Friday, 29 June 2012

Tamesider Steve Acheson addresses UNITE Conference

Steve Acheson today (28th, June), received a deserved standing ovation at UNITE policy conference in Brighton when moving the successful motion on blacklisting.

The motions and amendments (passed unanimously) call upon the UNITE Executive to:

1)  organise industrial action in support of blacklisted members

2)  support the demand by John mcDonnell MP and Michael Meacher MP for a Public Inquiry and raise the issue with the TUC and their sponsored MPs

3)  use their political influence to have firms guilty of blacklisting to be removed from contracts.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Barclays' Bank Bosses Do It Dodgy, as do others!

BARCLAYS Bank has been fined £290 million for manipulating the Libor (London internet bank offered rate) rate.  On April 18th, 2008, the Financial Times (FT) lead story was 'Builders accused of price fixing' when more than 100 building companies were alleged to have pixed prices and local authorities were demanding refunds for overcharging in rigged bids.  On the 26, June 1937, the National Labor Relations Board in Washington lodged formal charges against Ford Motor Company for three violations under the Wagner Act:
1)  Interference with employees' exercise for collective bargaining.
2)  Domination of the employee organisation known as the Ford Brotherhood.
3)  The discriminating discharge of employees because of activities on behalf of the United Automobile Workers.

 None of these cases will not suprise any active trade unionist connected with the British building trade or the Blacklist Support Group which is right now presenting evidence of blacklisting in this country to various select parliamentary committees.  At the time of the price fixing by construction companies in 2008, Andrew Hill in the F.T. wrote:  'If there wasn't a cartel in the construction industry before, there is now ... Scores of builders are singing the same tune:  "OK, if we did it, either it wasn't illegal, or it didn't harm anybody, and in any case we stopped doing it ages ago.  Oh, and by the way, if you do fine us - go easy".'  

Now were have we heard that before? 

The companies involved in the 2008 price fixing swindling the tax payers included the same bunch as were later to appear affiliated to and funding the illegal data base of the Consulating Association run by Ian Kerr who pleaded guilty at Knutsford Crown Court to managing an unlicenced illegal data base - that some describe as a 'blacklist'.  The companies charged by the Office of Fair Trading included big operators like Balfour Beatty and Carillion.  In the historical case of Ford Motor Company in the US in 1937, the company was accused of being guilty of acts of violence against 14 members of the Committee for Industrial Organisation on May 26, 1937, when Richard Frankensteen, CIO organiser, Walter Reuther, president of the local union, and others were beaten up as they were distributing handbills at the Ford Rouge plant.

Nothing quite so confrontational has been carried out against the trade unionists in this country, but lives have been all but ruined by the blacklist none the less.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Claimants challenge government's forced labour scheme in the courts!

ON Tuesday (26/6/12), lawyers acting for two claimants, challenged the legality of the government's forced labour scheme known as the 'Work Programme'. Cait Reilly 23, a geology graduate from Kings Heath, Birmingham, and Jamieson Wilson 41, also from the Midlands, are asking the High Court to declare the programme unlawful.   
Nathalie Leven QC, who is representing both claimants, told the court that Reilly had given up a voluntary post in a museum to take the unpaid placement at Poundland because she'd been told by the Jobcentre, that she would lose her £53.45 a week Jobseeker's Allowance if she didn't do the placement. She said that Ms. Reilly had been been illegally forced to take part in the scheme under the 'menace of penalty' which amounted to a form of forced labour, which breached article four of the European convention on human rights. The court heard that Reilly had been made to do 'menial work', which involved sweeping floors and stacking shelves, which did not contribute to her search for work to any extent. She'd also been promised a job interview with Poundland if she completed her two week training, but this never materialised. The Court was told that Poundland was a successful firm with a turnover of £500m and that Reilly's placement, did not contribute to the public interest.
The court heard that Wilson, a trained mechanical engineer and an HGV driver, (who had been unemployed since 2008), had been put on the 'Community Action Programme' and had been expected to work unpaid for six months washing and cleaning furniture, for an unnamed organisation. He'd refused to attend the programme and had been stripped of his benefits and was now relying on friends and family to survive. 
Nathalie Leven told the court that thousands of people who'd been put on the unpaid schemes had no access to information setting out what they had been expected to do. This failure by the government to make information publicly available, meant that claimants did not know their rights. She pointed out that as regards Ms. Reilly, had she had access to information, she could have told her advisor that she could not have been sanctioned if she didn't agree to start the scheme. Consequently, under the 2009 Welfare Reform Act almost half a dozen of the DWP's schemes, were operating illegally and the way they were administered, was 'blatantly unlawful'. (See press release from Public Interest Lawyers).Paul Nichols QC, who is presenting the case for the government, told the court that if the 'Jobseekers' won their review, the government's employment strategy would be in disarray. He said:
'The only effect of such provision is that a person needs to do the required acts in order to be paid benefit. They are not forced to do those acts.' 
Although the case is expected to end on Wednedsday, a judgement will be given in due course. For further updates see the link to 'Boycott Workfare' available on this blog.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Link4Life Bosses: pay rises?

                  Willy Eckerslike Seeks Solace In Sophistry!____

Willy Eckerslike cartoon above is from the printed version of
Northern Voices 13.

Link4Life bosses, Managing Director Craig McAteer and his deputy Peter Kilkenny, saw their pay rise by 70% in 4 years according to Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk.  Mr. Danczuk told Parliament that he had been sent an anonymous letter detailing the pay increases.  He said it claimed the MD, Craig McAteer was paid £69,000 in 2006 and this had now risen to £120,000, meanwhile his deputy, Peter Kilkenny had started on £73,000 and this had gone up to £90,000 in 3 years.  Previously this year, Link4Life had admitted McAteer and Kilkenny had had pay rises but no precise figures were forthcoming.  Last week, the Rochdale Observer asked Link4Life for a comment but they hadn't replied before the paper went to press.

The Summer issue of Northern Voices carries an article by Touchstones Challenge campaigner, Debbie Firth, questioning the management of the arts and heritage in Rochdale by Link4Life.  She was particularly concerned about the cuts in funding to the arts.  We asked her to comment on these recent revelations and Debbie said:  'I am very concerned that a "not for profit" organisation can justify paying it's director a 70 % salary increase over 3 years whilst making front line staff redundant. How can this be justified?'

