Tony Greenstein | 18 April 2024 | Post Views:


On Monday I learnt that Sharon Graham had banned On Resistance Street an anti-fascist and anti-racist  film that looks at the role music has played in the fight against fascism and racism.

The reasons for the ban were explained by Graham’s sycophantic bag carrier, Sarah Carpenter, who, as Regional Secretary for the South-East, banned another film, Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie. Carpenter quoted an Executive Committee resolution of September 2023 that:

‘Unite should not use its premises or resources to show or promote any external films or other content that does not relate to our industrial agenda to support the pay, terms and conditions of our members and/or support existing Unite policies.

Leave aside the ‘explanation’ of Carpenter, a bureaucrat without an original idea in her head, or the tunnel vision of Sharon Graham whose ‘industrial agenda’ poses no threat to British capitalism. Graham is either so politically illiterate that she does not understand that historically racism and fascism have been used to divide and weaken, if not destroy the trade union and socialist movement. Or else she does not care.

Carpenter’s suggestion that anti-racism and anti-fascism is not part of ‘existing Unite policies’ testifies to her stupidity. Even more worrying, Carpenter also wrote that:

In this context the Union should be especially careful to avoid appearing to endorse any material which causes unnecessary offence to members.’

Is she really saying that Unite should not offend racists and fascists? This is very similar to the ‘reason’ that Gail Cartmail gave for the banning of Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie when she said that:

The General Secretary… is also clear that the Unite position must be that we do not stoke division through anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism

On Resistance Street was shot on location in England, Belfast and New York.  It carries an original soundtrack of 20 songs.

The film revisits the ‘Rock Against Racism’ movement of the late 70s, noting its influence on future waves of radical artists and political activists.  It also shines a light – for the very first time in a film – on a 1950s organisation, ‘The Stars Campaign For Inter-Racial Friendship’ which was founded by a group of famous British jazz musicians and entertainers in the wake of the 1958 Notting Hill riots. It provided venues in West London for black and white youth to socialise together.  The film also highlights the crucial role played by punk rock in uniting young people in 1970s’ sectarian Belfast.

On Resistance Street tracks contemporary drifts to the right in the West, the weaponization of Black grammatical history, right wing musical cultural appropriation and the role of anti-racist social media groups today.  It looks at grime music and the historic role played by Black musicians in British music.

This decision is nothing less than shocking. For a trade union to ban an anti-fascist and anti-racist film is a sign of how the Sharon Graham leadership has degenerated politically.

I therefore moved a resolution at my own branch last night ‘noting with dismay’ all the lies of Graham and her flunkeys. For the first time that I can remember I was criticised for my moderation! Another member promptly moved an amendment that said the branch had no confidence in Graham. Just 2 out of 11 members abstained, the rest voted in favour.


Graham is the most right-wing boss of Unite and its predecessor unions since Arthur Deakin in the 50s. Graham stood on a platform that rejected Len McCluskey’s support for the Corbyn Project. She passed herself off as apolitical but in reality she is firmly on the right. Her objection to anti-racist education is matched by her support for Zionism and the Israeli state.

It is no accident that Graham has done nothing to support Palestinians in Gaza besides writing a solitary letter to the PGFTU, nearly 3 weeks after its headquarters in Gaza were bombed. The very next day she made it clear that she favoured continuing to send arms to Israel to continue the bombing, the more the merrier since to her all that matters is British jobs.

Yet despite her appalling record when it comes to international solidarity, anti-racism and anti-imperialism, the ‘revolutionary’ sects of the British left, have supported her through thick and thin. Both the SWP and the Socialist Party supported Graham in the election for General Secretary and Counterfire welcomed her victory.

Richard Allday, a Counterfire supporter and member of Unite’s Executive only last Friday chose to attack me on the Unite 4 Palestine WhatsApp group for my ‘obsession with Sharon Graham’ and my ‘unsubstantiated abuse.’ i.e. criticism of Graham.

To support strikes whilst rejecting their political implications, as Graham does, is to reject class politics. It is to treat the state as neutral and capitalism as a fair and equitable system rather than one based on exploitation. This is called economism.

