Monday, 31 March 2014

YMCA accused of exploiting unemployed youngsters!

We are publishing below the latest briefing from 'Boycott Workfare'.

"Today boycott workfare paid a visit to the London headquarters of workfare exploiter YMCA. They’ve defended their use of unpaid, forced work in previous statements and we’ve called them out on it. Mandatory Work Activity forces people to work without wages under threat of sanction, and doesn’t help them find a job anyway. Whereas the Salvation Army have stated they will not get involved in the new 6 month long Community Work Placements starting later this month, the YMCA have yet to make a public statement on the issue.
The YMCA wants to have its cake and eat it. Their president, Bishop John Sentamu, has spoken against workfare. Yet, the organisation still takes part in some of the harshest schemes.  They’re also involved in delivering traineeships – workfare by another name.
We say volunteering should remain just that, and that people shouldn’t be “made to volunteer” under threat of sanction.
The fight against workfare is more important than ever, with 74,000 people being sanctioned every month. Sanctions are one of the main reasons people are turning to food banks to feed themselves, and you can now be sanctioned for up to three years. This is forcing people to make the choice between heating their homes or eating.
Join us in a day of action against the YMCA’s use of workfare. Tell them what you think about them using forced unpaid work in their charity shops. Don’t let them ignore the devastating effect that sanctions are having on people up and down the country.
Facebook: YMCA England
Twitter: @YMCA_England 
Phone them on 020 7186 9500 or their shops hotline on 0845 601 0728.
Find contact details of your nearest YMCA shop here

But please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive."

Freedom: End of an Era!

March 2014 for Freedom, the anarchist paper, will mark the date of the last printed issue of the paper after being published, with a some interruption in the 1930s, for 128 years, ever since 1886.  That makes Freedom the oldest publication on the British left.  1886 was a year in which, according to the writer Sarah Wise, in her book 'The Blackest Streets' on a Victorian East End slum 'the Old Nichol' ,'... for a short while in early 1886, it looked as though the revolution was finally getting under way.'   '   It was not always thus, and she later quoted Kropotkin:
'... who complained of London as a city of old-fashion Radical/ Republican pragmatists and isolationists:  “Better a French prison than this grave, he said, when he realised what stony ground London would be in which to plant the seeds of Anarchist revolution and international fraternalism”.'  
The afternoon of Monday the 8th, February 1886 witnessed the first of a series of mass demonstrations of the unemployed of London.  Unemployment had reached 10% up from a 'norm' of 2-3% for skilled workers, and much worse for the unskilled.  It was in these circumstances Prince Kropotkin went on to help found Freedom- the anarchist journal in 1886.   
But England was not Spain, and anarchism in this country did not naturally take root in London of the nineteenth century any more than it has done today.  Sarah Wise writes that though 'the British anarchists were violent in print only ... this was quite enough to cause most leading British Socialists to severe their connections with them.'   As a Socialist League member at that time, Bruce Glasier recalled: 
'There appeared to be something mysterious in its origin and mode of diffusion.  It was hardly to be ascribed to any circumstances in the political or industrial situation of the time...  Nowhere did anarchism spring up spontaneously in the country, as Socialism so often did.  It grew and spread only within the Socialist Movement, parasitically in the branches...  Anarchism is not an innate predisposition in man; it is an acquired state of mind, and a very unstable one...'  
Judging by the rapid and seemingly natural development of anarchism in Spain, and some other Latin countries, it would be easy to refute Glasier's claim that anarchism is simply an 'acquired' characteristic.  And yet, the Glasier claim that anarchism in its English manifestation and for most of its history in this country, has often been, and usually is a 'parasitical' development rings tragically true.  This explains the disappearance of Freedom from the political arena for a time in the 1930s, only to re-emerge as 'Spain & the World' in the period of the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, and later to be reborn as 'War Commentary' during World War II.  
Following the War members of the Freedom group, including Vernon Richards who became the principal editor of the Freedom newspaper until the 1960s, were involved in the treason trials.  In the 1940s there was a split between the Italian and Spanish schools of anarchism at Freedom Press, between the insurrectionist approach of Malatesta, and  the syndicalist strategy of trade unionism and the general strike.  It involved personalities and two distinct approaches to the history of events both during the Spanish War and World War II in which some Spaniards had supported the Allies, in the forelorn hope that this would ultimately lead to their defeat of Franco as one of the last Fascists.  
Vernon Richards edited Freedom throughout the 1950s into the 1960s when politics in Britain appeared to be on the threshold of a new world, and Colin Ward raised the case for sociology and sociological analysis in contrast to studying the historical entrails: believing that English anarchists were too interested in history and too blind about the everyday society around them.  The emergence of Colin Ward's ideas and his journal of anarchist ideas – 'Anarchy' – contrasted with the Vernon Richards's concept of the anarchism of insurrection at a time when CND, Committee of 100, the peace movement and non-violent direct action were taking off.  Around 1960 Mr. Ward, as I recall, argued that a weekly publication or propaganda sheet like Freedom was too slick or impulsive or frivolous to deal satisfactorily with the issues of the day.  What was needed was a journal of ideas that had time to digest all the aspects of a problem and to offer well-thought through and practical alternatives to authoritarian government; calling for an end to the everlastingly offerings of on-the-hoof cookbook solutions to the problems of the day or worse still the anticipation of some miraculous transformation coming out of some catastrophic social breakdown.        
In their closing statement in the current paper the Freedom Group explain their decision to close down Freedom
'An underlying problem has been a lack of capacity to sustain it.  We had hoped that Freedom would be adopted as the paper of the anarchist movement.  Despite a great deal of goodwill from anarchist groups and individuals over the years, sadly this has not been the case.'

The reason they believe is that:  'Although Freedom Press has changed from a political group with a particular point of view to a resource for anarchism as a whole, we have not managed to shake the legacy of the past and get different groups to back it as a collective project.'

