THE Labour government’s new Terrorism Bill, published yesterday, will be debated by MPs in the House of Commons today.
For the past few days, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary Charles Clarke have taken every opportunity to sing the praises of this draconian Bill.
At Prime Minister’s Question Time in Parliament yesterday, Blair made clear that he intends to give the police everything they request, in particular police imprisonment for three months without charge. He claimed ‘the reasons the police have given for this request are compelling’.
Once again we see that when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair says ‘jump’, the Labour leader merely asks ‘how high’?!
There are six major provisions in the Terrorism Bill and these propose –
1) To outlaw encouragement or glorification of terrorism
2) To create a new offence to tackle extremist bookshops who disseminate radical material
3) To make it illegal to give or receive terrorist training or attending a ‘terrorist training camp’
4) To create a new offence to catch those planning or preparing to commit terrorist acts
5) To extend the maximum limit of pre-charge detention in terrorist cases to three months
6) To widen the grounds for proscription to include groups which glorify terrorism.
Even under existing Terrorism laws, 82-year-old pensioner Walter Wolfgang was detained by police at the Labour Party Conference after shouting ‘nonsense’ during Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s speech.
This new Bill gives the police carte blanche to do to anybody what they did to the pensioner, except they could disappear for three months!
It is clear that anyone who supports national liberation fighters in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else in the world could be locked up without charge for giving ‘encouragement to terrorism’.
Any newspaper, magazine, publisher or bookshop distributing material supporting these struggles could end up in jail.
Members of political movements here, which support national liberation struggles, face the threat of imprisonment.
And if the police want to take people out of circulation for three months they can do so without charge, or even a hint of a ‘crime’.
Such draconian police state measures have shaken even some conservative forces within the capitalist state itself, like the judiciary.
On Tuesday, the new Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips said: ‘Occasionally one feels an individual politician is trying to browbeat the judiciary and that is wholly inappropriate.’ He made clear that there was ‘no question of judges trimming their approach’. ‘There is no scope for bending the law or trimming sails.’
What the Labour government is proposing is that the police also become judge, jury and executioner, with the right to imprison people for three months.
This breaks with a tradition of citizens’ rights going back hundreds of years. Only the king had such blanket powers to lock people up before the 17th century English Revolution and since that time nobody has had that power, certainly not the police.
The disquiet expressed by the judiciary is a measure of the fundamental historic attack on basic democratic rights mounted by the Labour government.
It is not so-called ‘terrorists’ that are trying to ‘destroy our society, our way of life and our freedoms’, as Clarke maintained yesterday, it is Blair and company, and the political policemen, like Sir Ian Blair.
This attack on democratic rights is part of Blair’s programme to preserve decrepit British capitalism, alongside the occupation of Iraq, the dismantling of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS.
Only by defending democratic rights, like the right to free speech and assembly, can the working class movement mount a struggle to defend all the other gains won in the past.
This is why trade unionists must organise within their unions and the Trades Union Congress for a general strike to bring down the Blair government and replace it with a workers’ government, that will defend basic rights and implement socialist policies.