New Labour’s menacing Zero Tolerance

A SPRING chorus of police chiefs and Home Office spokespersons are menacingly claiming this year’s May Day anti-capitalist protests will be met with Zero Tolerance. An orchestrated media offensive warns of how the police will clamp down upon any dissent.

In previous years the police have been frustrated by their inability, despite their savage repression, to catch the alleged ringleaders of the anti-capitalist protests. Nor have they been able to contain small sections of demonstrators, who have caused massive damage against targets in the heart of the capitalist class’s City of London.

So, the police’s sabre rattling this year is a concerted attempt to decrease the turnout for the anti-capitalist May Day Monopoly – hoping they can more easily contain events.

Blair and Straw don’t want big anti-capitalist protests in the run-up to the election and are putting the squeeze on police chiefs to clamp down. Police chiefs who don’t enforce strict control could face the sack, according to one report.

This year, like previous years, even though Jack Straw has given them added powers to conduct Big Brother-style operations, the police still fear they will be humiliated.

The media hype and the government’s involvement bears out something The Socialist has warned about, that New Labour is an intolerant, authoritarian government prepared to use a wide range of repressive laws to stifle dissent.

Organised protest

These laws will not just be used against sections of the anti-capitalist movement. They also pose a threat to the labour movement and all those who protest against the ‘free-market’, neo-liberal policies of New Labour and other similar governments internationally.

This weekend there will be big demonstrations in Canada outside the Summit of the Americas gathering. Protests against various gatherings of world leaders are planned by anti-capitalist movements throughout the spring and summer.

Anti-capitalist protests have represented the beginnings of a new generation getting politicised and active. Last year’s May Day events involved thousands of young people and many more enthusiastically supported their protests.

The capitalists and politicians alike fear that such protests will keep growing. Sections of the ruling class fear even more that the working class could take action and strike real blows against capitalism’s interests, as disenchantment with New Labour and big business grows.

We also argued there were lessons to be drawn from last year’s May Day anti-capitalist protest – about the role of the police and the state and how capitalism can be effectively challenged.

The press furore after last year’s demonstration and the police’s unsubtle warnings in the run-up to this year’s demonstration, again raises questions about how such protests should now be organised.

We argue that it’s now more necessary for organised demonstrations and stewarding to make it harder for the police to attack protesters.

Understandably, given the mistrust of the right-wing leadership of the Labour and trade union movement, there is an extreme scepticism about organisation and structures among many young activists. A fear exists that any ‘organisation’ will lead to bureaucracy.

Yet, it is a myth that any demonstration takes place entirely spontaneously. One of the most successful anti-capitalist demonstrations was at S30 last year in Melbourne.

There, the labour movement helped to ensure organised and democratically elected stewarding, which enabled the demonstration to be capably defended from attack.

Forcing concessions from capitalism, and ultimately replacing it with a new system will come up against the state’s opposition. The capitalists possess a highly organised state that is willing to use force against its opponents.

Fundamental change can only be effectively won by anti-capitalist groups linking up with properly organised, mass working-class movements. The anti-capitalist movement could play a valuable role in helping build new mass organisations of the working class opposed to New Labour and the rule of big business.

Such an organised mass struggle could help popularise anti-capitalist ideas, rebuild the traditions of May Day as an international workers’ day of revolt against capitalism, and put a real socialist alternative to end the scourge that is the global capitalist system.