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We must seize back our rights

REVELATIONS that the state spied aggressively on Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack are a grave reminder of the despicable behaviour we can expect from the Establishment.

Since the Information Commissioner's Office raided the HQ of the shadowy Consulting Association in 2009, it has become clear that thousands of innocent working men and women were snooped on and deprived of work - sometimes for years - for legitimate trade union activities such as flagging up illegal safety breaches by their employers.

A determined campaign to win justice for these workers pioneered by the Blacklist Support Group and taken up by the Ucatt, GMB and Unite unions has succeeded in bringing compensation cases to the nation's courts.

Labour, indeed, was committed to a full and independent inquiry into the illegal practice, which evidence shows was not merely bad behaviour by a few companies but involved significant collusion by state agencies, including Special Branch. 

In light of Labour's failure on May 7, pressure for such an inquiry must be increased. Because things are only going to get worse.

There was shock and dismay earlier this week when Prime Minister David Cameron denounced Britain for being too tolerant.

"For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: 'As long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'." the Tory leader told the National Security Council.

Petitioning organisations such as 38 Degrees are right to emphasise the extraordinary authoritarianism of this pronouncement. 

It was a warning that under the Tories the British state is gearing up to spy on, bully and intimidate its citizens to a greater extent than ever before.

But, as the blacklisting scandal shows, the idea that this behaviour by the Establishment is anything new is wide of the mark.

There is no suggestion that the thousands of working people whose lives were ruined by blacklisting broke the law. Evidently, the state did not leave them alone.

Cameron's chilling words this week had as their immediate target our Muslim communities.

British Muslims have faced years of racist discrimination already.

If the state has been "passively tolerant," it is not of any form of Islamist extremism but of the far-right thuggery of groups such as the EDL, permitted to hold their hate-marches through law-abiding communities in a deliberate bid to whip up racist violence.

Ministers present Muslims as somehow un-British, needing to take on board "British values" - defined - of course, by the ruling class - and having to prove their innocence of terrorist intent in defiance of the "innocent until proven guilty" tradition that supposedly characterises British justice. 

But Muslims are not the only intended victims. 

The Tories have made clear their plans for trade unions - the most draconian attack on workers' rights in the developed world.

The attempt to force an effective ban on strike action has the same motivation as the decision to spy on Wrack and thousands of others over the years.

The Tories are terrified of trade unions - because the ruling class is terrified of working people organising themselves and striking back.

Professor Keith Ewing, writing in the Morning Star on Tuesday, was correct to point out the scale of the problems facing our movement.

British trade unionism is weaker that it once was and we need urgently to increase membership and develop a strategy to win back collective bargaining and other rights that are being taken away from us.

But we would not be under such attack of the Conservatives did not know that the labour movement, with or without the Labour Party, is ultimately the only force that can stop them.

And that's why we have to keep fighting.


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