Socialist Worker

National Association for Freedom: cranks on the offensive at Grunwick

Issue No. 2013

Today it is hard to imagine that sections of the British establishment, faced with a Labour government, would begin to organise to bring it down.

But the early 1970s saw the emergence of a variety of right wing groups, obsessed with the notion that Communists and trade union militants were undermining “British freedom”.

During the Grunwick strike a small group known as the National Association for Freedom (NAF) came to public prominence.

NAF had been set up in 1975 by right wing Tories including Norris McWhirter, his twin brother Ross, John Gouriet and the Viscount De L’Isle. Grunwick’s boss George Ward turned to this organisation to help break the strike.

NAF used its funds to sue the postal workers’ union under obscure laws against “wilful delay” when they refused to deliver Grunwick’s mail. It later organised a bizarre stunt that became known as the “Pony Express” operation.

Volunteers smuggled mail out of the Grunwick depot, transferred thousands of processed films to plain envelopes, and reposted them in post boxes across the country.

These efforts had little effect on the Grunwick dispute. But they were significant - a section of the ruling class now sensed a weakness in the workers’ movement and went on the offensive.

The economic ideas of groups such as the NAF, known as monetarism and later neo-liberalism, had existed on the fringes of respectability for years. As Thatcher and her allies took control of the Conservative Party, these ideas moved into the mainstream.


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