Execution at Stockwell, London: Today's democratic "shoot to kill" prepares tomorrow's death squads

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Since the bomb attacks of the 7th July the British government has used every available opportunity to boost the image of the state as the only thing which can protect the population from attack. The media were simultaneously calling for ‘national unity’ whilst decrying the forces of ‘Islamic terror’ present in our midst. The massive media barrage was repressive in itself, as it sought to overwhelm the population’s consciousness, and it undoubtedly contributed to the huge rise in racist attacks that followed the bombings. With the general fear in the population on their side, the chance arose to increase the repressive apparatus.
New laws have been proposed, including:

  • Those that make it a crime to incite hatred or calling for the support of terrorist organisations here or abroad.
  • A push for the introduction of ID cards
  • The indefinite introduction of a shoot to kill policy for the police
  • Control orders restricting the movements of British citizens
  • An ‘official’ policy of phone tapping and the reading of emails
  • Increased powers for the state to hold suspects for up to 3 months without charge
  • The possibility of having ‘special courts’ where evidence is given in secret and there are no juries
  • Other laws giving the power to the state to deport ‘undesirable’ elements to their countries of origin.

Another strand of the state’s response has been, under the guise of ‘greater integration’ and ‘creating stronger links’, to urge the ‘Muslim community’ (something which doesn’t exist in a class-divided society) to police itself better. This has been the spearhead for a campaign to recruit more Asian police officers, and for members of the said community to inform on each other.  

We have also had the response at the street level: the shooting at Stockwell station of Jean Charles de Menezes on the 22nd July. Since the shooting it has become very clear that this was a planned execution. Almost all of the initial ‘facts’ about this incident have been shown to be lies. The overwhelming message was clear: this is an example to everyone else - we will shoot whoever we want.

As with the repressive measures introduced after the 9/11 attacks, this strengthening of the state will not only be aimed at rivals in imperialist conflicts, but at the social force opposed to all imperialist conflicts: the working class and its revolutionary minorities. History shows us that this is the traditional response of the bourgeoisie faced with a situation of ripening discontent. Already ‘anti-terror’ laws have been used to restrict demonstrations and strike actions – something which will increase, especially as the economic and social conditions in Britain deteriorate, and the working class becomes a more overt threat to the interests of the capitalist economy and the state apparatus which exists to protect it. 

Graham, 02/09/05

ICC Statement of 25/7/05

On Friday 22nd July, at 10:00 in the morning, the police shot down a 27-year old Brazilian electrician, Jean-Charles de Menezes, with five bullets fired at point-blank range and in cold blood. This young worker’s crime, for which he has been summarily executed, was simply that of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and perhaps (since one always has doubts about the official version) to have run away from a group of threatening policemen who had mistaken him for someone else. This didn’t happen in a favela of Rio de Janeiro, and the gunslinging police officers were not members of the "death squads" who are given a free hand by the authorities, in Brazil and other Third World countries, to "clean up" the "anti-social elements" (whether petty criminals or political opponents). It happened in London, the capital of the "most democratic country in the world", and the policemen were the "bobbies" famous all over the world for their good nature, operating under the orders of the world’s most prestigious police agency: Scotland Yard.

Needless to say, this crime has provoked a certain emotion among the spokesmen of the ruling class: the Financial Times has spoken of "a potentially dangerous turn" taken by the security forces. Obviously, London police chief Sir Ian Blair has "regretted" the "error" and presented his condolences to the victim’s family. Needless to say, an enquiry has been opened to "establish the truth". It is even possible that a police officer or two will be sanctioned for having failed to distinguish between a Brazilian Catholic and a Pakistani Muslim. But those responsible for the crime are not the trigger-happy gunslingers. If they killed young Jean-Charles, it is because they had orders to "shoot to kill".

There is no lack of explanations, delivered with all the subtle hypocrisy so characteristic of the British ruling class: According to Sir Ian Blair, "There is nothing gratuitous or cavalier going on. There is no shoot to kill policy, there is a shoot to kill to protect policy".[1] His predecessor, John Stevens, who no longer has to watch his language, spoke out more brutally a few months ago: "There is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfil his mission -- destroy his brain instantly, utterly. That means shooting him with devastating power in the head, killing him immediately."[2] Nor is it just the police who have adopted this language; the thoroughly "left-wing" Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone has justified the shooting in the following terms: "If you are dealing with someone who might be a suicide bomber, if they remain conscious they could trigger plastic explosives or whatever device is on them. Therefore overwhelmingly in these circumstances it is going to be a shoot-to-kill policy".[3]

