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Police spies – a cautionary tale

The tale of undercover police officer Mark Kennedy and the environmental protest group is usually the stuff of kitsch action films. Indeed, according to reports there is a possibility it will become one. A sad and indicative comment on capitalism as a social system that real-life betrayal and grief is an ideal candidate for instant commodification.  Fantastical and tragic though the tale is the fact is it also serves as a harsh warning to the new emerging movements that the lengths the state will go too against its opponents are not restricted by living in a ‘democracy’. Queensbury Rules and cucumber sandwiches this is not. Opposing the government of the day, and in many instances the very foundations of our social system, is deadly serious and the state will do everything it deems necessary to protect itself.

Loads of Mark Kennedy’s exist, something the man himself has confirmed, and the police have only promised an inquiry because they have been caught. It is without a shadow of a doubt people in the pay of the state will be involved in the anti-fees movement just as they are in any radical movement like the one Kennedy infiltrated. Left-wingers have always been aware of this problem. A Very British Coup maybe fiction and dated but it is in my eyes a accurate assessment of how the establishment would react to a Labour government which was serious about ending capitalism and transferring democratic power to the people.

Two wrong, seemingly opposite but intertwined, responses exist to this problem. One of these is the hysterical madness of the bureaucratic-centralist far-left. The actions of the state are a poor fig-leaf for inner-party dictatorships and organisational forms which were effective in 1900’s Russia (which was a pretty exceptional place even in its own time zone) have no place in Britain in 2011. All these methods have done is move good comrades away from the battle within Labour and trap them in self-referential, confessional sects.  In response to this we have the other wrong response; that is those who proclaim the new movement must be ‘leaderless’ and lack hierarchy. Nothing could be further from the truth and the story of Mr Kennedy exposes these views as the danger to this movement they are.

So, what is the right way? The only way forward are open democratic structures which hold all to account and shine a light on the actions of every activist. Yes, that will ‘let some in’ but it will place them in a position where their power to disrupt and cause harm is limited by democracy. You never know some might realise the wrongness of their actions like Mr Kennedy, who is obviously now a tortured soul, and even may join with the movement once they realise have nothing to fear from a movement committed to bettering society for us all.

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