Civil liberties, justice, crime

Labour's martyrs: the story of Sacco and Vanzetti

Workers' Liberty 3/53, published as a pull-out in Solidarity 397. The story of the Sacco and Vanzetti case, told by James P Cannon and Max Shachtman, who were leading activists in the defence campaign. Click to download as pdf

Social reproduction in prisons

Women prisoners after a day working, Arizona, US At a recent Spectre journal event, editor Charlie Post pointed out that neither left class reductionists nor liberal identitarians situate mass incarceration in the development of capitalism. Calvin John Smiley, one of the speakers, responded that intersectionality is the “marrying of these different arguments into an overlapping theoretical framework. ” At best, intersectionality describes mass incarceration but does not explain it. The prison population is overwhelmingly black and overwhelmingly working-class. But why are prisoners at the...

Drop charges against Hong Kong rebels!

On 16 February, the trial started of seven democracy leaders in Hong Kong. Two others pleaded guilty. They are accused of organising an unauthorised assembly on 18 August 2019, when the Civil Front called a rally of 1.7 million people. Among the accused are Hong Kong trade union leader Lee Cheuk Yan, General Secretary of the HKCTU (Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions); other left wing activists such as Leung Kwok Hung (“Long Hair”); and “pan-democratic” veterans such as the 82 year old Martin Lee. The charges, unconnected with the new National Security Law (NSL) and relying instead on old...

Court case opens space for Indian women

A former Indian minister has lost a defamation case against a journalist, in a ruling with huge implications for the country’s #MeToo movement. Indian journalist Priya Ramani had faced up to two years in jail for criminal defamation over an article she had written accusing Mobashar Jawed Akbar of sexual assault. Akbar is a newspaper editor, government minister 2016-18, MP for the ruling BJP, and formerly an MP for the Congress party. After Ramani named Akbar, over 20 other women came forward with allegations against Akbar, ranging from rape and assault to systematically using his senior...

Hong Kong faces wave of trials

On 16 February, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan went into court for his trial for alleged “unauthorised assembly” on 18 August 2019. He said: “Let’s uphold the fundamental rights, freedoms and democracy. As 2021 is the year of the Ox, I wish everyone to be as strong as an ox and persistence for democracy… “It should be the police, the Department of Justice and the Hong Kong government to be put on trial, because they deprived us of the right to assembly and demonstration, which is protected constitutionally”. The 18 August 2019 protest, against police...

Release Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar!

The Modi government’s repression against Indian farmers’ protests (Solidarity 581) could signal the Hindu-nationalist regime’s panic-stricken weakening and decline, or the onset of an even more consolidated authoritarianism. The repression is harsh and escalating. About two hundred farmers have died as a result of protracted living in protest camps over the winter, and about twenty have committed suicide. A smaller number have been directly killed, including a 27-year-old who lost control of his tractor after it was hit by a bullet when troops attacked the peaceful mass protest in Delhi on...

Beware new "security" powers!

“Our history is littered with examples of initiatives sold as being necessary to fight extremism that quickly devolve into tools used for the mass violation of the human and civil rights of the American people”, write Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib and nine other representatives, opposing the call from leaders of both US political parties for expanded “national security” powers in response to the 6 January far-right attack on Congress. "We firmly believe", they say, "that the national security and surveillance powers of the U.S. government are already too broad, undefined, and...

More virus deaths in jails

Almost twice as many Covid-related deaths in prisons in England and Wales have been recorded in the second wave as in the first. Between October 2020 and 18 January 2021, 51 prisoners died with the virus, compared to 27 between March and June 2020. There have also been far more cases, even after taking into account more extensive testing. Throughout the final months of 2020, cases in prison seemed to ebb and flow in line with the tightening and easing of restrictions in the community. The week ending 21 December looked to be the peak: 800 cases then, falling to only several hundred in the...

The Colston four on trial

The Black Lives Matter march in Bristol on 7 June 2020 was one of the biggest and liveliest in the city in years, with 5,000 people. The statue of slave trader Edward Colston was removed from its plinth and thrown into the river. The Crown Prosecution Service has since pressed charges of “criminal damage”, and on 25 January four people faced a hearing at Bristol Magistrates’ court. Five others were given cautions with bizarre conditions. After police pressure — using lockdown laws — organisers of a solidarity demonstration moved it online, with over 150 participating. Swarms of police gathered...

Has picketing been banned?

In November 2020, Unite pursued a legal challenge over the right to picket during lockdown, after a picket of bus workers was broken up by police. That challenge was successful, clearly establishing the right to picket in lockdown. Exception 22 of the “Coronavirus: The Health Protection (Coronavius, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020” clearly states that picketing is exempt from lockdown restrictions, provided: “the gathering is for the purposes of picketing which is carried out in accordance with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992”, and: “the...

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