Jul 16 2019

BRIAN HIGGINS – A PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRIBUTE

 

 

Communist, Republican, Trade Union Militant,

Scottish Internationalist, Glasgow Bear

 9th February 1941 – 2nd June 2019

 

__________

BRIAN HIGGINS

A PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRIBUTE

Brian made a big impression upon whomever he met. Nigel Jeffrey, who encountered him on the picket line during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike wrote, “Brian Higgins stands out because he was 6′ 6″ plus… He was a big lad as broad as he was tall… There must have been half a dozen police went for this Brian Higgins and snatched him… He was shoving them off left, right and centre.” [1]

Or, as Dave Smith, co-author of Blacklisted, The Secret War Between Big Business and Union, [2] has written,  “Anyone who has heard Brian speak will remember his booming Glaswegian voice, disdain for union bureaucracy and his liberal use of industrial language.” [3]

And when I first met Brian, it seemed that my hand was numb for hours after his handshake!

It was as a trade union militant that Brian is best known. Dave states that, “It is undeniable that Brian was one of the leading rank and file industrial militants of his generation, who had a significant impact on trade unionism in the construction industry.” [4] This came at a high personal cost to Brian and his family. Following the exposure of the employer financed organisation, the Consulting Association, [5] responsible for blacklisting, Brian was found to be the most blacklisted worker in the UK construction industry. Brian called the blacklist “an economic, social and political prison”. [6] He very much features in Blacklisted.

Brian was targeted by the employers, particularly Laings; by gangsters hired by sub-contactors; by the state, including undercover police agent provocateur, Mark Jenner; [7] and by trade union bureaucrats, especially UCATT official, Dominic Hehir, in his infamous, but failed attempt to silence Brian through a High Court injunction .[8] Brian, once a member of the International Socialists, then SWP, also exposed the revolutionary pretensions of this organisation, the CPGB, Militant and the one-time Workers’ Revolutionary Party.

Brian wasn’t the first to write about the activities of the UK state, the trade union bureaucracy, and the failings of self-proclaimed revolutionary parties. One of Brian’s favourite books was The Key to My Cell[9] written by Des Warren, jailed for three years for his part in the 1972 Building Workers Strike. Des was to die early in 2004 at the age of 67, after contracting Parkinson’s Disease, following the use of the ‘liquid cosh’, which the authorities administered, whilst he was in prison on trumped up conspiracy charges. He was attacked by the state, abandoned by the incoming Labour government in 1974, and badly let down by UCATT trade union officials, who were still backed by the CPGB.

It was in the aftermath of this strike that Brian, who had to move from Glasgow to England in 1972, eventually moving to Northampton becoming a hod carrier, then a bricklayer. He joined UCATT, later becoming branch secretary. He also joined the rank and file Building Worker Group (BWG) and the International Socialists, predecessor to the SWP. Brian’s classic, Rank and File or Broad Left? A Short History of the Building Worker Group, describes the many militant struggles the BWG became involved in. [10] Brian was the BWG’s secretary. Although it was in another SWP context that I first met Brian in 1978, we immediately hit it off because of our shared rank and file activities. I was convenor of the Scottish Rank and File Teachers (SR&FT) at the time.

Brian’s forte was on the picket line. I had been the SR&F-led East of Scotland Action Committee’s ‘flying picker’ organiser during the mass unofficial strike of Scottish teachers from 1974-5. Significantly, we adopted the term ‘flying picket’ from the building workers’ actions of 1972, which had made a big public impact. However, the social difference between building workers and teachers is considerable, and Brian and I used to joke over our different approaches to picketing.

The BWG resorted to picketing, confident that any picket line would be almost always automatically honoured. And that was certainly the case when Brian was involved. There was no such historical respect for picketing amongst teachers, who had rarely ever been on strike before the 1970s, and there was the added issue that teachers are understandably unwilling to walk out on their students. So the reality of our teacher ‘flying pickets’, at the school gates during the 1974-5 unofficial action, was to persuade teachers going to work in the morning to organise school meetings later that day, then to take a vote on taking action, either after lunch or the following day, so arrangements could be made for the students. Our picket lines were usually quite genteel affairs!

But, although the BWG could fall back upon decades of working class solidarity amongst building workers, they faced other obstacles completely unknown to teachers. Cowboy sub-contractors would sometimes resort to gangsters to intimidate workers .[11] Brian told me of one workplace meeting where they had to physically throw out a paid disrupter, a decision he hastened to add that was taken after he moved a democratic vote to do so! In contrast, although teachers taking action sometimes faced parent hostility, the one group we always had almost 100% support from was the students, ever eager for a day off school!

Brian and I became much closer during the SWP leadership’s attempt to close down all Rank and File groups in 1982. In the majority of these groups, they had long pushed for party members to treat these as party fronts. However, the BWG and SR&FT had been built on open democratic and united front principles. Therefore, Brian and I both took a prominent part in resisting the attempt by SWP central committee to close us down. The majority of SR&FT were not in the SWP. Its spurious ‘Downturn Theory’ failed to persuade any of these members. This theory was, in effect, merely the left face of the ‘Dented Shield’ strategy. That was Labour’s accommodating response to the on-going employers’ offensive under Thatcher. Furthermore, the wider school organisation, which SR&FT had built, was central both to defending what had already been gained and to prevent the possible victimisation of union militants.

