By Keir Snow, published on December 16th, 2008
The face of the future
This signifies the Home Office coming clean and admitting from now on the Police will have ability to remove anyone at all with a camera - all the police have to do is declare, possibly not even publicly, that there are special circumstances:
“Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person's own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others.”
This means if you witnessed the police bundling someone into the back of a van and decided to film it on your camera phone, you would be breaking the law. If a professional journalist did so, they would also be breaking the law.
Though this is a frightening development, it is only the latest in the governments’ campaign against civil liberties. Earlier this year the government announced plans requiring anyone buying a mobile phone to show their passport and to be entered onto a database. Coupled with other developments, such as compulsory ID cards, it is clear the government is deliberately curtailing the rights of its citizens. This begs the question; why?
It would seem no coincidence that the continuous curtailing of freedoms has intensified in pace since the outbreak of the “credit crunch”, an economic crisis which looks to be the most severe in recent history. Though the impact of it has not yet been felt, if previous crashes are anything to go by, it will be accompanied by large amounts of unrest from those workers who have their conditions and pay attacked in order to squeeze out money to bail out the bosses and banks.
Already we have seen mass redundancies from the various city banks and financiers, and on the high street Woolworths and MFI are the first major casualties. However these are just a small sign of what is to come. As more companies either slim down their staffing in order to curtail expenses, or simply go out of business, masses of people will be made unemployed. This will flood the labour market, driving down pay and conditions for all those who have to work for a living.
The public sector will also be affected. Having given the banks a 500 billion pound bailout, five times the size of the annual NHS budget, Gordon Brown will have to figure out a way to recoup his expense. The obvious choice seems to be intensifying the cuts of public services, increasing privatisation and diminishing public sector pay.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people will not accept being punished for the mistakes of the bosses. A clear correlation can be seen between economic downturn and resistance from the general population. In Greece currently the police murder of a young boy has acted as a trigger for a widespread anti-police and largely anti-capitalist rebellion that has seen symbols of wealth like luxury hotels and high-end shops looted, whilst banks and police stations have been torched across the country. The uprising continues with many town halls being occupied by locals and there are ongoing street confrontations with the police. What the Greek rebellion represents is how resentment of the government and the state apparatus twinned with long term economic depression can quickly develop small revolts into generalised insurgency in the current financial crisis – even in the first world. With very minor solidarity riots occurring in other European countries, this is exactly the kind of omen our governments are panicked by, and exactly what they hope to avoid with this legislation.
However, the Greek response is not automatic, especially not in relatively dormant UK political landscape. With the steps the government has taken, and the general weakness of the left within the UK, working class victory, or at minimum, self-defence, is dependent upon the swift organisation of our communities and workplaces so that we can better resist the inevitable attacks and generalise the issues of single campaigns into a network of struggle.
The government is not ignorant of history, nor of the link between worsening conditions and civil unrest. It would appear that the government is preparing to meet the threat of revolt head on. This year has already seen the rapid expansion of both MI5, the government's spies, and the armed forces. The government is ready for the coming clashes, and so we must be too.
[background information on the photography ban can be found here: www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=831582 and updates on the situation in Greece can be found here www.occupiedlondon.org/blog - neither have any link to L&S]