When Democracy Fails


When I was a sixth former, one of the most useful classes that I attended (I am speaking in hindsight) was General Studies, primarily because it encouraged kids to read newspapers and watch the news. And I’m not so sure the same could be said nowadays.

At ‘A’ level we did a 3 month module on politics. It didn’t go deeply into political philosophy but at least it signposted some doors for curiosity. One of the assignments we were given was to identify the difference between terrorism and armed struggle. At the time it was very topical because it was late 1982 and the IRA were regularly launching bombing campaigns – meanwhile the world was beset by terrorist groups like Black September and the Red Brigades. It seemed worthwhile exploring the reasons behind their existence and to understand what they were fighting for.

After a couple of days of enquiring and reading, I became stuck. The IRA managed to be freedom fighters, terrorists and gangsters according to who you asked. So I butted into a conversation between my father and my Uncle Tom (yes, really) when I heard their chat take a turn into current affairs. I explained my confusion at the schizophrenic interpretation of the PIRA and its activities. I recall receiving the following explanation from my uncle:

“No matter what the organisation, its label is dependent on your views of their goals but no matter how you view them their existence depends on the absence of a democratic resolution and they will always come to be dominated by psychopaths.”

Today, every time I look at terrorism I always refer back to this simple statement given to me by my relative. In recent weeks I’ve been reverse-engineering threats and fears made over the Brexit process . It is becoming apparent that our democracy is nothing more than a replication of the Wizard of Oz. The curtain has dropped and we see John Bercow operating the bells and whistles of our democratic process and it’s obviously a total sham.

I’ve read numerous threats of civil war or disorder based on the undemocratic two step that our parliament has been doing to avoid enacting the results of a legal national plebiscite and of course the absence of a democratic resolution meets one of the prerequisites I mentioned earlier for terrorism.

I can’t be the only one thinking this. The number of talking heads on TV hand-wringing about the rise of the hard right. Am I now hard right for advocating a WTO exit from the EU and merely for speculating at the reaction by 17 million betrayed voters? Am I apparently stoking disorder? Are we Leavers really all Thomas Mairs?

Meanwhile, has anyone else noticed that the pace of European integration has picked up markedly in recent weeks? Emmanuel Macron has started negotiations with Frau Merkel about creating a supranational superstate within the EU supranational super state, almost like they are expecting the EU to disintegrate like a hatching duck’s egg – a new Franco-German creation pop its fluffy head out of the shattered ovum? Is anyone out there concerned about a new Gross Deutschland with a nuclear arsenal? We’ll have to see what the gilets jaunes and the AFD have to say about this but in the meantime we need to concentrate our minds about fighting off the wholesale hiking off of British democracy to which ever European superstate that still exists come the end of this year.

I don’t think the British people tend to sway toward rebellion or terrorism. Since 1651 we have in the most part avoided large scale disorder but that said I think that Theresa May might be cursing the decline in numbers of the British army since the end of the Cold War. She might also be regretting her own part in the pursuit of ex soldiers who foolishly did their jobs in Northern Ireland and the Middle East. It might be a difficult sell ordering soldiers to open fire on “fascists ” when the soldiers suspect they might get dragged out of a nursing home in forty years’ time by the police because the politicians who gave the order are dead or suffering from dementia.

I think the likelihood of resistance by disgruntled Brits this time round is likely to be high. I suspect that road blocking and mass sit ins are more likely than full on riots and it’ll only turn nasty if the real fascists (those democracy-deniers in parliament) use physical force against peaceful protest … then those psychopaths I mentioned earlier will take charge and all bets are off.

Paul Newall is a child of the 1960’s from a traditional Labour-supporting household. Paul dabbled with Trotskyism in the 1980’s but then “grew up and thanks to having responsibilities I slowly migrated across the political spectrum until instead of hating Maggie Thatcher I admired her for beating my side in the miners’ strike”.