Charlie Kimber’s uneven consciousness

December 4, 2016 at 9:10 pm (Beyond parody, class collaboration, Europe, fantasy, left, plonker, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, SWP)

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Left Leave

Above: rank idiocy, opportunism and self-delusion on the supposed “left”

By Liam Conway

The Brexit vote was “a bitter blow for the establishment, big business, the international financial institutions, the rich and the politicians” says Charlie Kimber, writing for International Socialism Journal.

This gives the impression, ″with minor exceptions″, that the ruling class was united in their support for remaining in the EU, which is clearly a fantasy. Cut through the pseudo sociology in Kimber’s analysis and you are left with two points. The leave vote was primarily a revolt against the establishment and was not dominated by racism or hostility to migrants. What evidence does Kimber give for either of these conclusions?

For the latter a little. For the former, none at all. Kimber quotes studies by professors and commentary by Labour politicians to justify the purely Kimber view that the leave vote was anti-establishment. Kimber writes that Professor Jennings of Southampton University found that “workers perceived politicians as arrogant, boorish, corrupt, creepy, devious, loathsome, lying, parasitical, pompous, shameful, sleazy, slippery, spineless, traitorous, weak and wet.” But how is this specifically related to the EU? Most of the sleeze that dominated the press was rooted in the British Parliament, not the European.

Kimber says that the Leave vote “was driven by such factors as the MPs’ expenses scandal, the decades-long sense that the political parties are now all the same, the widespread contempt for the ‘pillars of society’, the lies told to launch the Iraq war and the resentment that comes from sensing that a tiny group at the top of society are making millions while you’re suffering — and they are also laughing at you.”

But Kimber produces no evidence at all that the groups he cites as most likely to vote Leave — the poorest and least formally educated in society — did so because of class hostility to the elites in Britain. And even if the poorest of the poor were bitter and chaffing at the bit because of their mistreatment by the British establishment, why would they blame the EU? Dislocation Jennings’ study is nothing to do with the EU, it is about dislocation with British politics and politicians. Where is the sociological research that shows workers voted to leave because of ″lies told to launch the Iraq War″? This is just political wishful thinking to justify the line of the Socialist Workers′ Party (SWP).

Kimber re-states the three reasons for SWP support for leaving the EU. The EU is a ″capitalist club″. The EU is a racist fortress. The EU is part of the imperialist world order. What Kimber fails to do is explain how leaving the EU gets you out of the ″capitalist club″, undermines racism within Europe against EU nationals, or weakens the imperialist world order. Kimber accepts that racist incidents have risen since the referendum but there is no mention of EU nationals, such as Polish workers, seriously considering returning to their homelands because of increased racism after the referendum. Kimber tries to get around the clear rise in racism and anti-immigrant sentiment by banging on about the contradictory or uneven nature of working class consciousness, but he only succeeds in demonstrating the uneven nature of his own consciousness.

I suggest the SWP, and Kimber in particular, re-read the Communist Manifesto where they will find Karl waxing lyrical about the progressive, as well as the reactionary, nature of capitalism: “The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation.

“Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.”

What response did Marx recommend for this tendency in capitalism to break down ″independent or loosely connected provinces (nations)”? Was it a reversal of the process? Not at all.

“This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes.”

Kimber replaces solidarity with the interests of the working class with pandering to the current consciousness (of some) on the EU.

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Galloway and fellow Red-Brown scum welcome Trump victory

November 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm (apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, class collaboration, conspiracy theories, fascism, Galloway, grovelling, misogyny, populism, posted by JD, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, Trump, wankers)


Above: Galloway and fellow Red-Brown dictator-lover Neil Clark on Putin’s TV channel

It had to happen: Red-Brown scum break cover to welcome the Trump victory; I presume that what these neanderthals mean by “an excessive focus on identity issues” is any concern about racism or misogyny.

Letter to the Morning Star (published Nov 12-13):

THE US Democratic Party has been defeated in the person of the most economically neoliberal and internationally neoconservative nominee imaginable. From the victory of Donald Trump, to the Durham teaching assistants’ dispute, the lessons need to be learned.

