The Day Democracy Died in Europe

by craig on November 11, 2011 9:10 am in Uncategorized

11 November is rightly a poignant day. I wear a red poppy, always have, for the reasons I used to 40 years ago, ignoring the overlay of militaristic propaganda, which was always there but has been hyper-amplified of late.

But this is the day the music died for European democracy. It is of course a mistake to choose a single day or event as the day any historical grand process unfolds. But a single day can symbolise it, like the fall of the Bastille.

I didn’t notice it at the time, but democracy actually stopped meaning anything in England some years ago as all the main English political parties were bought for the neo-con agenda.

In Europe, today is one of those symbolic days as the former Vice President of the European Central Bank is imposed on the Greeks by the Germans as their Prime Minister, and as former EU Commissioner Mario Monti is forced upon the Italians, in neither case with any voter having a chance to do anything about it.

15 years ago, as First Secretary of the British Embassy in Warsaw, my main job was to help move Poland into the European Union. I attended many conferences organised by the EU – and some organised by me – to promote this. At one Konrad Adenauer Foundation organised conference, speaker after speaker outlined what they called “the role of elites” in promoting EU integration. That was the title of one of the sessions. The thesis was put forward, quite openly, that European Union was a great and noble idea which had always been moved forward by great visionaries among the elite, and that popular opinion may be relied on to catch up eventually, but should not be allowed to stop the project.

If you haven’t seen and felt it from the insde, you cannot understand the reverence the eurocrats feel towards the names of their founding fathers, like Schumann and Monnet and Spinelli and a host of others you and I have never heard of. Participants at conferences like the one I was at in Poland, run by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, are made very much to feel that they are a part of this elite, a kind of superman with a superior knowledge and insight to the ordinary pleb. It was heady stuff for ambitious young Polish politicians of the mid 1990s.

I made a speech at that conference in which I warned against the elitist model and spoke of the need for informed consent in a democracy. This was viewed as rather quaint, though I did make a great many rather good jokes. I remain broadly in favour of European integration in principle, and entirely in favour of Europe’s open internal borders, but still very mindful that those driving the European project do not really believe in democracy if it means that common people can tell great minds like them what to do.

11 November may go down in history as the day that helped the ordinary people of Europe realise that.

Tweet this post


  1. You comment about the replacement of countries leaders without elections, but putting aside the (disastrous) unelected ascendency of gordon brown, elections in this country manage a very low turnout, with most people too disillusioned or complacent to vote. In my case, disillusioned, as all three parties offering candidates in my constituency require me, as a basic rate taxpayer, to earn about £170 to buy £100 of basic goods. I am opposed to most aspects of the EU, but the elected governments have done, in too many cases, a criminally poor job of managing their countries. We’re between a rock and a hard place, with few apparent alternatives.

  2. Craig, I agree – I would be quite happy to live in a United States of Europe, but the current arrangement is a misbegotten dogs dinner suffering a serious democratic deficit. I feel torn between not wanting to see the whole thing crash to pieces, and wanting to see the elites humbled.

  3. Mrs Handel saw a marketing opportunity here. She has already flogged off her PR company for £1.5m in 1999.

  4. So democracy is dead – but what would you replace it with then? Nihilism? Theocracy? A benevolent dictator (they are always benevolent at the start)?

    No one ever claimed that democracy was perfect or that particular forms of it are not capable of improvement. I think you place too little onus on the ability of people to express different views and to be able to get people to vote for those different views to be put into action. Did our ancestors give up on democracy when the Chartists demands were not met at first or when women did not get the vote at the first attempt?

    You also do not recognise that the need to govern with some degree of public consent places important restrictions on the ability of the elites to do what they want – if you don’t believe me just look at Syria where no such constraints are in place. Don’t you think it somewhat strange that when people living under totalitarian eventually get their freedom their usual response nowadays is to seek some form of democracy?.

    The honest answer under democracy when you don’t like something – is to try harder to get your arguments across. Democracies do progress over time, even if that progress is often of the two steps forward, one steps backward process. We should also remember that democracy is the one thing that totalitarians really fear and will often fight tooth and nail to prevent – just look at Syria if you want a current example.

    So three cheers for the least worst form of political organisation and those brave people who fought to defend it.

  5. Democracy is an ideal. On paper it sounds good. In practice it has probably never existed. I believe in an integrated Europe because it is better than European nationals killing one another on the poppy-fields of Flanders. The contribution you Craig and others made towards an integrated Europe is laudable, and when we get an integrated world, so much the better. Some believe the cream gets to the top, others the scum. Whatever, if they listen to ordinary people they do not act, unless their cosy existences are threatened by mass protest. I shall never forget when Bill Rodgers helped start the SDP he addressed the students’ union. He explained how when he first entered parliament MPs only had a locker and how things had progressed with Offices and secretaries. He had nothing to say about policy, he was only concerned with how much better things were for MPs. Well they are even better now, like footballers’ wages. It was a big lesson for me. But what do MPs represent? It is not the ordinary person, or the fallen in battle, it is themselves, and how a governing elite can continue to govern without some other scumbag usurping their cosy lifestyle.

  6. Unelected government in Europe? It’s news, but it’s not new. Papandreou, a third-generation Prime Minister, came to power because of Greece’s formal Disproportional Representation system, that awarded his party an extra 50 of the 300 seats in Parliament. Berlusconi came to power through numerous fiddles, but among them a lying media, nearly all owned or controlled directly by Berlusconi. That’s a curse which has messed up democracy very badly in the USA and in the UK in recent decades; mainly through one and the same big owner. I’m just saying the previous system wasn’t so good. But I am still very unhappy that we’re putting financial technocrats in charge in order to rescue us from the mess caused by irresponsible speculators by satisfying the requirements of the Bond Market. In other words, we’re giving all power to Bankers so they can save us from the depradations of the bankers by doing whatever the bankers require.

  7. Stephen,

    In the nineteenth century there were fundamental differences between the parties. Gladstone, as former PM and leader of the opposition, in 1880 campaigned against the 2nd Afghan War annd said specifically of Afghans fighting British soldiers “If they resist, would you not do the same”.

