Saturday, 10 March 2012

Them and us.

Around 20 years ago, two councillors in North Ayrshire discovered their names appeared on a list compiled by an organisation called the Economic League.

One of the councillors, a representative of the Labour Party, appeared on the list because he was a shop steward at his place of work: the name of the other councillor was there because he was a left-wing member of the SNP. The list had been leaked to a trade union and eventually found its way to branch level within North Ayrshire.

The two councillors were far from being the only local residents whose names appeared on the Economic League’s list, in fact there were over 50. What linked each individual were their political beliefs or trade union activism, and the fact their names appeared on the list meant it would be extremely difficult for them to get work with many of the UK’s largest companies.

The document leaked to the trade union was a ‘blacklist’ of individuals considered to be ‘subversives’ or ‘enemies’ of free-market capitalism. The Economic League, itself, was formed in 1919 by a group of industrialists with the objective of promoting the capitalist system and ‘weeding-out’ workers who held left-wing views. The list compiled by the organisation was consulted by businesses prior to engaging staff and, if a prospective employee’s name appeared on it, they would be deemed a potential ‘trouble-maker’ and denied work. In effect, workers on the list were ‘blacklisted’ and might never work again.

The existence of the Economic League was well known and its activities regarding the operation of a ‘blacklist’ were suspected, but the organisation denied it was involved in such practices. However, shortly after the list was leaked to a trade union, left-wing Labour MP Maria Fyfe (Glasgow Maryhill) began asking questions in the House of Commons, which led to the revelation that much of the information on which the ‘blacklist’ had been compiled was passed to the Economic League by MI5, the department of the British Secret Service tasked with counter-intelligence and security within the UK. Ultimately, MI5 answers to a body called the Joint Intelligence Committee, which is responsible for briefing the Prime Minister and his cabinet on matters of ‘national security’.

Also revealed at the time was the extent to which MI5 had infiltrated left-wing political organisations and trade unions. The Security Service Act of 1989, passed under the Thatcher Tory Government, gave the secret service strengthened legal backing to investigate individuals and organisations deemed to be ‘subversive’ and a ‘threat to the security of the nation’. The fact MI5 subsequently passed information to the Economic League indicates the blurring of ‘the national interest’ with the interests of the capitalist economic system and the millionaires who run and benefit from it.

As a consequence of the ‘blacklist’ being leaked and a public outcry following the revelation of MI5’s involvement, the Economic League was wound-up in 1994.

However, shortly after the demise of the Economic League, an organisation called the Consulting Association emerged at an unassuming office in the town of Droitwich, Worcestershire. In 2009, following a complaint from a construction worker, officers from the Information Commissioner raided the office of the Consulting Association. During their search of the premises, the Commissioner’s staff found a database containing the names of 3,200 individuals labeled as ‘left-wing’ and ‘trouble-makers’.

Last week, one of the people whose name appeared on the database - Dave Smith, a 46 year-old Engineer – took construction giant Carillion to an Industrial Tribunal over allegations that he had been victimised because he repeatedly highlighted safety issues on building sites, including the presence of asbestos. At the hearing, David Clancy, Investigations Manager at the Information Commissioner’s Office said, “There is information on the Consulting Association files that I believe could only be supplied by the police or the security services”.

Speaking to the Observer newspaper, Dave Smith summed up the reality of the situation, saying, “This is the state linking up with big business, and any decent person in a civilised society would think it is appalling. This is about human rights. I have not done anything illegal. I am a member of a trade union. I have worked in an attempt to improve health and safety on building sites and yet it appears my employers, the state, security services and the police have been conspiring against me.”

Once again, it appears the Secret Service, answerable to the UK Government, has interpreted ‘subversives’ and ‘threats to the national interest’ as including ordinary people whose actions in supporting fellow workers might negatively impact on the profits made by large private companies. Once again, it appears left-wing political organisations and trade unions are being spied on, at the taxpayers’ expense, in order to identify individuals who put the interests of people before the profit of corporations and the multi-million pound salaries of company directors.

The existence of organisations like the Economic League and the Consulting Association, funded by big business and supported by clandestine departments of the British Secret Service, clearly show whose side successive UK Governments have been on, and it’s not ours. Through Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown and now Cameron and Clegg, the interests of the people have been actively undermined as the capitalist fat-cats of big business have been supported financially, including through public investment in infrastructure, low taxation levels for the super-rich and all kinds of publicly-funded incentives related to setting-up often short-lived enterprises. Now we also know the state has been colluding with big business to ‘blacklist’ and exclude from the workplace anyone who might actually stand up for their rights and support fellow workers in securing better wages and a safer working environment.

The entire capitalist system is corrupt, and the British State, both in terms of UK Governments and unelected departments, is working hand-in-hand with those who seek to exploit and control the working-class.

The case for an independent, Scottish republic grows stronger and stronger.

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