By Simon Basketter
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Man who spied on the left met Tory cabinet minister

This article is over 10 years, 10 months old
Jack Winder spent over three decades spying on people for the Economic League – a shadowy organisation set up in 1919 to combat Bolshevism.
Issue 2340
Workers block London’s Oxford Street in a protest over blacklisting on Thursday of last week  (Pic: Smallman )
Workers block London’s Oxford Street in a protest over blacklisting on Thursday of last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Jack Winder spent over three decades spying on people for the Economic League – a shadowy organisation set up in 1919 to combat Bolshevism.

When that collapsed he formed another company, Caprim, and continued to spy on campaigners, trade unionists and socialists.

Winder, a Tory party member, met a senior Tory minister in Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 government to discuss anti-union laws.

He revealed this when he gave evidence to MPs on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee’s blacklisting investigation last week.

“I had a talk once with the employment minister Jim Prior,” he said. “We discussed the whole industrial relations scene. My particular expertise was knowledge of what was happening on the far left.”

On top of this Winder said he had many other discussions with Tories.

Two firms were set up after the Economic League closed down. One was the Consulting Association, that ran a construction blacklist, and the other was Caprim.

Winder said he set up Caprim “to warn companies about threats to their well being”.

He set it up with Stan Hardy, another Economic League spy.

Asked if the Economic League was a blacklisting organisation, Winder replied, “Not by my definition. The Economic League sourced information itself.”

He said it targeted “people who were members of, avowed supporters of or active in organisations which sought to use industry for political purposes.

“They ranged from the Communist Party, whose strategy was to achieve a de facto communist government.

“Those on the far left of the Communist Party who were just impossiblists like the Socialist Workers Party and so on who were just in for destruction.”

Winder was unrepentant. He said he simply kept “industries informed of the activities of the far left who seek to use industry as a political football and subvert both management and the trade unions”.

He said a national strike in 1972 was the reason for the construction blacklist. “The employers said we’re not going to allow this to happen again,” he said.


Winder bragged about his expertise regarding the far left.

“I had knowledge of how these organisations worked,” he told the committee. “When you get things like Socialist Worker you don’t send it to the offices of the Economic League you send it to my house.”

He seemed to have a special interest in Socialist Worker rank and file groups. He recalled, “The SWP had at one time a dozen of what they call fractions for various things. Car workers, post workers.”

Caprim also spied on the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Reclaim the Streets.

“During the 1990s, the sorts of things which exercised our minds were campaigns against multinational companies,” he said.

“You had campaigns against the City of London culminating in three consecutive years of riots run by an outfit called Reclaim The Streets. These were anarchists.

“We made it our business to find out what was going on and warn the companies.”

The companies he spied for included GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Rhone-Poulenc, Zeneca, Monsanto, Rio Tinto, J P Morgan and Morgan Stanley.

Winder denied any links with the security services, although he admitted that he regularly met Special Branch officers while with the League.

“We used to meet over a couple of pints at lunchtime and chat,” he recalled.

Consulting Association blacklister Ian Kerr gave evidence to the blacklisting investigation last year.

He said the security services were involved in collating information of workers.

Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd gave Caprim £10,000 to get the company going.

Winder said that he was in contact with a number of union leaders during his time at the Economic League.

“We did have some very good relations with certain trade union leaders who were very concerned about the problems created by and fed off by the far left.”

These included Leif Mills, general secretary of the banking union and TUC president in the mid 1990s, electricians’ union boss Eric Hammond, Dennis Mills from the midlands region of the T&G, and Kate Losinska, who was head of the Civil and Public Services Association in the 1970s.

Asked if there were other union leaders Winder replied, “You’re taxing my memory”. But he promised to send details to the committee.

Stan Hardy, who ran Caprim with Winder, was set to give evidence to MPs tomorrow, Tuesday.

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