A Travesty of Justice

ANY DOUBTS about the real nature of Guantánamo Bay were dispelled last week with the WikiLeaks release of more than 700 secret US documents that provide intelligence assessments of nearly all those detained when the Americans invaded Afghanistan.

Some of the detainees were clearly Al Qaida fighters, like the Libyan jihadist released in 2007 who is now a rebel commander fighting the Gaddafi government in Benghazi. But most were seized and jailed on the say-so of dubious sources or those who made statements under coercion or torture. In some cases the ownership of a cheap Casio watch, thought to have been given to Al Qaida students to make time bombs, was enough to get a one-way ticket to the US concentration camp.

What the WikiLeaks files reveal is that only a few dozen prisoners were genuinely involved with Al Qaida’s terror network. The rest were either Taliban fighters or Afghans in the wrong place at the wrong time, like a senile old man who was clearly a threat to no one, or the illiterate farm worker who was held for two years simply because his name was similar to a wanted Talibani.

Guantánamo has held 776 detainees since it opened in early 2002. Of those, 604 have now been sent home or resettled in a third country. Some 172 prisoners remain in the US concentration camp with still no prospect of release or a fair trial.

A pointless exercise

Next week we are going to be asked to approve a change in our national voting system as part of the coalition deal struck by the Tories to get the Liberal Democrats on board after last year’s inconclusive election. The referendum on the alternative voting system (AV) has provoked bitter exchanges between Tories, who are largely opposed to any change, and the Lib-Dems who are the only ones who stand to gain by it. Miliband & Co, with an eye to a future alliance with the Lib-Dems, are in favour. But most of Labour is opposed — with good reason because AV can only work to the detriment of the Labour Party.

Alternative voting, an “instant run-off” system used for national elections in Australia, Ireland, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, is said to be “fairer” than the current first past the post system but most of its supporters openly see it as a stepping stone to full proportional representation of the sort that exists throughout the European Union to guarantee perpetual bourgeois coalition governments.

Let’s be clear about this. Bourgeois democracy is democracy for the exploiters and dictatorship in all but a formal sense for the exploited. Bourgeois elections, when they are held, are used so that the smallest number of people can manipulate the maximum number of votes.

Electoral reform will ensure that we will never get a Labour government in the future that is not part of a coalition with other parties and that will make it far harder for the unions to exert any influence over it. So vote No to AV next week!

And a day to celebrate

Millions upon millions of workers all around the world will take to the streets on Sunday to celebrate international workers’ day. In the socialist countries working people will mark May Day by paying tribute to the struggle of the international working class. Workers and peasants in the developing world will rally to rededicate themselves to the struggles ahead against imperialism and oppression. And in Britain and the other heartlands of imperialism workers will march in defence of trade union rights and for socialist advance.

May Day is the one day of the year when the entire world labour movement marches in step: north, south, east and west. It is a time for reflection, a time to pause and honour the martyrs who died for the cause. And it is a powerful symbol of working class unity and strength — a challenge to the capitalist system of oppression, plunder and exploitation which must be ended once and for all.