Friday, 10 December 2010

A Blatant Attack On Democracy

Yesterday saw disgraceful scenes in London, and what can only be described as a blatant attack on the very democratic foundations of British society. It was an attack carried out by a tiny, unrepresentative Minority. That tiny Minority have no regard for the very principles of rational debate and decision-making. That tiny Minority were the 28 Liberal MP's who voted through the slashing of expenditure on Higher Education, and a tripling of Tuition Fees. It is no wonder that the actions of this tiny Minority, which included the entire leadership of the Liberals in Parliament, should set such a bad example to others about how to go about politics that it provoked an angry response.

That a bunch of rich, ideologically driven Tories should want to restrict Higher Education just to people of their ilk, by pushing up Tuition Fees to levels beyond what most ordinary working-class and middle-class kids can afford is not surprising. Its true that the Tories themselves did not dare to put forward such a proposal during the campaigning for the Election of just six months ago, and to that extent they have no democratic mandate to carry through such a policy, just as they have no democratic mandate to push through the rest of their swingeing cuts in Public Spending. But, at least, unlike the Liberals, they did not have a long-standing commitment to OPPOSE Tuition Fees, to being in favour of them being scrapped. Most of the people who voted for the Tories did know what kind of things they support. Even though they did not spell out the kind of Cuts they would be pushing through, everyone knew that they would be attempting to push through such Cuts, and those who voted for them, are the kinds of people who now as much as then will welcome them.

But, the Liberals not only had a long-standing commitment to scrap Tuition Fees, they quite blatantly went out to win votes on that basis, and even staged several stunts around the country producing a large pledge committing each and every one of them to vote against any rise in Tuition Fees. That pledge did not have any caveats saying we will only vote against Tuition Fees if we form the Government – a possibility that even the most delirious of Liberals could have thought even a remote possibility – which their MP's now seek to use as a blatant excuse for reneging on a solemn pledge, it simply committed them to vote against, no ifs, no buts. Nor was it a pledge just given by the Party, but was a pledge signed by each and every Liberal candidate. Of course, it was not the only commitment they stood on. Whilst, the Tories zigged and zagged over their approach to the Cuts, first talking about drastic cuts, then at the beginning of this year changing that stance to no immediate drastic cuts, as their standing in the polls tanked, the Liberals right up to Election Day were adamant that even the £6 billion of Cuts being proposed at that time by the Tories was unjustified, and would do serious damage to the Economy.

In fact, as David Laws admitted even after the Election, and during the negotiations with the Tories, the Liberals continued to believe that the Cuts were a mistake. Sky News Deputy Political Editor, Joey Jones says that Laws told him that, even at the time of the Coalition negotiations, the Liberals position was still that the best time to begin implementing Cuts was in the Spring of 2011, when the economy should have been recovering. Also confirming the point I have been making that the Cuts agenda was driven by political posturing rather than any actual need to make the Cuts, Laws is reported as saying that the “rhetoric on deficit reduction had been “hyped up”, that it wasn’t as important as all that”.

Yet, as soon as the possibility of being granted a Ministerial Car and salary was dangled in front of the Liberals, any pretence of principle flew out of the window, as they scrabbled to get their hands on the filthy lucre. These are the same Liberals who just a few months before had litter the whole of Parliament Square with thousands of bits of paper, representing the broken promises and pledges of politicians from other parties. Those broken promises were the bedrock Nick Clegg assured us upon which the public's disgust and disenchantment with politicians and the political process had been built. Was it any surprise we were told that the Public had no time for politics, for democracy and for politicians when those politicians repeatedly lied, broke their promises, and were seen to be sticking their noses in the trough at every opportunity, as the Expenses Scandal showed. The answer is no it was no surprise that ordinary people should respond in that way, and so when those same politicians abandon any facade of democracy in order to vote through blatant attacks on those same ordinary people, its no surprise, and quite justifiable that those same ordinary people should respond in the only ways then left open to them.

Is it any wonder that those same bourgeois politicians who condemn lying one minute in order to garner votes, and who then blatantly lie the next, are the same bourgeois politicans who bemoan the lack of democracy in other parts of the world, but who bend and grotesquely distort even the limited bourgeois democracy from which they earn their lucrative living? Is it any wonder when these people see, and even describe their political activity, not as a duty that every citizen should be involved in, but as a career, to be preserved for them, and from which the rest of the citizenry are to be denied, or ta least severely discouraged from participating in, other than in the most meaningless sense of palcing a cross on a piece of paper every five years, and then having no means of even holding those elected to account when they break their promises? Is it any wonder that these same bourgeois politicans for whom lying is the stock in trade, should defend to the hilt the right of others within their profession, and employed by the Capitalist State to lie through their teeth, as Diplomats and so on? And, these same politicans who condemn in the strongest terms the lack of democracy, the use of censorship, and illegal means to shut the mouths of democracy activists in China, or Russia, or the Middle East, or in Latin America, or in Africa, are the first to defend the attacks on Wikileaks, to use not just the law, but all the power of extra legal measures to shut the mouths of their own troublesome priests?

But, of course, in every society where the rulers seek to rule on the basis of their own power and privilege rather than on the basis of any kind of genuine democratic mandate, the State has to be there to slap down any response from the ordinary people. It cannot be denied that yesterday also saw a large number of people turn up in London who were determined to engage in violence. The masses of photographs and video evidence cannot be denied, in that respect. People had clearly come to the streets of London prepared for violence, and that too cnnot be good for democracy. Large numbers of thugs came to the streets of London tooled up with all kinds of means of carrying out violence, from crash helmets, to riot shields, riot sticks, protective clothing, riot vans, and even police horses, which were used to charge ordinary people including children, in scenes that were reminiscent of the way the Aristocrats charged down similar ordinary people assembled in St. Peter's Fields in Manchester, at the beginning of the 19th century. Back then, people too were responding in the only way left open to them when the process of democracy is denied to them. During that demonstration, what came to be known as the Peterloo Massacre – because it came just after the Battle of Waterloo, in which many of the protesters had themselves participated as soldiers – many men, women and children were cut down by the horses, and the sabre strokes of the dragoons sent in against them. The rulers then too justified such action on the basis of maintaining “Law and order”. Yesterday, no one was killed, but some peaceful demonstrators were badly injured by baton wielding police on horse back, and it is only a matter of time when such cavalry charges are launched by police, before someone at some future demonstration is killed. The police will have more difficulty justifying such a murder than they have had in squirming to avoid responsibility for the death of Ian Tomlinson, less chance of escaping the wrath of the populace than they did over the death of Blair Peach.

No comments: