Daily archives: March 12, 2024

The Panic Of the Ruling Class 308

I have known George Galloway my entire adult life, although we largely lost touch in the middle bit while I was off diplomating. I know George too well to mistake him for Jesus Christ, but he has been on the right side against appalling wars which the entire political class has cheer-led. His natural gifts of mellifluence and loquacity are unsurpassed, with an added talent for punchy phrase making.

He can be fiercely pugnacious in debate and always refuses to let the media set the frame of discussion, which requires an appetite for confrontation that is harder than you might think; it is not a skill I share. But outwith the public gaze George is humorous, kind and self-aware. He has been deeply involved in politics his entire life, and is a great believer in the democratic process as the ultimate way by which the working classes will ultimately take control of the means of production. He is a very old-fashioned and courteous form of socialist.

I have to confess I have never shared the romantic view of the working classes, and have always found them in reality more likely to follow the doctrines of Nigel Farage than those of John MacLean. But George Galloway is imbued in a native democratic socialist tradition. He is a descendant of the Chartists. You cannot get more British nor more ardent a democrat than George Galloway.

Which is why I found surreal the panic at his election in Rochdale and the claim, by the Prime Minister no less, that this was an assault on “British values” and even on democracy itself.

The idea that democracy – i.e. voting for somebody – is an attack on, err, democracy was so crazy that, had we any kind of independent media, it would have been ridiculed to death.

That of course has not happened. We are sonorously told we are a nation in crisis. Ordinary forms of democratic activity – free assembly, free speech and free voting – all threaten our society.

The cause of all of this political panic is of course the genocide in Gaza. It is essential to join the dots here. We live in a situation where the wealth gap in society between the rich and the poor is expanding at its fastest ever rate. Where for the first time in centuries, young adults can expect to have lower life expectations in terms of employment, education, health and housing than their parents. Where the nexus of control by the ultra-wealthy of both the political and media classes is tighter than ever.

Where the Overton Window has shrunk to a letterbox.

Briefly, the chance of the kind of democratic triumph of the working people of which George Galloway dreams, became real with the popular uprising that led to Jeremy Corbyn being placed as Labour leader. Corbyn’s chances were destroyed by an entirely fake narrative of anti-semitism. Since the Holocaust, anti-semitism has understandably been the most potent charge that can be levelled against anybody in politics. A deliberate and calculated campaign to apply the term to any criticism of Israel was ultimately successful in destroying Corbyn and his supporters as a short term threat.

So the demonisation of criticism of Israel was not an incidental ploy of the ruling class. It was the most important tool, by which they managed to kill off the most potent threat to their political hegemony to arise in a major western country for decades.

They succeeded because bluntly most people were not paying attention. Many ordinary people saw Israel as they had been taught to see Israel, as a victim nation and therefore criticism of it as generally reprehensible and plausibly anti-semitic. On top of which the defence of the idea of Israel allies with the Islamophobia which is closely correlated with the racism and anti-immigrant sentiment that remains a strong undercurrent in Western politics, and especially in England.

The Israeli genocide in Gaza has collapsed this narrative. Too many people have seen the truth on social media. Despite every attempt by the mainstream media to hide, obfuscate or distort, the truth is now out there. The reflex hurling by the Establishment of the “anti-semitic” slur at everybody who opposes the Genocide – from the United Nations, The International Court of Justice and the Pope down – has finally killed off the power of that slur.

A critical mass of ordinary people have even learnt of the history of the slow genocide of the Palestinians this last 75 years.

The political Establishment, having established support for Israel as the fundamental measure of political respectability which could neatly be used to exclude radicals from political discourse, have been unable to shift ground and drop it.

They are clinging to Israel, not because they have a genuine belief Israel is a force for good, not because they believe in religious Zionism, not even because they believe it is a necessary colonialist project in the Middle East, but because it has been for decades their totem, the very badge of political respectability, the membership card for the political country club.

Israel is now toxic to the public and the entire history of ethnic cleansing, massacre and long genocide on which the very existence of Israel is based, is now laid bare. The political class are now in a panic, and lashing out everywhere. Police powers to limit free assembly were already hugely increased just last year by the Public Order Act 2023, where any demonstration which is noisy or causes inconvenience can be banned. Now we have calls from the responsible ministers for pro-Palestinian demonstrations to be banned because they offend their sensibilities in a way they are finding difficult to define.

The proscribed organisation model is being considered now to limit freedom of speech and assembly. They are looking at banning the Muslim Council of Britain and Palestine Action. But you cannot ban an idea, and defining anyone who disagrees with you as an “extremist” is unlikely to stand up in the courts. Indeed anyone currently not being branded as an extremist ought to be deeply ashamed.

So far as I can see, only active supporters of genocide are not in the official view “extremists”. As all the main UK-wide political parties do support genocide, that of course makes sense.

It is worth noting that all the big attacks on liberty this last couple of years – including The Public Order Act, The National Security Act, and (in process) the Rwanda Safety Bill – have the support of Keir Starmer. I fully expect that whatever form the government move to make opposing genocide illegal finally takes, Keir Starmer will approve that too. Remember Starmer claimed that it is legal for Israel to starve Gaza.

Our hearts and minds remain with the people of Gaza. Their suffering and their heroism not only shines in itself, but it has cast a much needed light on the complete failure of the model of western democracy.



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