Yesterday a trio of Stoke Socialist Party comrades attended a march and rally organised by Shropshire and Telford trades council in solidarity with the Shrewsbury 24. For those not aware of this famous case, the campaign site takes it up:
After the 1972 Building Workers’ National Strike 24 Trade Unionists were tried at Shrewsbury in a hostile act perpetrated by a Tory Government to criminalise picketing. A number of these men were given severe prison sentences. Best known of them were Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, who became referred to as the “Shrewsbury 2.” Des died as a direct result of the treatment that was meted out to him during his lengthy incarceration. Successive Governments both Tory and Labour, have remained unresponsive to the calls for these perverse judgements to be set aside, and for these men to be cleared. There is now a renewal of the campaign, even after all this time, and the death of some of those involved, to secure justice for these Trade Union Comrades. The campaign is also calling for a Public Inquiry to expose the role of successive governments and the secret services in the events surrounding this important time in labour history.This march was the first in what will be an annual event to mark the struggle of these comrades and will carry on until all their names have been cleared. About 200 assembled at the car park just by Shrewsbury Abbey and took off up the hill to the massive war memorial outside the Shropshire county council offices, which itself is a stone's throw from the very court that banged the Shrewsbury's pickets up. I don't know how long it had been since a demo last wound its way along one of the main routes into town but it was able to draw a lot of interest from residents, workers and passersby as well as pull some of them along in its wake.
At the memorial we were treated to a number from the ever green Banner Theatre and then came the speeches. The first speaker (apols to the comrade, I didn't catch his name) spoke of the monstrous frame up the government and secret state concocted in an act of petty vengeance against a labour movement that had forced Heath's Tories onto the back foot. The next speaker was Unite convenor Rob Williams, fresh from the magnificent victory at Linamar where the workers saw off management's attempt to sack him. Rob spoke of the injustice of the anti-trade union laws, of how he could be sacked unlawfully and the company suffer no consequences, whereas the shift who came out in his support could have lost their jobs and worse for defying those laws. He talked about Visteon and the victory at Lindsey oil refinery, outlined in broad terms the way forward for our movement and got one of the biggest cheers of the day for calling on union leaderships to stop funding Labour.
Ricky Tomlinson talked about the recent attempts made to clear his name and described his correspondence with Jack Straw, the so-called justice minister. After much wrangling and petitions for the relevant files to be released under the 30 year rule (requests denied by Straw on grounds of 'national security'!) Ricky was finally allowed to see some pertaining to the case. He sat down in a room with a keeper of the records and began turning the pages ... only to find huge junks of the reports redacted. If these don't suggest a cover up, he didn't know what does. He also described the appalling treatment he and especially Dessie received inside, a treatment that saw Dessie serve his three years in no less than 17 prisons.
Arthur Scargill finished the day off with a call for workers to sweep away the anti-trade union laws and rally to the banner of socialism. We will keep on struggling until what he called the 'gleam of socialism' has been achieved.
Overall it was an excellent day - though more bar staff could have been done with laying on at the Salop Unison club for the social! Politically it was important as it linked the memory of past struggles to those erupting today. It was good this event came together after three victories for our movement - let us hope we meet again to mark the Shrewbury 24 this time next year under even more favourable circumstances.