New Communist Party of Britain
The New Communist Party continues to warn of the dangers of advancing fascism.
Fascism is the direct rule of the most reactionary and ruthless section of the ruling class. It opposes all forms of democracy and eschews all human rights and denigrates bourgeois liberal ideas. It is afraid of communism, socialism and the organised working class and seeks to suppress all working class organisations.
Since 1688 Britain has been ruled by a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie through an elected Parliament with a constitutional monarchy. This regime has been an alliance of landowners and capitalists who have found this form of state the best to allow British capitalism to flourish at home and abroad.
In 1688 the state consisted largely of the standing armed forces under the control of the crown, the judiciary also under the crown and Parliament, the legislative part of the state. The crown was subservient to the will of Parliament; the higher echelons of the armed forces were and still are dominated by landowning families and the right to vote was conditional on landownership.
Since then, in the 19th and 20th centuries there have been added to the state machine a massive civil service, elected local authorities, state-controlled education and health services and other state welfare bodies and a civilian police force.
Frederick Engels also noted that in the later part of the 19th century Britain acquired a large military-industrial complex, which would make impossible a parliamentary road to socialism here, since Parliament has ceased to be master of the state.
Conflicts of interest between the bourgeois parliamentary government and the landowner-dominated armed forces are very rare. But when they do occur: the senior officers of the armed forces can ignore orders from Parliament with impunity, as they did in the Curragh “mutiny” of 1916, which was cited by Lenin as evidence of the ascendancy of the power of the landowner-dominated army over the bourgeois Parliament.
Nowadays our armed forces are more likely to operate under the orders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - effectively a tool of United States imperialism supported by British and other European imperialist governments.
Since the mid 1970s there has been a creeping change towards fascism, beginning with internment without trial in the occupied north of Ireland, followed by the Diplock Courts and the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
In the 1980s Prime Minister Thatcher began a process of gathering more and more power to the office of the Prime Minister at the expense of parliamentary democracy. This process has continued under subsequent governments.
Since the 1990s there has been a procession of Police and Crime Acts, Immigration and Asylum Acts and anti-terror legislation. And since the 11th September 2001 attacks on the United States, there has been an avalanche of very repressive anti-terror measures, including detaining suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, the introduction of control orders - amounting to house arrest - and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos).
These orders are imposed in respect of behaviour which is not necessarily criminal and require a low standard of proof. Breaching them can result in imprisonment without further recourse to courts, leading to people, often young or vulnerable, being liable to imprisonment without proper legal process. Such orders have been imposed on people suffering from autism and other mental disorders who can find themselves in prison simply because of their illness.
Existing anti-terror legislation has already been used against people who are plainly not terrorists - usually peace protesters.
The police are gradually becoming an armed force with not only armed firearm units readily on call but a range of other potentially lethal weapons, including “pepper spray” (actually CS gas) and tasers. Pepper spray was recently used against peaceful protests in central London over corporate tax evasion, and since 2010 there have been at least 10 fatalities associated with use of tasers and two with “pepper spray”. Armed police units are effectively unaccountable and immune from punishment, as the cases of Mark Duggan, Duirmaid O’Neill and many others have shown.
Immediately after the August 2011 riots David Cameron said the Conservative, Liberal-Democratic coalition (Coalition) government was considering wider curfew powers and dispersal orders, and said the Army could undertake tasks with the justification that they would be freeing up more police for “front line” duties. The 2011 riots saw the first introduction of armoured Jankel police vehicles, while “baton rounds” (rubber bullets) and water cannons are now on 24-hour standby to be brought to England from the occupied north of Ireland in the event of future riots. The Association of Chief Police Offers and the Home Office have made it clear that all these means could be used to deal with future disturbances.
We are now seeing increasing use of pre-emptive arrests of political activists in advance of events like the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics. People going about their normal daily business are taken into custody on the basis that some senior police officer believes they might be about to enact some protest that would embarrass the Government. When released they are given no apology or compensation. In the case of those taken into custody before the Queen’s Jubilee the courts have upheld this use of police powers and criminalise people for acts that have not been committed. This is a dangerous precedent.
The police continue to act with brutality and racist discrimination with little fear of a criminal conviction for doing so, as in the case of the killing of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests. And the number of deaths in custody continues to rise. The Independent Police Complaints Commission was introduced in theory to make police officers more accountable for offences against detainees and the public in general. But in practice it is far from independent, slow-working and secretive and acts as yet another barrier to justice for the victims of police brutality and their families.
Police harassment of black youths is again increasing and the progress made following the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry is in danger of being eroded. This harassment was a major factor in triggering the riots of 2011, revealing a deep well of anger and resentment among lower-income young people against police racism and unaccountability.
And at a time of very low class consciousness among young people there was a brief dawning of awareness, not only about the nature of the state machine but about the possibility of challenging it if enough young people are mobilised to do so.
This did worry the ruling class which reacted with draconian punishments for minor thefts.
The Coalition government has withdrawn the plans of the previous Labour government to set up an identity card scheme but state and commercial organisations continue to build huge databases of information on people living in Britain and to hold DNA material of innocent people, ignoring court orders to destroy it.
In the streets now CCTV monitoring schemes can recognise individual faces and track car number plates, while various public transport travel passes leave an electronic trail wherever the user goes.
The Home Office, at the behest of the secret security services, is still seeking to create a new database with records of all telephone, email and other forms of electronic communication.
Much of the new aspects of state control and monitoring of individuals is made possible by advancing technology and much of the administration of this is done by private enterprise.
Giant privately-run computers now administer the Passport Service, the Immigration Service, the Inland Revenue, the National Insurance database, our education and health services, our agriculture and food control and many other Government departments.
The involvement of the private sector in the administration of the state is such that we are heading towards the monetarist ideal state - in which the elected legislative at national and local levels, meets once a year to hand out contracts - or rather to rubber-stamp recommendations prepared by private firms of consultants, as already occurs in parts of the US.
The ruling class is ruling directly while the bourgeois democratic organs of the state are being marginalised.
Information technology is becoming the tool used by the ruling class to micromanage our political and economic activity. But this technology can be a two-sided weapon. The working class can also use it to exchange information instantly, to educate, agitate and organise more effectively.
The accelerating advance towards fascism is not a response to any current threat from the organised working class, though it may to some extent be in anticipation that such a threat might arise in the future.
We must resist this advancing fascism and prevent it becoming more established. The organised working class is our chief defence. The proto-fascist state, with its giant databases and close monitoring and control of the population, will be complex to administer and require an army of civil servants - who may be employed by the Government or by private agencies.
Currently trade union membership is highest within the public sector. Non-compliance by those members of the working class expected to administer the system - and by the population in general - will make it difficult if not impossible for the ruling elite to establish the level of control they seek. Many sections of the bourgeoisie will also be oppressed by this system and there will be scope for class alliances to oppose fascism, though we must remember in this context that the working class is strongest, most reliable and should lead the alliance.