Kiss your Democracy Goodbye (But Did You Ever Have One?)
by William Bowles
Just how pervasive is the myth of our ‘inalienable rights’ is illustrated by
the following quote from an article in the Independent that even as it warns of
the “drift…toward a police state”:
… the Government is undermining freedoms citizens have taken for granted for
centuries and that Britain
risks drifting towards a police state. – ‘Judges
liken terror laws to Nazi Germany’ By Marie Woolf, Raymond Whitaker and
Severin Carrell, The Independent, 16
October 2005 [my emph. WB]
Contrary to popular myth, the democratic process, the universal franchise,
habeas corpus, the ‘inalienable rights’ and so on and so forth that the pundits
spout on about, far from being an ‘inalienable right’ extending back to the
Magna Carta some eight hundred years ago, our extremely limited democracy is
barely one hundred years old and is something that is by no means ‘taken for
granted’ as events in Northern Ireland revealed nor the raft of laws such as
the infamous ‘D’ notice which is no more than an ‘agreement’ between the owners
and managers of the media not to print or broadcast stories that might be
embarrassing to the state, under the guise of ‘state security’.
With literally hundreds of laws that collectively the state paradoxically
likes to call our ‘unwritten constitution’ and without recourse to a clearly
defined set of rules that sets limits on what powers the state possesses over
its citizens, until the UK — reluctantly and with all kinds of provisos —
signed the European Union’s Human Rights Act, the state could pretty well do
whatever it pleases. And now, under the guise of fighting the ‘war on terror’,
it wants to opt out of key sections of the Act.
In fact, the UK
is probably the most regulated, controlled and surveilled of any of the
so-called democracies. With an estimated 6 million video cameras installed
across the country over which there is no oversight, indeed, no controls
whatsoever as to what happens to the footage, who sees it or who ends up
possessing it, the state’s control over its citizens is almost complete.
And if anyone has any doubts about the perilous state of our ‘democracy’,
the vote on ID cards on 18/10/05
had only 20 Labour MPs voting against it, and most of those on the grounds of
cost of the project. Public debate on the issue is virtually non-existent. The
government has consistently misled the public on the real nature of the ID
card, hiding entirely the real reason, namely the creation of a national
database on its citizens, an allegation it of course, strenuously denies. The
vast cost of creating a national database on 60 million people, a database that
will contain information of all kinds, not merely the kind that will allegedly
stop ‘identity theft’ or allegedly identify ‘terrorists’, ‘benefit cheats’ and
those participating in ‘organised crime’ but to add insult to injury, one that
we will be forced to pay for.
So what is going here? Nobody could deny that indeed the state is
undertaking fundamental attacks on the limited civil rights we have won over
the past century or so of struggle but firstly, why are elements of the legal
profession and the media only now waking up to the fact? Could it be that as
long as it was only ‘extremists’ and other ‘fellow travellers’ who were the
alleged subject of the attacks, our ‘liberal intelligentsia’ were not that
troubled, but now they see their own positions of privilege threatened, they
have at long last spoken out?
What is revealed here is something a lot more fundamental and a lot more
insidious, for these self-same people who now talk of a “drift toward a police
state” have seen the writing on the wall for at least past eight years, yet
said nothing and indeed were quite content to accept the ‘drift’ so long as it didn’t
Moreover, it reveals the incestuous relationship between our so-called
intelligentsia and the state, why else do they continue to peddle the line that
what is happening is some kind of encroachment on these mythical ‘rights’ that
we are supposed to have had for centuries?
The uncomfortable truth is that democracy, even the limited form we
currently have, exists for only as long as it’s convenient to keep it. And it’s
a ‘democracy’ that is extremely narrowly defined, namely a two-party system
that exists within a structure defined by an inherited and entrenched state
bureaucracy that is, we are told, neutral and independent of the political
Yet the ‘Establishment’ as it is referred to, is a recognised institution
composed of people who control the organs of the state; the judicial system,
the civil service, the police and security services, education, the armed
forces, and through their connections, the media and big business. These are
people who are connected via the schools and universities they attended; the
clubs they belong to and via family and business relationships.
However, the ‘Establishment’ is rarely, if ever referred to as being central
to the maintenance of the State’s power. Instead, it is presented to us as an
amorphous and inherited set of relationships that are intrinsically ‘English’.
The illusion is complete and reinforced by the assumptions made about its
‘inevitable’ nature, hence the statement “freedoms citizens have taken for
granted for centuries” flows logically from such assumptions.
The role therefore of the intelligentisa is to maintain the illusion of a
society ruled by people who have some kind of ‘natural right’ to rule, benignly
you understand, to suggest otherwise is to be ‘un-English’ and it goes by the
name of a ‘meritocracy’, those who rule through ability alone, at least that’s
what we are told. The Establishment is so powerful that it easily absorbs even
those who ‘rise through the ranks’ and end up belonging to it, such as those
who head up the current ‘Labour’ government, regardless that they come from
working class backgrounds.