Those in SR&FT (by now including quite a number of SWP teachers, like myself, forced to resign from the party rather than submit to central committee orders) only had to face up to our former party comrades and a full-timer, who lurked about outside the meeting. However, Tony Cliff, the SWP leader, attended the BWG meeting in person. But BWG supporters were also not very impressed by the ‘Downturn Theory’. Cliff “was told the way to respond when the going got tough was not to sound the retreat, as there is absolutely no credibility in this. Rather, political and R&F Organisations should strive all the harder to strengthen their organisation and resolve and give a positive and definite alternative lead, with policies, to that of the craven capitulation and collaboration of the official trade union and labour movement. Otherwise you become part of this dungheap.” [12] Brian didn’t mince his words! Cliff only gained one (an SWP) vote at the BWG meeting. Brian was expelled from the SWP, but the BWG continued, soon to be thrown into a whole series of disputes, culminating in the 1985-6 Laings’ Lock-Out. [13]

However, I first met Brian in a very different context. In the later 1970s, there was a debate going on inside the SWP about how to react to the political issue of Scottish Devolution, now that the Labour government was committed to a referendum on the issue. The Glasgow branch politically dominated the SWP in Scotland. This branch, with its influential industrial shop stewards, was very firmly in the ‘No’ camp. They placed an economistic emphasis on all-British working class trade union solidarity. Cliff, though, was for ‘Yes’, on the grounds of another key aspect of SWP politics – anti-Toryism. Thatcher had become the Tory leader and was opposed to Scottish devolution. Cliff knew that he had a tough sell in Glasgow, and bought in the late Harry McShane, who had worked with the legendary John Maclean, to help him at a specially convened Scottish aggregate meeting – although to no avail. The Glasgow SWP shop stewards’ ‘No’ became the official line.

I was struggling to find a different approach. I eventually found this by seeing Scottish Devolution as a democratic demand for greater national self-determination in the context of the unionist, imperialist, monarchical and bureaucratic UK state. Furthermore, a republican approach would relate to, and politically connect the struggles for national self-determination in Scotland, Wales, and particularly Ireland, the cutting edge of opposition to the UK state. These politics formed the basis of the Republican Faction (RF) in the SWP.

And it was at an RF meeting in London where I first met Brian. Whilst he was not alone on the Left in seeing the political importance of Ireland, he was almost unique for somebody from his Irish-Scots background, in linking the situation in Ireland to Scotland. Many Irish-Scots thought, at the time, that Scottish devolution would bring about a second Stormont!

As anybody with any experience of the SWP knows, the formation of a faction, officially allowable only for a short period before the annual conference, is not designed to encourage meaningful debate, but is an indication to the leadership of a threat to be removed. Upon a faction has been declared, the central committee moves quickly to ensure that its unelected full-timers work overtime to minimise any faction’s influence. Primarily this means obstructing, as far as possible, faction delegates getting to the annual conference. This involves a lot of behind-the-scenes wire-pulling and rumour mongering.

However, in the wider SWP meetings, Brian was a not only a formidable figure but also the very epitome of the type of rank and file militant the SWP leadership claimed to promote. (Indeed not a few members thought that some of the late Phil Evans’ Socialist Worker cartoons used Brian as an inspiration!) Whilst the official line easily held within the party, it was harder for the central committee and full-timers to dismiss supporters of the RF, since some members had a wider base than the party, particularly in the Rank and File groups.

When three years later in 1982, Brian found himself once more in opposition to the SWP central committee, this time over the defence of Rank and File organisations, republicanism formed the political basis of his politics, “My experience has now led me to conclude that workers will have to adopt a ‘republican’ approach [i.e. act as free citizens and not loyal subjects] to succeed in an all out struggle, including building workers if they go into this, against the very British, Loyal and Bureaucratic Popular Front.” [14] Brian saw union sovereignty residing with the workplace members, and any action they took as being independent, not ‘unofficial’. Trade union full-timers use the ‘unofficial’ label to police their members. Brian promoted independent working class action, coupled to the most thoroughgoing democracy within the unions. This industrial republicanism formed the basis of his Rank and File politics.

In his pamphlet, Brian contrasted Rank and File to Broad Left politics. The latter mirrors the politics of the UK state. It claims union sovereignty lies in the annual general meeting, just as the UK state claims sovereignty lies in parliament. In reality, in trade unions, control lies in the hands of the general secretary and the union HQ, just as control in the UK state lies in the hands of the prime minister and his/her inner cabinet. And Broad Left politics looks to replace right wing union officials with left wing officials, just as the Labour Party seeks to replace right wing MPs with left wing MPs, both without any real challenge to the locus of real control.

Brian’s pamphlet provides abundant evidence to highlight the effect of the Broad Left approach within UCATT, where leading officials were backed by the CPGB/CPB. Indeed the corruption became so acute in UCATT there was even an internal investigation, the Hand Report (which Brian characteristically dismissed as the ‘Hand Job’!). [15] Despite the investigators being carefully selected (as with the UK government’s Widgery and Chilcot enquiries), its findings were still kept secret from the members such was the appalling story of corruption that was uncovered.

