Just attacking waxworks

Rot runs deep

‘Extreme protest groups’, such as Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil, are now under threat of an effective ban. But, writes, Eddie Ford, this is only the thin edge of the wedge

Surprising no-one who reads this publication, there are now proposals to effectively ban protests by groups like Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil.

Actually commissioned three years ago, but due to be published this month (timing is everything in politics!), the 100,000-word report by the scab former Labour MP John Woodcock (Baron Walney) will recommend a new category for proscribing “extreme protest groups” - as distinct from doing so on grounds of ‘terrorism’: ie, the use of “criminal tactics”. If implemented, which seems possible, the new laws would limit a group’s ability to fundraise and its right to assembly in the UK. For example, activists would be banned from holding protests near defence manufacturing and anything designated as “vital energy supplies and infrastructure”.

In other words, the 41 recommendations - including a blanket prohibition on protestors wearing masks during marches - effectively amount to an insidious state ban on PA, JSO and potentially other protest groups. Indeed, we read in the Mail Online - which has seen extracts from the report - that, while the government has clearly taken steps in recent years to “improve understanding of the extreme right” and “jihadist activities”, it has “not done the same with the far-left or single-issue threats, violent or non-violent” (May 12). Therefore the intelligence services and home office should reclassify “leftwing, anarchist and single-issue threats” (LASI to use the jargon) and add the word ‘extreme’ in order to avoid unintentionally conflating mainstream leftwing views - which apparently are perfectly fine - with those of the far left that are beyond the pale.

Appointed an advisor on ‘political violence and disruption’ under Boris Johnson (also bizarrely as the trade envoy to Tanzania), our Lord Walney complained to the Mail that being arrested “is not acting as enough of a deterrent” for these undesirable people - especially if you look at how long it takes to get them to trial and the way charges are often dropped before you even have the proceedings. Then damned juries find them innocent! No wonder protestors and demonstrators, we further read, have developed a “mindset”, in which “they think they’re going to be able to get away with what they’re doing” - so something must be done to prevent lawless anarchy. It is worth noting in passing that Lord Walney has form - resigning from the Labour Party in 2018, because it had been “taken over by the hard left”, which tacitly endorsed “anti-Semitism”, while now Jeremy Corbyn represented “a clear risk to UK national security”.

With great relish, the Mail informs us that other “hard-left protestors and groups” named in the forthcoming Walney report include Piers Corbyn, brother of Jeremy, notorious for his rejection of the scientific consensus around climate change, claims of a Covid-19 “hoax” and other unhinged conspiracy theories - not to mention the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has been prominent in organising the Gaza solidarity protests. Extinction Rebellion must be among the targets as well - though, of course, you can add your own names to the list.


We have got to the sorry stage in Britain where protest groups can be banned even though they advocate nothing more than protest. Indeed PA, JSO, PSC, etc, specifically advocate non-violent protest. Certainly, if an ambulance had to pass in case of an emergency, Just Say No activists immediately let it through - though that hardly ever gets reported in the media.

So they are just protesting in the same way as was done at sporting events during the apartheid years - mass protests outside Twickenham rugby stadium, inside the self-sacrificing elite like Peter Hain (now Lord Hain) would invade the pitch, getting their ten seconds of TV fame by getting themselves dragged off by the police. At the time, the Tories accused them of being spoilers, disruptive … and above all naive. Surely you must realise that if you have ‘One person, one vote’ in South Africa, that will let in the African National Congress, who are communists and tools of the Soviet Union - which is why we in Britain stand by apartheid South Africa.

But what they did not do is say that the anti-apartheid protestors were anti-white racists, as the idea was obviously risible. However, telling you everything about the extremely irrational times we live in now, this is exactly what Rishi Sunak - plus the Republicans and Democrats in the US - are doing now by brandishing as ‘anti-Semitic’ those taking part in the huge London demonstrations against the Gaza genocide, or the inspiring student camps in the US, now being widely emulated across the UK.

If you actually bother to look at the demonstrations and camps, what you have - quite rightly and understandably - are large Jewish contingents among those protesting against the heinous crimes of the Israeli state, whether Torah-religious or secular progressive. Are Jews put in danger. Of course not. What about Zionist Jews? Hardly. Take Sharron Haskel, the Israeli MP, who recently strode about Oxford waving a big Israeli flag and a beaming smile on her face - was she in fear of her life? No, of course not. To claim otherwise, as the Zionists of CAA, etc, have done, is all part of their Goebbels-like big lie campaign we have been subjected to, especially since 2015 and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.

