Tag Archives: democracy

Why Do Some People Have A Problem With Protest?

To hear establishment figures talk, you’d think that protests were pointless and those who do it are equally pointless. Furthermore, listening to the same people, you’d also be forgiven for thinking that the only people that protest are students. This, of course, isn’t true but it reveals something about the mental workings of the complainants: they despise learning and erudition and see students, along with the unemployed as feckless and indolent.  Indeed, this is a commonly-held view on the British political right and some in the Labour Party. Protesting is seen as an activity limited to lazy students, who should be in lectures instead of on the streets.

Years of tabloid anti-student ridicule has fixed these tropes firmly in the minds of Britain’s reactionaries, who see universities, not as places in which long-held assumptions are challenged but places of left-wing (sic) indoctrination. Let’s leave aside those views and tropes for now and concentrate instead on protests and those who view them as useless.

One of the complaints made about Jeremy Corbyn since he became leader of the Labour Party was that he would turn the party into a ‘party of protests’. This claim rested on the assumption that because Corbyn frequently appeared at rallies and demonstrations, that the party will spend much of its time waving placards instead of involving itself in the serious business of ‘yah boo sucks’ parliamentary politics of which the Tories have excelled themselves for many years. In this case, the word ‘protest’ is deployed as an insult, because we all know Westminster politics is where the action is. Right?

Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, is a case in point: Theresa May replied to one of Corbyn’s questions with “I lead a party of government, unlike the gentleman opposite, who leads protests” (I’ve paraphrased this). It was meant to be a snappy comeback, but it struck me as petty and ridiculous.  It also revealed the narrow-mindedness of those who see protest a useless.  Governments and certain politicians may frequently trumpet their absurd democratic credentials, but they loathe protests and see them, wrongly, as anti-democratic.

It is likely that those who despise and ridicule protests have never had to protest in their lives. Why? Because not only are they tied to the establishment, they are also comfortable. They have been encouraged to see politics as something reserved only for professionals, who are drawn from the ‘correct’ class. In other words, those people who see themselves as a our ‘betters’.  Tories rarely, if ever, protest and when they do, it usually results in a total washout.

Protests have affected change in Britain and this cannot be denied or elided with glib questions like “since when did protests achieve anything” or the blanket dismissals of professional politicians.  Protests have achieved a great deal throughout history. If it were not for protests, women would not have been given the vote. If not for the Chartists’ many protests, the vote would not have been extended to all men.  The many Poll Tax protests, which culminated in the riot of May 1990, resulted in the end of that hated tax. These are only a few examples of successful protests.

Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the first party leader to appear on the platform at protests. The former Liberal Democrat leader, the late Charles Kennedy, was a frequent speaker at anti-war protests as was former SNP leader, Alex Salmond.  So when the likes of Theresa May or the legions of right-wing commenters in the ‘below the line’ threads on newspaper websites ridicule Corbyn for appearing at demonstrations, remember this: these people aren’t democrats and have a limited understanding of politics generally. They have neither the gumption nor the passion to take to the streets themselves and are only capable of carping from the sidelines. Remember also that protesting is a legitimate form of political activity, whatever the Tory tabloids and their representatives in Parliament tell you.

 

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Tory Party Conference 2015: Some Thoughts

If anyone was ever in any doubt as to the Tories’ loathing of democracy, then they need look no further than this latest conference or, indeed, previous conferences. Speaker after speaker mounted the platform to address the conference, all of whom either syruped praise on their leadership or smeared their opponents. Policies are never openly debated or voted upon at Tory Party conferences. The unspoken dictum is, as ever, “we speak and you will listen”. The Conservative Party’s members have little or no say in how their party operates or how policies are decided. It is, for all intents and purposes, a dictatorship. Is it any wonder why Tory governments act to crush democracy in this country when there is so little of it within their own party?

This conference also showed us how far into themselves the Tories have retreated since Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the Labour Party leadership, and the hundreds of thousands who have joined the party since his victory. In contrast, the Conservatives are estimated to have less than 100,000 ageing members. So watching the Tory Party conference was, for me at least, a little like witnessing the last days of the Roman Empire. Degenerate and decadent, they can only look inward and indulge themselves in a little mutual masturbation for a bit of comfort. Indeed, it could be said that the security barrier surrounding the conference centre was the physical manifestation of their bunker mentality.