Another strong feature of Brian’s politics, which he emphasised, was that serious Rank and File organisation “will also take on board some of the more difficult social and political issues and adopt a principled working class united front position on these.” [16] Brian never held to the shallower economism, which informed the IS/SWP’s earlier support for Rank and File groups.

As a powerful example of this, Brian devotes a whole chapter of his pamphlet to the UCATT National Delegate Conference in Killarney from June 5th-9th 2000. Brian’s own Northampton branch had managed to get a motion to the conference supporting a united Irish Republic completely independent from the British state. The fact the conference was being held in Ireland for the first time (UCATT was an all-islands union) made it more difficult for the motion to be binned beforehand. But massive pressure was exerted behind-the-scenes to get the branch to remit the motion. Peter Cassels, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, was also brought in to divert delegates’ support to another anodyne motion on Ireland. Helen Jackson, Labour Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was flown in just before the debate for the same purpose – a very overt piece of state interference.

The debate went ahead. BWG member, John Jones, a close comrade and friend of Brian’s, moved the republican motion. After a good discussion, which included the UCATT convenor from Belfast’s Harland and Wolff (opposing naturally!) the motion received between 20-25% of the vote. Brian was very pleased and felt the holding of such a debate was in itself a considerable political breakthrough. He stated that the BWG would continue to champion “important political issues like ‘Ireland’ and do our best to support those struggling against state oppression.” [17]

By the time the commune organised the ‘Trade Unions – Are They Fit for Purpose?’ event in Edinburgh in January 2011, [18] Brian was much less mobile. He had to decline an invite to put the Rank and File argument, and I stood in, using my experience in SR&FT. However, the last part of my contribution was based, after we discussed it, upon Brian’s thinking in the BWG.  When I gave an account to Brian of this event, he was keen to know more about the social union approach advocated by Tommy McKearney, a former Irish republican hunger striker, speaking for the Independent Workers Union. Brian also supported the combined official and independent union approach, advocated by Alberto Durango, of the Latin American Workers Association, centrally involved in the Justice for Cleaners campaign in London. They had to do this when the UNITE officials, with the backing of the local Broad Left, turned on these workers, once their actions took on a more militant (and successful) tone.  Those cleaners without papers, the ‘illegals’, were threatened with deportation. [19]

Although Brian was most at home in workplaces and in his local community, political arenas far removed from these, did not at all faze him. On the strength of Brian’s campaigning against the blacklist, he was invited to the European Parliament as one of two Blacklist Support Group representatives. In this he also received the support of Aberdeen branch of the Oil Industry Liaison Committee. [20] He had contact with one of its leading members during its heyday .[21]

“The European parliament voted in favour of an amendment to the draft data protection regulation that would make blacklisting on the basis of trade union activity a breach of EU law.” Not surprisingly, though, “The Council of Ministers {the real locus of EU power} has still to address the proposal.” [22] And, in the event of this ever having been passed, Brian would have treated such a law, in the same manner as he treated the health and safety laws. Building site safety was one of Brian’s prime concerns ,[23] and he always knew that dependence on the law alone would never deter the employers. Industrial action would still have to taken to force them to comply.

Despite eventually receiving a modest financial compensation for the decades Brian and his family had faced as the consequences of the blacklist, he was still involved in the last months of his life in exposing trade union officials’ complicity in blacklisting. UCATT officials had desperately tried to prevent the issue going to court. This would expose this practice. So, unless UCATT members accepted the compensation package agreed behind-the-scenes by the union and employers, they would no longer receive any legal backing. For Brian the issue was never mainly about the money lost, but about ending blacklisting altogether. For this to happen the cancer of union officials’ collusion would need to be ended.

“Brian found strong evidence of collaboration between the employers and a UCATT official in his own blacklisting. That official cited in a redacted document was Jerry Swain. Subsequently, Len McCluskey arranged for UCATT to be taken over by UNITE. In the process, Swain was appointed as a full-timer. Brian, the rank and file Building Worker Group and other union members have tried to raise this issue with McCluskey. McCluskey continually brushes the issue under the carpet.” [24]

In his obituary, Dave Smith wrote that, “Brian was one of the blacklisted construction workers who signed the Open Letter to Unite calling for an investigation to be set up. It is now too late for Brian, but we hope that the UNITE EC will set up the investigation into possible collusion ASAP.” [25] But McCluskey is one of those left-talking, right walking, Broad Left officials who Brian had no confidence in. He did not see McCluskey’s trade union empire building as any step towards ‘One Big Union’, more towards “one big fat pay cheque” for the already highest paid union bureaucrat in these islands.

And if there is indeed to be any enquiry, Brian highlighted the terms on which it would need to be set up. No dependence on “the dreadful performances of union legal firms,” which do exactly what is required if them by the union bureaucrat paymasters. UCATT general secretaries were past masters in this, as Brian had found out personally whilst facing a High Court injunction. Instead, “To have any credibility these will have to be done by independent legal experts and blacklisted members must also have a say in this.” [26]

Brian and I continued to work together, politically and industrially, until the end of his life. After the successful defence of the SR&FT and BWG in 1982, I was invited to speak at some of their meetings in London. These were usually followed by lively socials, on one occasion upstairs in a bar near Kings Cross, with a full Irish republican band! I was able to reciprocate in 1996, by bringing Brian to Edinburgh, following my participation in the local Liverpool Dockers Supporters’ Group. A large and packed meeting was organised in Edinburgh’s grandiose Assembly Rooms. Brian was one of the platform party, along with a Liverpool docker, Women on the Waterfront (WotW) speakers and others. Brian made a bravura contribution, especially appreciated by the WotW speakers.

