TORY announcements of policing and prison have nothing to do with tackling crime and everything to do with being seen as tough.
The 20,000 new police officers promised won’t even replace the 21,000 officers cut by the Tories.
Then there are the extensions to stop and search powers. If this is a gimmick, it is a dangerous one. Restrictions to stop and search powers were introduced for very good reason.
They are disproportionately used against Black communities and the Met’s own data suggest they have virtually no impact on violent crime.
Combine this with 10,000 new prison places and you have the perfect authoritarian pitch on being “tough on crime.”
Forget that none of these measures do anything to address the causes of crime. Forget the fact that continued austerity and the atomisation and hollowing out of communities under super-charged neoliberalism post-2010 has driven violent crime to record levels. Forget that increasing sentences and prison places does nothing to address the question of rehabilitation and reduction in reoffending and seeks to manage rather than prevent crime, no doubt at a healthy profit for private contractors.
Of course, this pantomime of “cracking down” on violent crime distracts from the very real crimes that go on unchallenged every day in Tory Britain — the 600 people across England and Wales who die from homelessness each year (up 24 per cent from five years ago) or the estimated 120,000 people who died from government austerity between 2010 and 2017 (according to the British Medical Journal).
However, the increasingly authoritarian pronouncements by Johnson’s government are more than mere theatre.
They tie in with a broader policy approach, including the threat to suspend Parliament and potentially other social and civil rights if he faces opposition on delivering a right-wing Tory Brexit. We should be under no illusion that any Brexit delivered by a right-wing authoritarian government, through the mechanism of proroguing Parliament, would be in the interests of the working class.
It is not a no-deal Brexit that Johnson offers, but a deal with US imperialism, including the flogging off of what remains of our public sector.
What is the alternative?
We are informed that we need a “national government” led by “a backbencher” (for which read anyone other than Jeremy Corbyn) to prevent us from “crashing out” of the EU. And if we are not convinced, the CEOs of various British-based transnational corporations are wheeled out to tell us what is in the national interest. Apparently, we must listen to these “business leaders” who only have the interests of the British economy at heart.
Since when did the economic interest of the British working class align with those of the British ruling class? Since when should we take economic advice from the very people who profit from our exploitation?
Over 100 years ago, Friedrich Engels noted that the state arose out of insoluble contradictions and irreconcilable antagonisms in society and that it was a means of the economically dominant class presenting its ideas as the ideas of the whole society.
If ever there was a clear example of this process at work, it is in the reaction of the state, on behalf of “society,” to the crisis provoked by Brexit — that we all need to pull together as a country, forget this Brexit nonsense and continue with (rampant neoliberal) business as usual.
It is clear that the ruling class has options. Its favoured option: continued uninterrupted membership of the EU and its neoliberal institutions.
Failing that, if Brexit is inevitable, a deal with the US, under a right-wing authoritarian British government that would continue the processes of privatisation and austerity of the last nine years.
We, on the other hand, have only one option. To fight the capitalist system that has caused this crisis, and to elect Jeremy Corbyn.
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