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Year 2001 No. 202, November 26, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Bill

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Opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Bill

Stopping the War and Developing the Alternative

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Opposition to the Anti-Terrorism Bill

As the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill is pushed through the House of Commons in its Committee and remaining stages, opposition is growing to the emergency provisions which are to take on a permanent character. MPs are to push the government for further concessions over the proposal legislation, and Home Secretary David Blunkett is said to be under pressure to "water down" the most controversial measures, such as the detention of foreign terrorist suspects without reference to the courts.

The Liberal Democrats have warned they will vote against the Bill if the government does not change its plans to detain suspects automatically without trial, a move which has already sparked a large-scale rebellion by Labour MPs

The Tories are focusing their opposition on proposals for the police to be given wider powers to check bank accounts and medical records.

The Labour government’s majority means that the Bill is certain to clear the Commons, but it is reported that in the Lords the Home Secretary is likely to be forced into concessions. The Home Office, however, has up to now steadfastly insisted he is not prepared to back down.

The debate comes as Scotland Yard is pressing the Home Office for £300 million so it can pay for an increase in armed officers and equipment. The force aims to put another 400 armed officers on the streets in what is said to be a move to protect diplomats, politicians and sensitive targets. Scotland Yard also wants to buy an extra 800 carbines and pistols and increase the number of armed response cars and bomb-proof vehicles. The proposal could mean the biggest expansion of the force's firearms capability in 20 years.

It is reported that the people of London have already been left to foot a bill amounting to £1 million a week for heightened security in the capital following September 11.

David Blunkett is promising that the Anti-Terrorism Bill will contain a "Sunset Clause", so that provisions to detain suspected international terrorists who pose a threat to national security, but cannot currently be removed from Britain, would be subject to a new Act of Parliament after five years. The Sunset Clause means that the provisions in clauses 21-23 would lapse unless passed afresh in primary legislation. The Home Secretary also announced that Lord Carlile, the Terrorism Act Reviewer, will look at this section of the legislation on an annual basis.

Announcing the Sunset Clause, the Home Secretary said:

"At Report Stage the Government will table an amendment to provide for a Sunset Clause after five years in relation to the detention provisions to enable Parliament to review its justification and necessity.

"Additionally, as we do with the Terrorism Act 2000, we will allow for an operational annual review of this section of the Bill."

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman agreed that some of these measures in the Bill were controversial and some people had difficulties with them. David Blunkett, he said, had indicated and demonstrated through the amendments he had taken that "we the government" were prepared to listen to concerns, for example the five year sunset clause and the annual review. Asked whether reports over the weekend suggesting that incitement to religious hatred would be removed from the Bill were accurate, the Spokesman said that the proposals on religious hatred continued to form part of the Bill. He did not know where these reports had come from, but they were wrong.

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Stopping the War and Developing the Alternative

At the public meeting jointly organised by NCP and RCPB(ML) at Marx House on November 22, the speech on behalf of RCPB(ML) was given by Chris Coleman, National Spokesperson.

He began by saying that RCPB(ML) was very pleased to be jointly organising with NCP a public meeting to Stop the War and Oppose the Anglo-US "New World Order". He said that the fact that the two Parties had for the first time, at the march against the war on November 18, issued a joint statement which was widely distributed on the march, had marched as a joint contingent and now were holding their first joint public meeting, was of great significance. Not only did it reflect the unity which was very clear on the march between people from a very broad variety of political, religious and social backgrounds, but it was an important if small step towards the unity of communists.

It almost goes without saying, he said, that the Party utterly condemns the aggression and war against Afghanistan. There is no justice whatsoever in the attacks on Afghanistan which are being carried out in contravention of all the accepted norms of international legality, of warfare – regarding types of weapons, killing of prisoners, "collective punishment" and other issues – as well as of the fundamental tenets of humanity. As the joint statement of the two Parties pointed out, he said, the problems of the Afghan people can only be solved by the Afghan people themselves. Only they have a right to choose their own government, their entire way of life without outside interference. Imperialist interference in whatever form had in the past and still did now only lead to bloodshed and civil strife in a country devastated by 30 years of civil war. We also utterly condemned, he said, the attacks on the rights of the people here at home, the fascisation of the state and the criminalisation of dissent, which were accompanying the war against Afghanistan.