The initially Broad Left backed, T&GWU general secretary, Bill Morris would have had flea the flea in his ear after Brain’s withering criticism. Morris constantly tried to undermine the Liverpool dockers. The T&GWU, with its 500 Liverpool docker members, was the only union in the International Dockers Alliance not to provide official support. [27] Despite Morris’s Jamaican background, Brian held no illusions that having a black general secretary would make much difference to union members, and that would have gone for women or gay general secretaries too. The issue wasn’t who was at the top, but who controlled the union – the officials or the members. Once New Labour had been elected in 1997 Morris stepped up his attempts to isolate the dockers.  He got his reward, being knighted in 2003 and made a lord in 2006. [28]

With Brian living in Northampton and myself in Edinburgh, there were few chances to become involved in shared actions. I did join Brian on an evening picket line at Wapping in July 1986. However this turned out to be one of the quiet nights! In 1999, on one of Brian’s visits to Glasgow he came across to Edinburgh to distribute leaflets on the new building site for the Scottish parliament at Holyrood. This job was being run by Bovis, which had backed the blacklisting Consulting Association. Brian had also come into conflict with Bovis over the lack of construction site safety in Milton Keynes in 1997. [29]

The Holyrood building site had a fenced off section with portakabins, where a largely migrant workforce, many from Eastern Europe, stayed. We were able to get into the canteen. Brian spoke to the two workers present, one whom told us there was a union, but most site members did not know they were members! The union had signed a subscription check-off deal with the employer in return for the union’s assistance in keeping the site dispute free! Brian’s leaflet made the case for site self-organisation and how to deal with health and safety concerns. He realised, though, that new leaflets would need to be produced in other languages.

Brian had some sharp words for those self-proclaimed revolutionary parties with their ‘internationals’, and well-financed unions like the T&GWU (the forerunner of UNITE) affiliated to international federations (the ITWF and IUF). They could easily have produced leaflets in several languages. But serious organising amongst migrant workers, with and without papers (the ‘illegals’), would have meant defying both the anti-trade union and anti-immigration laws.

The political chasm between Brian’s approach and those of the Right and Broad Left became clear during the Lindsey Refinery dispute in Lincolnshire in 2009. Here the employers resorted to an imported labour force, entirely made up of Italian workers, who were kept in isolation. There were wildcat strikes by resident oil workers to get more jobs, but no real attempt was made to link with the migrant workers. They were increasingly seen as the ‘enemy’. Strikers, encouraged by then UNITE general secretary, Derek Simpson, resorted to the slogan, ‘British jobs for British workers’. The Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown, had made this old fascist slogan ‘respectable’. [30] The disgusting term ‘social dumping’ was also used to attack the migrant workers, as if they were garbage.

Back in June 1981, prominent members of the French Communist Party had led a physical attack on a migrant worker sanctuary in Paris. This provided the initial breakthrough for the far right in the city’s Red Belt. [31] Similarly, there has been a continuous political descent, involving a section of the British Left, some if whom became involved in No2EU, and union officials, including those from UNITE, which has contributed to the growth of the right populism of UKIP, the Brexit Party and Tory Right. ‘British jobs for British workers’ remains the underlying theme for Left Brexiters. UNITE members have recently taken the shameful ‘social dumping’ slur into the Labour Party .[32]

Brian, although by now largely immobile, took great heart from the rank and file, Grassroots Left candidate, Ian Allinson standing against Len McCluskey in the UNITE general secretary election in 2018. Ian had issued a statement attacking McCluskey and the right wing candidate, Gerard Coyne, for their capitulation to anti-migrant politics. [33] When I told Brian, that amongst the founders of the First International in 1864, was bricklayer, George Howell, [34] who had joined to organise workers internationally, and to prevent cross-border scabbing, he was very pleased that his own approach solidarity action had such august beginnings!

Brian was also more sanguine than most about the role of the Labour Left, following Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election victory. He thought as long as prominent trade union officials, like McCluskey, played a central role, then such bureaucrats would limit any potential. This could already be seen in their support for Trident. In return, McCluskey would police his members to enable Labour to hold on to office, in the face of any challenges from below. This was the pattern, during the 1974-9 Labour government, when two major Broad Left-backed general secretaries, Hugh Scanlon of the AEU, and Jack Jones of the T&GWU, used their influence to promote the Social Contract and to break independent working class resistance.