As for the allegations divulged by Simon Danczuk in Parliament to the Communities & Local Government Select Committee last week, Debbie Firth said:  'I am glad that Rochdale's MP Simon Danczuck is taking this issue seriously and asking for transparency' but she added  'Yet again, Link 4 Life have not publicly disclosed these figures ,and the trustees themselves have declined to share this information with the people of Rochdale.' 

Ms. Firth then issued a challenge:  'If Link 4 Life directors and their trustees believe that such salary increases are fair at a time when Arts and heritage services are being cut, then surely they would be more than happy to disclose the figures themselves.'

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

'Hodgson has always been good at making players play above their level,' says former Rochdale editor

LAST week, John Walker, a former editor of the controversial journal of the 1970s the 'Rochdale Alternative Paper' (RAP), e-mailed Northern Voices to say 'Hodgson has always been good at making average players play above their level' and 'the Euros have been a good example for him to put his forte to work'.  John Walker, a lad from London who came to Rochdale in the 1970s became a editor and founder of RAP while lecturing at Rochdale College.  While in London he was at school with Roy Hodgeson, and when Hodgeson was made England manager he did an interview on Radio 4 in which John worried that Hodgeson may get done-over in the media if the team didn't perform well in the Euro competion.  This week, after England's defeat to Italy 4-2 on penalty kicks, Roy Hodgson said penalty kicks become an obsession in English soccer, but he admitted there was no way to reproduce the tired legs and pressure of penalties during training. 

George Orwell's letter to a Northern lass

Can a Fascist have a case?

TO me there always seems to be a contrast between how Spaniards and Catalans view the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, and how others interpret it.  Particularly, I feel this at events in this country of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, where one often experiences a  romanticising of what Orwell once called the 'Spanish War'.  Somehow such occasions come over as museum pieces of a bygone age in terms on the Spain of today, and British anarchist meetings on this subject are often little better.  What seems to be going on here is that a historical narrative is being imposed that lacks a sociological or anthropological context. 
At the Paul Preston event on the 28th, April, at the Manchester People's History Museum (see earlier posting below), I questioned the claim that life in Spain had been unbearable in the 1960s and 1970s under General Franco, because I was living and working as an electrician for Casa Such in Denia and delivering bottles of Butano gas to the villages of Cabo San Antonio in Alicante.  It was not easy being a family living on a weekly wage of 750 pesetas but I would not say it was unbearable.  For the ordinary Spaniard in the 1960s, life and material conditions were tolerable in 1963 and getting better, the only thing is that for political opponents of the Spanish regime one would read in the foreign press of arrests and executions being carried out.  Both Professor Paul Preston and his colleague Helen Graham at the Manchester People's History Museum, in answer to my query, accepted that life in Spain in the 1960s and 70s, was vastly better than in the 1940s and 1950s but claimed that a shadow of fear was still hanging over the Spaniards.

Their argument however remains, that Franco was a monster like the other regimes committed to Fascism in the 1930s, Hitler and Mussolini.  Paul Preston is anxious that Franco mustn't be let off by the historians, and he feels that he has had too good a press as a benevolent dictator.

Yet, it is as well to note that the Spaniards and Catalans don't always welcome commemoration dedicated to the International Brigades; Colm Tóibín in his book 'Homage to Barcelona' (1990) writes:  'In October 1988 a statute of David and Goliath was unveiled in the outskirts of the city (Barcelona) to commemorate the International Brigades who fought on the Republican side in the Civil War, on the fiftieth anniversary of their departure from Spain.'  Both the Catalan Government and the local authorities were not keen to host the event.  In the end the socialist Mayor of Barcelona, Pasqual Maragall, spoke in Catalan and French and then in English, he talked of the need for reconciliation in his country and of the need not to humiliate the other side:  'They too had their ideals,' he said in English.  The novelist Colm Tóibín writes that there was a stunned silence among the foreign veterans.

Do Fascists have ideals? 

On August 1st, 1937, George Orwell wrote to Amy Charlesworth, from Flixton, near Manchester, answering her query about the Spanish rebels and the Fascists.  I will quote his reply at length because it offers a clear insight into why some Spaniards may have supported the rebels:
'You asked about the situation in Spain, and whether the rebels had not a case.  I should not say that the rebels had no case, unless you believe that it is always wrong to rebel against a legally-established government, which in practice nobody does.  Roughly speaking I should say that the rebels stand for two things that are more or less contradictory - for of course Franco's side, like the Government side, consists of various parties who frequently quarrel bitterly among themselves.  They stand on the one hand for an earlier form of society, feudalism, the Roman Catholic Church and so forth, and on the other hand for Fascism, which means an immensely regimented and centralised form of government, with certain features in common with Socialism, in that it means suppression of a good deal of private property and private enterprise, but always ultimately in the interest of bigger capitalists, and therefore completely unsocialistic.  I am wholeheartedly against both these ideas, but it is fair to say that a case can be made out for both of them  Some Catholic writers such as Chesterton, Christopher Dawson etc., can make out a very appealing though not logically convincing case for a more primitive form of society.  I would not say that there is any case for Fascism itself, but I do think there is a case for many individual Fascists....  Roughly speaking I would say the Fascism has appeal for certain simple and decent people who genuinely want to see justice done to the working class and do not grasp that they are being used as tools by the big capitalists.  It would be absurd to imagine that every man on Franco's side is a demon...'

I got my first job in Spain by applying to the local office of the Falangist (Fascist) sindicato in June 1963, a Senor Paris was the functionary and he directed me to the Casa Such on the Calle Real (main Street) in Denia.  By the 1960s, according Gerald Brennan in his book 'The Face of Spain', the supporters of the right-wing in Spain had begun to moderate their behaviour simply because economic conditions had improved and there were by that time opportunities for successful speculation in real estate especially on the Costa's and in the tourist areas.


Monday, 25 June 2012

'We are the supreme race, not these white bastards', declared Mr Ahmed from Oldham

THE boss of a Rochdale sex grooming gang and one of nine men convicted at Liverpool Crown Court last month of sexual grooming of vulnerable girls in Rochdale between 2008 and 20010, Shabir Ahmed, told Court at his recent trial that 'we are a civilised society, we are the supreme race not these white bastards (pointing to police officers in court)' (see last Saturday's Rochdale Observer).  Mr. Ahmed, a 59-year-old Pakistani born, father of four and former delivery driver at a Heywood takeaway, who had previously not been named can now be named after Judge Mushtaq Khokhar, in the more recent case, lifted the ban on publication of his identity. 

