This weekend the AMICUS conferences (of the MSF and AEEU, the two unions that have merged to form Amicus) start in Blackpool. This document analyses the present situation in the union and also looks at its history and how the left managed to win the position of General Secretary of the AEEU - a good insight into the state of the British trade unions as they steadily shift to the left. It also looks at the tasks ahead for the left in the union.

The victory of Tony Woodley as general secretary of the powerful Transport and General Workers' Union, Britain's third biggest union, is a further confirmation of the continuing swing to the left in the British trade unions. It is also a clear indication of the discontent within the union rank and file with right wing trade union leaders and the policies of the Blair government.

Marx explained long ago that capitalism operates through a series of booms and slumps. In the boom of the Nineties, his ideas were laughed at. Now, the situation is turning out differently as the world capitalist economy splutters. No wonder a recent article in the Financial Times stated, "Marx seems to be getting the last laugh yet."

The MSF and AEEU held their conferences last week as part of the process of fusion into one union, Amicus. A steady move to the left is taking place. The next step is the battle of the left to win the executive, after last year's victory that saw the candidate of the left, Derek Simpson, elected to the position of General Secretary of the AEEU.

We have reported in many articles the inexorable shift to the left that has been taking place in the British trade unions. Last year's move to the left in the AEEU (engineering workers) general secretary elections has probably been the most striking episode in this general process. Equally significant was the change in the TGWU (transport workers) where again the left took the position of general secretary. The latest development among the civil servants is another striking example of how deep the process is.

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