Today, Broad Left, Len McCluskey and the more right wing, Tim Roache (GMB general secretary) are looking for a Labour government to at last bring union officials in from the cold. They want a return, not so much to beer and sandwiches at ‘No. 10’ in the 1970s, bit today more canapes and prosecco. Their current infighting is as much to see who would have the greater influence in any future Labour government, than any real Left/Right divide. And McCluskey’s current commitment to a Left Labour leadership could be dropped as easily as it was taken up, if that is what us needed to enhance his influence. Jerry Hicks, an earlier Rank and File UNITE general secretary candidate, reminded us that McCluskey once backed Ed Miliband (ensuring his election) over John McDonnell for party leader. [35]

However, Brian did not confine his continued campaigning just to industrial concerns, after he had been incapacitated by the effect of injuries and botched operations. Events in Ireland and Scotland continued to inspire him. He had only once been to Ireland (to the UCATT conference in Killarney), but he been a regular returnee to Glasgow both to see his wider family, and to attend major Celtic games (having Tony Higgins, former secretary of the Scottish Professional Footballers’ Association as his brother, helped!). This was before the fall-off in his visits to the city, due to an inability to travel through growing ill health.

We continued to meet up in Glasgow, and sometimes Edinburgh, until Brian could no longer travel. Bit I continued to visited and stay with Brian and his wife Helen at his home in Northampton. Helen’s hospitality was prodigious, and I rarely needed to have a meal on my drive back to Edinburgh after Helen’s formidable breakfasts, although I was always given a pack lunch too! Brian and I also regularly corresponded. He contributed to the Republican Communist Network’s  Emancipation & Liberation blog. [36]

In the early 1990s, whilst still mobile, Brian was involved with others, including myself, in the Scottish Republican Forum (SRF). The SRF was organised to take the republican case for Scottish independence to the Left, at a time when, whatever its political affiliation, it was still overwhelmingly committed to a ‘British road to socialism’. We organised meetings and published pamphlets to promote discussion. Brian wrote an article Settled in England, [37] which is the only piece of writing in which he provides any wider autobiographical information. Unfortunately, Brian never got to write his full story unlike Dave Douglass, a leading militant in the NUM. Dave has written his own superb three volumes autobiography, a classic piece of working class writing. [38] Brian’s autobiography would have been another.

However, Brian’s involvement in the SRF also followed the major contribution he made in shifting my own politics over the ‘National Question’. In the SWP’s Republican Faction, we had both supported a Federal Republic of England, Scotland and Wales and an independent United Ireland. However, it had become clear that federalism had a long pedigree in the UK and British Empire, and that was as a last ditch option to keep the state together.

My own experience as chair of the Lothians Anti-Poll Tax Federation, between 1987-91, had shown me the success of working on ‘internationalism from below’ principles. Independent action was organised first in Scotland, and then taken to England and Wales. (The Tories were smart enough not to try to impose the poll tax in Northern Ireland, in the context of on-going resistance to British repression.)    The anti-tax unions defied the state, the Labour Party and trade union officials. Such an approach did not reflect the organisational nature of the top down unionist and bureaucratic British state, accepted by the Brit Left, the Labour Party and most trade unions. This was the beginning of the shift of the majority of the Left in Scotland, away from the British road to nowhere. Amazingly, even following the 2016 Brexit vote, and Trump’s ‘Brexit plus, plus, plus’ presidential electoral victory, the Brit Left continue to tail Right populism.

Back in 1989 though, Brian raised another point, which affected my thinking. He said that the Irish experience of oppression and repression, at the hands of the UK state, was not necessarily something unique, justifying socialist support only for Irish independence and national unity. The suppression of democracy, by whatever means the British ruling class and state deemed necessary, was something that people in Scotland and Wales could well face, if their demands for greater self-determination became more serious. With the Brexit vote in the subsequent gallop to the Right, and with reactionary unionism on the rise, [39] highlighted by the Tory/DUP alliance, such a prospect is daily becoming more real.

It was my anti-poll tax campaigning and Brian’s arguments that persuaded me see the greater relevance of James Connolly’s socialist republican ‘break up of the UK and British Empire’ strategy, and of John Maclean’s early appreciation of this political approach. Brian, with his Irish-Scottish (like James Connolly) and Glasgow (like John Maclean) background found this a very easy political step to make. When I wrote From Davitt to Connolly in 2010 to provide the historical evidence for this distinct political approach, I wrote a dedication to Brian Higgins – “A Glasgow bear, Celtic mad, Irish-Scottish migrant worker, bolshie brickie, blacklisted militant, republican, internationalist and communist, whose political activity has followed the great tradition of ‘internationalism from below’ established by Michael Davitt, James Connolly and John Maclean.” [40] Brian thanked me. I only wish he had lived to see my second planned volume, From Connolly to Maclean.

Brian took great heart from the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign from 2012-4, and was constantly asking me to update him on the activities of the Radical Independence Campaign, which I became very involved in. [41] He was particularly pleased that working class Glasgow voted for Scottish independence, and the major contribution, the Irish-Scots, once very opposed, had made to this.

Thus it was through rank and file and republican politics that I got to know Brian well and we worked together for forty years. However, when I attended his funeral in Northampton on June 21st, I realised that I had only fully appreciated these two aspects of his life, but there was considerably more to Brian.  Brian’s close family – his wife, Helen, his daughters Monica and Noelle, and his grandchildren Connor, Dylan and Iris – and his wider extended family, were very important in each others’ lives, whether they still live in Glasgow or now in England.