What they mean by 'the legacy of the past', and what they mean by 'get different groups to back it as a collective project', they do not specify.  Perhaps the 'past' here refers to Vernon Richards long term influential editorship of Freedom from the late 1940s to the 1960s and beyond, and the resulting conflict with other tendencies within the anarchist movement   Mr. Richards was as critical of the peace movement as he had been of the syndicalists, yet it was he who was editor of the paper when the great flowering of anarchism in the 1960s took place, and when Freedom Press under Colin Ward published 'Anarchy', which some believe was the best anarchist publication ever in the anarchist movement.  Whatever the case it would seem very bad form to now seek to attribute blame to someone who died in the last century, and ceased to be editor decades ago.   

Attempts were made to give Freedom a regional flavour in the 1990s when Charles Crute took over  the editorship:  a northern editor was adopted for several years, and Freedom gained readers and influence in the north of England when the Northern Anarchist Network was set up in 1995: in this period one critic wrote that Freedom seemed to have been 'taken over by northern working men'.   In the 21st century this came to an end when Toby Crow took over as editor and Freedom became more centralised, focusing on the affiliated anarchist groups that failed to sustain or deliver either publishable material, or sales, or structure.   This centralising tendency; basing the paper on a London bias and the shallow superficial sectarianism of the affiliated anarchist groups based in London, probably explains Freedom's current decline. And today anarchism in England is in the same situation as it was in the 19th century; as Bruce Gasier then wrote:  'It (anarchism) was hardly to be ascribed to any circumstance in the political or industrial situation of the time...'

Curiously, I read my first Freedom in about 1959 when it was on sale on a coast-to-coast CND march that passed through Rochdale, but I still didn't identify myself as an anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist until after my experiences in the national strike of engineering apprentices in May 1960.  Thus, unlike today, anarchism did then have political relevance to the national politics of the 1960s, and anarcho-syndicalism seemed to have some real significance to my knowledge of the shop-floor environment, organisation and structure.  Though some aspects of the anarchism of the 1960s may suggest a degree of innocence, the movement then had greater integrity and more relevance for ordinary people especially the young than it does today.  I suggest that this was because it had a serious sociological imput and empathy that was reflected in the ideas of Colin Ward, which related to the special conditions of the English people at that time, and which it and the British left totally lacks today.   For well over a decade Freedom and much of the British left has kidded itself that by preaching a message without regard for or serious attempt to understand what the general public want is sufficient.  In the end under the influence of ultimately religious people like Toby Crow; this led to a kind of ideological / sectarian focus group mentality remote from the real world producing make-believe formulas and wish list headlines.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The demise of Freedom Newspaper.

ALTHOUGH it is a matter of  real sadness that the Freedom Newspaper is to cease publication in its hard copy format and go on line neverless one can reasonably argue that the editorial collective was the author of its own misfortune.    Indeed the collective admit its continued failure to come  out on time was a significant factor in its collapse.  

I take exception to the attempt to attribute the termination of the paper to the legacy of the past.   In many ways the old newpaper was an exceptionally vibrant and interesting paper with contributors such as Colin Ward, Arthur Moyse. Philip Sansom, Jack Robinson and Vernon Richards.   Indeed for many years it could claim to be a  'flagship' paper for anarchism with a substantial degree of credibility.  

The Collective aver 'We have not managed to shake the legacy of the past' and Freedom has changed 'from a political group with a particular point of view to a resource for anarchism'.   This statement is rather disingenuous in view of its refusal to publish 'Statement to the movement' re my ejection from the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair on the grounds of anti-semitism and further censorship by blocking Paul Salvesons' lively review of Northern Voices

In conclusion  the editorial collective should face up to its own responsibility for the end of the Freedom newspaper after 128 years and not attempt to pass the buck to others by inferences about 'the sins of the fathers'.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Salford Star story:
Salford's old Town Hall at Bexley Square, previously the Magistrates Court, has been flogged off to X1 Developments for just £256,000 – and now, almost one hundred one and two bedroom apartments in the complex are being marketed to buy to let landlords and `young professionals' for up to £120,000 each.
To add insult to financial injury, our former Town Hall has been retitled X1 Town Hall, Manchester.

At the end of November, the Salford Star revealed how `Developers are taking the piss in Salford' and used the example of the Grade II listed old Salford Town Hall to illustrate the point (see article – click here).

The city's old Town Hall on Bexley Square, previously Salford Magistrates Court, is being converted into 122 apartments by Liverpool's X1 Developments. Normally, to build such a complex the developers would have to pay Salford City Council around £300,000 in planning payments for infrastructure, construction training, open space, climate change and more…

…but X1 put in a `viability assessment' stating it couldn't afford such payments, and that if it had to hand over such a sum it would `threaten' the development. Salford Council officers agreed… "The expert assessment of the appraisal is that there is insufficient profit in the development to warrant the requirement of an obligation to be entered into".

Instead, X1 agreed to make a contribution of just £50,000 which the planning report stated "could possibly be used to provide gas lamps to the public realm in the local area and to reinstate the roll of honour that was removed from the building some time ago".

The Salford Star can now reveal that, according to the latest Salford Council financial report, the old Town Hall was flogged off to X1 for just £256,000. And X1 has starting selling 93 one bedroom flats and six two bedroom flats for up to £120,000 each. These flats alone will rake in almost £8million, and then there are 23 penthouse apartments which aren't on the open market yet.

X1 would argue, we're sure, that there is the cost of converting the building into flats to come off these payments, but for an initial cost of just over £300,000 to Salford Council, the developer stands to make millions of pounds off the back of Salford's unique heritage. Even the car park spaces, sold to X1 for £80,000 by the Council, are being flogged for £10,000 each, which will also bring in a hefty profit.

The flats are currently being pushed by X1 partner, Knight Knox International, to buy-to-let landlords "With the developer offering an assured rental yield of 6% for the first five years", promising residents a "high-end lifestyle at affordable prices".

