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Trade unions must mobilise against terrorism, racism and war
THE PROPOSALS outlined by Blair and government ministers since 5 August amount to a severe government clampdown on civil liberties. Even though they have provoked opposition in establishment circles, it is clear that Blair and a small group of his closest advisers have seized upon what they claim to be the mood after the bombings to hustle through these measures.
These powers are being rushed through undemocratically with no likelihood of meaningful consultation or opposition to them in Parliament. Blair admitted at his press conference that these new powers would have met much stiffer resistance just a few weeks before the London bombings.
The sweep of these powers is breathtaking. More people will be wrongly deported, wrongly denied asylum, and the democratic rights we are all supposed to benefit from will be denied.
People who are not involved with terrorist activities will be deported to countries where they will be tortured and possibly executed. Saudi Arabia's London ambassador said the country "would be happy to take back any Saudi nationals who are doing wrong in this country", but added "there could be no exceptions to our legal system" which permits state execution.
These proposed powers can be used retrospectively meaning that statements individuals or groups have made in the past could be taken out of context and used against them. This would allow the government to clamp down on any individual or group who disagrees with it.
Mosques, websites and bookshops will be closed down at the diktat of government ministers. Groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al Mujahiroun are to be proscribed.
Although the Socialist Party would disagree with the ideas, policies and methods of these groups, we would not call for their banning. The government already has powers to act against those threatening violence or terrorist acts.
Their ideas need to be taken up - because they preach ideas that divide working-class people - and confronted by the workers' movement, not driven underground.
Blair said people had to realise the "rules of the game are changing". He implied that people had been too tolerant with extremist groups after the London bombings. He added that these groups had to be fought like "revolutionary communism" was fought - a clear echo of the comparison he has already tried to draw with Militant and the witch-hunt against the Left.
But, what Blair sees as tolerance is in fact resignation that Labour's foreign policy, of "riding pillion" with US imperialism in the Middle East, meant such attacks were inevitable.
Clearly, most people will want something to be done to remove the terrorist threat and make their lives more secure. But experience of 30 years in Northern Ireland shows that state repression cannot end the threat of terrorist attacks.
The situation inside Iraq is deteriorating further, lurching towards a civil war where imperialism will continue to use brutal force, whether or not they lower troop numbers.
This will intensify the anger and indignation felt by young Muslims at imperialism's policies and, as the opportunistic warning by bin Laden's right-hand man last week showed, it will be used by terrorist groups to recruit to their ranks.
In this context it has to be the responsibility of the trade union and anti-war movements to offer a way forward.
The Socialist Party has called on the unions to push the TUC to organise a national demo. At the TUC general council on 27 July, Bob Crow of the railworkers' union and Janice Godrich of the PCS proposed that the TUC organises a national demo for workers' unity and against the London bombs. This was pushed for by the Left and tacitly agreed.
The right wing did not oppose the idea but instead asked the executive committee to "draft a paper" to be put to the TUC congress in September.
We still think a trade union demo would be the most effective way of initially uniting workers in the face of the attacks and defending civil liberties. The Left in the trade unions should still demand that the TUC takes a lead on this to unite all workers against the bombings, war and attempts to whip up racism.
The example of Northern Ireland is a terrible warning to the unions today. The Irish trade unions' refusal to take a position against sectarianism "because it was political" meant that sectarian politicians went unopposed for 35 years.
Now, the Stop The War Coalition, under pressure from below, has called a demonstration for Saturday 24 September.
This should be built for, particularly through the trade unions, to ensure that millions of people in Britain are given confidence that there is a way to make an effective, united stand against Blair's policies.
The demands for workers' unity against war and terror, to stop a racist backlash and defend civil liberties, have to be taken into every workplace, school, college and community, to build a mass movement that can bring about the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, removing Blair and ending Britain's role in the oppression of the peoples of Iraq and the Middle East.
Responding to the police shooting at Stockwell
A PERUVIAN woman on the memorial on 5 August for Jean Charles de Menezes told me, "many Latin American people in Britain come from police states, we do not want this country to go the same way."
Andy Tullis, Lambeth Socialist Party
In the wake of the police shooting of Jean Charles at Stockwell tube station on 23 July, the local community has been demonstrating its just anger. A spontaneous demonstration of 500 people on the Monday after his death marched to the MI5 HQ in Vauxhall. This was followed by a protest at Parliament on 29 July, coinciding with a memorial gathering outside Stockwell tube.
Stop The War Coalition (STWC) called a public meeting on 30 July in Brixton to discuss further action over the tragic events and responses to the London bombings.
The meeting was attended by around 80-100 activists, many of whom were from the local Brazilian and Portuguese community.
Representatives from the Brazilian community in Britain, STWC and Campaign against Political Terrorism spoke out against the 'shoot to kill' policy, the campaign of disinformation around the death of Jean Charles and the racist (particularly anti-Muslim) subtext of hysterical media coverage of the London bombings.
Socialist Party members pointed out that all sections of the working class are under attack and how 'anti-terrorism' legislation has always been used against the workers' movement to stop them organising and fighting for their rights at work. The Socialist Party believes that unity across all sections of the working class is best shown in practice.
We called on the meeting to endorse a local solidarity demonstration in Lambeth from Stockwell to Brixton in the next two weeks (the Lambeth branch of STWC had endorsed such an idea earlier in the week). Although the 30 July meeting allowed some debate from the floor, the STWC announced that it had already made a decision to have a central London demonstration on 24 September. Socialist Party members argued that this was too far off and that local initiatives needed to be built upon now!
Nevertheless, the STWC leaders pushed ahead with their proposals for a central demonstration on 24 September without any consultation from the meeting or even the local STWC branch, much to the dismay of many of those present.
Lambeth Socialist Party members are still pushing the idea of a local march and the possibility of a feeder march from Stockwell into the national demo on 24 September.
In The Socialist 11 August 2005: