Kevin Doyle Blog

"The time is rotten ripe for revolution…"

Anarchist Lens: Fear At Work…

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Jimmy Savile with ThatcherScandals (and industrial accidents) are often interesting for unexpected reasons. Usually an investigation or inquiry follows and via this we get a view of what is going on inside these organisations and institutions at the center of the trouble. These snapshots, so to speak, are often very revealing.

A case in point is the investigation into the Jimmy Savile affair. Next month former British judge Janet Smith is set to publish her final report into Savile’s rampage inside the BBC. The celebrity had an association with the UK broadcaster for over forty years. Savile was very successful but it has since emerged that he was not what he appeared to be. According to an early (leaked) draft of Smith’s report, Savile perpetrated:

rapes and indecent assaults on girls and boys… in “virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked”. He carried out abuse on the sets of Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It, at least once on camera.

Savile died in 2011 but he is implicated in four definite rapes – two of girls under 16 – and at least one attempted rape. It is estimated that he sexually assaulted in total 61 individuals and that these attacks took place “in corridors, kitchens, canteens and dressing rooms” run and maintained by the BBC.

It gets  worse. According to The Guardian, Smith’s final report is expected to include ‘devastating detail of the corporation’s “sheer scale of awareness” of the late star’s activities’. In one bizarre way, of course, this is not that surprising. Savile’s criminal activities were reckless. Many of his assaults were carried out on BBC property and inevitably some of these were witnessed. Or, as is often (and was) the case, a number of victims had attempted to alert people in authority about what had happened to them at Savile’s hands – to no avail. Savile died with the extensive cover-up of his worse abuses intact.

So, what was going on?

Here’s where the ‘snapshot’ element of Smith’s investigation is most revealing. As part of her remit Smith has had the means and time to speak to a wide range of people who are (or were) working for the BBC during Savile’s tenure. She has been able to approach people at most levels. The BBC’s top management have had their say quite a number of times already and, needless to say, they have done quite an amount of hand-wringing: “It’s terrible”, “It should never have happened”,”It’ll never happen again” and so on and so forth. But Smith has also spoken to many others: those on short term contracts, permanent  and full-time employees as well as middle managers. Here is what she has had to say about that:

I found that employee witnesses who were about to say something to the review that was even mildly critical of the BBC were extremely anxious to maintain their anonymity,” she wrote. “These people were, and still are, afraid for their positions. Even with modern employment protection, people fear that, even if they do not lose their jobs, their promotion prospects will be blighted if they complain.

Not to put too fine a point on it then many BBC employees work at the broadcaster under a climate of fear. No doubt they can speak freely about many things but there are many matters that they are simply not allowed to air their views on. If they do they will suffer the consequences.

Thatcher

Even more poignant is Smith’s observation that the situation has actually deteriorated for employees in the last number of years:

potential whistle blowers [are] … even now more worried about losing their jobs. Short-term and freelance contracts [mean] a workforce “with little or no job security”, which [is] even less likely to speak out about the behavior of colleagues.

Authoritarianism in the workplace is a part and parcel of capitalism. Most of us have come across in one shape or another at some time in our life. For many, a big objective in life is to get into a situation where authoritarianism had a limited or minimal effect on one’s working life. Also some companies aren’t as bad as others. Or if you are in a union that has clout  you and your co-workers can win yourself quite a bit of wriggle room – what’s is often termed here in Ireland the ‘not a bad number’ type of job. But for vast numbers of people authoritarianism at work is a huge daily blight in their lives. Stress and depression are common responses that workers suffer. A job where you work in a climate of fear will often more illness and even an earlier death.

The inquiry into Savile crimes in the BBC exposes this and much more. Firstly, it shows, how commonplace and pervasive fear at work is. [Who would have thought and in the BBC too?! Right?] Secondly the deteriorating situation for many workers is underlined by Smith candid observations – thinks are getting worse and not better. So-called ‘workplace reforms’, in effect those changes to workplace conditions initiated by Thatcher, have hugely disadvantage workers – leading to increased casualisation, short term or zero-hour contracts as well as explosion in the use of sub-contracted labour. The effect has been to increase the power of management, making their rule even more absolute. This means greater fear in the workplace and even more silence. Workers, who are often the real eyes and ears of society, are now even less willing to speak out.

Climate of Fear

dictatorship_of_the_bourgeoisie_by_party9999999-d5j1e76The case of Savile and the BBC is no aberration. In essence it is quite similar to a host of other examples from right across the spectrum of work where a climate of fear has actively contributed to disasters and tragedies of various orders of magnitude. If we look closely at event like the Deepwater Horizon explosion or say the Bhopal disaster – to use just two well-known cases – we can read that clear warnings made by workers either went unheeded or were actively censored leading to the tragedies that we now know all about all too well.

