Malcolm Shearing (alias)
Malcolm Shearing is the alias of an undercover officer with the Special Demonstration Squad, who was deployed 1981 to 1985 against the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist/Leninist) and the Revolutionary Communist Party. He is also referred to by the cipher HN19 (for cipher system, see the N Officers page).
We are grateful to Michael Chant, General Secretary of the RCPB (M-L) for his help with this profile
The Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)
The RCPB-ML has its origins in the Sussex University-based English Student Movement, part of the Hardial Bains-inspired tendency known as the Internationalists; and it formed following their Necessity For Change conference in 1967. The RCPB (M-L) had a modest membership – and never aimed to be a mass membership organisation. It also had several ‘front’ organisations including the ‘South London People's Front, the East London People’s Front and the Progressive Cultural Association. During the 1970s, party members were frequently involved with anti-fascist and other demonstrations - and were frequently arrested - and on occasion jailed. For a more detailed account of the period 1967-1979 (including arrests) see the profile of an earlier police infiltrator into the then Communist Party of England: Desmond 'Barry' Loader (alias).
The CPE-ML was relaunched as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (M-L) (RCPB-ML) in 1979 and had by that point rejected its former Maoist alignment and replaced it with a closer association with then Albanian Party of Labour and its leader Enver Hoxha.
As mentioned, members of the CPE (M-L) were involved with anti-fascist activity from the early 1970s (In fact, Desmond 'Barry' Loader (alias)' was arrested for two public order offences during his infiltration of the CPE). This continued into the early 80s. For instance, they were present at a counter-fascist demo in Camberwell, south-east London in 1980. After which Cornelius Cardew, leading party member was jailed for a month(he had earlier received a suspended sentence for another offence).
The 'People's Liberation Music' was a musical collective lead by Cardew which performed at demonstrations that the CPE and later the RCPB (M-L) took part in.
Description and Personality
Malcolm Shearing was described as being in his late 20's, ‘a white guy, with long ginger hair.’
According to party General Secretary, Michael Chant, he was not trusted from the beginning:
- Malcolm Shearing was treated as suspicious [...] when he came forward to participate in the Party’s work. He formed no close friendships, was not enthusiastic to participate in political debates or conversations, nor did he account for his political trajectory towards a communist party.
At one counter-National Front (NF) demonstration Shearing provocatively suggested an attempt to break through police lines to confront NF leader Martin Webster. Those who remember think this was out of character, and the suggestion was not taken up.
Shearing was distrusted by party members:
- He was thus given useful but uncompromising [to the party] work. His activities and contacts were restricted to South London, and there was no sense that he either progressed his way up the Party hierarchy or was privy to any potentially sensitive information. His activities would have included the selling of the Party paper at Brixton underground station and other time-consuming tasks.
- When he applied for candidate membership of the Party, he was accepted on a probationary basis, but the Party ensured that in this capacity he had no regular contact with activists other than those he had already been working with.
In general, attendees at RCPB (M-L) for security, were asked for their reasons for coming to events, as well as how they heard about them. Without personal or political references, therefore, Shearing was always under suspicion and what is more, he did not develop any close personal friendships within the party.
International Sports and Cultural Festival
In 1982, the RCPB (M-L), and other groups including the Progressive Cultural Association, organised an International Sports and Cultural Festival in the UK. There were events across the UK, but mainly the proceedings were in London and Coventry, as Michael Chant recalled:
- This consisted of concerts in London and Coventry - involving musicians from Denmark, Trinidad and Tobago, Surinam, India, Ireland, and Canada, among others - and sporting events at the Butts Stadium in Coventry. involving hundreds of youth, particularly minority youth.
Shearing is remembered as have been made especially useful at this point due to his ownership of ‘transit-sized van’ to transport both people and equipment about to and from Coventry and London. In fact, Shearing was known at the time as 'The Man with the Van'.. The use of a vehicle as an integral part of an undercover SDS’ modus operandi is well established.
When asked about their reaction to the announcement that Shearing was an undercover policeman, it was said that it came as 'little surprise', and that 'he had been put to good use' and  the infiltrations in their eyes were not very successful.
Again, according to the recollection of party activists:
Very soon after [the festival], Shearing left RCPB (M-L) and joined the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) saying that he considered them 'more militant'. However, in the RCPB (M-L)'s view, this Party 'was a dubious, provocateur organisation', that they 'believed to be linked to state agencies'.
Also, according to an internal search of RCPB (M-L) records, there is no evidence of Shearing having been involved in their activities after 1982.' This suggests Shearing spied upon the RCP for the majority of his deployment - between 1982 and 1985.
The RCP (until 1981 known as the Revolutionary Communist Tendency) were infiltrated by another undercover police officer - Tony Williams (alias) between 1978-1982. It is therefore possible that Shearing moved to the RCP to replace Williams.
