The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 11th March 2005

Women, Class & Science

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by Daphne Liddle

of Terrorism Act has been batted back and forth between the Commons and the Lords last week – with the Lords putting in amendments on Monday and Tuesday and the Commons voting against them on Wednesday.

The Bill was back in the Lords on Thursday with a final check in the Commons set for Friday.

 Commentators predict it is likely to be passed on Friday but nothing is certain. The Government needs the Bill on the statue book by next Monday, when existing anti-terror laws expire.

On Wednesday Home Secretary Charles Clarke retreated and offered some concessions to meet the concerns of the Lords: the Lords wanted an eight-month sunset clause so the Bill would have to be reviewed next November, a higher burden of proof that a suspect really is dangerous and for judges to impose the controversial control orders rather than politicians.

 Clarke conceded he would agree an annual review of the measure and for judges rather than politicians to impose the control orders in the vast majority of cases.

The result was confusion in the Commons with many MPs uncertain about exactly what they were voting for as the amendments from the Lords were defeated. There was a high level of abstentions.

 Nevertheless the Commons threw out the Lords’ amendment on a higher burden of proof by 89 votes.

 But the contention over whether the control orders – including house arrest – can be imposed on people merely suspected of involvement in terrorism by judges or by politicians is a red herring.

 In effect both politicians and judges will be taking their cue from the security services – from Britain’s secret police. It is they who will accuse a suspect of being a terrorist with the suspect given no chance to know what they are accused of or to challenge it. And they are guided by the Government.
It all boils down to how much we trust our Government and our secret police not to lie – or sex up the evidence.And we must bear in mind that some of this secret information, that the British government is now willing to accept, has been obtained by torture, including at Guantanamo Bay. Information obtained by torture has always been extremely unreliable because victims will say whatever the torturer wants to hear just to stop the pain.

 The detainees in Belmarsh, who have been held for more than three years without charge or trial, have never been questioned about their alleged activities. That might give them some clues about why they are suspected. It seems that the Government does not want to hear any information that contradicts its suspicions.

Civil rights lawyer Gareth Pierce said, in a passionate plea to MPs to throw out the Bill: “What the Government asks for here is the ultimate demand of any totalitarian regime: the executive is the accuser; the moment of accusation is also the moment of the imposition of the penalty….

“The accuser, the executive, invokes a judge for one reason alone, to give its procedure a spurious cover, to safeguard it against any future judgement of the law lords or the European Court of Human Rights.”  

Earlier in the week the retiring head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens, added his weight to Blair’s anti-terrorist alarmism by saying that up to 200 terrorists trained by Osama bin Laden are lurking in Britain ready to commit atrocities. His predecessor, Lord Condon, voted against the Bill.

 Stevens’ information of course comes from our intelligence services, who don’t yet seem to have realised that Bin Laden is generally thought to be a financial facilitator for the loose umbrella group that is Al Qaeda rather than a military instructor.

 Probably they mean that around 200 people have visited Afghanistan in the recent past – that seems to be their main criterion for suspicion. Many of those will have had no contact with Al Qaeda. Of those who have, only a handful will probably be prepared to carry out terrorist attacks.

 But, as intelligence expert Richard Norton-Taylor pointed out, “One bomber could still slip through the net, even if the security and intelligence agencies were watching thousands of suspects. There is no such thing as total security.”

 Whether the Bill is passed or not, the fight for civil liberties must go on. Bourgeois laws are pieces of paper that the ruling class waves in our faces or tears up at whim. Our best defence against totalitarianism is an organised and mobilised working class.


A slap in the face for Bush

  OVER A MILLION Lebanese took to the streets in Beirut on Tuesday to support the Syrian peace-keeping mission and denounce imperialist interference in their country.

A couple of weeks ago a few thousand anti-Syrian demonstrators held a rally in Beirut that Bush and Blair hailed as the start of the “cedar revolution”.  Anglo-American imperialism used the calls from their own Lebanese stooges to demand a complete withdrawal of all Syrian troops in Lebanon backed by the usual threats the Arabs have been accustomed to over the decades.

The Arab masses want democracy; not the “democracy” that the imperialists say they’ve restored at gun-point in Iraq or the “democracy” of sectarianism and rigged elections that existed in Lebanon before the civil war. What the Arab masses demand is freedom and justice – the basis of all genuine democratic rights.

This means freedom for the Palestinian Arabs under the heel of a brutal Zionist occupation; justice for the Palestinian refugees denied their legitimate right to return to their homes; democracy for the Iraqi masses who are fighting to end  imperialist occupation and  restore their independence.

Bush and his followers in the war camp in Britain talk about “people power” when it serves their purpose. In 1989 the imperialists hailed the pro-Western rallies in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union which paved the way for counter-revolution as great exercises in democracy. Nothing is said about the destruction, misery and oppression that followed.

Democracy is, of course, a much abused word. For the imperialists it means bourgeois democracy for themselves and the freedom to oppress and exploit anyone else. The Arabs know this more than anyone else as they’ve been on the receiving end for decades. Their oil is plundered for the benefit of the big oil corporations. Their land is occupied in Palestine and Iraq. Their attempts to build Arab unity are frustrated and sabotaged by imperialist intrigue.

Now in Lebanon Anglo-American imperialism is threatening to plunge the country back into civil war with its threats and plots. They said they want to hear the voice of the Lebanese people. Now they have. They had their answer on Tuesday.

We want answers

Blair & Co talk about “open government” but all we’ve got is a toothless freedom of information act and a culture of secrecy that has even taken the Tories aback. The producer of a documentary about Dr Kelly, soon to be televised on Channel 4, complains about obstacles put in his way by a Government that is still refusing to come clean on the Attorney General’s full advice on the legality of the Iraq war.

The circumstances that led to the mysterious death of Dr Kelly, the arms expert at the centre of the row over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, will never be resolved unless a proper inquest is held.

The publication of the Attorney General’s full legal opinion and an explanation of why Blair failed to disclose it to the Cabinet in the run-up to the Anglo-American invasion is a demand that must be taken up throughout the labour and peace movement.

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