Tag Archives: Police State

Libertarians and nostalgia

Libertarians. Don’t you find them ridiculous? For all their talk of freedom and liberty, they’re nothing more than wannabe feudal overlords. They’re fond of telling us how their idea of a minimal or ‘night watchman’ state will lead to a better world for all of us. Yet, whenever they open their mouths to speak, they inadvertently betray their true thoughts.

The other night I was listening to The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4. On the programme were two self-described libertarians discussing the floods. One of them was Telegraph columnist, Peter Oborne and I didn’t catch the other person’s name. The unnamed libertarian whined about the state and described it very much in the same terms as a teenage boy would describe his parents. “I hate my parents”, was more or less the what he was saying. “Why can’t they leave me alone to pull the legs off this fly”? Oborne told listeners that in the 19th century people would have dealt with the flooding themselves. This almost casual remark about 19th century Britain revealed the inner workings of the mind of the ‘libertarian’: they are not forward-looking, rather they are backward-looking romantics who are only capable of viewing history through the distorted lens of nostalgia.

In a libertarian world, the rich would be much richer than they are now and the rest would live as serfs. For the libertarian, the 19th century was a period of almost unparalleled ‘freedom’ when the bourgeoisie was more or less free to do as it pleased and the working classes knew their place in the hierarchy. It should come as no surprise that the term ‘social mobility’ does not appear in the lexicon of apparent libertarian freedoms.

So what is so great about the 19th century? True, there were scientific advances but there was a great deal of ignorance. Poverty and disease were rampant and most people were kept in the dark about their own body. Colonialism may have brought many riches to the aristocracy and the newly embourgeoisised middle classes alike, but the poor remained resolutely poor. Some libertarian once tried to tell me that the poor were “richer” at the end of the 19th century than at the beginning. The word “poor” means exactly that and the idea that the poor were somehow better off by 1900 is not only laughable, but fundamentally dishonest.

The libertarian right uses all the means it has at its disposal to hoodwink the gullible into signing away its rights for what it calls “freedom”. Yet in a libertarian world, only those who already possess material wealth and the privilege that comes with being members of the middle and upper classes will enjoy any kind of freedom. They’ll tell you that they hate war and that they stand for equality. But many of them would happily invade another country to ensure their bogus concept of ‘free trade’. This is why a good number of them have degrees in War Studies.

One of the favourite themes of the right libertarian is so-called ‘flat taxes’ which they claim are fair and that everyone – the low waged included – will benefit from them.  This is, of course, nothing more than a delusion.  If everyone pays the same rate of income tax, then those who are on meagre incomes will suffer, while the rich carry on as normal. The last time the UK had a flat tax was in the late 80s and early 90s, it was called The Poll Tax and it was seen as ‘fair’ by the Thatcher government. It cost millions to implement and cost even more to pursue the defaulters through the courts.

Right libertarians are accomplished liars who believe in the logic of their own lies. The very idea of social progress is anathema; it sounds too much like real fairness and being closeted social Darwinists, in their eyes, only the strong (in this case, the rich) should survive. If you don’t have the money to pay for the treatment of a chronic illness, then that’s too bad. You die.

Libertarians aren’t capable of looking forward. Their idea of the future – and they won’t admit to this – is to create a dystopian world from highly-selectivized memories of the 19th century. It may well be a technologically advanced world but it would have the feel of the Middle Ages to it, where knowledge is concentrated in the hands of the ruling elite and, even then, only certain kinds of knowledge would be considered valid.

Right libertarians are fantasists who want you to share their dream of a ‘better’ world by signing over your human rights and accepting the marketization of all social relations. Remember, in the world of the right libertarian, the police exist solely to protect the rich and oppress anyone who disagrees or steps out of line. – just as it was in the 19th century.

In the 19th century, Britain was a police state in all but name. No wonder right libertarians view the epoch with such affection.

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Filed under Government & politics, right-wing libertarians, Taxpayers Alliance

Politically motivated arrests and illusions of liberty

I found this article in The Guardian from one of the UKUncut protesters who was arrested on Saturday. This article confirms my suspicions that this country is sliding towards a police state.  This paragraph stands out,

A very senior officer in my station admitted to my parents that he regretted having to charge the protesters on the orders of Scotland Yard: he said they all seemed like “nice people”, and that he suspected the charges were politically motivated. These sentiments were echoed by other officers who kept distinguishing us from “proper criminals”. Another senior officer told me he suspected that it wasn’t so much a case of legality, but that UK Uncut had upset people who were that little bit too rich; that little bit too powerful. Some police officers, I’ve been told, even advised protesters about constructing a defence.

Yes, these are the same powerful people that not only own most of this country’s wealth, but are in a position to print lies about UKUncut and smear both the group and those people who support them.