The workers are not the easily ignored and routinely betrayed base, with the liberal bourgeoisie as the swing voters to whom tribute must be paid.

The reality is the other way round. The EU referendum ought already to have placed that beyond doubt.

There is a need to move, as a matter of the utmost urgency, away from an excessive focus on identity issues, and towards the recognition that those existed only within the overarching and undergirding context of the struggle against economic inequality and in favour of international peace, including co-operation with Russia, not a new Cold War.

It is worth noting that working-class white areas that voted for Barak Obama did not vote for Hilary Clinton, that African-American turnout went down while the Republican share of that vote did not, and that Trump to 30 per cent of the Hispanic vote. Blacl Lives Matter meant remembering Libya, while Latino Lives Matter meant remembering Honduras.

The defeat of the Clintons by a purported opponent of neoliberal economic policy and of neoconservative foreign policy, although time will tell, has secured the position of Jeremy Corbyn, who is undoubtedly such an opponent.

It is also a challenge to Theresa May to make good her rhetoric about One Nation, about a country that works for everyone, and about being a voice for working people.
DAVID LINDSAY Lanchester council candidate, 2017
GEORGE GALLOWAY former MP for Glasgow Hillhead, Glasgow Kelvin, Bethnal Green & Bow and Bradford west
NEIL CLARK
RONAN DODDS
JAMES DRAPER
JOHN MOODY
MIETEK PADOWICZ
AREN PYM
ADAM YOUNG

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The Morning Star’s total confusion on the EU and the referendum

February 16, 2016 at 3:38 pm (class collaboration, Europe, Jim D, left, populism, Racism, stalinism, Tory scum, UKIP)

Above: Farage, Hoey (in red) and various other reactionaries, xenophobes and racists united at the launch of ‘Grassroots Out’

The abject confusion and incoherence of the Morning Star on the subject of the EU, continues apace.

Yesterday’s Morning Star carried an uncritical interview with anti-EU Labour MP (“one of the most prominent campaigners for an exit left” according to the Star) in which she justified her willingness to work with Ukip and “hard-right” Tories like Peter Bone as follows: “The reality is that if you really want to get out, every group has a slightly different perspective, and we can only win this referendum if we can all come together.”

Read the full article here.

In today’s Star, one Matt Widowson complains that “some among this group [the left that opposes Brexit] consider all advocates of exit as anti-progressive; almost Ukipish! We’re not. The left case for exit is progressive and compelling. Unlike the reactionary right it is not based on xenophobic and racist fear-mongering and relies instead on a realistic assessment of the present situation: the capitalist nature of the European Union and the need for national self-determination.”

Read the full article here.

So which is it, comrades? Is your friend Kate Hoey right to advocate an alliance with Ukip and the Tory “hard-right” on the basis that “every group has a slightly different perspective”?

Or is Matt Widowson right when he argues that the “progressive case” for exit has nothing to do with Ukip, xenophobia and racism – and that it’s an “insult” to suggest that it does?

Make your minds up, comrades!

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Trade Unionists Against the EU: where Stalinists get into bed with Ukip

December 18, 2015 at 11:25 pm (class collaboration, Europe, Jim D, populism, Racism, stalinism, UKIP)

 

As Cameron pursues his preposterous exercise in gesture politics – the demand that EU migrants be denied in-work benefits for four years, Corbyn has adopted a sensible and principled stance: he told the Party of European Socialists, meeting in Brussels on Thursday, that “If someone is working, paying taxes like anyone else, he should have access to the same benefits as everyone else.”

