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social cleansing is out of control!

Andy | 03.09.2004 03:00 | Repression

A collection of articles on "crime" in Britain showing the lurch towards fascism and the danger it poses.

When you're so far right that you've got someone as right-wing as John Redwood criticising you for being right-wing, something is badly wrong.

NOTE: I don't support Redwood's politics, but the appearance of an article like this, in a right-wing paper such as the Telegraph, should send up warning signals that the fascist overtones of the current government are out-of-control.

Blunkett is an enemy of the people
By John Redwood
(Filed: 19/08/2004)

David Blunkett's love life is in the headlines when his work as Home Secretary deserves the brickbats. I do not want to make a window into his private life. My concern is the way he and the rest of this Government are systematically undermining English institutions, taking away our freedoms while claiming they have our safety at heart.

For David Blunkett has been on one of these incredible New Labour journeys. He has crossed the political spectrum, starting out on the Left, passing through the soft Left, to become the outrider of Blairism. Many of his old socialist sympathisers find his new clothes ill-suited to their beliefs.

David Blunkett, like the other few remaining New Labour figures, believes he can use Conservative language to woo the middle ground while acting like a socialist in the Mirror. As a Conservative who believes in our institutions and who wants to see law and order upheld, I find myself appalled by the crudity of some of Blunkett's language. He is not talking Tory as he thinks. He is speaking authoritarian, pandering to the worst instincts of some Labour voters tempted by the National Front. He loves rows with the judges and delights in second-guessing the judiciary, breaking a strong safeguard of our freedoms.

His agenda is surveillance coupled with ever more intrusive controls on the daily lives of largely law-abiding people. He wants identity cards, even though the Government has shown it cannot run a National Insurance numbering system properly and cannot prevent forgeries of passports or people arriving and staying with no passports at all. The Government with its EU friends is launching the ID prototype, the photo health card. He wants a national databank recording DNA, finger prints or iris shapes. He is thinking of allowing the police to arrest people for any alleged misdemeanour, however small, including dropping litter. He favours ever more surveillance cameras, and belongs to a government that sees the motorist as the source of much evil.

He is even thinking of renaming the Crown Prosecution Service the Public Prosecutor. Robespierre and the Jacobins would be proud of him. They would urge him no doubt to close Parliament Square - with the help of Ken Livingstone - and place the guillotine there for offending motorists.

Labour in opposition was always ready to defend people's liberties whatever the threat to those of us in office. No cry went up to introduce ID cards, ring Westminster with concrete and steel, put in bullet-proof glass screens, or detain more people without trial when terrorists murdered three Conservative MPs in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the threat of terrorism has shifted to another part of the world. Now Labour believes we should surrender all too many of our liberties in an attempt to prevent an attack.

Most of their ideas are likely to prove as ineffectual at dealing with the claimed problem as they are offensive to all of us who love liberty. The glass screen in the Commons had no sooner been put in than we had a flour attack from that very gallery on the Prime Minister! Armed police swarming around the Palace could not prevent climbers assaulting Big Ben and are not the right response to a possible enemy who needs tracking by good use of targeted intelligence.

David Blunkett allows many people to be held without trial under the terrorist legislation, only to be released without charge. He showed no remorse about the way detainees were handled at Guantanamo Bay. He has presided over a shambles of an immigration service, where political leadership has been sadly lacking. One junior minister had to go for her failure to get a grip, while her boss distanced himself from all blame. Ministers have little control over who is entering the country or little knowledge of some who have come, so their answer is more checks on everyone already legitimately here! They promised not to detain new arrivals in camps and prisons, yet end up doing just that.

Many of us who wish to obey the law and live in a free and peaceful country feel we are living under an alien occupation from this Government. In our daily lives many law-abiding people now fear authority rather than see it as an ally. People have to be careful what they say, in case they offend the thought police. Thought crimes are often taken more seriously than theft or violence against a person.

As drivers, we have to follow an ever more bewildering array of signs and rules. We are told we will be pilloried for speeding even when the road is clear, conditions good and the speed limit self-evidently foolish. We know we will have the book thrown at us if we park in the wrong place or get stranded in a box or cycle lane or bus lane because the vehicle in front suddenly does something unpredictable. Meanwhile, the driver of a stolen vehicle without insurance often escapes unchallenged.

David Blunkett and his colleagues in government are the new Jacobins, who, like their French forebears, are unleashing a cultural and institutional revolution. Their attempt to talk Tory and reassure the law-abiding is now a grotesque caricature, serving only to reveal just how they wish to use the threat of global terrorism and death on the roads as excuses to tighten the noose of control around the rest of us.