Those of the Higgins family born in Glasgow, even if they have now long lived in England, are still very much Glaswegians, but fully integrated into their communities.  Although their children born in England have local English accents, the reception, held in the Northampton social club, after Brian’s funeral, echoed to Scottish, Irish (and, of course, Celtic) songs, sung by all family members, wherever they were born. And those English neighbours (white and Asian) who attended, lapped up this ‘little bit of Glasgow’ in Northampton. And several of these neighbours, now in their thirties or forties, told us of Brian taking them fishing or other exploits when they were children – ‘the pied piper of Northampton’!

The music chosen for the funeral very much conveyed Brian’s Irish and Scottish roots – The Fields of Athenry by the Dubliners and Robert Burns’ A Man’s A Man by the Corries; his wider internationalism – Three Little Birds by Bob Marley; and finally his world vision – Revolution by the Beatles.

Kenny Irvine, another close BWG comrade and mad Celtic supporter, made us all laugh, at the reception, when he pointed out that the funeral had been held in Wellingborough. Brian had finally defied his ban from the town, imposed by the police and courts, following the picket described by Nigel Jeffrey! [42]

Brian was somebody who linked family, community, trade unionism and his wider politics together. He was a living example of all that is best in the working class and will be sorely missed.

Allan Armstrong, 14.7.19

 

 

References

 [1]          David Bell, The Dirty Thirty – Heroes of the Miners’  Strike, pp. 78-9 (Five Leaves, 2009, Nottingham)

 [2]          Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain, Blacklisted, The Secret War Between Big Business and Union (New  Internationalist Publications, 2015, Oxford) and

Brian Higgins, Blacklisted         (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/04/09/blacklisted/)

 [3]       https://www.union-news.co.uk/bsg-pays-tribute-to-the-late-brian-higgins-the-most-blacklisted-building-worker-in-the-uk/

 [4]       ibid.

 [5]       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consulting_Association

 [6]       http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2011/08/19/major-gains-for-low-paid-at-heron-tower-dispute/Brian Higgins and the Anti-Blacklist Success at Brussels

  [7]       http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2014/03/24/undercover-but-within-sites-police-infiltration-of-trade- unions/

 [8]       https://libcom.org/library/chapter-5-high-court-writ-served-injunction-threatened

 [9]       Des Warren, The Key To My Cell (Living History Library,  2007, Liverpool)

 [10]      http://marx.libcom.org/library/rank-file-or-broad-left

 [11]        http://libcom.org/library/chapter-1-rank-file-constructionTony Cliff told to F*** Off!

 [12]      http://libcom.org/library/chapter-1-rank-file-construction – Tony Cliff told to F*** Off!

 [13]       http://libcom.org/library/chapter-1-rank-file-construction –   Laings Lock Out Committee

 [14]      https://libcom.org/library/chapter-1-rank-file-construction Republican

 [15]      https://libcom.org/library/chapter-4-main-unions-constructionCorruption in UCATT

 [16]       https://libcom.org/library/chapter-1-rank-file-construction Capital R&F, United Front Independence

 [17]      http://libcom.org/library/chapter-7-ucatt-national-delegate-conference-killarney-june-5th-–-9th-2000

[18]        http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2011/02/11/report-of-the-third-global-commune-event/

 [19]      ibid.

 [20]      http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2010/09/06/brian-higgins-anti-blacklist-campaign/Motion passed by  Aberdeen branch of the Oil Industry Liaison Committee

  [21]        http://libcom.org/library/chapter-3-broad-left-construction-popular-frontOffshore Industry Liaison Committee OILC)

[22]        Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain, op. cit. p. 178

[23]      https://libcom.org/library/chapter-3-broad-left-construction-popular-frontConstruction Safety Campaign

[24]      http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/02/08/a-statement-on-behalf-of-brian-higgins-blacklisted-building-worker/

 [25]        https://www.union-news.co.uk/bsg-pays-tribute-to-the-late-brian-higgins-the-most-blacklisted-building-worker-in-the-uk/

[26]      http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2013/01/01/collusion-and-betrayal/

[27]      Pauline Bradley, A Brief History of the London Support   Groupin Another World Is Possible – How the Liverpool   Dockers Launched a Global Movement, edited by Pauline        Bradley and Chris Knight p27 (Radical Anthropology Group, 2004, London)

[28]         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Morris,_Baron_Morris_of_Handsworth#

House_of_Lords

[29]      http://libcom.org/library/chapter-6-struggle-continues –  1997 UCATT PAYE campaign

[30]      http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2009/03/20/browns-appeal-to-british-chauvinism/

[31]      https://thecommune.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/frances-cgt-union-doing-the-immigration-polices-dirty-work/

[32]      https://www.theredroar.com/2018/01/unite-at-odds-with-labour-leader-over-single-market-membership/

[33]        http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2017/01/03/grassroots-unite-leadership-candidate-attacks-mccluskeys-and-coynes-capitulation-to-anti-migrant-politics/

[34]      https://spartacus-educational.com/TUhowell.htm

[35]      http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2012/01/23/union-leader-slams-ed-miliband-but-who-put-him-there-in-the- first-place/

[36]      http://republicancommunist.org/blog/

[37]      Brian Higgins, Settled in England in White Setters or Jockbrits – Who is to Blame? (Scottish Republican Forum, 1995, Edinburgh)

