Trade unionists protest against blacklisting in central London, 9 February 2013
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 9 February meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Three years on from the half-hearted raid on Ian Kerr’s ‘Consulting Association’ blacklisting scam and his conviction on data protection offences, the scandal is refusing to go away. (See Proletarian, December 2012)
Instead, thanks to the efforts of the Blacklist Support Group and workers fighting for redress both in the High Court and in the European Court of Human Justice, more and more is coming to light about the blanket surveillance of workers – in the construction industry and elsewhere.
It turns out that the CA blacklist was used for high-end government projects including the Olympics, the MOD, Portcullis House and the Jubilee Line, and speculation is mounting that blacklists were used in recruiting for Crossrail.
Whilst the range of building companies involved in snooping extends to just about every major operator, pride of place in this rogue’s gallery has gone to McAlpine, run by family scion Callum. He acted as chairman of the CA between 1993 and 1996, and all CA meetings took place at his office.
Under scrutiny by the Scottish Affairs Committee, McAlpine pleaded ignorance or a poor memory, but confessed to heavy use of the blacklist throughout 2008, ‘excusing’ himself on the plea that he was chasing ‘illegal’ immigrants, not union militants! Just how much there was to cover up became clear given the circumstances surrounding the company’s action in paying off Kerr’s £5,000 fine, his legal expenses and the redundancy pay-outs to CA’s staff.
Whilst Callum McAlpine got out the violin, claiming that the pay-off was a “humanitarian and reasonable action”, everything was done at the time to conceal the cosy McAlpine connection. McAlpine’s head of human resources, David Cochrane, himself acting as the last chairman of the CA, warned Kerr to hide the hush money in his daughter’s bank account.
As Kerr told the Scottish Affairs Committee in November, shortly before his death: “I had put myself at the front and took the flak … so that they wouldn’t be drawn into all of this. They would remain hidden.”
Now that Labour is out of the driving seat, there is much sound and fury to be heard at Westminster, with indignant opposition benches deploring the refusal of the ConDem government to take the blacklisting scandal seriously. It will be recalled, however, that Labour had the opportunity in 2009, when the scandal broke, to deal with the issue.
Indeed, Mandelson put an amendment to the Employment Relations Act through in 2010, supposedly fixing things. Yet it rapidly became clear that nothing had really changed. As the law stands, blacklisting as such is still neither unlawful nor a criminal act.
To get redress, it is necessary for the blacklisted worker not only to prove that he has been blacklisted, but also that his inclusion on that blacklist is the sole reason he is turned down for a job – a well-nigh impossible task, especially given the legal resources commanded by the companies.
And in any case, how can you seek redress if you don’t know you are on a blacklist in the first place? As of autumn 2012, only 194 of the 3,213 workers known by the Information Commissioner’s Office to have been blacklisted are aware of the fact. Nor is this surprising, since you can only find out if you are on a blacklist by phoning up the ICO and asking them.
Some might not unreasonably fear that asking the question is itself asking for trouble.
Labour in government had ample opportunity to ban blacklists in 2009. It failed to do so for the same reason as every other Labour government in history: because Labour is just as much a servant of the bourgeoisie as are the Tories against whom it rails.
Surveillance of workers did not begin with Kerr’s racket. The Consulting Association began its career in 1993 by paying £10,000 for an already-existing database of blacklisted names. The source of that database was the Economic League, of which Kerr was himself an employee.
The League was founded in 1919 to root out communist and left-wing organisations and individuals. Working closely with the British Empire Union fascists, it played a key role in attacking the general strike in 1926. Its founder had led the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty through the first world war, and the chairman of the BBC sat on its council.
Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the League ran a comprehensive blacklisting service. Despite being regularly exposed in the press of the time, it seemed to enjoy a charmed existence, until the heat from a parliamentary inquiry in 1990 finally obliged the company to formally dissolve itself – only for its work to be taken up again by Sir Robert McAlpine and the Consulting Association.
The bourgeoisie can have every confidence that Kerr’s work will now be taken up again by other hands working to an identical agenda – until such time that the workers’ movement frees itself from the suffocating Labour embrace and takes meaningful action to stop it.
Just how corrupting an effect social democracy has upon the trade-union movement is clear from the evidence now emerging of collusion between some unions and the Consulting Association.
According to Construction News: “Evidence has emerged that suggests union representatives may have ‘liaised’ with contractors to blacklist workers from construction jobs. But an investigation by Construction News has uncovered documents that suggest union officials may also have provided information to the blacklist.
“One of the files from the blacklist, seen by CN, describes a worker, Michael Anderson, as ‘not recommended’ by Amicus … Mr Anderson’s redacted file says: ‘1997–1999. Worked at JLE [Jubilee Line Extension] during electricians’ dispute but not involved in any actions. 2005 Oct 26: Information received … that the above is ‘not recommended’ by Amicus.’ It adds: ‘Above information came from [redacted] of Amicus.’”