I would like to turn to the complaints made by the Tories and their allies in the media who have roundly castigated those who have thrown eggs at delegates. One commentator, Julia Hartley-Brewer made it her business to lead the charge against those ‘horrible lefties’ who “use violence (sic)” to get their point across. First, we don’t live in a democracy. That much is true. Second, people are angry and rightly so, and when they have no other means to vent their anger or disapproval, they will egg politicians or spit at them. Egging has been happening for decades. This point that was completely lost on Hartley-Brewer who, instead, went for the story which claimed people spat at delegates. First she claims in her Telegraph article.

The politics of spitting, just like the politics of abuse, are uniquely of the Left in Britain.

Cretinous bullshit. Interestingly, when someone took her to task over her generalisations, she shot back with “I don’t write the headlines”. Yet here’s a quote from her article that generalises the Left.  Someone’s telling porkies.

However, spitting is nothing compared to this government’s attacks on the poor, disabled and the low-waged. But then, Hartley-Brewer isn’t that concerned with the plight of this country’s disadvantaged. To her, they’re all layabouts and scroungers who need to “get off their backsides”.

Hartley-Brewer tweeted a link to her article, while juxtaposing it with a picture of the ‘young’ Tory who was egged.

So I decided to give her a history lesson.

I’ve yet to get a reply from Ms Hartley-Brewer. The best she can muster is silly schoolgirl style tittle-tattle which she believes to be serious political commentary. To cap it all, she writes:

Jeremy Corbyn may have disowned the spitters, but the trouble is that the spitters don’t disown Mr Corbyn. On the contrary, they hero worship him as their leader and saviour.

Now how’s that for lazy journalism? And she wonders why angry people spit at journalists? Have a word with yourself, Julia.

Speaking of silliness, Bozza’s speech was a mix of incoherent bluster and left-baiting jibes, which were largely based on a handful of familiar anti-left tropes: “Crusties and nose rings”. Yes, this is supposed to be a grown up man; a man who writes for the same paper as Hartley-Brewer, no less, and who moonlights as London mayor and works part-time as the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Good work if you can get it. No?

Osborne’s speech was lauded as the greatest ever made by the Chancellor. Lobby hacks fell over themselves as they rushed to heap praise on his ‘vision’ and his apparent ‘cleverness’. I heard nothing in his speech but lies, spin and chicanery. His recruitment of Andrew Adonis to lead his National Infrastructure Commission was met with the predictable cheers from usual suspects on Fleet Street. Stephen Bush in The New Statesman described it as a “coup”, while most of the BBC’s political commentators claimed Osborne was “stealing Labour’s clothes”. However, what they all failed to tell their readers that, not only was Adonis a notorious Blairite, he was once a member of the SDP and the Lib Dems. His left credentials are entirely imagined. What they also failed to notice was how Osborne offered few ideas of his own.

David Cameron spent much of his speech attacking Jeremy Corbyn, even going so far as to take his words out of context, thus he claimed (falsely) that Corbyn was a “threat to national security” and characterised him as “terrorist supporting”. If I were Corbyn, I would be considering slapping Cameron with a suit for defamation. Here’s his speech in its entirety… if you can stomach it. Personally, I’d rather eat a five pound bag of sugar and throw it up on my carpet.

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Is It Time For A New Chartist Movement?

The People’s Charter of 1838

The Cat thinks so. The original Chartist movement began in 1838, six years after the First Reform Act was passed,  which extended the franchise to property-owning males and abolished the Rotten Boroughs. Sadly, it didn’t go far enough. The working class were still effectively excluded from the franchise, yet they were still subjected to the tripartite social dictatorship of the aristocracy, the landed gentry and the industrialists who were represented in Parliament by the Tories and the Whigs. The Poor Act of 1834 provided a further catalyst for the Chartist movement. Fast forward to the present day and Conservative government is threatening to rebrand the Poor Law.

Today’s neoliberal politicians continue to talk about The Deficit. The Conservative Party claims that deficit reduction is their key priority and talk about little else. The Labour Party under the Blairite postmodernists bought into their mantra andrepeated the urgency of cutting the deficit for no other reason than to appear legitimate and responsible (sic). What these parties ignored was the democratic deficit. The Conservative government’s demand for deficit reduction at all costs coupled with their creeping authoritarianism has been matched by the Labour Party’s lack of opposition to some the severest cuts to public services in a generation. A weak opposition does no one any good. Even Francoist Spain had token opposition parties that lent a democratic veneer to a deeply reactionary and authoritarian regime. However, now that Jeremy Corbyn has become the new Labour leader, there is a chance that the party will become a proper opposition.

