LU statement on state collusion against trade unionist activists

John Macreadie

John Macreadie, Terry Adams and other activists were hated by the Moderates in CPSA because they could organise members, campaign and win.


On Monday 13th March, The Morning Star newspaper led with an article entitled “Thatcher’s War on the Unions”, based on Cabinet Office papers released under the 30 year rule. The article details, how the Thatcher Government in collusion with Right Wing Union leaders plotted to overturn the election of John Macreadie as General Secretary of the Civil and Public services Association (CPSA) in 1986, forerunner of PCS. John was a supporter of Militant (now Socialist Party) and Broad Left (now Left Unity).

Left Unity members will be angered and outraged by these revelations. Scandalous about John Macreadie as they are, the likelihood is that he was not the only civil service union left activist to have been targeted in this way by security forces/government members. There is evidence of state interference in the running of free and independent trade unions.

Before the left won power in PCS, the CPSA national executive was controlled by the right wing “Moderate” faction.. The “Moderates” had proven links to the state, security services and big business, They maintained control by abusing democracy and colluded with the government in attacking left activists, including sackings and victimisations. The Moderates systematically misused the union machinery and worked with the right-wing press to run smear campaigns to attack the left in CPSA.

At the time, current PCS Ass Gen Sec, Chris Baugh, was named in The Sun newspaper along with John Macreadie and 4 others including Doreen Purvis one of our current Member Trustees, as dangerous subversives. Allegations were made by John Ellis, CPSA’s right-wing General  Secretary in a blatant attempt to encourage the government to move against John Macreadie who had been elected Dep Gen Sec, and  other named activists. The Broad Left had won control of the NEC in May 1987.

So, what else was the government up to and who else did they target? Cabinet papers released in 2014, again under the 30 year rule, revealed discussions between the Secret Service, Cabinet Secretary William Armstrong, and Ministers about how they might carry out a “purge” of CPSA left activists and supporters of the Militant.

What is of concern to us today is that these scandalous witch-hunting activities have almost certainly not ceased. The left will be targeted as we are committed to defending jobs, conditions and services as we argue for an alternative to the profit system. For example it was only in 2015 that union busting plans were leaked, referring to Left Unity and showing HMRC had targeted PCS and in particular its left activists with further evidence emerging that they were colluding with right wing activists in a failed attempt to set up the scab RCTU. We must continue to resolutely oppose such attacks.

We demand that an independent public enquiry set up to expose the extent of these outrages. It must identify those responsible, and the individual left activists affected including an assessment of the damage done to their careers. In the light of what we know about the police spying on trade union and political activists, as we saw at Orgreave and the massive blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry, we should work with other unions and PCS should seek co-participant status in the Pitchford inquiry. The time has come to open the secret anti-union files to public scrutiny. .

Left Unity stands for the right for trade unions to be run democratically by their members and free from interference from the state and the employer. We urge all members and activists to unite on this issue and reaffirm this right at our ADC in May.

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