror, suffering and death of its innocent civilians. We have been unequivocal that the deliberate killing of civilians, hostage-taking and collective punishment are war crimes and should be identified as such.

This is simply a lie. UNISON called for an immediate ceasefire on October 26. UNISON also condemned Israel for its attacks on civilians unlike the even handed Unite statement a week later.

UNISON has made repeated calls for a ceasefire since October 26 whereas Sharon Graham has sat on her bottom and done nothing. In her vitriolic statement the only thing she was able to mention was the letter she sent to the PGFTU the day before!

Graham spent the rest of her letter suggesting that those who oppose the production of arms intended for Israel are targeting the workers in those factories. Instead of trying to persuade workers in arms factories to take action themselves she is pitting workers against Palestine solidarity and anti-war activists.

Graham was deliberately instilling fear in workers that unless they are prepared to arm NATO’s dictatorships their jobs will be lost. Rather than supporting the diversification of production and turning arms factories into producing useful equipment like solar panels and wind turbines Graham adopted the mentality of the most backward and reactionary section of workers who a few generations before believed that opposition to the British Empire spelt doom for British workers. Graham suggested that

there is no contradiction for a trade union to hold a position of solidarity with Palestinian workers, while at the same time refusing to support campaigns that target our members' workplaces without their support.

In other words we are in solidarity with Palestinian workers but also in solidarity with those whose weapons blow them up! Graham took aim at those who

build networks inside trade unions to undermine the defence industry or demand the disbandment of NATO and AUKUS.

The USA today is deliberately seeking war with China. Graham makes clear her support for the US’s anti-China AUKUS pact. The expenditure of billions of pounds on arms means less for welfare. And if there is a nuclear war, how will that benefit Unite workers?


The NHS is suffering because military expenditure continues to rise. Health and social care, local government, transport all suffer because the capital intensive arms industry sucks up billions.

It is time for those on the left who placed their faith in Graham to realise they have backed the wrong horse. Graham is a narrow minded British nationalist, an imperialist, racist war monger and a Zionist who has nothing to offer the working class.

Industrial strikes do not by themselves challenge capitalism unless they are generalised and politicised. It is quite possible to combine industrial militancy with racist, imperialist attitudes. The White South African working class was militant as was the Protestant working class of Northern Ireland. Israel’s Jewish working class was militant whilst fighting to reserve the highest paid jobs for Israeli Jews.

It is unfortunate that much of the left in Britain is unable to understand that racism and imperialism mean the working class allying with its bosses. Both Marx and Lenin understood these things unlike the SWP, SP and Counterfire.

In Marx’s day the burning question was British colonialism in Ireland. Marx wrote:

Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.

This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.

If you want a good example of the stupidity of the British left then you could do worse than read the Socialist Party’s Unite and the movement against the war on Gaza which transforms the criticism of Sharon Graham over Gaza into a dispute between the United Left and the ‘industrially militant ‘transformation’ agenda’ of Graham. 

This is total rubbish. Having organised the picket of Unite HQ I am not interested in artificial factional differences. My concern is about Unite’s support for Palestine solidarity. It is clear that Graham, with her support for NATO is no friend of Palestine.

I recommend an excellent article on the World Socialist Web Site Unite’s General Secretary Sharon Graham denounces industrial and political action against Israel’s Gaza genocide

Tony Greenstein 

  STOP PRESS

News is coming in of a complaint by Unite’s National Officers’ Group to Unite Executive. Skawkbox reports that

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham and her management team have been accused of contempt for Unite staff’s collective agreement on grievances – and of a string of other abuses, including the use of legal action to silence and intimidate workers and avoid transparency, banning workers from their workplace under an implied threat of dismissal – and putting people into ‘special measures’ to control the the union’s internal democracy..


Among the other innovative employment practices there is the threat that anyone submitting a grievance complaint against Graham will be considered to be in breach of the duty of trust and confidence between worker and committee and where it is absent the employer is entitled to dismiss the employee.

It seems that not only is Graham a reactionary in every other field but as an employer too she is an absolute dictator.

It will be interesting to see whether her supporters in the SWP, SP and Counterfire will now break from her at last or whether they are determined to go down with her!      


 

Above staff complaint to Unite's Executive