Law against workers: the Shrewsbury pickets, political policing and the state

PAUL HERON looks at the recent victory in the battle for justice for the Shrewsbury pickets, the landmark case from the 1970s of political policing against the working class movement.  Paul is a solicitor and founder of the Public Interest Law Centre. He is a Socialist Party member and sits on the executive committee of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.

On Tuesday 23 March 2021, the Court of Appeal, London, made the following judgement in the case of our clients Ricky Tomlinson, Arthur Murray[i] and the ‘Shrewsbury 24’.

“It follows that under Ground One, the convictions of all the appellants are unsafe. Their appeals are allowed and all the verdicts in relation to them are quashed”. (pt.99 of the Court judgement)

The convictions of the ‘Shrewsbury 24’ were quashed. The convictions were ruled unsafe, and as such the pickets walked from the court – as they have always been – innocent men.

They are however victims of police corruption, they are victims of a political trial, and they are victims of a Tory government – who at the time were looking to take revenge against the trade union movement.

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Thirty years since the Walton by-election

In July 1991 Militant, the predecessor organisation of the Socialist Party, stood its first parliamentary candidate independently of the Labour Party, in the Walton by-election that took place following the death of the stalwart left-wing Liverpool MP Eric Heffer. We reprint below edited extracts of an article by CLIVE HEEMSKERK from the Summer 1991 edition (No.46) of the Militant International Review, the forerunner of Socialism Today, placing Walton in the context of the heroic struggle of the 1983-87 Liverpool city council and its aftermath.
The reprinted article shows that not all the far-reaching consequences of the collapse of Stalinism on workers’ consciousness and their organisations were fully anticipated at the time – with the quantitative steps that would lead to the future qualitative transmutation of Labour into a capitalist party mooted but not with definitive conclusions drawn. This process and its culmination has been extensively analysed elsewhere in Socialism Today, a recent example being the special edition (No.239) devoted to the lessons of the Corbyn experience published in June 2020.
Nevertheless the article from 1991 still stands as a real time defence of the Walton campaign – as an example of the tenacious will to act, even in the most difficult circumstances, that is a vital prerequisite for success in the historic struggle for socialism.
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The life and legacy of Bob Marley

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the untimely early death of the celebrated Jamaican reggae musician and political activist Bob Marley. HUGO PIERRE, Socialist Party member and black members’ rep on Unison’s national executive council (personal capacity), looks at Marley’s music  and the political backdrop which shaped it.

The opening track of the final album Burnin’ (1973) by the original line-up of The Wailers, which included Bob Marley, articulated the militancy of oppressed black youth in Jamaica and in the UK, and reflected some of the preceding civil rights movement in the US.

The track, Get Up Stand Up, is used as a chant that could have come from any demonstration against racism and brutality from Kingston to Harlem, to London, to Johannesburg during the 1960s and 1970s.

Bob Marley drew on his experiences to put together an album that articulated the revolutionary mood in many black communities, and also the colonial revolution sweeping through much of the developing world, including Jamaica.

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Rewriting history

Mrs Thatcher vs the miners: the Battle for Britain

Channel 5 documentary, 2021. Available on my5

Reviewed by Eric Segal

Mrs Thatcher vs The Miners: the Battle for Britain, a documentary recently screened on Channel 5, is a transparent attempt by the bosses to rewrite history. History is written by the victors, but this account demands scrutiny by workers.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), came to prominence as a miners’ leader in 1972 when he organised ‘flying pickets’ of the Midlands’ Saltey Gate coking depot during the six week-long miners’ strike of that year. Having won this dispute, the NUM struck again in February 1974, which forced the Tory government of Ted Heath to call a general election under the slogan, ‘who governs Britain?’. After losing that election, and another in October 1974, the Tories chose a new leader, Mrs Thatcher, who was elected as prime minister in 1979. The documentary presents the miners’ strike as a personal struggle between Thatcher and Scargill.

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A new stage in the struggle

The latest devastating outbreak in an ongoing cycle of conflict is further proof of the inability of capitalism to meet the national aspirations of Palestinian and Jewish people in Israel-Palestine, argues JUDY BEISHON. But new features also point to how a way forward can be found.

When a ceasefire took hold after eleven days of war on Gaza by the Israeli military, Gaza’s traumatised population re-emerged onto the streets to survey scenes of terrible devastation. This was the fourth war since 2008 on Hamas-led Gaza by the Israeli regime. The Israeli military declared it had hit 1,500 targets during the onslaught, which it had named ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’.

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The war and its wider impact

CWI International Secretariat member ROBERT BECHERT looks at the repercussions across North Africa and the Middle East of the latest Israeli assault.

There can be no doubt that May’s round of death and destruction in Israel-Palestine will have serious repercussions in the whole Middle East. All the questions relating to the conflict in Israel-Palestine have been thrust into the limelight again with the new element of the consequences of the most serious clashes inside Israel between Israelis and Palestinians since those of October 2000.

Alongside the many deaths and injuries, the demolition of thousands of homes and, in Gaza, basic infrastructure, it has also blown a hole in the nine months’ old ‘Abraham Accords’, the agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain. Later similar agreements with Sudan and Morocco followed as the then US president Donald Trump offered each country ‘sweeteners’ to clinch their signatures. However these transactional deals pushed by the Trump administration did not even touch upon the roots of the divisions, clashes and wars between Israelis and Arabs.

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Socialism and national rights

How can we open a road to begin to solve seemingly age-old intractable national conflicts? Reprinted below are extracts from an article in issue No.181 of Socialism Today (September 2014), written by PETER TAAFFE following the summer 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza and the bloody conflict then unfolding in Ukraine.

Events in the last few months have graphically underlined that the different capitalist powers are totally unwilling and incapable of providing a democratic and just solution to the situation in Ukraine. The sheer hypocrisy of US imperialism and European capitalism on the one side and Russia’s oligarchic Putin regime on the other, in seeking the mantle of defenders of ‘oppressed nations and minorities’, will fool few thinking workers. It is a naked cash calculation allied to their strategic political and military vital interests that are at stake. ‘The right of self-determination’ is a hollow phrase, so much small change, to be quickly discarded if it stands in their way.

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Exposing the bloodsuckers

PETER TAAFFE reviews an impressive analysis of the role of commodity traders in ‘modern’ capitalism.

The World for Sale: Money, Power and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources

By Javier Blas and Jack Farchy

Published by Random House Business, 2021, £20

The World for Sale is an impressive, illuminating analysis of the corrosive rottenness and the corruption of ‘modern’ world capitalism. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for Britain, where the Johnson Tory government is engulfed in allegations of gross influence-peddling, ‘chumocracy’ and outright bribery.

Written by two former journalists from the Financial Times, Javier Blas and Jack Farchy, with expert and inside knowledge of the workings of the system, it reveals the corruption of world capitalism – on an absolutely gargantuan scale! The book describes in nauseating detail how a handful of ‘commodity traders’ facilitated the theft of the world’s resources, further impoverishing the masses in the collapsing ex-Stalinist states and in the neo-colonial world. Their work allows us to understand how these gangsters gained through the colossal theft of previously nationalised industries and economies in the ex-Stalinist states. At the same time, there were opportunities resulting from a new imperialist scramble for Africa, Asia, Latin America and indeed the whole world. This was facilitated by these traders. This new stratum of the international capitalist class exploited the lucrative niches in finance capitalism, stacked up riches for themselves and, in the process, has in effect carried out a new re-colonisation of the world.

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Will China’s bubble burst?

As tensions between China and the US continue to rise, HANNAH SELL reviews a recent book by former Bloomberg economist Thomas Orlik, looking at the character of China and perspectives for its economy.

China: The Bubble That Never Pops

By Thomas Orlik

Published by Oxford University Press, 2020, £23

Unlike many other aspects of US foreign policy, Biden’s election has not led to a fundamental change in direction when it comes to China. However, instead of Trump’s quixotic and inconsistent unilateral ramping up of tensions, Biden is attempting to build a coalition of global powers behind US imperialism, with the aim of putting up a firewall against the further rise of China.

Is that possible? What are the limits to the continued rise of China? One of the most useful recent books on the Chinese economy is Thomas Orlik’s China: The Bubble That Never Pops. Previously based in China for eleven years as Chief Asia Economist for Bloomberg, his book – while not written from a socialist point of view but that of Western capitalism – still provides a useful picture of the contradictory character of China, and how it relates to China’s economic growth in the past and, to some extent, the future.

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Global Warning: Just how radical are the Scottish Greens?

The Scottish Greens are not the first European Green party to hold a pivotal position in their national parliament. But will they break the trend and offer a route to the fundamental system change needed to defeat climate change? In our Global Warning column this month OISIN DUNCAN of Socialist Party Scotland asks, just how radical are the Scottish Greens?

Many young people and workers voted for the Green Party in the Scottish Parliament election on May 6, concerned as they are about the environmental crisis being wrought on the planet by the capitalist system. The Scottish Greens put on 70,000 votes for the regional list seats compared to 2016, taking their share up to 8.1%. With eight Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) they now hold a pivotal position at Holyrood.

But do the leadership of the Scottish Greens offer a fighting alternative to capitalism and cuts? After five years as the unofficial junior partners to the Scottish National Party (SNP) led Scottish government, what have the Greens actually delivered for workers and youth? And, looking to the future, do their policies go far enough to address the multi-faceted global crisis caused by capitalism? 

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