Workers Hammer No. 230
British rulers ramp up repression against "thought crimes"
Down with the racist war on Muslims!
The heinous murders carried out in January by Islamic fundamentalists against Charlie Hebdo staff and Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris were seized on by the French rulers to step up their “war on terror” repression aimed at Muslims. (See article page five.) Across Europe, governments, far-right and fascist groups made hay in the climate of racist frenzy, while heads of state from around the world rushed to Paris to participate in a mass rally. There was no such show of solidarity against terrorism in Oslo in 2011 when fascist Anders Breivik killed eight people in a van bomb in Oslo and then went on to massacre 69 Labour Party youth at a summer camp, while proclaiming his hatred for Muslims.
British prime minister David Cameron joined the Paris rally that purported to be for “freedom of expression”. The British rulers’ dedication to such freedom can be gauged from the fact that British intelligence centre GCHQ collects and stores huge quantities of email messages, internet and telephone activity and shares this information with the US National Security Agency. When this information was revealed by Edward Snowden and published in the Guardian, the Cameron government forced the newspaper to destroy the files by taking power drills to its hard drives. The very day of the Paris “free speech” rally, Cameron renewed his campaign for new legislation, dubbed the “snooper’s charter”, to legalise the interception of the private communications of the British population.
In February the Tory/LibDem government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill became law, having zoomed through Parliament at high speed, propelled by bourgeois hysteria about “homegrown” jihadis going to join ISIS in Syria, and potentially returning to Britain. The new law allows the state to bar anyone suspected of harbouring terrorist intentions (!), including British citizens, from leaving or entering the country. Other provisions in the new legislation will make mandatory the previously voluntary Prevent programme, requiring schools and universities to spy on students, and to vet and ban proposed “extremist” campus speakers, in order to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This is a witch hunter’s wet dream: there need be no evidence of any criminal activity, just the suspicion of “extremist” thoughts in the mind of a Muslim student who might bear insufficient obeisance to “British values” of “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”. The peoples of Iraq or Afghanistan who were subject to British imperialist occupation know all about British values of tolerance, as we wrote in “US, Britain out of Iraq!” (Workers Hammer no 228, Autumn 2014): “The ‘values’ of the British imperialists in Iraq, to cite just one example, were on display in the brutal slaying of hotel worker Baha Mousa by British troops in September 2003. Mousa was tortured to death, suffering more than 93 injuries prior to death.”
The government’s measures to detain, spy on and muzzle the populace have nearly unanimous support from Labour, while the Lib Dems manage the occasional squeak of protest about free speech. It was the Labour government of Tony Blair, following the July 2005 London bombings, that created the Prevent programme as part of its counter-terrorism strategy. The Labour “opposition” in Parliament has repeatedly attacked the Tories for enabling terrorists to “abscond” by abolishing control orders, a form of house arrest for terror suspects who have not been charged with any crime. Control orders, brought in by the Blair government, were replaced by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government in 2012 with Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs), a slightly less draconian web of restrictions on a terror suspect’s movements.
Now that the Prevent programme has been inflicted by the Home Office on education, healthcare, local government and beyond, it will increase anti-Muslim racism. The “war on terror” at home is aimed primarily at Muslims, but is aimed more broadly at all opponents of the imperialist slaughter of Muslim peoples in the Near East by the US and British capitalist rulers.
The British imperialists signed on to the war against ISIS last year, are carrying out air strikes on targets in Iraq, and are preparing to send more troops to join those already in Iraq to train Kurdish forces. As we have repeatedly said, any force, however unsavoury, that attacks, repels, or otherwise impedes US/British forces strikes a blow in the interests of the exploited and the oppressed. With Iraqi government forces and Kurdish pesh merga in Iraq conducting joint military operations with the imperialists and Syrian Kurdish nationalists allied with the US — all acting as “boots on the ground” for imperialist intervention — revolutionary Marxists have a military side with ISIS when it targets the imperialists and their proxies. Marxists demand: Hands off Iraq and Syria! All British and US forces out of the Near East!
As we wrote in “Down with US/British war against ISIS!” (Workers Hammer no 229, Winter 2014-2015):
“It goes without saying that we internationalist communists are die-hard enemies of the ultra-reactionary social and political programme of ISIS, whose methods of rooting out ‘apostates’ amount to mass slaughter. We condemn communal atrocities on all sides. ISIS is itself the imperialists’ creation, having emerged out of the intercommunal slaughter triggered by the US occupation. It counts as precursors those who cut their teeth as jihadis in the CIA-backed war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.”
In late February the identity of “Jihadi John”, the butcher of hostages in grotesque videos released by ISIS, was revealed by the media to be that of Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British man who had lived and studied in London. CAGE, the organisation founded by former Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg, which supports victims of state repression under the “war on terror”, made public communications they had received from Emwazi over five years ago where he speaks about threats and harassment he endured at the hands of the British security forces. For their reasonable observation that this treatment contributed to Emwazi becoming a jihadi, CAGE were predictably vilified, with London mayor Boris Johnson calling them “apologists for terror” and several charities withdrawing funding. While we utterly condemn the likes of Emwazi or the Paris attackers who target innocent civilians, we defend CAGE and others who oppose imperialist state persecution of Muslims.
The government’s targeting of CAGE, and ongoing hounding of Moazzam Begg, show what the “war on terror” is about: criminalising dissent and silencing anyone who dares to expose the state’s military depredations abroad and attacks on civil liberties at home. Britain’s Terrorism Act 2000, which predates the attack on the World Trade Center, redefined terrorism to blur the distinction between violent actions and political dissent. In 2013, this law was used to detain a representative of the legal charity Reprieve, Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist known for campaigning against drone attacks, who was held at Gatwick airport. The same year, David Miranda was detained at Heathrow airport under the Terrorism Act, in a blatant attempt to intimidate him and impede the publication of Edward Snowden’s revelations by Miranda’s partner, journalist Glenn Greenwald. For publishing Snowden’s disclosures, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger was hauled before a parliamentary committee, accused of breaking anti-terror laws and grilled as to his patriotism.
We have consistently opposed the “war on terror”, in reality a war of terror by the state against Muslims in the first instance. It is in the direct interest of the working class to fight against the wars, occupations and domestic repressive measures carried out in the name of combatting “terrorism”. It is the organised working class which has the potential and must be mobilised to bring down the rule of the British capitalist class whose terror and brutality — in the Indian subcontinent, Kenya, Malaya, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, to cite a few instances — have always been intrinsic to imperialist domination.