    Nowadays not only do all main parties support all the neo-con wars, leaving the minimum 30% of the population against the wars in Libya and Afghanistan unrepresented, it would be impossible for any mainstream politician, let alone the leader of the opposition, to say that those fighting the British army were right. The media would attack you unanimously and you would be guilty of “glorifying terrorism”.

    The existence of TV, and the extreme narrowness of the terms of debate allowed on it – see last night’s Question Time, or the almost total non-representation during the Libyan war of the third or more of Britons who were against it – limit the scope for genuine democratic debate in a modern society.

    Yes I can stand on a soapbox like O’Connor of the Chartists. He had as much democratic access to a soapbox as Palmerston, and both would draw large crowds. Nowadays those crowds are not out but in their homes getting their politics from TV, and to that access is anything but equal.

    I have absolutely no desire to replace democracy. I want some back.

  8. So let me get this straight.

    The man running Greece, is the same man who colluded with Goldman Sacchs to defraud its entry into the EU? and what noone is suing GS and this new president.

    The banking industry is just one area of capitalism that keeps on giving…

    Didn’t I read it somewhere that of all the countries invaded by Germany in WWII, Greece was the only country to not receive war reparations? Also during WWI didnt Germany impose a loan from Greece to support its war effort which Germany has so far failed to return, with interest (HMRC are you watching)?

    I’m not sure, but you seem to have one group of people (The Bankers), trying to take over the world.


  9. I’m not sure our elected officials have been sub par?

    What has surely been equally prevalent in our society is “Apathy”, which has allowed these morons to not be held accountable.

    Seems to me, we should blaming ourselves.


  10. This crisis is within us all, only now we are beginning to realise how far we have been pushed and how much we have been asked to consume together.
    The mistake was in its inception. never was there any date envisaged for a gradual alignment of tax policies, it was all about lowering/abolishing trade barriers for those who wanted Europe to become a great big fat market opportunity, democracy was always missing because those in Power would not have wanted a EU union if they could not appoint the decisions makers, rather than elect them.

    To appoint the Commissioners guaranteed that the 1% got their placemen were they wanted them, on top. The Parliamentarians could merely nodd or abstain. This equation forced the assembled Parliamentarians into their various corners, they had to organise blocks to get some of their policies heard, never mind adopted.
    Unless the multi billion frauds of agricultural and development grants, often pointed to by the auditors who failed to return books on many occaisions, were stopped, nothing would have changed much, with many of them from the Med countries, crunchtime was bound to hit us.
    Blaming does nothing, if we want to have a future market in Europe we have to get into the centre of this European storm, inform our public of how it works, for starters, and make it work for all/us.
    from now on we will be going backwards, but the Euro will stay. An orientation around the more prosperous norther European countries will be more rightwing, internally focussed and most likely not a free trade area for all, accept those who are within.

    Greece has its PM imposed, so has Italy, but there is not much difference between them and us, we have our politicians appointed by apathy and disillusionment of the process. Not even being allowed to freely choose between electoral voting system make s this perfectly clear.
    Imposing interim PM’s is required by the markets, in turmoil about the future of the global system, it serves the Gholum. That does not mean you abolish elections or democracy. And what value democracy if its mistreated, shunned and ridiculed for its weak franchise, its lack of adhering to a basic mandate, if it can be turned into any ol’ totaliatrian torture tool?

    Blame will not shift responsibility either. Cameron says that he will not provide any bailout monies for these countries, he’s happy sniping from the sidelines, and when they fall out and leave the EU, he will not help them either, what a great partner he is….
    If Greece leaves the EU, it might not be able to pay its contributions to NATO and or be part of it anymore, but is that OK? Should we let Greece regress, would we like to pay tourist taxes, £ 100 to visit the Pathenon? a shipping tax for whatever we’ve purchased?

    Greece needs support even after it has left, who will provide it if it is not the City of London?, daft question really, it will be the ECB in Frankfurt.

    Now VAT was an EY taxation, initially it was not to last, here for a certain period, but eventually, once we got used to being fleeced, it was accepted as normal taxation, thing is It was a EU taxation initially. So, when we extradite us from Euriope and anker of baltimore’s coast, this will have to be reliquished, or would it not? It has been such a good earner and we all would be very sad to see it go, or would we? :)

  11. “I have absolutely no desire to replace democracy. I want some back.”

    Good – then think about how to do it, rather than moaning about the futility of doing so.

    I disagree about there not being difference betweeen the parties – on economics the approaches are fundamentally different (it is only the Lib Dems that try to ride both horses) and I guess now that the Labour Party is coming to its senses it has a different view on regulation of the financial sector as well. There is more to life than Middle East – and even there my guess is that Labour is more likely to seek to use international institutions rather than military means first; but the sad truth is that there is little serious thinking about how this should be done as opposed to the alternative of saying that they are all the same and only looking to fight wars.

    The last Prime Minister to stand on a soap box was Major – and look where it got him. I don’t think that Chartists thought that they had as much democratic access as their rivals – far from it.

  12. When it comes to informing the public about their work in Europe, the respective party’s allegaiances with this that or other group, sometimes just for the sake of a singl;e policy decision than I can’t agree Stephen.
    Politics should never have been onesided, dumbed down with the help of the MSM, voters need and want more say, five seconds of power whilst making a cross behind a name is not enough.
    All parties denied us choice over how we elect them, they all were prepared to toe one single line in order to present us with a fait a compli, with the worst possible option they grudgingly agreed to, thats not democracy, thats impositioning of an ultimatum.

    How should a dumbed down, used and abused public which hardly gets the right picvture over its own inhouse politics, get any impartial informative view of what happens in Europe? An impossibility in a country of partisans.

  13. Hammond has wasted fossil fuel to go to Camp Bastion today to ‘remember’. Revolting.
    I heard that the 9,000 UK troops in Afghanistan are to be ‘spread more thinly’ when the Americans leave – Helmand scene of mass slaughter.

  14. Craig

    On the Chartists – I think you forget that Chartism grew out of the corresponding societies which were set up as the means by which working people could get their ideas across against the ruling classes domination of most forms of current media. If the message is right then there is always a way of getting it across.

  15. There is hope today that we will have a voice that speaks out for truth when Michael D Higgins assumes the Irish Presidency.

