Issue #1567 3 October 2012
Culture & Life
Bishops, blacklisting and business
Ever since Jesus chased the money lenders from the Temple, the rich have had an uneasy relationship with Christianity: often cosying up to Church hierarchy for their mutual benefit even as their pursuit of profit was being reviled as sinful by theologians and preachers. They had to wait until the Reformation to find church leaders who could successfully marry the ethics of capitalism to those of Christianity. Once they did that, the modern church was off and running. Even today, however, contradictions between practice and preaching still occur.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, during the banking collapse of 2008, criticised hedge funds for causing the crisis. He accused hedge funds, as a result, of driving up food prices and the constant “grabbing of things in the world”. He was backed up by the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who said: “The turmoil in the markets is almost certainly the result of amoral forces.” (Surely the Church of England would be more effective if its leaders used modern idiom?)
In any case, neither Bishop nor Archbishop appear to have been listened to: the Church of England has revealed that it has poured some £60 million of vicars’ pension investments into hedge funds run by some of the world’s richest people.
Some British workers who are definitely not among the world’s richest people are the several thousand construction workers who were blacklisted over their union activity or their concern over safety issues. An investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009 found that a chap named Ian Kerr, of Droitwich, on behalf of an outfit with the innocuous-sounding name The Consulting Association, actually held details of 3,213 construction workers in Britain. The Association traded these details for profit, selling prospective employers details of a worker’s trade union activism, whether the worker ever raised health and safety issues, his friends and associates, the type of car he owned, his facial features, political affiliations, even his religion.
Some of the information, such as attendance at anti-fascist rallies, could only have come from police data banks. Construction workers plan to ask the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate allegations that police have apparently supplied data about workers to an industry blacklist.
Being a site safety rep was enough to put a worker on the blacklist, as was drawing attention to safety hazards or to dangerous practices. Now the Blacklist Support Group has launched a High Court claim for compensation for years of employment lost because of blacklisting. Many of the claimants say they were repeatedly dismissed from major construction projects and in some cases suffered years of unemployment because of their union activities or for raising concerns about safety on building sites.
The existence of an organised blacklist in Britain raises the question of the likelihood of a similar employer scheme operating here in Australia.
While business groups in Britain were still rejoicing at the way the London Olympic Games had boosted their economic performance, at huge cost to the public purse of course, the data company SSentif released figures showing that the number of homeless in Britain rose by a quarter over the last three years, from 40,020 in 2009/10 to 50,290 in 2011/12.
During the same period, SSentif noted, spending on tackling homelessness fell from £213.7 million to £199.8 million. So, although homelessness went up, the Tory-dominated British government was less concerned about it. (Now there’s a comforting thought!).
It’s ironic isn’t it, that the attitude of modern capitalism towards the Olympic Games (indeed, towards all big sporting events) is the same as that of the ancient Roman Empire, a society whose wealth was based on slavery: the Games are a diversion for the masses, distracting them from the oppressed reality of their lives.
Did you see where the Syrian troops who overran the “rebel” positions in Aleppo captured not only Syrian “dissidents” but also a number of Turkish and Saudi officers from those countries’ special forces. Their presence reinforced the strong sense of déjà vu about the whole Syrian “insurrection”: it resembles oh so closely the similar “insurrection” by Spanish dictator General Franco. His forces were dependent on mercenaries from North Africa, augmented by the regular armed forces of Italy and Germany.
As for the so-called Western democracies – themselves also imperialist states, of course – they were more than happy to see Spain fall to the Fascists if it kept “the Reds” out of the Mediterranean. The US, Britain and France – together with Turkey, Israel and the feudal Saudis – would be happy to see Syria fall into the hands of the fascist-minded Islamists, if it meant removing Russia’s influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Meanwhile, a retired British officer, Colonel Richard Kemp, in his contribution to a new report “A Collision Course for Intervention”, frankly gives his opinion that “it is highly likely that some western special forces and intelligence resources have been in Syria for considerable time.
“The most important intelligence can only be gained by clandestine operations by special forces and national intelligence agencies on the ground.” According to the good Colonel these clandestine operations could include sabotage and encouraging a coup d’état against the regime. He also noted that Special Forces advisers working alongside opposition commanders, with air support on call, “could be tactically and strategically decisive, as it proved in Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya in 2011”.
In other words, our Intelligence savvy British colonel (retired) is acknowledging that the overthrow of the popular, secular government of Muammar Gaddafi and its replacement by a fanatical religious regime intent on ethnic cleansing and “holy war”, was predominantly the work of special forces from outside the country, not Libyan “freedom fighters”. But then, we already knew that. NATO could hardly disguise it.
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