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Trade Union Conference Opposing Political Policing
Secret police infiltration of workers' movement exposed
John Viner, Unison union rep (personal capacity) and West London Socialist Party
Up to 200 socialists, trade union activists and community campaigners took part in the important Trade Union Conference Opposing Political Policing on 16 November.
With capitalism in crisis and political turmoil ahead, we can be certain that secret state interference in campaign groups is not limited to the past.
The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (Cops) was launched in response to revelations that undercover police officers infiltrated trade unions and campaigning organisations, including the Socialist Party and its forerunner Militant.
Police spies even formed long-term sexual relationships under false pretences with at least 30 women. The women of the Police Spies Out Of Lives campaign have led a courageous fight for justice.
Professor Sian Moore opened by describing some of the ways gig economy workers are spied on by employers.
Dave Smith, chair of the Blacklist Support Group, said union activists in the building industry had long suspected employers ran an illegal 'blacklist' but previously lacked the proof.
'Cops' believes this specific sort of infiltration began at least as far back as 1972. "1968 was a step change," said the Guardian's Rob Evans, author of the book 'Undercover'.
The police were caught out by the big protest movements that took place from the mid-1960s.
Previously, police relied on their network of informers, later deemed unreliable. The Metropolitan Police founded the 'Special Demonstration Squad' in 1968, with undercover officers infiltrating left-wing groups and campaigns that grew up around opposition to the Vietnam war.
In total, the SDS was to employ 140 officers up until 2010. It spied on at least 1,000 groups and 18 families, from the Young Liberals to the Stephen Lawrence family's campaign for justice in that racist murder case.
Under pressure from public outrage, Theresa May, Tory home secretary at the time, launched a public inquiry into undercover policing in 2013. But it won't be until June 2020 that the inquiry hears from the first witness!
Socialist Party member Lois Austin, 'Cops' chair, called on the trade union movement to take up the fight against political policing. A model resolution is available for union branches.
Afternoon workshops highlighted various areas of campaigning. The conference concluded with the Socialist Party's Dave Nellist, former Militant-supporting Labour MP for Coventry South East, asking: "On whose authority was the surveillance and monitoring of not just members of the public, but at least eleven left-wing Labour MPs, authorised?"
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