The old Salford Town Hall, scene of the Battle of Bexley Square and current traditional May Day rallies in Salford, has also been re-titled X1 Town Hall, Manchester on the X1 website, while Knight Knox drools "X1 Town Hall is located in a highly desirable area of Manchester"…

Yet more insults on top of financial injury for Salford people…

See also previous Salford Star article Bexley Square Town Hall Horror as Heritage Disappears – click here


Councillor John Merry - the only person on the Council with the guts to communicate with the Salford Star - has been in touch via Twitter to say that the figure quoted of £256,000 is only the receipt that Salford Council received. Another payment was made to the Ministry of Justice. The actual sale of the old Town Hall was £800,000 - still way low considering the profits that will be made by X1. And that £50,000 gas lamps payment remains as the sole `infrastructure' contribution to Council.

There is also the little matter of a bill owed by Salford Council to the Ministry of Justice for the old Town Hall, totalling £578,468 dating back to 2010 (see previous Salford Star article - click here). Did this ever get paid?

Voting At Gunpoint in Crimea?

By David Edwards
 Prior to the March 16 referendum, the BBC website reported:
'Crimeans will vote on whether they want their autonomous republic to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.'
The title of the news report indicated the focus:
'Is Crimea's referendum legal?'
The answer:
'Ukraine and the West have dismissed the referendum as illegal and one that will be held at gunpoint, but Russia supports it.'
Legality was not an issue in BBC coverage of the January 2005 election held in Iraq under US-UK occupation. This was accepted on the main BBC evening news as 'the first democratic election in fifty years'. (David Willis, BBC1, News at Ten, January 10, 2005)
And the Iraq election was not merely 'held at gunpoint'; it was held in the middle of a ferocious war to crush resistance to occupation. Just weeks before the vote, American and British forces had subjected Iraq's third city, Fallujah, to all-out assault leaving 70 per cent of houses and shops destroyed, and at least 800 civilians dead. ('Fallujah still needs more supplies despite aid arrival,', November 30, 2004)
The US 1st Marine Division alone fired 5,685 high-explosive 155mm shells during the battle. The US 3rd Marine Air Wing contributed 709 bombs, rockets and missiles, and 93,000 machine gun and cannon rounds. There was much else besides, of course, and not just in Fallujah.
In the same month as the election, an Iraqi doctor, Ali Fadhil, reported of the city:
'It was completely devastated, destruction everywhere. It looked like a city of ghosts. Falluja used to be a modern city; now there was nothing. We spent the day going through the rubble that had been the centre of the city; I didn't see a single building that was functioning.' (Fadhil, 'City of ghosts,' The Guardian, January 11, 2005)
The BBC made no mention of the argument that the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis as a result of the invasion over the previous two years made a nonsense of the claim that the election was free and fair.
The US had in fact rigged the rules to ensure US-friendly Kurds had 27% of the seats in the national assembly, although they made up just 15% of the population. In a rare departure from mainstream propaganda, Naomi Klein commented in the Guardian:
'Skewing matters further, the US-authored interim constitution requires that all major decisions have the support of two-thirds or, in some cases, three-quarters of the assembly - an absurdly high figure that gives the Kurds the power to block any call for foreign troop withdrawal, any attempt to roll back Bremer's economic orders, and any part of a new constitution.' (Klein, 'Brand USA is in trouble, so take a lesson from Big Mac,' The Guardian, March 14, 2005)
Washington-funded organisations with long records of machinating for US interests abroad were deeply involved in the election. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) were part of a consortium to which the US government had provided over $80 million for political and electoral activities in Iraq. NDI was headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine 'We think the price is worth it' Albright, while IRI was chaired by Republican Senator John McCain. (Lisa Ashkenaz Croke and Brian Dominick, 'Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote,', December 13, 2004)
In January 2005, our search of the Lexis media database found that there had not been a single substantive analysis of press freedom in occupied Iraq - obviously a key requirement for a free election - in any UK national newspaper in the previous six months. The issue had simply been ignored.
And yet a Guardian editorial lauded the vote as 'the country's first free election in decades', a 'landmark election' that would be 'in a way, a grand moment'. (Leader, 'Vote against violence,' The Guardian, January 7, 2005; Leader, 'On the threshold,' The Guardian, January 29, 2005)
The editors added:
'It is in the interests of all - Iraqis, the Arabs, the US and Britain - that something workable be salvaged from the wreckage as Iraq stands poised between imperfect democracy and worsening strife.' (Ibid, Leader, January 29, 2005)
By contrast, a Guardian leader commented on the referendum in Crimea:
'The legality of this vote is at best highly questionable: the region is under armed occupation, the Crimean prime minister was deposed when gunmen took over regional government buildings last week and, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel, the referendum is incompatible with Ukraine's constitution.'
A second leader was more direct:
'The referendum that took place in Crimea yesterday is both irrelevant and deeply significant. Irrelevant because it has no standing in the law of the country to which it applies, and because it took place while the autonomous region was under military occupation.'

Making Bush And Blair Pay?

