The following article on the slide of Brexit Britain to an authoritarian state was was first published by Socialist Democracy (Ireland).
The Tory government’s proposed anti-crime Bill has seen a number of mobilisations across Britain.
Covid rules and fierce police enforcement have limited street demonstrations, but that has started to break down. Protest is seen by actors in the political world as more legitimate than ever.
Now we are seeing how the Tories really view this rise in protest and its growing acceptance by the public. The reality is they have never liked protests and they see this as part of their ideology. In 1979 Thatcher saw herself as coming to destroy the ability of workers to strike and collectively protest. Laws banning mass meetings and secondary picketing were brought in and backed up by police violence in the miners’ strike of 84/85.
In 1994 there was a lot of opposition to the Criminal Justice Bill where special measures were written in to give police the power to stop large gatherings of people, which actually included parties and raves.
In 2018 the Extinction Rebellion protests initially gained a lot of respect from the public as action which was a reasonable nonviolent protest about the climate emergency.
The Brexit crisis was the main Tory concern and naked protesters gluing themselves to viewing windows in the Commons seemed a measured reaction to the rabid Brexiteers inside.
How times have changed.
The new Tory order was brought into being by the ousting of prime minister Theresa May in 2019 and her replacement by populist reactionary Boris Johnson. Johnson’s suspension of Parliament followed by a resounding general election victory was the triumph for a hard Brexit. Johnson has kept the support of the rabidly right wing Brexiteer section of the party which has brought a certain unity to the party behind a much more naked and vicious kind of anti-democratic, anti-rights ideology than perhaps ever before.
Outrage at the threatened Bill has been seen in protests across the Britain but most visibly in the reaction to the attacking of the vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard in a London Park which was attacked by the police and then in a series of protests in Bristol which have drawn attention to the problem of police brutality and the anti-protester bias of the media.
The Tories want to introduce laws which the police can use to break up practically any non-violent demonstration if it is deemed an “annoyance” to the public. Although they have plenty of powers already, the police want to punish people before they begin non-violent protest. Inclusion of a 10-year sentence for toppling statues reflects Tory outrage at attacks on their slaver forebears.
But the police Bill is only part of a range of measures planned by the Tories.
Undercover cops are to be given impunity to commit crime. Similar impunity is to be given to army units to justify continued terror against native populations.
The revolting Priti Patel is to be given a free hand to demonise and terrorise migrants. A linked development was the rewriting of a report into racism to deny the systemic racism of the British state and blame the victims for their situation.
Johnson has taken direct control of the state, firing top civil servants and replacing them with tory appointees. The discovery of a vaccine has saved him from the price of abject failure in dealing with the Covid-19 virus. The government reeks of corruption, with dirty deals between ministers and speculators happening in plain sight.
A culture of constant lying and intimidation, pressure on a press and media already complicit in cover-up and in a culture of fake patriotism and flag waving, all of this has uncanny resemblances to Trump’s US administration.
These are not ornamental attachments to Brexit Britain, not a bug but a feature. Brexit was driven by racism and by employers’ determination to remove protections from the working class. The new laws are meant to suppress working class opposition, the struggle against them, a struggle against the new order being introduced in the wake of withdrawal from Europe.
15th April 2021
This article was first posted at:- Brexit Britain: A new police state?
4. A dialogue involving Phil Vallender of the Republican Socialist Alliance, Mike Picken (Socialist Resistance), Allan Armstrong, Connor Beaton, Lorena Sorentes and Johnnie Gallacher of the Republican Socialist Platform