Unfortunately the ruling class is not so stupid as Graham. It knows that even if Unite wins a few individual strikes, they still have all the cards. The rich and powerful can easily adjust the rules of the game through their tame puppets in parliament. They have the Police to reign in workers who get unruly and of course, if the worst comes to the worst, they can make going on strike itself harder and harder.

The Establishment is more than capable of winning back through legislation that which they lose industrially. Being ‘apolitical’ means accepting privatisation of public services and austerity in order to fund increased expenditure on the military. Graham supports increasing ‘defence’ expenditure even though it means cutting the NHS, education and social services where Unite also has members.

Concentrating solely on strikes means abandoning the fight against racism, global warming, war and imperialism. It is to define class oppression as solely economic without seeing that capitalism doesn’t just oppress people in the workplace but during their lives outside the workplace. There is little advantage in gaining higher wages if the Welfare State is under attack, the NHS is in decline, schools are privatised as academies and housing becomes harder to get.

Graham is fighting for a larger share of the imperialist pie not its abolition. Graham is an avid supporter of NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine and supported dockers refusing to handle Russian oil. There is some solidarity action that Graham does support, the problem is that it doesn’t involve genocide against the Palestinians.

When it came to Ukraine Graham didn’t mince her words:

“There is overwhelming support being expressed throughout Unite to support the people of Ukraine. It is not only the struggle for democracy that concerns us but also the struggle for people’s rights to work and build their future in peace.”

Yet when it comes to Gaza, getting Graham to condemn anything Israel does is like drawing teeth. In her letter condemning the bombing of the PGFTU headquarters in Gaza City Graham fails even to mention the word ‘Israel’. It is as if the bombing of the Trade union HQ happened by itself. Likewise Graham did not once let the word ‘genocide’ slip from her lips.

These things have not gone unnoticed by the Zionists. Writing in the anti-Palestinian Jewish News ‘Liar’ Lee Harpin described how,

In a further put down on far-left foreign policy dogma Graham also wrote “Similarly, we cannot be expected to affiliate to organisations that actively work against our members and their jobs.

Examples include groups that look to build networks inside trade unions to undermine the defence industry or demand the disbandment of NATO and AUKUS.

Under Graham’s leadership Unite has also taken great strides in attempting to combat antisemitism within the movement. Despite early claims that the left-wing leader would seek to move the union away from Labour and disaffiliate, Unite now appears to be opting to become a “critical friend” of the Starmer led Labour Party.

Unfortunately Britain’s far-left sects are unable to see beyond their own noses. They are so pleased that a union leader supports strikes that they are unable to understand that you can support strikes and still be a racist, warmongering reactionary like Sharon Graham.

In an effusive pro-Graham article in Dissent Olly Haynes observed that Unite refused to support the Enough is Enough coalition with the RMT and CWU because

two of the coalition’s five demands—building affordable housing and imposing heavier taxes on the rich—could only be enacted directly through state power. …

The first indication that Sharon Graham was a Zionist cuckoo in the trade union nest was when Jeremy Corbyn – The Big Lie was banned.

On 23 July 2023 the far-right Campaign Against Antisemitism claimed credit for the ban on Corbyn The Big Lie. They wrote:

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….

However, 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.

Graham’s apolitical election stance was a cover for very right-wing politics. To her capitalism and imperialism are perfectly normal and therefore not political. Is it any surprise that she refused to condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza as genocide? But if Britain’s far-left organisations displayed their typically blinkered approach, engaging in a bout of wishful thinking, then the Zionist organisations were not fooled. Indeed it is highly likely that Graham signalled to them that Len McCluskey’s support for the Palestinians would be jettisoned.

Euan Philips (David Gordstein) of Labour Against Antisemitismwelcomed the election of Graham as General Secretary.

The SWP, SP and Countefire simply refused to accept that the Skwawkbox’s allegations of Graham’s nepotism, turning a blind eye to racism and despotism amounted to anything. Despite Skawkbox being vilified at no time has Graham disputed their allegations.

At her first Executive Committee meeting as General Secretary (September 2021) Graham ‘Pledged to make our Union the most democratic and transparent it has ever been.’ Actions however speak louder than words as her banning of films demonstrates.

