Workers' Liberty #50/51 


Stephen Lawrence; Kosova; Pinochet

Looking for justice

"I thought: who am I going to turn to? Where can I get support? And I remembered meeting a group of trade unionists who said they were going to help."

These were the words of Neville Lawrence, thanking the TUC Conference in September for the help trade unionists had given his family in their fight to bring the racists who murdered his son, Stephen to justice. The police, he told the conference, had treated his family and himself with indifference and hostility after his son was killed.

Yet the chances of Neville Lawrence seeing justice done on the thugs who killed his son are now almost nil.

The five hard-faced young men who are openly branded in the press as Stephen Lawrence's killers have stood trial. The prosecution failed. They can never be tried again for this crime. That is the end of the matter for them. They will enjoy a celebrity status and a glamour in some of the South London circles in which they move. To racists they will be heroes.

Let us pause here. An 18 year old boy waiting at a bus stop in a London street is knifed to death. His killers are known. They are openly branded as killers in the press. They have stood trial, yet they got off scot free. Why?

Because as well as the racists Stephen was unlucky enough to meet the night he died, there are an awful lot of other racists. There were malignant racists amongst the police who had the duty of investigating Stephen's death, collecting evidence, catching the killers, and bringing them before a court along with convincing proof of the guilt with which they are now publicly branded. There were so many racists involved at every level of the investigation into Stephen Lawrence's murder, and in preparing the prosecution case against those who were eventually identified as his killers, that the whole operation was bungled from start to finish.

It was, it seems, not something they cared very much about. They resented the attitude of the grieving parents of the murdered boy. They treated us like "criminals", Neville Lawrence told the TUC. There are allegations that police corruption was involved. Whatever the balance between racism and corruption in this gruesome business, racism was paramount: it was as if they couldn't be bothered at first to seriously investigate this killing.

And so it has to be recorded that a black youth at the beginning of his grown-up life has had that life savagely ripped from him by racists, and that this deed was done with impunity. The killers of Stephen Lawrence will probably never be brought to justice.

Will the police who knifed justice for Stephen Lawrence as the racists knifed Stephen, be brought to justice? We do not know but the answer is most likely no.

How many of the police and ex-police who deliberately framed Irish people for bombings they did not do, and thus condemned innocent men to decades in jail - one, Guiseppe Conlan, died in jail - how many of those police have been brought to book? None of them.

Just as the killers of Stephen Lawrence found that there was one law for young black people and another for them, the police have been shown again and again by the higher authorities that they can get away with a great deal "in the line of duty" or, as in the Stephen Lawrence case, by shamefully neglecting their duty.

Sir Paul Condon, Chief of the Metropolitan Police denies that the police are racist, or that there are enough racists in the police to taint the whole force. His equivalent in Greater Manchester, David Wilmot, is more candid. The police are racist, he says. So something drastic should be done? Well, no. The police, you see, “reflect society - what can you do?”

You can purge the police! You can reeducate some of them. You can seriously test and probe new recruits. You can set up real and independent mechanisms for investigating complaints against the police. You can submit the police to the rule of law - of the law they so indefensibly failed to put at the disposal of Stephen Lawrence's family for the proper investigation of his death and the effective prosecution of his known killers.

One consequence of such atrocities as the Stephen Lawrence case is a likely growth in the influence on black people of demagogic organisations like that of Louis Farrakhan's black separatist Nation of Islam. It is tragically understandable why young black people will listen to them. Neville Lawrence knows better.

A separate black society - "separate but equal" - cannot be realised even if it were desirable. Black people will win real, comprehensive, universally accepted an legally impregnable and enforceable equality or they will always be unequal - at the mercy of boneheads in the street and of boneheads in the police force.

Neville Lawrence knows that. And he knows where the answer lies: in working class unity. Appropriately, the TUC delegate rose to their feet as he spoke, in sympathy and approbation. Black and white unite and fight!

Milosovic's slaughterhouse of the peoples

The many-peopled federation of Yugoslavia created something like equality for its peoples under the rule of Tito's comparatively liberal Stalinism. The state was no longer the Serb-dominated mini-empire of oppressed nations which had been pre-1939 Yugoslavia.

