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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 March 2009

Our democratic rights under attack by Labour

SINCE NEW Labour came to power in 1997, 60 new powers have been introduced in 25 separate parliamentary acts which have attacked and encroached upon our civil liberties. Shami Chakrabarti, chairperson of the Liberty campaign group, claims: "We have lived under one of the most authoritarian ages in living memory." She's not far wrong!

Greg Maughan

From 28-day detention without charge to new stop-and-search powers handed to the police and attacks on our right to protest, our democratic rights are being rolled back. These rights (which were won by previous generations of working people through struggle), are vital in the struggle to improve our conditions within this system and in the fight to transform society altogether.

But while our rights are being attacked, things are moving in the opposite direction for the representatives of the state. The question has to be asked: who watches the watchmen?

The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 has made it an offence to "elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been- (i) a member of Her Majesty's forces, (ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or (iii) a constable, which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

This could be used against an individual asking for the police identity number of an officer. Or simply taking a photograph of a police officer could be interpreted as an offence.

The police have been granted the power to stop-and-search and record details of ordinary workers and young people on a whim while we could be accused of 'preparing a terrorist act' if we were to ask the name of the officer searching us!

New Labour, with the Tories' backing, is making it easier for government agencies, private companies and international bodies to exchange personal data and surveillance information at the same time as blocking the release of government minutes. Calls for the minutes of the cabinet meeting that cost the lives of thousands of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of UK troops by backing the war in Iraq have been blocked by Jack Straw, amongst others.

Straw even has the audacity to claim: "People have the power to vote out administrations", if they don't like it.

But as the commentator Charlie Brooker put it in the Guardian: "Who the hell are we supposed to vote in? Despite a bit of grumbling, the Tories supported the veto [on cabinet minutes]. Because they wouldn't want cabinet minutes published either."

It is completely unacceptable for governments to act with impunity while ordinary people have their right to organise and fight back undermined.

We need a new mass workers' party so that we do have an alternative to vote for. But more than that, we need a socialist society that's organised and run in the interests of the majority with fully accountable representatives living in the same conditions as the rest of us to ensure genuine and permanent democratic rights.

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In The Socialist 4 March 2009:

Bosses get pay-offs, workers get layoffs

RBS pension scandal: Not a penny for these fat cats!

Hands off our post!

Stop Labour's mail sell-off

Socialist Party Marxist analysis

Marx was right all along

Socialist Party feature

Has globalisation gone into reverse?

Our democratic rights under attack by Labour

Socialist Students

Anti-fees demo success - despite NUS leaders' obstructions

Cardiff student occupation: University divests from arms trade

Youth fight for jobs

Youth Fight for Jobs

The route

Construction workers

Construction workers plan more action

Message from strike leader

Socialist Party workplace news

Stop bullying at BT

Fight the cuts in Nottingham!

Sogefi workers demand strike

NUJ action

Cover supervisors: Teaching on the cheap

National Shop Stewards Network: Brighton launch meeting

Socialist Party women

International Women's Day 8 March: Don't make women pay for the bosses' crisis

Make all women's issues trade union issues

Solidarity with Constantina Kuneva

International socialist news and analysis

Ireland: Scrap the 'pension levy': Organise a one-day general strike

Kashmir: Health workers win demands

May Day

Support The Socialist on May Day this year


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