The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Great Britain:
Knife Attack and Electoral Demagogy

Dec 9, 2019

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

In the middle of the campaign for early elections on December 12, an attack on the London Bridge on November 30 immediately became partisan fodder in the struggle between British political parties.

Attacker Usman Khan rushed at a crowd, killed two people, and wounded three others before passersby stopped him. Then the police shot him to stop him from setting off his explosive belt, which turned out to be a dummy. This is the official version, very similar to other attacks over the last decade.

Khan, 28, was from a poor working-class town in the north of England, Stoke-on-Trent. His family is from Kashmir in Pakistan. Along with other young people influenced by a fundamentalist preacher from Yemen, he had been arrested and charged with planning attacks in London’s business district.

The charges were based on these youths’ ties to the preacher, as well as videos, photos, and maps. No weapons, explosives or proof of plans for these attacks were found. But that did not stop Khan from being jailed indefinitely in 2012 under Labor Party leader Tony Blair. On appeal, his sentence was reduced to 16 years. Khan left prison in 2019 after years in solitary confinement.

The hysterical right-wing press hollered about “outrageous laxity of justice,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson jumped at the opportunity to revive his national security campaign by blaming this “laxity” on the Labour Party and announcing longer sentencing while the prisons are already packed. Johnson promises to restore life sentences for terrorism, forgetting to say that his party stopped them in 2013 because of prison overcrowding.

And Johnson was careful not to mention other scandals. For example, many of the so-called terrorist attacks are by mental patients abandoned after budget cuts devastated psychiatric hospitals and home-based psychiatric services. According to his family, Khan had mental problems from a very young age. Some doctors say his imitation of an attack at the same location in 2017, by three men also using knives and dummy explosive belts, is the behavior of a mental patient, not an all-out terrorist.

Then there are the catastrophic consequences of privatization of probation by Johnson’s party. As a result of downsizing, convicts receive no follow-up during or after their detention. Khan’s repeated requests for these services during his detention, to help him get out of the fundamentalist dead end, were ignored.

Finally, there is the role of the British government in aggravating the misery of people in the Middle East and North Africa through military interventions. These fuel their hatred for rich countries that plunder them and only bring war and famine. Who can be surprised that this hatred ends up reaching the many exiles of these poor countries who live in rich countries, often living in hard conditions?

Of course, this last point could not be made by Johnson, since he is so nostalgic for the British Empire. And Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn is accused of anti-Semitism for daring to violate the law of silence among politicians, denouncing past wars by the British Empire and criticizing the criminal policy of Israel toward Palestinians.

This does not put Jeremy Corbyn on the workers’ side, where he does not want to be anyway. But it makes him at least one dissonant voice in an awful chorus of hypocrisy.