In this latest case Ahmed was found guilty of 30 counts of rape, but the jury was not told of his involvement in the Rochdale child sex grooming scandal until Ahmed went into the witness box and told the jury of a bid to persuade them he was the victim of a racist conspiracy.  Mr. Ahmed, formerly of Winsor Road, Oldham, denied all the charges, insisting the victim had made her story up.  The girl in this case had originally gone to the police and who had decided not to prosecute, but after Mr. Ahmed's arrest in the Rochdale scandal they went back to the victim and she gave 'graphic' details of the abuse which she believes led to a pregnancy that later miscarried.  Mr. Ahmed will be sentenced on August 2nd.

From the dock, Ahmed launched into a passionate volley of accusations saying, apparently to the police:  'You will not get a CBE ... you will get a DM, a destroyer of Muslims.'  He continued:  'You destroyed my community and our children', adding 'White people trained those girls to be so much advanced in sex ... they were coming without hesitation to Rochdale, Oldham, Bradford, Leeds and Nelson and wherever.'    It is hard to view these comments without coming to the conclusion that racial and community relations are in a poor state in the North of England, and yet some local politicians seem to want to deny the obvious.

Blacklist Support Future Events

Its very busy at the moment and here are the main bits and pieces that have been happening on the campaign in the past week or so.

High Court claim:
It looks certain that the claim being prepared by Guney Clark & Ryan solicitors is going to start in earnest within the next few weeks - so watch this space.
And remember we might all be needed to come to the High Court on one day to get onto the TV news.

GMB Report:
GMB are in dispute with Carillion in Swindon. They have produced a report about Carillion's role in the blacklisting scandal (attached) and are talking about taking a separate High Court claim. The GMB are actually sending letters to some people who don't realise they are on the blacklist - so we may get a new spate of court cases coming up soon.

Scottish Affairs Select Committee:
The Westminster based Select Committee is carrying out an investigation into blacklisting that is going to last a few months. So far Maria Fyfe MP, Dave Smith, Francie Graham and Steuart Merchant have all given evidence. It is certain that other blacklisted workers (especially those with a Scottish link) will be brought in to give evidence. They definitely intend to drag in some of the managers that named & shamed in earlier evidence including Gerry Harvey, Director of Balfour Beatty

Police Collusion:
We have had meetings with Christian Khan solicitors regarding a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) about the police supplying info to the blacklist as exposed in the Observer newspaper. If you have information on your file that could not have come from the press or a manager on a building site but looks like it was supplied by the police - please get in touch. We are hoping RMT and possibly UNITE will fund this.

Tony Jones Employment Tribunal:
Tony's ET claim was recently thrown out at Pre-Hearing Review stage because it was deemed "out of time" by Judge Brain (who has thrown out virtually every case so far). Tony is being hounded for costs but we expect UNITE to pay these.
UCATT Conference passed a composite motion calling for a public inquiry into blacklisting. We hope this makes its way to the TUC Conference. In addition Brian Higgins and John Jones met Steve Murphy (new UCATT General Secretary) this week to discuss the ongoing campaign (more in-depth report to follow).

Unite Conference next week in Brighton has got a motion on the agenda about blacklisting including the call for a public inquiry. Plus there are 2 blacklisting fringe meetings.

European Parliament:
Glenis Willmott MEP has had correspondence from the EU Commissioner Laslo Andor that new blacklisting legislation is not on the European Commissions agenda at the moment. It may still be on the horizon because the European parliament passed a report supporting an anti-blacklisting amendment earlier in the year.

Media interest:
We are getting a lot of media interest at the moment - some from the quality press, some from TV - so once again, anyone up for it, pass over your details - and hopefully we can drag the blacklisters through the mud. Blacklisted politicians, journalists and academics, GMB Report, Select Committee and imminent High Court claim are making them take a bit of notice.

Tollpuddle Festival:
Anyone going to Tollpuddle Festival this year?  It would be good to have a Blacklist Support Group contingent on the march.

Blacklist Support Group

Plastic Mountains Down South?

OLYMPIANS MOVE MOUNTAINS:  To make it look more rural, rumour has it that they are going to make green plastic hills for a mountain biking event!  These games are 99% London-centric.  Reminds me of the millions wasted on the millennium celebrations down there, while up in Eccles, Greater Manchester we did not have a functioning public toilet for 11 weeks.  No one told these organizers that thousands come to watch the Tour de France over its huge distance.  Ignorance also about the great hotels, b.+ bs, eating places and coach companies in Britain's mountain areas.  An argument against having bike races up here is that some of the traffic jams around the mountains last along as ten minutes(Olympic quip).  Do not also tell the organizers that most Londoners are dreading the chaos to come.  Research suggests that the cycle racing will be at Hadleigh Farm where they have covered it with rubble to look 'mountainy'.  I think thats in the area of Hadleigh Wood, on the Hertfordshire border one of Greater London's poshest neighborhoods.  That should keep us Northern oiks away.

martin g.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Five Alternative Theatres Down South!

Mika Ross-Southall, writes in the Financial Times of the first Elizabethan open-air Theatres:  'Behind a pub in Shoreditch east London, the remains of the Curtain - believed to be the the second purpose built theatre in London - have recently been discovered by archaeologists from the Museum of London who believe the site is one of the best preserved examples of Elizabethan theatre in Britain (Built in 1577).'  Others include the 'Theatre (1576-1597):  built by James Burbage... the Theatre became the playhouse of the Lord Chamberlain's Men' when the lease expired it was dismantled by the Burbages and relocated and rebuilt as the Globe in 1599.  The Globe (1599-present) was located near the Rose, and was made from reused timber of the Theatre, though this did burn down during when the thatch roof caught fire during a performance of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII. A new Globe was built on the same foundations with an audience capacity of 3,000 and a tiled roof.  In 1997, a reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe was opened with a production of Henry V.  The Rose (1587-1606):  built by Philip Henslowe in 1587, south of the River Thames on Bankside.  It had three tiers and an audience capacity of around 2,000.  The Swan (1595-1600s):  Built in 1595 on Bankside, it was the biggest theatre in London and the only playhouse with a surviving pictorial record of its interior.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Six O' the Best Northern Theatres & the need for the Arts in the North

Christopher Draper in Northern Voices 13, now on sale, tried to judge the best theatres in the North, many serious politically minded people dismiss these kind of articles on the arts and northern cooking in Northern Voices as trivial, but earlier this month Simon Schama wrote a piece in the Financial Times on William Shakespeare arguing that 'almost before there was a true political and institutional "England", there was a theatre of England.'    Some folk will say, and have said, that we are wasting space filling up our publication with stuff on films, gardening, regional beer, or tea time treats, when we could be analysing the economy and the national deficit. 

