SURPRISES IN E.T.U.
By Douglas Hyde
ALTHOUGH the result of the contest for the secretaryship of the Electrical Trades Union has still to be made known, it already seems clear that the opposition to the Communists who dominate it has proved to be more effective than at any time for many years.
Opposing each other were the present general secretary, Mr. Frank Haxell, a leading Communist. and Mr. "Jock " Byrne, a Catholic who is a full-time official of the union on Clydeside.
For many years now the Communists have held a majority of the most important positions in the E.T.U. and have dealt roughly with all those who opposed them. As a consequence the opposition has been routed time after time.
Now, however, it seems that very large numbers of branches in London and the south of England, where the Communist stranglehold has been greatest, have turned away from Haxell and supported Byrne. These include some who originally nominated Haxell at poorly-attended branch meetings but whose members have now voted overwhelmingly in favour of his opponent.
Members of one branch which not long ago gave him a vote of confidence have now, by a large majority, given their votes to Byrne.
It appears certain that, whatever the final result may be, Mr. Byrne has been given a great deal more support than the Communists expected him to receive. And it seems not at all unlikely that he has been elected.
It will be recalled that one of the many scandals alleged against this union has been that when elections have gone against them, the leaders have declared null and void the votes of branches who opposed them.
There is every reason to suppose that if Mr. Byrne has been elected he will show himself tough enough to stand up to the very difficult situation which will confront him.
An anti Communist general secretary with a Communistdominated executive committee is not likely to have an easy time, but his whole record suggests that Mr. Byrne would do a quietly efficient job, compromising none of his principles, regardless of how great the difficulties might be.
If he has not been elected general secretary. Mr. Byrne will require all the support he can get when he comes up for re-election to his present position within the next twelve months. The union leaders have recently been redrawing the boundaries between the various areas and in the reallocation of branches on Clydeside (where the religious issue sometimes resembles what one expects to find in Northern Ireland) Mr. Byrne has been given a number of Protestant and Orange branches.
The Electrical Trades Union has some 240,000 members, distributed over almost every industry, but particularly within the important engineering, shipbuilding. ship repair, and building industries, and for this reason has always been seen by the Communist Party as strategically the most important of British unions.