Mr Anderson’s summing up is damning: “I am an ordinary spark. I have spent long periods in unemployment. It is not just financial. It is everything.”
This echoes the testimony of another blacklisted electrician, Steve Acheson, the leader of the EPIU’s Manchester branch. Confronted with evidence related to union involvement in the collection of blacklist data, he told Construction News: “I have been a union member my whole life. It is a very hard decision whether to sue. But I have worked just two years in the last 12. Knowing that part of the reason is because of union involvement is very difficult to take.”
The January 2013 edition of Site Worker had this to say: “When it came to light, after the Information Commissioner’s Office exposed the Consulting Association’s construction blacklist in 2009, that some Unite and Ucatt officials had allegedly been supplying information about rank-and-file union members directly to the CA, a new trade-union low had been reached …
“Unite and Ucatt are disgustingly and disgracefully trying to cover up the conduct of these officials and to sweep this under the carpet. It has been reported that, in 2006, the then general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson may well have known about the CA and its activities yet did not act.”
Cleaning up the unions must begin by breaking the link with Labour.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 8 December meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
Last November, substantial coordinated strike action behind the pensions issue took thousands onto the streets in Britain. Since that struggle was sold out by the TUC, and despite the subsequent unanimous passage at the TUC’s annual congress of a motion tentatively mooting the possibility of a general strike, the momentum has drained away, thanks to the continued left-social-democratic character of even the most militant sections of organised labour.
On the eve of this year’s 14 November ‘day of action’, faced with the looming failure of the British TUC to mount even token support, the National Shop Stewards’ Network (NSSN) couldn’t advance any higher goal than to ‘get back to’ the glorious heights of last year’s ‘N30’ action, yet again calling upon the TUC to ‘name the day’ for a (one-day!) ‘general strike’.
A recent rally in defence of the NHS in Bristol illustrated the problem clearly. Speaker after speaker repeated the same mantra: “Labour must stop implementing Tory cuts.” Whilst this approach came in ‘militant’ wrapping – “Don’t let the Labour councillors get away with it! Don’t give them any peace! etc” – the subtext that got reinforced was inescapable: stick with Labour, it’s the only show in town.
The Bristol march was well supported (and barely reported), and drew attention to the way that the NHS is being prepared for balkanisation, with clinical commissioning groups purchasing services from NHS trusts and private companies.
Particularly flagrant have been the efforts of the so-called South West Pay Cartel to introduce regional pay agreements, undermining the existing national banding of jobs and preparing the ground for cuts in pay and conditions.
It appears that the Cartel’s honesty has made even the government a little nervous, with health minister Dan Poulter describing the consortium as “somewhat heavy-handed” during a Commons debate. It’s clear enough that the Cartel’s flat feet are trampling in the same direction the rest of the NHS is destined to travel in due course.
However, rearguard defence of national banding alone is not enough to mobilise health workers in the struggle, any more than rearguard defence of Joint Industry Board arrangements is enough to mobilise electricians in the construction industry or rearguard defence of the Agricultural Wages Board (now threatened with the chop) is enough to mobilise agricultural workers.
What is needed across all sectors of employment is a class-wide struggle to break with the social-democratic politics of the Labour party and all its friends and overthrow the crisis-ridden capitalist system.
This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 21 October meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
With more and deeper cuts every day chipping away at things to which everyone had long become accustomed (a fire engine turning up in reasonable time when you dial 999, a proper investigation when someone loses a finger in an industrial accident, an affordable train ticket even), people quite reasonably look to the unions to do their traditional job of standing up for the rights of ordinary workers.
Yet with unions less interested in organising strike funds than they are in donating to the Labour party, we can expect little more from the TUC than the odd day’s protest march.
The efforts of union militants in the NSSN and elsewhere to kick-start the do-nothing TUC into leading a coordinated strike campaign against the imposition of austerity in Britain continue to run into the same brick wall at congress after congress.
Each year one or other resolution in favour of this, suitably militant in presentation but hedged about with enough caveats to reassure the labour aristocracy, is passed unanimously and then left to gather dust on the shelf, with at best another chance to let off steam at another ‘day of action’.
This year proved no exception, with what the NSSN describe as a ‘bold resolution’ from the prison warders proposing “a coalition of resistance taking coordinated action where possible [!] with far-reaching campaigns including the consideration [!!] and practicalities [!!!] of a general strike”.
But the harsh truth is that, until the social-democratic politics of the union movement are taken on and faced down, the TUC will continue its history of treachery to the working class – a history unbroken since 1926.
