A report in today’s Guardian that the ‘Socialist Workers’ Party had been infiltrated by around two dozen undercover coppers has brought back memories of the revolution. I was living in Hull in the 1980s and was involved with a local community organisation that possessed an old building which we classed as our community centre. I became a member of the committee, and with one or two part-time members of staff, everything ticked over as well as it might in this inner city enclave of run-down Thatcherite Britain. One of our committee members was in the SWP, and was adept at applying for YOPS placements. The Youth Opportunities Programme was seen at the time as the future for Britain under the Tories – no real jobs, just pretend ones for up to a year in the voluntary sector. By today’s standards it might be seen as equivalent to FDR’s New Deal. Anyway, our fellow committee member crafted a successful application, and we soon found ourselves with 18 new employees and a manager.
Then the SWP took firm control. The crafter of the application resigned from the committee on the grounds that SWP members could not take management roles. Within weeks the turmoil started, as the workers’ ‘shop steward’ – another SWP member – took on the management with endless grievances which all could of course be anticipated on a YOPS scheme. The management committee, consisting of local residents soon found themselves cast as kulaks, to be exposed as Enemies of The People. The workers went on strike and a stand-off ensued. The playgroup became a no-go area. I wonder if three year olds crossed the picket line. Of course, the end result was that the whole scheme was wrapped up, and the revolution came one step closer. But I wonder now if any of those Hull SWP jerks was an undercover cop, gaining credits in capitalism’s covert battle to errr . . . make the SWP look even more stupid than it was.
This particular battle must have been one of the SWP’s few actual successes in the 1980s, not that it brought the house down. For some reason the Guardian article refers to the SWP as a ‘revolutionary’ party. I often wondered what that meant. Did it mean staying in the Welly pub for a lock-in? Or did it mean sourcing some explosives and blowing up Drax power station? Or even just a pylon?
Whatever the case, the story of the historic undercover cops still has value to the state. Who says there aren’t still state infiltrators in the SWP? I hope SWP top dogs look at each other with suspicion. Perhaps a purge or two, Stalin-style are in order. On the other hand, we taxpayers could question why any of our money should be spent on keeping tabs on a bunch of ‘revolutionary’ no-hopers.