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In recent years the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UPI) confirmed, reluctantly, that the British police had been actively infiltrating and spying on organisations deemed to “challenge the status quo” for over 4 decades, from 1968–2011 (Evans, 2018). Now the Undercover Research Group, a collaborative project by the Guardian and independent activists with the aim to, in their own words, scrutinise police espionage; have recently begun to release a definitive list of the more than 1,000 political groups that were infiltrated, steered and spied on – previously not detailed by the UPI. (URG, 2018). For obvious reasons of course, the police lawyers since the first official report in 2012 continuously told lies about the reason why individuals and groups were spied on; that they only targeted ‘violent’ ‘threatening’ entities (COPS, 2017).
Mainly focusing on a unit named ‘Special Demonstration Squad’ (SDS), one of, but not the sole unit hammering down on dissent, the group found astonishingly but unsurprisingly enough, less than 2.5% of the organisations spied on and infiltrated by British police were ‘right-wing’. The rest were: ‘left-wing’ ‘anarchist’ ‘anti-war’ ‘Irish solidarity’ ‘anti-colonial’ ‘anti-fascist’ ‘environmental’ ‘justice campaigns (against apartheid, arms dealing, nuclear weapons, the monarchy)’ ’ ‘trade union’ and ‘anti-capitalist’ groups respectively.
The police spies in many cases used the names of deceased children to create their false identities, and coerced women into sexual relationships to gather intelligence, gain trust and to influence political activity. This is not news to some, just a confirmation of what was already assumed, or experienced. Over recent years cases of despicable police espionage have been uncovered, such as the spying on Stephen Lawrences family, by the same SDS no less, while they were pressuring the police to properly investigate the racist murder of their son.
What this new information shows is that the British police have been attempting to spread their slippery hands into every crevice of dissent, in order to serve and protect, not the working class, but the capitalist class, in order to divide and crush any attempts at international solidarity, any attempts of organizing against the “status quo”. The police are an instrument of the state and under Capitalism the state is one of the means through which the bourgeoisie organise their rule.
The fact that the scope of the infiltration and spying within Britain mainly focused upon left-wing groups and ranged from Irish solidarity groups to anti-apartheid demonstrators shows how national oppression abroad is connected to the working class struggle in Britain. That the SDS unit was particularly interested in Irish solidarity groups and anti-war campaigns is a perfect example of how the police in an imperialist nation are a tool for national oppression at home and abroad.
Britain invaded Vietnam 9 days after Ho Chi Minh declared independence (1945), with a force of 20,000 troops sent to re-arm the Japanese colonialists under a Labour government. Right through to 1975 toward the end of the war, Britain was providing intelligence from Hong Kong to support the bombing of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), while at home the British police and associated intelligence services were closely working against opposition to the war. In-fact the reason why the UPI starts from 1968, is that it was the year the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) was formed, essentially a top-secret gang of thugs funded directly by the Home Office to do the dirty work of the British bourgeoisie.
1968 was a year and period of mass protests, strikes, occupations and demonstrations in major capitalist countries. It was the year the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) had its second demonstration, culminating in a full-scale street battle with mounted police outside of the US Embassy in Britain. It was the year the Civil Rights Campaign in the occupied six counties of the north of Ireland turned into a mass-movement. The campaigns opposing the Vietnam war account for the second largest infiltration operation of a specific organisation, and Irish solidarity groups had special attention, according to the Undercover Research Group (URG, 2018).
Given the new information, the Metropolitan police said the work of its two disbanded undercover units will be fully scrutinised by a public inquiry and said it is providing every assistance to achieve this end. Of course, they would say this, spokespersons of these outfits try to amend public relations, and if its one thing we know about police ‘inquiries’ or ‘investigations’ is that they are without a doubt, farces. What else can we expect from an ‘inquiry’ carried out by the doers of the deeds? All inquiries have shown their true intention; a manipulation of the truth. There is good reason to assume that despite the two undercover units being disbanded, that the police will have created a unit to take its place.
The units may be disbanded but the practice of spying on left-wing organisations will not end. If anything, these instances offer the police a very useful public relations opportunity, for ‘reflection’ and a rebuilding of trust for their ‘wrong-doings’. After all, programmes like Prevent and revelations about nation-wide civilian spying through whistle-blowers hasn’t exactly done wonders for the building of trust between the gatekeepers of capital and those obliged to bow to capital. The Labour governments Preventing Violent Extremism Programme (Prevent), essentially a propaganda arm of the state which has turned community groups into surveillance platforms was especially concerned with young Asian students involved in Palestine solidarity, Islamic Societies and left-wing groups.
Snowden revealed the near unfathomable scope of GCHQ surveillance operations and subsequently revealed its use against the popular discontent of August 2011, culminating in the British state making deals with private companies for information about users, to then imprison them for things like making Facebook pages, “Bring the riots to Cardiff”. Even more recent, any dissent with regard to the British states march toward war with Russia is being labelled as Russian government conspiracy, ‘internet bots’ casting doubt on Theresa May’s assessments of highly questionable events such as Skripal (Haynes, 2018).
Earlier this month, a BBC Radio 5 programme interviewed multiple agents from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, who were openly on a mission to “normalize ourselves” and “come out of the shadows” because “People get the wrong impression, and as a result people aren’t applying to join us” (BBC, 2018). So brazen and frank, in their psychological manipulation, that they even alluded to the collaboration between organisations such as themselves and the film industry, which if the recent honesty by the US military and Hollywood is anything to go by; definitely occurs (Alford, 2017), (Lange, 2018). Films like Kingsman, about a working class British teen recruited into the secret service play into the veil of “ordinary people doing extraordinary jobs”, “It all seeming very cool” and “Our employment is not just upper class white males”(BBC, 2018).
This is recruitment media, whether deliberately set as such or not. All of this while the British imperialist state feeds us propaganda about big-brother style surveillance within China, or the DPRK. They even have the gall to call their own state funded network, the BBC, impartial.
Evans, R (2018) ‘Undercover Police Spies Infiltrated UK Leftwing-groups’ The Guardian [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/…/undercover-police-spies-infil…
COPS (2017) ‘More Than 1000 Groups Infiltrated by Spycops’ Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance [Online]. Available at http://campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/…/more-than-…/
Undercover Research Group (2018) ‘Spycop Targets: a Who’s Who [Online]. Available at https://undercoverresearch.net/…/a‑who-is-who-of-spycop-ta…/
BBC (2018) ‘The Real Lives of Spies’ BBC Radio 5 Live [Online]. Available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06pnd71
Haynes, D (2018) ‘Skripal attack: 2,800 Russian bots ‘sowed confusion after poison attacks” The Times [Online]. Available at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/…/2–800-russian-bots-sowed-confu…
Alford, M (2017) ‘Washington DC’s role behind the scenes in Hollywood goes deeper than you think’ The Independent [Online]. Available at https://www.independent.co.uk/…/hollywood-cia-washington-dc…
Lange, K (2018) ‘How & Why the Defense Department Works With Hollywood’ Department of Defense Live [Online]. Available at http://www.dodlive.mil/…/how-why-the-defense-department-wo…/