Savile ruined a lot of lives and damaged many, many more. His long reign of terror in the BBC is one of the best examples out there now of how damaging authoritarian really is.

Interview with Chomsky: Anarchism, Marxism and Hope …

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LiftNoam Chomsky is widely known for his critique of U.S foreign policy, and for his work as a linguist. Less well known is his ongoing support for libertarian socialist objectives. In a special interview done for Red and Black Revolution [May 1995] Chomsky talks to Kevin Doyle about anarchism, marxism and the hope for the future.

Link to full interview here and here. PDF of Red and Black Revolution 2 Also available from AK Press in ‘Chomsky On Anarchism’

Written by kfdoyle

March 31, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Obama: Change You Can’t Believe In.

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ObamaThe election of Barack Obama to the White House in 2008 was one of the most celebrated electoral victories of recent times. Not since Nelson Mandela’s win in South Africa, following the collapse of the Apartheid regime, was the supposed power of the ballot box so publicly celebrated and displayed.

Obama’s victory was hailed as a triumph for the ‘democratic process’ and was widely touted as a fine example of how people power and electioneering can trump entrenched bigotry and money.

Full version here. Published in the Irish Anarchist Reivew [Issue 3]  May 2011.

Written by kfdoyle

March 31, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Patrick Galvin: Renowned Poet and Socialist is Dead

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P GalvinPatrick Galvin, the renowned Cork writer and socialist, has died. Born in Margaret Street in Cork in 1927, Paddy was a prodigious and accomplished writer producing many works in poetry and drama, as well as writing the memoir The Raggy Boy Trilogy. He was also a most accomplished balladeer and many of his early works were in this form.  

Full version here. First published May 11th, 2011

Written by kfdoyle

March 31, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Pamphlet: Parliament Or Democracy?

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9734394770_8603656202_nThe French Revolution of 1789 put an end to the idea that some people were born to rule. In only a short number of years one of the oldest and most powerful monarchies in Europe was swept away. In its place came the idea of legal equality and individual rights as set out in the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.’

The basis of these new rights, established on foot of a great social upheaval, was the real hallmark of the French Revolution since it was accepted, from that point on, that laws and how they were made were the expression of the ‘general will’. As such these laws could be made and unmade as that ‘general will’ was discerned. This was the real break with the past.

At the time of the French Revolution the idea of the ‘general will’ was still new in politics. Even so the implications for the future were not difficult to make out. Sixty years earlier, in England, during the Civil War the very same issues had come to the fore. If the monarchy was to be dispensed with, what type of society should replace it? What exactly constituted the ‘general will’? And, as importantly, in whose service was its rule to be applied?

Read the full version on line here.  Or download the pdf here.   First published by Workers Solidarity Movement (Ireland) 1993.  Second edition (Expanded) 1995.

Interview: The Irish Struggle Against Austerity

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Dáil

 

Now two years on from that time, we are finally getting to the bottom of a very deep hole. It has transpired that the debts in the banking sector were significantly larger than expected. The debts at Anglo Irish Bank were astronomical.

The current Government has nonetheless stood by its ‘word’ and as a result the Irish State has been sucked into the banking disaster.  And there you have it: now we are being asked to pay for all of that!

This interview, conducted by Mike Harris, was published in Idea and Action (USA) here.   A translation into Spanish is available here.

Note on photograph: Showing the Irish Gardaí mobilised to protect the Dáil (parliament) following a huge orotest march in Dublin against wage cuts and austerity.

Written by kfdoyle

March 31, 2016 at 2:29 pm

The Revolution In Spain in ’36

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SpainThey fought for radical improvements and for liberty (against great odds, it should be said). In the case of the Spanish Revolution they achieved an enormous amount. But perhaps most of all, as I see it anyway, they’ve left us with something that is tremendously important in this day and age – a model of what an alternative society might look like, as well as concrete evidence that such a model can work.

Text of talk given to Socialist Society in February, 1997, to mark the anniversary of the Spanish Revolution..  Full version here.

Hickson Explosion – Cork 1993

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HicksonThe explosion and fire at the Hickson chemical plant in Ringaskiddy, Cork, last August, has gone down as one of the most serious industrial accidents in Ireland to date. Though no fatalities resulted, it is now clear that this outcome was only a matter of luck. One worker, the first to notice that something was wrong, left the site of the explosion minutes before it blew up. And the explosion itself, occurred shortly before shifts were due to change on that morning of August 6th.

Continued here.

This report was published in Workers Solidarity (Feb 1994)

Related Articles:

No Global Review 

Hickson Chemical Spill – Profits Came Before Safety

Worker Killed in Corden PharmaChem  Explosion

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