Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 May 2021

Spycops inquiry continues to expose historic attacks on democratic rights

  (Click to enlarge)

Lois Austin and Clare Wilkins

A second round of hearings in the supposedly ‘public’ Undercover Policing Inquiry took place from 21 April to 13 May, covering the period from 1973 to 1982.

Undercover police from the Special Demonstration Squad have been granted anonymity to protect their 'right to a private life', but the activists and families they spied on have had intimate details of their lives reported on and kept for decades. They have now been interrogated by lawyers in the hearings about the details in the police reports - that the officers "can't recollect" writing.

The inquiry is important, both historically and to expose the tactics of the capitalist state. These tactics are still going on; the Police and Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, if passed into law, will make protest illegal and spycops activities legal!

Sickening interrogation

While watching the inquiry it was sickening to see activists interrogated about their activism. They were grilled on whether they wanted to cause public disorder, engage in 'criminality' (including flyposting and obstruction) or violence, even though the police reports clearly stated that they did not!

Two days were spent hearing witnesses from the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Stop the Seventy Tour campaign. The lawyer that questioned these activists, and the police involved, acted as if protesting against the South African apartheid regime was still not OK, despite the vindication of history.

It became normal practice for the Special Demonstration Squad to use the identities of dead children as cover, and even get information from local Special Branch about those children's lives. One of the officers interviewed was entirely dismissive of the effects their actions had on families. Some had tricked women activists into sexual relationships. Asked if he had any feelings for one of the women, one officer said: "Well, I got a lot of information out of her".

This same undercover police officer contacted the Troops Out Movement to ask if there was a branch in South east London. One was set up afterwards. He then climbed through the ranks of the organisation until he was part of the national leadership, using sexual relationships to help him do this. He found new people to come to events and demonstrations and then spied on them.

Police spied on the justice campaign of Celia Stubbs - partner of murdered anti-apartheid activist Blair Peach. They sent twelve undercover police to his funeral, and continued to spy on the campaign to prevent the police involved being held to account.

Turning point

'Madeleine's' evidence about being tricked into a relationship by 'Rick Gibson' was powerful, but the cross examination by the inquiry QC was intrusive - in the worst traditions of victim blaming. The questioning proved to be a bit of a turning point in the inquiry's attitude to the police witnesses, from this point there was far less banter and a tougher questioning of the spycops.

The undercover police consider what they did to be correct. Most had been in Special Branch, and some said that quite a lot of their work was directed by the security services. One said that subversion was "whatever the security services said it was." Supposedly it was carrying out, or planning to carry out, public disorder in order to undermine parliamentary democracy.

When asked about why the police did not bother much with the National Front or the far right - only one organisation of the far right was infiltrated between 1973 and 1982 - they said they did not need to! When asked to give instances of violence, several spycops described violence from the National Front or from police officers.

The bosses are threatened by what can be achieved by the working class in struggle. That is why the state was, and still is, used to attack democratic rights. It is why the Tories want to attack the democratic right to protest today, and why we need to fight to defend it (see back page).

Donate to the Socialist Party

Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • We must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our Fighting Fund.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation £


Your message: 


In The Socialist 19 May 2021:


Build a mass movement to end Israeli state terror

Tens of thousands march against Israeli state terror

What we think

Johnson's Tories and Starmer's Labour have nothing to offer workers

Starmer moves against Unite - No to the attack on Beckett


What's needed to stop more Covid outbreaks?

Capitalism responsible for stark global Covid vaccine inequality

Workplace news

NHS: Scottish vote shows unions must fight for 15%

Unison: Elect reps who will back strike action

PCS elections - incumbents win, but solid vote for Broad Left Network

DVLA workers suspend strike for talks

Huge victory at Go North West as Unite defeats 'fire and rehire'

London Metroline strike against 'remote sign-on' goes ahead

CWU members' resolve to strike still firm as union enters talks

Strikes round-up

Campaigns news

Glasgow mass action defeats Home Office deportation attempt

Students and unions must resist misnamed 'free speech' bill

Mulivaikkal Remembrance Day 2021

Socialist Party black and Asian members discuss history

Help fund our bold socialist presence

We will not pay the cost of Covid! Defend the right to protest

Brighton marches to defend Moulsecoomb Primary School


Spycops inquiry continues to expose historic attacks on democratic rights

New voter ID laws: Electoral fraud - Tory style

News in brief

Readers' opinion

Readers' opinion


Home   |   The Socialist 19 May 2021   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:

Democratic rights:

triangleChartism: The world's first working-class movement

triangleThe Socialist Inbox

triangleCaerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: Defend the democratic rights to protest and strike

triangleNo to Tories' new anti-protest law


triangleStriking Scunthorpe steel scaffs up the ante

triangleTV review The Riots 2011: One Week in August

triangleFighting sexism and harassment, and for a safe night out

triangleArms fair: Hundreds of protesters defy police 'dispersal zone'


triangleThe fall of Apartheid in South Africa

triangleThe fall of Apartheid in South Africa

triangleLeeds & York Socialist Party: How apartheid was ended in South Africa


triangleVictory! Hackney children's centres saved

triangleHackney children's centres: Campaigners see through council deception

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns



Tesco warehouse workers ballot for strike action


Higher Education

Support uni workers' walk-out on pay and pensions



RMT to strike in night-tube dispute



Victory! Hackney children's centres saved


Socialism 2021

Socialism 2021: A steely determination to change society



Selling the Socialist



Northampton: Phoney consultation to mask cuts



Slough: Adult service cuts will leave vulnerable homeless



Newham: Durning Hall - another shameful act of Labour gentrification



West Sussex: Payouts for council bosses, cuts for us



Sage care home workers' pay victory



Panasonic workers strike against pay freeze



Midwives march against unsafe staffing and for adequate funding



Birmingham People's Budget


South Wales

Stagecoach drivers win £10.50 an hour

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: [email protected]

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 077 7221 5281

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 078 0983 9793



Alphabetical listing

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021