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Nothing New in the World at Wapping
Peter Jarvis, a National Graphical Association picket
The police working for News of the World... phones hacked... what's new? The printers and their trade union supporters who fought Murdoch back in 1986 believed the police worked directly for News International and our phones were certainly tapped.
Murdoch had transferred his papers to Wapping from Fleet Street, and in the process sacked the 5,000 employees who made his fortune. His aim was to rid his papers of any trade union influence.
The Wapping stable of papers supported Thatcher and she returned the favour. Following the defeat of the miners, her government could not allow the print workers to win, so the forces of the state were put at the disposal of one press baron.
Each night during the year long battle, the strikers attempted to delay the distribution of the papers. On the smaller marches, after some gentle jostling the police would shove us easily onto the pavement, but on the days the demonstrations numbered thousands a serious struggle would take place and it would take hours before the coppers gained full control of the streets.
Our problem, the scab lorries could escape from numerous exits, Thomas More Street at one end and Glamis Road at the other - nearly one mile apart.
However, on the days we controlled the exits, a group of agent provocateurs would pelt the police and this was the signal for the police to attack.
Following the initial forays into the crowd by riot police, cavalry charges would be used to disperse our mass picket - they rode down fleeing workers.
Militant (forerunner of the Socialist) supported the mass picketing strategy. On the TUC-called demonstration, the police were unable to release the lorries from fortress Wapping, but unfortunately the TUC sent everyone home and the lorries and vans escaped, although late.
The print unions were fighting for their very existence and not just in Fleet Street. Militant demanded a national newspaper strike. Stopping the distribution of the papers would have boosted morale but the key to victory was escalating the industrial action. With the national papers stopped, other support could have been organised.
The unions exercised some restraint on the more reactionary content of Murdoch's papers and had refused to print certain editorials. This challenged Murdoch's right and his right alone to decide the content. After the defeat, future printers and journalists became tame puppets and Murdoch's dictatorship was never again challenged.
Not one tear should be shed for the News of the World bosses. Now let's work to bring the rest of Murdoch's empire to its knees. If the public inquiry was genuine then it would investigate the collusion of the government, police and Murdoch back in 1986.
In The Socialist 13 July 2011:
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