Socialist Worker

‘Free speech’ campaign is designed to aid the right

Issue No. 2742

Gavin Williamson

Gavin Williamson (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)


In the middle of a pandemic the Tories have decided to launch further attacks on the left and anti-racists, while also claiming they want to protect free speech.

Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson is demanding that universities adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. Effectively this will prevent criticism of Israel.

He is also pushing for legislation that would compensate speakers who are denied a platform at universities if they feel their free speech has been infringed.

This could include fascists.

But the Tories are not interested in giving people a voice, and you can guarantee they won’t be standing up for Palestine campaigners.

Instead they are trying to use arguments around free speech to push their agenda and to limit criticism of themselves.

Williamson plans to create a “free speech champion” to investigate potential infringements in universities and higher education.

Universities fight to protect solidarity with Palestine
Universities fight to protect solidarity with Palestine
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But the Tories deciding what is and isn’t an infringement will have dangerous consequences.

From criticising left wing movements, the government has now moved to implement legislation that restricts opposition. Last week home secretary Priti Patel described last year’s Black Lives Matter protests as “dreadful”.

And Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, of assisting “loony left wing wheezes” after creating a commission to improve diversity in the city’s public spaces.

New laws have been introduced this year to protect “England’s cultural and historic heritage”.

Permisson

This comes after Black Lives Matters protesters in Bristol tore down the statue of slave owner Edward Colston.

The new laws mean any historic statues or monuments will need permission to be brought down.

Criticism of such movements is an attempt to deflect blame and anger, scapegoat minorities and paint over class divisions.

Hitting back at the left as a whole allows the Tories to weaken movements that are turning their anger towards the system.

They want to stifle debate that is dominated by anger aimed in their direction, as well as pushing back at our rights.

But the Tories’ attacks must be resisted for another reason.

They are seeking to deflect anger in society away from class struggle.

That means we need anti-racist unity against Patel and the rest. The Stand Up To Racism demonstrations on 20 March are an important chance to build the movement.

We should oppose Williamson’s “free speech” charade.

But we also need to intensify the fight against the Tories’ murderous handling of coronavirus and the wider attacks on working class people.


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