The proposed ban is a perfectly logical move by the Tories and the bourgeois establishment. As alluded to above in the Mail article, a whole series of Islamic and Irish organisations have been banned, plus Nazi ones. For the left, the problem with these bans is that they are a bit like pastor Niemöller’s famous poem, ‘First they came …’, which concludes by pointing out that when they came for us, there would be no-one left. Not actually true, of course, but the poem has a profound truth - you must stand up for the rights of all, even for those you strongly disagree with.

We in the CPGB have done precisely that by standing up for the explicitly fascist National Action - not because of what it advocates, of course not, but rather because we defend the unrestricted right to freedom of speech. Just in the same way that Leon Trotsky was prepared to go the US to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities as to why he was against any bans on the thoroughly Stalinite Communist Party of the USA or the American Nazi Party - because he was in favour of full freedom of debate and free speech.1 Once we let the bourgeoisie and state restrict that right, ultimately they will come for us, since their real enemy is not National Action or some marginal Islamic group: it is the working class and its natural leadership - the left.

Paving the way for such bans that we are now facing was a study published back in July 2019 by three academics from Goldsmiths, King’s College and the University of Bristol, which the Weekly Worker and others flagged up at the time. With the scary-looking title, Violent extremist tactics and the ideology of the sectarian far left, and calling themselves the Commission for Countering Extremism (sounds familiar?), it had lots of impressive looking graphs and formulas, but politically it was plain dumb.2 If this is an example of the academic standards promoted in institutions of higher learning, then the country is in serious trouble.


Anyway, as an example of those on the far left who will be attracted to extremist tactics, it quoted a certain Jack Conrad from the Provisional Central Committee, saying that there is a great danger that the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt inside the Labour Party could spread to wider society. The authors of the report then sagely tell us that this is clearly a far-left conspiracy theory that can be “identified with two themes that were also seen elsewhere within the leftwing publications that we examined”: firstly, the idea that “society is as it is because the wealthy have arranged it to their exclusive advantage”; and, secondly, the notion that “what appears in the ‘mainstream’ media is a manipulative falsehood disseminated on that minority’s behalf” - what a crazy idea!

This stupid study, heavily promoted by the bourgeoisie and its manipulative media - sorry, guys - was part of the long-running attempt to silence and demonise people: attacking the left of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, the likes of you and me; painting them all as violent extremists. Fast-forward five years and we can see that we are not too far away from that repressive scenario - hence the Walney report. Today they are talking about an imminent ban on PA and JSO, so who will be next - the CPGB for openly advocating a workers’ militia and the possibility of armed struggle? How about John Rees’s Counterfire or the Socialist Workers Party, both of which are named in this so-called academic study?


Now, they can ban us either on the basis of being ‘terrorists’, ‘extremists’ or ‘racists’ - slogans like ‘Palestine should be free’ or ‘From the river to the sea’ are now deemed anti-Semitic. But how about this one? Mothin Ali - one of the 34 new Green councillors in Bristol and a practising Muslim - is now under ‘investigation’ for proclaiming that this was a “win for the people of Gaza”, “we will not be silenced” and (perhaps worst of all) shouting “Allahu Akbar!” - literally meaning “God is greater”.

Presumably he is being investigated for anti-Semitism or Islamic extremism (or both?). Hey, why not add ‘terrorism’ to the charge sheet? But it is no more a crime than this journalist, who was brought up in a Christian culture and went to a Church of England school, being investigated for crying out ‘God help us’, or ‘Jesus Christ!’, at times of stress or excitement - it is bound to come out. When a person from a Muslim background is put under investigation for shouting out ‘God is greater’, which is part of his cultural thought-world, it shows you how deep the rot is and also how deep the potential for repression is in this society.

The CPGB is not expecting a massive clampdown overnight - rather an incremental process. But at some moments we have qualitative turning points, as we did with the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn from the Parliamentary Labour Party. But it should never be forgotten that it was the wider left who led the way by setting up the doctrines of ‘no-platforming’ and ‘zero tolerance’ for ideas deemed politically unacceptable, and all the rest of that anti-democratic crap.

We need open and unrestricted debate, whether on transgender issues, women’s abortion rights, republicanism, drugs, open borders, China, the EU, Palestine ... That will benefit the healthy left and should be accepted by all, not regarded as an eccentric aberration.

  1. marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1939/12/dies2.html.↩︎

  2. assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5d8b892540f0b6098eb653d2/Allington-McAndrew-Hirsh-2019-Jul-19.pdf.↩︎