Simon Schama writes of the Bard:  'Shakespeare would not be the great poet-philosopher he is were he not to have spoken to the universal condition of humanity, but in the beginning he didn't address himself to humanity at large but to the English.'   It was a need for identity of place that he address himself to in an England that was not yet then fully born.  Schama argues persuasively that:  'This peculiar sense of English belonging, kindled in the theatre and then projected on to the streets, fields and villages of the country, had begun in the time of the first Elizabeth, and Shakespeare was its great virtuoso.'

Thus, Northern Voices (NV) commits half of the coverage in its journal to our Northern culture, food, drink, history and the arts.  That it why we supported the Touchstones Challenge campaign to protect the arts in Rochdale; listed the Manchester & Salford Film Co-op; reviewed the 'Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer' Ford Madox Brown exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery; interviewed Eddy Hopkinson on his second-hand bookstall on Church Street in Manchester; backed the Tameside TUC campaign for a Blue Plaque for Spanish Civil War hero, James Keogh in Ashton-under-Lyne; as well as surveying the clash of the classes in Sheffield in the 19th Century and covered a football story on Glossop North End in N.V.10.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:

Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)

Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at

c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.


Scottish Affairs Select Committee deliberates on the blacklist and the blacklisters

MPs today (Tues 19th June) heard the call for managers who blacklisted and ruined the lives of workers to face custodial sentences. The call came from Francie Graham and Steuart Merchant at the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting in employment.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Merchant, both blacklisted electricians from Dundee, gave oral evidence to the Select Committee chaired by Ian Davidson MP about their experiences of blacklisting by the notorious Consulting Association. After many years of repeated unexplained dismissals, unemployment and strains on family life due to the illegal conspiracy by major building contractors, the pair told the committee:  'Now is the time for justice'.

Watch the evidence:

The evidence covered a wide range of issues including blacklisting of union safety representatives, the offshore industry, major Scottish projects and Scottish firms including Balfour Beatty (whose Director, Gerry Harvey was outed last week at the Select Committee for attending the Consulting Association meetings in Scotland).  The pair also raised the issue of the Joint Industry Board (J.I.B.) the national partnership agreement between unions and employers in the electrical contracting industry and its possible role in the blacklisting of workers.  The pair criticised the current Blacklisting Regulations for having no teeth and called for senior managers and Directors who carried out the blacklisting to be jailed. A Report published in 2011 by the Justice Select Committee chaired by Alan Beith called for custodial sentences for those guilty of the most serious breaches of misuse of personal sensitive information.

The Select Committee investigation into blacklisting is expected to last 6 months and the evidence sessions involving Directors and senior managers accused of blacklisting are keenly awaited.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.
email: ______________________________________________________

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Link4Life in Rochdale: A Child of the Enlightenment?

DOUBTS about Link4Life's committment to the spirit of Voltaire and the Enlightenment in the arts, will continue following the decision of Link4Life boss, Peter Kilkenny, to refuse to stock the current issue of Northern Voices in the shop at Touchstones in Rochdale Town Centre.  Touchstones bookshop had sold copies of the previous issue of Northern Voices with our review of the Liam Spencer exhibition in last year, but this year they returned Northern Voices 13 having read the mildly critical article by Debbie Firth of the Touchstones Challenge campaign group, dealing with what she thought was a Link4Life managerial bias against the arts in Rochdale.

This is disappointing as Northern Voices 13 carried an interview with Sylvia Lancaster, the mother of Sophie Lancaster, the murdered 'Goth girl' and new romantic, from up Bacup.  It also included a review/ excerpts from Catherine Smyth's book 'Weirdo, Mosher, Freak: the murder of sophie lancaster', which is on sale in Touchstones Bookshop.  In the 1970s, the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP), according one of its former editors, John Walker, had some difficulties getting the reference library to stock that paper in what is now Touchstones but was then the Rochdale Central Library.  The difficulties were overcome at that time, because the local librarian stood up to the politicians who wanted to exclude that controversial local publication. 

In Rochdale town centre, copies of Northern Voices 13 with Debbie Firth's article in, is available at Gallery Number Ten at 10, Bailie Street, and at Martin's News in the Rochdale Bus station.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:

Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)

Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at

c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.


Monday, 18 June 2012

Xenophobia in Our Time

Cultural Conflicts from George Orwell to Jack Straw

COMMENTING on the relations between the American troops stationed in England during the Second World War and the attitudes of the ordinary Englishman, George Orwell in his Letter from England to the Partisan Review (9 January 1942) wrote:  'The cultural differences are very deep, perhaps irreconcilable, and the Americans obviously have the profoundest contempt for England, rather like the contempt which the ordinary lowbrow Englishman has for the Latin races.'  The idea that ordinary folk of all nations will love each other at sight, Orwell says 'is not backed up by experience' and, he writes that the 'popular good will towards the U.S.S.R. in this country partly depends on the fact that few Englishmen have ever seen a Russian.'

Awareness of this deep cultural xenophobia lies not far beneath the surface of the current exchanges in the views of local social service staff; northern politicians; police and other pundits, following the sentencing last month of nine Asian men to a total of 77 years last month for grooming five young girls in Rochdale and Heywood:  we have had a former Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who has said that certain elements in the Asian communities regard vulnerable white girls as 'easy meat', and Labour Councillor, Colin Lambert, Rochdale Council Leader, dismissing this and telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that 'I think it is all too easy to badge this crime (in that way, as one of race) ...'  Councillor Lambert also denied the suggestion that fear of offending the Asian community had stopped the authorities in Rochdale from tackling the problem earlier saying:  'We would never in our authority back away from taking decisions because of the nature of someone's sex or colour of skin.'

