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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 69/No. 28July 25, 2005

 
British gov’t uses bombings
to deepen antilabor assault
Bosses press wars abroad,
‘national unity’ at home
lead article
 
BY JONATHAN SILBERMAN  
LONDON—Seizing on the July 7 bombings here, the British government has launched a campaign of “national unity” in order to diminish popular opposition to stepped-up restrictions on the political rights of working people. These proposed measures include new “antiterrorism” legislation to widen the powers of the political police to carry out spying and disruption operations.

“We will hold true to the British way of life,” declared Prime Minister Anthony Blair July 7 as he returned from a G-8 summit meeting of eight major governments. In contrast with the bombings, he declared, the imperialist-led summit was helping with “problems of poverty in Africa.”

On July 12, a few days after the attacks, police announced they had identified four men who had carried bombs onto three London Tube (subway) trains and a bus, killing more than 50 people. The press reported that the four had been caught on video by the London Underground's closed-circuit surveillance system and identified by physical evidence at the sites.

Press commentary has focused on the fact that all of the accused are British citizens, at least three of them from Leeds, West Yorkshire. Blair remarked in Parliament on “the shock of knowing that those that have perpetrated this were actually born and brought up in this country.” Reportedly, three are of Pakistani ancestry and the fourth is Jamaican-born.  
 
‘National unity’ campaign
Conservative Party leader Michael Howard rallied behind the Labour Party prime minister, saying the “country is completely united” in the effort to “defeat terrorism.”

The British rulers used a July 10 commemoration of 60 years since the end of World War II to promote the “national unity” campaign. Speaking at the memorial, the Queen said the “war generation” had set an example to be turned to in the “present difficult days.”

“London will not be divided,” proclaimed the city’s mayor, Kenneth Livingstone, who quoted wartime words by Winston Churchill and was praised by the big-business media from London to New York.

Livingstone, who rose to prominence as a leader of the “Labour Party left,” called on people in the capital to make a success of a nationwide two-minute silence on July 14 and called a mass vigil in Trafalgar Square later in the day. The Trades Union Congress has appealed for support for both events.  
 
Increased police powers
On the evening of July 9, the police evacuated 20,000 people from the center of Birmingham, the country’s second-largest city. They sealed off entry and exit from the ring road and blew up four “suspect packages,” all of which turned out to be harmless.

The British government has stepped up moves to curb rights and strengthen cop and spying agencies. Blair told parliament July 13 that the cabinet would speed up a new raft of “antiterrorism” legislation. One measure being touted is to outlaw “condoning or glorifying of terrorism,” according to the daily Scotsman.

The government confirmed it would be going ahead with a new Terrorism Act in the spring of next year—the fourth such law it will have enacted since 2000. Plans include establishing a Homeland Security department to combine all “antiterrorism agencies.” The laws already enacted allow police to detain individuals for a week without charges and to slap “control orders,” involving either house arrest or electronic tagging, on people deemed “suspects” but who cannot be charged because of lack of evidence.

The British government has also begun joint patrols of army troops and police in several “trial” areas.

Another recent move that has gained momentum is a bill to establish a mandatory national ID card.

Home Secretary Charles Clark convened a meeting of the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Council to press for telecommunication companies to retain all private phone and e-mail records for inspection by cops. Chancellor Gordon Brown has demanded the EU immediately implement measures decided after last year’s Madrid bombing that would provide monitoring of bank transactions by the police and easier international collaboration between cop agencies.

Civil rights groups such as Liberty have applauded the latest government moves as “a measured response.”

Blair and other government officials have repeatedly said they will not target Muslims indiscriminately in their “antiterrorist” campaign.

In exchange, the government has received public offers of collaboration from some Muslim leaders, locally and nationally. The Muslim Council of Britain has called on Muslims to “unite in helping the police.”
 
 
Related articles:
‘Antiterrorism’ is UK rulers’ banner, anti-working people is their course

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