In 2004, the Daily Telegraph looked forward to 'the first democratic elections' in Iraq. (Leader, 'Mission accomplished,' Daily Telegraph, December 6, 2004) The Sunday Telegraph wrote of 'the first democratic elections there for more than 50 years'. (Sean Rayment, 'Britain poised to send 1,000 more soldiers to Iraq,' Sunday Telegraph, November 28, 2004)
Of Crimea, the Telegraph commented earlier this month:
'Russia's campaign to gain control of Crimea will culminate on Sunday with an illegal referendum conducted at gunpoint.'
The editors added:
'The aim of sanctions, in other words, would not be to save Crimea, but to deter Mr Putin from going further... Hence the overriding importance of making Mr Putin pay for Crimea.'
What kind of nutbar working within the UK press establishment would conceive of proposing sanctions against Britain and America, or discuss 'the overriding importance of making Mr Bush and Mr Blair pay for Iraq'?
The Independent quoted David Cameron:
'It is completely unacceptable for Russia to use force to change borders based on a sham referendum held at the barrel of a Russian gun.'
In 2004, the Independent's reporters told readers that 'democratic and free elections can bring a hope of peace' in Iraq. (Borzou Daragahi, 'Bin Laden backs deputy Zarqawi and urges boycott of elections,' The Independent, December 28, 2004)
A Times leader commented:
'The referendum was absurdly hasty. It was conducted with Russian special forces barricading Ukrainian soldiers into their bases and regular Russian troops massing on their western border.'  (Leading article, 'Russian Pariah,' The Times, March 17, 2014)
In 2004, the same newspaper commented of Iraq:
'The terrorists will do all they can to destroy democratic elections.' (Leader, 'Send more troops,' Sunday Times, October 10, 2004)
The Financial Times observed:
'Iraq's first democratic election is unfolding under the shadow of a deadly insurgency.' (Steve Negus and John Reed, 'Allawi runs on claim of "strong leadership",' Financial Times, December 16, 2004)
A recent FT editorial was titled: 'Crimea poll will be divorce at gunpoint.'
The editors of the Express observed:
'So Vladimir Putin has won his so-called referendum in the Crimea. It was totally predictable because it was comprehensively rigged. Those who did not wish to vote for separation from Ukraine and annexation by Russia were threatened by the columns of imported Russian thugs.'
In the same month (October 2004) that the Lancet reported 100,000 deaths as a result of the US-UK invasion, the Express commented:
'It is Britain and America that want to give the besieged people of Iraq their true freedom, to hold free elections and elect a democratic government.' (Leader, 'Nothing short of insulting,' The Express, October 6, 2004)
The Sunday Express wrote of 'Iraq's first free election in decades.' (Simon Belgard, 'Marine rescuer pays the price of courage,' Sunday Express, December 19, 2004)
The Mirror wrote:
'The people of Crimea have a right to self-determination. But there was nothing normal about the referendum when you consider Russia had sent armed troops into the region, which remains, for now, part of Ukraine.' (Leading article, 'A cold sweat,' The Mirror, March 18, 2014)
In 2005, the Mirror reported that Iraq was approaching 'its first democratic elections on January 30'. ('Police chief and son assassinated,' The Mirror, January 11, 2005)
Michael White, an associate editor at the Guardian, wrote:
'Vladimir Putin is a KGB professional who shows every sign of being a bad man, quite possibly a prodigious thief as well.'
We note, first, that there has probably never been an example of a senior reporter describing a serving US or UK leader in comparable terms. White continued:
'Offensive though it is to the memory of millions of Russians murdered by Hitler (far more even than his hero Stalin killed), Putin's orchestration of Crimea's defection from Ukraine offers a disturbing comparison with the German annexation of the Czech Sudetenland with Neville Chamberlain's connivance in 1938.'
Again, an unthinkable comparison for 'our' actions.
White added:
'A Crimean referendum staged under what amounts to Russian military occupation – navy and soldiers – and boycotted by the minority Ukrainians and (12%) Tatars (expelled and butchered by Stalin) is pretty bogus.'
In November 2004, as Iraq's bloodbath overflowed, as Fallujah burned, White painted a happier picture:
'The elections are one issue which unites most MPs, and the anti-war Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell, also stressed how "essential" it was that they are held.'
White noted:
'Successful elections would quieten some of the international criticism of US involvement in Iraq.'
There was 'US involvement in Iraq', much as there was German 'involvement' in France in 1940 and Iraqi 'involvement' in Kuwait in 1990.
We wrote to White and confessed our discombobulation. Given the illegal US-UK invasion, the subsequent mass death, the demolition of Fallujah, how did he account for his contradictory analyses? Why had he written in terms of potentially 'successful elections' in Iraq but of a 'pretty bogus' referendum in Crimea? White replied on March 20:
'thanks for the note and points which I will ponder.
'I try to be aware of the double standards issue and think I acknowledged as much in the piece in question.'
This was a surprisingly forthright and friendly reply from White who, for reasons best known to him, refers to us as 'the two Lens'. He of course completely failed to answer the question. But then, the propaganda system runs on unexplained silences the way an engine runs on oil.  (Source:  Media Lens)

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Egypt & the Arab Spring

THIS week's condemnation of 529 Islamist members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death by a court in Egypt is an example of  an authoritarian  regime engaged in a vendetta.  In January 2012 on this blog we together with some supporters of the Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) then welcomed the Arab Spring, and supported Libya's rebellion against the Gaddafi regime. 

Last year, we likened the coup by the Egyptian military and the ousting of the Islamic government of Mr. Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party, to the rebelion of General Franco and some elements of the Spanish army against the legally elected republican government in Spain in 1936.  On Monday the condemning of 529 Islamists to death for the killing of a single police officer last summer is a shocking example of a judicial system victimising a political party and its supporters.

Thought the verdict is expected to be overturned on appeal, it is bound to stir up hatred and radicalise the Muslim brotherhood.  Legal experts, claim the verdict is the largest mass sentencing in modern Egyptian history. It followed a trial that lasted little more than two days — not enough time to make a case against even a single person, much less 529 people, charged with murder for the killing of a police officer in rioting that followed the ousting of Mr. Morsi.

The convicting so many people for involvement in one death is daft.  Though 16 of those charged were acquitted it in no way legitimizes the legal process. Only 123 defendants were in the courtroom; the rest were either released, out on bail or on the run.

The overthrow of the Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 was widely welcomed, but current events suggest that the hopes that the Arab Spring provoked two years ago have now been all but extinguished.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Sally Army pulls out of government slave labour scheme!

We are publishing below the latest briefing from 'Boycott Workfare'

"In an important success even before the workfare week of action starts on 29th March, the Salvation Army have said they will play no part in the upcoming Community Work Placement scheme. Last year the charity was praised by the DWP for ‘holding the line’ on workfare. This recent loss of nerve can only be a direct result of repeated action taken to challenge the Salvation Army’s support for forced work.  The inspiring recent direct action from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, widespread public criticism and constant pressure online has shown what the public think of charities that claim to help unemployed people and then force them to work for free.