This war, he said, was not as they claim against the "evil of terrorism" in response to the terrible events of September 11. This was clear not least from the reluctance of the government to even define what they meant by "terrorism", let alone go into the causes of such activity. At the UN Conference in previous weeks the British delegate had insulted the other delegates by dismissively stating that if something "smelled" like terrorism, then it was. Home Secretary Jack Straw had taken a similar posture in addressing the General Assembly. Their reluctance was understandable, he said, since to go into these questions would make unavoidable the issue of state terrorism, through which the British as well as the Americans had been responsible for the slaughter of millions over past decades.

Tony Blair, he said, claimed this was not a war against Islam. But it was undoubtedly a war against an Islamic country, and further wars were being threatened against other Islamic countries. For many decades, he pointed out, not just the openly revolutionary countries like Cuba and North Korea but a number of Islamic countries had been a thorn in the flesh of imperialism. In such countries, all the victims of past imperialist and social imperialist subjugation, the militant anti-imperialist sentiment of the people saw expression under the banner of Islam, but was anti-imperialism none the less. September 11 was thus only the pretext to go into action against such so-called "rogue" states that were long refusing to comply with the US and other imperialist plans.

The war against Afghanistan, the speaker said, had brought nearer the dream of Anglo-American imperialism as the Soviet Union and the eastern European regimes were collapsing in 1990 to control Europe as a springboard to dominating Asia and the whole world. Getting a foothold in Central Asia was of great strategic importance to them, he said. The first shots had been fired in the Gulf War. The Middle East was kept simmering with Israel as the US gendarme and Britain playing the role of "honest broker". Albania was swept aside and the murky intervention of the US, EU and Britain took place in the Balkans, culminating in the bombing and dismemberment of Yugoslavia allegedly in defence of the Albanian Kosovars. A new scramble for Africa is being played out too, with of all things the G8 countries formulating a plan for the whole of Africa. In East Asia, the US in alliance with a newly resurgent Japanese militarism blockades North Korea and maintains the division of the Korean peninsula. In the Americas, the US has set up in its economic, political and strategic interest a free trade area excluding Cuba. This whole strategic scenario goes along with the scenario of "globalisation", of the unfettered access to the world’s markets, to its human and material resources, by the international financial oligarchy. The aim, as set out in the Paris Charter of 1990, has been to impose on the whole world the so-called "free market", political pluralism and a concept of human rights based on private property. The crusade against "Islamic fundamentalism", against the so-called "evil of terrorism" are the new Cold War slogans.

It is important to note, the speaker said, that this whole drive to world domination is being carried out not just by ignoring but by openly saying that the principles of international relations laid down at the end of the Second World War no longer apply in today’s world. Such principles as those set out in the UN Charter, in the formulation of which the Soviet Union of Stalin played no small part, were based on the experience of the first half of the 20th century, on the lessons learnt in the defeat of fascism and preventing its resurgence. They were intended to avoid war, to avoid state violence and terror, to promote international peace and security based on non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states; on respect for territorial integrity; on peaceful coexistence between different social systems; on the right of self-determination of people and nations; with all working for the social and economic advancement of all.

Now, he said, these principles stood for nothing as far as the imperialist powers were concerned. The medieval "Might Makes Right" held sway. Force was seen as the solution to all international problems. It was noteworthy, he said, that the UN had been ignored so far in this war; only mentioned when all the damage was done as having a role in picking up some of the pieces. We had the obscenity of the richest and most powerful country on earth devastating one of the poorest, intervening openly at will, toppling one government and installing another.

What was under attack, he said, was the whole concept of the rule of law, domestically as well as internationally. The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill currently being pushed through Parliament, he pointed out, sanctioned indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals and set aside part of the European Charter of Human Rights, incorporated into British law with such fanfare only months ago. A permanent state of "public emergency" was being established, he said, which enshrined exceptional measures as permanent law. He recalled that the Prevention of Terrorism Act had been similarly passed in 1974, also allegedly to deal with a handful of individuals only to be used to attack a whole community, then widened and now enshrined permanently. What stood out with the Anti-Terrorism Bill, he said, was the absolutism of Parliament, the Bill being put forward by executive order and the royal prerogative bestowing on the government the power to give the subsequent Act constitutional force without reference to any fundamental or enabling legislation.