That changed in the late 1980s. Led by Slobodan Milosevic, Serb chauvinists mounted an offensive that has turned Yugoslavia into a slaughterhouse of the peoples in the last decade. Conflict and slaughter has erupted in Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Kosova.

Kosova, ninety per cent of whose people are ethnic Albanian, was legally a province of Serbia, but under Tito it enjoyed autonomy little short of that exercised by the full Republics of the Yugoslav federation. In 1989, driving for Serb expansion and power, Milosevic abolished Kosova's autonomy. Here, as in all the other national and ethnic conflicts, the destabilising, aggressive nationalism was Serb nationalism. And here, even more than in Croatia or Bosnia-Hercegovina, the big powers supported Milosevic as the man most likely to restore order in the region. While mildly deploring Milosevic's excesses, they told the people of Kosova not to resist.

In Kosova, as elsewhere, Serb national oppression activated or intensified the nationalism of those marked down as its victims. A Kosova Liberation Army came into existence. There is serious fighting, so serious that it has prompted NATO to threaten air strikes against Serbia. As in Bosnia, the aim of NATO action is not to bring democracy and justice for the peoples, but to restrain the conflict and enhance the authority of the big powers. NATO air strikes will hinder, not help, the development of a working-class and democratic opposition in Serbia which can oust Milosevic.

From any consistently democratic, or honestly socialist point of view, the case for self-determination for the ethnic Albanians of Kosova is unanswerable. They are the overwhelming majority. Whether they become again an autonomous province in a bigger state, or secede from that state, should depend only on the will of the people of Kosova. Whether they set up an independent state or link with Albania - that is for themselves and Albania to decide.

There is little room for doubt that they want independence from Milosevic's rule.

Unity of the ethnic Albanians and Serbian workers can only be won on the basis of the Serbs supporting the right of the ethnic Albanians to secede, and socialist ethnic Albanians opposing tendencies to anti-Serb chauvinism in the ranks of their own people.

Let Pinochet rot in jail!

We learn as we go to press that Augusto Pinochet, the Hitler of Chile, has been detained by police in London, on a warrant from Spain charging him with the murder of Spanish nationals in Chile.

Pinochet murdered Chilean democracy, which was older than that of most European countries. In response to the victory of the moderate socialist Salvador Allende in the 1970 Presidential elections, the CIA and Chilean generals like Pinochet worked to destabilise the country. In September 1973, Pinochet organised a bloody coup. Tens of thousands of people were rounded up and butchered; the football stadium in Santiago was turned into a prison compound and a slaughterhouse. Trade unionists, socialists, and even liberals, were butchered.

The bloody repression in Chile not only drove Chile's workers back for decades, but also intimidated labour movements world-wide. It was an important turning-point in the process whereby the ruling classes regained the initiative after the post-1968 workers' offensive, and prepared the way for their own offensive in the 1980s and '90s. In Italy, for example, the world's strongest Communist Party, based on what was then one of the world's most militant working classes, switched from outright opposition to the local Tories (the Christian Democrats) to a desire for a “historic compromise” with them.

At the same time in Britain, the trade unions were moving towards a confrontation that forced the Tories under Edward Heath out of office in an unscheduled General Election in February 1974. The events in Chile made leaders of the Labour Party fear that something similar would happen in Britain if the trade unions were not brought to heel.

Michael Foot, one of the most important left-wing ministers of the time, has testified to the importance of Chile in shaping what happened in Britain. If a coup could happen in the oldest and seemingly most stable democracy in Latin America, it might happen here.

Were the Labour leaders in a needless panic? The man who was then Britain's Chief of Staff, Lord Carver later publicly admitted that at the time some "fairly senior" army officers had started to talk seriously about taking a lead from Chile.

The Labour government demobilised working-class militancy. In 1979, the Tories returned to power and began the slower, legal process of shackling the trade unions with what are still the least liberal and the most oppressive labour laws in Europe.

Pinochet is 82. Let him rot in jail!

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