Socialist Worker

How a cop infiltrated the SWP and abused a woman

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2752

The Battle of Lewisham helped turn the tide against the fascist NF

The Battle of Lewisham helped turn the tide against the fascist NF (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The Undercover Policing Inquiry resumed taking evidence this week. One witness who gave oral evidence on Thursday was “Madeleine”.

Spy cop Vince Miller infiltrated the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Walthamstow, east London, from 1976 to 1979.

Madeleine said, “Vince Miller infiltrated my SWP branch. He claims he only had four one night stands, but that's not true. The undercover cops were embedded in the SWP, while reinvigorated fascism presented the real threat to public order and safety.

“The National Front (NF) portrayed black people as muggers, and Asians as unsanitary, with 20,000 members. Racist murders were commonplace.

“After repeated attacks on Brick Lane, protection was organised. Vince Miller called the area ‘heavily policed’ even though it wasn’t, and describes it as a mere ‘territorial dispute’ between NF and SWP paper sellers.

“Vince Miller knew of an attack on us by fascist Derek Day. Why was that not reported? Why did we have to protect citizens with the police nowhere in sight?

“My flat received threatening calls, and my flatmate was attacked by fascists. Where are Miller’s reports on that? Instead, he reports on meetings about William Morris. We cared for Vince, and now know he cared so little for us.

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“Vince became SWP branch treasurer, was on the Social Committee and in the Industrial Group. He socialised with us. He had plenty of opportunity to plant bugs in many people’s houses.

“The real subversion uncovered is the behaviour of the police, and their behaviour should be under scrutiny, not ours.

“Miller reported SWP members taking weapons to an anti-fascist rally in Lewisham and hid bricks for throwing, but it is not true. He contradicts this saying we got away from violence on the day. Another member of the SWP got his arm broken by uniformed officers but that’s not in Miller’s report

Watershed 

“The Battle of Lewisham is now considered a watershed moment in the fight against fascism, the moment when the NF was defeated.

“I read the reports on me with trepidation and anxiety. It’s wrong that other women have been denied their files and don't know what their abusers reported about them. Facts turn out to be lies, truth has become falsehood. Vince did not fight with me for a better world but spied on me.

“Vince got information about my first marriage, which was before he was deployed. How did he get that? He records personal details. A cold, sexist version of the man is revealed in his reports, very different to the man I knew.

“Who else spied on me? What events in my life led to this intrusion? I’m the subject of something redacted – what is that? Am I still spied on? If not when did it stop?

“Vince recorded a pregnancy in our branch and the name the baby would be given. Does the child have a file too?

“The secrecy around my documents mean I’m forbidden to discuss it with my husband, cutting off emotional support for us both. I want all reports on me removed from archives and destroyed.”

Justice Mittings, overseeing the inquiry, said it would ensure Madeleine is allowed to discuss the case with her husband. Mittings has also promised that Miller’s real name would be revealed at some point.

Madeleine's full statement is available here 

What’s next in the Undercover Policing Inquiry?

The Undercover Policing Inquiry reopened with David Barr, counsel to the inquiry, explaining what is to come in Tranche 1 Phase 2.

It is examining evidence from 29 undercover cops spanning the ten years between 1973 and 1982.

Of these, seven officers have both their real and cover names withheld. In these cases extremely brief and non-illuminating summaries of evidence given in secret will be published. It won’t be possible to even link this summary evidence to any individual officer as it will be merged.

Barr said that all but one of the other 22 Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) officers from the era in question have their real names currently withheld. Of these 22, four are dead, seven provided witness statements and three did not provide any statements. Eight will give oral evidence.

This period includes the first admitted cases of officers deceiving women into relationships. According to the inquiry this involved at least five officers during this period, with at least 12 women– though the real number is clearly higher.

The Inquiry says it does not need to document every instance of sexual contact between spycops and civilians. Barr added that on some occasions the need to “protect” a former officer outweighs the need to contact any women deceived.

The Inquiry has found no documents from 1973-82 that instruct spycops officers either to have or not to have sexual relationships.

The Inquiry has also found no documents on identity theft and the theft of dead children’s identities in particular. Barr suggested that officers started stealing identities in 1971 and by 1974 all officers were using the technique.

But no documents apparently exist about this except for a tradecraft guide from the 1990s. Though a previous inquiry, the 2015 Hearne report, found, “The use of this tactic was sanctioned at the highest level, was deemed as operationally necessary and was one that newly appointed undercover officers were trained in.” Which suggests a paper trail somewhere.

Barr noted that the late 1970s saw high inflation, mass unemployment and industrial unrest.

Common 

Trade unions, and references to union membership, are common among SDS officers reporting. David Hughes and Barry Tompkins both reported being members of the TGWU union. This increases the admitted union membership of the spycops by 100 percent.

The inquiry considers this as being “incidental” rather than a deliberate targeting of unions, which is an interesting distinction.

Barr quoted the 1975 SDS annual report. It said officers “concentrated on gathering intelligence about the activities of those extremists whose political views are to the left of the Communist Party of Great Britain”.

Since they also targeted members of groups such as the Liberal Party’s youth wing, this was a fairly broad category.

The SDS specifically said that splits among the left were something the police could take advantage of. They did not want these groups to sink their differences and unite, and potentially cause trouble. And having a large number of small separate groups to spy on also meant more work for undercover cops.

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Spy cops inquiry will not give their victims justice
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SDS annual reports always included a list of groups targeted during the year. One cop did spy on the far right in this period. Though that was only because the left wing group he was already infiltrating asked him to.

The spycops’ report of the Blair Peach justice campaign gives a sense of what their worldview was. It said, “The focal point of much of the extremist activity in 1979 was the general election held in May with the extreme left contriving to take advantage of the National Front’s election campaign to provoke hostile confrontation whenever possible.

“The culmination of the virulent anti-fascist demonstrations was the death of the Anti Nazi League supporter Blair Peach and the subsequent campaign against the police.

“The SWP contrived to make use of all public meetings arranged by the NF to arouse anti-fascist feeling.

“The death of Blair Peach, an active supporter of the Anti Nazi League, which was a consequence of a violent anti-fascist demonstration in Southall, provided the extreme left wing with an opportunity to mount a sustained campaign to discredit and criticise the police.”

Celia Stubbs, Blair Peach’s partner, is set to give evidence in a fortnight. 

Finally the inquiry no longer expects to look at Tranche 2 covering the years 1983-1992 next year—this means it is likely to be dealt with in 2023 instead.

The inquiry has said it may look at recent revelations by former Tory minister Norman Tebbit about spying on trade unionists in Tranche 6. As the Blacklist Support Group pointed out, this timetable means that Tebbit could be called to give evidence at 150 years old.

The inquiry continues.


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