Four

Political, Prosaic, Pulpit

Anarchy for the UK in 2000 Words (part 2 of 3)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chaos 

Anarchism has had some bad press, okay, but that’s because it’s a bit of an easy target.

It eventually recommends the total restructuring of society, which, whether violent or not, tends to find enemies throughout the existing structure of any society. Understandable, right? Look at Gandhi: first he just wanted Indians in South Africa to be treated as equal human beings. Then later he just wanted his country to be able to govern itself. The whole time he demanded non-violent resistance only. He didn’t seek excessive power or pleasure. Although trained as a lawyer in Britain, heart and mind of the empire, he chose to accept and love the simple way of life led by the Indian peasant, the Hindu holy man, Christian monk, or devout pilgrim. He took pleasure from having some food, some shelter, and the ability to help his fellow human. And he was repeatedly imprisoned, sometimes beaten, as a revolutionary. A threat to the state. Can non-violent demands for better treatment really be considered “threatening”? Surely not in anything like the way a club to the head is threatening, a long sentence in jail is threatening.

But still, he was going to change the status quo – and you can see why the British rulers and competitors for power in India (he was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist) didn’t want that. He proposed a way of living that prevented them from dominating. He was going to deprive them of their chosen lifestyle. Through non-violence and reason, yes, but they didn’t care. They were still going to lose, they thought, and he was going to gain. The well-being of millions of Hindus, Muslims and other denominations be damned.

This is the problem with the mass perception of anarchism. Our criticisms of present societies, our proposals for radical change: people can only imagine that we would right wrongs and enact changes by destroying what already exists. By harming. That’s what happened with communism after all. Well, anarchism doesn’t want to take over government. Doesn’t want to destroy. It wants to help people to learn about the world so that they choose to form their own self-sufficient communities within society. It wants to enable people to effectively govern themselves, to exist in a true democracy, legally of course. It wants to build a new structure over the rotten model under which we presently exist, replacing it as it naturally fails.

Really anarchism is best defined as a thinking discipline. It’s the tendency to completely deconstruct anything and everything, but especially commonly accepted and influential concepts that change how people live. In deconstructing these things, anarchists get a better understanding of what structures are strong, logical, workable, and which ones aren’t. But this process is conducted in a way that’s entirely defined by the individual. There are no official anarchist texts or thinkers. What influences anarchist philosophy is what influences the individual in question. That person’s central feature is an open-mindedness extending beyond anything normally considered reasonable, usually mixed with enough self-restraint to stop that open perspective becoming problematic.

Politically we tend to share one goal: ultimate democracy, or, in plainer terms, “localism”. But at the same time, we want to become apolitical. Anarchism contents that centralised or top-down government isn’t needed, and so politics proper departs with it. We want to restructure society, build power from the bottom up. Small community groups – familiar with each other, grown to understanding and trust – making ultimately unanimous decisions about their affairs. Anarchism is about steadily achieving real democracy. And some war-torn North African and Middle Eastern communities have already achieved that kind of anarcho-democratic rule as a necessary response to power vacuums created by war. So right now we’re just trying to de-mystify the cause and just get people interested in learning more, seeing real democracy in action. After all, there is no official anarchist organisation, no anarchist bible, just people doing what they think they should to make the world better. That’s what we want, that’s what we need.

Two

Political, Prosaic, Pulpit

Anarchy for the UK in 2000 words (Part 1 of 3)

A Note on Oligarchy

I just want you to take a look at the UK political system. I don’t see this as a criticism per se, just as a more honest description which highlights the flaws you already know are there in systems like this one.

I would classify the British government as a Parliamentary Oligarchy. That is, a state in which governmental power is held by a small minority of individuals, most of whom exercise their power though an elected parliamentary assembly.

We have 650 elected members in the House of Commons, tasked with representing the majority views of over 65 million people. Yes, we are ruled by 0.001% of the nation. Maybe 25 of them are involved in Cabinet – the core of government decision-making – while around 100 become different kinds of Ministers. So the 0.001% itself is dominated by 3.8% of its number. In 2016, Official Labour Market Statistics estimated the population of Hastings Council’s area of responsibility at 92,200. It has 32 councillors: not much hope in local government either. And the European Parliament isn’t worth mentioning because – never mind Brexit – it can’t legislate. It’s the European Union equivalent of our House of Lords. Our Watson chamber is the Lords, theirs is the only vaguely representative arm of European Union government. Go figure.

Moving on to parties. In 2015, the Conservatives formed a government on the “majority” of 37% of a 66% turnout. That’s 11,334,920 people getting representation versus 51,846,855 people in the general population (figures based on the 2011 Census) being given a government they disagree with.

In 2010, it was 36% of a 65% turnout: 10,703,744 people, so what roughly a sixth of the population – 17%! – getting minimal representation. Everyone else left high and dry, most still paying taxes. Over 40 million people regularly left without even the smallest tip-of-a-hat to representation.

That’s nationally. Locally, once again taking Hastings as a sample area, 2016 council elections, the highest turnout was in St Helens Ward: 47.2%. And that was the highest turnout of all wards by 6.3%. The Labour candidate got in by a relatively substantial 50.3% in St Helens. In rough terms, this all amounts to 1,000 people out of 4,000 getting what they voted for. 25% being represented.

In 2013, the Conservative party announced that it had 149,800 members. About 0.23% of the population. Labour claimed 552,000 members in June 2017. About 0.85% of the population. A September 2017 Parliamentary report on party membership put the total membership of Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and UKIP at 1,024,600, based on the most recent official figures available. Almost at full strength our very much disunited system of political parties might represent 1.58% of the population.

These figures alone show that we do not live in a democratic nation. We do however live in a nation where oligarchic government needs to seek some kind of approval or at least participation from an electorate of 46,835,433 people – based on the 2017 election – which translates to around 72.1% of the population. This is probably better than any other level of governmental representation in at least 1000 years of British history. So it’s still progress, but it’s not democracy. I’ll address this further in the following two parts, but to emphasise: voting is not equivalent to democracy. Voting is just voting.

All of my percentages are based on a rough tally of a total population of 65 million people. The latest UN estimates put it at 65,431,223 as of April 2017. Our 2011 census put it at 63,182,000. I suggest that even British people who are not part of the current electorate deserve consideration and representation under any kind of decent social contract. This is why I keep providing percentages out of the total population and not just the electorate. We’re talking about democracy here, not just voting.