The decision is a major blow for the DWP’s latest plans for mass workfare. Community Work Placements are soon to be inflicted on ten of thousands of people leaving the Work Programme and involve six months’ unpaid full-time work for charities and community organisations.  Those who refuse to carry out forced labour will be punished with poverty, hunger and destitution as benefits are sanctioned. But major charities, such as Oxfam, Shelter and Marie Curie, have very publicly distanced themselves from forced work. A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the provider guidance for the scheme is not yet ready, suggesting its April start date is somewhat optimistic.

The Salvation Army have long been one of the most vocal supporters of forced work and one of the few organisations that had no scruples about even forcing claimants on sickness and disability benefits to work for free. In a victory for anti-workfare campaigners, it seems that The Salvation Army have decided that a workfare scheme equivalent to twice the maximum community service sentence is too much even for them to stomach. In a statement on their website the organisation says:
“We feel that a 26-week work experience placement is too long and would not be beneficial.  If someone has not found employment within two years, the lack of work experience is clearly not their only barrier to employment.  Our concern is that the underlying issues need to be dealt with holistically and work experience is a part of the support needed. As such, we will not be taking part in the Community Work Placement programme.”
The Salvation Army are far from off the hook. They are still deeply involved in several other workfare schemes and their statement suggests they still believe that unemployment is caused by the flaws of unemployed people. But it does place huge pressure on charities such as the YMCAGroundwork UKand The Conservation Volunteers who are all expected to be involved in running Community Work Placements.
Several other volunteer organisation have also lined up to condemn the new workfare scheme, including Volunteer Centre Liverpool who have rightly stated that “these placements are not volunteering”. Welfare-to-work companies hoping to pick up yet more taxpayers’ cash by managing the new placements have even resorted to openly offering bribes to charities in the hope they will throw away their principles and join the workfare gravy train.
Boycott Workfare have called a week of action against Community Work Placements beginning on March 29th. 

 With protests and action already being planned throughout the UK, we can stop this plan for mass workfare in its tracks.  Join us by organising a protest, picket and action in your town or city and help spread the word about all events taking place. See the latest details here.
Actions will also take place online throughout the week so be ready to tell the workfare exploiters what you think.
If you are organising an event, or know of a local workfare exploiter then please contact Boycott Workfare at: info[at]

In the meantime why not contact YMCA and ask them whether they will follow The Salvation Army’s lead and reject this forced work scheme”? Or suggest to the Salvation Army that they stop pushing people into destitution through sanctions altogether."

European Parliament passes EU wide anti-blacklisting laws!

We are publishing below the latest briefing from the Blacklist Support Group (BSG).

1. High Court claim
The original date for the next hearing in the Blacklisting High Court claim has been postponed. It was originally due to take place on 28th April but due to the unexpected retirement of the judge hearing the case, this has now been put back. More details when we get them. BSG urge everyone with a blacklist file to sign up to the High Court claim.  

2. Public Inquiry announced 
The Home Secretary, Theresa May has announced a public inquiry into undercover police spying on the Lawrence family. 
Blacklist Support Group is working together with other groups that have been spied on by undercover police, including the Lawrence family, women who policed had sexual relationships with, environmental activists, anti-racists and socialist political groups.  
The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) is calling for the remit of the public inquiry to be wide enough to cover not just the Lawrence family but all the times when undercover police have spied on perfectly legal democratic campaigns - that includes trade union members and the proven links between the police and blacklisting 

3. European Parliament passes EU wide anti-blacklisting laws
Europe has passed legislation to make blacklisting of trade unionists illegal across the continent following amendments submitted by Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour leader in the European parliament. 

Brian Higgins, who led the Blacklist Support Group delegation to Brussels in 2012 said:
"A huge democratic blow for workers rights and freedom was struck in the European Parliament on March 14th when they voted to outlaw blacklisting and make it a criminal offence Europe wide. Most importantly for blacklisted building workers in Britain, this will make it incumbent on the UK Government to bring in a law banning blacklisting once and for all.
We cannot thank Glenis Willmott and Stephen Hughes and all in the LP and Eu Parliament enough for this truly landmark achievement. It is particularly satisfying for all building workers and their supporters who have been fighting for some form of justice since the truly evil Consulting Association was discovered and exposed by the ICO in 2009. To know the European Parliament now stands four square alongside us and with us will ensure the terrible scourge of blacklisting is ended gives us great heart and massively encourages us to fight on and on! No Peace without Justice and an end to Blacklisting"

4. Northern Ireland Assembly and London councils passes anti-blacklisting legislation
Only a few days after the Select Committee investigation called fro blacklisting firms to be banned from public contracts, the Northern Ireland Assembly and more London boroughs have joined the Welsh Assembly, Scottish government and 30 other local authorities in supporting the ban. 

5. Crossrail & DLR deaths
Construction Safety Campaign has protested outside Crossrail at Holborn and the DLR in Stratford following the recent deaths of two workers. 
Follow the Construction safety camapign on facebook:

5. Blacklist Support Group hold meetings with Liverpool council
Seven members of the BSG met with Councillor Joe Hanson to discuss blacklisting companies tendering for work in the city. The meeting is a follow on from when Mayor Joe Anderson addressed the BSG meeting in Liverpool 2 weeks ago.   
The following actions were agreed:
1. A seat at the table for the BSG at all future meetings regarding all blacklisting issues with all or any relevant stakeholders.
2. Liverpool Council anti-blacklisting motion to be compared with that passed by other local authorities to see if can be strengthened 
3. Unions to be encouraged work more collectively similar to the Hinckley Point agreement on any further or pending major contracts in the city 

Roy Bentahm, BSG national committee member told the meeting that "BSG would continue to work positively with all the stakeholders of these issues though further demonstrations could not be ruled out  if progress wasn't deemed quick enough"

6. Tony Benn R.I.P.
The Blacklist Support Group wish to pay tribute to Tony Benn for the immense contribution he made for working people during his lifetime.
Tony Benn said that he retired from parliament to concentrate on politics.
This Reel News video: shows him on a 6:30am protest in support of construction workers in their fight to defend their terms & conditions and for trade union rights during the BESNA dispute. Tony Benn speech starts at 7mins 43 secs

7. Bob Crow - Funeral arrangements (from RMT)
Bob Crows Funeral is on Monday 24th March. 
The funeral itself will be a family only affair but we are encouraging people to line the route the details are below:


Following the sad news of Brother Bob Crow’s passing on Tuesday 11th March, I am writing to advise you of the funeral arrangements at the request of his family.

