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  • Writer's pictureRobert Spicer

Up Against The Law

Up Against The Law

Up Against The Law (UPAL) described itself as the magazine for moderate extremists. The UPAL collective, which was active during the early nineteen-seventies, stated the following:

• We are a revolutionary socialist bunch with a lot of experience of the law from various sides of the dock -defendant, lawyer, and on the picket line. Our mag tries to tell it like it is – THE LIE OF LAW – how the system is bent something rotten, and the way the likes of us is being savaged by a ruling class full of crooks and gangsters.

• Our magazine is by and for criminals, defendants, radical lawyers and people like us who have been “up against the law”, who are pissed off with the farce of British “justice” and who are angry about getting pushed around by cops and lawyers playing legal games at our expense…. the courtroom is the gentle façade of the violence of the state: the laws are meant to justify the bosses and rulers having stolen the land, the resources and the product of our labour from us. In that situation, they cannot afford to have the people beating the state at its own game – so they make the law complicated; they surround it with mystery and misery; they say only a lawyer can know about the law – so everyone remains in ignorance about how to fight the illegality of the law. We aim to destroy that misery, to spread the knowledge so that people can fight it. The law holds us in chains – if we can’t begin to see the chains, how can we begin to free ourselves?

• The law defends the thieving of the rich against the thieving of the poor … this is what capitalism is about … calling one sort of crime honesty and another sort of honesty crime.

• Lawyers are in general ill-equipped, unprepared and incapable (for reasons of fear, ambition and incompetence) to challenge the tyranny of the bench. A judge can interrupt with impunity, humiliate defence lawyers, insult witnesses and intimidate defendants.

• All this can be achieved with little or no opposition from defence lawyers, who in the final analysis always have their careers to think of. They normally defend themselves as honourable gentlemen at the Bar, rather than defend the full interests of their clients … this means that any real expression of conflict between the prosecution and the defence in terms of emotionally charged heated exchanges are carefully prohibited by common agreement, and defendants are left on their own in the dock to stew in their own feelings of resentment … the courtroom is the ultimate arena of concealing the class struggle, such that even the drama of a riot case can be reduced to a tedious bore in front of a jury. Lawyers argue around remote legal technicalities and procedures and around points of law, and the real concerns of defendants are either hopelessly confused or ignored. Every trial is a conspiracy to silence the real life interests of people in the dock.

• Most lawyers are completely out of touch with the lives we lead. They come from the world of Savile Row suits and public schools, defending the working class of which they are unbelievably ignorant. They belong to the legal club, good for deals, bad for justice.

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