Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Signs of things to come - the UK Police State

Today we saw an 18 year old protestor and his family rewarded for 'doing the right thing' by being locked up for 2 years and 8 months. In this sentence, the Judiciary have given a clear warning that those who break the law whilst demonstrating against this undemocratic government and its policies will be dealt with particularly harshly. This is to be compared with the lenient treatment meted out to the sick perverts who ruin lives, and the lack of action against murderers in police uniform. When taken together with recent comments by senior police officers and the activities of undercover police officers against legitimate even non-violent protestors, there is a clear warning that, without the intervention of the organised working class, the defenders of capitalist interest will have no compunction over trampling on the Human and Civil Rights of those campaigning for a fairer society.

Edward Woollard was one of a number of protestors who broke into the Millbank building on 10 November during the National Demonstration against tuition fees. Caught up in the exuberance of the moment, having threatened the Headquarters of the Conservative Party, he threw a fire extinguisher from the roof. The fire extinguisher did not hit anybody, and no-one was injured in any way as a consequence of his actions. After his actions were publicised, he gave himself up and today expressed his remorse and apologised for putting anyone in danger. As a result he is to be incarcerated and has been excluded from his college, having originally hoped to be the first of his family to go through higher education.

Compare this treatment with the sentence meted out on the same day to the sick pervert, masquerading as a religious teacher, who was tried (didn't admit) and found guilty of 13 counts of sexual assault on 6 girls aged as young as 4 years old, who received the barely longer sentence of 39 months; or the sentence of 28 months given to the 34 year old who admitted sexually assaulting a woman, but denied attempted rape.

The message is clear so far: the State will no more tolerate protest against the imposition of cuts necessary to protect the millionaires' profits than it will the sex offenders who threaten women and children.

Then we have one rule for the police, and one for everyone else. Where is the criminal investigation for the attempted murder of Alfie Meadows? The IPCC has been investigating this now for 1 month. We hear of no progress, no update on their web site, I will not be holding my breath to see anyone charged for this crime.

Even worse is the fact the PC Harwood, the murderer of Ian Tomlinson, escaped any criminal charges whatsoever. So if you are a young exuberant protestor who does something stupid in a moment of not thinking, as a result of which no one is hurt, and for which you apologise, you get 32 months in jail, but if, as a highly trained police officer, you happen to kill a protestor in the heat of the moment you get off scott-free.

If this weren't evidence enough of our descent towards authoritarian rule on behalf of the capitalist class, we also have the role of undercover police and other specialist units operating against legitimate groups of protestors. PC Mark Kennedy spent 7 years deep undercover in various organisations until rumbled by a fellow protestor. His role as agent provocateur has been well publicised and led to the collapse of the trial of six activists. It appears that he has had a crisis of conscience for the role he played. Not so other members of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, or the Forward Intelligence Team, all police units set up to undermine legitimate protest. In fact the National Public Order Intelligence Unit appears to have very limited accountability and to have links to private security operators embedded in protest movements, according to a former undercover police officer interviewed for last night's Newsnight programme on BBC2. The link between private corporate security operating on behalf of big business and the shady world of undercover police operations must ring very loud alarm bells for anyone concerned with progressive politics and the right of protest.

Finally we have the Chief of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, effectively saying that protestors who surrounded the car of Charles and Camilla Windsor were lucky not to have been shot by armed protection officers.

Wake up Britain, before it is too late, and we have thugs in black shirts, paid for and trained by private security firms, sharing intelligence with the police and trampling on our rights to fight for our schools, our NHS, our libraries, our nurseries, our jobs. The message is clear - the criminal justice system, Police, CPS and Judiciary have already shown whose side they will be on.

Report of Woollard's trial
Report of child sex offender's trial
Attempted rape trial report
Report of decision not to prosecute PC Harwood
Report of Specialist Police Units operating against political activists
Newsnight Programme
Report on Windsors' car 'kettle'

Friday, 7 January 2011

Forms of Democracy

There has been much debate about organisation vs. spontaneity; and democratic centralist socialism vs. anarchism recently. This has been around both the organisation of the burgeoning movement against the cuts, and in questions about the way society should be run.

I will lay my cards on the table: I am happy to see the long awaited activism of students, young unemployed and workers who had been written off as politically apathetic by those who knew no better. The energy and vitalism, the new methods of communication, the lack of respect for the organs of the state are refreshing and herald a new turn in the fight for a new society. However, I am concerned that the anti-organisation, anti-leadership opinion will, if unopposed, lead to the movement fizzling out for lack of what marxist theoreticians have called the objective factor.

True democracy has not often been seen. The word comes from Ancient Greek dêmos ‘citizen body’ and kratos ‘power, sovereignty’. It was the way in which Ancient Athens ran society, and it meant that all who qualified as citizens collectively, as one body, held all power. The Assembly met every 8 days, all citizens were members, entitled to speak and vote, and all members over 30 years of age were qualified to serve on Juries which made all decisions in all trials without judges. Jurors received the average worker's wage whilst serving. There was an elected Council of 500 which met every day to ensure the wishes of the Assembly were put into effect and kept to budget. Similarly the State Officials were elected and held to account. The term of office that one could serve either on the Council or as a State Official was one year, and for the most part the number of Terms of Office was also limited. Accusations of incompetance of a State Official could be laid before the Assembly at the end of each month, and at the end of the year's Term of Office, performance was audited and debated in the Assembly. Incompetance was rewardable with fines, exile or even death!

The historians among you will realise that there are in this system many echoes of the young Soviet System of worker's councils, low wage differentials and power resting in the Assemblies (Soviets) of workers based in the factories and the barracks.

When Lenin arrived in Revolutionary Russia in April 1917, he stood virtually alone in the leadership in calling for 'all power to the Soviets' - the true democracy that placed Power and Sovereignty in the hands of the workers, as opposed to the elected oligarchy of the Constituent Assembly, which was no more democratic than our elected oligarchy in the House of Commons. He did not do this because he commanded a majority in the Soviets, on the contrary, he could only command the support of about 5% of the vote. However, he did it because he believed that the only way the revolutionary working class would be able to realise their aspisrations was through Soviet Democracy, both in the organisation of the Revolutionary actions leading to the transfer of power, and in the transformation of society to follow.

The fact that the proud democratic legacy of the Soviet System was hijacked by the corrupt Stalinist Bureaucracy in no way negates the validity of this system of organisation.

And what of Political Parties? Well the Athenian experience did not need Political Parties in the sense of electoral politics, as there were no elections to the Assembly. Blocs of support formed and reformed within the Assembly and the Council, but with low wage differntials and the possibility of being fined exiled or executed for incompetance, it was a brave or able person who put themselves forward for an Official post or a position on the Council. Decisions were taken on the basis of argument and the force with which those arguments were put.

In the last hundred years, traditional parties of the working class have variously played revolutionary, progressive, ultra-left, collaborationist and reactionary roles. In general, when really under the democratic control of workers, as opposed to the centralised control of careerist opportunists, the role played has been progressive. When control has been wrested from the workers by those careerists, then reactionary, collaborationist positions have been taken. However, on numerous occasions, when the working class has moved back into struggle, they have turned without fail to the traditional mass workers parties which had previously failed them, and have turned those parties back to the left, rather than following those revolutionaries who, understandably disgusted by previous betrayals have allowed themselves to march off into the political wilderness.

My call then, now, is for the new movements to unite with the progressive forces within the Labour and Trade Union movement; to seize this opportunity to establish a real democracy as opposed to the elected dictatorship which we currently have; and in turn for the Labour movement to welcome with open arms the new layer of activists with their unbridled enthusiasm, their ingenious methods of protest and communication, and their burning desire for a newer fairer society to enable the renewal of the movement and the change to the Socialist transformation of society which has for too long eluded us.

For more information on the history of democracy see DEMOCRACY’S ILLUSIONS by Dr. Peter Jones