In contrast to Corbyn’s position, an outfit called Trade Unionists Against the EU offer their support to Cameron’s call for a discriminatory restriction on benefits to foreigners, in this letter published in the Guardian:

Zoe Williams misses the point about Cameron’s negotiations with EU member states (There is no master plan. On the EU, Cameron is flailing, 14 December). Restricting benefits to EU migrants may or may not be a sensible, legal or logical way to meet the concerns of people, be they “Ukip-minded” or not. But once our PM had to ask permission to do so, the issue was completely transformed. It is no longer one of EU migrants’ access to benefits, but the far more fundamental question of who decides how British taxpayers’ money is spent. It became a question of national sovereignty. That’s why organisations such Trade Unionists Against the EU are not awaiting the outcome of “negotiations” and are campaigning to get the UK out. The issue is as simple as it is clear: if the British people take a democratic decision to do something – in this case change the benefit system – they should be able to do so without having the prime minister scuttering around Europe asking permission. This will continue to be the case while the UK remains a member of the EU.
Fawzi Ibrahim
Trade Unionists Against the EU

Extraordinarily, the people behind his xenophobic rant claim to be “left wing.” In fact, Trade Unionists against the EU is chaired by a Stalinist, Doug Nicholls, and involves prominent CP’er and self-proclaimed “little Englander” Brian Denny and regular Morning Star contributor John Boyd.

These Stalinists claim that their campaign is completely independent from the right wing Tories and Ukip, who dominate the main anti-EU campaigns. But that letter to the Guardian makes it clear that when the fake-left bullshit (“exit left“, etc) is stripped away, their stance is identical to Ukip’s.

Not only that, but Leave.EU (presently battling it out with Vote Leave, for recognition as the official anti-EU campaign), set up by wealthy Ukip backer Arron Banks and little more than a front organisation for Ukip, is now sharing a website with this Stalinist front organisation: these utterly reactionary little-Englanders are, in truth, natural bedfellows.

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Syria airstrikes vote exposes SNP’s parallel political universe: a permanent nationalist delirium

December 8, 2015 at 6:20 pm (Beyond parody, class collaboration, conspiracy theories, populism, scotland, SNP, Syria)

Steve Bell's If ...
Steve Bell’s If …

By Dale Street (also posted at the Workers Liberty website)

“SNP independence has become the cocaine of the politically active. Fun to join in, but dulling the senses, jabbering on at a hundred words per minute while disconnected from self-awareness.”

In a recent article admitting that the SNP’s economic arguments for independence never stacked up, this is how Alex Bell summed up the delirious nature of the pro-independence political mindset. (Bell was SNP Head of Policy under Salmond.)

But the response of the SNP to the launch of airstrikes against Daesh has exposed the inaccuracy of Bell’s statement: he was being too charitable by half.

Labour Party policy was to oppose the bombing. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs – and a majority of the Shadow Cabinet – voted against the bombing. Some 75% of Labour Party members were against the bombing. The lead speaker in Westminster against the bombing was the Labour Party leader.

But all these basic facts were blotted out of reality in the parallel political universe inhabited – and created – by Scottish nationalism.

SNP MP John Nicolson summed up the political essence of the SNP response to the launch of airstrikes when he created the hashtag: “Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems #BombingTogether.”

Challenged about the accuracy of this hashtag, Nicolson responded that bombing was backed by the vast majority of Tories (true), by all Lib Dems (wrong), and by most of the Shadow Cabinet (wrong).

And the 152 Labour MPs who voted against bombing? Or Labour Party policy against bombing? Nicolson simply ignored them.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson likewise ignored how most Labour MPs actually voted. Harking back to the SNP’s exploitation of the Labour-Tory “Better Together” referendum campaign, he tweeted:

“Syria vote: Want to join opposition to Labour/Tory ‘better together’ majority. Join the SNP.”

The Tories had a majority even without the votes of Labour MPs. And the majority of the Labour MPs voted against bombing. But this did not prevent Robertson from performing the political conjuring trick of pulling a “Labour/Tory ‘better together’ majority” out of his hat.

The SNP was equally silent about anti-war speeches by Labour MPs. Instead, on planet SNP, the intervention by Labour MPs was reduced to Hilary Benn’s closing pro-bombing speech. Read the rest of this entry »

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Expel Adonis!

October 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm (apologists and collaborators, Asshole, Champagne Charlie, class collaboration, labour party, Tory scum)

As a general rule I’m against calling for the expulsion of anyone from the Labour Party, if only because I’m well aware that in doing so I could well be making a rod for my own back.

I also tend to agree with Jeremy Corbyn’s approach of appeasing more centrist individuals within the PLP and keeping the likes of Andy Burnham and Maria Eagle inside the tent.