[38]      Dave Douglass, Vol. 1 – Gordies Wa Mental, Vol. 2. The Wheels Still in a Spin, Vol. 3 – Ghost Dancers(Christie Books, 2008, 2009, 2010, online)

[39]      https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/national-populism.pdf. pp. 67-75

[40]        Allan Armstrong, From Davitt to Connolly –   ‘Internationalism from Below’ and the challenge to the UK  state and British Empire from 1879 – 1895(Intfrobel       Publications, 2010, Edinburgh)

[41]      https://radicalindyedinburgh.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-story-of-edinburgh-ric.html

[42]      see reference 1

 

____________

 

Brian’s last political statement, 8.2.19

Brian Higgins, a militant in the building industry, first in UCATT and later in UNITE, has been taken into hospital. Brian has been the most blacklisted worker in the UK. For many years before he would have retired, he was unable to get work. This put immense pressure both on Brian and his family, particularly his ever-supportive wife, Helen. Following the public exposure of the blacklist in the building industry, Brian found strong evidence of collaboration between the employers and a UCATT official in his blacklisting. That official cited in a redacted document was Jerry Swain.

Subsequently, Len McCluskey arranged for UCATT to be taken over by UNITE. In the process, Swain was appointed as a full-timer. Brian, the rank and file Building Worker Group and other union members have tried to raise this issue with McCluskey. McCluskey continually brushes the issue under the carpet.

Brian thanks all those who have supported his cause, and the cause of other blacklisted workers. This support has come from many including the Building Worker Group, activists in Grassroots Unite, the Scottish Federation of Socialist Teachers {successor to SR&FT} and the Emancipation & Liberation blog. Until our trade unions have kicked out all those who collaborate with the employers, then our fight for justice, improved pay and conditions and safety at work will be undermined. Despite Brian’s current incapacitation the struggle goes on, and Brian’s supporters will continue to raise these issues.

(http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/02/08/a-statement-on-behalf-of-brian-higgins-blacklisted-building-worker/)

________

Other contributions from Brian on the

Emancipation & Liberation blog

WHY NO PITCHFORD ENQUIRY IN SCOTLAND?

 

A STATEMENT FROM BRIAN HIGGINS, SECRETARY OF THE BUILDING WORKERS’ GROUP, ABOUT THE DEATHS IN QATAR

 

BLACKLISTED

 

DAVE WILLIAMS – A TRIBUTE

 

UNDERCOVER BUT WITHIN SITES – POLICE INFILTRATION OF TRADE UNIONS

 

COLLUSION AND BETRAYAL

 

The First Shoots of a New Industrial Fightback?

 

Brian Higgins Anti-Blacklist Campaign

 

Campaign To Fight The Blacklist And To Support Brian Higgins

___________

Other obituaries

Dave Smith, the Blacklist Support Group

https://www.union-news.co.uk/bsg-pays-tribute-to-the-late-brian-higgins-the-most-blacklisted-building-worker-in-the-uk/

Paul Lynch, Northampton Chronicle

https://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/people/northampton-bricklayer-who-became-most-blacklisted-construction-worker-in-britain-dies-1-8955980

Marcus Barnett, Morning Star

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/progressives-play-tribute-to-britains-most-blacklisted-construction-worker

 

 

 

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Jun 22 2018

ALLAN ARMSTRONG REVIEWS ‘THE RED AND THE GREEN’ BY GERARD CAIRNS

Review of The Red and the Green – Portrait of John Maclean by Gerard Cairns

Gerard Cairns has recently published his informative and challenging new book, The Red and the Green – A Portrait of John Maclean. I have known Gerry since the early 1990s and I would find it hard to call him Gerard, so I will use Gerry for the rest of this review.

The book’s title reveals the two main aspects of Gerry’s assessment of John Maclean. The Red and the Green highlights Gerry’s research into ‘Red’ John and his relationship with the ‘Green’ or Irish community on Clydeside .[1] A Portrait of John Maclean examines Maclean the political activist and family man. It raises questions about how Socialists organise and relate to others, especially their partners and families. When assessing  Maclean, Gerry brings his own personal experience to bear. “This has been a very personal portrait of a man I have researched, studied, lectured on, debated for a long time.” [2] Thus Gerry’s book is viewed through the prism of his own life of political activism. Continue reading “ALLAN ARMSTRONG REVIEWS ‘THE RED AND THE GREEN’ BY GERARD CAIRNS”

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Nov 20 2016

FROM FARAGE’S BREXIT TO TRUMP’S “BREXIT PLUS, PLUS, PLUS”, AND ON TO ‘MADAME FREXIT’?


WHAT DOES TRUMP’S VICTORY SIGNIFY?

– ALLAN ARMSTRONG IN CONVERSATION WITH

ALAN BISSETT, BRIAN HIGGINS, PAUL STEWART AND

JOHN TUMMON

(see short biogs at end)

 

 1. ALLAN ARMSTRONG – 9.11.16

“An even greater leap into fantasy land is the belief that Brexit will provide a progressive example to other member states wanting to break away from the EU…. The first and unfortunately well-known non-UK person to celebrate Brexit was none other than the Right populist US Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump. With typical crassness he chose his new golf course at Turnberry in Scotland to declare his solidarity with Brexit… Another presidential hopeful, Marine Le Pen, of the French Far Right National Front, was the first significant European politician to proclaim her solidarity with Brexit.
Continue reading “FROM FARAGE’S BREXIT TO TRUMP’S “BREXIT PLUS, PLUS, PLUS”, AND ON TO ‘MADAME FREXIT’?”

