The Absence of Liberalism 327


The overruling of a European Court judgement to assert individual privacy, and the anti-democratic rushing of emergency legislation through parliament where no emergency exists, are the antithesis of liberalism. So of course is the jettisoning of all the Lib Dem manifesto pledges on civil liberties.

It is not news that Nick Clegg has become the poster boy for a politics utterly devoid of principle, organised purely around the desire of individual politicians for wealth and power. But even with all that background, I found Clegg’s enthusiastic ratcheting up of the fear factor over the “need” to protect us from virtually non-existent threats, utterly reprehensible.

At his press conference with Cameron, Clegg actually quoted the non-existent “liquid bomb plot to bring down multiple planes” as the reason these powers were needed. He even made a direct claim that telephone intercepts had been instrumental in “foiling” the “liquid bomb plot”. That is utterly untrue. The three men eventually convicted had indeed been under judge approved surveillance for a year. In that year, they made no reference to a plan to bring down airplanes, because there was no such plan. The only “evidence” of a plan to bring down multiple airplanes came from a Pakistani torture chamber. There never was a single liquid bomb. 90% of those arrested in the investigation were released without charge or found not guilty.

The three found guilty had done little more than boast and fantasise about being jihadis. That is not to say they were nice people. They may even have done some harm, though if Clegg were in any sense a Liberal he would not be supportive of imprisoning people in case they one day do some harm. But they had never made a liquid bomb or made a plan to bring down multiple airlines.

The point is, that while any ordinary member of the public could be forgiven for believing in the Liquid Bomb Plot, given all the lies of the mainstream media, Clegg has to be aware that he is spreading deliberate lies and propaganda to justify this “emergency legislation”.

Still more ludicrous was the failure to address the elephant in the room – Snowden’s revelation that the NSA and GCHQ indulge in vast mass surveillance, of the communications of millions of people in the UK, with absolutely no regard for the legal framework anyway.

In the last few weeks there has been a concerted effort to ratchet up the fear of the extremely remote possibility of a terrorist attack. We have seen, as first lead on the news bulletins and front page headlines, the jailing of two young men for “terrorism” for fighting in Syria, when there was no evidence of any kind that they had any intention of committing any violence in the UK. We have the absolute nonsense of the mobile phone in airports charade. We had days of the ludicrous argument that ISIS success in Iraq will cause terrorist attacks in the UK. Now we have the urgent need for this “emergency legislation”.

Why is the fear ratchet being screwed right up just now? What is this leading up to?


327 thoughts on “The Absence of Liberalism

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  • Fedup

    there will be peace one day, and that would be when what causes war ends.
    What causes wars is the racist state of Israel.

    The writing is on the wall so far as the future goes, but the supremacist scum are the last ones to notice what is going on.

    Over the past seventy years, since the start of the bastard estate of zionistan, which was constituted to be the private clearing gateway for a certain house of banksters whom we dare not to mention in case we are labelled as “antisemi…”. As well as keeping the natives down for the benefit of the rest of the privateers (oil and resources) whom own the puppets that are selected to be elected to run the masses (keep them down too, albeit in varying degrees of intensity).

    The zionist apologists scum have been in overdrive mode bombarding the threads with their “hasbara by numbers” ranging from the very crude as in the case of the dancing Palestinians on 9/11 that carries such enlightened commentary;

    Comptown SurSide 1 month ago

    Fuck the Palestines, so glad that Israel bomb the shit out of them, God Bless America and Israel

    In response to a purported close camera shot package of at most twenty people (Arabs in some place holding a hand drawing of a Palestinian flag) celebrating something/some event, however the commentary puts it as celebrating the 9/11 attacks, and it was as seen on the telly, so must be true!

    To the more subtle; highlighting the peace activist and the various other positive aspects of some of the residents of zionistan. This then is used as a leverage to cut slack for the mad rabid zionists to accommodate their genocidal, land theft and regular massacre of the Palestinians, because hate will not solve anything!

    Finally the whataboutry kicking in, to defend he indefensible mad rabid zionists and their ongoing crimes against peace, and against humanity.

    The simple fact is, the slow destruction of the nation of Palestine that has been afoot for the last seventy years, somehow as ever is projected as the aggression and hatred of these subhuman Arabs who are intent in pushing the zionists into the sea!!!

    This is in line with the other pearls of wisdom;

    In he face of US forces killing 4 million Vietnamese; men, women, children, and infants, who were classed as gooks and Vietcong. William Westmoreland explained it away as; “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.”

    Banastre Tarleton stood up in Parliament and pontificated that Africans did not object to being slaves.

    President William McKinley believed and said so; little brown Filipinos appreciated being conquered and dominated.

    Dehumanisation of the victims by the oppressors has always been a keystone policy in garnering sympathy for the mass murder and destruction of the target group by the aggressors and oppressors.

    Further, anyone disagreeing with such a filthy policy is then classed as trouble maker, and so far in this blog everyday one or the other of the zionist apologists scum ask why such an emphasis on Palestine? Fact that such a line of questioning is contrary to principles of the freedom of expression is never entertained. Evidently freedom of expression is what we are allowed and encouraged to express, as the good rabbi put it; you cannot run into a full theatre and shout fire!

    Note the simplistic allegories and lessons!

  • Clark

    Technicolour, further, our human tendency to polarise like this, to close ranks and identify an external enemy, and then to interpret their behaviour as hostile, increases when we are ourselves attacked, and Mary has suffered extended verbal attack from Habbabkuk and the bandwagon he started. That’s the same Habbabkuk who attempted to wind up the visiting Israeli Oneil.

    “Let’s all you lot fight – and especially fight her” says Habbabkuk, so I excuse Mary preferentially and wish her strength, especially now with Israel again bullying Gaza. And I also endorse your advice and, like Phil, urge Mary to reconsider; to recognise and resist incitement to polarisation and side-taking, and acknowledge and respect well-motivated activists who happen to be Israeli – which I suspect she does to some extent anyway.

  • Resident Dissident

    “urge Mary to reconsider; to recognise and resist incitement to polarisation and side-taking”

    Best of luck with that one.

    As an experiment Clark might I suggest you keep a count of who is undertaking the personal verbal attacks.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    Absolutely agree with Resident Dissident at 18h37 above.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Two further comments:

    1/. Clark, please drop your hand-wringing, fake “honest broker” posture; you’re a fully paid-up member of the Egregiousness of Excellences and fool no-one.

    2/. Things have reached a new low when Mary uses Israel Shamir in an attempt to rubbish Uri Avnery. Check the two of them out on Wikipedia and Counterpunch and make up your own minds.

  • Ben-LA PACQUTE LO ES TODO

    “As an experiment Clark might I suggest you keep a count of who is undertaking the personal verbal attacks.”

    As a percentage, I would say your side has the edge similar to the lop-sided retribution in Gaza. What is it now; 100 to 1?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    California Ben

    ““As an experiment Clark might I suggest you keep a count of who is undertaking the personal verbal attacks.”

    As a percentage, I would say your side has the edge similar to the lop-sided retribution in Gaza. What is it now; 100 to 1?”
    _____________________

    You must have written that after quite a few smokes, Ben.

    How many?

    Can you still count them for us?

  • Phil

    Iain
    “I now have the opportunity to invite you, before all these witnesses here, to pen three suggestions for useful actions by those of us who wish to discredit this legislation and render it inoperable and an albatross around the necks of MPs who support it even if the legislation gets approval from this rump parliament.”

    I have no suggestions as to how you can render this legislation inoperable. It seems a done deal. Nothing you or I can do will make a blind bit of difference to the outcome next week. My beef is that letter writing is buying into the illusion that we can do something. Thereby abrograting ourselves of the need to actually do something possibly more usefull.

    My opening comment on this thread countered Craig’s anger at Clegg’s betrayal by pointing out this has been going on for a long time indeed. Not years, not decades, but centuries. Well meaning social democrats have been lobbying the psycopaths who run their favourtite party to not be so nasty. To no avail. Now we not only continue to slaughter the poor and all other species, we face several existential threats. It is time to consider something new.

    So although I have no short term immediate solution to this particular legislation I can recommend a long term prescription for what ails us. Radical decentralisation. Anarchism. We need to stop expecting remote elites to make decisions about our lifes. We, the majority of good people, need to restrain psycopaths with a more direct democracy, not put them in palaces.

    I am a little drunk in a big field so this is less coherent than it might hasve been. Anyway I am not sure how laced with sarcasm your comment was but I err on the side of dialogue in my attempts to be less angry. Clark and Node are to blame for my attempts at being reasonable.

    I had to look up “philippics”. Made me laugh.

  • Phil

    Clark

    Sorry, I am not overly inspired by the Fripp list. I don’t get it.

    “16 Any small unit committed to qualitative action can affect radical change on a scale outside its quantitative measure.”

    I fundamentally reject the elitism of this. Well meaning vanguardism soon becomes the new establishment. Lenin and Trotsky might have made this point 16.

    The only gig I actually really fell asleep in was a frippotronics show. I was very tired but still.

    Perhaps only popular change can be radical.

  • technicolour

    Phil, that was lovely. And Iain is too. By agreeing with both of you I feel I am encompassing dualism and transcending it to the Tao. Thanks, chaps.

  • technicolour

    In fact, and more considerately, this is all a process, and an incremental one, at that. I don’t mean responding to urgencies like Gaza and Syria, but generally. I am struck by the fact that in the UK ‘revolution’ is mainly a terrifying, destructive word, used by people who talk about it with a general acceptance of inevitable bloodshed, whereas in Germany, the word ‘revolution’ means a gradual turning of the wheel in a forwards and positive direction.

  • OldMark

    [email protected]

    Avnery’s construction ‘part of sovereign Israel’ in relation to East Jerusalem is certainly over egging it. Reading it in the context of the whole article, I took this to be a rhetorical flourish on his part. He seems especially outraged that the atrocity happened on territory over which Israel claims sovereignty. I think he would have been less surprised (if equally disgusted) if the atrocious act had occurred in Hebron or Ramallah.

    In the end,it was Mary’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of ‘good Israelis’, such as Avnery, and her subsequent refusal to retract that sentiment, that so riled me.

  • N_

    @Clark – Thanks for the info on that application, of which I was unaware.

    But Google is certainly Zionist.

    I am reading Steven Levy’s book at the moment.

    Google is a big story, perhaps even in a sense THE big story waiting to blow, even if maybe it never will. I’m hoping (but not expecting) that there will be some Snowden-Greenwald material on it. They’ve sent cameras down everyone’s fucking street for goodness sake. They vans carrying the cameras have also been caught snooping on other parts of the EM spectrum than visible light.

    It’s interesting that it’s Germany, which recently caught two US spies and threw out the head of the Berlin CIA station, which has kicked up a little bit of fuss. As far as I am aware, the British government did fuck-all even when Google pissed off the SAS by snooping on its Hereford barracks!

    Google is on public record as planning for a world of mass microchip implantation and a microphone in every ceiling. (There is no need for anyone to ask me to post sources. They are very easy to find.) This is not “lizards” or “Alex Jones” stuff at all.

    Meanwhile ‘conspiracy’ people concentrate on other interests as if they were writing fanfic.

    I’m reminded of the Finbarr Saunders and his Double Entendres strip in the Viz. For those whose literary tastes lie elsewhere: the eponymous teenager imagines his mother and her boyfriend are making sexual references when they aren’t; and then when they eventually really do make some, he’s oblivious and doesn’t notice!

  • N_

    There are no “good Israelis” if that means Israelis who support the existence of the state of Israel. Talking about Israeli “sovereignty” is not a rhetorical flourish. I didn’t realise there was anything in the hasbara manuals about what to do when you’re on your back foot. There are some “good Israelis” if the phrase includes the very very small number of people who carry Israeli passports with “Jewish” recorded as their “ethno-religious” group and who want the end of the state of Israel. That’s the dividing line: for or against the existence of the ethnic-supremacist entity.