Trying to cheer ourselves up by telling ourselves that “The passing of this motion is a great step forward in the battle that has been waged to push the leaders of the TUC towards mobilising the weight of the trade-union movement against the government’s cuts agenda” merely reinforces the reformist notion that piling more pressure on the labour aristocracy will eventually oblige them to lead the fight against capitalism, disarming workers ideologically.
And in the end, the key question is not whether the TUC refuses to call a general strike or calls one in order to betray it. The key question is rather: what is meant by ‘A future that works’?
This motion was passed overwhelmingly at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress confirms that opposing imperialism’s murderous and barbaric wars for profit and plunder is an integral and essential part of the fight against capitalist imperialism, and must be a major priority for communists living in imperialist countries such as Britain.
Congress notes that, following the illegal expulsion of our party from the Stop the War coalition (StW) in March, members have been giving serious thought to what the main thrust of our party’s anti-war work should be.
Congress welcomes the contribution made to this discussion by the CC in its anti-war policy briefing document, which was issued in June, and fully endorses that document’s contents.
Congress recommends that all members and study groups who have not yet done so should read this document, discuss its contents and consider how best to advance the party’s anti-war programme in their local area or region.
This congress believes that the leaders of StW, far from being a force for anti-imperialist unity, are a major obstacle to achieving such unity, since they do not act to unite workers against imperialism, but instead work to unify anti-war activists with the imperialist Labour party. By continually bowing to the wishes and enhancing the prestige of ‘left’-Labour MPs and trade unionists, StW’s leaders are in fact making the anti-war movement subservient to the interests of the imperialist Labour party, which means, ultimately, that they are putting the movement under the control of the very class that is waging these criminal wars. This has been amply illustrated by the complete inability of StW either to seriously challenge the bourgeois propaganda onslaught against Libya and Syria or to offer any meaningful support to either of those countries in their desperate struggles to defend their independence.
Congress further believes that until all honest anti-war activists reject the pro-imperialist politics of such leaders, their activities, however sincerely undertaken, will continue to be completely harmless to imperialism and will continue to have absolutely no effect on the course of imperialist war.
Congress reaffirms its belief that our party’s two main anti-war slogans (‘Victory to the resistance’ and ‘No cooperation with war crimes’) are still the only correct ones.
Congress further reaffirms its intention to work towards a time when the party is able to found a truly anti-imperialist anti-war movement in Britain.
Congress therefore instructs all branches and members to do whatever they can to:
- promote awareness and recognition of the party’s anti-war slogans, bringing them to life by popularising their true content among as broad a section of workers as possible and infusing them with the spirit of anti-imperialist unity.
- bring closer the founding of a new anti-imperialist front by putting into action the six tasks laid out in the CC’s anti-war policy briefing document, chief among which is to keep building the party and transforming our new members into seasoned and professional cadres who are able to spread our party’s influence amongst the working class.
- carry on with the work of exposing the treachery of StW’s leaders and of bringing to British workers an understanding of the urgent need to break with their class enemies in the Labour party, while helping them to unify instead with all those forces that are fighting against imperialist war and occupation abroad.
- keep pushing the line of non-cooperation, bringing to workers’ attention the fact that we really do have the collective power to put a stop to imperialist war and encouraging them to work to transform their unions into fighting organisations that are prepared to adopt non-cooperation policies and to put them into action.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress salutes the people and leaders of Syria in their continuing resistance to the murderous islamist rebellion fomented by the West, and sends its congratulations to the Syrian army for the strenuous measures it has been undertaking in Aleppo and elsewhere against the armed rebellion and its foreign auxiliaries.
Congress denounces the vicious imperialist meddling in Syria’s internal affairs, which has for its goal the forcible removal of Syria’s president and the sectarian destruction of Syria’s unity and independence.
Congress further denounces the role played by Turkey in providing the rebels with a military base area, the role played by Saudi Arabia and Qatar in arming and funding the insurgency, and above all the barely-concealed imperialist, primarily US imperialist, hand that lies behind the proxy war being fought out by the incompetent thugs of the misnamed ‘Free Syria Army’ (FSA).
In particular, this congress denounces the pipsqueak British foreign minister William Hague’s recent proposal to funnel “humanitarian aid” through the FSA.
This congress applauds the steadfast refusal of both Moscow and Beijing to aid and abet the West’s criminal adventure in Syria, and congratulates them on having decisively wrested the diplomatic initiative from the warmongers, leaving imperialism without a fig-leaf to camouflage its warlike intentions.
This congress notes with satisfaction the declaration by Iran’s envoy Saeed Jalili that Iran stands with her neighbour in an “axis of resistance” which cannot be broken, and urges British workers to likewise stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in our own unbreakable “axis of resistance”.
