War drums

A campaign is being waged against both ‘hostile states’ -Russia, China, Iran and North Korea- and the internal enemy, revolutionaries and environmental activists, the latter increasingly characterised as violent domestic extremists.

It can be seen in the rhetoric of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who is pushing for a £10-11 billion increase in defence spending and attempting to further the myth that Britain is still a great power, when its armed forces are depleted and run down. He said that the UK would backfill for allies like Poland with British planes. Ahead of the meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels he called for the ramping up of production of ammunition by NATO members.

It can be seen in the words of Transport Secretary Richard Holden, referring to China as a ‘hostile state’ when responding to the fake frenzy over Chinese weather balloons shot down over US territory.

It can be seen in the words of Liz Truss. Speaking at the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China Symposium in Tokyo she said world leaders should learn the lessons of not taking earlier and tougher action against Russia and rejected the “fatalism” of those who think “the rise of a totalitarian China is inevitable”. She called for an “economic NATO”, made up of the G7 and allies, ready to act against China. She went on to say “I would like to see a more developed Pacific defence alliance alongside even closer co-operation between NATO and our Pacific allies.”

Earlier in January, the British government became the first Western state to promise advanced tanks to the Ukrainian military. This was a cynical move where just 14 Challenger 2 tanks were promised in order to pressurise the German government to give the green light to supplying Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks.

The Sunak government, like previous Tory administrations, is intent on supporting the USA and NATO in increasing the arming of Ukraine, calling for a dangerous escalation of the conflict rather than negotiation. The USA is determined to  take on China, which it sees as THE rival rising world power. Russia is no longer a world power, but its alliance with China means that the US and its allies are testing the waters in how far they can go with confrontation. The British media have enthusiastically fallen in behind this plan, with front pages glorifying the Zelenskyy regime, reminiscent in their lauding of “gallant little Belgium” during World War One.

Let us be clear, we have no time for the corrupt, kleptocratic and authoritarian Putin regime, nor for Xi’s equally repellent regime in China, or the foul regimes in North Korea, Iran and Syria.  For us, however, the main enemy is at home, it is the British state and the boss class and we should question the current drumming up of war fever. It does not benefit our class, the working class. Against it we should counterpose class struggle and anti-militarism and highlight the appalling role of the arms industries.

The Enemy Within

At the same time as the escalation of rhetoric against external enemies, the war against the enemy within is picking up speed. The war against the enemy within, utilised by Thatcher against the miners in 1984-5, restarted with a campaign begun in 2020 against environmental and animal rights activists. The then Home Secretary Priti Patel said “This government will not stand by and allow a small minority of ­selfish protesters to cause significant disruption.” This has resulted in mass arrests of activists, the raiding of premises, and the labelling of groups like Extinction Rebellion and Animal Aid as domestic extremists.

Richard Walton, former head of counter-terror at the London Metropolitan Police, said, “The illegal blockading of motorways is environmental extremism, not legal protest .Environmental extremists using planned, illegal tactics of the blockading of main roads need to be dealt with as robustly as Islamist extremists.”

A new weapon in this war against a domestic enemy has been the Public Order Bill, currently going through Parliament. This would further increase police powers to crush protest and dissent, and criminalise a wide range of behaviour. In addition, it would up the ante on trespass, up to now “not of itself a criminal offence” as the Crown Prosecution Service had to admit.

This would mean that the recent mass trespass on Dartmoor National Park, where the hedge fund manager Alexander Darwall owns 1, 620 hectares, could become a criminal act. Unlike in Scotland, Scandinavia, the Baltic states and other European countries, there is no “freedom to roam” in England and Wales.  In addition, protest occupations of various businesses, malls, etc could be deemed as criminal trespass by the police. These powers, ready to be used against groups like XR, Insulate Britain, and Just Stop Oil, could equally be used against strikers in the future, as well as against a whole range of radical groups and campaigns.

The ex-chairman of the Tory Party, Nadhim Zahawi,   recently accused NHS workers about to strike that they were helping Putin by threatening to raise inflation with their wage demands, claiming that one of the aims of the Russian leader was to increase inflation in the West. Earlier in June 2022, a senior Tory MP, Tobias Elwood, claimed that striking railway workers were acting as “Putin’s friends”.

Make no mistake, the war against the external enemy and the enemy within are closely linked.