Mar 31 2016

WHY NO PITCHFORD ENQUIRY IN SCOTLAND?

 

Allan Armstrong (RCN) asks why the Pitchford Enquiry into undercover policing does not extend to Scotland.

Home Secretary, Theresa May, announces Pitchford Enquiry for England and Wales only

Home Secretary, Theresa May, announces Pitchford Enquiry for England and Wales only

 

Last July, Theresa May, Conservative Home Secretary, set up the Pitchford Enquiry into undercover policing in England and Wales. The Channel 4 Programme Dispatches had highlighted the role of the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) in trying to undermine the family of Steven Lawrence, as they pressed for justice following his racist murder in 1993. This knowledge only surfaced, when Peter Francis, former police spy, turned whistle-blower, provided the evidence.
Continue reading “WHY NO PITCHFORD ENQUIRY IN SCOTLAND?”

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Aug 19 2011

The First Shoots of a New Industrial Fightback?

The following encouraging developments on the industrial front highlight two of the strategies discussed and debated at the Third Global Commune event, the report of which can be found at:-


Report of the Third Global Commune Event

1. Major gains for Lower Paid at Heron Tower Dispute

2. Brian Higgins and the Anti-Blacklist Campaign Success at Brussels

3. Report of Rank & File meeting for UNITE

1. IWW – Major Gains at Heron Tower Dispute

Following negotiations with the cleaning contractor LCC, who covers contracts at the prestigious Heron Tower – the IWW Cleaners and Allied Grades Branch has secured significant gains to the benefit of our low-paid.

The IWW had launched a campaign to secure full payment of the living wage £8.30 per-hour for, a resolution of staff shortages, issues of  unfair dismissal and anti-union conduct by management.

The IWW has reached an agreement which has secured full-payment of the London Living Wage with back pay until May 2011, the staff shortage to be filled and confirmation of the trade union rights of workers. Further discussions are underway on a recognition agreement with the IWW.

As result the IWW Cleaners Branch and London Delegates Committee has cancelled the demonstration called for tonight {19.8.11} at the Heron Tower. We thank all trade unionists and fellow workers for their solidarity and support.

Once again the independent workers union the IWW has shown that direct action and solidarity of all union members in support of each other achieves results in the interests of our members.

The message to cleaners across London is clear – don’t live in fear – get organised!

Alberto Durango, Latin American Workers Association, IWW

2.Brian Higgins and the Anti-Blacklist Campaign Success at Brussels

Northampton grandfather Brian Higgins this week achieved a major breakthrough in his campaign against the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists. On Thurs 30th June 2011, Brian Higgins secretary of Northampton branch of UCATT (the building workers union), led a delegation of trade unionists from the Blacklist Support Group to Brussels to hold private talks with László Andor, European Union Commissioner with responsibility for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion to discuss potential EU wide legislation to outlaw blacklisting. (Photo attached – see Editors Notes)

During the 45 minute meeting, Commissioner Andor was presented with documentary evidence in the form secret blacklist files kept about trade unionists in the UK construction industry. The files were compiled by the Consulting Association and provide damning evidence that major multi-national building firms systematically dismissed and victimised workers who raised concerns about health & safety issues or unpaid wages (see Editors Notes). The largest blacklist file in the country relates to Brian Higgins (49 pages)

The secret files contain appalling levels of personal intrusion with sensitive information including; names, addresses, national insurance number, work history, medical history, press-cuttings, union meetings attended, speeches made, political affiliations. Many entries on the blacklist files are supplied by senior Industrial Relations managers from major construction firms relating to when an individual had spoken to their site managers about safety breaches such as asbestos or poor toilet facilities. The information in the blacklist files was circulated amongst multi-national building firms and used to deny workers employment on major construction projects. For many blacklisted workers this resulted in repeated sackings and long-term unemployment merely because they had raised concerns about  safety on building sites.

Ex-bricklayer, Brian Higgins said after the meeting:

The Blacklist is an economic , social and political prison in which I have served a life sentence and others continue to be imprsoned. My wife and family also suffered because of the terrible pressure which resulted from us only having my wife’s wages to hold things together. But my message for those who caused this is, it was difficult , extremely so at times, however we did hold it together and stayed together in spite of you and your Blacklist. We refused to let you grind us down and I’m still fighting.