Commentators (themselves institutionalized through their role as lobby journalists) have long regarded the United Kingdom’s Parliament as “the mother of all parliaments”. Furthermore, they will also claim that this country has given the world the “rule of law”, which they claim stems from the Magna Carta, a document that freed the barons but not the peasantry. Because the United Kingdom lacks a written constitution and a bill of rights, civil liberties can be suspended at any time at the whim of a sitting Prime Minister. That’s right, your freedoms are entirely imagined… unless you have the money to pay for them.

Later this year, Tory government plans to redraw the constituency boundaries without offering electoral reforms. This is gerrymandering. They may claim that there are too many MPs. What they really mean is that there are too many opposition MPs and they want to rule unopposed indefinitely. They must be held to account.

The original People’s Charter made the following demands for political reform:

1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.
2. The Secret Ballot – To protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.
3. No Property Qualification for Members of Parliament – thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor.
4. Payment of Members, thus enabling an honest trades-man, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency; when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
5. Equal Constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing small constituencies to swamp the votes of large ones.
6. Annual Parliament Elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since as the constituency might be bought once in seven years (even with the ballot), no purse could buy a constituency (under a system of universal suffrage) in each ensuing twelve month; and since members, when elected for a year only, would not be able to defy and betray their constituents as now.

Six simple demands. Yet it would take decades before most of these demands were met.

In 1988, Charter 88 was formed for much the same reasons as the original Chartist movement.  Their demands were:

We have had less freedom than we believed. That which we have enjoyed has been too dependent on the benevolence of our rulers. Our freedoms have remained their possession, rationed out to us as subjects rather than being our own inalienable possession as citizens. To make real the freedoms we once took for granted means for the first time to take them for ourselves. The time has come to demand political, civil and human rights in the United Kingdom. We call, therefore, for a new constitutional settlement which will:

  • Enshrine, by means of a Bill of Rights, such civil liberties as the right to peaceful assembly, to freedom of association, to freedom from discrimination, to freedom from detention without trial, to trial by jury, to privacy and to freedom of expression.
  • Subject Executive powers and prerogatives, by whomsoever exercised, to the rule of law.
  • Establish freedom of information and open government.
  • Create a fair electoral system of proportional representation.
  • Reform the Upper House to establish a democratic, non-hereditary Second Chamber.
  • Place the Executive under the power of a democratically renewed Parliament and all agencies of the state under the rule of law.
  • Ensure the independence of a reformed judiciary.
  • Provide legal remedies for all abuses of power by the state and by officials of central and local government.
  • Guarantee an equitable distribution of power between the nations of the United Kingdom and between local, regional and central government.
  • Draw up a written constitution anchored in the ideal of universal citizenship, that incorporates these reforms.

The inscription of laws does not guarantee their realisation. Only people themselves can ensure freedom, democracy and equality before the law. Nonetheless, such ends are far better demanded, and more effectively obtained and guarded, once they belong to everyone by inalienable right. Add your name to ours. sign the charter now!

Source: Wikipedia

Today, over a century later, we continue to suffer from a lack of democratic accountability and it’s getting worse. It is for good reason that our European neighbours refer to this country as “the most centralized country in Europe”. The lack of modernity in the United Kingdom is more than matched by the antiquated nature of our legislature and electoral system.

The Cat demands:

  1. An electoral system that is proportional and fair. The Alternative Vote system put before the British people in 2011 was neither proportional nor fair and was offered as an inferior substitute to force the issue of proportional representation off the table for generations.
  2. An end to the City of London’s undue and disproportionate influence on Parliament. The cosy deals between corporations, hedge funds and other financial institutions and political parties must be ended. Political parties should be state funded to avoid any conflict of interest or corruption of the democratic process by corporations and finance houses exerting influence on them.
  3. The abolition of the monarchy and the honours system.  The monarch should be replaced with a president that has been elected by the people. The president shall serve for a term of seven years and shall be subordinate to Parliament. The antiquated institutions,  titles and roles that stem from monarchy should also be abolished. These include the House of Lords, Lord Lieutenants, Governor Generals, High Sheriffs and similar titles.
  4. The devolution of power from Westminster to the nations, regions and metropolitan counties of the United Kingdom, and the creation of a federal state. Each political division shall have its own democratically elected assembly that is elected by universal suffrage on a proportional basis. The creation of workers or community councils to supplement and complement the work of the larger bodies.
  5. The voting age be reduced to 16.
  6. A written constitution that contains a Bill of Rights, which enshrines civil liberties in statute and defines the roles of the officers and executives of the nations, regions and other political divisions.
  7. An substantial reduction of the election deposit.

