Monday, 17 September 2012
Disquiet over the state of British democracy has reached a point of open insurrection. It has been discovered that the original Athens package (circa 500 BC), empowering all citizens, is incompatible with Capitalism Xpress and Globalisation IMF – the current operating systems for almost all economies worldwide. The default position is that any party winning an election becomes the servant of the rich and powerful and not the people. Britons found out at the last election that a combination of parties also gives the same result.
The leader of the plotters is Andreas Whittam Smith, a former editor of the Independent newspaper. He declares, “the aim is nothing less than transforming our Parliamentary democracy by seizing Parliament from professional politicians.” Significant support has been forthcoming from respectable quarters, including the Independent itself and the influential Open Democracy think tank.
Mr Whittam Smith explains how this plot without gunpowder is to be conducted. “Normal everyday people would stand as independents for one term only, with no vested interest in a political career, and use our parliament’s exceptional, sovereign power to re-write the rules and policies of government in the interests of the people. After that we can return to party politics, a much better and genuinely democratic country.”
The radicals are not rebuffed by reality – of the 151 independents that stood at the last election only one was returned. They believe the parliamentary machine is so broken it has lost moral credibility and popular support and that with better organisation it can be captured from within using its own rules. The independents would then re-write the constitution making it impossible for moneyed interests to buy-off the government in the future.
This is all wonderfully refreshing and hopeful. Younger people may be attracted back to representative democracy from the Occupy movement. Workers who are unoccupied because of the austerity cuts may also be tempted to have a go. Pessimists point out that Britain is a net-exporter of democracy and a dud product puts its reputation at risk. There is also the issue of false advertising. Tests show that although the latest democracy package targets the masses it actually benefits just the wealthiest one percent.
Sheffield University statistics confirm that since 1979, the income of this sliver of society has risen over 250 percent and it is pulling away from the rest who are being systematically asset stripped. Quite astonishingly, the gains of the welfare state have been entirely wiped-out and inequality is back to its early 1940s peak. But money isn’t everything and perhaps it’s a small price to pay for a caring and listening government.
Wrong again. An ICM poll showed 53 percent of Britons opposed the war in Iraq. The pro-war 35 percent – terrified into believing they could be turned into chemical soup in 45 minutes – prevailed. The opinion of an overwhelming majority against the government’s austerity measures is just as easily ignored. An exhaustive list of the flaws in the programme would also have to include some deleterious programming side effects; the revolving door syndrome, erosion of standards in public life, waste, war-profiteering, tax evasion and casino economics all compete for a place on the list.
Those who downloaded Democracy UK have encountered similar outcomes. In 2010, India had 126,700 dollar millionaires, a fifty percent rise on the previous year and the largest increase for any country. In the same year, India ranked third in the worldwide list of dollar billionaires with 69, behind China (128) and the US (403). Swiss Banking Association figures showed that in 2006 India had more black money tucked into Swiss banks than the rest of the world combined. According to some estimates, this could be as high as $1. 6 trillion. Meanwhile one in four people go hungry and every second child (in a population of over 1.2 billion) is stunted and undernourished. The official democracy story – even as the corporate state displaces millions in its unceasing land grab for minerals – remains “India Shining”.
South Africa, according to a recent World Bank report, is now a global leader when it comes to inequality. The top 10 percent get 58 percent of national income, the bottom half less than 8 percent. The Rainbow Nation was of course the Cinderella of the democracy fairy tale. Seems she is still covered with soot.
America is an even more ardent purveyor of democracy – additionally offering various plug-ins like the National Endowment for Democracy, which co-ordinates social networking agitprop like Pussy Riots and Twitter revolts. You can also get the real thing – Salifist brigades. The success of the US product in Libya has been tainted by the murder of its ambassador. Sectarian violence and cancer rates exceeding Hiroshima have marred progress in Iraq. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter dumped on Israel comparing it to apartheid South Africa. It’s difficult – if not impossible – to avoid the conclusion that democracy is now a racket.
Democratic meltdown in the US is even more spectacular. Gore Vidal observed that candidates are interchangeable and that at election time people solemnly vote against their own interests. American inequality ranks with the best.The collective wealth of US politicians has surged to over $2 billion while the number of people living in poverty has risen for the fifth year in a row. There is an even more sinister trend – effectively only a very small fraction of the one percent itself decides policy.The Supreme Court has facilitated the accumulation of power by the wealthy. In 2010, it ruled there could be no limit on campaign spending and congressional lobbying by corporations. Even habeas corpus is no longer a legal protection.
It’s an irony on the grandest scale that the Greeks who popularised democracy are being used as an excuse for its evisceration. Last week the German high court approved the Euro zone’s new rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism – controlled by unelected bankers and ostensibly created to save struggling economies like Greece. The court gave the impression that Germany would have a say over how the fund was operated. The smart money says this is just camouflage and the ESM represents the victory of a bankers’ dictatorship over the national sovereignty of the Euro zone’s member states. In these circumstances, Mr Whittam Smith and his fellow conspirators would do well to capture and hold the Palace of Westminster against all comers.