The funeral will be a private service, taking place on Monday 24th March at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, Aldersbrook Road, Manor Park, London E12 5DQ. While the family asks that the private service is respected, they do recognize the huge amount of support given to Bob and that staff, friends, members and acquaintances may want the opportunity to say goodbye.

The funeral procession will commence from a visible starting point on Snakes Lane East (IG8 7GF)at 1200 hours and will arrive at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium at approximately 12.45 hours. Should you wish to do so, there will be an opportunity to line the route to the Crematorium for the arrival of the cortege, bringing RMT banners and flags for the occasion.

Details of the route are enclosed for your reference along with directions to the Crematorium from Manor Park train station.

However, I do wish to emphasise that the family have arranged a private service in the crematorium and admittance is restricted. I am sure you will support the family by respecting their privacy.

In addition, a minutes silence will be held at 13.30 hours on Monday 24th March for which we ask friends, colleagues and members to observe. RMT Head Office and the Regional Offices will be closed on that day as a mark of respect.

Donations on behalf of Bob may be made to the British Heart Foundation and a dedicated area has been set up by the family on the British Heart Foundation’s website.

Bob Crow 1961 – 2014
Funeral Procession Route to the
City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, Aldersbrook Road, Manor Park, London E12 5DQ.

• Snakes Lane East (IG8 7GF)1200 hours
• Right onto Chigwell Road
• Down to Charlie Brown’s roundabout
• Onto Herman Hill
• Follow to Wanstead High Street
• Right at the crossroads of Wanstead Station
• First left to Aldersbrook Road and on to Crematorium
arrive at Crematorium at approximately 1245 hours
Directions to Crematorium from Manor Park Station
• Manor Park Station, (Liverpool Street line)
• Turn left outside station
• Straight down road
• 10 to 15 minutes’ walk to City of London Crematorium (E12 5DQ)
• Bob’s Cortege will arrive from the North at approximately 1245 hours

8. Blacklisted - the book
Pluto Press will be publishing a book in September about the blacklisting scandal.
'Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists' by Phil Chamberlain and Dave Smith

Phil Chamberlain is the investigative journalist whose article in the Guardian in 2008 led to the ICO raid that discovered the Consulting Association blacklist. 
Dave Smith is a blacklisted UCATT safety rep and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group.

The book is a history of blacklisting in the construction industry over the past 50 years and includes first hand testimony from blacklisted workers plus previously unseen documentary evidence.  
Follow on Twitter: @blacklistedbook 

9. Site Worker
New blog set up for the construction industry rank and file - an online version of the Site Worker magazine 


More Guardian ‘brainwashing’ on Putin?

24 MARCH 2014

I spend a lot of time on this blog criticising the propaganda role of liberal media, including my former newspaper the Guardian. Media critics like Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman have called it 'brainwashing under freedom'.  Because of a long filtering process before they reach positions of influence, journalists working for the corporate media in free societies replicate many of the failings of journalists working for media in repressive and closed societies.  There are differences.  The propaganda in free societies is more subtle and insidious; the journalists are more likely to believe what they write; and a degree of pluralism is allowed, even while plausible and important voices are ignored or ridiculed.  But propaganda it still is.
I highlight this long and prominent article in the Guardian on Putin’s handling of Crimea and Ukraine because it is a master-class in brainwashing under freedom.  The paper’s Moscow correspondent, Shaun Walker, is presumably well-acquainted with Russian society. He has full access to Russian media propaganda, so he knows full well Russia’s side of the argument.  And he has acres of space in which to set out all the various viewpoints.  And yet, he never manages to give a proper hearing to Russia’s side of the argument.

Scotlandshire: BBC Scotland Coverage Of Independence Referendum

The BBC's Bias?

by David Cromwell (Media Lens)

