|Issue 3 - March 1972|
|All Along The Watchtower|
|The man who
is prosecuting Peter Hain, Mr Francis Bennion QC, is forming a group designed,
he says, to help protect society from those elements who wish to disrupt
His researchers will gather files on 'subversives' and use the law to prosecute whenever possible.
He would not have much difficulty in wiping the nation clean of all dissent as there already exists, waiting in the wings, the complete apparatus of a police state.
Imprecise laws such as the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 and the sedition laws are now being used more frequently against the individual.
But any analysis of the freedom of the individual must encompass his whole life experience; visual, emotional and psychological as well as immediately political realities - viz his relationship with institutions and laws in our society.
For example, the fact that on any given weekday in this country, according to the Central Office of Information, 7/8 of the adult population can be found watching television in the evenings, is a far more serious, if insidious, threat to individual liberty than, say, an instance of corruption in a city police force.
Patrick Goldring's book 'Broiler House Society' examines pressures toward social and cultural uniformity implicit in the design and conception of our ferro-concrete city centres and tower block suburbs.
For many non-literate people in Britain, old buildings embody their only sense of history - an immediate visual reference to a different lifestyle.
So, in a sense, every new motorway can be regarded as an attack on the imaginative universe of the individual.
Then there are moves to harness university research programmes to the demands of monopoly capitalism with the government playing contractor.
But learning, science and philosophy are free or they are nothing.
Moves against liberty will become increasingly easy in an atmosphere of low awareness among the public.
Few people realise that the standard of newspapers in Britain is probably worse than anywhere else in Western Europe with the exceptions of Spain and Portugal.
The tit and bum merchants here sell about 9 million copies a day; a terrible indictment when ranged alongside Italian newspapers of high penetration among all sections of society such as Corriere della Sera or Il Messagero.
As Jenny Lee told the miners at last year's Durham Gala: "There is a conspiracy to make you like fodder for the Roman games - fed on a diet of bingo and beer".
A huge subculture of Morlocks, fit only for the conveyor belts, may suit the economic prerogatives of the technocratic state but it also exacts its price in terms of widespread social violence and 'strong-arm' policing. So the hammers are coming out on a political front where individual liberty is now under severe attack.
Internment in Ulster has struck at individual liberty in three ways.
First, the once sacred liberal-democratic ideal of no imprisonment without trial has been lost.
Second, the power of the judiciary has been suspended in favour of the Executive (government). It is to be hoped that the lawyers will not suffer this for long.
Third, police powers have been extended to the Army which is not as accountable to you and I as are the police.
In 1970, for instance, there were 3,509 complaints lodged against the police by people in Britain. 210 of these complaints were upheld and there were dismissals from the force in consequence.
The expulsion of Rudi Dutschke from Britain in January 1971 was, said Jim Callaghan, "a nasty dent in our tradition of dissent".
The warning bells for threatened political liberty came through loud and clear in the summary of Sir Derek Hilton, chairman of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.
He said: "We consider that planning and organisation can be as important as physical participation in demonstrations and the like".
Dutschke complained: "As a result of this decision, it should now be clear to every foreigner that even the ability to think critically and discuss politics is risky in the eyes of the present government".
Four days later, Robert Carr's home at Hadley Green near Barnet was bombed.
Increasing preoccupation of police in crime prevention as opposed to simply detection has also made inroads into individual liberty.
Near to home, Durham police were contravening the Criminal Justice Act of 1925 when a police photographer, standing within court precincts, took snaps of the public attending a drugs court hearing in October 1970.
This led to the remarkable statement from Alderman Andrew Cunningham, chairman of the Durham Police Authority, who said: "It is quite possible that the police might have to resort to what may not be constitutional or legal practice in their attempts to stamp out crime.
"They may sometimes have to break the law. The point is they should not be found out breaking the law."
New police powers also arise from the Misuse of Drugs Act. In London and in some other cities, police can now stop and search you in the street if they have reasonable grounds for believing that you are carrying dangerous drugs.
This might be an invitation to stop and search anyone who has long hair or who does not wear a three-piece suit.
At the moment of going to press, there are two more weapons which may soon be brought into use against the individual.
One is the possible abolition of the caution, up to now required once the police have decided on an arrest.
The other is the Night Assemblies Bill where 999 people together at night is just company but 1,000 is to be illegal. That is of course unless permission for the crowd's assembly was requested months in advance!
Finally, there is now not-so-nice Oz. Obscenity has now been extended to embrace the articulation of a lifestyle at odds with convention.
Oddly enough, the Spectator summed it up best of all: "The outrage expressed by those who contributed to the Oz School Kids issue is but a small cry when compared with the universal moan of oppression that haunts the world".