But surely an exception should be made for Lord Andrew Adonis, the ex-SDP uber-Blairite who has accepted George Osborne’s offer to head up the newly-created national infrastructure commission? This is such a gross act of betrayal, not just of JC personally, but of the Party as a whole, that I’m sure the public would understand – even applaud – a sharp, punitive response.

Mind you, it’s unclear whether or not the serial-turncoat Adonis has simply resigned the Labour whip in the House of Lords, or resigned from the Party itself. Most reputable reports suggest it’s the former, but today’s Times suggests the latter:

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 23.42.23So, what should Corbyn do if this scum-bag has already resigned from the Party? Well, here’s a suggestion: when I helped form a certain far-left group in the mid-seventies, we inherited a practice from a predecessor group – that we wouldn’t accept any member’s resignation; instead, we’d expel them (for the record, this practice was eventually dropped). A bit of toytown Bolshevism, perhaps -but what an excellent idea for dealing with Adonis, if it turns out he’s already resigned from the Party.

I doubt that Mr Nice Guy Corbyn will do it, though: I fear he really is a nice guy.

 

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Patriotism before internationalism says Boyd of Campaign Against Euro-Federalism

October 2, 2015 at 7:17 pm (Beyond parody, class collaboration, conspiracy theories, Europe, Jim D, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism)

Above: the anti-EU ‘left’ at the TUC

Accuse any member of the Communist Party or supporter of the Morning Star of being a “Little Englander” or even just a nationalist, over the EU and they’ll get very hot under the collar. Robert Griffiths, general secretary of the CPB recently wrote a self-righteous letter to the New Statesman to complain about the magazine having quoted yours truly describing the MS “plumb[ing] the depths of reactionary Little England nationalism” in its coverage of the EU.

Now, I don’t know for sure whether or not John Boyd is a member of the CPB, but the MS certainly gives him a lot of coverage, regularly printing his anti-EU rants on their letters page, and quoting him approvingly in articles blaming the EU for the decimation of British industry, the undermining of British democracy, the war in Ukraine and the very existence of neoliberal capitalism, etc, etc, etc. Mr Boyd is secretary of the so-called Campaign Against Euro-Federalism, one of a number of interchangeable Stalinist/nationalist anti-EU outfits which evidently meet with the approval of the CPB and the MS.

Yesterday’s Morning Star published Mr Boyd’s latest letter, which I think is worth reproducing for posterity here at Shiraz, if only because letters published in the print edition don’t appear on the MS website. It is a chemically-pure statement of the fanatical, laughably ignorant, and utterly preposterous nationalism and isolationism that lies at the diseased heart the supposedly “left” anti-EU movement. The anti-EU ‘left’ should have this ludicrous, rambling, non-sequitur-ridden missive thrown in their faces at every opportunity. I presume, by the way, that Manu Bazzanu had written a letter attempting to assert elementary socialist internationalism, thus enraging the pro-patriotism Mr Boyd:

The nation state must come first for socialists
MANU BAZZANU (M Star September 25) brushes aside the fundamental importance of nations, nation states and their right to self determination. In fact the signs are that there will be more nation states.

Why side with capitalist interests, the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and its secret investment court system (ICS/ISDS) whose aims are to cull the powers of national governments, democracy and independence?

The main cause of wars is one nation state’s interference in the internal affairs and right to self-determination of another.

The Middle East is in turmoil, with the resultant mass movement of refugees, because governments of Britain and other countries have used military force to destroy infrastructures, change regimes with no respect for nation states’ governments, the nations or the peoples within them.

The objective of Islamic State (Isis) is to bring about a worldwide caliphate which does not recognise international borders, nation states and a lot more. Readers of the Morning Star vehemently oppose this.

Is it not correct that support that support should be given to a united Ireland where the Irish nation has been struggling for over 800 years to get rid of English imperialism?

Is it wrong for the French Communist Party congress to sing the Marsellaise before the Internationale? That is patriotism and internationalism in the correct order.

Dockers in the past carried out international solidarity with workers in other nation states by refusing to load or unload particular ships. That is just one example of internationalism.