Graham promised to ‘Take the lead or provide practical support to other groups tackling wider societal issues such as; climate change, the housing crisis and racism.’ Under Len McCluskey Unite’s Community branches were established. It is no secret that Graham is hostile to them as she sees them as naturally political.

Graham pledged ‘there will be no blank cheques’ for the Labour Party. The cutting of affiliation fees by McLuskey, has been reversed without protest. Graham also promised to

·               Introduce a Member Hotline in my Office.

·               Make sure that my expenses are accessible to members online.

·               Introduce ‘General Secretary Live’ online Q&A

i.              On the 8 June Sarah Carpenter banned Corbyn – The Big Lie from beingshown at Unite’s premises in Portsmouth on Graham’s ‘advice’.

ii.            From 7 October to 3 November, Graham delayed calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

iii.         In her statement of 26 June to staff and officers Graham claimed that Unite ‘was the first major union to publicly and unambiguously call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.’ This was a lie. UNISON called for an immediate ceasefire on October 26 and it also condemned Israel for its attacks on civilians unlike the even handed Unite statement a week later.

iv.         Graham has not only refused to attend the national Palestinian demonstrations but she has refused to allow Unite’s national banner to be present.

v.            Graham tried to pressurise Unite official Simon Dubbins to calling off a Unite Palestinian event at Labour Party conference. She has now suspended him.

vi.         Graham also tried to persuade Pete Kavanagh, Regional Secretary for London & Eastern Region, from speaking at the Palestinian demonstration in London on January 13.

vii.       Graham’s Chief of Staff, Sarah Carpenter, appointed without any reference to the Executive, threatened Kavanagh with loss of a pension bonus if he continued to support the Palestinians.

viii.    Graham said nothing about genocide in Gaza until March 25,over two weeks after, when she wrote a letter of ‘solidarity’ to the Palestinian trade union PGFTU after the bombing of their HQ in Gaza City.

ix.         One day later, March 26, Graham issued a letter condemning attempts to stop the manufacture of arms for Israel. Graham attacked ‘groups that look to build networks inside trade unions to undermine the defence industry or demand the disbandment of NATO and AUKUS’.

In her letter Graham said ‘there is no contradiction for a trade union to hold a position of solidarity with Palestinian workers’ whilst making arms intended to murder those same workers. She held that ‘it is a core principle of Unite that as a trade union the ‘first claim’ on our priorities’ is to support the right of Unite members to produce arms to kill other workers.

Clearly the words ‘international solidarity’ are alien to Graham. It is shameful that the left sects have failed to call her so far. There are indications, judging by a letter critical of Graham in Socialist Worker that the SWP is revising its attitude. Let us hope that Counterfire and the Socialist Party do likewise.

Graham could have told Unite workers that she would support them refusing to handle arms destined for Israel’s murder machine in Gaza in the same way as happened with Rolls Royce workers in East Kilbride in 1973 when they refused to service engines destined for Pinochet’s airforce.

According to Graham’s logic the right of workers at IG Farben to produce Zyklon B for the gas chambers trumped the rights of Jews not to be murdered.

x.           On 11 April the Officers National Committee submitted a collective grievance concerning the flouting of grievance procedures and the victimisation of workers who challenged Graham’s repressive regime. They wrote:

The length of time that grievances and investigations are taking to reach a conclusion is not acceptable in a modern workplace… employees are waiting months after submitting a grievance due to a refusal of some to participate in the process, being banned from your workplace when not even suspended, and an application of “special measures

Using legal privilege to justify enforcing a refusal to allow an employee to present their grievance is disgraceful and anti-trade union… part of our role is to challenge power in the workplace where that power is used to suppress workers seeking transparency, expressing their genuinely held views or seeking protection from abuse.

Threats of legal action for raising a grievance… is… a denial of natural justice…. In seeking to declare a grievance invalid the employer has cited the issues of trust and confidence…. Loss of trust and confidence is a legitimate reason for dismissal by an employer so to reference it is to further intimidate the worker.’

The time has come for the left to stop making excuses for Graham. Richard Allday told me that ‘she has not spoken out on the current atrocity in Palestine’ but he failed to ask why this is. The time has come for the left groups to put clear red water between them and Graham.

Tony Greenstein

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Tony Greenstein

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