Birmingham Worker and the local branch of the CPGB-ML salute the life of Derek Robinson, aka “Red Robbo”, famous communist trade unionist who died this morning. Derek Robinson, played an important role throughout his life in defending the working conditions of Birmingham workers at British Leylands car manufacturing plant in Longbridge through a period of concerted attack on working people which eventually culminated in the devastating attacks waged by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980’s which were exacerbated by the betrayal of numerous struggles by the Labour party, not least the heroic Great Miners Strike of 1984.
As the Communist Party at that time continued it’s decline towards eventual liquidation, and the Soviet Union headed for collapse following the total betrayal of socialism by revionism, Derek Robinson holds a place in British working class history as a fighter for the interests of his class in exceptionally difficult circumstances. It was revealed in the years which followed Derek Robinsons dismissal from British Leyland that Mi5 had conspired with revisonists and agents within the old CPGB to work against Robinson and his comrades at Leyland who represented workers at the Longbridge plant. A hate campaign in the local media led by the reactionary Birmingham Mail (which continues it’s anti-worker activities today during the bin strike) was instrumental in undermining the solidarity of workers at the British Leyland factory who eventually were bribed and blackmailed into acquiescing in Robinson’s sacking with the connivance of “right wing” (Labour Party) union officials.
Red Salute to Derek Robinson!
(a fuller and very interesting obituary can be read on the website of labour movement historian Graham Stevenson, the leader of the revisionist “Communist Party of Britain” which still has a small branch in Birmingham)
Comrades attended a successful meeting today of the Blacklist Support Group held in Coventry. This group has done important work highlighting the underhand state infiltration & wreckage inside the Labour movement, particularly the barring of committed trade unionists to employment.
As the law stands, blacklisting as such is still not unlawful.
To get redress, it is necessary for the blacklisted worker not only to prove that he has been blacklisted but that his inclusion on that blacklist is the sole reason he is turned down for a job – a well-nigh impossible task, especially given the legal resources commanded by the companies.
And in any case, how can you seek redress if you don’t know you are on a blacklist in the first place? As of autumn 2012, only 194 of the 3,213 workers known by the Information Commissioner’s Office to have been blacklisted were aware of the fact. Nor is this surprising, since you can only find out if you are on a blacklist by phoning up the ICO and asking them.
Some might not unreasonably fear that asking the question is itself asking for trouble.
Labour in government had the chance to ban blacklists in 2009. It failed to do so for the same reason no Labour government in history has ever done: because Labour is just as much a servant of the bourgeoisie as are the Tories against whom it rails.
Surveillance of workers did not begin with Kerr’s racket. The Consulting Association began its career in 1993 by paying £10,000 for a database of blacklisted names. The source of that database was the Economic League, of which Kerr was himself an employee.
The League was founded in 1919 to root out communist and left-wing organisations and individuals. Working closely with the British Empire Union fascists, it played a key role in attacking the general strike in 1926. Its founder had led the Naval Intelligence Division of the Admiralty through the first world war, and the chairman of the BBC sat on its council.
Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the League ran a comprehensive blacklisting service. Despite being regularly exposed in the press of the time, it seemed to enjoy a charmed existence, until the heat from a parliamentary inquiry in 1990 finally obliged the company to formally dissolve itself – only for its work to be taken up again by Sir Robert McAlpine and the Consulting Association.
The bourgeoisie can have every confidence that Kerr’s work will now be taken up again by other hands working to an identical agenda – until such time as the workers’ movement frees itself from the suffocating Labour embrace and takes meaningful action to stop it.
Just how corrupting an effect social democracy has upon the trade-union movement is clear from the evidence now emerging of collusion between some unions and the Consulting Association.
According to Construction News, “Evidence has emerged that suggests union representatives may have ‘liaised’ with contractors to blacklist workers from construction jobs. But an investigation by Construction News has uncovered documents that suggest union officials may also have provided information to the blacklist.
“One of the files from the blacklist, seen by CN, describes a worker, Michael Anderson, as ‘not recommended’ by Amicus … Mr Anderson’s redacted file says: ‘1997-1999. Worked at JLE [Jubilee Line Extension] during electricians’ dispute but not involved in any actions. 2005 Oct 26: Information received … that the above is ‘not recommended’ by Amicus’. It adds: ‘Above information came from [redacted] of Amicus.’”
Mr Anderson’s summing up is damning: “I am an ordinary spark. I have spent long periods in unemployment. It is not just financial. It is everything.”
This echoes the testimony of another blacklisted electrician, Steve Acheson, the leader of the EPIU’s Manchester branch. Confronted with evidence related to union involvement in the collection of blacklist data, he told Construction News: “I have been a union member my whole life. It is a very hard decision whether to sue. But I have worked just two years in the last 12. Knowing that part of the reason is because of union involvement is very difficult to take.”
The January 2013 edition of Site Worker had this to say: “When it came to light, after the Information Commissioner’s Office exposed the Consulting Association’s (CA) construction blacklist in 2009, that some Unite and Ucatt officials had allegedly been supplying information about rank-and-file union members directly to the CA, a new trade-union low had been reached …
“Unite and Ucatt are disgustingly and disgracefully trying to cover up the conduct of these officials and to sweep this under the carpet. It has been reported that, in 2006, the then general secretary of Unite, Derek Simpson may well have known about the CA and its activities yet did not act.”
Cleaning up the unions must begin by breaking the link with Labour.
Picket tonight organised by CPGB-ML. For the second time local residents have attended Tricketts surgery to voice our support for the bin men. Unite told bin men not to support this action for a second time and that men risked losing their jobs if they did. But burying your head in the sand isn’t a great survival strategy.
The Birmingham bin strike is far from over. The ballot of industrial action is valid from Monday, although bin men won’t be taking strike action as they are relying on the Union lawyers and officials to come to some sort of agreement with the Council else see the matter settled in their favour in the Courts.
Reliance on the bourgeois courts is the favoured tactic of most trade union negotiators these days when settlement through agencies like ACAS isn’t possible. Having seen the tangible value of an ACAS agreement in August, and the back-stabbing antics of the Labour Party, the CPGB-ML is of the opinion that the real strength of the workers lies in industrial action and political pressure exerted against the Labour party. Closing your eyes and wishing that your cheating, lieing, underhand partner is going to change their ways is wishful thinking. The reality of the trade union – Labour party “relationship” has tragic consequences for the workers who fail to ascertain that endless pleading with Labour to “see sense” gets you nowhere – bullies only understand strength and there’s no choice but to fight them.
Join CPGB-ML outside the surgery of Councillor Trickett
Thursday 12th October 6.00 – 7.00pm
Moseley Exchange, Moseley Community Development Trust, The Post Office Building, 149 – 153 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JP
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