Brian Higgins added

When Northampton Ucatt Branch initiated a campaign for an EU Law against industrial blacklisting to try to counter dreadful performances of Ucatt and Unite General Secretaries and lawyers after the discovery of the Consulting Association Blacklist and contacted Glenis Willmott MEP. They could never imagine their secretary would end up with other blacklisted trade unionists and the Blacklist Support Group, a law professor and Stephen Hughes MEP at a meeting with Lazlo Andor the EU Commissioner in Brussels and get his sympthy in return. The genuinely positive response from Commissioner Andor exceeded all our expectations – It is truly amazing.

The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. (See Editors Notes)

Also attending the meeting was Professor Keith Ewing from Kings College London (a leading academic in international law and human rights issues) who presented possible legislative options open to the European Union highlighting the fact that many of the companies involved in the blacklist were European based.  He also drew attention to the fact that blacklisting violates many provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and that the EU had the authority and responsibility to respond to this major violation of health and safety standards.

The meeting was arranged by Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP (Labour’s Leader in Europe Parliament) who are taking up the issue in the European Parliament.

Stephen Hughes MEP said:

Blacklisting is a genuine issue which affects all member states and I will work with colleagues to address this serious concern and apply parliamentary pressure to trigger action.

This meeting is the beginning, not the end, of a process. Once we have planted the seed with Commissioner Andors, we will follow up with action in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee and the full Parliament. It will take time but we don’t give up easily!

The right to join a trade union and not be be victimised because of it is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights but lack of any specific EU wide legislation against blacklisting of individuals for safety reasons means that thousands of workers have suffered appalling financial and family hardship because of the covert actions of multi-national building firms.

Brian Higgins added:

We have been victimised by these firms just because we have stood up for safety issues; a cabin to dry wet clothes, asbestos, holiday pay. For many of us this conspiracy has meant years on the dole and family strains. But we are not just fighting for ourselves. This evil practice is almost certainly taking place in other industries and across Europe. I refuse to stop campaigning for the trade union rights on safety, working conditions and wages the blacklist is meant to prevent us doing. Now we’re taking the fight to Europe on behalf of workers here and the likes of Poland, Spain, Ireland and Greece. In fact anywhere blacklisting is going on.

Notes to Editors:

1. For individual interviews with the delegation about the talks with EU Commissioner Andor & their personal experience of blacklisting contact blacklistsg@gmail.com

2. Attached photo shows (Left to Right): Professor Keith Ewing, Brian Higgins, Stephen Hughes MEP, EU Commissioner László Andor, Steve Acheson

3. The blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry was only exposed after an investigation by the Information Commissioners Office (UK data-protection watchdog) in 2009. The companies identified by the Information Commissioners Office as using The Consulting Association secret blacklisting are all household names including:

Amec, Amey, B Sunley & Sons, Balfour Beatty, Balfour Kilpatrick, Ballast Wiltshire, Bam Construction (HBC Construction), Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd), C B & I, Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd, Costain UK Ltd, Crown House Technologies, Carillion, Tarmac Construction, Diamond M & E Services, Dudley Bower & Co Ltd, Emcor (Drake & Scull), Emcor Rail, G Wimpey Ltd, Haden Young, Kier Ltd, John Mowlem Ltd, Laing O’Rourke, Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd, Miller Construction Limited, Morgan Ashurst, Morgan Est, Morrison Construction Group, N G Bailey, Shepherd Engineering Services, Sias Building Services, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Skanska (Kaverna / Trafalgar House Plc), SPIE (Matthew Hall), Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd, Turriff Construction Ltd, Tysons Contractors, Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd, Whessoe Oil & Gas, Willmott Dixon, Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)

4. Blacklist Support Group was set-up to act as a support network on behalf of the 3216 individuals on the Consulting Associationdatabase following a meeting held at the House of Commons in June 2009 organised by John McDonnell MP. The Blacklist Support Group has led the campiagn against blacklisting by organsing fringe meetings at union conferences, entered submissions to proposed legislation, organising direct action, produced campaign video’s and is currently involved with a variety of legal challenges.

also see:- Brian Higgins Anti Blacklist Campaign

and:- Campaign To Fight The Blacklist And To Support Brian Higgins;

3. London: Report of the fantastic ‘Rank & File’ construction workers meeting.

Gerry Hicks stood as the Rank and File candidate For UNITE.  Len McCluskey won as the ‘left’ bureaucrat. Gerry came second and has continued with the work of building a rank and file movement.  Below is a report of a recent rank and file meeting in London.

