Obituary; Des Warren
Des Warren died on 24 April 2004, having
spent many years in ill-health which has been blamed on the systematic
abuse of administering tranquiliser drugs to him while in prison (the
Des alongside Ricky Tomlinson,
Arthur Murray, Mike Pierce,
Brian Williams and John McKinsie
Jones were all imprisoned in 1973 for sending a picket of building
workers to Shrewsbury in furtherance of a national builders strike which
demanded a minimum wage of £1 an hour, an end to the industry's
appalling safety record, and an end to "the Lump" (a scam by the bosses
where workers were paid a lump sum for work done, with no tax or
insurance deductions, and no employment rights)
The trial and imprisonments were part of
a conspiracy by Tory Home Secretary Robert Carr, and the building
employers. They even appointed a judge with links to McAlpines, the
giant building firm! The aim of this show trial was to criminalise basic
trade union behaviour of picketing and solidarity.
The trade union movement is much weaker
today than it was in 1973. But the future of our class, and the only
hope for peace and progress in the world, requires that we rebuild
shop-floor union organisation and that we rediscover the fighting
spirit, the determination and bravery so ably shown by Des Warren.
We can give no better tribute to Des than
reprinting his speech to the court :
Des Warren's speech from the dock - December
I have spent a week in prison now. The convicts
and others in there told me that a speech from the dock would get me
trouble. But I must speak out.
It has been said in this court that this trial
has nothing to do with politics. Among the ten million trade unionists
in this country I doubt if you would find one who agreed with this
It is a fact of life that due entirely to acts
of parliament every strike is now regarded as a political act. It
therefore follows that every action taken in furtherance of an
industrial dispute also becomes a political act.
There are those who even describe it as a
challenge to the law of the land when men decide to work beyond the
agreed week and ban overtime.
The building employers by their contempt of the
laws governing safety regulation are guilty of causing the deaths and
maiming of workers. Yet they are not dealt with by the court.
The law is quite clearly an instrument of a
tiny minority against a majority. The law is biased. It is a class law
and nowhere has this been demonstrated more than in the prosecution case
at this trial. Was there a conspiracy? Yes there was. But not by the
The conspiracy was one between the Home
Secretary, the employers and the police. It was conceived under pressure
from Tory MPs, who demanded changes in picketing laws.
I am innocent of the charges and I will appeal.
But there is a more important appeal to the entire trade union movement.
Nobody must think they can walk away from here
and forget was has happened here. We are all part of something bigger
than what has taken place here.
The trade union and working class movement
cannot accept this verdict.