On 17 April, British police arrested Ernest Moret, a French publisher, as he exited a train from Paris to London on a work trip. The arrest was carried out using British anti-terrorism laws, on the grounds that Moret had taken part in the recent protests against the Macron government in France. This is not only an attack on the basic democratic right to protest, but a clear sign of collusion between the French and British authorities to victimise those who dare to speak out against them.
The events of the arrest itself were practically Orwellian. Two plainclothes counter-terrorism police officers approached Moret and a colleague at St. Pancras train station as soon as they entered the country, and presented Moret with ‘Schedule 7’ of the UK Terrorism Act. This allows police officers to search and interrogate individuals at border crossings, in order to determine whether they are involved in the “preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. In practice, this gives the police a green card to target anyone they choose.
Moret – far from being an aspiring terrorist – works for the French publishing house Éditions la Fabrique, which produces a variety of literature including some left-wing books. He had travelled to the UK for the London Book Fair, a networking and trade event for publishing companies.
Having been taken into custody, counter-terrorism officers interviewed Moret for six hours about his involvement in the recent demonstrations across France against the Macron governments’ hated pension reforms. Seemingly unable to gather any concrete evidence of a terrorist plot, the police eventually arrested Moret “on suspicion of wilfully obstructing a Schedule 7 examination”, for failing to provide officers with his laptop and phone passwords. After 24 hours in a jail cell in North London, he has now been released on bail.
Making an example
These events clearly point to collaboration between French and British police to persecute an individual for simply exercising their democratic right to protest. While neither side has so far admitted to it, the only explanation for how the British police knew to target Moret for his suspected involvement in anti-government protests would have been if they were explicitly told to single him out by the French authorities.
The reasoning for this is abundantly clear. The Macron government is undoubtedly beginning to regain a degree of confidence after the social explosion of the last few weeks and will no doubt be eager to settle the score. With France’s Constitutional Council on Friday giving the seal of approval to the raising of the retirement age, the legalistic path to opposing the reform has been blocked.
While the French workers and youth would no doubt be prepared to take the battle forward nonetheless, the leadership of the movement has dragged its feet and hidden behind legal procedure, rather than emboldening the militancy of the masses.
As a result, the movement in France has diminished somewhat, opening up an opportunity for the French authorities to single out and victimise demonstrators. Naturally, the French ruling class is also happy to outsource their repression to the British police, and the British ruling class are eagre to oblige, fearing as they do a similar upsurge of working-class militancy in Britain. The recent strike wave has shown the immense potential of the British working class. An escalation in the future, comparable to that seen in France, is not unthinkable.
It is beyond doubt that there is nothing of interest to counter-terrorist officials on Moret’s laptop and phone. Arrests like these serve to soften up public opinion and test the waters for the future, when the British ruling class anticipates having to make much more liberal use of the array of repressive laws at its disposal, including so-called ‘Anti Terrorism’ laws. We long ago explained that these laws, despite their nominal purpose, would one day be used by the ruling class against the left and the working class.
The collusion between the British and French authorities on this arrest shows how the fundamental interests of the ruling classes of different countries align when it comes to maintaining the status quo. The British government is little less eager than Macron to see the pension reform protests dissipate.
Just as the ruling class maintains a keen and fearful eye on mass movements in neighbouring countries, so must the working class keep an eye on the struggles of their fellow workers internationally, to draw lessons from those events and in order to stand in solidarity with one another to push those struggles forward. With industrial militancy already on the rise in a number of countries, a revolutionary explosion in just one country could shake the very foundations of capitalism around the world, and the bosses recognise this fact.