Let’s be straight – Mark Serwotka is a mediocre General Secretary.
Of course in relation to the gene pool of union General Secretaries in the UK he stands out – but that is only because most General Secretaries are so bad.
Now we are the first to accept that Mark Serwotka is a very fine speaker and can genuinely move activists and members but a General Secretary has also to be an astute politician, an able strategist and a competent ‘chief executive’. Mark Serwotka is none of these.
Let’s take his politics. He is of the left but his left wing politics is ill defined. This allows him to appear at meetings as diverse as those arranged by the SWP, Socialist Party, and the Labour Representation Committee and not cause offence to those arranging those platforms. He is opposed to austerity and proclaims that there is an alternative (which is correct) but what alternative? He wants the rich to pay tax and is for an economic stimulus rather than cuts. So do we – but so would a left Keynesian. He does not advocate a fundamental re-ordering (that we are aware of) of the economy nor argue for workplace industrial democracy.
Even in union terms he has not been radical. He has not tried to get the union to seriously organise cleaners, security guards and facilities management staff who work on the civil service and related estates; that is to organise the unorganised. He certainly has not led a democratisation of the PCS and he is not in practice for the election of full time officials.
He has not ensured that the wages of Full Time Officials are closer to that of the members they represent – let alone that they be on a workers’ wage. When first elected as GS, he did not take all of the salary but over the years the amounts he gave back to the union reduced just as his wages increased. Currently he is on £90K and as far as we can see he gives no money back. On top of that the union pays thousands a year into his pension pot and also pays money towards his mortgage. All in all, his remuneration package is well over £100K a year: this in a union where many members are below the so called living wage.
Therefore his leftism is left vapidism. Now you may dismiss all this by saying his heart is in the right place. But we require a leader whose head is in the right place politically.
Somebody once wrote ‘No one starts a war–or rather, no one in his sense ought to do so–without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by the war and how he intends to conduct it.” Mark Serwotka, and of course the Socialist Party, have lead us into many battles without being clear what is wanted (remember the idiotic campaign we had over ‘if they don’t talk then we will walk’ – supposed they had talked – would dispute had ended?). He certainly has not known what was needed to win. For example, despite the overwhelming evidence that one day strikes followed by months of inactivity were not working, he still, with the NEC, ploughed on with this ‘tactic’. Mark Serwotka is no strategist.
He certainly is not a competent chief executive of the PCS. Any activist who has even a casual interaction with PCS knows how shambolic an organisation it is. Mark Serwotka has to take the full blame for this. He is in charge of the organisation of the union.
So if he is so poor why aren’t we standing against him? Firstly, comrades in IL were not united in standing against him. Secondly, all the funding for the IL comes entirely from activists. Therefore in cash terms we had the choice of standing against Mark Serwotka but not really having enough money left over to run a proper NEC election campaign. So we choose the NEC elections and are not standing a candidate against him.