Democracy: the people’s weapon elites fear

FRAGILE DEMOCRACY: Spanish riot cops and Guardia Civil attacked voters

by Ken Ferguson • That one image of a heavily armoured baton wielding Spanish riot cop attacking Catalan voters tells us more about the fragile nature of democracy than a thousand weighty books.

In a world dominated by the interests of the mega rich buttressed by legal power, a client mass media and ultimately brute force ranging from the type displayed by Rajoy’s riot cops to Trump’s nuclear ravings, democracy is the one weapon enabling a fight back.

Faced with demands for democratic rights the response of the powerful is at first to refuse it, then ration it by excluding women and the poor and finally, when forced to concede it fence it in with laws.

Indeed the Spanish state deployed the legal fig leaf to the brutal actions of their riot police claiming that they were only upholding the post Franco constitution implying the old “nothing to do with me guv” defence.

That same legal fairy tale also formed the basis of right wing Spanish premier Rajoy’s bizarre claim that no referendum had taken place in Catalonia!

However sadly there is nothing new in this with such tactics used here in Britain many times from the mass repression of the miners—demonised as the “enemy within”—to today’s state enforced starvation through benefit sanctions which are the reality for thousands in the supposedly caring democratic UK.

The truth is that what democratic rights we possess were won in struggle from a hard faced ruling class concerned only to defend their wealth and power using tactics including hanging, imprisonment, force feeding, lock outs and military force.

Even in todays claimed “advanced democracy” the law sides with the powerful when it handcuffs and shackles trade unionists making the basic job of defending jobs and living standards a legal minefield.

And while the mood music now playing from Corbyn Labour suggesting change is welcome it is a shameful fact that New Labour, alongside it fellow social democratic parties across Europe and the US Democrats have been enthusiastic cheer leaders for the big business anti union agenda.

The neoliberal economics fashionable for the last 30 years posed the idea that all wisdom lay with market forces and the era of collective action by unions and collective provision of goods like education and health was outdated.

Well 30 years on, the neoliberal chickens are back in the coop and its not a pretty site.

Profit gluttons gorge on our essential services such as hospitals and schools through PFI rip offs, the destruction of social housing rages dramatically highlighted by the Grenfell tragedy while the so called “gig” economy plunges millions into economic and social insecurity.

But perhaps the most bitter fruits of this class collaboration can be seen in the rise of an ugly racist proto-fascist right most dramatically with Trump in the US but with the rise—covered in this Voice—of the AFD in Germany, Le Pen in France and far right governments in Eastern Europe.

Here in the UK the toxic right wing forces unleashed by Brexit have swept aside the puny forces who backed breaking with the EU as a route to socialist change creating a right wing dominated debate on the UK’s future in which workers rights and needs go largely unmentioned.

Sadly when, with the SSP, the Voice backed a reluctant Remain vote last year it was precisely this debate dominating reaction that we warned of and that is now come pass placing worker’s future in the hands of an isolated Theresa May and public school bigot Boris Johnson.

The truth is a we report elsewhere neither the Remain or Leave camps the EU or Westminster has anything to say about or offer to the challenges of housing, health, jobs and living standards facing millions of working people.

These problems demand action both to defeat the racists and neoliberals and advance a politics capable of winning the real changes so desperately needed by working people.

This desperate need played a large part in the unpredicted Corbyn surge in the June election and now presented by some in Scottish Labour as the basis for shelving independence and embarking on the rather potholed British Road to Socialism.

Amidst the mass chanting and apparent re-emergence of socialist ideas the attractions of this approach are of course tempting but, in the Scottish context would constitute another diversion yet again into putting our efforts into finding a Westminster solution despite the multiple failures of the past.

Scottish Labour’s gains in June were rooted in the woeful failure by the SNP to advance or even defend the independence case at the polls allowing the Better Together case a free run with predictable result.

Indeed far from a Corbyn bounce, Labour votes fell in a clutch of seats and the politics of Better Together resulted in a big enough Tory surge to keep May in power in the UK.

Windy rhetoric about a Federal Britain is just that, in a UK with no interest in it and a Labour Party which isn’t even challenging the rigged first past the post voting system or moving to scrap the taxpayer-funded retirement home of the unelected Lords.

The lessons remain clear that the surest way to win independence is to give it a purpose which meets the needs of Scotland’s working class and convinces them that this is the key to a Scotland putting people before profit.

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