They demolish our proud institutions without a by-your-leave, pulling down the Lords, trying to evict the Law Lords and abolishing the Lord Chancellor, savaging the great universities, wrecking the buildings of Parliament with their authoritarian concrete blocks and steel and glass control posts. The symbols of Labour are becoming the surveillance camera overhead, the multiple question forms we need to fill in for everything and the armed policeman in the Mother of Parliaments. No wonder people feel they are now living in Prison Britain. It is high time Mr Blunkett's record was unpicked, rather than his private life.


ARTICLE 2: TWO PUBS TO BOYCOTT: These cop-suckers are pursuing social cleansing based on dress habits as part of the persecution of unpopular subcultures. It's time to show them that repression has its "costs".

Pubs ban labels to cut violence

TWO city-centre pubs in England have banned drinkers wearing certain brands of clothes to try to crack down on alcohol-fuelled violence.

The Parody and Varsity, both in Leicester, have introduced strict clothing rules and banned brands including Stone Island, Aquascutum, Henri Lloyd and Burberry.

They have teamed up with police to compile a list of clothing they believe is worn by groups of youths and football hooligans who regularly cause trouble in the city.

Caroline Nodder, a spokeswoman for Barracuda, the company that owns Varsity and The Parody, said: "This is not necessarily aimed at football violence. It is targeting a certain gang of young lads that have been causing concern in the area.

"But if it works to exclude that football element, then so much the better. People have been very understanding so far."

She added: "There was already a no-trainers policy. This is just taking it a step further."

Constable Karen Holdridge, from the city centre’s violence and disorder team, said the policy was aimed at tackling a hard core of trouble-makers.

She said: "Well-known football hooligans have a particular dress code. These people are recognised as coming into the city centre day in, day out and causing trouble."

A spokeswoman for Burberry said:
"We cannot comment on individual issues." But a spokesman for Henri Lloyd called the ban a "ridiculous prejudice".

"For over 40 years Henri Lloyd has been dressing everyone from members of the Royal Family through to Hollywood film stars and the Team GB sailing team who won the first gold medal at the Olympics [on Thursday]."

Law-abiding customers with a penchant for Burberry check, such as the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who was recently snapped on holiday wearing a Burberry polo shirt, can still drink at the pubs should they wish.

Ms Nodder said that if such a situation arose they would adjust the rules.
"All of our policies are enforced with flexibility and there would always be a sensible attitude taken with that. If we felt we were excluding law-abiding customers or regular customers unfairly, obviously we would review the policy, but it’s early days yet."

Ms Nodder added:
"It was felt this was something we could use as a tool in the fight against anti-social behaviour to ensure our customers have a safe night out."


ARTICLE 3: THE "CRIME WAVE" IS A MYTH, according to expert Michael Lavalette

Crime and punishment
There is nothing new about today’s moral panic over anti-social behaviour, says Michael Lavalette, Preston Respect councillor and senior lecturer in social policy

HARDLY A week goes by without a media story about crime, violence, anti-social behaviour or lawlessness in our towns and cities. Even the last two issues of Socialist Worker have carried letters from readers debating whether Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are necessary to protect working class communities from “delinquent youth”.

It’s not just the press. All the main political parties argue that crime needs to be tackled and more police should be on the beat to protect us.

Home secretary David Blunkett has recently announced a “crime target” which will aim to reduce crime by 15 percent by 2007. Across the country Lib Dem and Labour councils try to outdo each other by passing more ASBOs, drink bans and exclusion zones.

One bizarre example comes from Preston. At a council meeting last year a motion by the Lib Dems to ban the sale and use of fireworks to individuals with no licence was passed overwhelmingly.

Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors argued that young people were using fireworks “anti-socially”.

They were letting off fireworks late at night, terrifying older people by throwing bangers at them and

“attacking people in cars” with them, so more controls were needed.

Only myself and three others voted against the proposals, despite the fact that there was little evidence of any of the behaviour described taking place and that, if it was taking place, there were already laws in place that would make such activity illegal.

The impression that we get from the media and mainstream parties is that we are in the midst of a crimewave.

This is used to justify more powers for the police, to give powers to local authority wardens, to issue ASBOs to people who have not been charged with any criminal offence and to expand the huge network of survelliance devices used to monitor us—in Britain we have more CCTVs than any other European country.

Yet the facts do not support the notion of a crimewave. Every year the Home Office produces the British Crime Survey (BCS).

This is the most comprehensive review of people’s experiences of, and attitudes to, crime. Over 40,000 people in England and Wales are interviewed each year as part of the survey—a huge piece of social research.

The latest BCS for 2003 actually shows a significant year on year drop in crime.

