Socialist Party
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12 February 2020

Streatham attack: Johnson's bill can't stop terror - workers' struggle can

Tessa Warrington, Socialist Party national committee

"It's only February and this has already happened." The response from Becky Smyths, a resident of Streatham where terrorist stabbings took place on 2 February.

What an indictment; that acts of terrorism have become so normalised that the shock is not that they happen, but only that one has occurred so early into 2020. It comes as the latest of three terror attacks over the past two months, the other incidents being at Fishmongers' Hall near London Bridge and Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire.

The Streatham assailant, Sudesh Amman, was shot dead by police at the scene. He had been automatically released from jail ten days prior after serving half of a three-year sentence for terror offences.

The Socialist Party condemns these terrorist acts. Protection of the public from acts of violence is a vital issue. But Boris Johnson's knee-jerk reaction of tabling an emergency law to prevent automatic early release of terror offenders offers no solution and seeks to divert attention from the real causes of terrorism.

Amman's mother, Haleema Faraz Khan, said of her 20-year-old son in an interview with Sky News that "he became more religious inside prison, that's where I think he became radicalised." The government is merely "kicking the can further down the road," said David Merritt, father of Jack Merritt, a 25-year-old prison rehabilitation worker who was killed in the November London Bridge attack.

He continued that the justice system is "spewing people out further down the line when they've been associating with other people of like minds... prisoners are locked up for 23 hours a day and there is very little in the way of education and rehabilitation. The resources are not there."

Merritt described the situation as "the austerity chickens coming home to roost." He explained that "an enormous amount of money has been taken out of the system in the ten years the Conservatives have been in government.

"The Ministry of Justice has suffered cuts of 40% since 2010 and you can't run a prison system by slashing like that. The system is failing."

Few would argue with maintaining custody where there is real risk to the public. But this alone is not enough: the justice system must be remodelled - fully funded and publicly owned, democratically controlled, with social work, education and rehabilitation at its core.

And it's not just the effect on prisons. Cuts in public sector funding across the board have created an environment where working-class people are left with not enough. Not enough social housing, not enough wages, not enough jobs or hours at work. Not enough access to healthcare, resources in education, or benefits to survive.

As mass anger builds up at our 'not enough' lives, the super-rich and their politicians would have us fight among ourselves for crumbs from their table and look to workers of other races, religions or nationalities to place the blame. Anything but the profit system.

The increase in terrorist attacks is the toxic result of over a decade of austerity, the legacy of imperialist wars in the Middle East, of national and religious oppression, and the whipping up of divisions by capitalist politicians.

Combatting this requires workers and young people to unite together to struggle for demands that can address the underlying problems and not allow sections of the working class to be picked off: a struggle for decent jobs, affordable housing, quality public services for all - and an end to war and oppression.

But this must be linked to the fight for a socialist society, based on democratic planning and cooperation to provide for everyone - to replace capitalism's austerity, division and war in the pursuit of private profit - so the conditions which breed terrorism could be eradicated once and for all.