  16. But didn’t we export our democracy to Libya? That must be why we’ve none left at home.
    On a different but related note, I see that repulsive ex-director of Walmart is now threatening violence against the Asia-Pacific region.
    I was asking myself where the FUCK does the US get the nerve to lecture other countries about human rights. I was thinking, the US has more than 1% of its adult population incarcerated; the US imprisons children for life without the possibility of parole; in parts of the US women are prosecuted for suffering miscarriages; the US assassinates its own citizens without even the pretence of beginning judicial process; the US has foreign citizens imprisoned on trumped-up charges (or none at all) and, unlike Iran, North Korea and Myanmar, which all pardoned imprisoned US citizens (most but not all imprisoned quite legitimately), there is no chance that a US President would have the guts to pardon them; the US operates secret prisons and torture chambers; the US regularly bombs into submission countries which don’t accept its economic domination; the US subverts the UN using bribes and threats in order to prevent it fulfilling its role of maintaining peace in the world.
    Then I realised the US talk of human rights is always hollow. It’s just as hollow when they criticise China for sticking a few dissidents in jail for 10 or 15 years as it is when they claim their bombs are protecting human rights. The entire edifice of ‘moral leadership’ is false. The USA is not a moral leader whose foreign policy has lost its bearings. It’s a bloodsucking fiend from hell.
    Was the USA really founded on those principles they spout? Was it gradually perverted into this monster, or was it always fucked up? Is there any connection between the genocide on which it was founded, the slavery on which it was built, and the tyranny it exercises today? Is there something about the system which requires blood to suck, and when it had sucked the Indians and the blacks more or less dry it had to turn its eyes abroad? Was there some sort of humane interlude? Could a large and powerful state founded on the principles of liberty and equality and democracy ever simply live and let live? Was this inevitable?
    Is the UK’s gradual evolution into sham-democratic police state a result of the same forces – that is, will all countries under the sway of the US turn into shit? Are we being subjected to a subtler form of the bombs and sanctions which are applied elsewhere? I’m not asserting that the US is doing this to us, but isn’t there a parallel between what the US does where it can and what is happening to the UK, and to the EU?

  17. Mr Higgins was on the left in that photo linked above.
    President-elect leaves for Dublin Castle inauguration

  18. Stephen,

    It is simply not true there is always a was to get your message across. Correspondence and personal meetings were the normal forms of communiaction then. Now effective political impact requires television, and that requires very ;arge capital formation.

  19. Craig,

    It’s nice to have you back, firing on all cylinders, (which might be part of your “problem”) but creative, intelligent, and sensitive people, are often subject to the “up ‘n’ downs”.

    Charles the First, supposedly commented that Democracy was “Greek drollery”, but then he would think that wouldn’t he? He also believed in the devine right of kings to rule… “I sit on the right hand of God.”

    I’ve been watching an American documentary series about ancient Greece, which was interesting, in the sense that the series seemed to be about the United States and Israel, and their situation in relation to Iran, or at least this was the subtext. Plucky, progressive, democratic Athens, standing alone against the threat from the Persian Empire and its totalitarian leader Xerxes. It was remarkably like the recent Hollywood movie “300”, which was a homo-erotic fantasy about the same subject.

    Paradoxically, the series, whilst supposedly dealing with Greek democracy, concentrated on the central role of a handful of individuals from the ruling elite in Athens. Even the “paradox” that “democracy” in Athens was concentrated in the hands of between 15% or 20% of the population of Athens, the male citizens who actually were allowed to vote, didn’t seem to interest the producers of the programmes at all.

    I think we’ve, for various historical reasons, moved away from classic, bourgeois, democracy; and our democracy has become, objectively, less and less “representative.” Power has become increasingly, over the last few decades, concentrated in the hands of the executive branch of government, with the Commons playing a diminished role and acting increasingly as a mere rubber stamp.

    I’d prefer a return to the style of typical bourgeois democracy that existed in the fifties and sixties, though that wasn’t perfect, it’s preferable to the form of neo-con, totalitarian, non-representative democracy we’re yoked under today.

    I suppose that fundamentally it’s impossible to sustain bourgeois democracy, and at the same time follow a neo-con, imperialist, foreign policy, as the gap between the political rhetoric and the actions we take becomes ever wider.

  20. “I didn’t notice it at the time, but democracy actually stopped meaning anything in England some years ago as all the main English political parties were bought for the neo-con agenda”.

    Welcome to the thoroughly parboiled frogs club!

  21. “Was the USA really founded on those principles they spout? Was it gradually perverted into this monster, or was it always fucked up?”

    Quelcrime, many of us have wondered the same. I think you have to recognise that – just as “there is no such thing as society” (in a particular, but genuine sense) – there is no such thing as the USA. Rather, there are a hell of a lot of different individuals, groups, and organisations living in a nation called the USA. Some of them say one thing, some say another. Some think one thing, some another. (Some of them, but by no means all, usually say what they think). It’s very convenient to have one group of specialists doing everything they can to make the USA wealthier, more dominant, stronger, and generally more supreme; while a separate group emits continual verbiage about human rights and God and suchlike. Most of us tend to confuse the different groups, much to the advantage of those Americans who run the show.

  22. Enoch Powell made some great speeches about European Union, and the fact we have to pay alot more for food because of it, “from nation to province” was one title, in papers released after the 30year rule show that he was target for smears and to be undermined because he knew what was happening,”Enoch Powell Speech – Intentional Dismantling of British Race” a superb speech

  23. A reminder
    Channel 4’s ‘Unreported World’ at 7.30 on 11th November will focus on the challenges facing the Palestinian Paralympics team in Gaza as they train for London 2012. ‘Gaza has one of the highest disability rates in the world, partly because it’s common for poor people there to marry into their extended families. The city is also effectively under siege, and Israeli control of the border means essential supplies such as prosthetic limbs are scarce: we meet a female shot putter who needs a new prosthetic leg and a nine-year old boy who has waited months for a new arm that is sitting somewhere in a Tel Aviv warehouse.” (Radio Times).
    Note the mention of consanguinity. There are no means of getting out to find other mates.

  24. “Now effective political impact requires television”

    I disagree – I don’t thing the Arab Spring and the fall of communism to eastern Europe can be attributed to television coverage. Plenty of trends nowadays start outside television – and even in the West television can be used to get a new message across – look at Band Aid etc. What is needed apart from a coherent and popular message is just a little creativity.

  25. Larry

    As well as being an extreme nationalist, and I’m afraid nationalism plays a part in many of the world’s conflicts – I think you should also note that the basic predictions Powell made in his rivers of blood speech were actually pretty rubbish and did not come to fruition.

  26. This discussion reminded me of something I read about the American Constitution. The Founding Fathers weren’t too keen about “democracy” either; they wanted to avoid rule by the mob. So they arranged for an elected elite to rule, under a set of laws drafted by themselves. But the democratic principle, that rlers need to properly listen to their people and rule by their consent, was nevetheless built in sufficiently for America to increasingly democratise as time went on.

    Democracy works in well-educated and humane populations. Elsewhere, or in difficult or unstable times, it can quickly degenerate into tyranny. We have seen this both in Weimar Germany and is the newly former Soviet republics.

    As for Britain, if anyone has an adequate and serious political vision with the people to work out its ideology and credible policies, they are at liberty to set up their own political parties and be elected, but of course they will have to convince the voters. Pesky thing this democracy, it keeps allowing these NeoCon oppressors into power, just because people voted for them. That’s democracy for you. :)

  27. This is a contemplative essay by David Edwards, one of the co-editors of Medialens, on the fragility of our lives. Very wise and very readable.

  28. He and David Cromwell won the Gandhi Peace Award in 2007

  29. See here how many Ministers of War we have had. Eight alone since 2000. Good at traipsing around laying wreaths as Hammond did in Afghanistan today.

  30. Stephen,

    But to assume that whar works in arab societies would work in the west is quite wrong. The Arabs were not as “developed” as us – which means not as desocialised, not reduced to individual consumers isolated in their own household communing with the TV box, not as reduced to mere consumers.

  31. Mary, thanks for the copy of Higgins inaururation, what a moving adress. I very much liked this sentence and hope that Paul Murphy MEP, still detained by the IDF, will take it to heart.

    “Our strength lies in our common weal, our social solidarity.”

  32. Abe Rene
    As for Britain, if anyone has an adequate and serious political vision with the people to work out its ideology and credible policies, they are at liberty to set up their own political parties and be elected, but of course they will have to convince the voters.
    And in the USSR anyone was at liberty to join the CP and fight their way to the top and institute reforms. Someone did – it was possible. I’m not sure it’s really possible here, and if it is it’s certainly a lot more difficult.
    I wonder if Obama really intended to ‘change these United States and change the world’ and found it wasn’t so easy, or if he was never more than a slick liar.

  33. “not reduced to individual consumers isolated in their own household communing with the TV box”

    Craig – you clearly don’t have teenaged children – this isn’t how they communicate nowadays – mine hardly watch the tv nowadays.

  34. willyrobinson

    11 Nov, 2011 - 1:28 pm

    Watching the news unfold simultaneously in the Irish, Spanish and British media, I’ve been following the same narratives given without any dissenting voice:
    ‘How dare the Greeks hold the rest of Europe to ransom with a referendum?’
    ‘Elections in Italy now would be a disaster.’
    ‘What’s needed in the interim is an all-party govt of technocrats.’
    Maybe you could have another book competition with prizes for any mainstream outlet with a different message. Thanks for this blog – w

  35. If people are finally starting to notice that the EU is profoundly lacking in the mechansims for democractic process then may be there is hope yet.

    Is it not time that there was a movement for EU democracy?

  36. I am so much happier that pro-Israeli groups have the ear of the MSM. Imagine what it would be like if Iran did.

  37. Craig Murray: Stephen,

    But to assume that whar works in arab societies would work in the west is quite wrong. The Arabs were not as “developed” as us – which means not as desocialised, not reduced to individual consumers isolated in their own household communing with the TV box, not as reduced to mere consumers.

    Have you been at the C.B MacPherson again? Can someone by him a Playstation to fiddle with?

  38. Back to Libya, the sourcing of oil and the past and present connection of Hague to a oil company run by a Conservative donor.
    Hague facing questions over Libya deal
    William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is facing questions over his role in a controversial oil deal in Libya involving a company run by a Conservative donor.

  39. “Imagine what it would be like if Iran did.”

    A bit like this blog but with the dissenters silenced would be my guess!

  40. Oh dear Murray’s law has struck and we are back to the Middle East.

  41. Ingo I believe that video was of President Higgins making his final speech in the Dail. You noticed the sparse attendance.
    This is a transcript of his speech today. He wants the Irish people to be valued for their individual worth and not by possession of financial wealth.

  42. Talking of Chartists, this movement was, in terms of its demands, its petitioning character and its loose organisation based on the legacy of William Cobbett. Who was, effectively, the world’s first and most powerful blogger, a one man enterprise more powerful in the Press than all the enterprises of the Whigs and Tories in the country. A man whose power was based entirely on the strength of his prose, which was derived from the prescience and honesty of his critical appreciation of the world.
    Cobbett’s influence grew as the obstacles that the political classes put in his way piled up. Most people know little more about Cobbett than the patronising rubbish that the founders of the modern system and its ideology have written about him. But what is crystal clear is that, essentially through his own efforts, he was able to convince millions of Britain’s labouring classes that the solution to society’s problems lay in their gaining political power and using it to do ensure that all in society were afforded access to the basic necessities of life.
    Cobbett found that the Whigs and Tories were virtually indistinguishable, as they were (it is not insignificant that Gladstone was a High Tory whose family owned 1000 Guyanese slaves at the time of Emancipation), with the Whigs playing the role that New Labour plays today, that of the “shoy hoy” or scarecrow, an empty bundle of hay and old textiles designed to trick inattentive fledglings into believing that they act on their own.
    The point is that, given imagination and openness, honesty in appraising developments and an eschewal of conspiratorial organisation and elites (cf “Leninism”), it is very possible for individuals to make their views heard and listen to those of others, continents away. The media is not the problem, its power is declining for many reasons, not least that it sells utterly unconvincing rubbish which has no bearing on the unfolding reality of a world plunging into deeper crises.
    One of Cobbett’s favourite metaphors, taken from the drama, was that of the curtain being torn aside to reveal manipulators behind the scenes- the Wizard of Oz idea. That is what is happening now as people see that the “experts” running the economy are idiots whose only ideas, in the last analysis, when all the persiflage has been boiled away, is to make people work harder for less.