Overall crime dropped by 5 percent from 2002 to 2003. And this drop continues a pattern that has been in place since 1995. Since 1995 the crime rate has dropped 39 percent—the longest sustained drop in crime since 1898.

In the last year, vandalism declined by 4 percent, burglary by 4 percent, vehicle theft by 11 percent, and theft from the person by 10 percent. In terms of violent crime, common assaults have declined by 3 percent, wounding by 8 percent, robbery by 7 percent, “acquaintance violence” by 5 percent and “stranger violence” by 1 percent.

The most likely victims of “stranger violence” are young men under the age of 24—and they are most likely to be the victims of this violence in the vicinity of pubs and clubs.

The BCS does show that increasing numbers of people fear being a victim of crime—despite the fact that the risk of being a victim of crime is at its lowest for 20 years. This suggests that we are in the midst of a media and politician induced “moral panic” over crime and lawlessness.

Some years ago the criminologist Geoff Pearson wrote a very good book called Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears. Pearson looked at the way in which such panics were fairly regular events over the past 100 years.

Pearson was writing in the midst of the moral panic over “mugging” that took place at the end of the 1970s. Mugging was an invented term for theft against the person. It was said to be a new, dangerous type of crime that was spiralling out of control.

And in the atmosphere of the time it was also highly racialised. It was said to be a crime committed by young black men. The media were full of mugging stories, in the way today’s papers are full of anti-social behaviour stories.

Politicians latched onto the theme in an attempt to prove they were tough on crime. And the police launched a series of operations that harassed young black men.

But Pearson found that around 20 years earlier the same things were written about the Teds, Mods and Rockers. In the 1930s it was “razor gangs”. At the turn of the century it was the original Hooligans and what were termed “street Arabs”.

Further, he noted that each time there was a panic over crime and violence the media and politicians blamed a mixture of “lefties”, families and teachers for not disciplining children enough.

Today’s “degenerates” are compared unfavourably with the disciplined young people of the previous generation. But as we go back, this “golden age” of happy, contented young people is revealed as a bit of a myth.

What these recurrent panics do reveal is the continuing problem capitalism has trying to control “problem” sections of the community.

Capitalism can, to a degree, control what we do while we are at work. It can force us to be in a particular location, it can try to set the pace of our work, or try to ensure that various machines or computers control what we are doing and how we do it.

This, of course, is never complete and is a serious source of conflict within the system. But nevertheless capitalists have some degree of control over these processes.

But we also spend some time away from work, at home and at leisure. We engage in less controlled activities. We can organise in trade unions, community groups and political parties.

To varying degrees these all represent a threat to the smooth functioning of the system and, from capitalism’s point of view, need to be controlled. Both crime control and law enforcement are part of the process of maintaining “order”—that is, protecting the existing social order.

There is another problem. What about those who are excluded from the labour market and therefore don’t have the means to access the commercialised culture that dominates our lives?

Petty theft and crime offer some the opportunity to operate in a society divided between a tiny minority of exceptionally wealthy individuals and the vast majority struggling to make ends meet.

Finally the very nature of capitalism means there are times when we can unite together—but it also divides us.

The capitalist system breeds competition between individuals, and divides us by fuelling things like racism, sexism and homophobia.

It sends us to work to produce goods we will never own, at a work process over which we have little control.

The system produces what Karl Marx called alienation. And this means that sometimes people get lost in despair and sometimes lash out against others.

So what we think of as crime is not neutral but actually shaped by the kind of society that capitalism is and what its priorities are. Some crimes are treated almost as accidents or natural disasters.

Think of the large number of people killed in Britain over the last 20 years because privatised industries and companies ignored safety regulations—train disasters, the drownings on the Herald of Free Enterprise, the Piper Alpha oilrig explosion.

Yet not a single person was charged with murder, nor a single company with corporate manslaughter.

Instead, crimewaves focus on the poor and dispossesed. Yet we cannot understand violence and brutality without understanding the violence and brutality generated by the system. Anti-social acts are inevitable in an anti-social world.

So what is the solution? The answer has three parts. First is to look at the facts and not get caught up in the moral panic. Crime is not on the increase, it’s actually in decline at present.

Second is to improve the conditions of social life. This means creating better paying, better regulated jobs, and providing an comprehensive welfare system that doesn’t criminalise the poor.

It means well financed community centres and youth centres where people have some say over what is provided.

It means re-establishing park wardens, bus conductors and platform attendants who provide some community control, and giving people a degree of hope and a sense of community.

Finally, we must recognise that crime is created by poverty, inequality and alienation. Crime is a horrible by-product of the system under which we live. Ultimately dealing with the problem of crime means dealing with the system that produces it.

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