Elsewhere, as reported in last Saturday's Rochdale Observer, the Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, last week during a debate in Parliament on protecting vulnerable children said:  'The perpetrators sometimes referred to the girls as prostitutes, and it was interesting that some of the social service staff referred to them in the same way.'  The costs of an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration protesting against these matters in the centre of Rochdale just over a week ago, was estimated in the Rochdale Observer to have been £500,000 in terms of police time and lost business to local shops in the town.

Friday, 15 June 2012

National Shop Stewards Network on a Wild Goose Chase

The National Shop Stewards Network met in London for its annual national conference last Saturday 9 June, proclaiming that it is taking place at a crucial time and all trade unionists should try to attend this event.   It declared:  'Now the task is to build mass action against the cuts and attacks, with trade union industrial action at the centre. Solidarity with our brothers and sisters across Europe is essential, as is how to build for the 20th October TUC "A future that works" demonstration and ensure that is followed with decisive action not just rhetoric.'

It is always a sign that the British trade unions are starting to flag when they have to turn to the European example.  All the indications are that the campaign against the cuts in this country is tailing off and that the government will get its pension reforms through.  This month, the anarchist paper, FREEDOM reported:  'The trade unions' great struggle to stop the government from stealing public sector pensions has been and gone with barely a whisper it seems, as participation winds down following the 10th, May walkout.'

It now looks like the young syndicalists around Dave Chapple, Secretary of Bridgewater TUC and the former national Chair of the NSSN, and the other independent socialists, who left the National NSSN steering committee last year on account of the Socialist Party's obsession with the campaign against the cuts, got it right.  Increasingly, the campaigns against the cuts in this country look like a wild goose chase, and the trade union's inconclusive demos and marching together is, if anything, undermining morale among rank and file workers.

Compared to the electrician's campaign against Besna and the blacklist, the National Shop Stewards Network's efforts look like political 'rhetoric'.  The NSSN failure to develop a serious grassroots movement, when it went into competition with the Socialist Workers' Party in an adventure in tub thumping political show business against the cuts, was a  critical mistake.  A writer in the June issue of FREEDOM comments:  'What is missing in the union equation is leverage.  Without it, begging loudly is still begging and, as the law stands, union bosses have no way of providing that leverage.  They are a bankrupt power.'  The political left is also bankrupt.

Northern Radical History Network Final Agenda

I am pleased to announce a change on the afternoon agenda for the second Northern Radical History Network meeting. Instead of me banging on about my pet subject, we will hear about the case of Alice Wheeldon, accused of attempting to assassinate Lloyd-George in 1916 and the campaign around her case by our colleagues from Derby. Martin p.p. NRHN

Revised agenda:

NRHN Agenda: Saturday, 30 June 2012, Town Hall Tavern, Tib Lane, Manchester

1100-1115 Arrivals

1115-1300 MORNING SESSION - Learning from each other.

1115-1145 Round Table: introductions, reports, projects, news sharing by groups and individuals.

1145-1215 Organisational Issues: website and email list administration; organisation of future meetings; future events and projects, AOB.

1215-1300 Steve Higginson: Writing on the Wall and other Liverpool projects.

1300-1400 LUNCH.

1400-1600 AFTERNOON SESSION: Ideas and Arguments.

1400-1445 Paul Salveson: Socialism with a Northern Accent.

1500-1545 Karen Springer: The Alice Wheeldon case.

1545-1600 Meeting Review, Matters Arising, Future Activities.

Here comes a Blacklist of Blacklisters!

Dave Smith gives Evidence to Scottish Affairs Select Committee

Claims that some elected politicians including an MSP were spied on and blacklisted were made in parliament yesterday. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee last Tuesday heard a mammoth 2 hour evidence session from Dave Smith (Secretary, Blacklist Support Group) as part of their ongoing investigation into blacklisting in employment.

As part of his evidence Mr. Smith (himself a blacklisted worker) claimed that a number of elected politicians and at least one MSP had files kept of them by the notorious Consulting Association. Mr Smith was able to make the claim after having been granted a Court Order to view the entire unredacted blacklist as part of his Employment Tribunal against the construction giant Carillion.

Mr. Smith also for the first time "named and shamed" senior managers and Directors of construction firms who had personally taken part in the illegal blacklisting conspiracy

Gerry Harvey—Director of Human Resources Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (formerly Balfour Kilpatrick) attended Consulting Association meetings on behalf of both companies.

Elaine Gallagher—Human Resources manager and “Main Contact” at BBES when contacting Consulting Association.

Liz Keates—Head of Human Resources at Carillion Health.

John Edwards—Carillion invoiced by Consulting Association for attending Consulting Association meetings in May 2008.

John Bull—Head of Human Resources and “Main Contact” at Carillion with Consulting Association.

Alf Lucas—Industrial Relations manager John Mowlem Construction PLC (now Carillion (JM) Ltd).

David Cochrane—Head of Human Resources Sir Robert MacAlpine.

All of these names were backed up with docuemntary evidence including Employent Tribunal judgements, witness statements and invoices from the Consulting Association.

The full evidence given by Mr. Smith is available to view via this link: visuals start at about 10 seconds)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bringing down the curtain on Professor Preston, Anarchism ad the Spanish Civil War

Professor Preston reveals his true colours in Prologue: In Extremis in his book  'Comrades'.   He refers to an act of  'thoughtless cruelty' carried out by FAI  militiamen.    There is an anecdote recounted to Preston by the Catalan politician Miquel  Roca Junyent.   It relates to his maternal grandfather Miquel  Junyent I Rovira - a prominent figure in the Catalan Carlist movement ( ultra-conservative monarchists).    On 22 July 1936 FAI militiamen arrived at Junyents house.   There was no doubt they had hostile intentions.    He had actually died of a heart attack one day previously.   The milicianos insisted on seeing the body.   The housekeeper led them to the open coffin.   On viewing the body one militiaman turned to the others and said 'Bollocks, I told you we should have come yesterday'.   