500 Electricians and pipefitters sent out a clear message to JIB/HVCA employers and Unite the union that they will not accept the de-skilling of their trade or the pay cuts to their national agreements. The meeting, on Saturday 13 August, was organised by Unite rank and file activists from London and the south coast. Conway Hall was packed, standing room only.

The main issues were the pay cuts 8 firms had said they would be implementing in March 2012. There would be 3 new grades for electricians – metalworker £10.50 per hour, £12 for wiring, £14 for terminating. At the moment electrician’s JIB rate is £16.25p per hour across the board.

The meeting opened and elected a Chairperson, who gave an excellent speech saying, it was time for everyone present to stand up and fight these attacks all the way, to spread the word on sites and in their workplaces. It was not about blaming overseas workers, it was our fight and we must be united, disciplined and determined. The battle begins right here right now. We must win this fight. Future generations are depending on us. He also stated the idea that forming a new union should not be considered. It had been tried and had failed miserably in the past with EPIU. Now we are back in the same union we are far stronger.

A blacklisted electrician was the first speaker and was given a standing ovation for his incredible work fighting the blacklist.

Jerry Hicks was up next and gave a thunderous speech, which was wildly applauded. “JERRY JERRY JERRY JERRY!” the crowd chanted. The mood was electric, the biggest meeting since 2000 – the days of the Jubilee Line.

There were then discussions from the floor and questions and answers to 2 London officials who were really put on the spot about Amicus/EETPU failings in the past. Even with the new union many of the old guard are still in control, the bad old days of Tom Hardacre are still hanging around with mistrust in new officers. Time will tell whether Bernard Mcauley and his new team are any different.

The rank and file made it very clear that Unite need to perform in this current dispute or the anger shown by many at the meeting will be vented at them. A motion was passed unanimously that ‘Unite must immediately ballot members who are working for JIB firms who have been told that the terms and conditions will be changing in March 2012, and a campaign must be set up by Unite, distributing leaflets to all sites around the country opposing these attacks on our industry and to have regular feedback to the members.’ It was agreed to call for unofficial action ASAP on large sites and that other sites should come out in solidarity, rather than wait for a ballot, as this would put the whole issue out in the open.

A national rank and file committee was elected by those in attendance: 2 electricians, 2 pipefitters, 1 for the civil and also Jerry Hicks.

Moving forward, there is a stewards meeting in Leeds 17th August. 2 from the elected committee will be going, armed with the motion and a mandate from 500 people. Further rank and file meetings will be held around the country in the coming months, one before Xmas maybe in Manchester or Liverpool and also other areas next year. This new movement is on a high and we can spread the mood around the country and throughout construction. There will be attacks on other trades too. We should try and build things involving UCATT and GMB members as well.

Finally from the Chair of the meeting, “I personally felt proud and extremely happy as I supped a cold pint of Fosters after the meeting. Thanks to everyone involved – booking of the hall, contact lists, leafleting, and a magnificent collection too, many thanks to one and all. Our time has come comrades, let’s not miss this opportunity. In solidarity”.

(Some names have been left out deliberately to guard against any employer retribution.)

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

the commune free issue 2 can be downloaded at:-

http://thecommune.co.uk/page/3/

editorial

riot in the city – the editorial discusses the crisis in capitalism and our communities

no state bans – on self-defeating calls for a ban on EDL protests

struggles news in brief – an overview of different stuggles happening at present

news and local perspectives on the riots

liverpool: police on the offensive – James Roberts writes on the attacks on young people in Merseyside, and the community response to the riots.

peckham: the fury must not be forgotten – Sharon Borthwick reports on the riots in south-east London

ruling class justice system shows its true face – Taimour Lay explains the meaning of the post-riot show trials

riots analysis

Our website featured an extensive debate on the riots, and many more views than could be fit into the paper can be found there.

