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Vol. 81/No. 23      June 12, 2017

(front page)

UK rulers push ‘national unity’ to attack workers’ political rights

MANCHESTER, England — “I don’t think it is right to blame any religion or immigrants for the terrible bomb attack on the Arena,” said Kirsty Haig when Communist League members knocked on her door May 27. They were campaigning for Peter Clifford, CL candidate for Parliament in Manchester Gorton in the June 8 election. Haig was referring to the reactionary Islamic State-inspired bombing of the Manchester Arena May 22, which killed 22 people. She lives in the neighborhood where the Jamia Qasmia Zahidia Mosque is located, which itself was firebombed a few hours after the explosion.

Caroline Bellamy showed Haig the statement Clifford released after the bombings, featured in the Militant. “Working people and defenders of political rights need to speak out against the rulers’ efforts to use the brutal attack to rationalize assaults on political rights,” Clifford said.

“Prime Minister Theresa May’s talk of everyone cherishing ‘British values’ is an effort to promote workers’ trust in the government and their police, and get us to accept broader restrictions on our rights,” Bellamy said.

“I don’t trust either May or the police,” Haig replied. “When my sister and I were sexually assaulted, the police didn’t make a serious investigation. The perpetrators walked free.”

Alongside an outpouring of sympathy with the victims of the bombing, the communist campaigners found distrust of the armed cops and troops deployed on the street and opposition to the firebombing of the mosque.

Police and army raids are taking place, with cops routinely using so-called “controlled explosions” to break into people’s houses. In Moss Side, a working-class neighborhood here that has been the scene of several raids, one house sports a hand-written sign on the busted front door: “This is what the police has caused and we have nothing to do with what happened in the bombing attack.”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn backs the deployments. “We have to make sure we’re safe,” he said. “Let’s come together in adversity, not divide ourselves.” With support from all the bourgeois parties, the government suspended campaigning for the election until May 26.

“I don’t like May going on about protecting us when she’s attacking the disabled and old people, and protecting the rich,” Stephen Taylor told Clifford, a workmate at Tulip Foods meatpacking plant. May’s Conservative Party election manifesto called for means-testing for winter fuel payments to the elderly, scrapping free school lunches for infants and making more people pay for care in nursing homes.

There are numerous examples of support for the rulers’ “our Britain” pro-cop campaign. The owners of the Chelsea and Arsenal football clubs — which respectively won the League and FA Cup — announced that they would not hold traditional victory parades, so as not “to place any additional pressure on police and security services at this time.”

Officials of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union called off a one-day strike action planned for May 30. The union has organized several such stoppages in opposition to rail bosses’ plans for driver-only train operation, eliminating conductors.

The government’s “Prevent, Protect, Prepare, Pursue” strategy requires workers at local councils, schools and health services to report anyone they think voices “extremist views.” A resolution adopted at the 2016 conference of the National Union of Teachers opposed the requirement, saying schools should be “encouraging discussion,” not trying to shut it down.

The government is moving to add new strictures on freedom of speech to the program, making it illegal to “challenge British values” or “express non-violent extremism,” the Spectator reported May 27.

At an election debate sponsored by the South Manchester Muslim Community Association May 21, candidates were asked their position on the charges brought under the rulers’ “anti-terror” laws against Muhammad Rabbani, international director of the Cage organization, which works to defend those victimized under such laws. He was detained at Heathrow Airport and is facing charges because he refused to give agents the passwords to his laptop and cellphone, saying they contained privileged and private evidence from a victim of government torture.

Clifford said he opposes Rabbani’s arrest and all acts of anti-Muslim prejudice. “That’s why we have to reject the whole Prevent and Contest strategy, it’s an attack on workers’ rights and political space,” Clifford said. “And we have to reject Labour leader Corbyn’s anti-working-class call to expand Prevent’s anti-Muslim focus to cover everyone.”  
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