- Created: Wednesday, 14 April 2010 14:08
- Written by FRFI
The main parties are united in promising more policing, more repression and more surveillance. This is no accident. The power of the capitalist state, as Engels pointed out, ‘consists not merely of bodies of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and institutions of coercion of all kinds…’ In periods of crisis, organised force becomes a vital necessity for the ruling class to deal with working class resistance.
Labour’s 13 years in government have shown it to be an avid promoter of these ‘material adjuncts’. It has created a staggering 4,200 new criminal offences since 1997. Under the blanket of ‘national security’ and its spurious ‘war on terror’, Labour has attacked civil liberties, terrorised communities, colluded with torture and allowed state agents to get away, quite literally, with murder.
The purpose of anti-terrorist laws has always been to attack supporters of national liberation struggles. The original Prevention of Terrorism Act, introduced by the Labour government in 1974, targeted supporters of the struggle for Irish self-determination and the whole Irish community in Britain.
With the new Terrorism Act (TA), introduced by Labour in 2000, the government massively widened the scope of what is defined as ‘terrorism’ and banned membership or support for a long list of political and religious organisations from around the world. This was followed by the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, Terrorism Act 2006 and Counter-Terrorism Act 2008. With the exception of some of the proscriptions of ‘terrorist’ organisations under the 2000 Act, these laws have all targeted Muslims. The 2006 Act created a long list of new criminal offences, including encouraging terrorism, disseminating terrorist publications, making terrorist threats relating to devices, materials or facilities and trespassing on nuclear sites. The Bill originally contained a further specific offence of ‘glorifying terrorism’; this was later made part of the provisions of the ‘encouragement’ section. In 2005, Labour failed in its plans to increase the maximum period of pre-charge police detention from 14 to 90 days – but it was extended to 28 days. A further attempt in the Counter-Terrorism Bill to increase the period to 42 days also failed. These catch-all laws set out to terrorise and criminalise, in particular, the Muslim community.
No vote for war criminals and murderers
Alongside this domestic legislation, Labour also introduced a policy of collusion with torture and illegal rendition. Rendition – the extrajudicial kidnapping and transfer of detainees to a shadowy network of CIA-run or approved ‘dark prisons’ across the world – is illegal. Collusion with such an operation is also illegal. Torture contravenes international treaties including the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and British domestic legislation. Collusion with torture constitutes a war crime.
Yet in 2002 a new official policy on torture was drawn up by senior government lawyers and security service chiefs and sanctioned at the highest levels of government. As Tony Blair put it, ‘the rules of the game have changed’. The new guidance stated that, while agents must not be seen to condone torture, if detainees ‘are not within our custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene’. Thus terrorism suspects were ‘outsourced’ to countries such as Pakistan, Morocco, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to be tortured on behalf of the British security services and convicted on testimony extracted through torture. In March 2009, the United Nations found that Britain:
• co-operated with the US rendition programme to places where detainees were likely to be tortured;
• sent British intelligence officers to interview detainees being held incommunicado and tortured in Pakistan;
• sent interrogators to Guantanamo Bay.
Labour has also proved its willingness to murder. In 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes became another innocent victim in a long line of murders committed by the British state. In April 2009 Ian Tomlinson died after being attacked by police at the G20 demonstration in London. His death highlighted the lengths to which police are now willing to go to intimidate anyone who dares to protest. Press photographers, environmental campaigners, young demonstrators opposed to Zionist murder in Gaza, have all been attacked. These are warning shots fired across the bows of any future opposition to government repression.
Preparation for martial law
In 2004 the government passed the Civil Contingencies Act. Like the TA and ATCSA, this purports to be a response to ‘serious threats to the nation’, be they man-made or natural. It gives the government unprecedented power in ‘an emergency’ to prevent people from leaving or entering any area, to deploy troops, ban gatherings, requisition property and disregard existing legislation. Local and regional authorities are required to draw up detailed plans to be implemented by regional ‘resilience bodies’ made up of Regional Co-ordinators, Regional Military Commanders, police Chief Constables and local council Regional Controllers. They will have complete power in the regions they oversee. In February 2010, Labour published proposals that would see the British Army patrolling city streets. This is a blueprint for martial law.
FRFI 214 April / May 2010