Sunday 5 July 2009

Marching with the Shrewsbury 24

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.


Brother S said...

I went along to represent North Staffs TUC. I agree it was a great day. Good to see such a wide mix of banners. It just shows what a Trades council can do.

Phil said...

Yes - next year we'll make sure there's a better turn out from the trades council, and hopefully be able to bring some more Stoke SP comrades and others along.

For those of you who want to know what the left spotting was like, here's what I posted to Leftist Trainspotters:

Socialist Party/CWI - about 25 (I didn't get the chance to count all our comrades!)

SWP - two (one selling using the line 'fight racism, fight fascism' to flog Socialist Worker, the other didn't get his papers out until the rally)

Communist Party of Britain/Morning Star - five or six

Socialist Appeal - two (I think!)

Socialist Labour Party(!) - three. (At the start the two comrades holding their banner approached my SP stall and chucked a mountain of change into the tin and took loads of material. Despite everything clearly displaying the Socialist Party logo, they thought we were all in the same organisation. I guess political education is lacking in the SLP these days).

Also a few 'notable' comrades were spotted:

Rob Williams (SP) (see the report)

Tony Mulhearn (SP) - One of the leaders of Militant-led Liverpool City Council.

Dave Nellist (SP) - Militant MP 1983-92, Coventry SP councillor

Ricky Tomlinson - National treasure, along with Dessie Warren served time. CNWP
and SLP supporter

Arthur Scargill (NUM/SLP) - Needs no intro, surely?

Also spotted were a large assortment of trade union banners. Considering there was perhaps just 200 on the demo (I don't do revolutionary inflation), it was a good turn out from the left.

Brother S said...

A good turnout from Stoke CWU. I spoke to a SLP comrade from Scotland who had left home at 2.30 in the morning!

ModernityBlog said...

excellent coverage, Phil.

Anonymous said...

one step closer

Leftwing Criminologist said...

glad to hear it went well. unfrotunetly, ic ouldn't make it due to work, but hopefully we'll be able to up the attendence from north wales for next year.

Phil said...

I think it's going to become quite a large event for our part of the world. Just so you know, one of your Bangor comrades was there (who's also in Brum branch) and he managed to sell Ricky Tomlinson a paper. Good man!

Organized Rage. said...

Good on the lads who attended, Tomlinson has behaved admirably over this from the day he came out of Jail. It would be interesting to read these censored papers, [Fuck using the word redacted, lets call it what it is]

I wonder if this censorship has anything to do with the 1974-79 Labour government, as there was a massive Labour Movement campaign back then to get these men pardoned etc which the LP Gov refused to do.

eddie roberts said...

Eddie Roberts here, Chairman of the Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign. Our thanks to you all for helping us make this another successful day in this ongoing campaign for justice.
Next stop the Durham Miners Gala.
Keep in touch via our Justice for Pickets website.
Also look up Alun Parry-Liverpool singer song writer and follow his links. He has written the "My Name is Dessie Warren" song-It is really good.
Best wishes and solidarity with you all.

Eddie Roberts-Chair, Mikey Abbott, Campaign Secretary

Cheryl said...

Nice review of the day. The speaker for Shrewsbury Pickets Campaign was Terry Renshaw.

Brother S said...


From what Ricky said the Labour government that followed the Tories were far from blameless!

Leftwing Criminologist said...

yeah, i know the comrade - he's keeping up our tradition of selling papers to famous lefties - we've done mark steel, billy bragg and now ricky in the last few months