The notorious Prevent scheme will, as of October, legally oblige universities, colleges and schools to spy and report on students who may be considered at risk of ‘violent extremism’. People who qualify as ‘at risk’ according to Prevent include those who are interested in ‘political change’.
The National Union of Students has already begun campaigning on this question, highlighting the fact that spying, reporting on and generally creating an unwelcome and hostile atmosphere for students at risk of radicalisation, particularly of a fundamentalist religious nature, is a guaranteed way to cause the alienation that leads to problems of this kind. It encourages racial and religious profiling that divides students amongst themselves.
But it is not just religious radicals who are being targeted by this scheme. According to the NUS a living wage campaigner has been monitored by the police for his activism and a school student has been questioned by police for circulating political literature.
Most recently, at a teacher training session in West Yorkshire staff were told that environmental activists and anti-capitalist groups counted as potential extremists under the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, and Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, was given as an example of one such extremist. Needless to say, this provoked outrage from teaching unions’ members and officials.
This is the reality of the ruling class scaremongering about terrorism and religious fundamentalism. It uses the fear whipped up on the back of these issues to divide the working class along racial lines so that we are in a weaker position to respond to attacks on the most progressive political elements of our class. Such methods become ever more important for the bourgeoisie as the crisis of capitalism shows no sign of abating and ordinary people are correspondingly radicalised with anti-establishment feeling.
The NUS is calling for a campaign of non-cooperation with Prevent, which Marxist students will support wholeheartedly. We must campaign for our universities, colleges and schools to refuse to spy on their own students. However we must also understand that Prevent is just one example of how the ruling class seeks to protect its interests. Even if we defeat this scheme another will take its place because capitalism in crisis will always force the bourgeoisie to resort to such tactics.
Terrorism and governmental invasion of our privacy are two sides of the same capitalist coin, each fuels the other. Only by tackling the capitalist system as a whole, which is rotten to its foundations, can we guarantee that Prevent and everything else like it will be consigned to the dustbin of history.