  43. Stephen – I seem to remember that the Corresponding Societies (especially the London one) were effectively closed down during the 1790s – in fact several of their leaders were prosecuted for treason. Although they were found not guilty, the elite continued to speak of them as felons, and virtually all of them disappeared back into private life (John Thelwall for example).

    The Chartists came later, gathering strength from the passing of the 1832 Reform Bill.

    I agree with Craig – the elites still think of themselves as the natural governors (they may consider themselves the cream, but they’ve long ago gone sour!).

    Democracy has to be fought for, year by year, decade by decade. It may come to actual conflict, as the elite seem to be closing outlets of disagreement by homogenising the media (and I would add the political spectrum)in many countries. There are many, of the younger generation in particular (and at least some oldies – moi par exemple!), who can in fact see little point in following the present political system, and are looking in hope at other forms of communication with similarly-minded people.

    We are living in what the Chinese would call their prime curse – interesting times!

  44. Quelcrime: in the USSR, to join the Party one had to sbscribe to its ideology. In democratic Britain, anyone can set up a political party and run for parliament. There’s no ideoogical test. I grant you that he can’t burn poppies on Remembrance Day or swing on the flags of national monuments and get away with it. Also the media pay most attention to the most powerful parties. But they won’t stop him propagating his views.

    But the main thing that makes us democratic is – he must genuinely convince the voters, who do not have to subscribe to his ideology.

  45. Mary, you might be interested to know that Buckingham, mentioned in the Hague posting above, is a Tory party donor, oil-tycoon, mercenary and a colleague of Hague’s. Wouldn’t it be great if the whole lot could be brought down over their greed for oil?

  46. I am so much happier that pro-Israeli groups have the ear of the MSM. Imagine what it would be like if Iran did.

    I tried that. Usurious banks would be freely scrutinised and the Sun would demand their reform, Iran’s military would be a lucrative investment for BAE Systems, and at last we might be within reach of a Palestinian solution as we all got accustomed to vigorous sanctions on Is….sorry, got carried away there.

    (“Don’t mention the war.”)

  47. Chris2 and Havantaclu

    You need to read your EP Thompson – there are clear links through from the corresponding societies to the Chartists (though what you say about treason etc is correct_, although there were other strands coming together including Cobbett’s Political Register, various Working Mens Groups, anti Corn Law organisations etc. The basic point however is that you have to be prepared to change what you do in order to get the message across – and it takes time and persistence.

    Havantaclu – the elites have always thought of themselves as natural leaders – and I suspect they always will

    Chris2 – while you may see New Labour as modern day whigs – it is worth remembering that many Radicals came out of the Whigs and Tories – Cobbett for example started as a Tory.


    Totally agree – the argument that democracy is rigged and can never works is far too often used by those who know all too well that they cannot genuine acceptance for their ideas – you can often tell them by how they keep their own ideas very quiet while they concentrate on the problems society is paying. There are also the genuinely clueless who don’t have any idea what to do.

  48. “I made a speech at that conference in which I warned against the elitist model and spoke of the need for informed consent in a democracy”.

    Unfortunately, the “informed” bit is missing presumed dead. Never mind the voters – the small fraction of them who actually do vote – our bankers are uninformed about banking, our economists are uninformed about economics, and our politicians are deeply uninformed about everything except how to climb the greasy poleand kick others off it.

    What’s worse is that things are going in the wrong direction. A century ago, an educated optimist would have assumed that by 2011 the vast majority of the population would have had at least 10 years’ excellent schooling, while many would have the benefits of a university education. Moreover, there would be opportunities for continuing education throughout life. Thus, everyone would be well informed about the state of domestic and foreign politics, economics, and all other relevant topics and would vote intelligently and constructively in the light of the facts.

    Instead, as more and more people spend longer and longer in the educational system, profound ignorance and anti-intellectualism seem to be spreading further every yar.

  49. “Usurious banks would be freely scrutinised”

    I wouldn’t raise your hopes too much

  50. Tom Welsh

    Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another? (Aplogies to Brecht)

  51. John I can smell the stench 35 miles away from London. I see there is the token retired military top brass on the board in the style of Guthrie and Boyce.

  52. “3 October 2011, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told viewers of Iranian state TV “People should know all these (responsible) will be pursued. … God willing, the traitorous hands will be cut.” The leader also stated the media should not use the case to “strike at officials.” [2]

    The speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani says all three branches of the government are determined to deal with the recent banking scam case.[9][7] Ahmad Tavakkoli member of parlimant said on Sunday (18th September 2011) that the embezzlement of 28 trillion rials (3,000 billion Toman) is an intolerable scandal, adding that if administration officials are not able to handle the affairs, they should step down. In addition, he said that a number of MPs have introduced a motion, which envisages the establishment of a special committee to pursue the embezzlement case.[10]
    Still sounds a little more positive than “You’re too big to fail, please continue charging what your imagination tells you to for loans, paying fuck-all for deposits, and just to help you out, here’s a lot of taxpayers’ money…”
    I was in any case talking about usury, which Islam deplores, not fraud, which is universal beyond a certain income.

  53. Indoctrination in Trafalgar Square today and in schools throughout the country today. Childhood is being stolen from our children and grandchildren.

