Sleepwalking into Slavery?
by William Bowles
Thursday, 13 October 2005

The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State. — Dr. Joseph M. Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda

The great British public apparently don't think that Home Secretary Clarke's proposed additions to the anti-terror legislation, including the 90-day detention without trial, apply to them, at least as far as we know, as nobody has actually asked them. Perhaps they need to be reminded that almost identical laws were passed by the Apartheid regime of South Africa. Commonly known as the '90-day law', it was first used to imprison 'terrorist' Ruth First, later murdered by a South African assassination squad in Maputo, Mozambique.

Mr Clarke, the Home Secretary, when asked by Labour MP Dave Winnick whether anyone who supported Nelson Mandela's African National Congress would have been prosecuted had the proposals been in force during when the Apartheid government was in power, Clarke replied that "people would not have been guilty merely by not condemning the ANC" but said nothing about what would have happened to people who actively supported the ANC, thus revealing the fraudulent argument used by the government to justify its 'war on terror'.

And, like the string of laws passed by the Apartheid regime, including the Suppression of Communism Act, Banning Orders, et al., an almost identical set of increasingly repressive legislation has been passed by the Labour government since it took power in 1997.

The similarities between the two are no accident nor were the original South African laws, modelled as they were on laws passed by the Nazis in 1930s, and enacted for exactly the same reason to suppress dissent and to cover up the lies the state uses in order to justify its policies.

What unites all of these and similar laws enacted elsewhere is the fact that the state, when its policies are under threat, resorts to repression not only to carry out its policies but most important of all, because it lacks legitimacy. And ultimately a state which claims to be democratic, that is, claims to represent the wishes of the electorate, finds itself trapped in a vicious cycle of lies.

Please, first let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that the 'war on terror' is about terrorists, unless of course we are all potential terrorists. The lie is exposed by the vast range of countries and people who get caught up by the phrase, from Chavez of Venezuela, to Castro of Cuba and all the stops in-between. If so, does that make anybody who opposes the imperium a terrorist? Are we to believe that we who oppose capital are ultimately to be tarred with the same brush? Apparently so, for ultimately we are all targets of the same laws. Why else have such all-encompassing laws, unless this is, after all, the objective?

The 82-year old man who was detained and questioned under 'anti-terror' laws at the Labour Party conference two weeks ago just for shouting out "rubbish", is a harbinger of things to come, just as a handful of No2ID demonstrators arrested in Newcastle last week, before they'd even demonstrated! 'Anti-terror' laws are the catch-all for the assault on our liberties and illustrate on the one hand, just how weak and vulnerable the state is, and on the other, just how weak is our opposition, devoid as it is of politics, of a political understanding of what the hell is going on!

Blair tells us that the terrorist activity of today is "of a wholly different order" from any before, yet he does not explain how, exactly, today's "terrorist activity" is different from that of previous actions, for example the IRA bombing campaign.

Nor does he explain how preventive detention will stop any possible future actions when he says "We need to make sure therefore that we give ourselves every possible opportunity to prevent such terrorist acts occurring" short of locking up anybody who might possibly resort to some future 'terrorist' activity. But how does one link a thought to a prelude to action?

One of the deeper ironies of the state's 'war on terror', which is, we are informed, to defend democracy and the 'Western way of life', has been the increasing encroachment of the state's control over its citizens. Prime minister Blair's speech attempting (in the vaguest of terms) to justify the latest round of repressive measures actually links 'anti-social behaviour' to both 'terrorism' and 'organised crime'.

The upshot therefore is a state machine which claims greater and greater power and control over its citizens and, tellingly, not just over their alleged criminal activities but over their day-to-day lives, whether it be their relations with their neighbours or their behaviour in public.

By linking 'organised crime' and 'terrorism' to 'anti-social behaviour', the state creates an all-encompassing climate of fear. So by implication 'anti-social behaviour' is treated as the first step on the road to 'extremism' just as smoking a joint is allegedly the first step on the road to 'hard drugs' and hence to 'organised crime'.

But when the slogans are unpacked what we discover is a state that views its citizens as the enemy! And indeed, that is potentially what we are, for it reveals a political class that lives in fear — in fear of its own citizens. Worse still, it reveals a state that no longer trusts its citizens to accept its dictates or the rationale for its actions, hence the need to criminalise the thoughts of its citizens, for what else can a law be that talks of making it a crime to 'glorify terrorism'?

The media for its part, mostly talks about the 'encroachment upon our civil liberties' as a 'knee-jerk reaction' to the events of July 7, ignoring entirely the history of the increasing build-up to the 'war on terror' through a series of increasingly repressive measures designed expressly to stifle dissent.

Nor is the history of such laws referred to in the slightest; instead we read of comparisons with some other European countries such as France which not only have very different legal systems, but where the centrality of habeas corpus is absent. Moreover, are we to accept that because some other countries have repressive legal systems that allow the state to detain, virtually indefinitely, alleged 'enemies of the state', we should too?

It is no accident therefore that, as the occupation of Iraq disintegrates into chaos precisely because it is illegitimate not to mention illegal, the government has to repress dissent under the guise of preventing terrorism, for as Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda said, "It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State."

This article previously appeared on William Bowles' website,
Investigating New Imperialism

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