Even within the EU, and in light of the refugee and Eurozone crises, national governments on behalf of their nation states have rocked this reactionary prison-house of nations to its foundations.

We are currently subjects of the British monarchy, but this does not preclude writing English, Scottish and Welsh patriotic national anthems. They should reflect the national patriotic history and aspirations, clearing us of a few obstacles!

JOHN BOYD, Secretary, Campaign Against Euro-Federalism

 

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Keep Unite affiliated! No new Popular Front!

May 12, 2015 at 5:58 am (Champagne Charlie, class collaboration, John Rees, labour party, stalinism, unions, Unite the union)


Andrew Murray: Popular Frontist

” … the [Labour] party’s leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace” – Counterfire

It hasn’t been widely publicised, but for the last couple of years Unite leader Len McCluskey has been saying that in the event of Labour losing the general election, Unite would seriously consider disaffiliating from the party.

Many of us considered this a bizarre position to take: surely the aftermath of a Labour defeat, and the ensuing ideological struggle between the Blairite right and various more left-wing currents, is precisely the time when affiliated unions should be exerting their influence?

McCluskey’s strange position seems to have been a concession to anti-Labour forces within the union, which include the Socialist Party (and their pathetic TUSC electoral front), various free-lance syndicalists within the United Left, a significant number of Scottish members (antagonised by Miliband’s handling of the Falkirk row, and now pro-SNP), and -perhaps most importantly – his  ‘Chief of Staff’ Andrew Murray, to whom he has in effect sub-contracted the running of politics within the union. Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain who is on record supporting North Korea, has a record of deciding the union’s political “line” without reference to the union’s executive, in accordance with his own Stalinist predilections.

Murray is part of the current within the CPB that favoured closer links with Galloway and Respect and, through his  prominent involvement in the Stop The War Coalition also has a close relationship with John Rees, Lindsey German and their small ex-Trotskyist organisation Counterfire.

This influence over the union’s leadership accounts for the enormous resources Unite has poured into Counterfire’s initiative The People’s Assembly, the union’s declared (but undebated) support for Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, and also for McCluskey’s unwillingness to call for a Labour vote in Scotland.

Counterfire and its Stalinist friends have two prominent supporters in the mainstream press, Seumas Milne (in the Guardian) and Owen Jones (in the Independent and New Statesman), both of whom, immediately prior to the election, were promoting the idea of a popular frontist anti-Tory coalition, and the idea that a Tory minority government would be, in effect, a ‘coup’ against the anti-Tory parliamentary majority. There was even a ‘Counterfire’-inspired proposal for a demonstration against the ‘coup’, although this didn’t take place under its planned slogans, due to the reality of the Tory absolute majority.

Counterfire is a small and politically insignificant outfit, but via Murray, it wields influence within Unite (despite the fact that it has only one known member within the union!) Therefore when articles like this and this appear on the Counterfire website, Unite activists who understand the vital political importance of maintaining the Labour link, should prepare for battle against the defeatists, class collaborationists and syndicalists  who’ll be arguing for a break with Labour and the creation of  a lash-up with the SNP, the Greens and even (according to the schema put forward by Murray’s pal Seumas Milne) sections of the Lib Dems! They may present it as “an English Syriza” reacting to the “Pasokification” of Labour (“English” because the SNP’s autonomy in Scotland must be respected), but in reality it would be a new variation on an old, class-collaborationist theme: the Popular Front.

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Complete Idiot’s Guide to Robin McAlpine and the state of Scottish Nationalism today

May 2, 2015 at 6:50 pm (class collaboration, middle class, plonker, populism, posted by JD, scotland)

A Scottish comrade drew my attention to this article, commenting “It’s probably a bit difficult to fully savour if you’re not aware that McAlpine is: a) prized as some kind of intellectual guru by sections of the ‘Yes’ campaign; b) a complete idiot, albeit a pretentious one.”

