ON TUESDAY Prime Minister Blair began his ‘genuine intellectual debate about the nature of liberty in a modern developed society such as our own.’ To have this thoroughly modern debate he however, had to go back to Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and further. Hobbes opposed the English revolution led by Oliver Cromwell, which established the supremacy of parliament, and Blair does not like parliament either.
Hobbes held, that left to itself, the natural state of human-kind was anarchy, bringing satisfaction and security to nobody and a ‘war of all against all.’
The solution was for citizens to give up their rights to a sovereign monarch or assembly, with supreme power over all. And along came Mr Blair – the modern Leviathan!
Blair said in his speech that ‘Respect’. . . ‘is the answer to the most fundamental question of all in politics which is: how do we live together? From the theorists of the Roman state to its fullest expression in Hobbes’ Leviathan, the central question of political theory was just this: how do we ensure order? And what are the respective roles of individuals, communities and the state?’
Blair admits that the world crisis is forcing him to consider as the main issue just how order is going to be maintained under crisis-ridden capitalism.
Inspired by the Roman slave owning Republic and the absolutist, 17th century Hobbes, Blair ventures: ‘we need a radical new approach if we are to restore the liberty of the law-abiding citizen. My view is very clear: their freedom to be safe from fear has to come first. Yes, in theory, that is what is supposed to happen through the traditional court processes. In practice it doesn’t. We are fighting 21st century crime with 19th century methods.’
Glorying in the 17th century methods of Hobbes, he declares: ‘The real choice, the choice on the street, is not between a criminal law process that protects the accused and one that doesn’t; it is between a criminal law process that puts protection of the accused in all circumstances above and before that of protecting the public.’
The criminal law is to go. It is to be replaced by the mailed fist or the policeman’s boot and penal colonies.
He adds that Asbos have ‘bluntly reversed the burden of proof. The person who spits at the old lady is given an £80 fine. If they want to challenge it, they have to appeal. The suspected drug dealer loses the cash. He has to come to court and show how he got it lawfully.’ He is guilty until he proves himself innocent.
However this is not enough for Blair. ‘Now, as I shall say later, we want to take these powers further. Today I focus on ASB. Shortly we will do the same on serious and organised crime. But the principle is the same. . . we need to accept that what works in practice is a measure of summary power with right of appeal, alongside the traditional court process.’
Here Blair suggests that there are to be two processes. One the exercise of summary power by the state forces, becoming constantly more dominant, with its bodies of armed men and women, and then a parallel ‘traditional court process’ for respectable society.
To the bourgeois and his politician nothing is more criminal than an illegal strike, and there is no doubt that many such strikes are on the way in Britain. The summoning up of Hobbes and the Roman Republic is part of Blair’s preparation to meet such illegalities with the full summary force of the state, unhindered by legal criminal procedures, with those that are killed in the process unable to appeal from the grave.
The answer to Blair’s summary justice is the organisation of a socialist revolution to smash the capitalist state, all of its bodies of armed men, to go forward to a workers’ state and the higher form of a socialist society.