Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2590

Don’t let the Tories criminalise dissent

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Issue 2590
Suffragettes challenged the law.
Suffragettes used militant tactics – and faced violent repression

This week marked the centenary of some women getting the vote in Britain. Politicians and commentators made sure they were seen to celebrate the Suffragettes and others who fought for the vote.

Yet some seem to have little grasp of what the fight involved.

The Suffragettes heckled MPs, smashed windows, launched arson attacks and planted bombs as part of their struggle. One bomb targeted the home of chancellor Lloyd George in 1913.

So it was ironic that Theresa May used the centenary to announce plans to better protect politicians—plans that would have seen more Suffragettes jailed.

May wants a new offence of intimidating parliamentary candidates and party campaigners. She said “abuse” of MPs is a “threat to democracy”.

In fact, protesting against politicians is an expression of democracy.

It was good that people disrupted Ukip’s election launch last year and protested against Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg in London and Bristol last week.

May tried to win support by saying that women, black and LGBT+ people face the most abuse. Labour shadow home secretary Diane Abbott received nearly half of all abusive tweets sent to women MPs in the run-up to the general election.

Racist and sexist abuse on social media is a real problem. But May is cynically using concern about this to bring in more draconian legislation.

How struggle won women the vote
How struggle won women the vote
  Read More

Tory moves to restrict the internet will allow internet service providers to censor views they don’t like—and will hit the left.

And far from being defenders of the oppressed, the Tories are the biggest threat to women, black and LGBT+ people.

Austerity has hit women the hardest. Changes to housing benefit rules have made it harder for women suffering domestic violence to seek refuge.

May has scapegoated migrants and refused to let desperate refugees into Britain. She refuses to give EU citizens full rights to stay in Britain after Brexit.

May is no friend of LGBT+ people either. She voted to keep Section 28, which banned positive discussion of gay relationships in schools.

She voted against gay couples having the right to adopt children and twice voted against an equal age of consent for LGBT+ people.

May is not out to defend people suffering oppression or abuse, or to protect democracy.

Her real aim is to criminalise ordinary people who challenge those in power.

To tackle abuse we need a much bigger anti-racist and anti-sexist shift in society.

We need a world where abusers feel less able to get away with attacks and where ordinary people feel empowered.

Winning this relies on the kind of struggle and resistance that May wants to ban.

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