Coverage of the Scottish independence referendum, due to be held on September 18 this year, is a compelling example of the deep establishment bias of the corporate media. Some critics have characterised the BBC's coverage, in particular, as though Scotland is merely a region or a county of the United Kingdom called 'Scotlandshire'.
The establishment, pro-Union bias of 'mainstream' coverage emerges clearly from a careful analysis by an experienced media academic, and by the BBC's reprehensible attempt to rubbish both the study and its author. The year-long study was conducted by a small team led by Professor John Robertson of the University of West Scotland. Between 17 September 2012 – 18 September 2013, the team recorded and transcribed approximately 730 hours of evening TV news output broadcast by BBC Scotland and Scottish Television (STV). The study concluded that 317 news items broadcast by the BBC favoured the 'No' campaign (i.e. no to Scottish independence) compared to just 211 favourable to the 'Yes' campaign. A similar bias in favour of the 'No' campaign was displayed by STV. Overall, there was a broadcaster bias favouring the 'No' campaign by a ratio of 3:2. In other words, there was 50 per cent more favourable coverage to the 'No' campaign.
Professor Robertson told Media Lens that 'more importantly', there was also:
'undue deference and the pretence of apolitical wisdom in [official] reports coming from London – the Office for Budget Responsibility and Institute for Fiscal Studies, for example; but, also, Treasury officials [were] presented as detached academic figures to be trusted.' (Email, March 18, 2014)
There was also a deep-rooted personalisation of Scottish independence by the broadcasters in their systematic conflating of the 'wishes' of Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, with the aims and objectives of the 'Yes' campaign. This was not the case with media coverage of the 'No' campaign. The objectives of the 'No' Campaign were not routinely portrayed as the 'wishes' of Alastair Darling, leader of the 'Better Together' group campaigning to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom.
Professor Robertson told us that:
'the conflation of the First Minister's wishes with the YES campaign seems a classic case of undermining ideas by association with clownish portrayal of leading actors [in the campaign].'
This media performance was, he said, reminiscent of past corporate media demonisation of former miners' leader Arthur Scargill and Labour leaders Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot.
Finally, Professor Robertson noted that there was a strong 'tendency to begin [news] reports with bad economic news for the Yes campaign [...]. Reports leading off with bad news or warnings against voting Yes were more common than the opposite by a ratio of 22:4 on Reporting Scotland (BBC) and a ratio of 20:7 on STV.'
Last year, Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, gave a dramatic illustration of this biased tendency to report bad news for the 'Yes' campaign with the following list of BBC headlines:
Murray commented:
'Please note this amazing litany – and I use the word litany carefully, a verbal repetition to inculcate belief – includes only those where the deliberate practice of repetitive coupling of "independence" and "warning" has been captured by being written on the [BBC] website; there are hundreds of other examples of broadcast, spoken use of the words "Warning" and "Scottish independence" in the same sentence by the BBC.
'The presentation of every one of the above stories was in the most tendentious and anti-independence manner conceivable. They have all been countered and comprehensively rebutted.
'By contrast, there are no BBC headlines that promote positive claims about Scottish Independence. You will look in vain for headlines that say "Yes campaign says independent Scotland will be eighth richest country in the world" or "Official GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] report shows Scotland's public finances much healthier than those of the UK".'
So how did BBC Scotland respond to Professor Robertson's documented evidence of clear bias in its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum? Derek Bateman, a retired journalist with decades of experience at the BBC, summed it up as follows:
'Instead of doing what any self-confident public service broadcaster should do and produce a news item out of a critical report from one of our own universities, they seem to have hidden it from the licence-fee paying public who bankroll them and then mounted a sabotage operation against the author.'
Amazingly, BBC Scotland sent a 6,000-word letter to Professor Robertson in an attempt to demolish his study and undermine his credibility, copying it to the professor's Principal at the University of West Scotland. This unprecedented move seemed deliberately calculated to intimidate the researcher. Certainly, Bateman and other commentators, as well as Robertson himself, described the BBC's action as no less than 'bullying'.
Bateman noted BBC Scotland's 'fury at being found out misleading viewers' and he concluded:
'It strikes me as the height of hypocrisy for the BBC to try to badger an independent organization because it can't stand it revealing the truth – that it is failing in its primary duty to the Scots...and they didn't even report it.'
In a careful and detailed response, Robertson rebutted the BBC criticism of his one-year study, and he concluded:
'I think I've answered all the questions needed to contest these conclusions. [...] The BBC response is a remarkably heavy-handed reaction. Why did they not report the research, let their experts critique it on air and then ask me to defend it? Instead we see a bullying email to my employer and a blanket suppression across the mainstream media in the UK. I'm shocked.'

 The BBC Corporate 'Gang Of Four' Emerge From The Shadows

On March 11, 2014, Professor Robertson appeared in front of the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee in Edinburgh. He had been invited to present the main findings of his study and to answer questions from those sitting on the Committee, all Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). Four senior staff from BBC Scotland also appeared before the Committee later that same day.
Prof. Robertson began by thanking the Committee for the opportunity to speak to them, and then continued:
'much has happened in the month or so since I released the research paper. Much of it has been quite upsetting for me. So I want to begin by saying some fairly strong things about my experience in the last month or so.
'I'd like to condemn the behaviour of BBC Scotland's Department of Policy and Corporate Affairs in suppressing the dissemination of my research, and in circulating an insulting and ill-informed critique of my research directly to my Principal, bypassing my Head of School, my Dean, straight to the Principal. [...]
'I'd like to condemn the silence and collusion of almost all of Scotland's mainstream media in disappearing my research, despite this massive online presence [of Robertson's study]. Its online presence is a news item which has been ignored. [...]
'And thirdly I'd like to, unfortunately, condemn the silence of almost all Scottish academics with an interest in this field who might have been expected to challenge censorship of intellectual material.
'I've been personally hurt by the above combination of threat from a powerful institution. [...] I interpret [what has happened] as an attempt at thought control in a democracy, and, of all democracies, the one I like the best. And I'm very upset by that.'
Prof. Robertson was asked by one MSP what kind of research he'd conducted in the past. He responded:
'My interest is in, dare I say it, thought control in democracies. Everyone knows in a totalitarian state you can't trust the media. Everyone knows they're being lied to. Thought control in totalitarian states is totally ineffective because the entire population pretty much know: don't trust that stuff from the party.  In democracies, there is thought control. There's undeniably thought control. Media and political elites often work in each other's interests. They don't go round in a big cauldron saying, "Let's do down the working classes and send our boys off to die, because we want them to do that." They just mix. They go to the same schools. Their children go to the same schools. They share the same interests, the same cultural interests.  So we do end up with a degree of thought control without conspiracy...'
Prof. Robertson added that he'd conducted research for many years into media coverage of war and the economy. That research was 'more controversial' than the work he'd just published. But:
'This is the first piece of research I've ever done that's attracted any interest.'
Following Prof. Robertson's solo appearance before the Parliamentary Committee, BBC Scotland put up a four-man panel to counter him. This heavyweight squad comprised Ken MacQuarrie (Director of BBC Scotland), John Boothman (Head of News and Current Affairs), Bruce Malcolm (Head of Commonwealth Games coverage) and John Mullin (Editor, Referendum Unit). It is worth noting that John Mullin is a former editor of the Independent on Sunday, and his propaganda role there has previously been scrutinised by Media Lens.
This was a rare outing for senior BBC management to be compelled to answer questions in public on BBC coverage, and it was fascinating to watch. Many of our readers will be all too painfully aware of the boilerplate text that is routinely generated whenever complaints are submitted to the broadcaster: copious and vacuous prose about how 'BBC News adheres to impartiality', 'we are confident that our standards have been upheld', and so on, ad nauseam.
Here, then, was an opportunity for the public to see what it looks like when the standard text is read out loud by a senior BBC manager. Thus, Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, can be seen grandly dismissing Prof. Robertson's careful study and robotically asserting that BBC 'impartiality' has been maintained. (Watch from 3 mins : 53 secs). Much of the BBC's stonewalling of the Parliamentary Committee's questions that follows is characterised by stock evasive phrases and corporate-speak padding, trying to buy time to think and to shrug off challenges. It consists largely of a verbal shuffling of the feet, a feeble attempt to project an illusion of responding with something, anything, of substance.
The very first question from the Committee chairman, Stewart Maxwell, and the shifty response from MacQuarrie is emblematic of the proceedings:
'Could you tell us, Mr MacQuarrie, why you took the view that it was necessary to respond in the way you did to Professor Robertson's research?'
MacQuarrie responds woodenly with a prepared written script about the supposed 'fundamental errors' in the study, but singularly fails to answer Maxwell's question.
Maxwell persists:
'We know what you did with this research [i.e. did not report it, but instead issued a 6,000-word response to Prof. Robertson, and copied to his Principal]. What I'm asking about is, in all of the many hundreds of other bits of academic research that you report every year, can you name the number of occasions where you did a similar thing?'
'No, in general terms, I can't name a specific instance where we would have copied the Principal in a piece in academic research.'
Maxwell continued:
'Don't you find it rather peculiar – wouldn't an ordinary person looking at this event find it rather peculiar – that the BBC accept academic research, day in day out, respond to that by publishing stories on it, having debates on that research? But on this one occasion, when the research is about your own output, that's not how you respond; you respond in an entirely different way.'
'I don't think it's peculiar in the slightest. We wanted to correct the errors of fact that, you know, were in the report. And I think it's perfectly reasonable when it is about our own output, and it was on a question, if you like, of our impartiality that we would get the facts on the table. And that we wrote only to Professor Robertson and copied to the Principal.'
Maxwell followed up with:
'I'm quite surprised by that answer because it seems to me frankly astonishing that on no other occasion do you expend effort in trying to analyse research that's produced by academics – and you've said so; there's been no occasion to your mind that you've ever done this before. But on this occasion, you do spend what seems to me quite substantial amounts of effort in attempting to discredit the research of Professor Robertson.'
There followed a comical interlude in which Maxwell tried to determine the number of complaints that the BBC had received about its coverage of the Scottish independence referendum. Maxwell first notes that he had earlier submitted a request under Freedom of Information which MacQuarrie had summarily rejected. He now questions MacQuarrie:
'So you won't supply this Committee with the number of complaints the BBC has received about the referendum coverage?'
'In terms of specifically about the referendum coverage, no.'
'No. Why not?'
'I think that, in general terms, we use that contact when we reply to each individual complaint. And first of all the body that would release that information is the BBC Trust, rather than the Executive. And we don't break it, we would not break it down.'
'What I'm trying to understand [is] why you wouldn't do that. Clearly you're a body that is paid for by the public. Surely the public have a right to know about the level of interest or complaints about your output?'
'And the Trust regularly publish the data about the number of contacts on an annual basis.'
Maxwell, clearly unimpressed by MacQuarrie's stonewalling, insists:
'I'm not asking you about the number of contacts, Mr MacQuarrie. I asked you about the number of complaints you've received from the public about the referendum coverage.'
MacQuarrie waffles:
'Specifically, we would not break down the complaints into subject by subject areas.'
This was hardly a credible response, to say the least.
As Derek Bateman, the ex-BBC journalist quoted earlier, remarked on his blog:
'I don't believe it. That information is retrievable [...]. We're not hearing the number because it's too embarrassing to publicise.'
Bateman summed up:
'From what I saw, the BBC are in full assault mode and totally unapologetic and as a result look unreasonable, defensive and flustered. It has become the default position of an organisation caught out by events and floundering.'

 'A Classic Case Of Thought Control'

Prof. Robertson told us afterwards that he had expected that the BBC panel:
'would repeat the same generalised assertions of flaws without evidence and the magnification of tiny errors into fundamental weaknesses. They had no other path but repetition of that which had already been deconstructed in my full response on The BBC Gang of Four were, in what I saw, leaden, sullen, defensive and repetitive.' (Email, March 18, 2014)
He hailed the Committee Chairman's 'dogged extraction of the fact that the BBC had never mounted such a campaign against a piece of research before, ever.' Prof. Robertson also noted that the Committee had exposed the BBC's 'failure to record and organise criticism of their performance'.
We asked Prof. Robertson to expand on what had been the response to his study from academia, including his own colleagues and management. He told us that at his institution, the University of West Scotland, there had been:
'strong support for me at all levels, including Principal, for my right to expression of intellectual ideas. Otherwise, a disturbing silence with no leading academic in politics, history, media theory prepared to protest the suppression of my report. As a long-time admirer and copyist of the Glasgow University Media Group's methodology, the silence on the left is frankly creepy. Further, I've had no invitations to speak to such departments but only an invitation from Glasgow University's Department of Scottish Literature.'
Prof. Robertson pointed out that his year-long study was just the first half of a longer research project. The final two-year survey will conclude in September 2014 and he intends to write it up as a book chapter for publication in early 2015. As an example of continuing bias, he pointed to the recent BBC Andrew Marr interview with Alex Salmond which 'gives more than a hint of anti-independence bias at the BBC'.
We asked Prof. Robertson whether he had any final remarks about what the whole episode had revealed about his primary research interest: namely, thought control in democracies:
'As a long-term adopter of the Propaganda Model's usefulness in other contexts, I've been naive about its usefulness in Scotland; no longer. It now looks a classic case of thought control enabled by self-censorship within elites and amongst those less powerful that they manage.'