The summer's headlines were dominated by the alleged terrorist plot to blow up planes departing from British airports. This caused chaos as flights were cancelled and new security measures were hastily introduced. It had an even more profound impact on the lives of the population of East London, subjected once more to police raids and arrests.
The 'climate of fear' has yet again been invoked to introduce further attacks on our civil liberties. The Home Secretary, John Reid, has announced a new plan for 'profiling' passengers. Reid insists that the new scheme would not involve screening by religion or ethnic background, but would be carried out in advance of flights based on biometric checks - electronic eye or facial scans. Who do they carry these checks out on? One can only presume it will be predominantly Muslims.
Meanwhile, the Home Office plan also includes proposals for a "trusted traveller" scheme, which would allow 40,000 passengers to fast-track through airport security checks. More stringent security checks, however, are to be carried out on travellers from "high-risk" countries or routes creating a two-tier system of passengers.
Many in London's East End are already accustomed to this kind of 'two-tier' approach in their daily lives. 24 people were arrested in one night thanks, it seems, to a tip off from someone being tortured by the Musharraf regime in Pakistan, including a young mother with her baby raided at 2am. Five of these 'suspects' are still being questioned. As we go to press the time limit for questioning them is approaching, and they will need to be charged or released. No doubt the much vaunted (by the Home Office, anyway) 'need' to hold 'suspects' for ninety days without charge will be resurrected in the days ahead.
According to Craig Murray writing in The Guardian:
"This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted... Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do with terrorism, but of some minor offence the police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered."
Michael O'Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair, has been most vocal in opposing the new security measures. Is the multimillionaire businessman a true supporter of democratic rights? His company's attitude to trade unions suggests not. No, he is worried about his profits. Airports and airlines have demonstrated their priorities, and their concern over the threat of terrorist attacks, by systematically cutting staffing levels to the bone. O'Leary is suing the government for £3 million.
The latest ICM poll for The Guardian demonstrates that whilst most of us cannot afford to take Blair and co. to court, the prime minister and his cronies will be prosecuted at the next election. After three terms of Labour government the Tories are now nine points ahead in the polls. What an indictment of failure. Labour's support now stands at a nineteen year low. This is Blair's legacy.
Unions Must Back Left Candidate
Even if Brown were leader Cameron and the Tories would still be odds on to win. Peter Wilby comments in The Guardian that he is almost looking forward to a Labour defeat. Apparently, in opposition Labour will be able to rediscover its soul! For those of us not fortunate enough to be able to adopt such a dillettantish position, the real question is: how can we stop the Tories? Blair and co can't. A struggle for socialist policies can.
Make no mistake, a new Tory government would be vicious. For all Cameron's smiling and open-neck shirts, beneath the new emperor's clothes lies the same old naked Tory reaction. This is not a question of personalities, but of meeting the needs of the ruling class and the capitalist system. That means more privatisation in health and education, more attacks on pensions and on trade union rights.
So what, one might shrug, Blair's doing that anyway. So what's the alternative? Not voting? Then the Tories remain odds on to win, with Brown's version of Blairism the second favourite. How about voting for some other party, the crisis-ridden SSP (if you are in Scotland), the minuscule Respect, the Liberal Tories in sheep's clothing? Not voting solves nothing, but neither does just voting. That must be a central lesson of the Blair years.
The TUC meeting in Brighton is where we find the potential for a real alternative. First of all to fight, to organise, to say this far and no further, no more attacks on health, education and pensions. Not just to say it, but to act upon those decisions calling a mass demonstration in defence of the NHS and the welfare state.
This is a political struggle too. Such battles are why the unions founded the Labour Party in the first place. This is also why they must now reclaim it.
How can the union leaders back Brown in a leadership contest? The chancellor has already called for a public sector pay freeze, and launched an all-out attack on pensions. How can Unison, GMB, Amicus, the T&G and the other public sector unions support such a candidate? Some union leaders hoped to be able to convince the rank and file that there is no alternative. Now, however, there is.
The decision of left-wing MP John McDonnell to stand when Blair finally goes is to be warmly welcomed, and campaigned for. A programme based on ending privatisation, defending the welfare state, nationalising the railways, the water companies and other utilities; defending workers' rights at home, supporting the revolution in Venezuela and opposing the imperialist occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan would revitalise the Labour Party and the entire movement. Such a programme, in the interests of working people not the City of London, is the only way to prevent a smooth transition to Brown and then on to Cameron.
The unions must back this challenge. Meetings should be called by Labour Parties and unions across the country to discuss and organise the campaign to finish off Blairism once and for all.
This campaign will present an enormous opportunity to debate socialist ideas throughout the labour movement. The Marxist tendency must be at the forefront of that debate raising the programme necessary to transform society.
Defend Democratic Rights!
Imperialist Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan!
For Militant Trade Unionism to Defend the Welfare State!
Demonstrate at Labour's Conference in Manchester on September 23rd!
Drive Blair Out, For Socialist Policies in the Labour Movement!