Friday 20 March 2009

Economic League, economic hooligans

I'm very glad to see the shutting down of the Consulting Association, an employment blacklisting organisation which kept files on political activists and trade unionists, and even people who raised health and safety concerns (Socialist Worker: Construction blacklist: Bosses pay £2.20 to destroy lives). And I will be very interested to see what legal action is taken against those who ran, and those companies which subscribed to, the Consulting Assholeciation.

If you think you may be on the Construction Association blacklist, you can check with the Information Commissioner's Office. Their Consulting Association info page tells you not only how to check your details, but also lists the companies which suscribed to the CA.

Personally, I'd like to see every company who subscribed to them raided, and their bosses prosecuted for not only blackisting but also for aiding and abetting a blacklisting organisation. Let's face it, 'just looking' is absolutely no excuse in the case of, for example, kiddie porn. And a number of organisations, including the NSPCC, have cited a link between unemployment and poverty - the end result of blacklisting! - and child abuse. So I'd just love to see all involved locked in a cell with Gary Glitter, Ian Huntley et al. And the key recycled!

I know, that's hardly likely to happen. Especially when you bear in mind that the state has an unhappy history of keeping files on political dissidents; back in the 1980's (and probably more recently), MI5 kept numerous files on socialists and even used to infiltrate left-wing political parties.

At the same time, the laws passed in 1999 banning blacklists are welcome - even if it did take a f***ing decade for them to be enforced! Back in the 80's and before, a blacklisting organisation called the Economic League used to operate legally. And, whereas the Consulting Association seems to have most of its subscribing companies in the construction industry, the Economic League had a much larger range of subscribing companies, including Ford motor cars, Tate and Lyle sugar (who also subscribed to Caprim, the first 'son of Economic League'), and McDonalds (citation on McSpotlight).

One of the major factors which brought down the Ecch-onomic League in the early 90's, was consumer boycotts of products made by subscribing companies. In the case of large construction companies, direct consumer boycotts are less practicable. But that does not mean there is nothing we can do.

Pressure must be put on councils and public service bodies, through the unions, to stop using the services of companies which use blacklists. Such companies should especially be banned from PFI projects - such as Academies. If such a company ends up running an Academy (construction firms have already sponsored academies), how would we know that kids attending such schools, who showed signs of not agreeing with the capitalist Establishment (and who could blame them ???), wouldn't end up on such a blacklist ?!?

Apart from anything else, this is yet another argument against academies and the creeping privatisation of education! And we shouldn't stop at re-nationalising our schools, hospitals, etc.

Every company which has used such a blacklist should also be nationalised. Without compensation to their criminal bosses!

Saturday 7 March 2009

Radio pirates and Establishment raiders

It seems to be open season again on pirate radio, or free radio as I prefer to call it (BBC News: Pirate radio 'puts lives at risk').

The allegations of pirate radio causing interference go back to at least the 1980's, probably before that, and are as grossly exaggerated now as they were then. Besides, the constant crackdowns on free radio stations can, if anything, have a counter-productive effect where it comes to the elimination of interference. As penalties for 'illegal broadcasting' increase and the severity of studio raids increase - now even records and CDs can be confiscated, as well as broadcasting equipment - free radio operators take steps to avoid the studio being located. One is the use of 'link transmitters' on non-broadcast frequencies, which massively increases the risk of them being on a frequency used by emergency services or aircraft. As is the case with drugs, criminalisation has created a risk which really need not have been there.

In any case, the Establishment are being hypocritical, whining about free radio 'putting lives at risk' while, at the same time, the maintenance of emergency service radio equipment is being cut back. For example, one of the companies involved in the maintenance of radios for the emergency services, Arqiva, has just made a large number of people redundant (including myself :-( ). I fail to see how scaling back the maintenance of such vital radio equipment can increase the reliability of emergency services' communications :-P

There are also constant - again grossly exaggerated - reports from the Establishment media, about pirate stations being involved with illegal drug-related rave parties. Again, when the mainstream broadcasters continue to irresponsibly promote alcohol, which kills more people and causes more violence than illegal drugs, the stench of hypocrisy is overpowering!

The real reasons for the crackdown on free radio are twofold. The most obvious one is that the legal stations - which, despite calling themselves 'local radio', are increasingly owned by a handful of medis giants - don't want competition eating into their fat profits.

The less obvious, but maybe more important, reason for the Establishment's hatred for free radio, is also to do with competition - for ideas. The mainstream broadcasters have, over the past few years, increasingly become a mouthpiece for Establishment propaganda. For example, the broadcast media played an important part in encouraging people to support the Iraq war in 2003, and during the Gaza conflict, the mainstream news reports were heavily biased in favour of Israel. Then there's the endless adverts for military recruitment, against 'benefit fraud', etc. The last thing the Establishment want is alternative broadcasters eroding the ability of their media to indoctrinate the masses.

Not that all pirate radio is inherently progressive. In my time on the free radio scene, I came across a few characters who were just as alienated and brainwashed as many in wider society. But at their best, community-based pirates can and have given a side of the news not generally heard on the mainstream stations, and helped promote local activity against racism. For example, in the 90's, the Birmingham pirate PCRL had a phone-in programme about the threat of the BNP and how to deal with it.

What we need is broadcasting by the community, aiming to inform and serve the community. Not by big business, aiming to promote the Establishment's agenda and maximise profits.