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Year 2009 No. 38, June 11, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Fight for Genuine Democratic Renewal! Empower the People! No to Big Government!

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Fight for Genuine Democratic Renewal! Empower the People! No to Big Government!

Power and Privilege in the Political System: The Depth of Corruption

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Fight for Genuine Democratic Renewal! Empower the People! No to Big Government!

Gordon Brown yesterday announced his plan for “political renewal”. The crisis that has engulfed the parliamentary system, a reflection of the contradiction between the popular will and the legislative will, as well as between the executive and the legislature as a whole, has led to this announcement. This is not the first time a programme of political or constitutional reform has been announced by New Labour in power, or indeed by this Labour government of Gordon Brown. These initiatives have been designed because the old arrangements are anachronistic and viciously against the will of the electorate. They are aimed at rescuing the credibility of the system, attempting to institute new arrangements which will allay the people’s opposition, and salvage and further bolster the sovereignty of the monarch in parliament, concentrating authority further in the Cabinet system and in “big government”.

            This has been reflected, for example, in the statements of Lord Mandelson, three times disgraced, and brought back unelected as Business Secretary, who has emphasised the increased need for the government to push through its anti-social programme as the response to the political crisis. It is reflected in the calls during the European election to rally round Labour because otherwise the “extreme right” will gain advantage. These calls have ignored the reality that the racist, colonialist, programme of the government, its “war on terror”, and its attacks on the rights of the people, are what has been giving the green light to those on the “extreme right” to peddle outright racism and anti-Muslim propaganda. It is the anti-social programme, the suggestion of an “enemy within”, and the attacks on the rights of all which are the reactionary flagships around which the most backward have been gathering. It is the wrecking of the manufacturing base, the anti-worker stance, the destruction of communities carried out under this government which have fanned the flames of retrogression and given credence to backwardness and opposition to the public good.

            Now Gordon Brown has discovered the need for constitutional and political renewal. This is as fraudulent as the former talk of the Labour Party as a party of socialism. The present political system is one in which parties come to power. The trend amongst the people is to put forward their peers for election, but the present political system is heavily stacked against their election. The ruling elite keeps the electorate away from political power. The rectification of this injustice, the recognition of the right of the electorate to elect their peers, is not the content of Gordon Brown’s “renewal”.

            Political crisis has followed and kept pace with the economic crisis. The people’s opposition has been very fierce to the bailouts to the rich in the context of this economic crisis and to the wrecking of the manufacturing and agricultural base of the economy in the name of their being “no alternative” and that to save the banks has been essential to save the economy. Now when the electorate has been up in arms against the corruption and fraud which is synonymous with the system known as “representative democracy”, voices are being raised that there is “no alternative” to the party system being strengthened, Gordon Brown supported, and his plan of “renewal” backed in order to save the political system from “extremists”. But who are the “extremists”? The ruling elite and their backers would very much like the working people to believe that the parties in political power represent the “centre-left” and “centre-right”, that the battleground of politics is this so-called “centre-ground”, and that this centre-ground must be strengthened against the left and the right. The argument goes that this may not be a perfect system, but it is the best that it is possible, and its worst features can be curbed by some reforms of the “Westminster village”. What could be more “extreme” than to claim that there is no alternative to this system and that the economic crisis is beyond the people’s control! What could be more “extreme” than to invade and occupy other countries for geo-political reasons under the cloak of lies and deception!

            The working class and people will not be and are not satisfied that there is no other alternative, that it merely needs the improvement of the checks and balances to parliamentary sovereignty, and that the country would have been in worse crisis were it not for Gordon Brown. What is demanded by this situation is that the working class and people be involved in setting the agenda, in discussing their own demands for democratic renewal, so that the centuries-long struggle in this country to vest sovereignty in the people reaches a victory for the people, that a way out of the crisis is found, and that the working class constitutes itself the nation in England, Scotland and Wales. This solution also demands as integral to its programme that the sovereignty of Scotland and Wales, which have had their national rights suppressed from Westminster, be fully recognised, with the Scottish and Welsh peoples having full control of the running of their states according to modern conceptions of government. This would of course mean that an English parliament is also set up according to these modern conceptions, but would not preclude a voluntary union between these states, which is what the working class advocates, but only if the people’s will is that this should come about. For this programme to succeed, genuine democratic renewal is required, new mechanisms to give the people decision-making power, no election without selection by the people and not by the parties, and with worker politicians and anti-war candidates taking the lead in the next election.

            The people will not be fooled by Gordon Brown’s programme of “renewal”, which entrenches the idea that the people need condescending saviours from business and academia to rule their lives for them. The working class and people must demand a say in what this renewal is all about and demonstrate that there is a way out of the economic and political crises, and that it is not by strengthening big party government, but by bringing the people to power. What is required is not “strong government”, a “business state”, based on the values of the rich and powerful, the so-called “Britain plc” of the Blair and Thatcher era, run by a cartel of business parties. What is required is certainly not a pro-war government issuing threats at will and intervening where it deems necessary and committing aggression under the signboard of humanitarianism and British values. What is required is not the trampling of the rights of all under the signboard of the “war on terror” or the “enemy within”, the criminalising of dissent and the acceptance of police impunity.

