We’re often told that our society promotes freedom of expression and discussion, that you can say and write whatever you want. Yet the recent revelation that the University of Reading has labelled an essay on the ethics of socialist revolution as ‘extremist’ under the Prevent legislations reveals the truth about our rights and freedoms under capitalism.
The essay is ‘required reading’ for third-year students studying Politics at Reading and yet students have been told not to access the essay on their own devices and to ‘read it in a secure setting’. The essay in question ‘Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution’ made the general argument that whilst terrorism was unacceptable, the use of violence to end deep social injustice was justifiable ethically. Such a sentiment hardly strikes as ‘extreme’, indeed, Tory and Blairite MPs certainly don’t deplore the use of violence when it comes to intervening in the middle east on behalf of the ruling class!
The absurdity of banning such an essay stems from the fundamental aims of the Prevent measure, namely the desire to root out any potential ‘extremist’ threats to the status quo, including Islamic terrorism. Yet whilst this measure is described as ‘counter-terrorist’, it’s aims to ‘prevent at source’ any extreme views contains a more broad stroke of crushing any dissenting attitude or belief that challenges the system. Indeed, there is nothing more threatening to this system than socialism and such an attitude has certainly been reflected by the academic responsible for flagging up this particular essay.
Yet why is it a threat? Capitalism can no longer offer young people a better standard of living than that of our parents, whilst a third of young people are expected never to own their own home. It isn’t just the youth that are suffering, across the board, working class people have borne the brunt of austerity and real wage cuts for a decade. In this climate, it is little wonder that an article justifying the use of violence to end such social conditions has been identified as ‘dangerous’.
Prevent has led to many academics self-censoring their own work and the material they use to teach students, and such a climate has lead to school students who espouse socialist views as being described as ‘worryingly charismatic’ in their Prevent file, as was the case of an anonymous socialist at school. Legislation described as protecting us is being bent to protect them, the bosses.
Of course, the problems of terrorism cannot be ignored and many people fear for their safety in the post 9/11 world. Yet the way to end this scourge is not through increased state repression, for this entirely misses the source of this problem. The idea that propaganda alone is what has convinced some young people to take up the cause of Islamism is wishful thinking on the part of the ruling class. The underlying causes for terrorism lie in the complete and alienation of young people, stemming from the lack of prospects that this system now offers us, coupled with the role of British imperialism in devastating the Middle East. The only way to eradicate the horrendous ideology of terrorism is to end the system that leads to alienation and imperialism: that is capitalism.
We want a bold socialist programme that will put an end to the draconian legislation of Prevent and put power into our hands. Only then can we end alienation and put a stop for good to the adventurist wars that have profited a few at the expense of the many. For a Labour government on a bold socialist programme!
by Keelan Kellegher, Cambridge Marxists