…or does it explode? – Joe Thorne introduces the debate

nothing to lose, nothing to win – David Broder explains what he sees as the political vacuum underlying the riots

when ‘normal’ behaviour is meaningless – Clifford Biddulph argues for an engagement with the chaotic and elemental nature of class struggle

economy

unhappy economies: greek debt, PIIGS and eurozone crisis – Oisin Mac Giollamoir explains the current european crisis and the relationship between debt and class struggle

giz a fightback – Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the 1980s unemployed movement

education

200 day occupation delivers – Liam Turbett reports on Glasgow students’ victorious uni occupation

why is there class in the classroom? – Dave Spencer explores the reasons for working class under-achievement in the classroom

libya

any hope for libya? – Joe Thorne writes on NATO’s role in post-Gaddafi Libya

___________________________________________________________________________________

DEBATE ON THE RIOTS

in the commune

Clifford Biddulph suggests that we need to find a way to engage with the contradictory and elemental nature of class conflict in events like the recent riots:-

When Normal Behaviour Is Meaningless

Javaad Alipoor continues our debate on the meaning of the UK’s riots:-

no justice no peace: the riot is the rhyme of the unheard, let us begin to listen.

Joe Thorne looks for the meaning of the recent wave of inner city riots

or does it explode?

David broder explains what he sees as the political vacuum underlying the riots

 

nothing to lose, nothing to win 

 

__________________________________________________________________

OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS ON THE RIOTS 

REFLECTIONS ON THE ENGLISH RIOTS
 
27 August 2011

A personal note by John McAnulty (Socialist Democracy, Ireland) 


The French radical Voltaire, writing from England in the 18th century, spelt out in the “Philosophical Letters” his admiration for the civilization and tolerance of the English in contrast to French absolutism. However, in a throwaway comment, he remarked that, while London represented the civilized profile of English society, Ireland represented its ragged backside.

Today in London we see the ragged backside of British capitalism. The need for vengeance, for revenge, the need to inspire fear in the lower orders, has subsumed every other consideration, including the legal system’s own rules concerning the rights of children. Conveyor belt justice rushes thousands into jail. A facebook comment nets a four year sentence. Politicians vie with each other to suggest new punishments, new restrictions on civil rights, new weapons to apply the iron heel to the neck of the lower orders.

And then there is what the British capitalists do best – hypocrisy on a level so monumental as to beggar belief. 

For what we are told is that the issue is an issue of morality and that savage measures are needed to install moral responsibility into the nation’s youth.

We are told this by politicians mired in scandal, by governments that ruled in tandem with the Murdoch press, by a press accused of sickening corruption, and finally by a police force guilty of killing and brutality at the lower levels and corruption at nearly every level. 

In common with all other forms of social corruption goes almost total impunity.

“News of the World” editor Rebekah Brooks admits to a group of MPs, on camera, that the News International group bribes police and nothing happens. Murdoch gives evidence which is clearly untrue, crime after crime is listed against his group, but only the protestor who attacks him with a foam pie goes to jail. 

Many MPs fix their expenses but only the most blatant suffer. Meanwhile Blair cashing in to the tune of tens of millions goes unnoticed.

All the top cops, forced to resign because of their links to the Murdoch press, are cleared within days. Lower down the chain of command savage beatings and killings go unpunished, even many assaults caught on camera.

This impunity reaches its height when chief constables, who have presided over a total collapse of the force, exchange insults with equally incompetent politicians about an imaginary police independence – the debate led by Hugh Orde, whose ability to meet the political needs of his masters led him from investigating the RUC in the North of Ireland to being appointed their leader, and whose subsequent rise was fuelled by his political ability to represent the demands of unionism and the programme of the British government in relation to Ireland.

The savagery and hypocrisy of the capitalist counter-offensive has produced much analysis and comment from socialists. The problem is that much of this analysis accepts the narrative of social breakdown and riot. Real events were considerably more complex than this.

The initial event of the uprising was the killing of Mark Duggan, accompanied by a transparent cover-up – a cover-up that involved both the police and the supposed investigators of the IPCC – a cover-up that is ongoing and involves a press blackout on the issue. 

A political protest by the family of the dead man was treated with contempt by the police. This incident, following years of racial harassment, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Local youth came on to the streets determined to extract revenge.

The rapid spread of the riots saw white youth join their black compatriots. Again the focus of the uprising was revenge – three police stations and an undisclosed number of vehicles were burnt out. A widespread view among the youth was that they had nothing to lose. Mass unemployment (standing at 20%) was the rule and access to further education was being cut off.

The police understood very well that they were the target. They waited over a week before admitting that firearms had been used against them. Their withdrawal from riot zones was not due to mistaken tactics, but an attempt to avoid the casualties that the youth were so anxious to inflict. 

It was against this background that wholesale looting took place. It was the looting that was used by capitalism to avoid any examination of the widespread hatred of the police or any concern about the programme of savage austerity that they intend to deepen. 