Let there be no mistake, the argument about "suicide bombers determined to fulfil their mission" is a deceptive pretext: when British troops shot down innocent Irish citizens because they thought they were terrorists, it is not because the real IRA terrorists were suicide bombers (suicide being moreover forbidden by the Catholic church). In reality, the capitalist state, in Britain as in all the "democratic" countries, has always used terrorist attacks like those of 7th and 21st July in London as an excuse to strengthen its repressive apparatus, to put in place measures that are generally considered the preserve of "totalitarian" regimes, and above all to get the population used to their existence. This is what happened after 9/11 in the USA, or after the bomb attacks in France in 1995 attributed to the Algerian "Groupes Islamistes Armés". According to the ruling class’ propaganda, you have to choose: either accept an ever more stifling police presence at every moment and everywhere, or else "play the terrorists’ game". In Britain today, this all-powerful police presence has reached new extremes: they now have not only the right, but orders to kill anyone who may appear "suspect" or who fails to obey their summons. And this in the country which invented the law Habeas Corpus in 1679, banning arbitrary arrest. Traditionally in Britain, as in all the "democratic" countries, you could not be imprisoned without charge for more than 24 hours. In Britain today, there are already people imprisoned in Belmarsh prison (near London), and held without trial.[4] Now, they can be shot on sight in the street!

For the moment, the official targets are "suicide bombers". But it would be a terrible mistake to think the ruling class will stop there. History has shown over and over again that whenever the capitalist class feels threatened, it doesn’t hesitate to trample its "democratic principles" underfoot. In the past, these principles were a weapon in its struggle against arbitrary rule and aristocratic domination. Once it had taken undivided power over society, it kept them as ornaments, especially to deceive the exploited masses and make them accept their exploitation. During the 19th century, the all-powerful British bourgeoisie could afford the luxury of offering asylum to political refugees from defeated revolutions all over the Continent, such as the French workers fleeing the crushing of the Paris Commune in 1871. The bourgeoisie is not threatened by "Islamic terrorism". The main victims of this criminal terror are the workers taking the Tube to work, or the office-workers of the Twin Towers. And thanks to the perfectly justified horror that it inspires among the population in general, "terrorism" has provided an excellent pretext for a whole series of states to justify their imperialist adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq.

No, the only force that can threaten the bourgeoisie is the working class. For the moment, the workers’ struggles are far from being an immediate menace to bourgeois order, but the ruling class knows perfectly well that the inexorable crisis of its system, and the ever more violent attacks that it will have to make on the workers, can only push the latter to more and more widespread struggles, to the point where they will threaten the power of their exploiters. When that happens, it is not the "terrorists" who will be shot down like dogs, but the most militant workers and revolutionary elements (who will be described as "terrorists" for the occasion)[5], and communists. And there won’t be any Habeas Corpus.

These are not idle speculation, or predictions from a some crystal ball. This is how the bourgeoisie has always behaved whenever its vital interests are threatened. The treatment normally reserved for Third World or colonised populations by ALL the "democratic" countries, is applied to the proletarians as soon as they revolt against their exploitation. In 1919, in a Germany governed by the Social-Democratic Party, in other words the party of Gerhard Schröder, the counterpart to Tony Blair’s Labour Party, thousands of workers were massacred for having stood up, after the 1917 revolution in Russia, against bourgeois order. As for revolutionaries like Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, they were assassinated by soldiers who had arrested them on the pretext that they were "trying to escape". The disgusting assassination at Stockwell station should not only be denounced. All the usual whining liberals who moan about the "damage to democratic freedoms" can do as much. Above all, it should serve as a lesson to the workers in Britain and everywhere in the world to understand the real nature and the real methods of their class enemy, the capitalist class. These are the "death squads", that the bourgeoisie is preparing today all over the world, that the working class will have to confront tomorrow.

ICC, 25th July 2005

[1] Guardian.co.uk, 24th July

[2] News of the World Sunday March 6th, 2005 page 13 "Forget Human Rights. Kick Out The Fanatics" by Sir John Stevens, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner

[3] News24.com, 22nd July

[4] Thanks to "special" laws like those which have been used for years in Northern Ireland.

[5] In France during the big strikes of autumn 1995, the then Interior Minister Charles Pasqua compared the striking workers to the terrorists who had exploded a bombing, killing eight people, in the Paris metro a few months previously.


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