The builders’ three-month strike of 1972 was so successful, using flying pickets to mobilise support and winning a serious pay rise, that the state decided to exact vengeance. Months after the picketing was over, 24 building workers were arrested for alleged picket-related offences.
Two leading activists, Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, were jailed, for three and two years respectively, on trumped-up charges of conspiracy. Warren died not long after his release, suffering from a form of Parkinson’s that may well have been triggered by the lavish use in jail of the ‘chemical cosh’.
In 1975, Amnesty International agreed to adopt Des Warren as one of its political prisoners, but then got cold feet after ministers in the then Labour government counselled against it.
In a belated fit of conscience, Amnesty has now half-owned up to its cowardice, providing the Shrewsbury 24 campaign with documents relating to these events – but with the names of two MPs ‘redacted’, thereby continuing to hush up the vile role played by social democracy in leaving the Shrewsbury 24 hung out to dry.
The ‘crime’ committed by Warren, Tomlinson and their comrades, as with the ‘crime’ which similarly barred Nelson Mandela from adoption as a political prisoner by Amnesty, was having the effrontery to fight back against oppression instead of waiting patiently in line whilst Amnesty appealed to the oppressors’ ‘better nature’. (Tomlinson presses Amnesty to come clean over cop-out, Morning Star, 29 June 2016)