However the looting can be seen as a consequence of the failure to build an opposition. The majority of the looters did not themselves have a determination to confront the police and their actions were opportunistic and random, involving attacks on other workers and small shopkeepers. Political movements, when they confront the state forces, have the ability to apply a discipline on bystanders and sweep them up in a common cause that militates against looting.

Media commentators have compared the youth to the mob of the past. The mob, the urban underclass, displayed a spontaneous undirected violence and a low level of politics. They were supplanted by the organised working class.

The English youth are not the mob. They do not come before the working class nor are they separate from them. What they face is exclusion from the working class or admission to dead-end jobs and a life of penury.

The working class haven’t gone away. They were present on the streets of London not so long ago in a march of 250,000. Unfortunately they marched in a cage constructed by the trade union leadership, designed to make violence impossible and restricted to calls to apply the cuts less harshly and over a longer time frame. New Labour not only endorses the austerity, but also is at the forefront in demanding the harsh punishment of those accused by the police.

The socialist movement can transform the anger and rage of youth into support for socialism. However it can only do so as part of a project for the self-organization of the working class around its own program. 

We should not become trapped in moralism  – that will leave us in a corner with the capitalists discussing the problem of the rioters. The reality is that the crisis of capitalism is mirrored by a collapse of the traditional organizations of the working class. The labour and trade union leaderships support an economic programme that will inevitably lead to mass poverty. They are unable even to stand against the wave of mass repression that is being unleashed following the riots. The small socialist movement tends to close its eyes to this reality and to seek unity with union bureaucrats on terms dictated by the bureaucrats – terms that make the construction of an independent working class movement impossible.

Class conflict happens of its own accord. It will take whatever form is available to it. The alternative to chaotic and apolitical upsurges is an effective opposition, able to confront capitalism and put manners on the police. Socialists can strain every sinew to build this movement or it can emerge on its own, with all the blood, false starts and blind alleys that this could entail.

 

 

‘NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE’ AND BLOOD AND FLAMES ON ENGLAND’S STREETS:
1981, 1985 and 2011

 12 Aug 2011

 By David Black – Hobgoblin

The “Tottenham Riots” of 1985 began with a protest outside Tottenham police station over the fatal collapse of Cynthia Jarret during an illegal police raid on her home on the Broadwater Farm housing estate, after the wrongful arrest of her son. The police station protest developed into a pitched all-night battle between police and the Caribbean youth of Broadwater Farm, ending with the killing of a police officer.

 Twenty-six years later, on Saturday 6 August 2011, another protest took place outside Tottenham police station, this time over the killing two days earlier of former Broadwater Farm resident, Mark Duggan, in a stake-out by armed police. The initial police statement claimed that an officer had been shot and wounded before other officers returned fire. But the family and numerous friends of Mr. Duggan challenged this version of events and organized a 200-strong vigil outside Tottenham police station. Stafford Scott, a community activist in the area, told Sky News,

 “We came to the station to have a peaceful demonstration, and it was largely peaceful. And what we explained to the police is that we wanted someone senior from the police service to come and explain to us what was happening. They kept on prevaricating. The most senior person they gave us was a chief inspector. We said that person wasn’t senior enough… Eventually they sent for a superintendent, but by then it was too late.”

It was too late because as night fell local gangs of youth – beyond the control of protestors – began to converge on the police station. Two empty police cars and a double-decker bus were set on fire and a full-scale riot ensued. Shops were looted and buildings torched – seriously endangering the lives of residents living above shops, whose homes were destroyed. By dawn looting had spread to nearby Wood Green, where the high street was freely looted by youth pushing trolleys full of phones, shoes and clothes before the police finally arrived at dawn.

The next day, Sunday, saw looting at shopping centres in more affluent areas such as Oxford Street in the West End, and the northern suburb of Enfield, where the youth involved were predominately white. The Metropolitan Police managed to quell these few “copy-cat” outbreaks, but the events of the following day, Monday 8 August, totally overwhelmed the 6000-strong force assigned to “keep the peace.” All across London, pulling in youth of all colours and ages, starting at 10 or 11 years-old, looting broke out on a mass scale at major chain stores, as did extensive fighting between youth and riot police in the thoroughfares. A spate of a dozen serious fires across the city engulfed large department stores, whole sections of high streets including small shops and residences, and a huge Sony warehouse. In Hackney, an East End  borough with a long history of radical and Black activism, barricades and burning cars blocked the movements of police as youth bounced missiles off riot shields and police vehicles, and looters invaded the shopping malls. Outside of London, there were over a hundred arrests in disturbances in Birmingham.