The article comes from a Scottish blog called Uncivil Society, that describes itself as “reject[ing] the civic nationalist consensus that now pervades Scottish politics.” You (like me) may not have heard of McAlpine before, but it’s a piece that tells us a lot about the politics of Scottish nationalism today – and it’s also rather well written:

By Rory Scothorne (@shirkerism)

What is Robin McAlpine? It’s all the more difficult when you’ve never met the man. I saw him once, at a pro-independence rally on Calton Hill. I was helping out at the National Collective stall, the sort of thing one does when one is 21 years old and the sun’s out. I became aware of a sort of blur, somewhere in my field of vision. The perplexing thing about this blur was that it wasn’t peripheral, or fleeting, as blurs tend to be; it was directly in front of me, and Michael Gray – now a columnist for The National, of course – appeared to be interacting with it.

Focusing more carefully on what was going on in front of my eyes – a rare effort for somebody in the independence campaign – it transpired that this blur was in fact a man, gesticulating feverishly, and the man was dressed like a teenage boy. Scuffed converse and jeans, short-sleeved t-shirt over long-sleeved t-shirt, thick-rimmed spectacles; he was there, in front of me, half-man half-blur, and I didn’t particularly want to talk to him.

In those sunny, optimistic days, McAlpine was like a myth: you know it’s wrong – I had written several critical things about the Common Weal by this point – but at no point do you really bother to grasp it, to work out where this wrongness actually came from. He was a thing you took for granted, and like the many unspoken peculiarities of the Yes Campaign he blended unquestioned into a vast herd of elephants in the room.

But now he is more significant. Today, McAlpine enthusiastically represents all that is left of the Yes Campaign in all its absurd, contradictory unity. The SNP has reasserted itself as the cautious, moderate party of “Scotland’s interest” which infuriated radicals during the referendum; much of the pro-independence left has moved on to campaigns like Scottish Left Project, Better Than Zero and the Living Rent Campaign; the Greens are back to poking around in their allotments, and those honourable captains of industry at Business for Scotland are presumably back to making lots of money. Independence remains on the horizon, but for most it is a horizon deferred. 

Only McAlpine is still plugging away at keeping everything together. His most recent article for Bella Caledonia is a spirited defence of his decision to speak at the “Seize The Day” rally organised by a strange organisation called “Hope Over Fear”, best described as a group of people being waved around by saltires. The involvement of Tommy Sheridan in the organisation’s leadership and as a speaker caused some concern. McAlpine insists that this is what movement-building is all about – building bridges in spite of disagreements – and that the real problem is middle-class nationalists on “social media” getting uncomfortable about how working-class nationalists express themselves. His closing remarks are an elegy for the fading unity of Yes:

Imagine what it would be like if we could fix this. Imagine there wasn’t this problem. Imagine we added to the riot of colour on Saturday the green, the red, the yellow. Imagine if Women for Indy could have joined the carnival. Imagine if RIC could have been there in strength. Imagine if we could have been hugging each other rather than tweeting about each other.

 His commitment to the cause doesn’t explain him, though; it simply makes the need to explain him clear. Below are 3 working hypotheses, offered as a starting point for further research.

Hypothesis 1: Robin McAlpine is really clever

Confucius believed that one of the central causes of disorder was misunderstanding, and he proposed dealing with this through the “rectification of names”. Things with the wrong name would be perceived and dealt with wrongly, and social problems would arise. Giving them names which better accorded with their essence would help lead to better understanding and action.

Is Robin McAlpine our very own Confucius? Two old articles suggest as much. In The Scotsman in 2012, Robin attacked the “endless name-calling” of Scottish politics, and the caricature of Salmond as a “populist despot”: 

In reality, if people properly understood the meanings of the terms populism and small-n nationalism they would realise that Scotland’s long-running constitutional debate has helped to protect us from the rise of the far-right.

McAlpine went on to suggest that all the problems emerging from this name-calling are the result of “confusion”. People think “populism” is about what is “popular”, whereas really “the linguistic root” of the term is “populace”, or “the people”. With this explained, McAlpine goes on to rectify all sorts of misnomenclature throughout history. The Nazis, you see, were populists, not nationalists: “the idea of the German “Reich” was not an idea of a nation but of the more accurate translation of “a Germanic realm”, he says – Germanic being an ethnic and thus populist signifier, not a national one, because the implied “other” was within the nation, not outside it.

Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Blacklisted’ review

April 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm (AWL, Civil liberties, class, class collaboration, cops, corruption, good people, Human rights, Jim D, solidarity, unions, Unite the union, workers)

This review should appear in the next issue of the AWL’s paper Solidarity, as (I understand) part of a feature on blacklisting:

Blacklisted – The secret war between big business and union activists

By Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain (pub: New Internationalist)

*********************

Trades unionists have known for decades that employers operated blacklists, whereby records were kept on militants and activists (and, indeed, not particularly militant or active trade unionists) in order to exclude them from employment. The practice was especially rife in the construction industry, where simply raising a concern over health and safety could be enough to ensure that you never found work. Countless working class lives were destroyed by the blacklist.

For many years a central blacklist was managed, operated and sold to major employers by an outfit called the Economic League, which in the 1970s employed around 160 staff and was receiving over £400,000 a year in subscriptions and donations. When media exposure (notably the campaigning journalism of Paul Foot in the Mirror) lead to the collapse of the League in 1993, its work was taken over by an organisation called the Services Group (formed by the big construction companies as it became apparent to them that the League might not survive), and then The Consulting Association (TCA), which obtained the Economic League’s database, and expanded and updated it, with files on thousands of workers, including National Insurance numbers, vehicle registrations, press cuttings and comments from managers.

Again, it was construction companies who were the main (but not only) subscribers, using the organisation as a covert vetting operation to monitor job applicants. All the biggest names in construction – Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Keir, Costain and McAlpine – made use of TCA information to exclude job applicants and to sack workers already on site.

TCA was eventually exposed and brought down in 2009 following a raid on their premises by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the body that enforces the Data Protection Act. Blacklisting was not, then, in itself illegal, but breaches of the Data Protection Act were. TCA’s database was confiscated and found to contain the details of 3,213 construction workers.

As a result of the raid, the subsequent publicity and dogged lobbying by the construction union, UCATT (and to a lesser degree, Unite), the Labour government finally introduced legislation (the Blacklists Regulations 2010 – an amendment to the Employment Relations Act 1999) making it unlawful for an employer or employment agency to refuse employment, to dismiss, or to cause detriment to a worker for a reason related to a blacklist and provides for a minimum £5,000 compensation award at a tribunal. But this was , at best, a very small step forward and contained at least one major loophole: as it is civil, not criminal, legislation, it can only be enforced by an individual to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal; and (as the Blacklisting Support Group pointed out when the legislation was under consultation), blacklisted workers can only bring claims against the companies that refused to employ them, which will often be small sub-contractors, and not the big companies actually doing the blacklisting.

This scandal is described in meticulous detail in the new book ‘Blacklisted –  The secret war between big business and union activists’ by Blacklisting Support Group (BSG) founding member Dave Smith and investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain.

Perhaps the most fascinating revelations in the book are interviews with HR managers and bosses involved in blacklisting, several of whom claim that they obtained information from officials of UCATT and the EEPTU. It should be emphasised that both UCATT and Unite (the union that now includes what used to be the EEPTU) have cleaned up their acts and now both take a firm stand against blacklisting. However, the book describes a meeting of the Blacklist Support Group in February 2013, at which a BSG speaker, Steve Acheson, was barracked by senior members of UCATT, who accused him of making allegations of union collusion without evidence and demanded he “name names”: in response, Acheson held up a handwritten note from former TCA manager Ian Kerr and said: “If you want me to name names, I will: the name that appears on this note is George Guy” (Guy is a former senior official and acting General Secretary of UCATT: the book notes that he “vigorously denies” the allegation).

This superbly-researched and very readable book was launched in March at a meeting in Parliament at which John McDonnell MP read out a statement from Peter Francis, a former undercover cop who spent four years as part of the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad. Francis’s statement said he infiltrated Unison, the FBU, CWU, NUT and NUS. He had previously infiltrated anti-racist organisations and the Militant Tendency. The Economic League and The Consulting Association may be gone, but blacklisting, spying and dirty tricks against trade unionists and other activists continues – often, it would seem, by the forces of the state.

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