Monday, 2 February 2015

Letter to Freedom on Blacklisting

The letter below was sent to Freedom, the London 'anarchist paper', a few years ago following a rather wrong-headed and ill-considered report, which showed that the 'anarchist' paper existed even then in a London-centric bubble.  I don't recall if this letter was ever published by Freedom at that time. 
It is interesting that the correpondent writes 'It is a see little organised action by anarchists in relation to the spark's dispute', when it has been Tameside TUC with an anarcho-syndicalist President and Secretary, that from 2003 has been at the forefront of actions on behalf of the electricians.  And, it is Tameside TUC that has now published a book 'Boys on the Blacklist' funded by the TUC, that is circulating  all over England and Scotland. 

The tragedy is that because of his proximity to the Manchester Social Forum around 2003/4 that Steve Acheson came to be registered in the files of the Consulting Association as 'becoming an anarchist'.
Now in the this country, unlike Spain, France and some other countries, it is looked down upon to be identified as 'an anarchist'.  We should ask why is this the case?  Why is it that Steve Acheson, in sueing the contstruction company affiliates of the Consulting Association, considers it a 'detriment' or 'defamitory' to be regarded as an anarchist in England today?  The reasons are not difficult to find, because many English anarchists are half-baked and ignorant as this article and many other articles
in Freedom in the last 10-years amply demonstrated:
Dear Freedom, 

Your correspondent in the January issue of FREEDOM who writes of the electrician's dispute and 'The return of rank & fileism' is seriously misinformed when writing that '(i)t is a surprise ... to see little organised action by anarchists in relation to the sparks dispute' and simply refers to AF and Sol. Fed's involvement in the recent demos and occupations in London.  It suggests a London centric and southern bias on the part of your paper these days which may be partly our fault.  The fact is the present electricians campaigns throughout the country have their origins in the Manchester electrician's fight against the blacklist in the building trade and particularly the involvement of the Manchester EPIU/ Unite Contracting Branch, at which I as the Secretary of Bury Unite Branch and Tameside TUC regularly attend.   

Indeed, it was as Secretary of Tameside TUC that in 2005 at the Liverpool National Conference of Trade Union Councils that I seconded a motion condemning the blacklist in the British building trade.  Again in 2009 at the regional Conference of the North West TUC following the raid of the Information Commissioner which discovered evidence of a national blacklist in the construction industry, I, again as Secretary of Tameside TUC, seconded a motion from UCATT denouncing the blacklist.  These a few of the things we have done at a formal trade union level in support of the electricians since the DAF dispute in Manchester Piccadilly in 2003, and I myself have worked as a maintenance electrician for many years both in this country, in Spain with the FIJL (young Spanish  libertarians) and Gibraltar (with Jose Netto, Secretary of the TGWU and former member of the Syndicalist Workers Federation).   

At a political level the Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) has had speakers from the electricians EPIU anti-blacklist campaigns since 2004.  Indeed, Steve Acherson, Secretary of Manchester Unite/ EPIU Branch, who spoke at public meetings organised by the Greater Manchester Social Forum became so close to us that he was described in his blacklist file as 'becoming an anarchist'.  Like much in those files it is not true of course, and he may even see it as 'defamatory'.  The fact remains that Tameside TUC. to which the Manchester EPIU Branch is affiliated, has an anarcho-syndicalist Secretary and President both who regularly attend NAN Conferences and decades of experience in the anarchist movement. 

As recent as December, Tameside TUC and the electricians organised a joint demo outside Ashton Town Hall to protest at the local council's links to Carillion a company accused of blacklisting electricians.  There were several local anarchists on this protest.  On the Northern Voices Blog there are dozens of reports on the campaign against the blacklist, Northern Voices has covered this campaign for donkey's years and as long ago as Autumn 2003 there is a report in NV2 about it.  We have also helped produce a rank & file publication the 'North West Cowboy' on behalf of the electricians and until the break-up last year of the National Shop Stewards Network Tameside Trades Council had an input on behalf of the electricians.  The difference now is that following groundwork in Greater Manchester and the North West including pickets at DAF in Manchester Piccadilly 2003; Manchester Law Courts 2004; Manchester Royal Infirmary 2006/ 7; Media City Salford 2010/ 11; the Rock in Bury 2008; Fiddlers Ferry 2009 to current, and the raid on the Consulting Association by the Information Commissioner in 2009, there has developed a more national campaign around the London based Blacklist Support Group and Unite branches in other regions like the North East.  Hope this clarifies things a bit. 





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