It shouldn’t have needed the heavy-handed policing at Clapham Common last Saturday to get Labour – which had hitherto intended to abstain from the second reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill – to switch to voting against it. A useful 1640 word assessment was offered yesterday in a WSWS piece – Opposing the UK Police Bill must be based on class, not gender or race – which notes that:
- The Bill adds to “Spy Cops” – Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act – which became law on March 1 and authorises security, intelligence and law enforcement services to do things “which would otherwise constitute criminality”. The Court of Appeal ruled on March 9 that MI5 may legally commit serious crimes.
- Spy Cops saw just 34 Labour MPs voting against. Keir Starmer had meant to whip the party to abstain on the Police Bill too. Only in the wake of Clapham Common did he switch to a stance of token opposition to a bill certain to pass regardless.
- Such legislation was conceived following the XR protests of 2019, and pursued with greater urgency after the international George Floyd protests last summer – “which the ruling class recognised as anticipating a far broader eruption of class struggle”.
I agree, and recommend the Scripps piece in full. Meanwhile, in the Commons a few days ago, Shadow Justice Minister David Lammy attacked this “overreach of the state” in a speech certain to elevate his standing with a Labour Left fond of verbal fireworks. Like his boss, Lammy knew the bill’s passage to be a foregone conclusion but played to the gallery with vim and verve. See this six minute clip.
At 5:26 he attacks the bill’s failure “to make misogyny a hate crime”. Does his combining of two words – one denoting an emotion, the other a deed – disturb you?
Orwell’s 1984 gave us, among other terms now deep rooted in our lexicons of nightmare, the idea of a thought-crime. It was published in 1949. A little more recently, two days ago in fact, a 770 worder by Frank Furedi appeared on RT with the title, British plan to treat misogyny as hate crime is a travesty of justice and will do NOTHING to make women more secure.
Back in the eighties Furedi called himself Frank Richards – a pseudonym also adopted by one Charles Hamilton, creator of Billy Bunter – and was a leading light, if not the leading light, of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Like that other RCP reinvention, Claire Fox – Baroness of Buckley, erstwhile Brexit MEP and the Beeb’s idea of a counterweight to Melanie “Mad Mel” Phillips on the Moral Maze – Richards, now Furedi once more, is frequently decried as a right-wing libertarian.
I can’t unreservedly endorse the man but do find myself in frequent agreement – as, on some narrow issues, I do with the reactionary Jordan Peterson1 – with fearless Frank. (As an education advisor at Sheffield Hallam more than a decade ago, I attended a conference at which Furedi laid into a booming ‘therapy culture’ in higher education. I couldn’t fault a word he said, a fact that did me no favours when I reported back to my colleagues, some of them highly invested in that therapy culture and its self perpetuating industry.)
And on the subject of hate crime? Here’s a sample from Furedi’s RT piece:
In the wake of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard moral entrepreneurs are demanding that misogyny should be criminalised as a hate crime. The British government has agreed and declared that from the autumn the police will be asked to categorise a variety of different offences and crimes as motivated by “hostility based on their sex.”
Like all hate crimes, the criminalisation of ‘hostility based on sex’ constitutes a travesty of justice. In an enlightened and just society people are prosecuted and judged for what they have done rather than what they think. Otherwise, we accept that dreadful totalitarian idea of a thought crime. It means that we are not simply judged for what we do but what the police believe we think.
I couldn’t agree more. Not for the first time2 I note how well the politics of identity serve the interests of power and wealth – or as I will insist on saying, of our ruling class. Capitalism’s scope for bribery on the back of super-exploitation of the global south, and for the manufacture of opinion via media driven by market forces, is shrinking. For its long term survival, even in the hitherto affluent (hence liberal-democratic) West, repression will intensify. This is ABC once you see class rule for what it truly is but will be sold, as always and for the most part successfully, in the name of our greater safety.3 The Spy Cops and Police & Crime laws, and comparable ruling class responses across Europe and North America, constitute one aspect of this.
Another has us sleepwalking, to a lullaby of ‘social inclusion’, into accepting thought-crime not as the disturbed prophecy of literary dystopia, but as statutory reality.
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- It’s not Peterson’s views on ‘political correctness’, with its policing of thought and speech, that make him reactionary. Far from it; there I find myself in agreement. It’s his blindness to the realities of class rule which make him so. Jacobin magazine I can take or leave but this piece gives a useful assessment of that blindness.
- Note the IHRA’s apartheid-friendly definition of ‘antisemitism’, and how well Twitter’s banning of Trump played with ‘progressives’ to whom it seems not to have occurred that threats to liberty will of course start with the low hanging fruit: first they came for the unloved …
- The controlled opposition of liberal media – as in Guardian coverage of the March 9 ruling on Spy Cop immunity from prosecution – should not obscure their services to power in vilifying those, from Assad to Corbyn and Assange, who stand in the way of our rulers’ designs.