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IN March 2015, Theresa May was forced to set up the public inquiry into undercover policing.
Three-and-a-half years later, not a single witness has taken to the stand and not a single document has been disclosed to the lawyers representing those who had their human rights violated by the activities of the notorious Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).
Instead, the spycops public inquiry remains bogged down in a quagmire of legal wrangling over whether the undercover officers and their senior managers will ever have to give evidence and, if they do, whether it will be in public or private. Sir John Mitting, the judge in charge of the inquiry, is repeatedly making decisions in favour of anonymity for the perpetrators of the human rights abuses in order to protect their right to privacy.
Even the most optimistic commentators don’t predict any evidence hearings will start until the middle of 2019. The public inquiry is turning into an Establishment cover-up right before our eyes.
But why should delegates and visitors to the Labour Party conference be interested? Because despite the outrage over covert police resources being used to spy on the grieving parents of murder victims or the revelations that undercover officers systematically engaged in long-term sexual relationships with female activists to shore up their false identities, there is a bigger picture that often gets missed in the reporting of the national scandal.
While the public is rightly outraged by the human interest side of the spycops story, the substantive issue at the heart of this inquiry is how the secret state proactively sets out to infiltrate and undermine progressive political campaigns.
The families of Stephen Lawrence and Ricky Reel were not spied on by accident. They were seeking justice for their loved ones, but in so doing they were also exposing the institutional racism of the Metropolitan Police.
Infiltration of multiple family justice campaigns and groups exposing deaths in custody was a conscious decision by those in charge of Britain’s shady political policing units to keep those fighting against racism and police corruption under close surveillance.
But the true extent of political policing in Britain extends much wider. The inquiry has acknowledged that over 1,000 groups engaged in perfectly legal political campaigning were infiltrated over a 40-year period by police spies.
Spycops were embedded inside CND, anti-apartheid groups, environmental campaigns and trade unions.
Six years after a complaint was submitted by the Blacklist Support Group, the Met Police has finally admitted that the police supplied information to the blacklist of union members in the construction industry.
This is state-sanctioned collusion with an unlawful corporate conspiracy.
Recently, the 30-year rule revealed that the security services collated the Subversion in Public Life blacklist of left-wing activists in the Civil Service, while MI5 infiltration of the NUM during the miners’ strike is well documented.
But you didn’t need to be Arthur Scargill to be considered a threat to national security. Journalists who took photographs of protests have found themselves on the National Domestic Extremism Database.
The deep state surveillance even goes as far as spying on the Labour Party and elected politicians. Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and even the future home secretary Diane Abbott were all spied on by the police.
In many cases the undercover officers have been described as highly disruptive or have been accused of acting as agent provocateurs.
The actions of these police units were nothing more than an attempt to both gather intelligence on and to disrupt the activities of predominantly left-of-centre political campaigns that threaten the status quo. This is why the entire labour movement should be concerned.
If the security services and virtually unaccountable political police units have expended this level of resources to undermine entirely legal campaigns for a fairer society over the past 40 years, who seriously thinks they will remain neutral when we get a Corbyn Labour government?
The entrenched right-wing elements of the British secret state have learned their craft and their ideological worldview from centuries of colonialism.
The slave trade, the Raj, Kenya, Ireland — the anti-democratic pattern is clear for anyone who cares to look. The spycops, MI5 and GCHQ will go into overdrive if vested corporate interests are threatened. That’s how a capitalist state machinery works.
The biggest threat to democracy in Britain today comes from the right wing — xenophobic demagogic politicians, billionaire media oligarchs and “useful idiots” in the fascist street gangs, with the secret state apparatus playing its role hidden in the shadows.
There have already been reports in the press of senior military officers openly discussing the possibility of a coup against a Corbyn government.
Anyone who believes “things like that don’t happen here” needs to take a fresh look at the history of the British empire and think again.
The spycops scandal is only scratching the surface, which is precisely why the Establishment wants the entire issue covered up.
All sections of the labour movement, from MPs, councillors, trade unions and associated campaigns need to come together to demand the public inquiry comes clean by releasing the cover names of all the undercover officers and the names of the campaigns they infiltrated.
We also need to know which government ministers — whether Conservative or Labour — were overseeing these units, giving the orders and receiving the intelligence.
Only then will the public begin to see the true nature and scope of political policing in this country and only then will our movement fully appreciate the scale of the task ahead of us if we truly want to make irreversible change.
Dave Smith is secretary of the Blacklist Support Group.
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