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Letter to The Observer
As an activist with Youth Against Racism in Europe and Militant Labour in London in the mid-90s, and now with Militant's successor, the Socialist Party, I remember "Officer A" (your cover story, 14 March) well.
The combination of thinning hair on top and a pony tail at the back would be hard to forget.
What I don't recognise is the picture of our campaigns as secretive and violent. Having myself been bashed about by the police at the big Welling demo against the BNP, and in light of your revelations, I'd say that secrecy and violence was the prerogative of the police.
Officer A called himself Peter and joined Militant from a group at Kingsway College called the Revolutionary Internationalist League.
They were not then "up and coming", never having more than six members.
We didn't organise in secret, so "Peter" wouldn't have found out anything that wasn't going to be public knowledge.
Police resources might have been more economically expended by buying a copy of Militant every week and turning up at our public meetings.
Was the observational role described by Officer A his full mission? We were at pains to point out that defeating racist and fascist groups is a political task.
It needs patient activity in working class communities, not argy-bargy on the streets. I recall that "Peter" wasn't as convinced of our position as he could have been and tended to favour street fighting.
Perhaps he was sent in partly to act as provocateur?
You say that "Peter" found himself conflicted and in sympathy with campaigns against police brutality.
I remember him as a diffident individual who appeared unhappy in his own skin. Now I know why and the reason for his disappearance in Mid-1997, telling us that he was moving to Greece and donating the meagre contents of his rather grotty flat on the Holloway Road to be sold to raise funds.
Certainly, "Peter" seems to have come out of this the worst, being misused by his police bosses, as his subsequent ill health would show.
One has to have some sympathy for him.
Our campaigns weren't disrupted by "Peter" and didn't end because of police infiltration. They had a successful conclusion, with the BNP unable to openly organise in London for about a decade.
It was only thirteen years of New Labour that managed to boost the BNP again. That's the real scandal, and one that requires the building of a political alternative to racism that will fight for working people, thus undercutting the BNP and its ilk.