Why this is important to the current onslaught on our ‘inalienable rights’
becomes apparent when we trace the trajectory of our governments, especially
since the end of WWII and that of the Labour Party, whose historic role has
been to manage capitalism when the traditional party of capital and of the
Establishment, the Tory Party, eventually became a redundant force.
There could be no clearer example of the obsolete nature of the Tory Party
than the current ‘contest’ to find a Tory Blair. Hence, aside from the
ineffectual Liberal Democrats, we now have a de facto one-party system. Thus it
is imperative to establish a ‘legal’ framework to enshrine the one-party
system, in other words, the corporatist, security state, so beloved of
Mussolini, a state that if it is rule, needs an absolutist framework of laws
with which to protect itself and with which to control and repress any
The role of the ‘war on terror’ therefore, is to justify a state that has
lost all legitimacy and must perforce rule by force, admittedly without
recourse to an English equivalent of the SS and given the fact that the
majority of the citizens have opted out of a political process over which they
have no say, won’t be needed — yet; except of course to repress those who
fulfill the role of ‘enemies of the state’, Muslims, ‘extremists’ and other
malcontents, who can be safely handled by existing organs of the state, MI5,
MI6 and the various and sundry ‘security’ services (in authoritarian regimes,
they get called the secret police) all administered with the ‘anti-terror’
laws. Throw in a complicit corporate and state media, which is only too happy
to maintain the illusion of a democracy and we have a ‘very English’ police
Goodbye Social Contract
What is referred to as the ‘social contract’ between capital and labour,
formulated by the post-war Labour government as the response by the state to
the demand by working people for a greater share of the wealth and for a
genuine participation in the political process, has finally been abandoned. The
reasons are complex but not inexplicable.
In the first place, the crisis of capital that came after the first ‘oil
crisis’ of the early seventies, precipitated the attack on working people
represented by the Thatcher/Reagan so-called neo-liberal agenda that sought to
address the issue of the falling rate of profit by taking back the gains that
working people had won during the ‘golden years’ 1945-75, the longest period of
consistent growth the Western world had ever experienced.
In addition, the defeat of the US
signalled to the developing world that in spite of the US’s
overwhelming military and economic power, imperialism could be defeated,
admittedly at great human and material cost, and perhaps at a cost that in long
run it could not bear. This was a defeat that the US
simply could not tolerate and one that had to be answered and in my opinion
anyway, led directly to the US
intervention in Afghanistan
and the subsequent and final ‘proxy’ war between the US
and the Soviet Union, a war the Soviets lost.
There can be no doubt that the rise of the ‘social contract’ was in no small
part due to the success of socialism’s attraction to working people and,
following the disasters of the 1920s and 30s, the failure of capitalism to
solve the recurring crises that beset it. For proof of this we need look no
further than the roles of successive Labour governments throughout this period
to ‘manage’ capitalism. But each successive Labour government moved further and
further to the right and at each turn, it abandoned chunks of its historical
mandate as the ‘party of labour’ as the allure of socialism faded, due not only
to the failures of Soviet Union but also to the propaganda of the Cold War.
Ultimately, the Thatcherite ‘counter-revolution’ which hinged on the
deregulation or the abandonment of the state regulation of the ‘market’ that
enabled capital to move unhindered across the planet and which in turn enabled
the state to mount a frontal assault on the organised working class as
industrial production moved to un-organised, cheap labour markets, most often
in repressive regimes of one kind or another, where the lack of labour and
environmental laws didn’t get in the way of doing business.
However, the frontal assault on working people did nothing to alter the
fundamental crisis of capital, if anything it exacerbated the problem as it led
not only to an increasing flood of products, but products that fewer and fewer
people could afford to purchase. Capital’s response to this crisis was to
invest the surplus of capital into the financial markets, also now deregulated.
Thus increasingly, profit was generated through speculation, especially in the
currency markets that further destabilised the weak and vulnerable economies of
the world – the developing countries.
In turn, failing a genuinely progressive alternative, created the conditions
for a variety of ‘fundamentalist’ movements to fill the political vacuum, some
no doubt created by imperialism using classic divide and rule tactics, others
out of sheer desperation.
It can be seen therefore, that there is a direct and organic relationship
between repression abroad and repression at home; they are two sides of the
same coin and result from the same process, the crisis of capital. Without once
more entering into and engaging with the political process, I think it’s safe
to assume that failing an organised and coherent opposition to the current
Labour government-led regime, and one that’s not led by a posse of self-serving
‘liberals’, whose position of privilege is only now recognised as being
threatened, the omens are seriously bad.
And, if you’ll forgive me for repeating myself, it’s up to you to break free
from the illusion, so cleverly constructed, that the attacks on our rights only
apply to ‘extremists’, as they’ll come knocking on your door in the morning, of
that you can be sure, history has taught us that, over and over again.
Global Research, October 21, 2005)