In an interview he gave in 2000, Tony Benn once recalled Clement Atlee’s analysis of post-War Britain: “Well, Attlee was in World War I. When he came back, he was the mayor of Poplar in the East End of London. He saw the terrible poverty, and he said, “If you look around the world, what are the problems? They’re all caused by the private ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” And in the manifesto of 1945, he said the prewar slumps were not acts of God; they were the result of too much power in the hands of too few people, who behaved like a state within a state, and we have to take our future into our own hands. He was a very remarkable man. I sat with him in Parliament for some time before he retired”. Tony Benn echoed these sentiments when describing the global free-market economy: “Well, it’s not really new, is it? In the 19th century there was a global economy – it was known as the British empire. We sent troops to India. They very obligingly brought the goods we produced in Birmingham, and they would send us cheap raw materials. If they didn’t, we had the redcoats to put them in their place”.
When asked about corporate influence, he gave a reply that reflected the possibilities to bring about change in the era he represented: “It’s corporate power that it’s about. I mean, the political power of a big corporation – I’ve dealt with them all my life. I mean, I was the energy minister, so I used to deal with the oil companies. And Esso once came to me and said, “We’re not working with you because you’re of a different political philosophy.” So I said, “Thank you very much,” and they went out. I had all the North Sea oil and I had to allocate it, so I didn’t give any to Esso. They came back a year later, and they were on their knees. Amoco wouldn’t cooperate, so they didn’t get any more North Sea oil, so they sacked their top management and came back and got it [from me]. I mean, we’re much more powerful in dealing with big corporations than anyone believes”.
Tony Benn talked of the hatred of some political systems of democracy: “Knocker O’Connell. … He did a political poem for me, and one line was this: “‘F’ stands for freedom, what Britain brags about. If you can’t afford your dinner, you’re free to go without.” And that was the sort of freedom that capitalists believed in. You were free to starve if you weren’t rich. This idea that keeping people down is the way you get freedom is ridiculous, because the world is dominated by multinational corporations that have never been elected. You can’t get rid of them. … You can’t get rid of corporations. And they are the ones who are dictating what sort of a world we live in. I think capitalism has one thing in common with communism: They both detest democracy. I used to go to Moscow on ministerial visits, and I’d meet the central committee for the Communist Party, and they had not been elected. And I would meet the commissars, and they had not been elected. And then I’d go on a ministerial visit to Brussels, and I’d meet the commissioners; they hadn’t been elected. I’d meet the central bankers; they hadn’t been elected. Communism and capitalism want to run society from the top, and you’re allowed to decide whether your want Bush or Gore or Blair or Major, but you’re not allowed to discuss capitalism in Russia or socialism in the West. Do you see what I mean? It’s a very interesting thing to observe. Market forces destroy democracy by putting money above the voting machine or the ballot box”.
If Tony Benn were alive today, and concluded that the only choice offered to voters was one of who was to govern a Britain ruled by American corporate interests, and concluded that this was not a choice, and voting in this system was a meaningless exercise in selecting tweedle-dee over tweedle-dum, and, advocated the overthrowing of this system, would he, or anyone holding such a belief, be classed as a terrorist under the Conservative Party’s proposed broadening of the definition of terrorism?
Under the Conservatives’ new proposals, groups could be subject to banning orders if ministers “reasonably believe” that they “threaten democracy”, or might ferment “public disorder”. Individuals who meet the same criteria would be subject to “extreme disruption orders”, stopping them from taking part in public protests, banning them from certain public locations; stopping them broadcasting their views, and not allowing them to work with “vulnerable individuals or children”.
To repeat the observation of Tony Benn: “I think capitalism has one thing in common with communism: They both detest democracy”. In this regard, the Conservatives’ broader definition of terrorism potentially includes those who believe that what passes for democracy in Britain is nothing more than a choice dictated by a ruling elite that is in the pay of American corpotrations. To believe that this system should be replaced is the antithesis of being anti-democratic.
To potentially include those with a different opinion from the one sanctioned by government from working with the “vulnerable” is straight from the pages of Orwell’s ‘1984’: Winston Smith lives in Oceania, a totalitarian society, where his every action is monitored by the “Party.” His thoughts do not agree with those of the “thought police”, and he is betrayed by a government spy, then undergoes physical torture and brainwashing by “the Ministry of Truth”, until he is broken.