            Instead, what is required is a programme to elect an anti-war, pro-worker and pro-social government, with worker politicians taking the lead and discussion amongst the people as to how to take up the independent political programme of the working class to stop paying the rich, increase investments in social programmes, to bring to power an anti-war government, respect the sovereignty of nations and peoples, and vest decision-making power in the electorate and empower the people. To participate in the governing of society is an inalienable right of the people. The fight is to put in place the mechanisms that will guarantee that right, as well as enshrining it in a modern constitution.

            This is the fight for genuine democratic renewal. WDIE calls on the working class and people to take up this fight in real earnest in the conditions of the present political crisis.

Article Index

Power and Privilege in the Political System: The Depth of Corruption

John Pilger, May 28, 2009, New Statesman

The current scandal of MPs' tax evasion and phantom mortgages conceals a deeper corruption that demands change.

The theft of public money by members of parliament, including government ministers, has given Britons a rare glimpse inside the tent of power and privilege. It is rare because not one political reporter or commentator, those who fill tombstones of column inches and dominate broadcast journalism, revealed a shred of this scandal. It was left to a public relations man to sell the “leak”. Why?

            The answer lies in a deeper corruption, which tales of tax evasion and phantom mortgages touch upon but also conceal. Since Margaret Thatcher, British parliamentary democracy has been progressively destroyed as the two main parties have converged into a single-ideology business state, each with almost identical social, economic and foreign policies. This “project” was completed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, inspired by the political monoculture of the United States. That so many Labour and Tory politicians are now revealed as personally crooked is no more than a metaphor for the anti-democratic system they have forged together.

            Their accomplices have been those journalists who report Parliament as "lobby correspondents" and their editors, who have “played the game” wilfully, and have deluded the public (and sometimes themselves) that vital, democratic differences exist between the parties. Media-designed opinion polls based on absurdly small samplings, along with a tsunami of comment on personalities and their specious crises, have reduced the “national conversation” to a series of media events, in which the withdrawal of popular consent – as the historically low electoral turnouts under Blair demonstrated – has been abused as apathy.

            Having fixed the boundaries of political debate and possibility, self-important paladins, notably liberals, promoted the naked emperor Blair and championed his “values” that would allow “the mind [to] range in search of a better Britain”. And when the bloodstains showed, they ran for cover. All of it had been, as Larry David once described an erstwhile crony, “a babbling brook of bullshit”.

            How contrite their former heroes now seem. On 17 May, the Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman, who is alleged to have spent £10,000 of taxpayers’ money on “media training”, called on MPs to “rebuild cross-party trust”. The unintended irony of her words recalls one of her first acts as social security secretary more than a decade ago – cutting the benefits of single mothers. This was spun and reported as if there was a “revolt” among Labour backbenchers, which was false. None of Blair’s new female MPs, who had been elected “to end male-dominated, Conservative policies”, spoke up against this attack on the poorest of poor women. All voted for it.

            The same was true of the lawless attack on Iraq in 2003, behind which the cross-party Establishment and the political media rallied. Andrew Marr stood in Downing Street and excitedly told BBC viewers that Blair had “said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and that in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating. And on both of those points he has been proved conclusively right.” When Blair’s army finally retreated from Basra in May, it left behind, according to scholarly estimates, more than a million people dead, a majority of stricken, sick children, a contaminated water supply, a crippled energy grid and four million refugees.

            As for the “celebrating” Iraqis, the vast majority, say Whitehall’s own surveys, want the invader out. And when Blair finally departed the House of Commons, MPs gave him a standing ovation – they who had refused to hold a vote on his criminal invasion or even to set up an inquiry into its lies, which almost three-quarters of the British population wanted.

            Such venality goes far beyond the greed of the uppity Hazel Blears.

            “Normalising the unthinkable”, Edward Herman’s phrase from his essay The Banality of Evil, about the division of labour in state crime, is applicable here. On 18 May, the Guardian devoted the top of one page to a report headlined, “Blair awarded $1m prize for international relations work”. This prize, announced in Israel soon after the Gaza massacre, was for his “cultural and social impact on the world”. You looked in vain for evidence of a spoof or some recognition of the truth. Instead, there was his “optimism about the chance of bringing peace” and his work “designed to forge peace”.

            This was the same Blair who committed the same crime – deliberately planning the invasion of a country, “the supreme international crime” – for which the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg after proof of his guilt was located in German cabinet documents. Last February, Britain’s “Justice” Secretary, Jack Straw, blocked publication of crucial cabinet minutes from March 2003 about the planning of the invasion of Iraq, even though the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has ordered their release. For Blair, the unthinkable is both normalised and celebrated.

            “How our corrupt MPs are playing into the hands of extremists,” said the cover of last week’s New Statesman. But is not their support for the epic crime in Iraq already extremism? And for the murderous imperial adventure in Afghanistan? And for the government’s collusion with torture?

            It is as if our public language has finally become Orwellian. Using totalitarian laws approved by a majority of MPs, the police have set up secretive units to combat democratic dissent they call “extremism”. Their de facto partners are “security” journalists, a recent breed of state or “lobby” propagandist. On 9 April, the BBC’s Newsnight programme promoted the guilt of 12 “terrorists” arrested in a contrived media drama orchestrated by the Prime Minister himself. All were later released without charge.

            Something is changing in Britain that gives cause for optimism. The British people have probably never been more politically aware and prepared to clear out decrepit myths and other rubbish while stepping angrily over the babbling brook of bullshit.

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