What we see, the speaker said, is the progressive achievements of the 20th century being overturned internationally and domestically even those of previous centuries abandoned. The clock is being turned back to medievalism and the rule of law itself overthrown. History does not go backwards, he said, but the old world in crisis abandons even the progressive achievements of its own period, so determined is it to hang on to the rule of the financial oligarchy, whatever the consequences.

Such a phenomenon can be seen in the fact that Tony Blair increasingly uses religious language, speaking of "good versus evil" of "wickedness" and suchlike. He has a right to his own private religious beliefs, of course, but the leader of a country, particularly a country like ours where the consciousness is overwhelmingly secular, has no right to speak in such terms. Not simply that, but Blair and his Ministers speak constantly, despite their frequent protestations to the contrary, in terms characteristic of 19th century imperialism, "the white man’s burden", "the civilising mission", shot through with Eurocentrism and chauvinism.

The issue, the speaker said, is thus not simply to stop the war, important as this undoubtedly is, and important as uniting with those whose wish just this might be. The issue is to build the opposition to the planned Anglo-US "new world order", or the "reordering" of the world to which Blair refers, to their whole agenda, which is leading only to devastation, to disaster, to fascism and to further war, even to world war. It is a question, he said, of developing an alternative to the whole "Third Way" programme of Tony Blair.

Blair talks, he said, of the war against Afghanistan being necessary "to protect our way of life". But what is this way of life? It gives no guarantee of our rights as humans to a livelihood, to health care and education, nor to our rights as collectives of workers, women, youth, national minorities and so on. The neo-liberal agenda of imperialism and the British model of "democracy", he said, gives no guarantee of such rights at home or abroad. It has become clear since September 11, he said, even if it was not clear before, that the British state has no respect for the rule of law and gives itself the right to act with impunity, with acts of state terror.

As the joint statement of RCPB(ML) and NCP says, he went on, our two Parties call on the working class and people to build workers’ opposition to capitalist reaction and the Anglo-American "new world order", to take a stand in favour of the rights of nations and peoples and of social and national liberation. A new socialist society is possible in which the people themselves are the centre of all decision making.

In the opinion of RCPB(ML), the speaker said, a whole new world must be built, which not only defends and restores the progressive achievements of the 20th century, and previous centuries, but takes them a stage forward. Such questions must be addressed anew as the relations of equality between states big or small, rich and poor, developed or underdeveloped. Force must be outlawed anew in resolving conflicts between states. International institutions such as the UN must be reformed, taking away the power of the Security Council and the veto of the big powers. The question of an International Criminal Court could well be addressed, but not as a tool of the big imperialist powers against their opponents. Domestically, such things as the militarisation of the economy, a factor in the current conflict, must be ended, an economy serving the interests of the people developed, as decided by the people themselves. Whether it is termed democratic renewal or not, the situation cannot surely continue where a government can go to war, can bring in legislation like the Anti-Terrorism Bill in such an archaic fashion, using the powers of a feudal remnant sanctified by established religion. The rights of all must be acknowledged, irrespective of colour of skin, nationality, gender, social position, wealth or any other characteristic. The needs of all must be met, the fruits of society made available, at the highest current level to all. In short, a whole new society must be brought about in which the people themselves are at the centre of all decision making, a world in which nations and peoples determine their own futures, with the people in control of their own destinies.

In providing a vision for such a society, in giving perspective and organisation, in acting as a vanguard for the working class, the communists have a great role to play and great responsibilities, the speaker said. Such steps as the holding of this joint meeting and the issuing of a joint statement, he said, carrying out joint work on vital political questions while holding exchanges of opinion on all theoretical and ideological questions facing the communist movement, as we did, could only advance the unity of communists, and were not exclusive to our two parties.

The dangers facing the people of this country and the world were very grave, the speaker said. But a great movement was developing, as was evident with the 100,000 strong march on November 18, as well as countless other protests at home and abroad. Before September 11 various initiatives were occurring at the level of states as well as among the people. Over 100 of the poorer countries had met in Havana, at Cuba’s initiative, at the Group of 77 conference, and made clear that they would not allow their rights and interests to be trampled underfoot. The youth of the world, in particular, were becoming active against globalisation. The imperialists had clearly hoped September 11 would put an end to such developments. But this has not happened. Our Party was sure, the speaker concluded, that the working class and people would rise to the challenge of the times.

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