This congress reaffirms its belief that an anti-imperialist victory for Syria will in turn weaken imperialism’s axis of oppression – a welcome setback not least for our own British imperialist ruling class.
Congress therefore calls on workers in Britain to refuse to cooperate with the criminal aggression against Syria, whether by fighting directly, making or transporting arms, or assisting in the broadcast of slander and lies demonising the Syrian leadership, and resolves to do all in its power to spread awareness of the need for such active non-cooperation.
Victory to Syria!
Victory to President Assad!
Death to imperialism!
On Saturday 18th August, CPGB-ML and Red Youth joined the march and rally to commemorate the anniversary of the Llanelli rail strike of 1911. The strike was memorable both for the slaughter of two workers by the British army, and for the heroic and steadfast spirit of resistance which animated the strikers and their many supporters. Our contingent was proud to support this event, distributing our literature as we marched through Llanelli.
At the rally many spoke about the spirited local campaign to prevent the downgrading of the Accident and Emergency service at the local Prince Phillip hospital. Sadly, a number of speeches seemed more concerned with point-scoring between Labour and Plaid Cymru, with each blaming the other for the threatened cuts coming down the line. A speaker from our party was invited by Llanelli Trades Council to say a few words, a welcome opportunity to put the historical events of 1911 in the context of today’s crisis of capitalism and the tasks facing the working class. The comrade spoke as follows:
“On behalf of the CPGB-ML I would like to thank Llanelli Trades Council for inviting me to say a few words on this day of commemoration.
When we recall the murder by the British army of John John and Leonard Worsell, we do not comfort ourselves with the false idea that this was the last time workers were slain by the British state. It is sufficient to recall
- the fatal battering of anti-Nazi campaigner Blair Peach in 1979;
- the judicial murder of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, shot seven times in the head whilst pinned to the ground in Stockwell tube station;
- the killing of bystander Ian Tomlinson at the G20 demo in 2010, now revealed to have been the subject of a criminal cover-up by the official pathologist;
- and the public execution of father-of-three Mark Duggan in 2011 on the streets of Tottenham.
All four were victims of state violence. In their case, the instruments of the state wore police uniforms. The army in recent years has been reserved for the slaughter of workers in faraway places – though we note that the Irish murdered in Ireland by the Parachute Regiment on Bloody Sunday (to mention but one of the myriad crimes against the Irish nation) were said by the colonisers to have met their deaths on “British soil”.
In remembering the events which took place in Llanelli one hundred years ago, we are inspired by the fighting spirit shown by working people resisting capitalism, by the spirit of non-cooperation which erupted even within the army itself, and by the electrifying effect this resistance had throughout the whole community. So far from being merely a historical footnote, the events of the 1911 Llanelli rail strike have real and urgent lessons for all those workers today who are fighting to prevent their living standards being ground down by a capitalist system in crisis.
The uprisings triggered last summer by the assassination of Mark Duggan revealed a depth of anger amongst young workers deprived of a decent future by the crisis of capitalism, and a willingness to fight back against a system that is effectively declaring war on the entire working class. Those uprisings were closer to the true spirit of 1911 than anything the TUC has yet come up with by way of “coordinating resistance”, despite the proven willingness of local government workers, doctors, construction workers, teachers, transport workers, students and Occupy activists to make a fight of it. All that is missing is the political leadership.
It is time to stop lying to the working class about the character of this crisis. The choice which faces us all is not “destructive cuts” versus “humane cuts”. The choice is between a warmongering capitalist barbarism spinning out of control – or socialism. The best commemoration of the martyrs, strikers and fighters of 1911 will come when the red flag is hoisted over Wales, Scotland and England. Bring it on! Join the struggle! Long live the spirit of 1911!”
After the rally, we marched up the hill to the cemetery where our two fallen comrades are buried. We laid one floral tribute (from the CPGB-ML) on the grave of Leonard Worsell, and a second (from Red Youth) on the grave of John John.
More photos of event (Flickr)
1911 special: Working-class struggles in Britain
Uprisings terrify the ruling class
YOUTH UPRISING SUPPLEMENT: Rage against capitalism
The following resolution has been proposed by the CPGB-ML to the upcoming PSC AGM.
A very similar resolution was opposed by the PSC executive last year, on some extremely spurious grounds.
It is our belief that the contents of the following resolution are entirely uncontroversial to 95 percent of Palestine solidarity activists. However, since the resolution calls for the PSC to actively encourage British workers to use their collective power to prevent British companies and media outlets from participating in Israeli war crimes, the resolution is decidedly harmful to the interests of British imperialism.
Thus it is clearly NOT acceptable to the imperialist, zionist Labour party, or to the Labour-affiliated leaders of the trade-union movement.
PSC members need to decide whether they want to build a broad movement that really does aim to give meaningful solidarity to Palestine, or whether they prefer to let the PSC executive maintain its cosy relationship with various left-Labour and TUC bigwigs … and to allow these interests to dictate that their ’solidarity’ work should be kept at the level of a charitable occupation that won’t threaten imperialist interests.
Experience has shown that they can’t do both.
[See joti2gaza.org for a more detailed discussion of anti-imperialist work in the PSC.]
No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign
Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s support for the criminal Israeli state, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work.
Conference therefore calls on the steering committee to take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:
1. Building support within individual unions and at the TUC for motions that draw attention to the complicity of Britain’s government and corporations in Israeli war crimes, and that also call on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission (eg, by making or moving munitions or other equipment, by writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of Israel’s war machine).
2. Following the example set by websites such as MediaLens.org and by the 2010 PSC Panorama campaign in building an ongoing movement to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising Israel’s crimes.
3. Putting on fundraising events that will both draw attention to the jailed Gaza protesters’ plight and contribute towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
4. Giving support and publicity to groups or individuals who, like the EDO Decommissioners and the Raytheon activists, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent the many crimes of, the occupation.
5. Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where Israeli war criminals can get no peace: through the campaign on universal jurisdiction, through citizens’ arrests and through any other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to draw attention to the crimes of Israeli military, government and corporate leaders – and those in Britain who back them politically or financially.
(Post updated on 11 Feb 2011)
The following resolution was vociferously opposed by the Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at its AGM on 22 January. Since a resolution containing many of the same points had been passed virtually unanimously at the Stop the War conference last year, this came as rather a surprise to the comrade who moved the motion.
We will be writing in more detail about this soon, but in the meantime, a few of the arguments posed against the resolution went like this:
- The list of actions is ‘too prescriptive’; we can’t agree to it.
Rather strange given that most of the other resolutions also had lists of actions attached, which related to the specific spheres of action they were looking at (ie, boycott and divestment, trade-union work, student work etc). In fact, resolutions are by their nature prescriptive. That doesn’t mean the movers expect the actions suggested in it to be carried out exclusively.
Quite clearly, in this case, the idea here was to be complementary to other work being done by the PSC. Equally clearly, this argument is just a cover - perhaps for reasons that the opposers don’t feel comfortable sharing with the rest of us!
- We can’t put resources into campaigning/fundraising for the Gaza protestors; it’s a diversion from what we do.
Unbelievable, considering that it was PSC who called the demo at which these young people were arrested. And crazy, given that if we launched a big campaign to have the sentences overturned, we could really draw attention to the British state’s role in supporting Israel. Not to mention highlighting islamophobia, bringing many more young people and muslims towards the PSC and generally highlighting the issue that people have been criminalised for merely objecting to war crimes!
- We can’t promise to support all those arrested for opposing Israel’s war crimes (including the Gaza protestors); we don’t know who they might be.
The clear implication here was that some of the people being targetted for their principled stand, whether direct action activists or newly politicised young muslims, might somehow be ‘asking for it’!
- We can’t ask workers to refuse to cooperate with war crimes in the current climate, when they’re worried about losing their jobs.
Not sure we really need to comment on this, except to say that you could make the same argument about concentration camp guards! Either it’s a crime or it isn’t. Either we’re against the British state assisting in Israel’s crimes or we’re not. The fact is that we can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to - but surely it’s our job to take the arguments to them and help them to make informed decisions? Why is it ok to campaign amongst union members as individuals around the boycott demands, but not to try to mobilise them collectively?
It’s also worth bearing the student example in mind. Two years ago, students were occupying their universities in support of the people of Gaza. The confidence and experience they gained in these actions no doubt contributed to the militancy we’re seeing today in the anti-fees movement and occupations. Far from making working people nervous, encouraging them to use their power to stop crimes against Palestinians might actually help them to get more militant in using their power against the current cuts in benefits, pensions, wages and public services!
It’s clear the above arguments don’t add up, so we have to ask ourselves, just what is it that the PSC national executive is really afraid of? If we want to build a MASS movement in support of Palestine, why are we afraid to try to mobilise broad sections of the working class or muslim communities? And why are we avoiding the question of REAL, CONCRETE solidarity with Palestine?
Jeremy Corbyn’s closing statement blethering on about Early Day Motions in Parliament was a joke. Anyone who knows anything about how the House of Commons works can tell you that EDMs aren’t even relevant within its walls, never mind outside of them. They don’t even get debated!
We were sad to see that not only Betty Hunter, but also PSC deputy chair Kamel Hawwash spoke most shamefully against the resolution, causing much confusion amongst those present as to what could be the reason for so much opposition to something so seemingly innocuous, and so obviously fundamental to our work as actively opposing Israel’s war crimes.