The next day, Tuesday, raging Right-wingers demanded that the police use water cannon and rubber bullets, and that the army –already severely stretched by overseas wars and facing cuts — be sent into the “trouble spots.” More reasonably, many shopkeepers and residents in the “disturbed” areas protested at the police’s poor response to their emergency calls. The Metropolitan Police, promising to get tough and take-the gloves-off, called in the reserves to boost the anti-riot force to 16,000 officers. This time, however, those who had defied or fought them the previous nights declined the return match and stayed at home. Perhaps, for the angry, the point had been made — and how painful it is for Londoners to see what were fine old buildings now conjuring up images of the Blitz and the doodlebug [V-1 rocket] raids. For the self-interested looters the overhanging fruit had already been picked – the best shopping targets had been emptied. And for the protestors there are – or should be — other ways to fight, that address the roots of the problem.

Further North however, the rage took hold in several cities. On Wednesday in Manchester and Salford large  numbers of youth  looted shops, started fires and fought the police.  In Nottingham a police station was firebombed. In Ealing, London Sikhs took the streets to protect their businesses from looters. There was a similar mobilization in Enfield, but the people there were angered when the police stupidly tried to kettle them as the “enemy.” Most tragically, when Muslim men in Birmingham began patrolling the streets to protect the local shops, three of them were killed by a murdering coward who deliberately ran into them at speed and then fled the scene.

Liberals and social democrats concede that the protest over the shooting of Mark Duggan was legitimate; especially as it is now emerging that Mark Duggan didn’t draw a gun or fire it at the police. At the same time liberals, rather than mourn their dead, failed neoliberal ideology, have moaned  constantly, with their dead, clichéd phrases, about “tiny minorities” of  “mindless thugs” tearing up the “community”. As the student  protests of last winter have already shown,  a huge proportion of youth feel that for them either there is no such “community”, or if there is, they have no stake in it and no say in how it is run.

Whilst the “ Uprisings” of 1981 and 1986 were marked by a conflict between youth and police that had been simmering for years, in 2011 the disaffection has gone a step further, with youth expropriating the commodities that “consumer society” denies them, and in some cases burning the big stores that stock them. The innovations in telecommunications now available to youths for organizing purposes are obviously important, but arguably balanced out by CCTV and other surveillance and tracking technologies now deployed by the police. Politically the key difference is that in the 1980s, although the “uprisings” obviously were not “led” in any political sense, rebellious youth did look to radicals for leadership on political campaigning and ideas, notably Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bernie Grant, Diane Abbot, Paul Gilroy and Darcus Howe. In 1985 Bernie Grant, as Tottenham’s Member of Parliament, sided with his constituents against police racism, despite the brutal killing of Police Constable Blakelock in the “Battle of Broadwater Farm.” His controversial stand was later vindicated when the convictions of four youths for the murder were overturned because it was proved that the police had faked the evidence against them. Today Tottenham has a Black New Labour MP, who has condemned the rioters as “mindless yobs” and Haringey has a New Labour business-friendly council, committed to “social cohesion.” But today Tottenham is an even more dismal area than it was in 1985; and relations between police and the youth of the area – as multicultural as can be found anywhere in the world – are as bad as ever. In equally poor and strife-ridden Hackney Diane Abbot is still the MP, but she is now a New Labour loyalist and no radical.

In contrast with the New Labour crowd, veteran activist and broadcaster Darcus Howe, interviewed  by the BBC on Tuesday, highlighted the police harassment  of Black youth such as his grandchildren, and said of the previous night’s events, “I don’t call it rioting. I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people. It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it is happening in Liverpool, it is happening in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and that is the nature of the historical moment.” Completely ignoring what Darcus had just said, BBC’s Fiona Armstrong  jumped in with “Do you condone what happened in your community last night?” to which he responded “Of course not! What am I going to condone it for?” When she continued her hostile interrogation with “You aren’t a stranger to rioting, are you? You have taken part in them yourself” he responded, “I have never taken part in single riot. I have taken part in demonstrations that ended in conflict. Have some respect for an old West Indian Negro and stop accusing me of being a rioter… you just sound idiotic.”

