Letter to the Editors from the August 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard
I am glad you found our book Blacklisted had value (Book Reviews, July Socialist Standard). With the announcement last month of the Pitchford inquiry’s terms of reference on undercover police officers, the point about calling for an inquiry is apposite.
One point I would raise (and Dave Smith may have a different view) is that we primarily set out to explain in detail the operation and effect of the construction blacklist. Part of that required putting that particular scandal in context – because it doesn’t arrive from nowhere – but this isn’t a comprehensive socioeconomic analysis and doesn’t pretend otherwise.
There is about half as much again that we left because it didn’t drive our key narrative. For instance there is more on how the unions operated that we felt, ultimately, sent us off course. This is a book to be read and distributed and campaigned with and used to inform and, yes, entertain.
So, I think to some extent your comment about not calling for the abolition of wage slavery is a criticism of something we never pretended we would do. And I don’t think every piece of work need have that call within it for it to be considered successful.
We are quite clear in the book that blacklisting is not an aberration but part of the mechanism of control deployed by corporations. We are explicit that the state is not neutral.
We are also clear that there are reservations about the reformist approaches adopted by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee and some unions in this matter. The debates on this are part of the story of blacklisting.
People may use the information in the book to support or undermine whichever political approach they like – but they can’t deny the scale, organisation and impact of blacklisting and that was our key objective.
I do hope we get more reviews which challenge us as yours has because it is only through debate that we can learn.
Phil Chamberlain, Associate Head of Dept for Broadcast and Journalism (acting), Bristol School of Film and Journalism