Free speech

Police Bill back, more protest needed!

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its third reading by a majority of 100, in the House of Commons on 5 July, with Labour voting against. Outside Parliament as the Bill was being discussed was a modest but lively and militant protest. The protest, organised by activists under the umbrella of "Kill the Bill", was nowhere near as strong as it needs to be. Apart from a banner from the RMT there was no union presence. Though it is clear that the Bill is specifically targeting XR and BLM in its limiting of protests and demonstrations, unions will be affected by this legislation...

An easy excuse for anti-leftist clampdown in Russia

“This whole story feels as if suddenly, a truck drove into you on the street,” said Svetlana Gordienko, a resident of Russia’s far-eastern Khabarovsk. “Except imagine if it turned out that having a truck driven into you was something totally normal, and legal.” The situation Svetlana is now in began in May 2021, when a squad of 11 officials swarmed her apartment, where she lives with her partner Maksim Smolnikov, and her two children. “They had already started to break down the door, but I managed to open it,” Svetlana recalled. “The riot policemen burst into the house and pushed Max up...

Batley, blasphemy and the religious right

After the Batley Grammar School row, which led to protests outside the school, teachers being suspended, and one going into hiding for his own safety, the teachers have been reinstated. On 27 May an independent investigation commissioned by Batley Multi Academy Trust found that teaching staff at Batley Grammar School who had shown one of the Charlie Hebdo images of Mohammed “genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit, and that it was not used with the intention of causing offence. The image was included to initiate a discussion about the meaning of...

For real free speech on campuses!

In October 2020, Gavin Williamson wrote to all university vice-chancellors “requesting” they adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, and insisting on action before Christmas… or else. In February the government announced plans to appoint a “free speech champion” whose job will be to ensure freedom of speech and expression is not stifled at UK universities. The role is embedded in the Office for Students (OFS), which would have the power to impose fines on institutions if the OFS find they have suppressed free speech. New legislation...

Uphold free speech, fight antisemitism

David Miller The government’s new attempt to police freedom of speech and academic freedom on University campuses — e.g. to withhold registration if a University is deemed not be complying — should be opposed. Universities already have a statutory duty to uphold free speech (in the 1986 Education Act). The new push is a demagogic attempt to push back against “wokeness”, linked to reactionary attempts to promote historical pride in such things as colonialism and slavery. However, there are real pressures against free speech and the right to organise on campuses. There have been many free-speech...

Cancel culture and trans rights

Much is said in the right-wing press about 'cancel culture'; the phenomenon of people facing a public backlash for things that they have said or done in the past. Cancel culture, what it is and how it operates, is laid out capably and convincingly by left-wing YouTuber Natalie Wynn, known as ContraPoints, in her video “Canceling”. In this she lays out the way in which cancel culture operates. A particular viewpoint or action (confirmed or alleged) by an individual or group is abstracted and essentialised into an often vague assertion about the character or nature of that individual or group...

Stand and be counted

This article by the Algerian socialist-feminist Marieme Helie Lucas, responding to the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist assailant on 16 October, was first published on the Feminist Dissent website. We republish it, with the author's permission, to promote discussion. Assassinations by decapitation or by the sword – which are highly symbolic of all Muslim extreme-right organisations (Al Qaeda, the Taliban, GIA, al-Shabab, Daesh, Boko Haram, etc.) – are not a new phenomenon in France. Several cases have already happened in recent years. It points at the will of the...

When "free thought" turns against science

Over the months there have been a number of anti-mask demonstrations, most of them fairly small, and certainly well on the fringes of public opinion about the Covid-19 pandemic. On 29 August that shifted up a notch. A number of larger demonstrations were held in Europe. In London, several thousand of people, at least, crowded into Trafalgar Square to hear speakers including David Icke and Piers Corbyn. As Levente Zékány reported in Solidarity 561 there is a crossover between these demos and the wider-ranging QAnon and “Save our Children” demonstrations. Within the milieu are people committed...

"Don't let the police divide us"

On 23 July, the Guardian reported that four residents in Haringey were ordered by police to remove their “White Silence is Violence” banner. One of them, Meghann Foster, spoke to Natalia Cassidy from Solidarity. Why was it that the police contacted you and your housemates? During June’s Black Lives Matter protests we made a sign that said “White silence is violence”, after which we hung it from our flat window facing out onto the street. We had no issues for a month until the police knocked on our door and said someone had complained about the banner and that we had to take it down. We decided...

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