Preston on the following page juxtaposes anarcho-syndicalists and beyond to perpetrators of anti-clerical atrocities and common criminals.    An association which he repeated at a meeting in Manchester at the Peoples History Museum.    Incidentally in the same book which was lavishly praised by ex Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Portillo in the Sunday Telegraph, Preston described the communist apparatchik Dolores Ibarruri as an "extraordinary woman".    Perhaps Preston should devote his investigative skills to a forensic examination of the muder and torture of POUM and Anarchist militants carried out by the communist dominated Popular Front government of Negrin.

Finally Prestons book 'A Concise History of the Spanish Civil War' is described by the Communist paper the Morning Star in glowing terms.   'It  is an important and valuable contribution to the estimation of the anti fascist war in Spain.'    Prestons books are thus praised by communists and conservatives.    A prime example of a Popular Front if there ever was one!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tameside Council leader Kieran Quinn acts dumb on Carillion!

FOR the last 12 months Kieran Quinn, leader of Tameside MBC, has been boxing clever about controversial issue of the awarding of Council contracts to Carillion - a self-confessed company of blacklisters.  What follows are excerpts from a letter delivered on 3rd, August 2011 to Councillor Quinn, from the Secretary of Tameside TUC, Brian Bamford:

Dear Kieran Quinn,

'We are aware that contracts have been awarded by Tameside MBC to the construction company Carillion.  We are also aware that the Information Commissioner raided the office of the Consulting Association and confiscated ... data in connection with the blacklisting of workers in the British building trade:  many of the workers were active trade unionists.  It was found that Carillion was one of more than 40 firms affiliated to the Consulting Association managed by Mr. Ian Kerr...  Mr Kerr was later found guilty of keeping an illegal data base...  At the last meeting of Tameside TUC concern was expressed that a Labour Council is awarding contracts to a company such as Carillion that has been named as being involved with an organisation illegally collecting data such as the Consulting Association.' 

'Tameside Trade Union Council awaits your response to these concerns and justification for awarding Council contracts to Carillion.'

Yours sincerely,
Brian Bamford:  Secretary of Tameside TUC.

In a case of Dave Smith v Carillion earlier this year solicitors for Carillion admitted that company had been involved in the blacklisting of workers.  Thus far, Councillor Quinn has not replied to the above letter.

Professor Preston and the Spanish Civil War revisited.

PROFESSOR Preston in his biographical essay in 'The Spanish Civil War- Reaction, Revolution and Revenge' sheds some interesting insights into his attitude to the anarchists and George Orwell.   He refers to Orwell's Homage to Catalonia as  a sane, moving but ultimately narrow vision of the May 1937 events in  Barcelona written with a pro POUM stance which has been taken widely and erroneously as an overview of the war which it is not.

In the main body of the book Preston appears to lend credence to communist slanders that the revolutionary collectives in Aragon were 'done at the point of a gun' and 'they were not spontaneous creations of the peasants but imposed by force'.   Elsewhere he concedes that Gaston Leval and Augustin Souchin's eyewitness accounts of the collectives were important anarchist versions.    Scarcely a ringing endorsement of self management and autonomous organisation.

Preston lets the cat out of the bag re his penchant for 'popular frontism' in his introductory discussion of the 'war and social revolution' dichotomy.   He alleges that the debate was used successfully to disseminate the idea that the Stalinist repression of the revolution in Spain led to Franco's dictatorship.    He goes on to say that several works on the Spanish Civil War were sponsored by the CIA funded Congress for Cultural Freedom to promote this idea.  He gratuitously refers to an 'unholy alliance of anarchists, trotskyists and cold war warriors' which obscured the fact that Hitler, Mussolini Franco and Chamberlain were responsible for the Nationalist victory not Stalin.    This technique of the 'amalgalm' is a classic exemplar of Stalinist hagiography.

The evidential basis for Preston's disdain of the anarchists role during the Spanish Civil War is manifestly demonstrated  by many quotations from  Preston's writings.    His book 'Comrades' for example was enthusiastically praised by The Morning Star a communist newspaper.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Trade Union Report on Blacklisting

The GMB union Congress in Brighton has today seen the publication of a new report 'BLACKLISTING - illegal corporate bullying endemic, systemic and deep-rooted in Carillion and other companies'

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said:
'This GMB report pulls back the curtain of secrecy to give a glimpse as to the way that employers like Carillion have illegally used their power and money to blacklist citizens and to deny them their rights to employment.

The report shows that the level of wrong doing and abuse around this blacklisting is the construction industry’s equivalent of phone hacking by newspapers and is equally serious. For far too long, vested interests have sought to ignore these discriminatory activities of Carillion and others. GMB is going to campaign to expose these activities. GMB will call on politicians to bring social justice to the victims of blacklisting by these companies. Carillion and others should apologise and compensate victims who have fallen foul of their illegal activities.'


 GMB report pulls back the curtain of secrecy to give a glimpse as to the way that employers like Carillion have illegally used their power and money to blacklist citizens and to deny them their rights to employment. The Information Commissioner has confirmed that 224 construction workers from around the UK were victims of blacklisting by Carillion. These names, on the files of the blacklisting body The Consulting Association, were released in the course of an Employment Tribunal earlier this year when Carillion was accused of blacklisting a construction worker in London.

The 224 people blacklisted by Carillion were either based in or tried to obtain work in the following areas ( with numbers in the area listed in brackets): Barnsley (1), Birkenhead (2), Blackburn (5), Brentwood (1), Bristol (1), Caernarfon (2), Canvey Island in Essex (1), Chatham in Kent (3), Cheshire (1), Chester (1), Cleator Moor in Cumbria (1), Clwyd (5), Croydon (1), Derby (1), Dundee (1), Edinburgh (2), Ellesmere Port (3), Essex (1), Folkestone (1), Gateshead (1), Glasgow (1), Gravesend (1), Grimsby (1), Hartlepool (2), Hillingdon (1), Irvine (1), Isle of Man (10), Kent (58), Kirkby (1), Leeds (2), Liverpool (14), Livingston (3), Llandudno (1), London (39), Lowestoft (1), Manchester (13), Merseyside (5), Mold (1), North Wales (1), Oldham (1), Plymouth (1), Rayleigh (1), Romford (2), Rotherham (4), Scunthorpe (1), Sheffield (1), Sherburn in Elmet in North Yorkshire (1), Stanford-le-Hope in Essex (2), Sunderland (1), Surrey (1), Thatcham in Berkshire (1), Uxbridge (3), Warrington (1), West Wickham (1), Wirral (5) and Woodbridge in Suffolk (1). See map below for aggregated details. Some areas are listed more than once as the addresses on the blacklist are not complete.

