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The Socialist 18 November 2020


The Socialist issue 1110

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#SpyCops inquiry - Revealing police violence against Socialists

Police surveillance, photo Paul Mattsson

Police surveillance, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

Lois Austin, non-state core participant

Six years since it was first announced, the Undercover Policing inquiry finally started taking evidence from witnesses last week. This phase of the inquiry concerned the earliest days of the Metropolitan Police's spy cops unit, the Special Operations Squad, later called the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), for the years 1968-72.

It is clear from the evidence so far that the SDS was set up to spy on the revolutionary socialist left by the secret services. They were scared that British workers would be inspired by the revolutionary events in France 1968. While some of the intelligence reports disclosed to the inquiry exaggerate the role of SDS officers in subverting the left, it is clear that the state was genuinely worried about how the idea of socialist change could win wide support.

The most harrowing parts of the inquiry so far are the stories of women deceived into intimate sexual relationships. The lawyer representing 30 women told of how 'Rosa', as she is known to the inquiry, escaped an abusive relationship with an undercover police officer and started a new life, only for him to turn up at the bookshop she was working in to plead with her to get back with him. She told of how, once Rosa found out that her partner was a spy, SDS officers made a 'welfare' visit to her home telling her that she couldn't tell anyone, and if she did the full might of Special Branch would be used against her.

One undercover officer unwittingly gave the game away, saying the two leading figures he targeted were not planning violent disorder. "They were very nice people, very intelligent", he said. He was also asked how he came to be whacked over the head by a police truncheon on an anti-Vietnam demo, he said: "Because I looked like a protester, long hair and scruffy and the police wanted to hit the protesters." So there you have it; an admission of a police riot and brutality.

There are big problems with this inquiry. Lawyers representing non-state core participants are prevented from questioning undercover officers. Rajiv Menon QC was told by the head of the inquiry Mitting, that "he will be silenced" after he attempted to ask questions aimed at probing the evidence.

There is also no live stream of the inquiry so we have a public inquiry held in secret. We are still campaigning for live streaming, the right to ask police witnesses questions, full disclosure of cover names and the names of organisations spied on.

  • See also 'Spycops inquiry: why the capitalist state feared and continues to fear socialism' at

In this issue

What we think

Tory crisis cannot be 'reset' - workers need a new mass party


Tories in turmoil... 'Reset' the whole system! Fight for socialism

Croydon Council declares bankruptcy - no cuts in Croydon or any other council

System failing thousands of children in care

Race disparity gets worse - fight to improve living standards for all


Covid, vaccines, 'big pharma' - and the need for socialism


Tories student 'evacuation' plan will not work

Wales exams scrapped: What's behind the headline?


Campaign for school Covid safety must continue

Workplace news

Women workers need strong trade unions to defend their jobs, pay and services

Optare: Right to strike defended

Overcrowded Little Ilford School strikes against more expansion

Strike action ballot at UEL over job cuts

Hackney council parking services brought in-house


After Corbyn: TUSC and the fight for working-class political representation


How will Socialism 2020 work?

Manchester student occupation - end rip-off rent, free education now

#SpyCops inquiry - Revealing police violence against Socialists

Selling the Socialist

Stop Leicester hospital closure


Young Socialists organising for our future


Obituary: Paul Chettle


The Socialist Inbox


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18 November 2020