Currently, nothing is known about Shearing's deployment within the Revolutionary Communist Party. N.B. We are therefore are interested in learning more about these activities. If you think you have anything to add or to correct, get in touch (PGP key available on request).
In the Undercover Policing Inquiry
According to John Mitting, chair of the Undercover Policing Inquiry, the deployment was unremarkable and without an allegation of misconduct, other than that Shearing was arrested and cautioned for unlawful bill (fly) posting. On 30 July 2018 made a final ruling that HN19's real name cannot be published by the Inquiry.
- 11 December 2017: It was directed that any applications for anonymity were to be filed by 20 December 2017 by the Metropolitan Police's legal team or 22 December for the Designated Lawyers Team:
- January 2018: No application to restrict cover name; Mitting was minded to restrict real name, saying publication of real name was not necessary, as the release of the cover name will suffice to prompt those he interacted with to come forward. He noted that HN19 has no concerns for his physical safety, but 'is concerned to avoid the intrusion into his and his wife's private and family life which might result from publication of his real name. Thus, in Mitting's view, the publication of his real name would interfere with his Article 8 rights to private / family life.
- May 2018: Cover name 'Malcolm Shearing' is published.
- 3 July 2018: The Inquiry indicates Mitting is still minded to restrict real name and publishes the open application from the Metropolitan Police to this effect (date 19 December 2017), and a document setting out some additional information. It was also directed that any objections to Mitting's intention to grant the restriction order to be made by 20 July 2018.
- 30 July 2018: The final ruling is that HN19's real name cannot be published.
- The Encyclopedia for Anti-Revisionism Online (EROL / Marxists.org) host a number of articles that discuss the politics and activities of the RCPB (M-L) and predecessor groups.
- The RCPB (M-L) website (rcpbml.org.uk/) has an online archive of more recent Workers Weekly's and background to the party and current activities.
- A detailed and critical overview of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and key individuals can be found on .
- This profile also used both primary and secondary sources from historian Evan Smith's blog and other writings: New Historical Express.
- Email to core participants, '20180501_UCPI_to_all_CPs_publishing_HN3_HN19_HN20_HN60_HN218_HN353', Undercover Research Group, 1 May 2018, referencing update of the webpage UCPI.org.uk/cover-names.
- Inquiry's gist of additional information within the evidence supporting HN19's application for over real name only, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 2018.
- Note: Unusually for the profiles, we are reliant on just a single primary source: Michael Chant, and limited secondary materials which Michael doubts the accuracy of. The party's archives for this period are currently unavailable due to COVID restrictions.
- Richard Daly, Looking Back on Necessity for Change Conference, Celebration of 50th Anniversary of Historic Necessity for Change Conference, 12 November 2017 (accessed 4 July 2020).
- John Tilbury,Cornelius Cardew: The Content of Our Song(at: 30.00) 2011 (accessed 22 July 2020). Cardew tragically died in a hit and run accident at the end of 1981, the same year that Shearing's infiltration started.
- email from Michael Chant to Undercover Research Group, 8 September 2020.
- Although often labelled a 'Maoist' organisation, they would have described themselves as Marxist-Leninist first, whilst also following 'Mao Zedong thought'. The move away from Mao started earlier in the 1970s.
- Corneilus Cardew undated (accessed 20 July 2020).
- Undercover Research Group, Interview with Michael Chant, 16 July 2020 (accessed 20 July 2020).
- email from Michael Chant, General Secretary of the RCPB-ML, to Undercover Research Group, 9 September 2020.
- Red Patriot 1 August 1982 (accessed 19 July 2020).
- Andy Coles Tradecraft Manual Special Demonstration Squad] 1995 (accessed 21 July 2020).
- Note: The RCP was also later infiltrated by Neil Richardson (alias) in the late 1980s.
- Sir John Mitting, In the matter of section 19(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005. Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and Special Demonstration Squad - 'Minded To' Note 4, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 25 January 2018.
- Sir John Mitting, Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad: Minded to note 12 and Ruling 10, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 30 July 2018.
- Kate Wilkinson, Counsel to the Inquiry's Explanatory Note to accompany the Chairman's 'Minded-To' Note 12 in respect of applications for restrictions over the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Public Inquiry, 13 September 2018.
- Applications for restriction orders in respect of the real and cover names of officers of the Special Operations Squad and the Special Demonstrations Squad: Directions, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 11 December 2017.
- Press Notice: Decisions relating to anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 25 January 2018.
- Publication of documents relating to anonymity applications: Special Demonstration Squad - November 2017, January 2018, March 2018 and April 2018 'Minded' to notes, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
- List of applications and evidence published on 03 July 2018, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.
- Sir John Mitting, Restriction Order Applications by HN1, HN3, HN8, HN9, HN12, HN19, HN20, HN27, HN60. HN72, HN353 and HN355, Undercover Policing Inquiry, 3 July 2018.