  • Clark

    N_, much of Google’s code development is based upon community contribution. This can be seen as Google freeloading upon young programmers. But Google did used to release under free and open-source licenses, and thus we got important software that’s open to public scrutiny such as Android version 2 and Google Chrome. They’ve taken some retrograde steps with Android 3, though this may well reflect pressure from ‘phone manufacturing companies:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/sep/19/android-free-software-stallman

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/20/stallman_on_android/

    As to microchips implanted in our brains; I’d consider such technology so long as I knew I could trust it. Wonderful; no more typing, just “think” text onto the page. No more squinting and peering at screens through my failing and unmatched eyes…

    But the big issue is trust, and that can only be achieved through transparency. I’d only consider a brain-Internet interface if all the hardware and software were fully disclosed, and Google is a leader in disclosure of technology.

    Google and Wikipedia are often criticised for supporting Israel; Google for its search results and Wikipedia for bias in articles. The phenomena is well understood among Wikipedia editors who have to deal with it; the bias is in the corporate media, from which Google search results and Wikipedia articles are constructed – you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Sure, there are plenty of Wikipedia editors who are Hasbara, but it’s easy to spot their activity in the article histories. Rather than moaning about pro-Israeli influence on Wikipedia, people should get in there and edit it, as it their (and Hasbara’s) right.

    I maintain a reservoir of suspicion for Google because it has become such an influential company. So far, Google’s ethics don’t seem particularly bad to me, but I’m going to keep watching.

  • Clark

    Phil, 13 Jul, 10:50 pm:

    “16 Any small unit committed to qualitative action can affect radical change on a scale outside its quantitative measure.”

    I agree that’s probably the weakest part of the passage. I take it as wishful thinking from Fripp rather than elitism. It does happen sometimes, but not often; Fripp’s “any small unit” is hopelessly optimistic.

  • Clark

    N_, my ideal society would be like Iain M Banks’ The Culture. There’d be virtually total “surveillance”, but all the output would be public. Nearly everyone would have a far more advanced version of a microchip in their brain, but they’d control it and not vice-versa. You could study whatever you want, have access to any information (this is why surveillance output has to be public), and so long as you didn’t abuse others, you could do whatever you like.

  • Iain Orr

    Phil (to me at 10.13 pm on 13 July – and to Clark at 10.50): Thanks for that response. We both abhor the present political system in the UK (and globally, given that other states plus multinational agreements and companies limit our freedom of action). But we are both frustrated by what we see as the other’s energies being misplaced. I think we agree that the Home Office’s “emergency” bill is illiberal in both content and the way it will become part of UK law. But you think – I know this is my interpretation, exaggerated for effect, and not your precise words – that the legislation is a done deal and that writing to my MP is dilettante, self-deluding, elitist, Trotskyist/Leninist displacement activity. Much of that criticism hits home and my weakish defence is simply that opposing (however ineffectually) and discrediting bad laws undermines the authority of the legislators and governmental implementing agencies. That needs doing.

    Your energies concentrate on promoting radical decentralization as a long-term solution. I don’t disagree with that as a long-term aim, but I’d like you to show me even a tentative plan for how to get from here to there. You say: “We need to stop expecting remote elites to make decisions about our lives. We, the majority of good people, need to restrain psychopaths with a more direct democracy, not put them in palaces.” My problem is not what I expect others to do or entrusting to others instead of doing it myself. My specific problem now is what others are doing, whether I like it or not – such as this proposed legislation. (My voting in the last election does not mean that I was endorsing the current political system.) My aim is emphatically not to shore up a wonky system by piecemeal reform. It is simply to discredit one specific bad proposed new law.” It’s as if I’m hungry (even though employed) and you are telling me (shades of IDS) –“Learn to put up with the discomfort – what will really cure your hunger is a radically reformed and decentralized welfare system.” Extremes meet. But of course I don’t think your views are remotely like those of IDS.

    Isn’t the difference between us one of different levels of political activism? Opposing one unjust law is a different level and type of activity from opposing an unjust political/legislative system. And articulating a vision of future radical decentralization has little to do directly with tackling specific current injustices. The two can surely be linked, rather than dissipating the energies of both by those who are currently mainly occupied at one level disparaging the ideas and activities of those concerned to secure justice and greater social cooperation at a different level. That leaves plenty of room for constructive suggestions and criticism from those who approach issues from different timescales and perspectives. This website provides many examples of both constructive and destructive contributions, which is probably what attracts stubbornly argumentative contributors to it.

  • Mary

    I have just returned to this page since I last posted at lunchtime on the 13th.

