Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

Why #SPYCOPS matters

June 27, 2018

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The Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, as a result of the high street cosmetic chain Lush’s highlighting of this issue. The Lush window display originally featured a montage of half a uniformed police officer and half the same person in plain clothes, with the headline “PAID TO LIE”, underneath which some fake police tape said “POLICE HAVE CROSSED A LINE”. It encouraged people to tweet support for victims of #SPYCOPS, innocent people who were “SPIED ON FOR TAKING A STAND”.

This display was later changed, as a result of a backlash from the UK cop humour site, with Lush staff being threatened and harassed. The Lush facebook group (which previously had an 80% approval rating) was targeted, with a slew of negative reviews and threats to boycott the company. Ironically, takings at Lush were actually up 13% during the campaign – brandwatch has done an interesting analysis, explaining that Lush’s customer base and the visitors to the police website were completely different, and Lush’s customers overhelmingly approved of the campaign.

The police units concerned operated since 1968 until at least 2010 and may well still be operating under a different guise today. The tactics which were employed included using the names of dead people as cover identities, without knowledge of the families concerned; having non-consensual sex with victims and in some cases even having children with their targets.

The full extent of the police operation is unknown, but at least 1,000 groups were infiltrated in this way. The only thing all of them have in common is that they are all left wing! Environmental campaigners, trade unionists, socialists, the Stephen Lawrence family, animal rights campaigners all found themselves targeted by the state, including members of the Socialist Party, of which I am a member.

Under pressure, Theresa May began a public enquiry in 2015, but this is not expected to give any answers until 2023, officers have been granted anonymity, and the enquiry does not cover Scotland. There is a petition for full details to be released and for a fair and transparent enquiry, with justice for the victims – https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-support-victims-of-spycops-get-access-to-justice

#SPYCOPS matters because we are supposed to live in a democratic country, with freedom of speech, where we have the right to join a trade union and the right to criticise the government. It matters because we need to stand up for the environment, because we need democratic, fighting trade unions to improve our working conditions and to fight against privatisation and casualisation of jobs. It matters because there are victims up and down the country, mostly women, who were left bereft as the men they thought of as their partners led double lives. It matters because the police’s record on investigations is abysmal – e.g. Orgreave, Hillsborough, Jean Charles De Menezes, Stephen Lawrence . . . It matters because police resources were wasted in deceiving innocent protestors rather than targeting criminals.

To read more about the campaign visit campaignopposingpolicesurveillance.com/

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Should Ken Livingstone be expelled from the Labour Party?

May 14, 2018

The furore over alleged “anti-semitism” in the Labour Party stems from accusations following Labour MP Naz Shah sharing a facebook post, suggesting that Israel be relocated to the United States, as this would save the US billions in defence expenditure, in other words pointing out that Israel is a client state of the US. Shah apologised for any offence caused and after a period of suspension she was readmitted to Labour.

Ken Livingstone stepped into her defence in a radio interview with Vanessa Feltz. After this interview, John Mann, a Blairite Labour MP, angrily confronted Livingstone, hectoring and bullying him. If you watch the televised coverage of their argument, Livingstone is admirably restrained in his response. He says “it is a matter of historical fact”, “should I apologise for saying that the Normans invaded England in 1066?” and he does not deny that the Holocaust happened. Yet, he is accused of being mentally ill, “you have lost the plot”, “you need some help”; of being a Nazi apologist and of being a conspiracy theorist – he is guilty by association!

Livingstone claimed that there was a secret meeting between Nazis and Zionists, at the time of the Nazis coming to power, to discuss the removal of Jews from Germany. He points out, in a later interview, in 1935, Hitler banned flags from flying in Germany, except the Zionist blue and white flag and the swastika. He said that Naz Shah was “over the top”, but she was not being anti-semitic, adding that, in over 40 years of membership of Labour, he personally had not encountered anti-semitism. There is a medal with a Nazi insignia on one side and the star of David on the other:- http://northshorenumismaticsociety.org/little-known-medal-marks-nazi-zionist-co-operation-in-1933/

Livingstone explained, “Hitler was a monster from start to finish”. But, however unpalatable it may be to the Labour right, there is strong evidence that the Nazis engaged in secretive deals to relocate German Jews to Palestine (the Haavara agreement of 1933). You can argue that this may have not been the most diplomatic argument for Livingstone to pursue, but he has facts on his side, even if he was slightly muddled in the details, having being pounced on by Mann. Hitler was not above accommodating those who he vehemently disagreed with; the infamous Hitler – Stalin pact is clear evidence of this.

For pointing out these links, Livingstone was accused of not knowing his historical facts, being anti-semitic, a holocaust denier, believing in conspiracy theories and being a Nazi apologist. Who is behaving like a school bully, bringing the Labour Party into disrepute here? Isn’t this a calculated effort by a Blairite MP to bring down one of Corbyn’s most articulate allies?

This is an important attack, not just on Corbyn, Livingstone and the Labour left, but also on freedom of speech. It is not anti-semitic to criticise the Israeli government’s policies, to point out the American defence budget contributions, and the way that the state has attacked unarmed Palestinian protestors.

Ken Livingstone should be reinstated as a Labour party member. John Mann and the other Blairite MPs, who have constantly sought to undermine Corbyn at every opportunity, are the ones who should be subject to deselection, as they have “brought Labour into disrepute”.

Leicester political parties to debate future of Human Rights Act

December 8, 2015

A couple of quotes –

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre;
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” (W B Yeats, The Second Coming)

“Liberty, if it means anything, is the freedom to tell people that which they do not want to hear.” (George Orwell)

The first quote is apt, because it describes a process which destroys the established order of things – the idea of social democracy which seemed so dominant after the Second World War is rapidly being dismantled, at the altar of profit and unrestricted, laissez-faire capitalism.

The second quote describes the necessity for freedom of speech, the right to protest, the right to have a democratic voice, to go on strike, to organise in a trade union – to tell those in power what they do not want to hear.

I will be speaking for TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) at a debate on the future of the Human Rights Act on Wed 9th December, the day before International Human Rights Day.

We are broadly in favour of the Human Rights Act, even though socialists recognise that it does not go far enough in guaranteeing people’s economic rights, that it can be superseded by national legislation, and that rights granted under capitalism have to be fought for – having legislation alone is not enough. However, the Tories’ proposal to strip us of basic rights is still an outrageous attack on civil liberties.

We have seen the clamp-down on freedom of speech in the wake of the Paris bombings by Hollande, the so-called “socialist” President of France, with environmental protestors being unable to have any say, even outside the recent United Nations climate change talks.

This is highly ironic, since it was the United Nations which introduced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 – in order to set baseline standards of human rights, in an attempt to legislate against the horrific Nazi regime, to simply say that some human rights (privacy, life, freedom from torture, right of privacy, right of assembly) were sacrosanct.

Again, the British government (then New Labour) came up against this in 2004, with their willingness to indefinitely hold foreign prisoners without trial, in contravention of international human rights legislation. The Lords overturned their intent, due to it being incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

So what is the future of the Human Rights Act, and why is it still relevant today? Join in the debate on Wednesday 9th December at the Race Equality Centre, 6.30pm.

Source: Leicester political parties to debate future of Human Rights Act