It is not necessary to be a Marxist revolutionary to oppose the power of a minister to “reasonably believe” that someone poses a “threat to democracy”. Conservative MP Dominic Raab commented that there is already a “very wide criminal basis to prosecute extremist groups”, and “I think you need to be very wary about criminalising thoughts and views”. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve gave a similar warning: “If there is to be any restriction on the freedom of expression outside the criminal law – we have to tread very carefully”. To which could be added, why has it become acceptable for someone to be held guilty of anything on the opinion of a government minister? This may be the law that some would impose, but it emphatically has nothing to do with any process of justice based on due process of trial.
The power of British officials to define a “threat to democracy” parallels the American experience, where the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court rules on what is reasonable and relevant. The judges of this court are not approved by any democratic body, and are appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. They only listen to arguments submitted by the government, and their conclusions are rarely made known. In effect, this is a court set up by an authoritarian regime to give a sham appearance of a rule by law.
The public are presented with a Catch 22 argument against the disclosure of information, that is, revealing such information would empower “terrorists”. The public must be kept ignorant, therefore, and only the ‘wise ones’ must be allowed to decide what is a threat. A common tactic of duplicitous governments is to exaggerate threats so as to justify their actions.
A consideration of how American stooge governments in Latin America interpret “terrorism” reveals the “lower degrees of terrorism” that will be suppressed in America and its British colony. Latin American governments, such as El Salvadors, are essentially CIA- sponsored, right-wing counterinsurgency units. They crack down on anyone who attempts to voice dissatisfaction with government, violently attacking demonstrations by community activists, trade unions, and clergy, under the banner of a “War on Terror”. As its American and British equivalents, El Salvador’s Law Against Terrorism (2006) does not define “terrorism”, which is understood by most people to mean the use of violence for political ends, and allows the State to use its provisions against those who wish to demonstrate a disagreement with (American) governmet policy.
When do your own people become your enemy, rather than terrorists? When they are classified as domestic terrorists, such as defined by the American (2009) DHS intelligence assessment, which listed returning American war vets as likely domestic terrorists. Americans get stopped by police for having “Infowars” stickers on their cars.
This is the reality that awaits – when the sole means of defining “terrorism”, as the corporate ownership of the means of production, is in the hands of those who serve the interests of these corporations, there can only result tyranny.
Two replies to an artice by Cary Huang in the South China Morning Post (September 24, 2014), which commented on the ‘pro-democracy’ demonstrations in Hong Kong, show that not everyone subscribes to the export of American-style “democracy”.
‘When you vote for X, you had actually agree to be slave of X … you agree that X get the authority to govern your behavior. what is an election? … it is basically a system to legitimize modern slavery – where you agree to be slave of someone … such facts are generally being censored by “free media” in the West. what does free media generally tell you about democracy … people have power, people are the master … govt. is your servant … people have a right to vote them out … this is marketing skills/beautiful advertising to lure stupid people to purchase their product’.
‘Anglo Saxon system a democracy or a trick? … there are many brainwashed tools in HK and the world … democracy is just a value, like honesty … there are many forms,styles, and manners of how democracy can be practiced … but today, everyone only worships one form – western dictatorship – as true democracy … any alternative form of democracy which is different from the typical Western form of democracy is not “true, genuine democracy” … they can only accept “one god” dictatorship’.
Are these the views of terrorists, such as Winston Smith? Will such views be banned under the Conservatives’ proposals, with those holding them being arrested by the States’ “thought police”, and subjected to “extreme disruption” orders?
Why would protesters in Hong Kong who occupied government buildings be called “pro-democracy advocates”, whilst those who occupy Wall street are called terrorists?
Why are American war veterans arrested for demonstrating against their government’s war-for-oil policies?
In other words, those who wield power define what is acceptable to them, and have the power to destroy those who oppose them. They claim authority on pre-determined ballots, but their ultimate authority rests on the barrel of a gun.
They cast their nets against Jihadists, but their net is so wide it will catch all.
They believe in a perverse form of freedom: “‘F’ stands for freedom, what Britain brags about. If you can’t afford your dinner, you’re free to go without”.
As Marylin Manson put it, “this is the new shit”, but he missed a point, I suggest – it’s just the old shit revisited; the endless system of rulers and the means by which they manipulate weaker minds to support their rule.
lenin nightingale 2014