Jeremy Corbyn may have won the Labour leadership, but the work outside of Parliament must continue. Politics neither begins nor ends with politicians or Parliaments!

You may have your own idea of what the new People’s Charter should look like. Feel free to add some more.

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Democracy Wins But The BBC Fails (Again)

This evening’s Greek referendum result was a victory for the forces of democracy. The vote was 62% No and 39% Yes. Austerity doesn’t work and the Greek people have said as much in great numbers. The OXI (No) vote happened in the face of a relentless NAI  (Yes)campaign from Greece’s pro-austerity media.

The Tory government will use the occasion to continue to scaremonger about the “dangers” of “going back” to the mythical “bad old days”.  But they don’t have a mandate. 24.3% is nothing. 62% is a mandate. Tories, take note.

Meanwhile, the BBC and the rest of the British media will continue to peddle the lie that George Osborne’s LTEP is “working”. Can you see the green shoots of reification? If you can’t, then you’re probably an “extreme leftist”.

As I type this, a BBC News reporter in Athens is interviewing a New Democracy politician who’s claimed that it’s a “dark day for Greece”. Then the reporter interrupts to tell her that Antonis Samaras, the leader of the New Democrats, had resigned. She stumbles and mumbles something along the lines of “I couldn’t possibly comment”.

Cut to some vox pops of Greek people telling the camera how “scared they are for the future”. The propaganda: it’s blatant.

Expect more fun and games from our media over the coming days and weeks.

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The Cat’s Post-Election Demands

Whoever wins on May 7, we will have to take to the streets and demand fundamental changes to how this country is run. There must be no let up. After the last election in 2010, people marched to demand fair voting. Sadly, the momentum was lost on the first day, when marchers went home after listening to Nick Clegg’s impromptu speech on the steps of Lib Dem HQ. They believed his warm words, but I didn’t. The Lib Dems are flim-flam artists, who will do anything to grab power. The march itself was overwhelmingly bourgeois. I wrote about the short-lived Take Back Parliament movement here.

Here are The Cat’s key demands.

  1. A proportional voting system based on either the mixed members proportional system (in Scotland) or the single transferable vote (in Ireland)
  2. The abolition of the House of Lords
  3. The abolition of the monarchy and, by extension, an end to the Union
  4. A new constitutional settlement for the nations of these islands that is equitable to all
  5. An end to landlordism
  6. Rent controls for private and Housing Association tenants
  7. End Right to Buy
  8. Renationalize the railways
  9. Nationalize the banks
  10. Build more social housing
  11. End the influence of the City of London over our legislature
  12. Regional assemblies for England
  13. The creation of a federal republic

Feel free to add your points to the list.

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Occupy Democracy – The Battle of the Tarpaulin

Think we live in a democracy? Think we live in a ‘free country’? Think again. Protest is increasingly being criminalized by our imperial masters. For the last few days Occupy Democracy has been occupying Parliament Square. This excellent blog by indyrikki explains what happened last night when the Territorial Support Group moved in and tried to force the protesters to give up.

indyrikki

If a progressive movement can gauge the effect it’s having from the response of the State, then the Unions should be ashamed of themselves, and the Occupy movement should be cheering loudly.

08 occupy 18

Depending on whom you believe, the Unions roused between 50,000 and 100,000 people to march a tiring long course to Hyde Park to listen to the same old speeches from the same list of actors, demanding change but seldom challenging the system.

Policing was hands-off, relatively low key, and generally good-natured.

Meanwhile, globally there is a movement growing that recognises the present system of central banking and corporate power is so out of all public and democratic control, so corrupt, and so destructive that it can’t be ‘changed’ but must be replaced.

Although in the UK the movement appears to be small in numbers, it’s clear it has a growing resonance, and that more and more people are…

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