We were also sad at the way the whole debate was handled. It was clear from the inconsistency and illogicality of the opposing arguments that the reasons being put forward in such a hysterial fashion weren’t the actual reasons for the executive opposing the resolution. Several speakers said that ‘while there were many good things in the motion, it was impossible to support it all because of [insert spurious objection to half a sentence here]‘.
But if that was truly the case, why not contact the movers of the resolution about changing it, so as to let the good stuff through? Why not put forward amendments that we would all have had time to read and think about before the conference? Why wait and hijack everybody with an unexpected and baffling ‘controversy’ that many present were simply unable to unravel in the time available?
One possible answer is that the executive is afraid of attracting too much negative attention from the state if it openly supports either the Gaza protestors or the various direct-action anti-war-crimes activists, despite the fact that well publicised campaigns along these lines could do much to broaden the appeal of PSC and to extend the reach of our solidarity message (all of which could make a direct difference to Palestinians).
Another possibility is that the executive is afraid to upset the cosy relationship it has built with various Labour party and trade-union officials by raising the question of direct participation in war crimes by British workers - and their power to withhold that participation - within the unions, many of which spend their time trying to squash the notion of collective power, substituting instead the idea of individual pleas to the better judgement of managers and employers.
This fits with the current PSC strategy of spending much time and resource on ‘lobbying’ to ‘change the minds’ of MPs and MEPs, who are then allocated ‘good’ or ‘bad’ status according to whether they’re happy to sign up to one of the aforementioned Early Day Motions or similar. Instead of mobilising the real power of the British people from the street and demanding that the British state withdraw its support from Israel, many in the PSC leadership would like us to confine ourselves to going cap in hand to parliamentarians and asking them to be nicer.
And if nasty MPs, like those unreasonable employers who say no to trade unionists, decline to sign up to a ‘please be nicer to the poor Palestinians’ request? Well, we tried. Come back next year!
On a more optimistic note, despite the bullocking from the Executive Committee and their trade-union and Labour party friends, around a third of those present voted in favour of the resolution, and many members went away determined to discuss the issue in their branches. We hope they will make the arguments in favour there and come back determined to change the organisation’s policy next year.
Full text of the resolution follows.
No cooperation with war crimes: step up the campaign
In the last year, many important developments have taken place, which on the one hand make the work of actively opposing Israel’s war crimes more urgent, and on the other have created an atmosphere that is more receptive to our message.
In this context, conference notes the passing at the Stop the War conference of a motion calling on the coalition to “take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible”. This resolution included a detailed programme of activities that could take this work forward, some of which the PSC has already been taking the lead in.
Conference notes the attack on those condemning war crimes that was embodied in the draconian sentences handed down to the Gaza protestors. Congress further notes that these sentences were aimed not only at discouraging muslim youth from political activism, but also at dividing the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements along racial lines, and branding Palestine solidarity as a ‘muslim’, rather than a human rights or anti-imperialist issue.
Conference condemns the murder by Israeli commandos of ten solidarity activists (nine at the time and one who died later) aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May, despite the fact that the UN had called for the ships to be allowed to pass. Conference notes the UN’s recent findings that these murders were illegal – another war crime to add to the many being committed daily against the Palestinian people.
Conference commends the excellent work done by PSC in getting an enhanced boycott motion passed at the TUC following the flotilla attack, and notes that the acceptance of much stronger language than previously used reflects the sea change in the attitude of many ordinary British workers towards Israel.
Conference further notes that in the atmosphere of international outrage that followed the flotilla murders, even Israeli-friendly politicians such as Cameron and Hague were forced to make statements condemning both the murders and the siege on Gaza.
Conference reaffirms its support for all those who have taken the lead in active non-cooperation over the past year, in particular for the EDO Decommissioners, for the Gaza protestors, and for the many British participants in siege-busting missions by land and sea to Gaza.
Conference notes that the landmark acquittal in the case of the Decommissioners can only facilitate more actions of this kind, since it not only sets a legal precedent, but is a reflection of the general sense of disgust against Israeli war crimes.
Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s support for the criminal Israeli state, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work. Conference therefore calls on the incoming steering committee to work with Stop the War and any other organisations that are willing in taking the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:
- Putting on a fundraising concert to draw attention to the Gaza prisoners’ plight and to raise money towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
- Giving full backing, including maximum possible publicity, to all those groups or individuals, whether affiliated to PSC or not, who, like the EDO Decommissioners and the Raytheon activists, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent the many crimes of the occupation, including: the frequent bombings and shootings of civilians; the destruction of Palestinian homes, farms, schools, hospitals, mosques and churches; the crippling siege of Gaza; the building of the apartheid wall, and the seizure of ever more land in Jerusalem and the West Bank for jewish-only settlement construction.