  54. eyes have they, but they see not:
    they have ears, but they hear not:
    noses have they, but they smell not:
    Psalms 115: 5, 6

    Stephen “I know I am always right”, asleep, wide awake, with his la la fingers firmly pushed into his ears, and shouting: “I am not listening”, cannot wake up and smell the coffee; the jig is up matey.
    Hence his fatuous, puerile and circular argument, that in the absence of a “democracy” (I should cocoa) what would be the choices; “theocracy”, “benevolent dictatorship” , etc.? The slight of hand is; in establishing that there exists “democracy”, which in reality is an allusion to a Plutarchy (an unholy alliance of rich bastards getting together and sewing up the system as in a gambling casino ran by mobsters, with odds favouring the house that throws a couple of winners now and again to keep the succours lining up to depart with their earnings pronto), that has been busy selling hopes, and failing to deliver the goods promised, then has started selling fear; Al Qaeda is under your keyboard, and Saddam is going to nuke you in 45 mins.
    Ironically Stephen mentions the break up of the Soviet Union, without so much as remembering the prelude to the break up of that entity. Evidently Jaruzelski stepping down and Mubarak’s ouster have no similarities, and are not telling of the gradual break down of the American Century, new or old for that matter. The similarities of Timisoara massacre, to Bahrain, and Sanaa, Taiz are not of any relevance because not long after Timisoara “Massacre” Nicolae Ceaușescu was captured, and in a hastily convened kangaroo court along with his wife was condemned to death, and pretty darn quickly killed, with the photos of their dead corpses doing the rounds as the war trophies by the mouth piece of the same bunch of rich bastards masquerading as the Media.,
    However, in the case of Al Khalifa of Bahrain and Saleh of Yemen the Saudi tanks are sent in to kill the pesky Arabs whom do not bow to their hand picked sock-puppet that is operated as in drones fashion from somewhere in those united states. Stephen is the worst kind of the malevolence, for the plutocracy having failed in its mission to fool everyone all of the time, has unleashed these zealots, armed with a few coverall stock answers, and lines of argument to push the same old same old. This proposition can be gleaned from his cursory reference to Syria. This latter country for months has been in the cross hairs and is deemed to be Libyaed, however given the size of the country and the simple fact Israelis are still occupying some parts of it, and have desires of annexing the said lands, the equation of Libyaing Syria have not worked out all that well. However, this is no obstacle for the keyboard warriors; these rely on the gullibility of their victims, to follow their lead in the game of Simon Says.
    The simple facts before us are, the failure of the “Banking System” which in fact is to denote the failure of the bankruptcy of the ideologies in which plutocracy, and plutocracy (rule of the rich) getting pushed “democracy brand”, and the break up of the political system hinging on this ideological bankruptcy. The cover up for the perverse nature of the current efforts to keep the flagging system going, goes so far as turning the natural laws of nature on their head. This is reflected in the phrases; “too big to fail”, “quantitative easing”, “austerity measures”. What happened to the survival of the fittest? Where did Schumpeterian “creative destruction” disappeared to?
    Alas the current state of affairs do not afford glasnost to the punters caught up in more applications of ye olde nostrums of squeeze the pips out of the poor bastards and all will be fine. Further, judging by the rules of the rigged game there can be no hopes of perestroika. Therefore any attempts in direction of the restructuring and redistribution of power constructs will only result in disappointment. However the fact is people are no longer buying into the narrative of the “freedom” to be hungry, out of work, ill, and have no future, and the gradual shaping of a movement that is not structured as in the usual fashion, and ripe to be corrupted by the same bastards whom are bent on leading/creating their own opposition/dissident transmogrification, because it is a lot more safer doing so.
    Finally the anti theocratic Stephen will unstintingly defend any and all things Jewish, because as we all know in his bizarre world Jewish is a “race” and not a religious affiliation, and Israel is not a theocratic state because Jews area a race, and therefore Israel is a secular state that is despite it having Shabbos Police (Sabbath to goyiem that is you and I), how far we have gone down the rabbit hole?

  55. Komodo

    Lets see how close they get to Ahmadjinebad and his friends. And what was the stolen money used for – oh to buy the assets that the state is selling off on the cheap to friends of the government.

    As for Islam deploring usury – perhaps you could explain why many Moslems seem to have no problem depositing large amounts earning interest in the Western financial system? I could also make the argument that in terms of actual cash flows much Islamic banking (not all of the forms I acknowledge – but certainly the main ones) are not different from traditional western usury (except they do have a tendency for the bank take a bigger cut and rip of the poor depositor even more).

  56. Mary

    So you don’t want school children to be told about WW1 and WW2 do you? All the disussions about poppies at school focus on those wars – one of my kids has been studying Anne Frank and reading Michael Morpurgo’s WarHorse in this context. The schools do not discuss the recent wars as they know very well that it may be a sensitive subject with some parents.

  57. Stephen: The rich and criminal are always with us. Given the free access of the ayatollahs – as opposed to the rogue Ahmedinejad, who may well be removed in the not-too-distant future – to the Western media, however, we’d be seeing a lot more of Islamic banking, in which investment for profit is separated from banking for security.And less of the western materialism which corrupts moneymen everywhere.

    What we want is a return to morals and ethics. We pretend that the Judaeo-Christian model supplies these. It doesn’t; it demonstrably doesn’t. Time to give Islamic banking a try. And punish the infidels!


  58. They do not learn anything else but the ww2, because if one would look hard at the Falkland Iraq and Afghanistan war, not to talk of the Libyan attacks, then our children would ask pesky questions.

    Lets not educate them in the preferentual ravages against the develoiping world that are enshrined in the Uruguay and Doha trade rounds . lets not show them the perverse course our allies are steering, we are fine with the near past but when it comes to the present facts, we like to keep our youngster occupied with trivia and gizmotronic’s.

    I want school kids to be told about the Vietnam war and ww2, about Britains guilt in the opium wars as well as what happened in the Boxer wars, it should fit neatly next to the Mandarin teachings our future trade savvies are enticed to learn.
    Survival of the fittest, passerby, has morphed into survival of the have’s and I agree with you, comparrissons of events do not add up, the shefel of light we cast on one issue is of a different colour, intensity and width than the shefel of light we shine on our own exploits, we are not only the propaganda queens, we decide who comes to court, how far they are allowed to advance and who hears their plight.

  59. Stephen,

    Formal democracy means little if the net outcome is essentially an oligarchy or plutocracy. Craig was right to allude to the fact that UK parliamentry democracy is effectively illustrative of a single-ideological state in which virtually identical political parties vie for the reins of power.

    Moreover, democracy is necessarily predicated upon a genuinelly properly informed population. Mainstream television news and current affairs programmes are not providing the public with a pluralistic cross-section of impartial and objective views from which informed decisions can be made. An example of this, as Craig pointed out, was the scandalous ‘Question Time’ “debate”.

