Two weeks after 22 people were killed in an IS-inspired bombing at the Manchester Arena, seven people were killed and nearly 50 seriously injured, when a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge June 3. Three men armed with knives exited the van, embarking on murderous attacks on Saturday-night revelers in the area. The three were shot dead by police in a hail of gunfire. Troops from a “counterterrorist” Special Air Services regiment based in the London metropolitan area were dropped from a “Blue Thunder” helicopter to back up the cops.
Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Theresa May says she is the only candidate ready to give the cops and military “all the powers they need.” Underdog Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn says former Home Secretary May is responsible for the attack because she cut the police forces. He calls for putting 10,000 more cops on the streets.
Peter Clifford, Communist League candidate for Parliament in Manchester Gorton, put forward a different class course. Working people should fight against the rulers’ efforts to attack political rights, target Muslims and mosques, and strengthen the cops, he said.
Hours after the attack, dozens of balaclava-clad police in riot gear raided properties in east London, gaining entry with “controlled explosions” and arrested 12 people. All of them were released June 5 without charges.
“Enough is enough,” May said, reiterating her theme of “unity” in defense of “British values.” “We need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom.”
Speaking outside Downing Street, May outlined a four point offensive — defeating the “ideology of Islamist extremism”; inter-governmental action to clamp down on what she called “safe space” on the internet; stepping up U.K. and allied military action in Iraq and Syria; and beefing up the government’s “domestic counterterrorism strategy.”
Capitalist political leaders around the world — from Washington to Moscow to Tehran — expressed support for the U.K. government. “Whatever the United States can do to help out,” President Donald Trump said, “we will be there.”
In the final days leading up to the general election, May and Corbyn were trying to one-up each other in proposing repressive measures and restrictions on political rights. “There is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country,” May said, promising longer jail terms for “terrorism-related offences.”
A centerpiece of Corbyn’s election campaign has been attacking the Conservatives for reducing the number of cops. “Austerity has to stop at the A&E (accident and emergency) ward and at the police station door. We cannot be protected and cared for on the cheap,” Corbyn said. “And if the security services need more resources to keep track of those who wish to murder and maim, then they should get them.”
Tom Watson, Corbyn’s deputy, has called for the reintroduction of the Control Orders, introduced under the Labour government of Anthony Blair. Under the open-ended orders, “suspects” could be held without trial for three months; speech that “condones terrorism” was made illegal; and authorities were given powers to limit the people “suspects” could associate with and where they could live. Because of opposition, some of the orders were never implemented and others were replaced by the Conservative government of David Cameron with the less draconian 2011 Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Act. “This is not the time for diluted anti-terror laws,” Watson said.
Others, including UK Independence Party leader Paul Nuttall and Tarique Ghaffur, a former assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, have floated harsher measures, including internment without trial for thousands currently being monitored by MI5, as well as waterboarding.
“The Tories sacked 20,000 police officers, and everyone can see the results,” former Labour Member of Parliament George Galloway, now standing as an independent, told those at election hustings in Manchester Gorton.
Any attacks on political rights should be resisted, replied the Communist League’s Clifford. Working people need political space to respond to the drive of the capitalist rulers to offload their crisis onto our backs.
Today the rulers say their enemy is Islamic State, but the ultimate target is the working class. “Remember the police riot against striking miners at the Orgreave coking plant 33 years ago,” Clifford said. “The Margaret Thatcher government at the time dubbed the miners ‘the enemy within.’ Working people don’t have common interests with the government.”
In a May 29 interview on Legacy Radio, Clifford took up Corbyn’s claim that the growth of Islamic State and its terror attacks are a blow-back from London’s participation in the Washington-led Middle East and Afghanistan wars.
Reactionary terror isn’t an understandable response by the toilers to imperialist aggression. The Algerian people faced tremendous brutality at the hands of French colonialism, but they didn’t respond in a reactionary anti-working-class IS-style way, Clifford said. “They organized a powerful revolutionary struggle and established a workers and farmers government.”
And in Cuba, Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement led workers and farmers to overthrow the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship. They have defended their socialist revolution for over 50 years, setting an example for workers everywhere.
Working people in the Middle East don’t need U.N.-imposed “stability,” as Corbyn has argued, Clifford said. They need time and space, free of foreign intervention, to find the way to fight for political power. “The Communist League calls for U.K., U.S. and all foreign troops out.”
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