22 March Westminster attack
Unite against terror, racism and war
A wave of shock followed the recent terrorist attack in the centre of London, the horrific mowing down of people using a vehicle and then a stabbing. It came after atrocities using vehicles in Berlin and Nice during the last eight months, and other appalling terrorist attacks in France and Brussels.
The Socialist Party strongly condemned all these attacks and has done so again on this occasion.
The attacker's choice of Westminster - and the fact that he ran towards Parliament - suggested anger against the establishment and government, but the victims were ordinary people, especially tourists viewing the Houses of Parliament. People of ten different nationalities were indiscriminately hit. Four people plus the attacker died and seven were critically injured.
In any case, whoever is targeted, acts of individual terror like this should always be opposed. They are not an effective means to struggle against the establishment.
Trying to assure people that the attacker was most likely acting alone and not part of a set of attacks, Theresa May made a sanctimonious speech on 'resolve' to 'never waver' or be afraid.
Yet she heads a Tory government that is making people far more vulnerable when terrorism occurs. Huge cuts to London transport are inflicting the axing of many safety-critical staff. In addition fire stations have been closed, the ambulance service is over-stretched due to cuts, hospitals are under-staffed and there are threats to A&E departments.
The government also wants to see the bosses of Southern Rail, Merseyrail and Northern Rail defeat the RMT union's strikes against the removal of safety-critical guards on trains.
The first doctor on the scene to treat the injured was off-duty junior doctor Jeeves Wijesuriya. Jeeves is a member of the junior doctors' committee of the BMA (British Medical Association) and was one of the leaders of last year's strikes against a worse contract being imposed on junior doctors by the government. On 4th March he was a platform speaker against government NHS cuts at the more than 100,000-strong national 'Save our NHS' demonstration in London.
The Tories' hypocrisy knows no bounds. The last thing that the likes of May will acknowledge is any link between the devastation their policies have caused across the Middle East and the threat of terrorism in Britain. Information on the background of the attacker has indicated that while he had criminal convictions in the past, including for violent assault, he had also been influenced by events in the Middle East. This included, after converting to Islam, spending periods of time in Saudi Arabia, a country run by a repressive, autocratic regime based on right-wing Islamist ideology.
As well, Islamic State (Isis) claimed responsibility for the Westminster attack. Isis - based in in Syria and Iraq - has made it known that it is encouraging the carrying out of attacks in Europe. This is one way it is trying to fight back while being squeezed by military onslaughts against it in Mosul and north Syria.
It is a sign of its weakness, not strength, that it resorts to murderous individual acts. It doesn't seek to remove capitalism - rather it wants use its fascistic type methods and individual terrorism to attack ordinary people and aid its aim of creating a capitalist or semi-feudal caliphate in the interests of its leaders.
Whether or not the perpetrators of atrocities like last week's are directly motivated by Isis, there is outrage across the Middle East and globally at the involvement of British and US imperialism and other world powers in the slaughter of over 150,000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan. This mass terror goes on, last week reports arrived of 150 civilians killed in US airstrikes on Mosul. Those wars - and also the foreign interventions in Yemen, Libya, Syria and parts of Pakistan - have generated would-be terrorists and Al-Qaida type groups across the globe.
Much of the worst suffering by ordinary people from terrorist acts has been in those countries, where regular suicide bombings have hit many hundreds of people in cities like Baghdad and Kabul.
There have been few terror attacks in Britain since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, but it is unfortunately no surprise that another attack has occurred. The intelligence services say they have 'foiled' 12 plots in the last three years and they have called the likelihood of the threat "severe" for a long period.
Last November, MI5 head Andrew Parker stated "there will be terrorist attacks in this country" and noted that the 'tempo' of terrorist plots and attempts during the previous three years was the highest in his 33 years at MI5.
Now the media in Britain is again asking how further attacks can be prevented, but there will be no way of stopping them based on a continuation of the government's policies. The attacker was born in Britain - as were the 7/7 bombers. The police and intelligence services have no way of deterring all such future attackers through their methods of surveillance and 'anti-terrorism' laws.
Defend the right to protest
The Tories have previously used past terrorist attacks to justify anti-democratic legislation. Now Home Secretary Amber Rudd has been talking of more powers for the police and intelligence agencies - in particular she wants them to have access to encrypted messages sent through media like WhatsApp.
But the previously enacted 'anti-terrorism' laws didn't stop attacks occurring, nor will more repressive legislation. The police had plenty of powers to arrest anyone planning or committing a crime before these laws were brought in. Rudd's new proposal would only drive potential attackers to greater secrecy and at the same time would infringe on everyone's privacy and make communication less secure for all.
Also, extra police powers of surveillance, restrictions on movement, etc, can also be used against trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners, socialists and others who are opposing the government's pro-big business policies. They must be opposed.
Fight racism and scapegoating
For years right-wing politicians in the three main parliamentary parties have dangerously used rhetoric that has played into the hands of racists. Anti-immigrant talk came from leaders on both sides of the EU referendum debate. The Socialist Party's pro-working class standpoint, against division and racism and for Brexit on the basis of socialist internationalism, was not covered in the mainstream media.
Since the referendum, and the election of Trump, there has been an increase in racist attacks. Also it mustn't be forgotten that racist attacks increased six-fold in the weeks after 7/7; a similar outcome must be fought against by socialists and trade unionists following this new terrorist attack, by calling for workers' unity against all forms of racism and the far right.
This needs to include countering the far-right Britain First demonstration that has been called for 1st April.
All the racist, anti-democratic, pro-austerity and pro-war measures and policies of May's Tory government must be fought by the trade union movement with new vigour and a determined plan of action. The building of a mass movement of opposition can remove it from power - and lay the basis for reversing its policies that breed poverty, division and terrorism.
This article was originally posted on 23.3.17 and was updated on 27.3.17.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 27 March 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.