    Professor Greg Philo and his colleagues at the University of Glasgow’s Media Group have analysed media output in the UK. They conclude that the BBC is institutionally biased in favour of establishment views, putting a lie to their claims of impartiality as outlined in their charter. This is consistent with Herman and Chomsky’s seminal ‘propaganda model’. Censorship by ommission is one of the major impediments towards maintaining a healthy democracy.

  60. Abe Rene – it’s an interesting question. Would you rather live in a society where no-one challenges the government because they’re not allowed to, or one where no-one challenges the government because they’re blinkered, although in theory they’re allowed to (but not in the streets any more, unless they want to risk a cracked skull and 9 hours in a kettle). How long do you think the appearance of democracy would last if by a miracle someone with a radically different agenda seemed on the verge of winning an election? There are plenty of ways to do it beyond monopolising the media – people do get bumped off you know.
    It’s a softer form of totalitarianism, and all the more frightening for that. In Russia and China people know all is not quite right and they can see the possibility of change. In the UK there is no sense of that. Because of course all you have to do is convince a majority of the electorate that the media are deceiving them. Our political freedom is notional.

  61. ‘So democracy is dead – but what would you replace it with then? Nihilism? Theocracy? A benevolent dictator (they are always benevolent at the start)?’

    A ‘democracy’ compromised by a corrupt, outdated party system, and overriden by an unelected, elite body of technocrats (the EU Commission) will never thrive. The alternative to this kabuki style ‘Democracy’ in the UK context is not replacement, as you suggest. Our democracy rather needs to free itself from the dead hand of the two party system, and the suffocating entanglements with a European Union (as opposed to a ‘Common Market’) to which the UK electorate never consented.

  62. The other reason for the emphasis on WWII in schools is that Hitler is a very useful figure for indoctrinating kids. It gives them a sense of good and evil, black and white. If you have a symbol of unquestionable evil, then
    a) anything you do is ok because of course, you’re not to be compared to Hitler, even when you invade a succession of countries for spurious reasons and massacre vast quantities of people.
    b) in order to justify those invasions and massacres it’s useful to be able to demonise the enemy – just associate them in people’s minds with Hitler in some way – it was done with Milosevic, with Saddam and with Gaddafi.
    If I were designing history courses I would make the first emphasis be on British history, especially the dark side of the empire, to teach them that we can do bad things too. If they have a sense that anyone can do evil – the British are not somehow exempt – then they’re more likely to recognise it when it raises its head, and more likely to reject propaganda, more likely to stop crimes being committed in future.
    Instead we have this formula – [insert name of latest bogeyman] is about to massacre a lot of people – we must send in the military to stop it – we’re the good guys – you mustn’t question the military in time of war – whatever harm we cause, it would have been worse if we hadn’t intervened – you can’t let Hitler happen again.
    The formula is repeated again and again, and the people swallow it. They almost came a cropper over Iraq because the excuse was WMD, which unlike ‘there’s going to be a massacre’ could be easily disproved. So as soon as the WMD didn’t turn up it was ‘we got rid of Saddam the evil tyrant’ ie they went back to the old formula.

  63. Hence his fatuous, puerile and circular argument, that in the absence of a “democracy” (I should cocoa) what would be the choices; “theocracy”, “benevolent dictatorship” , etc.?

    They were questions as to what you would see the alternatives as being – hence the question marks. You have engaged in your usual rant as to what you are against – perhaps for once you might wish to reveal your true colours and say what you are and what you actually believe in – and what you intend to replace the current system you so clearly detest with? Or is that a fatuous and puerile question that you are unabe to answer.

    “Finally the anti theocratic Stephen will unstintingly defend any and all things Jewish, because as we all know in his bizarre world Jewish is a “race” and not a religious affiliation, and Israel is not a theocratic state because Jews area a race, and therefore Israel is a secular state”

    Just not true the Israeli state and some of the Jews in that government have behave absolutely disgracefully and violated the norms of any human rights standard in the past – and the individuals responsible should be held to account for their actions. Just as those in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi, Yemen , the Palestinian Authority, Uzbekistan etc. should also be held responsible for their abuses of human rights ( read the Amnesty/HRW reports if you dont believe). That said all those countries have the right to exist and ordinary people in those countries should have the right to run their own affiars and go about their lives without fear of torture and abuse. You and your neo fellow travellers however constantly seem to live with one eye blind to the failings of your heroes – give me my imperfect democracies with flawed leaders which I can at least try to do something about.

  64. “a lot more of Islamic banking, in which investment for profit is separated from banking for security”


    I think you need to read a little more about how Islamic banking works – there is a lot more tying up of the banks returns on investments to that provided to depositors – the depositor in theory is meant to take more risk from their investing in the bank not less – taking a guaranteed return woiuld be seen as usury.

  65. Ingo et al

    I want my kids to be educated to think for themselves rather than have yours or anyone elses opinions shoved down their throats.

    My son has just been studying the Indian mutinies – so they don’t just study WW2 – and fortunately he wasn’t given just the one perspective as you and others with differnt axes to grind might like.

  66. Old Mark

    I didn’t suggest democracy should be replaced, I was asking others waht they wanted to see. I agree that it should be improved, but how and using what means appears to be a question that many of the comrades here don’t appear to wish to consider.

  67. ZBC have been so busy today pestering six and seven year olds about what they think of Remembrance Day and reporting that the Deputy Chair of BSkyB backs James Murdoch (he would, wouldn’t he – see below) that they have COMPLETELY ignored this large protest by electricians taking place around London today.
    Sparks national day of action: police run ragged all over London
    In the continued battle over a 35% pay cut and the tearing up of the national agreement, rank and file sparks battle through police lines to hold pickets at 5 building sites, visit the occupation at St. Pauls, occupy Cannon St. station themselves and almost join the student demo before being stopped by huge numbers of police…or were they?? Email to keep up with the most important industrial dispute for years.

