Sunday, 2 November 2014

We Need a Revolution

by Caleb Barron

For nine days, from the 17th to the 26th October, the Occupy London group held a peaceful protest in Parliament Square with the wish to educate each other on the internal problems our country has and on solutions to them and to reclaiming our democracy. As the videos show, the police made every attempt to stop this from happening. The programme that ran that each day had a different theme, each focusing on a specific problem with our current system. I had the privilege of attending the first Sunday and I can say, as an eye-witness, that everyone at the protest was peaceful, welcoming and generally very nice.

The theme of the day that I went was finance and there were some very interesting speakers, including Ann Pettifor (who has devoted her life to analysing the global financial system and the UK’s financial system), John Christensen (Director of the Tax Justice network, analysing the harm that tax evasion and fear of tax can bring) and two volunteers from UKuncut (a grassroots movement taking action to highlight alternatives to the government’s spending cuts). Each had something different to say on the matter, not only highlighting the problems but suggesting solutions.

As I mentioned earlier, the police made every attempt possible to close down the protest. Now obviously they were only doing their job and it would have been more than their job was worth not to do what they were ordered to do. That is not what angers me. The real issue here is the use of the police as a political tool. The day before Occupy Democracy began, the police made excuses about maintenance of the grass on Parliament Square and put string around it, not allowing people to go on the grass. Once they had admitted the grass didn’t need maintenance, a bye-law was invented claiming that, as Parliament Square was owned by Westminster Council, it was private property and the protesters must leave. The police again had to admit they were wrong.

From here the police plucked bye-laws out of nowhere, stopping people from having banners, voice amplification, warmth when sleeping and even an umbrella. One man was arrested for cutting a piece of string that surrounded Parliament Square. Later in the week, when the police again were not allowing people on the grass, a man climbed up on to one of the plinths surrounding the square. Someone handed him a bottle of water and was arrested. The police didn’t allow the man on the plinth to have any food or water for the duration he was up there and, when he climbed down, he was instantly arrested… For exercising his right to protest.

Ten minutes after I had left the protest, on my way home, I heard reports of police brutality at the protest. The police were arresting people for sitting on a tarpaulin in Parliament Square (not just a legal place of protest, but a historical site of protest, a place put there specifically for protests) and they were using force to remove the protesters. This didn’t just happen that evening; it had happened the evening before and it happened again later in the week. The police kettled the protesters, using Guantanamo tactics: not allowing them access to food, water or a toilet, preventing them from sleeping, putting up umbrellas and wrapping themselves up to keep warm. 

This happened even though the protesters had not put up banners (according to a made-up law) or used voice amplification (according to a made-up law) because they’d been told not to. The police had said earlier in the day (I was there to hear it) that the tarpaulin would be allowed.
Before the kettling the police had tried to intimidate us by surrounding us, taking notes and videoing us (for later evidence?) and generally trying to outnumber us. When the kettling happened, there were only around 30 protesters, yet there were 140 police officers, a police helicopter and several riot vans. This is all because the Government is concerned that maybe Occupy Democracy has a point and that if Occupy Democracy gets the attention of the public before it is shut down, it might make a difference. Does this not raise the question of whether we truly do live in a democracy?

Following all this there were several other arrests, including that of Jenny Jones (a senior Green Party politician). The "reasons" for her arrest are laughable at. She arrived to investigate the claims of police brutality, as she is on the board that makes sure that the Metropolitan Police does its job correctly. While there (doing her job), she was arrested. The police could not come up with a reason better than that she was supporting the protest. She could still be taken to court. See more on her arrest here.

Another protest was taking place on the first Saturday of Occupy Democracy and it was redirected so that it did not pass Parliament, so as to not give Occupy any more attention.

So why all this, then? Is our country really in that much of a state that people are willing to go and get arrested just to show that we don’t have a true democracy? 

Well, yes.

Wherever we place ourselves on the political spectrum, we have to admit that our Government doesn’t run on democracy, it runs on money. This means that the interests of the people aren’t served; instead, the interests of big, money-making corporations and big banks and the institutions where politicians work when they’re not being politicians are being served (it is easy to spot which organisations the Government is serving at any given time because those are the ones where the leading ministers work when their term in office comes to an end). Our mainstream media is paid for almost entirely by big companies, meaning that the needs of 99% of the population are not served, as the media and Government work closely to put in charge those people that the big businesses want in charge.

Over the past thirty years, we’ve seen the wages for many flatlining and coming out of sync with inflation, putting many people out of pocket and in difficult positions, whilst bankers take huge bonuses and large companies avoid tax so that the bosses can make as much money as they like whilst their workers get minimum wage, not a living wage. More and more people are forced to choose between heating and eating.

Because of the control of the media by the Government and big companies, many of us don’t know the huge issues that surround housing, education, health etc. Even our voting system is unfair: proportional representation is quite probably the closest thing we have to true democracy - except we don’t have it. It would surely be much fairer to have the number of votes for a party to reflect the number of seats they hold. We are put in a position in which, if you don’t vote for one of the three main parties, your vote becomes void - and you couldn’t fit a piece of paper between the three main parties as they all offer the same thing: cuts to public services.

The way that political parties are funded means that banks directly benefit from financing a certain party’s campaign, then making money out of what they do with their power. For example, when the Tory/Lib Dem Coalition privatized the Royal Mail (which is a whole other debate in itself), close friends of the Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, made huge amounts of money out of the privatization.

All of this draws me to the conclusion that our country is not a democracy and that only if we stand up to the system and tell those in power that they’re wrong will we get anywhere. The government is not serving us as the people and that needs to change. We need a revolution.


  1. 'Our mainstream media is paid for almost entirely by big companies, meaning that the needs of 99% of the population are not served, as the media and Government work closely to put in charge those people that the big businesses want in charge.' How else would you pay for it, have it state controlled and have it being the mouthpiece of the Government and a single party agenda?

  2. I am simply suggesting that the fact that the people in the government directly benefit from helping out big companies and big companies directly benefit from which government is in power and what decisions they make means that the big businesses sway the media to get the people into Westminster that will help them make the most money. It would be fine to have the media controlled by these companies if they didn't have such control over what happens in government and didn't directly influence it to make them money.

  3. One of the biggest problems is large companies owning more than their 'fair share' of the media. This means that that one company can directly influence where elections go and what perks that gets them. One example is of course Rupert Murdoch. He owns News Corp which in turn owns around 800 media based companies worldwide. In the UK his daily and weekly news broadcasts of different kinds directly impact 65% of the population. He owns at least 37% of the UK's newspapers and has large amounts of shares in other companies (e.g. Sky and ITV). This is what I think is unfair and I find it frankly worrying that one man can have such a huge stake in all the news I might access. Green Party wants to restrict media ownership by one person or company avoiding this kind of monopoly on the media. This surely is a good thing because we would think it unjust for one person to hold 70% of the power in our government so why is it not wrong in the media. In direct answer to your question firstly I am not against businesses owning parts of the media but I am against businesses monopolising it. Also there can be state-funded media without it being state-controlled. I would point you in the direction of the BBC.

  4. To quote Google, democracy is a noun which can be defined as the following: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.
    The basic political process in the UK is not complicated: each citizen is entitled for one vote, and each vote is cast with the intention of empowering one particular elected representative. In other words, our political system is entirely democratic.
    I think it's a shame that you chose to conclude with quite such an outrageous assertion, in that you have stated explicitly that our nation does not run on the principles of democracy. In hindsight, now the heat of the moment has passed, would you agree that you have jumped off a cliff of irrationality in coming to this conclusion. I think you have highlighted a large number of prominent issues in the article - concerns that are shared by much of the electorate - but your hyperbolic condemnations and the depressing picture of our political system you paint do not add up to a lack of democracy, and frankly, in the absence of any solutions, purely have the effect of undermining the democracy we DO have.

    1. You are correct in saying that in our country each citizen has the chance to vote. What I'm trying to say is the electoral system means that it is extremely difficult to vote in a party other than the three main parties whom all are effectively promising the same things (they slightly differ on a few subjects). I did suggest a solution, that being proportional representation, which I am sure would create a fairer representation of who the people have truly wanted to be voted in. I would also like to point out that your Google definition says 'by the whole population' suggesting that this voted in government should serve the needs of the people because it should be run 'by the whole population'. This doesn't mean everyone should be a member of parliament because of course that is impractical but it does mean we should have a transparent government who react when a large proportion of their people are against their suggested legislations. You surely must agree that our government places money before people's needs and this is against the concept of democracy being by the people with representatives. If our government was 'by the whole population' and gave us true 'representatives' of the people I wouldn't need to make such an assertion.
      I also think the controlling influence of the media means that often people feel strongly inclined to vote for a party they don't know enough about and have no real idea of their policies. This too has a direct effect on the legitimacy of our 'democracy' (or even illegitimacy) meaning that parties that media giants like Rupert Murdoch want in power get in power. This also is not democratic.

  5. Just because their are inevitable flaws in our political system - it would be unreasonable and overly theoretical to assume the 'ideal' could be reached - it is wrong to claim we don't live in a democracy. If you read the definition is used it states explicitly ' elected representatives '. It does not, as you have claimed above, say that the government should 'be run by the whole population '. I find it difficult to understand how you come to the conclusion that those in government are not true representatives of the people: every single member of parliament, without exception, is elected through a direct majority of those whom they stand to represent. There is no grey area: MPs represent a specific area, and are elected by, and only by, those living in that area.
    I'm also confused as to why you would claim the parties are funded by big businesses who stand to gain from their victory. The Conservative party receives the majority of its donations from individuals, not big businesses ; individuals who have the right, in a democratic society, to support who to they wish. The other major political party who you have drowned in cynisism regarding involvement with big business, the Labour party, has a union as it's most prominent donor. Of course this means the union has vast power over party policy etc, but given a union is a body representing large groups of the 'everyday' electorate, this is also perfectly democratic.
    You haven't justified your denial of democracy, and you haven't considered the accusations you are levelling at the 'political class'. It is true that some politicians may be responsible for public disenfranchisement from politics, but in this case, irrational conclusions have driven you to this anarchist dismissal.

  6. 'We need a revolution' except neither myself or yourself really have any ideas.


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