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The state is a greater danger than the EDL

In the wake of Woolwich, the need to unite communities against threats of all kinds goes without saying. The question is, however, who do we unite against and for what purpose?

What is the greater danger to Britain’s diverse communities? Is it the racist hooligans of the English Defence League or the neo-fascists of the British National Party? They are small groups of backward men who like nothing better than a street brawl. For many of them, a punch-up with the police or rival football fans is just as much fun as attacking a mosque.

A far more serious threat is posed by a combination of a weak government, a state hungry for increased powers aimed at all of us and an economic crisis that is reinforcing gross inequality.

Since Woolwich, inevitably, the state tail has been wagging the Westminster dog and a prime minister against whom plots mount daily. Speaking through the mouthpiece of home secretary Theresa May, the state is demanding more powers to “combat extremism”.

Top of the agenda is the resurrection of the communications bill, which would allow the monitoring of all citizens' internet use without a warrant. This was dropped after a split in the coalition. May is seeking an alliance with Labour to bring in the legislation. She has the support of two former Blairite home secretaries, Alan Johnson and Lord Reid.

Johnson says: "We need to get this on the statute book before the next general election and I think it is absolutely crucial. Indeed I think it is a resignation issue for a Home Secretary if the Cabinet do not support her in this central part of what the security services do."

May says she has always “been clear that access to communications data is essential for law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies". The bill would give police and security services access to details of all online communication in the UK – such as the time, duration, originator and recipient, and the location of the device from which it was made. It would also give access to all Britons' web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media.  

Emma Carr, deputy director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, finds it “remarkable” that politicians are calling for legislation to monitor the entire country “when all the evidence to date shows this horrific attack would not have been prevented by the communications data bill.” Actually, Emma, it’s not remarkable at all. MI5’s own incompetence is well established. They apparently tried to recruit one of the Woolwich attackers. Demanding more powers is a convenient way to avoid the truth while using the opportunity to take powers aimed at all of us.
Then the government wants to prevent people who defend terror attacks from appearing on TV and radio. How this would work is anyone’s guess. Presumably, broadcasters would have to check with the home secretary first.
As we pointed out in the wake of the Woolwich attack, the present authoritarian state is incapable of addressing any of the issues that form the background to terrorism or rioting. In fact, quite the reverse is true. While it can mobilise in the wake of an attack, it only creates conditions for far worse to come.

A neo-colonial foreign policy ignores, for example, the just demands of the Palestinians and props up a corrupt government in Afghanistan. By stirring the conflict in Syria, it has created a breeding ground for Al Qaeda while trying to keep the Assad regime in power for the sake of regional “stability”.

A relatively benign welfare state has been transformed into a market state where business interests openly predominate. Run-down inner-city areas are deprived of central government funds while well-paid jobs are few and far between. Inequality, bad housing, cuts in welfare benefits and the rest deprive about a third of the population to “join in with society”, says a new report.

So the real threat to our peace, security and future is actually the present political and state set-up. Addressing this takes us down the road of creating democratic alternatives. The Agreement of the People for the 21st Century is as good a place to start as any.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
28 May 2013

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