Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tories Almost Do Something Good

The Tories have today put on-line - though not for long, because typical of most Government IT Systems it soon crashed - a new system, which allows people to see details about Crime in their street, and wider area. Well, it should do that, but even when it was working, it soon became apparent that there were glitches, and because it is based on postcode areas, shows high levels of areas for some streets, only because its pulling in data for a much larger area.
But, they are just technical issues, which need tweaking, for example by using a more precise GIS grid rather than simply postcode mapping. The more important thing is that the reason for making the information available that the Tories have given is that as part of the "Big Society", it is supposed to provide individuals and communities with the kind of information they will need to make choices, and to determine areas of policing they see as priorities, which they expect the new elected Police Commissioners to pursue.

For years, socialists have argued that the kind of democratic procedures that exist in other bourgeois democracies like the US, such as the ability to elect the local Sherrif, Police Commissioner, and other top State posts such as Judges, and top Civil Servants should be supported, and the fact that these basic bourgeois democratic rights do not exist in the UK, are a relic of its feudal past, the fudged nature of its transition to bourgeois democracy, and the incomplete nature of that transition, the other aspects of which are, of course, the fact that we have an hereditary or at least now unelected Second Chamber of Parliament, and a Monarchy, which is itself an affront to basic democratic principles.
For those reasons we should support the decision to introduce elected Police Chiefs. It will be an opportunity to raise and explain the class based nature of the State, and at election times to point to the overt nature of that policing in favour of Capital, such as during strikes, demonstrations and other protests.

Of course, the existing Police Authorities, and the Chief Police Officers with which they have a cosy relation are complaining about the change. But, the reality is that not only is the idea of appointed Police Authorities and affront to democracy compared to the elective principle, but these Police Authorities - like many similar such bodies - are a bit like the House of Lords. They are repositories of people who have already had a long bite at the cherry. If you want to find a place where careerist politicians, retired bureaucrats, and other civic worthies who live to sit on some Committee or another, but who in the majority of cases neither have any real power, nor any desire to gain such power, because it would mean they had no excuse for never changing anything, then Police Authorities and their clones are it.

What is somewhat concerning though is that interviewed on the TV yesterday, the main concern of most people was that the new computer system, by providing such information, might act to reduce the price of their houses!
The idea that the information could be used in the way even the Tories intended, as a means of pressurising Police Chiefs to act to deal with areas where problems exist, did not seem to compute with those being interviewed. Even getting involved in exercising control over that limited aspect of their lives seemed a bit too much to ask. But, maybe there is a good reason for that. The experience of most people with this kind of representative democracy, after all does not give a great deal of hope of being able to influence or change anything. People have long experience of electing Governments such as the one we now have, who only weeks after their election break the solemn pledges they have given, and basically lying through their teeth.
The same is true even more of Local Councils who they elect, and then find they often have little power to change anything meaningful. Its likely that the options for electing new Police Chiefs will be even more limited than the options for electing politicians.

In fact, if the Tories really wanted to bring about a meaningful democratic change, if they really wanted to create a Big Society, then they should have gone much further han just setting up a computer system, and limited proposals for electing Police Chiefs. The masses in Egypt are showing what a Big Society really looks like, they are showing how real meaningful changes can be brought about, and they are showing what a real democracy would look like that involved the majority of the people in something more significant than just putting a cross on a ballot paper every few years.
In Egypt, the regime released criminals with the specific intention of them creating chaos. But, the masses responded to the looting and crime those released were unleashing by creating their own militias to defend their neighbourhoods. If ordinary people in Egypt, under the conditions they face can do that, then there is no reason that people in Britain could not do at least the same.

In Britain, every citizen is required to make themselves available for Jury Service. In times of war they are even expected to make themselves available for military service. In reality a truly democratic society would make those civic duties not just something to be done as and when the State dictates, but as a normal part of everyday life. And defending your neighbourhood against criminals is just as important as defending the nation state against foreign invasion. Indeed more so. The latter occurs only infrequently, whereas the criminals are constantly with us. Just like Jury Service, it ought to be the duty of every citizen to be available on a rota basis to be engaged in acting as part of a neighbourhood police force, and they should be paid by their employer for the time they are engaged in that activity, just as they are paid for Jury Service.
That would be a far better means by which people could ensure that the policing issues that really concern them in their area were addressed, and would give people a real reason for being involved. But, the Tories will not agree to that, and the reason is precisely because they need the Police Force to continue as a force in the service of the Capitalist Class, just as the police and security service in Egypt's role was to defend the regime against the people.

We are seeing a rash of new movements at the moment, which is not unusual at this stage of the Long Wave. The masses are, more than ever learning quickly from the struggles of their comrades elsewhere. We should not fail to link the eruption in Egypt of workers deprived of basic rights in order to limit their struggles to defend their interests, with the Tories proposals to introduce further restrictions on workers Trades Unions, for exactly the same purpose. For years the Tory press, or at least its gutter section have run stories about "scroungers" - by which, of course they do not mean the Royals - and even the BBC has sunk to that level with its "Saints and Scroungers" abomination.
But, "Newsnight" - as well as showing that the Terrets virus seems to be spreading to all BBC journalists with Jeremy Paxman's Freudian slip to talk about 'Government Cunts' rather than Cuts - last night featured the actions of "UK Uncut", which have been captured on film by independent film makers. UK Uncut organises actions to protest in those shops, which are found to be using various tax loopholes to avoid paying hundreds of millions of pounds in tax, at a time when the Government is slashing vital services. Of course, that same police force are quick to arrest those asking that these millionaires pay their Tax. As the protesters chanted, "Mr. Cameron Can't You See, We're The Big Society".

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