Blacklisting by Carillion was not something isolated or rare. The GMB report estimates that in one quarter that Carillion checked 2,776 names with the Consulting Association and in the period from October 1999 to April 2004 it estimates that Carillion checked at least 14,724 names.

The Blacklist Support Group praise the GMB for producing the report and consider it to be an important contribution in the campaign to fully expose the role of Carillion in the illegal conspiracy.

Steve Kelly, spokesperson for the Blacklist Support Group commented:

'Blacklisted workers welcome this important report by the GMB which shines a light on the dirty tricks that this multi-national used against workers prepared to stand up for their rights or raise concerns about safety in the building industry. Unfortunately Carillion now seems to be bringing these vile anti-union practices into the NHS and other projects publicly funded.  The Blacklist Support Group are proud to have assisted the GMB in the production of this report. We hope that the report will be shared amongst public authorities and in regions where workers have been blacklisted by Carillion, the firm should be removed from any approved contractors list for future publicly funded projects in that area. Labour Councils especially have a role to play in ensuring that their contractors comply with at least basic standards of corporate responsibility; which means not victimising and blacklisting trade union members.'

A recent blacklisting Employment Tribunal judgment in London in March 2012 (Case no 1310709/2009) the judge said 'It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy'.

On Tuesday 12th June, Dave Smith (the blacklisted worker in the above case) will be giving evidence to the parliamentary blacklisting investigation being carried out by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee chaired by Ian Davidson MP.

2pm Tues 12th June 2012

Committee Room 8

Houses of Parliament, Westminster

Professor Paul Preston's ploy: 'The Red Gene'

Holocaust, Holocaust Deniers & Tameside Trade Union Council

TODAY, on Radio Four's 'Start the Week' program on the Second World War, the historian Antony Beevor remarked upon how after World War II, the Russians resisted any legal definition of genocide that went beyond the systemic racial annihilation to include the extermination of a political form or the destruction of a cultural group.  The reason clearly was that the Russians didn't want to have to account for their treatment of the Kulacs or their own involvement in the Ukrainian famine in the 1930s.

In his promotion of his recent book 'The Spanish Holocaust', Professor Preston has put work in to suggest that General Franco and the Spanish Right in 1936 launched their rebellion which became the Spanish Civil War, in the underlying belief that they were destroying a 'red gene' in Spanish society.  Thus, Professor Preston, by so doing, can cleverly portray the Spanish Falange, the Carlists, Franco, General Mola and the other rebel Generals as quasi-racists on par with Hitler and other typical Fascists.  For my part I have only heard Professor Preston speak on this subject on the 28th, April 2012 at the Manchester People's History Museum and on the radio, so I can't comment as to how convincing is his hypothesis on this.  Yet, what Paul Preston seems to be doing is very much in the tradition of first creating a hypothesis and then seeking evidence to support his argument.

Critics in some quarters of his latest position are suggesting, perhaps unfairly, that he is promoting a 'pro-popular front' and 'pro-communist' line in his analysis of the Spanish Civil War.

What is curious to us in the North about all this, is that it was the former communists in the Greater Manchester County Association of Trade Union Councils who in 2006 rejected Tameside Trade Union Council's desire to pay tribute to what Professor Preston is now calling 'The Spanish Holocaust' and to place the Spanish Civil War in its proper 'historical context'.  Instead of paying homage to the struggle of the Spanish people, both Mike Luft, then Treasurer of Oldham TUC, and Alec McFadden, the North West Representative on the TUC JCC, merely wanted to commemorate those voluteers from Greater Manchester who went to fight in Spanish Civil War.  To be fair neither seemed to have a good grasp of the Spanish War, but their unwillingness to pay tribute to the Spaniards and their trade unions led to a dispute inside the Manchester Association of TUCs which culminated in Mr Luft being descibed as a 'Holocaust denier'.  Following this incident every attempt was made to undermine the production of a booklet commemorating the Spanish Civil War by the the committee authorised to produce it (which included Tameside TUC):  the bank account was changed; a constitution was hurriedly rewritten and the Secretary of Tameside TUC was suspended as a delegate to Greater Manchester County Association of TUCs for a year in 2006-7.  Alec McFadden recommended this suspension in his report to the TUC Joint Consultaive Committee.  It later turned out that the TUC JCC had acted ultra vires (beyond its powers)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Security firm used unpaid jobseekers on 'Work Programme' to police Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been asked to investigate a complaint made by Lord Prescott, the former Labour government deputy leader, against a Wigan based security firm after it used unpaid unemployed jobseekeers on the governments' 'Work Programme' scheme, to police the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations and forced them to sleep rough, under London Bridge, the night before the pageant.

On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that up to 30 unpaid jobseekers on the Work Programme had been asked to sleep rough under London Bridge after they had been brought by coach to London by 'Close Protection UK'(CPUK), to work unpaid as stewards at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on Sunday. The coach had brought the unemployed youngsters from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth, to engage in 'work experience'. The company also brought 50 'apprentices' to act as stewards for the event who were paid £2.80 an hour. According to CPUK, the standard rate for this kind of security work is £10 an hour.

Two jobseekers who took part in the event - "who did not want to identified in case they lost their benefits" - told the Guardian that the had slept under London Bridge overnight and had no access to toilets for 24 hours and had changed into security clothing - 'rain ponchos' and 'combat trousers' - in public. After working a 14 hour shift in the rain, they had then been taken to a 'swampy campsite' outside London on the banks of the Thames. One woman told the newspaper that she had worked a 16 hour shift after no sleep, and did not have access to a usable toilet for 24 hours. In the morning she had been given a paper bag containing a sandwich and a bag of crisps and told not to eat it, because it was her lunch. Other jobseekers were also told that any work they might get at the Olympics, was dependent on them working unpaid at the pageant.

Although this form of modern-day slavery was introduced by the last Labour government, by Work & Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, who told the unemployed "work or lose your benefits", Lord Prescott - who is seeking to be elected as a police and crime commissioner for Humberside - now believes that "unpaid work is exploitation". In his letter to the Home Secretary, Lord Prescott, who believes CPUK are "providing policing on the cheap" said:

"What we are talking about about now is the development of forced labour camps for unemployed unpaid workers. All governments have attempted to say, if we offer you a job you have to take it, but not unpaid work. Unpaid work is exploitation however you see it, unless there's a long term. He also added that the company had shown a "blatant disregard for the care of its workers."

Although CPUK have taken much of the media flak for this fiasco, they are not the prime provider. The compulsory work under the Work Programme, was sub-contracted to them by 'Tomorrow's People', a registered charity who also got paid, ("which helps people find and keep a job") and which is headed, by Baroness Stedman Scott, a Tory peer. Scott and Tomorrow's People, have already been reprimanded by the Charity Commission for breaching rules on political activities because of their links with the Tory Party.

Molly Prince, the Director of CPUK has had nine different companies since 2006 all of them in the same business, 'Event Safety Solutions'. All of the companies have been dissolved and some struck off by the regulator, for failing to submit accounts. Given the companies economic background and incompetence, it has just been awarded another contract to handle fire safety and security at the forthcoming Olympics.

In a statement issued to the press, Molly Prince confirmed that some stewards had been unpaid and apologised that some had been forced to sleep under London Bridge because they had been dumped by the coach driver. She denied that staff had been without toilet facilities and forced to work unpaid for a 14 hour shift and that they, had been exploited.

Although some of the jobseekers have stated that they were only informed just before they got on the coach that they wouldn't be paid, Molly Prince said the jobseekers didn't want to be paid, because it would affect their jobseeker benefits and that they wanted the work experience.

Two jags Prescott is calling on the government to review the companies Olympics contract. He told the Independent:

"How did this company, given its economic background get a contract to handle fire safety and security? Is this the Olympic model?

Sophie Lancaster Foundation & UK Government Hate Crime Action Plan

In this Summer's issue of Northern Voices 13, we did an interview with Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie's mum, about among other things her proposals for changes in the law on hate crime.  I took the view then that a specific change in the law would do damage to a more tolerant society and I still stand by that.  The recomendation in the report below at 1.10 is a guideline which allows for a wider definition that a judge may take into account when sentencing.

-Sophie Lancaster Foundation Report (March 2012)-

In its introduction, the report states:

'1.9 In 2007, the police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system agreed a common definition of monitored hate crime to cover five ‘strands,’ in particular – disability, gender-identity, race, religion/faith and sexual orientation. Primarily, this was to ensure a consistent working definition to allow accurate recording and monitoring.

1.10 This does not mean that crimes motivated by hostility or hatred of other characteristics, such as gender, age or appearance cannot happen. The tragic murder of Sophie Lancaster, who was attacked simply because of her appearance, is a graphic illustration of this fact. Although crimes such as this may fall outside of the nationally monitored strands, they are nonetheless hate crimes, and they should therefore be treated as such....'

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation has been campaigning for an extension to the current strands to include 'alternative subcultures or lifestyle and dress-code' and welcomes this action plan and the commitment to eradicating the hatred that blights so many lives.

As a member of the UK Government’s Cross Party Hate Crime Advisory Board, Sylvia Lancaster has worked with her colleagues on the board over the last two years to ensure that not only does Hate Crime remain a priority but that it reflects the reality of the level of Hate Crime suffered by differing groups, including 'alternatives'.

This launch of this report is a very important step for the Foundation. The recognition of Judge Russell’s sentencing of Sophie’s murder as a Hate Crime within it validates our work in the Hate Crime field.

We hope it brings a greater understanding amongst the professionals in the justice system, leading to an increase in the reporting and prosecution of hate crimes and incidents perpetrated against people from alternative subcultures.

Thank you for all the support you have all given us to get to this point and please stay with us as we work to a more tolerant society.

Get the printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with a leading interview between the editor of NV and Sophie Lancaster's mother, Sylvia, all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:

Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' from
c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.

Tel.: 0161 793 5122.
email: _______________________________________________________

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Professor Preston and Spanish Anarchism

Apropos the polemic between Stuart Christie and Nostromo in which the former stoutly defends Professor Prestons hostility to anarchists and anarcho syndicalists during the Spanish Civil War. Iwould like to
refer to Prestons book "Comrades-Portraits from the Spanish Civil War".  This book is dedicated to
Miguel Dols and Dom Hilari  Raguer.    The former inspired the Vicente Canada Blanch  foundation of which  Preston is closely  connected  and the latter a Bendictine monk who has permanently altered Prestons thinking on the Spanish Civil War.

1.  Durutti on whom Preston apparently worked at length was left out as a "notable omission".   But
Dolores Ibarruri- La Passionaria-  was included.   Prestons biographical sketch reeks of sentimental
sycophancy  and he confesses to being overwhelmed by her warmth and vitality  when he met her in the
1980s.  Characteristics not usually associated with communist apparatchiks.

2.  Manuel Portela Valladares, a conservative banker  married to an aristocrat was according to Preston
"in danger from the anarchists".

3.   When the war started Preston describes the FAI as an "extreme anarchist group"  who forced Joan
Baptista Rocal i Caball a founder of the catholic Catalan Party - Unio Democratica de Catalunya to leave

4.  Manuel Carrasco i Formiguera - a member of the catholic Catalan Party was according to Preston
denounced by the CNT paper Solidaridad Obrera for conservative leanings  and the article was
thus "effectively an invitation for him to be assassinated".

5.  Archbishop Cardinal Francesc Vidal i Barraquer of Tarragona  was arrested by The FAI which
was attributed by Preston to "anti-clerical fury of the anarchists".

All these incidents were decontextualised by the Professor.   There was a notable absence of any
critique of the role of the catholic hierarchy  in aligning itself with Franco and the Nationalists in
the social, economic and political milieus.   No less a person than the author Cervantes  raised
*have it out with the church" as a national motto.  Pierats in his book on Spanish Anarchism mentions the
infamous role of the Archbishop Cardinal Soldevila of Saragossa who brought in the "pistoleros" who
murdered CNT militants.

There is an evidential basis from Prestons published writings to cast serious doubts on Stuarts
assertions of Prestons supposed predilection for Anarchists and Anarcho Syndicalists during the Spanish
Civil War.