- Building on our existing campaign inside the unions to draw attention to Israeli war crimes, and the complicity of the British government and corporations in those crimes, with the aim of passing in each of them, and then at the TUC, motions condemning those crimes and calling on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission, whether it be by making or moving munitions or other equipment, writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of Israel’s war machine.
- Building on the excellent PSC campaign to draw attention to pro-Israeli propaganda in Panorama and working with such groups as Media Lens (see, for example, their recent alert drawing attention to the media’s total bypassing of evidence revealing Israel’s starvation policy in Gaza) and others to draw in as many members and supporters as possible to an ongoing campaign to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising Israeli war crimes.
- Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where Israeli war criminals can get no peace, through the campaign on universal jurisdiction, through holding protests, through citizens’ arrests and through all other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to file charges and draw attention to the crimes of Israeli military, government and corporate leaders – and those in Britain who back them politically or financially.
The following motion is being submitted by the CPGB-ML to the upcoming Stop the War national conference.
We believe that the proposed programme of action is both necessary and achieveable. We therefore call on all anti-imperialists and anti-war campaigners to give it the widest possible circulation in order to generate discussion and to mobilise support for this important work.
Individually, we may be powerless, but together, we do have the power to stop imperialism’s criminal wars.
CPGB-ML resolution to StW conference, October 2010
This conference notes the passing last year of a motion calling on the coalition “to do all in its power to promote a movement of industrial, political and military non-cooperation with all of imperialism’s aggressive war preparations and activities among British working people“.
Since that resolution was passed, many important developments have taken place, which on the one hand make this work more urgent, and on the other have created an atmosphere that is more receptive to our message.
Conference notes the attack on those condemning war crimes that was embodied in the draconian sentences handed down to the Gaza protestors. Congress further notes that these sentences were aimed not only at discouraging muslim youth from political activism, but also at dividing the anti-war and Palestine solidarity movements along racial lines, and branding Palestine solidarity as a ‘muslim’ issue.
Conference condemns the murder by Israeli commandos of nine solidarity activists aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May, despite the fact that the UN had called for the ships to be allowed to pass. Conference notes the UN’s recent findings that these murders were illegal – another war crime to add to the many being committed daily against the Palestinian people.
Conference further notes that in the atmosphere of international outrage that followed these murders, even Israeli-friendly politicians such as Cameron and Hague were forced to make statements condemning both the murders and the siege on Gaza.
Conference reaffirms its support for all those who have taken the lead in active non-cooperation over the past year, in particular for Joe Glenton, for the EDO Decommissioners, for the Gaza protestors, and for the many British participants in siege-busting missions by land and sea to Gaza.
Conference notes that the landmark acquittal in the case of the Decommissioners can only facilitate more actions of this kind, since it not only sets a legal precedent, but is a reflection of the general sense of disgust against Israeli war crimes in particular.
Conference reaffirms its belief that the majority of people in Britain are opposed to British imperialism’s wars, and considers that the time is ripe to make active non-cooperation a central theme of our work. Conference therefore calls on the incoming steering committee to take the line of non-cooperation into as many arenas as possible, including:
- Putting on a fundraising concert to draw attention to the Gaza prisoners’ plight and to raise money towards a campaign to overturn their convictions.
- Approaching Joe Glenton to take part in a national speaking tour against cooperation with the Afghan war.
- Giving full backing, including maximum possible publicity, to all those groups or individuals, whether affiliated to the Coalition or not, who, like the EDO Decommissioners, the Raytheon activists and Joe Glenton, are targeted by the state for refusing to cooperate with, or for actively attempting to prevent, the illegal wars and bombings waged and backed by British imperialism.
- Stepping up the campaign outside army recruitment centres and at army recruitment stalls in schools, colleges and universities, drawing attention to the war crimes committed by the British armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Launching a full campaign inside the unions to draw attention to British, US and Israeli war crimes, with the aim of passing in each of them, and then at the TUC, motions condemning those crimes and calling on workers to refuse to cooperate in their commission, whether it be by making or moving munitions or other equipment, writing or broadcasting propaganda, or helping in any other way to smooth the path of the war machine.
- Following the excellent example set by PSC (eg, the campaign to draw attention to pro-Israeli propaganda in Panorama) and Media Lens (eg, alerts drawing attention to the media’s cover-up of war crimes committed in Fallujah) and working with these and others to draw in as many members and supporters as possible to an ongoing campaign to hold the media to account for their pivotal role in apologising for, covering up and normalising British, US and Israeli war crimes.
- Continuing and increasing the work already done to make Britain a place where war criminals, whether US, British or Israeli, can get no peace, through holding protests, through citizens’ arrests and through all other available channels, including using local, national and international courts to file charges and draw attention to their crimes.
