Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 6 December 2007

The socialist review

Taking liberties

PAPER MASKS, scissors and some toy soldiers. These are the offensive items found by 100 police officers, after holding three busloads of anti-war protesters for two hours. This is apparently enough to suggest a breach of the peace is imminent. So the bearers of these dangerous implements are denied their right to protest and the buses are sent back home, escorted down the motorway by police vehicles. So begins Taking Liberties.

Michael Wrack, Hackney Socialist Party

What follows is an indictment of the New Labour government taking away our basic rights and freedoms. The film names six basic liberties granted by the European Union Convention of Human Rights after World War Two, to protect them from the state: ban on torture; no detention without charge; innocent until proven guilty; right to privacy; right to protest; and freedom of speech. The film then shows how Tony Blair's government ignored them all.

It does this mostly by showing individual cases of people whose liberties have been taken away. Some of these will be familiar to everyone, such as the case of Walter Wolfgang. He is the 83-year old Labour Party member who had the temerity to say "nonsense" while Jack Straw spoke at the Labour Party conference. He was thrown out, along with Steve Forrest, another conference visitor who dared to say "leave the old man alone".

Other cases may be less familiar, such as the two grandmothers who walked into the area of a US military base and became the first people arrested under the "Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005".

Rather amusingly, while filming at the scene, two police officers asked for their details under the terrorism act. They refused and spoke about how ordinary people have suffered in order to gain civil rights.

This is followed by scenes of the suffragettes, and also of the anti-poll tax campaign, in which Militant (the predecessor of the Socialist Party) played a leading role. The campaign itself played a big role in bringing down Thatcher.

Aside from the moral and legal arguments, there is the question of whether taking away civil liberties actually achieves the governments' alleged aims. As one man, arrested for reading out the names of those killed in the Iraq war, points out, making protests near parliament illegal without police permission doesn't stop a suicide bomber filling out the form.

Sometimes taking away civil liberties has the complete opposite effect to that desired. This was the case with internment in Ireland in the 1970s.

A law allowing the government to keep suspected terrorists locked up without charge was brought in to fight the IRA but inevitably led to further anger towards the British government amongst members of the Irish Catholic community, who would then be more likely to look to such organisations for answers.

The government seems to have learned no lessons from this as we meet Mouloud Sihali. He is an Algerian man arrested in 2002 for allegedly making ricin in a flat.

Despite being cleared, Sihali has massive restrictions on his movements. The fact that lab results showed no sign of ricin did not stop both Blair and George Bush outrageously referring to the case in speeches leading up to the Iraq war.

It is fantastic to see the film end by talking of the need for ordinary people to make their voices heard, showing some of the single-issue campaigns mentioned in the film.

Socialists support all genuine forms of working-class struggle and as such would support most of these campaigns. However, we also realize any victories gained by these campaigns will always be temporary under capitalism.

Therefore the best way to take forward the fight to defend civil liberties is to link it with need for the socialist transformation of society.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 6 December 2007:

System change not climate change

Feature: The free market brings fire, flood and famine

For decent public transport!

Workplace news and analysis

DWP strike: Fighting low pay

Socialists and the trade union leaderships

What we think

Labour's funding scandal

How New Labour got hooked



No to academy schools!

Compulsory school to 18 - a rosy future for young people?

Child poverty rises

Rail fares unfair

International socialist news and analysis

Chavez referendum result a big setback

Annapolis - a framework for further conflict

Intelligence on Iran wrong

Disunited Russia

Italy: transport strike

Kosova: After the elections - before the explosion

Northern Ireland classroom assistants

Argos strike in southern Ireland

South African miners strike over safety

Socialist Party review

The socialist review: 'Taking Liberties'

Post Office and CWU

Keep the 'people's Post Office' public

CWU ballot result

Workplace news

Unison's right wing still witch-hunting

Save Cadbury jobs!

Manchester's striking mental health workers: Defending trade union rights


Home   |   The Socialist 6 December 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleTories 'Prevent' civil liberties

triangleBlock Osborne's Billionaire Budget

triangleFight the snoopers' charter!

triangleHow can civil liberties be protected?

triangleInitial Statement on Boston Marathon Tragedy from Socialist Alternative

Detention without charge:

trianglePalestinian prisoners on mass hunger strike protest

triangleDavid Davis - sanity or carving a position?

triangleStirring rally backs Tommy Sheridan

Human rights:

triangleSweden: School strike against deportations

triangleInterview: Refugee Rights Campaign

triangleHuman rights workers strike in support of sacked union members

Reviews and comments

Reviews and comments



Carillion and the construction industry



Theatre: 'Young Marx' shows growth in great platform for his ideas



Opinion: British imperialism can take no credit in fight against Isis



Opinion: foster care is work - carers deserve workers' rights



Debate: should tower blocks form part of socialist housing policy?



Art can help expose sexual harassment


The Socialist

The Socialist Inbox



The Socialist inbox


Work Capability Assessment

Tory prescription for mental illness: stress and bureaucracy


The Socialist

The Socialist's 2017 quiz



The Socialist Inbox



Comment: Socialism and truth about Zane


Labour Party

Blairite horror and Labour's divisions graphically exposed



Dramatic retelling of Grunwick strike


Working class

Left comic's take on politics will have you in tears

triangleMore Reviews and comments articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle17 Jan Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangle17 Jan NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangle17 Jan We must fight all council cuts!

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

triangle12 Jan Outrage against 'monster block' plan

triangle12 Jan Mini-strike wave continues and intensifies

More ...

triangle23 Jan Bristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangle23 Jan Cardiff West Socialist Party: How the Poll Tax was beaten

triangle24 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: The Carillion scandal

triangle24 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Carillion collapse - Watershed moment for public services

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



January 2018






















Platform setting: = No platform choice