Certainly, few – even BBC hacks — can be surprised that, with the Tories back in power, rioting has returned to the inner cities of Britain. As the Tories prepare to showcase London for the 2012 Olympics, the economy is faltering and the pain of public service cutbacks is now being felt. But the young dispossessed of Syria,  Clapham, Liverpool and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad have today NO political leadership — a fact as disturbing as the opportunist and thoughtless violence and destruction that has been inflicted on a lot of innocent home-owners and small  business owners. But what has been happening in Britain – call it the “rebellion,” the “uprising” or the “riots” – is a direct result of what successive Tory/New Labour/Liberal regimes have been doing for years: attacking civil liberties and free speech whilst living off a corrupt and criminal relationship with media barons like the Murdochs; waging illegal wars; and – worst of all — heightening economic inequality to the sort of level the working class Chartists of the Nineteenth Century would have been prepared to take up arms against.

 

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On Living in the Real World by Aaron Kelly

see Platform piece on Word Power Bookshop Website at:- http://www.word-power.co.uk/viewPlatform.php?id=590

 

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Feb 20 2010

Campaign To Fight The Blacklist And To Support Brian Higgins

Last autumn, the official journal of the construction workers’ union, UCATT, revealed the shocking details of a Blacklist operated by The Consulting Association (TCA), on behalf of a group of named construction companies. 3200 named construction worker trade unionists are on the list. This was followed by an impressive article, Boys from the Blacklist, published in the Guardian, on 21st November.

UCATT General Secretary, Alan Ritchie, was quoted extensively regarding his horror at these developments and his opposition to the employers behind them. The Blacklist had been discovered by Information Commissioners Office (ICO), so he called on UCATT members write to them to see if their name was on this Blacklist. If anyone found their name was on this list, they were to send the files to UCATT, which would then do something about this scandal.

Brian Higgins is Secretary of the construction workers union, UCATT branch in Northampton. He felt that his name must be on the Blacklist and sent off to the ICO asking if this was the case. After providing proof of his identity, the ICO sent him a copy of a 49 page file, which TCA had on him. It dates back to 1976 and goes on till December 2006. As well as personal, industrial and political details about Brian’s life and activities, there are also a few vile smears which must be libellous.

On 10th January, Brian took up Alan Ritchie’s call to send his file to UCATT, along with other related documents and a covering letter. He awaited a swift response and an expression of sympathy and understanding, along with a condemnation of the employers operating the blacklist. To date all he has received from the General Secretary is a 25 word letter, dated 26th January, with absolutely no mention of the Blacklist.

It is abundantly clear that the UCATT General Secretary is seriously dragging his feet over this. If a campaign to combat the Blacklist is left to full time officials and supporters then nothing effective will be done.

We have decided to print an edited version of Brian’s letter of 10th January to address a general trade union and political audience in the form of an open letter.

Open Letter To The Trade Union And Workers Movement

Dear Brothers, Sisters and Comrades,

When the Information Commissioners Office sent copy of the 49 page file held on me by The Consulting Association (TCA), I have to admit, even I, as a very experienced, case-hardened old trade union militant, was taken aback to see how much information they had on me, and the extent to which I was spied upon. Furthermore, I have a feeling they have not sent me everything. It certainly looks as if the state had a hand in providing information for TCA’s database.

Serious anger is one of the main emotions I’m experiencing at present. However, I’m also very concerned, although not surprised, at the comment in Phil Chamberlain’s excellent Guardian article, Boys from the Blacklist (21st November, 2009). One effect of the release of files has been to question how far some union officials were involved in supplying details to The Consulting Association.

In 1996, the full-time UCATTofficial, Dominic Hehir, took me to the High Court in an attempt to silence me and those I represent in UCATT. He was unsuccessful because my supporters and I refused to be silenced. At the time, the then General Secretary did not try to stop, or even to oppose Hehir.

Furthermore, an ex-UCATT Executive Council member, John Flavin, set up a company to advise building employers not long after he was voted off the EC in 1995. Despite this, he continued to be a member of UCATT, and still is to my knowledge. Quite a few UCATT members, including the Northampton branch, protested to the General Secretary and the EC about this. Not so much a building employers’ mole as a big bloody big elephant in the room!

Therefore, it would be no surprise to learn that some UCATT officials could have been supplying information on me and others to the building employers, blacklisters, and who knows to who else. It is absolutely loathsome and repugnant in the extreme that there could be people in UCATT, and perhaps other unions, who could resort to such treachery and sink to the depths alluded to in the Guardian article.

