The events of September 11 have shown the capabilities of modern day’s terrorists and the subsequent bombings in Madrid, Bali, London and Mumbai indicate that more attacks of this type would be no surprise at all. Nevertheless, at this point it is simply not possible to determine with absolute certainty whether a terrorist attack on the scale claimed was actually in the making or not. It is up to the British government to back up their allegations and to justify the severe security measures they have imposed. Taking for granted what the present Labour government says will not bring us closer to the truth. Remember the faulty “case for war” in Iraq – not a single weapon of mass destruction was found – that proved to be a mere lie, as well as the more recent anti-terrorist raid and shooting in Forest Gate, East London that was based on no evidence whatsoever.

It would be a great mistake to abandon our ability for critical thinking in such a period of hysteria and media frenzy. Certainly a state of panic plays into the hands of certain people in the state precisely because it becomes much easier to rubberstamp changes in the law that can do away with basic, hard-won civil liberties fought for over centuries.

Surely it should one give food for thought that Home Secretary John Reid, just hours before the red alert was sounded, changed his planned speech on immigration to a think-tank in London, to speak on terrorism, thereby accusing critics of the government’s anti-terrorism measures of putting national security at risk through their failure to recognise the serious nature of the threat facing Britain. “They just don’t get it,” he said. “Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the modern world.”

Reid thus gave a very strong hint that more “anti-terrorism” legislation was on the way this autumn as he argued that civil liberties arguments belonged to another age. What is true is that certain civil liberties already belong to another age. The right to demonstrate has already been seriously restricted; anti-strike laws that were implemented under Thatcher have only been strengthened under the Blair government; and these days the right to live without the danger of being shot dead by the police is also a freedom of the past thanks to the implementation of a shoot-to-kill policy that has already killed an innocent man and almost killed another one in the raid in Forest Gate.

Of course there is a terrorist threat that is very real and it would be foolish to deny it. Where is the debate in the media, however, on where this vicious kind of terrorism comes from? No sane human being can approve of the disastrous method of individual terrorism that has killed thousands of people all over the world. The tragedy of the terrorist atrocities over the last years is that they only play into the hands of those ladies and gentlemen in government who have no less blood on their hands. State terrorism is in essence no different than individual terrorism after all.

Iraq. Afghanistan. Lebanon. Palestine. There you have the answer to why young people with a whole life in front of them are prepared to incinerate themselves in suicide attacks. Not thousands but hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed in wars they do not want. For a whole century the Middle East has been the chessboard of the big imperialist powers fighting for control over the vast natural resources of the region. Communities have been torn apart by divide and rule tactics, artificial borders and sectarian divisions promoted by American, British and French imperialism.

The imperialist powers cannot solve the problems facing the masses of the Middle East precisely because they are the cause of these never ending crises. For the same reason they cannot combat this modern day plague of individual terrorism. Meanwhile, behind the cover of ‘combating terrorism’ the ruling class is busily dismantling our democratic rights. This is not a secondary matter. Just as they fight foreign wars for markets, raw materials and spheres of influence, so the capitalists are preparing for serious battles at home against the working class, to drive down our wages, and destroy the reforms we have conquered in the past, all in the name of profit and the defence of their decrepit system.

The labour movement must be on its guard. Democratic rights, even as limited as they are under capitalism, must be defended. To throw them away will do nothing to combat terrorism, nor will it help the masses of the Middle East. The only people to benefit would be the ruling class. It is our internationalist duty to assist the masses of the Middle East, in the first place by demanding the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and also by defending our ability to conduct such a struggle by preventing a further assault on our civil liberties.

No to Attacks on Civil Liberties! Defend Democratic Rights!

For the immediate withdrawal of all imperialist troops from Iraq and Afghanistan!

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