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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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Sep 06 2010

Brian Higgins Anti-Blacklist Campaign

Updates on anti-blacklisting campaign and Brian Higgins

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Tribunal process grinds on… and on

After months of being involved in the tribunal process, Brian Higgins, with other UCATT and UNITE members, has now reached the stage where he is waiting for a preliminary hearing which will decide whether he has a case that will be heard at a full hearing.  You would think being named on the Consulting Association Construction Database Blacklist (CACD), along with the naming of one of the companies, Laing (now Laing O’Rourke) would be enough for a full hearing. Fraid not.

The wheels of industrial ‘justice’, which are very heavily weighted in favour of the employers anyway, turn ever so slowly, and usually fall off, both for blacklisted trade unionists and for workers in general. Most particularly, when employers want this to be the case and they are clearly slowing things down in the matter of the named blacklisted construction workers versus the CACD and named building employers. Coupled with the fact that industrial tribunals were never meant to deal with something as serious, sinister and political as blacklisting and the attack on and denial of civil, trade union and human rights. No one holds out much hope for any sort of justice via this route. But you have to fail before a British court before you can take your case to the European Court of Human Rights. These cases should be dealt with in a criminal court, but of course it is not a criminal offence to blacklist trade unionists in the UK. This is an absolute disgrace.

British ‘justice’ for building trade unionists – remember Shrewsbury

The British state, building employers and the so-called justice system already have serious form when it comes to building trade unionists organising and fighting for their rights and safety on site. They showed exactly what they think of this when they conspired with MacAlpine to put a group of building trade unionists, who were members of UCATT and TGWU, in jail on trumped up charges at Shrewsbury Crown Court, following the national building workers’ strike in 1972. Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson got the most severe sentences. Des died prematurely because of drugs – the liquid cosh – they forcibly administer to him, while in prison, basically to try to silence him. This is a campaign going on today to try to clear the names of the Shrewsbury pickets. So it is no surprise that the law continues to allow building employers to get away with conspiring against building trades unionists by the truly appalling use of blacklisting. As a lawyer said, It’s a scandal there is not an effective law against blacklisting.

They also get away with murder

It’s also worth remembering that building employers get away with murder with the killing week in, week out, of building workers in so-called site accidents. So again, it’s really no surprise they get away with blacklisting.

Glenis Willmot, MEP, and leader of EU Parliamentary Labour Party

The only chance of getting any sort of justice for all blacklisted building trade unionists is by going to the European Court of Human Rights, This means going to the European parliament to campaign for a law to outlaw blacklisting EU-wide, and have the UK subject to European law in this regard. Knowing this, Brian got in contact with Glenis Willmot MEP. With the help of Steve Murphy, UCATT Midlands Regional Secretary, Glenis got back to Brian and they now correspond.  She has also put a written question on blacklisting in the UK, and in general, to the European Commission, with the hope of getting a favourable response, If this is achieved, it can be used to campaign for a law against blacklisting in the European Parliament.

Of course, even if the answer is unfavourable, the issue and the need for a Euro-law to cover this, is still the same. Glenis and like-minded MEPs should campaign for a law against blacklisting and blacklists.

Blacklisting is a crime against humanity and any kind of justice, freedom and democracy. It should have no place whatsoever in a modern society, which professes to espouse these values and principles. Surely this cries out for the UK and European Parliaments to make blacklisting a criminal offence and one which sees the perpetrators of this horrific practice punished severely enough to put a stop to this industrial evil once and for all.

Motion passed by Aberdeen branch of Oil Industry Liaison Committee

Blacklisting has always been a curse in both the oil and construction industries. But employers have always denied its existence. However now with the discovery and exposition by the Information Commissioners Office of a list of 3,200 names construction trade unionists held by an organisation entitled The Consulting Construction Database, and naming of so many multi-national construction firms, who used and paid for this blacklist, this has provided undeniable evidence and proof of the blacklist in construction.

The blacklisting by the CACD of Brian Higgins, Secretary of Northampton UCATT Branch, is an example of just how bad blacklisting can get, and will continue to be, for all construction trade unionists if it is not stopped. Bro, Higgins has spent in total about 25 years unemployed as a direct result of the blacklist in construction. An injury to one is an injury to all, we call on the RMT Executive to support all campaigns against the blacklist.

The OILC Branch calls for the Council of Executives to ask RMT-sponsored MO, John McDonnell, to raise Bro. Higgins’s case in Parliament and to work for the existing, toothless law on blacklisting to be massively toughened to deter and punish ruthless, callous employers resorting to this vile and sinister practice that is a denial of human and trade union rights. Blacklisting makes a mockery of all employer/union agreements.

We also ask for the EC to support pursuing the struggle for justice all the way to the European Court of Human rights. Plus a campaign for a European Employment Law which criminalises blacklisting and severely punishes employers who use the practice and which forces guilty employers to pay substantial damages to those they try to blacklist.

Previous article written about this campaign.

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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!

Replies to:-
noblaclists@hotmail.co.uk

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