    Nicholas Ferguson – Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director, Remuneration Committee Chairman
    Nicholas Ferguson was appointed as a Director of the Company on 15 June 2004, Senior Independent Non-Executive Director on 12 June 2007 and Deputy Chairman on 16 June 2010. Mr Ferguson is Chairman of SVG Capital plc, a publicly-quoted private equity group, and was formerly Chairman of Schroder Ventures. He is also Chairman of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Institute of Philanthropy.
    The Philanthropy bit made me smile.

  68. Anti War Groups Welcome the Inauguration of an Anti-War President
    Thu, 10/11/2011 – 15:55

    Peace and anti-war groups in Ireland including PANA, the Irish Anti War Movement (IAWM), Shannonwatch and Galway Alliance Against War (GAAW) have expressed their hope that the inauguration of Michael D Higgins as the 9th President of Ireland will further the cause of peace, and will bring a renewed focus on the importance of Irish neutrality. These are issues that he has passionately defended throughout his political career, and it is hoped and expected that he will continue to do so as president.
    Michael D Higgins has consistently opposed the use of Shannon, a civilian airport, for the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was critical of the apparent Irish collusion with the US government in relation to suspected rendition flights through Shannon, and in 2010 he called on the government to withdraw the Irish military personnel serving in Afghanistan. However there are still up to 600 armed US troops a day passing through Shannon Airport, and there is no oversight or inspection of planes suspected of carrying illegally kidnapped prisoners, CIA assassination crews or dangerous munitions. This is despite the fact that the current programme for government, which Michael D Higgins’ Labour Party signed up to, says they will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for purposes not in line with the dictates of international law.
    It is hoped that as Head of State Michael D Higgins will continue to articulate his lifelong anti-war message. While the Irish president does not have a direct executive or policy role in Irish affairs, he nonetheless represents the people when undertaking official engagements at home and abroad. PANA, the IAWM, Shannonwatch, GAAW and other anti-war activists are confident that President Higgins will take every opportunity to stress his own and the Irish people’s wishes for peace and justice at home and abroad. And they look forward to seeing a return to an Ireland that supports peace, not war, during his presidency.

    Islamic Shar’iah principles prohibit the charging or receiving of interest (Arabic: Rib’a). Therefore, contrary to the modern economic life and financial system where the cost of borrowing (usury) occupies a focal position, Islamic banking and finance cannot be founded on interest-bearing capital nor dealing with interest-sharing funds.

    Allah has condemned and prohibited the charging or receiving of interest (usury) in the strongest terms possible:

    O believers! Do not consume usury; doubling and multiplying your wealth, but fear Allah, that you may truly prosper. Guard yourselves against the Fire, that is prepared for those who reject Faith. And obey Allah and the Messenger, so that you may obtain mercy.
    [The Holy Qur’an, Surah 3:130-132]

    Even after the such clear instructions and prohibition some do not comprehend the meanings of true prosperity yet others try to find excuses to re-define the term usury, differently, for their own benefit. But God knows the human the best. Therefore God explains in the Book and guides us further on the subject:

    Those who take usury will rise up before Allah (on the Day of Resurrection) like one whom Satan (the Evil One) by his touch has driven to madness. That is because they claim: “Trade is the same as usury.” But Allah has permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving admonition from their Lord, desist, will be forgiven for the past; their Judge is Allah. But those who go back to usury are companions of the Fire; they will abide therein for ever.
    [The Holy Qur’an, Surah 2:27

  70. Komodo

    Nothing wrong with your latest quotes – and how does Islamic banking get around the problem of offering interest to depositors (which would involve them in usury) – well they seek to tie that return to the return achieved on the investments made by the bank. This is the opposite of what you said in your previous post where you wanted the two to be split. You should be aware that quite a lot of people take the view that is the banks had stuck to their more traditional activities of borrowing and lending for interest – rather than going off and getting involved in the speculative investment activities involved in investment banking then we might have avoided the banking crisis.

  71. Larry
    As well as being an extreme nationalist, and I’m afraid nationalism plays a part in many of the world’s conflicts – I think you should also note that the basic predictions Powell made in his rivers of blood speech were actually pretty rubbish and did not come to fruition.


  72. Scary Biscuits

    13 Nov, 2011 - 12:34 pm

    “I remain broadly in favour of European integration in principle.”

    There is no ‘in principle’ decision to be made, only a practical one. Until you realise this, you are as bad as the other intellectuals. Europe’s recurring affliction has returned, the beautiful theorism of the Jacobins, the Nazis, the Communists. Alas far too many people supported these too, in principle.

  73. Some great thoughts – thanks all.

    To get back to the subject of Europe and democracy. You are quite right, the take-over of Greece and Italy by appointees of the banks and markets is not democratic. It may even be part of a grand conspiracy by the financial institutions to appropriate everything they can and devalue anything they can’t. But you still can’t get away from the central fact that it’s the elected politicians that borrowed their voters into this mess, even if it was a trap set for them by the evil bankers. Countries run by elected politicians seem to have been living in financial never-never land for a long time and if bankers saw their chance to lay a few bets and strip some assets then whose fault is that? It’s the voters that need to wake up and use more sense when choosing leaders. Elected politicians borrow money for the country, not for some carefully planned investment program that will pay back calculated dividends, but to fund ongoing expense deficits that have no end in sight. Elected politicians fund social security programs not by investing deposits and calculating what returns people may expect, but by using current deposits to pay off current demands – a ponzi scheme. And we are surprised when the loans are called in, credit runs out, the ponzi scheme collapses and we lose our right to self-determination?

    This is reality, unless someone more clever than me can seriously explain why common sense financial rules for individuals and businesses just should not apply to countries…

  74. Oh, here’s a possible reason why common sense financial rules for individuals and businesses may not apply to countries.

    – Because countries can print their own money and have their own central bank.

    Errr, or they used to, in the case of the Euro zone…

    Again, it’s the elected politicians that took this well-advised step and the voters who elected them that now have their voting rights repossessed as punishment. And to continue the theme of democracy in Europe – be careful what you vote for, because that’s what you get.

  75. doug scorgie

    16 Nov, 2011 - 9:43 pm

    I do not support UKIP but with regards to the demise of democracy in Europe Nigel Farage today hit the nail on the head:

Powered By Wordpress | Designed By Ridgey | Produced by Tim Ireland | Hosted In The Cloud