    Clark I appreciate your interventions and explanations but there is no way I am responding to Technicolour’s goading and hectoring. Of course I do not put all Israelis in the same category and, as I have said before, have worked for Jewish bosses and have several Jewish friends, some of whom are members of Jews for Justice for Palestine.

    I do have a personal perspective on modern day Israel though because a very dear and close relative (whom I am not naming for fear of them being smeared by association with me) whose life was nearly taken on two occasions by the Israelis once when attempting to enter Gaza and once when in Gaza and I am not making that up.

    Anyway very soon I will not be around for a while as I am waiting to go into hospital so you can all have a nice rest from my postings! Habbakuk will have to select another person for his attentions.

    strong> I will not and never will give equivalence to the Occupier and the Occupied.

  • N_

    @Clark

    I’d only consider a brain-Internet interface if all the hardware and software were fully disclosed, and Google is a leader in disclosure of technology.

    Are you serious?! We should trust the techies, then?

    The answer as to whether that’s supportable may rest on the answer to the question ‘What have the techies done for us so far, while history developed so that most people carry microwave trackers and the NSA seem to have got almost everything they’ve wanted?

    Google and Wikipedia can’t get away with blaming ‘the media’ for what they do. The internet is a medium. The question is who does what to whom.

    Google is a leader in hiding stuff, and has been since the early days.

    The issue isn’t cooperation and openness among programmers. That will be encouraged when it’s useful in the bigger picture and discouraged when it isn’t.

    Google’s marketing line has always been ‘give people what they want’. Of course that’s true of many or most companies’ marketing lines, but Google took it to an extreme (petabytes and up) with the whole way they took over and dominated internet search by promoting the sites that many other sites linked to.

    The company already dominates the field of machine learning, by which I mean it has a large proportion of the world’s experts on its payroll.

    I’d strongly recommend Steven Levy’s book – albeit that it’s pro the company, not anti, and a few years out of date.

  • N_

    @Mary – I just read your above post. I hope everything goes well for you in hospital!

  • Clark

    Mary, best wishes for hospital. I don’t think for a moment that you made that up; the passion in your campaign long since convinced me that your involvement in the Palestinian struggle has personal dimensions.

    I don’t think Technicolour meant to goad or hector; ethnic discrimination is her specialist campaign as justice for the Palestinians is yours, and she annoyed me greatly a couple of years back when, I felt, she tried to smear me as racist for defending the notion that immigration rates should be open to discussion in a democracy; “if the people of Barking can [appreciate equality], why can’t you [Clark]?” or something like that. Gone and done, Mary; it was a spat and Technicolour is not on the “wrong side”. Neither is Dreoilin. Different people support various causes in their own ways, whereas some people disrupt in any way – I really can’t see you, me, Dreoilin or Technicolour sock- puppetting to post a “joke” about pork at an Israeli, or impersonating someone on Stormfront to discredit them here.

    Every time we discount someone, our own support comes to seem smaller and the opposition seems to get larger. Thus our own position seems to become more marginalised, and in response our struggle can become more desperate and our suspicion is likely to run higher. I hate to see this happening to you.

    Please look after yourself and let us know how you’re doing after hospital.

  • Clark

    N_, no, we shouldn’t trust “techies”. The point of disclosure is that it moves the trust from a selected insider group of techies to the entire technical community, including anyone who wishes to get involved. It isn’t just about the freedom to program; as Stallman says, “If the user doesn’t control the software, then the software will control the user”.

    Google’s search algorithm is partly secret; unless they disclose it Google can’t really defend against your charge, which presumably includes altering search results to favour Israel.

    “Wikipedia”, on the other hand, can hardly be blamed for anything; exactly who are you accusing here? I’m a Wikipedia editor; you may be as well. It’s not “Wikipedia’s” fault if Hasbara run courses on how to improve Israel’s image on Wikipedia.

    I wish people who dismiss Wikipedia would get in there and edit it themselves, especially regarding the Israel-Palestine issue, because there are much higher proportions of fluent writers of various languages among supporters of Israel than of Palestine, and this biasses the articles. It’s really easy to find other editors for mutual support, because you can see who did what from the articles’ histories.

    But I’m sorry to say that most people seem to give up on editing Wikipedia through lack of self-discipline. They start editing without reading and understanding the rules, and then when another editor reverts or alters their contribution they don’t handle it well. Maybe they’re used to posting whatever they like on blogs, and only stuff that’s actually offensive or irrelevant being deleted. Wikipedia isn’t like that, you’re not meant to post any opinion, anything you post is likely to be deleted if you haven’t supported it from a “reliable source”.

    But these rules apply to the Israeli-supporting editors as well. Pro-Israeli Wikipedia editors can and do get suspended or banned for breaking these same rules. So if you feel like countering a Zionist on Wikipedia, go look up user Gideon (if I remember rightly), and view the page that lists Gideon’s edits – users can’t delete these pages that show their activity. Look through the edits until you find well-sourced material that Gideon has removed – if you’re lucky, it’ll be some nugget you hadn’t encountered before. Check that Gideon wasn’t somehow justified – like the information should be in a more relevant article, or it’s repeated further down the page. Revert Gideon’s edit – the software may not let you do this, since it may affect other edits that are more recent, in which case you’ll have to restore the information manually…

    …Then add the page to your Watched Pages list, because Gideon or someone may come along and undo your edit. If they do, you can accuse them of Vandalism, removing well-source material.

    As you can see, it’s a lot of work and discipline. Israel has organised a small army of cyber-warriors, many of whom have learnt the terrain at Wikipedia and range freely within it – but how can I blame Wikipedia for that?

  • Phil

    Mary

    You claim to be misrepresented and then you blatantly misrepresent the argument of others.

    I hope your hospital visit goes as well as it can. Take care of yourself.

  • Phil

    Iain

    Sorry I am going to remain stubbornly uncompromising with this example.

    I am so far down the rabbit hole that I distrust Liberty. They are another pressure group of professional do gooders whith close personal links to the establishment and direct dissent in a way that does not challenge the establishment. They are a saftey valve to release pressure in a way that changes as little as possible. They are part of the problem.

    Writing letters at the behest of Liberty is a waste of time and energy. It is meant to be. Just to be clear I do not suggest that Chakrabarti OBE is even conscious of her role within this system. She might be, she might not. It doesn’t matter to the outcome.

    What I actually do instead is not so easily answered in the few minutes of narrow bandwidth I have right now. I will return later.

    [Walking on the Dales being buzzed by some very fast low flying aircraft. Presumably military training.]

  • Clark

    Phil, I have no faith in Google. My basic model is that companies are more benign when they’re young, and bit by bit the commercial structure they’re embedded in turns them more and more exploitative. They start out more benign because someone genuinely has a good idea. Someone thinks something up and thinks “wow, I’d pay for that, so other people would probably pay me for that” – a wholesome bargain, which becomes implemented by a company.

    Pretty soon, however, the commercial pressures move the company to decrease the value of what it is offering on the market while at the same time increasing the profit it makes.

    So far, what I’ve seen of Google doesn’t seem too bad. They don’t seem to be shooting environmental activists in Africa, or covering up pollution, or offering bribes to Saudi princes, or cutting off funds to Wikileaks. They don’t even make fighter jets or landmines. They’ve tried to resist US surveillance upon their users, and they seem to take their users’ e-mail security seriously. They’ve done some unsavoury stuff like hiding their funding of certain conferences. But this doesn’t mean I think Google is “good”. Commercial pressures just haven’t yet caught up with how to corrupt the good ideas that went into Google, but they will, and I’m very worried about the vast power Google is holding as that proceeds.

    But there’s a difference in our outlook. I don’t place any responsibility upon corporations to act morally or ethically. I see that as something to be imposed by laws made by democratic governments. I’m in favour of decentralisation within companies, such that the people doing the work have self-determination and can work in accord with their conscience. But that doesn’t guarantee that the company will behave ethically externally, because people’s ethical values differ; for instance a company could recruit thugs who had no qualms about intimidating people for money.

  • Clark

    Phil, I feel I should also point out the similarity between Mary’s “Israel is the problem” and your “Google is the evil empire”.

  • Iain Orr

    Clark – your reply to Phil at 10.5 on small groups: I’m sorry that you see the potential influence of small groups as “wishful thinking” and “hopelessly optimistic” (though not, as Phil does, as elitist). Of course most small groups campaigning either for what they see as beneficial change or against unwelcome change fail; but I read the Fripp phrase “Any small group… can effect radical change” as focusing on the potential effectiveness of small groups in general, not as saying all you need to do is get together a like-minded group and, with enough commitment, you have a strong possibility of changing the world. Small groups are more like clumps of frogspawn, tadpoles and frogs: most fail to complete the cycle as far as producing effective/fertile successor generations. Would my preference for hopeful (but realistic) optimism be better expressed by saying that “Most radical change has its origins in small committed groups”?

    Let me give some examples, chosen to remind us that not all radical change is desirable: the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Jesus and his disciples, the Stern Gang [both operating in and around Jerusalem], Rosa Parks and the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, the campaign by the islanders to buy out the landlord of Eigg, the Cuban revolution, the Dongria Kondh’s victory (so far) against the Vedanta mining group’s plans to destroy the sacred Niyamgiri Hills from bauxite mining, the 9/11 conspirators (whoever you believe they were); and the Tristan da Cunha islanders who won their campaign to return, in 1963, to their island homeland to prolong the vitality of their fascinating example of a society where cooperation and caring for each other is built into every local institution [except the still colonial constitution designed by the FCO]. Sadly, the Chagossians have not yet won their campaign, which also started with small groups of activists.

    There are all sorts of reasons why some small groups succeed and others fail. Confidence matters, as do solidarity, leadership. Outside support and advice may be factors, but generally if it’s a matter of life and death for core members that will matter more than the advice from kibitzers, as most of us contributing to this website are. And the effects can be unexpected. Craig’s standing in two parliamentary elections may look now to have been “hopelessly optimistic”, but it has led to this website becoming one of the better public resources for radical voices that are seldom given time, space or serious attention in the BBC, ITV and mainstream media. So, let’s try to make the small groups whose aims we share effective rather than resigning ourselves to noisy electronic impotence.

  • Iain Orr

    Phil (at 2.01 pm) – Just seen and worth a brief rejoinder. I can understand your stubbornness since far too often letters to MPs, PQs, petitions,Early Day motions, select committee reports and even that jewel in the our democratic crown, parliamentary debates – like the much-touted Lord’s one we will soon have on Assisted Dying – are indeed ineffective. They are seldom levers for change – donating to political parties is. But I don’t accept that letter writing and other such activities are “meant to be… a waste of time and energy”. Rhetorically, perhaps. But for “waste of time and energy” to be the conscious intent of ministers and parliamentarians of all parties, rather than an unwelcome by-product of far more basic deficiencies in our political system, you would need to convince me that these are either psychologically sub-normal people or genuinely – not just rhetorically – psychotic, compared to you and me. I find it difficult to deal with an analysis where I am invited to regard others as inferior to you and me, even if your next move is to say – “it’s not them, it’s the system”.

    I don’t know enough about Liberty to feel able to defend it fully against your charge, as I understand you, of being unwitting dupes of the establishment, becoming in effect an addition to Bagehot’s decorative and ceremonial part of the UK’s unwritten constitution. However, I have often heard Shami Chakrabarti use her access to the media to say things that need saying with every appearance of meaning what she says. I’d find it weird if she asked me my honest opinion to say to her: “I agree with every word, but just by remaining in your present position you are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. So, please now resign and say why you are doing so. Have you considered that she might be a more than willing dupe so that come the revolution she can raise your flag of radical decentralization from within the ramparts of Westminster. Why not write to her? You ought to be able to do so in terms sufficiently untendentious for her reply to provide evidence of what sort of dupe she is, witting or unwitting; or whether she is one at all.

    Finally, I did not write to my MP “at the behest of Liberty”. re Rather (as I thought was apparent) learning of their campaign was the trigger for my finding out more about the new Home Office legislation and then having sufficient reasons of my own to want to write to my MP, making no mention of Liberty in my letter. I expect that any of your further comments on this subject will be at your own rather than at my behest. I do envy your walking in the Dales. It probably leads to sharper thoughts than muggy SE London.

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