Our Say

After G8 and the London bombings - the way forward

London terror attacks condemned

After Live 8:
from pressure to action

The G8 summit and political power

Make the G8 leaders history

A sham election

10 good reasons to boycott May 5

Don't be blackmailed into voting

Reject ‘dependency’ politics

No votes for New Labour!

Parliament seals its own fate

A secret policeman's government

Vote for "none of the above"

How to remember the victims of the tsunami

A state of crisis

New Labour and the big lie

Yasser Arafat - a revolutionary life

After the US election

Blood on New Labour's hands

Butler and weapons of mass deception

With 'leaders' like these, who needs enemies?

How to meet the threat from the right

Barbarians at the gate

Torture, values and lies

The silence of the lambs

War crimes in Iraq

The slaughter in Madrid

The unfinished business of the miners’ strike 1984-85

L’état – c’est New Labour

The death of liberal democracy foretold

Hutton washes the state whiter than white

Top-up fees and the market economy

Our challenge for 2004

New Labour's march to a police state

Bush & Blair - partners in crime

London Region revolts against FBU leaders

Postal workers in the front line

No turning back

Where we go from here

Stop the War Coalition leaders and political fabrication

Regime change begins at home

Blood on New Labour's hands

There's more involved than just Blair

New Labour, lies and spies

Firefighters should reject deal and disown leaders

BECTU vote on New Labour link a step forward

Time runs out for FBU leaders

New Labour's one-party state

The blind alley of crude anti-Americanism

Occupation of Iraq - time to move beyond protest

War is a test for principles

Iraqi defiance shocks and awes

FBU leaders who backed capitulation should resign now

Down with New Labour's war - for regime change in Britain

FBU at war with New Labour

New Labour, not just Blair, is the target

50 years since the death of Stalin - an assessment

FBU finds itself in Precott's trap

War is Peace - Blair's fictitious 'push for peace'

15/2: Global marches put power on the agenda

Crisis of globalisation behind attack on Iraq

Tell it how it is

An injury to one is an injury to all

War plans expose fraudulent 'democracy'

A 'regime change' in Britain is the answer to war on Iraq

FBU needs a new strategy

Challenging New Labour

A moment of truth in the fight against New Labour

Gilchrist says it how it is

Time to defy the anti-union laws in support of the FBU

FBU must ask for solidarity strikes

FBU leaders must ask for support now

New Labour provokes confrontation

Italian police attack No-Global movement

New Labour declares war on FBU

Don't let the FBU fight alone

UN writes a blank cheque for war

Blood on Putin's hands

Unions must support firefighters with action not words

Support the firefighters - defeat New Labour

Bush-Blair war agenda revealed

Seeing through New Labour's weapons of mass deception

The US media and the new garrison state

The BEGINNING of Politics

How technology could
free humanity

'Terminator' engineering: A threat to humanity

The future is socialist

Asylum legislation fuels racist attacks

Road map to the future

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message



The death of liberal democracy foretold

There is increasing alarm in civil liberties and legal circles about the growing authoritarianism of the New Labour government. Barrister John Upton, writing in The Guardian (February 23), warns that New Labour is pursuing a “significant constitutional shift”.

He says: “Without a single terrorist attack taking place, or a single civilian in the UK being killed, a climate has been created so that when we are told by the home secretary that our liberties must be removed in order to ensure our freedom, we meekly accept.”

The announcement that the government plans to increase the staff of the spy agency MI5 by another 1,000 members, allegedly to counter terrorism, is just the latest in a line of decisions that have prompted Upton and others to conclude that New Labour has taken an authoritarian road.

Other measures include the Bill to deny asylum seekers the right to appeal to the courts; the start of the introduction of ID cards; plans to create a national police force accountable directly to the government; the indefinite imprisonment of foreign nationals without charge or trial; the creation of a database of “suspicions” about would-be offenders; the curtailment of jury trials and legal aid and the interception of emails without a warrant. All this in addition to agreeing to the false imprisonment of its citizens by the US at Guantanamo Bay.

As Upton points out: “The secret state's claim that it is losing the never-ending, unprovable war against terror will play its part in the government winning a far greater prize. Across the range of his responsibilities - immigration, policing, the criminal justice system and prisons – Blunkett [the Home Secretary] has either proposed or actually introduced measures whose repressive nature should shock us. That, by now, we may have become inured to them, does not take away from the fact that New Labour is trying to radically change the constitutional environment in which we live.” He adds: “Blunkett is assembling a body of repressive legislation of a type not seen in western Europe since the second world war.”

Upton is correct to warn of the dangers. His reference to the trend away from the “values expressed in the post-1945 social democratic consensus” begins to address the nature of the qualitative change taking place. His solution “to formally delimit the powers of the different actors - government, parliament and judiciary - in the constitution” fails, however, to address both the nature of the state and the forces driving these changes.

A written constitution that Upton favours is in itself no guarantee of freedom, civil liberties or democracy. Just look at what has happened to democratic rights in the US under George W. Bush, where the constitution pledges to secure basic rights. The real truth is that the contemporary state is not a neutral machine but essentially has a class character. In Britain, the state developed to meet the social and political needs of emerging capitalism. Today the capitalist state continues to uphold private property and provides the best conditions for global corporations and financial markets.

Democratic rights and liberties were wrested from this state in countless struggles that involved the sacrifice of lives, mass arrests, deportations and imprisonment. This is an unending battle precisely because it is a reflection of the class struggle itself. Today the trade unions, for example, have far fewer rights than they had in the post-1945 period. The right to strike and picket barely exists in Britain, thanks to Tory and New Labour governments and the supine nature of most union leadership.

The authoritarian state that New Labour is constructing is a response to the demise of much of the legitimacy and authority of the state as a parliamentary democracy. Corporate-led globalisation has eaten deeply into the democratic side of the state and created mass disillusionment in the traditional political process. So the existence of a few “enemies” is convenient, whether they be asylum seekers, terrorists, those who oppose war, or increasing numbers who are economically and socially deprived. For the latter, it is prison on a mass scale that is the “solution”, making Britain the jail capital of Western Europe.

We cannot restore and guarantee democratic and basic rights because the state that is tied so intimately to capitalism and human exploitation is in crisis and development towards dictatorship. That is why it has turned to pre-emptive wars abroad and an attack on liberties at home. We should therefore turn our attention to the project to replace the existing state with new, truly democratic institutions that the majority control in their own interests rather than waste our efforts on trying to revive the dead horse of a failed parliamentary democracy.

Movement for a Socialist Future
23 February 2004