CPGB-ML members were in Manchester on Sunday (12 September) for the National Shop Stewards Network rally outside the TUC conference, and attended a NSSN fringe meeting held afterwards.
The rally called on the TUC to get serious about organising a fight-back against public-sector cuts, pay and pensions attacks, privatisation etc. So far, Brendan Barber’s laughable response to the proposed all-out assault on British workers’ pay, pensions and public services has been to call for a demonstration (not any industrial action) to be organised for … next March! Thus politely giving the government time to implement its cuts, slash pay and pensions and lay off thousands of public-sector workers.
‘Fair’ cuts? NO cuts! Take the fight to capitalism. (CPGB-ML leaflet)
Bob Crow and several other speakers at the rally made the point that blaming the Tories for the cuts, or putting hopes in electing a Labour government as the solution, was a total waste of time. The unions have been spinning that yarn for 50-60 years, he said, and this is where we’ve ended up as a result. He called for the unions not to get sidetracked into a pointless campaign to get Labour re-elected, but to work together now to coordinate strike action right across the public sector.
At the meeting later, many reps spoke about their experiences in trying to carry out useful work in the teeth of union leadership opposition. One of our party members pointed out that most of the union leaders aren’t interested in giving the leadership their members expect and deserve, but instead excuse their own inaction on the basis of ‘member apathy’.
She pointed to the leaders of her own union, Bectu, as a prime example of this - in particular how they fail to educate members about what the issues really are that face them and how attacks on their pay and pensions in particular might be combatted. Instead, the leadership tell members that they don’t have an interest in fighting against the introduction of the divided conditions that management continually use to erode the pay and pension position of all staff.
She called for the public-sector unions to take the lead in launching a massive campaign to mobilise public awareness and support for their actions in defence of conditions and services, since these actions are in the interest of all of us. This is particularly important given the current stranglehold of the corporate media on people’s consciousness, since those media are universally hostile to attempts by the working class to resist attacks - constantly seeking to demonise and divide workers and brand them as lazy, greedy etc.
Our member also made the point that as well as coordinating action (something that many reps there were calling for) between unions, so we strike together as much as possible, we should be breaking the anti-union laws en masse - since the current legal framework is explicitly designed to render industrial action useless in achieving its aim of defending workers’ conditions and protecting public services.
Judging by the applause that greeted this point in a packed meeting of union reps from all over the country, this isn’t an unpopular position as far as many rank-and-file members are concerned. It’s the union leaderships who are terrified of losing control of their asset portfolios, or losing their respectable status as important members of the establishment.
Meanwhile, at the TUC yesterday (14 September), a limited motion was passed against the anti-union laws. It was a composite of several, and was supported by Bectu, among others, following the adoption at the last Bectu congress of a motion calling on the NEC to work with other unions to build a mass campaign to DEFY the anti-union laws.
Typically, the resulting joint unions motion to the TUC was totally toothless. Its main substance merely being to call on MPs to back a bill in parliament that might stop the courts from being quite so harsh in how they interpret the current legal framework.
About the need to dismantle that framework completely there was nothing but a ritual reference. About the need to defy the laws in the meantime, there was not a dicky-bird, although there was a slightly coded call from Bob Crow for the unions to do just that.
Calling for consistency in industrial strategy Mr Crow added to rapturous applause: “It’s no good walking down to Tolpuddle and then next week debating whether to engage in civil disobedience to oppose the cuts.
“If it’s good enough for the Tolpuddle Martyrs 160 years ago it should be good enough for us today.”
We would add the following points:
In order for our unions to put up any kind of a fight in defence of pay, pensions and services, workers are going to have to radically transform these currently ineffectual institutions. Either pressure from below will see new, militant leaderships emerge, or the current leaders will find their members deserting in droves to set up new fighting organisations, willing and able to take on the employers head-on.
A vital part of this campaign to transform our unions is the campaign to break the link with the imperialist Labour party, whose suffocating control of most career trade unionists is responsible for their complete inability to act in their members’ best interests. Instead, they act as one more layer of policemen for the ruling class - controlling, diverting and dampening down the growing anger and militancy of workers on the shop floor.
Most of all, workers in Britain need to belatedly wake up and realise that while we continue to confine our struggle to aiming after the best possible conditions for selling our labour power under capitalism, we will never achieve job, housing, health, education or pension security.
All the concessions won when the welfare state was set up 60 years ago are being taken away; it will take a massive, coordinated and extremely militant fight just to get back to where we were then - and as soon as we are there, the whole process of attacking them will start again.
There is only one way to guarantee a peaceful, secure, civilised and sustainable existence for our children and grandchildren - and that is to get rid of this destructive, parasitic, polluting system and build a socialist society in its place.