Fortnum & Mason’s is not merely a posh supermarket, it is a symbol of the power and authority (not to mention their spending power) of the rich and the privileged.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Filippo Tomaso Marinetti, the libertarian who supported fascism

Interestingly enough, right wing libertarians claim to be in favour of freedom and liberty but aren’t prepared to extend this idea to anyone outside their select group of people – the wealthy.

We need to remind ourselves of the futurists, who also referred to themselves as “anarchists” and “libertarians”. They all supported Mussolini’s fascists. Therefore the gap between right libertarianism and fascism is quite a narrow one and remains so to this day.

The case of the Anti-Socialist Union in this country is strangely similar. Born out of the remnants of the Land and Property Defence League, the ASU represented the interests of the wealthy. The ASU were proponents of laissez-faire economics and, at one time, boasted a young Stanley Baldwin as a member. The ASU would become closely allied with various fascist movements in the 1920’s because of their shared opposition to communism.

Cut a right libertarian and you will find the blood of an authoritarian.

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Police State Britain. Are we there yet?

Last Saturday’s march and rally, the occupation of Fortnum & Mason’s and the smashing of  a few bank windows has got the entire Tory world in a spin. So much so, that some of them (Telegraph commenters mainly) are calling for the banning of this party and the proscription of that organization.  But this government is so desperate to cling on to power that it will use any means necessary to silence its critics and rubbish the names of those who call for justice. Meanwhile the opposition seems to be sleepwalking into a trap that has been laid for them by the Tory press and the government. It’s as though the 1980’s never went away.

But it seems the state is up to its old tricks again.

Lenin’s Tomb blog believes that police agents provocateurs were allowed to smash windows while their uniformed colleagues stood by and watched. This clip from the BBC on Liberal Conspiracy shows a man in a hoodie crossing a police line. He looks like a police agent. I have also heard unconfirmed reports of how journalists from a certain tabloid newspaper paid people to commit acts of vandalism elsewhere. In paying people to carry out acts of vandalism for the sake of, what seems to be, a gruesome headline, it helps to manufacture consent in the public mind, which is good as a  nod and a wink to the  government who, in turn, grant the police more draconian powers to control, contain and destroy the ‘menace’ or ‘enemy within’. This is newsgathering and guess what? It’s always been that way. You get me the pictures and I’ll bring you the war. If you see what I mean…

There’s no truth like the untruth.

Dan Hannan writing in the Daily Telegraph is pushing his and Carswell’s idea for elected police chiefs as a solution.  Their case for elected police officials is, in my view, poorly made and, in the case of his blog, opportunistic and smugly self-congratulatory. Here Hannan puts the boot into anarchists and the Socialist Workers Party

So, which is it? Did the police provoke gentle marchers with their fascistic heavy-handedness? Were they heroic in the face of intolerable provocation from thugs? Or were they a bunch of pantywaists, standing idly by as anarchists (an odd name for people dependent on the state for their livelihood) and Socialist Workers (few of whom seem to work) vandalised private property?

Thing is, Hannan seems to think that all anarchists and members of the SWP are idle. That actually isn’t true. Many anarchists and Swappies actually have jobs.

It’s much easier to be ignorant. That way you never have to think.

Furthermore there are many flavours of anarchism, some of which – like anarcho-capitalism – Hannan would doubtlessly approve. Perhaps he needs to meet people outside his own circle to get to grips with that concept. Fat chance. The elected sheriff idea merely underlines how out of touch these Tories are. Borrow some idea from the States, apply it here and claim that it’s in the name of  ‘democracy’ or otherwise claim that it’s done to devolve more power from the centre.

We get to the meat of the blog here

The Bill to place our constabularies under locally elected representatives will be presented to the Commons this week. I’m obviously delighted, having been pushing the idea of elected sheriffs for the better part a decade (although Carswell will have you believe that he thought of it first).

Yes, another crazy idea from The Plan has been transformed into a bill. While this doesn’t appear prima facie to indicate Hannan’s desire to see some kind of police state, the office of ‘sheriff’ would arguably be open to anyone that claims to have a ‘cure’ for the ‘cancer’. In times of manufactured fear, this could be the very thing the that right has been yearning for.  As any miner (NUM need only apply) from the 1980’s will tell you, the police are always on the side of the state. If this idea is pushed through (it’s a white paper at the moment), they will also be on the side of whatever party they happen to belong to. For instance the elected commissioner could be responsible for

Appointing – and, where necessary, removing – the Chief Constable.

Also

Elections
2.12 The Government wants candidates for Commissioners to come from a wide range of backgrounds, including both representatives of political parties and independents.

Do you see what I see?