It looks as if the names of one, two or more of these beings could be among the many names blacked out by the ICO on my file. Perhaps I should apply for the names of any union officials amongst these to be revealed using the civil laws on Discovery. I’d also like to see the file the state has on me.

Whatever happens there should be an investigation into this case. This should involve blacklisted construction worker trade unionists, and MPs, academics and investigative journalists with records of sympathy for the trade union and workers’ movement. If anybody is found guilty they should be named, rooted and drummed out of our movement in disgrace, If such an investigation does not take place, then the name of trade unionism will be tainted and sullied.

The Blacklist is an economic, social and political prison. I have served a life sentence and other workers continue to be imprisoned. In cases like my own, the Blacklist effectively takes the form of house arrest because of its effect on a person’s social life. My wife was also deeply affected and badly scarred. More often that not, she was forced to financially support me, and our two children, on her low wage as a care worker. This has had a devastating effect on our standard of living. To her great credit my wife supported me and our family unstintingly. She held us together when things got really tough – which it did quite often. We kept our dignity intact and just managed to keep our heads above water by almost completely sacrificing our social life. My wife had to take out loans, which we could not afford, since my credit rating was zero due to very long spells of unemployment. All of this is the direct result of the building employers deliberately using the Blacklist, time and again, to deny me the right to work and to earn a living.

Not content to kill (some would say murder) and maim on unsafe construction sites; and to super-exploit site workers through subcontracting on low wages, they blacklist those who dare to try to do something about this through the trade unions on the sites – mainly UCATT in my case. Through the Blacklist, the employers deny us the right to organise. As a punishment and a warning to other workers they rob us of the right to earn a wage and to provide for ourselves and our families. This is criminal behaviour and the employers responsible should be treated as criminals. The heads of the blacklisting construction companies named in the ICO’s exposure of the TCA should be jailed – no ifs, no buts.

There is some talk of court cases and compensation. Building employers must owe me hundreds of thousands for wages I lost, whilst they kept me in their economic and social prison. I am in favour of using the Industrial Tribunals to get some compensation. However, this on its own will NOT put a stop to blacklisting in construction. Surely the main objective of any campaign against the Blacklist must be to get rid of this vile anti-democratic and inhuman practice one and for all.

The campaign for justice must be taken all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. I ask UCATT to get myself and other blacklisted construction workers the best civil and human rights lawyer to help us to do this. I also ask that UCATT sponsored MPs, and others known to be sympathetic, are made aware of my case, and bring it up in the House of Commons, to show just how bad blacklisting can get.

Given the severity and lifelong nature of my blacklisting, now proven beyond doubt, I am willing to participate in a campaign by UCATT against the Blacklist and all that this entails. Perhaps brother Ritchie and I could share a platform speaking out against this. I could explain what it is like to be on the receiving end of this blatant and sinister denial and violation of human and trade union rights for so long.

We have all known and spoken of the Blacklist for many years. However, this is the first time its existence and practice has been proven. The blacklisting companies and those they blacklisted have been named and made public by the ICO. We must not fritter away this unique opportunity to tackle and stop the Blacklist. It can not just be left to those who will weep copious tears and make sweeping statements of opposition in public, but in reality will do nothing effective to get real justice, or stop the Blacklist being imposed on other site workers and trade unionists in the future.

We call on blacklisted workers in UCATT and other construction trade unions, as well as sympathisers in other unions, as well as sympathetic political organisations and MPs, to form a united front campaign to outlaw the Blacklist once and for all. We must use every means at our disposal, especially calling upon construction union members and site workers to take industrial action wherever the Blacklist is in operation.

How can we possibly succeed with anti-trade union laws and everything else arraigned against us? In February 1986, five UCATT members, who formed an organisation called the Laings Lock Out Committee, of which I was the chairperson, were issued with a High Court Injunction, under the 1982 Anti-Trade Union Laws (Tory then, Labour now) by the huge construction company, John Laing. This was to stop us picketing, meeting and even talking about the dispute we had with Laing over their use of the Blacklist to sack us, when they found out that we worked on one of their sites. With the help of thousands of workers and their shop stewards, who threatened to take what would have been political strike action if we were jailed, we successfully defied Laing and their High Court Injunction, anti-Trade Union Laws and all. So, if we, with the support of thousands of our brother and sister trade unionists could do that then, why can’t we do that now? It’s time for us all to take a stand once more!

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