This government will use any means at its disposal to blacken the names of those who take part in legitimate protests – even if that means relying on fabricated evidence and employing agents provacateurs to bolster its case for proscribing certain groups and outlawing certain forms of political activity. Even the TUC Leadership fell into line and condemned the action of a “minority of hooligans”.  The simple fact is that the Tories don’t like UKUncut and its innovative approach to protests. The group has done a great job of drawing attention to the fact that certain businesses, some of them loyal to the Conservative Party, have been using offshore addresses to avoid paying tax in this country. Add to this Sir Phillip Green, the millionaire owner of Topshop, who has been given the role of ‘efficiency czar’ and you have a situation where the oligarchs call the tune. These oligarchs will use whatever means at their disposal to press the government to take a tougher line against anyone who opposes them.

Does that sound like a liberal democracy to you?

It isn’t one that I recognize.

The use of agent provocateurs is nothing new. Recently at the G20 protests, Lib Dem MP, Tom Brake, alleged that police agents provocateurs  were employed to besmirch the name of the protesters.

Of course this sort of tactic has its origins in the 19th century when the state routinely resorted to such methods. The so-called Six Acts were enacted in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre and were designed to crush dissent and stifle debate. The Six Acts included,

  • The Training Prevention Act (or Unlawful Drilling Act) (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 1)[1] made any person attending a meeting for the purpose of receiving training or drill in weapons liable to arrest and transportation. More simply stated, military training of any sort was to be conducted only by municipal bodies and above.
  • The Seizure of Arms Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 2) gave local magistrates the powers to search any private property for weapons and seize them and arrest the owners.
  • The Misdemeanors Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 4) attempted to increase the speed of the administration of justice by reducing the opportunities for bail and allowing for speedier court processing.
  • The Seditious Meetings Prevention Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 6) required the permission of a sheriff or magistrate in order to convene any public meeting of more than 50 people if the subject of that meeting was concerned with “church or state” matters. Additional people could not attend such meetings unless they were inhabitants of the parish.
  • The Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act (or Criminal Libel Act) (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 8)”, [2] toughened the existing laws to provide for more punitive sentences for the authors of such writings. The maximum sentence was increased to fourteen years transportation.
  • The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act (60 Geo. III & 1 Geo. IV c. 9) extended and increased taxes to cover those publications which had escaped duty by publishing opinion and not news. Publishers also were required to post a bond for their behaviour

The Newspaper and Stamp Duties Act had the effect of creating a newspaper industry that was loyal to the state. In that regard little has changed. The industry is dominated by Tory-supporting titles, all of them with connections to arms manufacturers and financial institutions. The Seditious Meetings Act, for example, prevented free association and meetings could be broken up – often with violence – on a whim. Agents provocateurs were employed to stir up trouble and spies were used to obtain intelligence on seditious persons. In the 19th century, Britain was a police state in all but name.

2011 marks the centenary of some rather important events. Winston Churchill sent troops into Tonypandy to crush a riot. He ordered gunboats to be moored at Liverpool and Hull. Troops were ordered ashore at Liverpool, where they acted with the police to crush the transport strike. Churchill was also present a the Siege of Sidney Street, where excessive force was used to kill a pair of Latvian anarchists. Then, as now, the word on the collective typesetter of the press was “anarchists”, which became synonymous with a bearded bomb-thrower. A lunatic. A swivel-eyed zealot.

The word is now liberally used by politicians and the press to conjure up images of fear or as threats to individual ‘liberty’. It’s lazy and it’s weak.

In 2011 a range of measures under Terrorism legislation can be invoked in situations where the government feels protests have gone too far and, more importantly, property is being damaged. Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism thus:

(1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where-

(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][2] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial][3] or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-

(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

My italics. This act can be used to fit any definition of terrorism imaginable. It is intended to be that way. Judges and the police can interpret it any way they like.

They call it the letter of the law.

Those who cling to the neoliberal economic model, who tell us that there is no alternative, do so from a position of philosophical and intellectual weakness. They refuse to consider an alternative by insisting that none of us has an alternative. Their spreadsheets tell them that they are right and anyone else is wrong.

It requires no thinking on their part.

The Tories want a smaller state. A smaller state that has no welfare state and no public services. Their idea of the smaller state is one in which only the repressive functions (the police and security apparatuses ) are left intact. A police state where the legislature exists to rubber stamp the will of the oligarchy.

Are we there yet?

Finally, the Sun, always on the side of law and order, demands that the “rent-a-mob” be “nail[ed]”.

Sweet dreams.

EDIT: 30/3/11 @ 0927

This article from The Independent says

Scotland Yard plans to increase the use of stop-and-search powers on the day of the royal wedding, the next major test of policing methods in the capital, as well as stationing more officers at rail and Tube stations to spot possible troublemakers

And

In the Commons, Ms May backed the use of football-style “banning orders” against people suspected of planning to use legitimate protests as a pretext for violent action. They would be barred from travelling to demonstrations and could be arrested if they refused to comply. Ms May also urged police to make wider use of existing powers to confiscate masks and balaclavas from marchers.

Anyone who tells me that this country isn’t fast becoming a police state is a liar. We need to fight this.

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