The Party Game Is Over

Stand and Fight

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew.
Which in sleep has fallen on you.
Ye are many – they are few.

— Percy Bysshe Shelley

These days, the stirring lines of Percy Shelley’s “The Mask of Anarchy” may seem unattainable. I don’t think so. Shelley was both a Romantic and political truth-teller. His words resonate now because only one political course is left to those who are disenfranchised and whose ruin is announced on a government spread sheet.

Born of the “never again” spirit of 1945, social democracy in Britain has surrendered to an extreme political cult of money worship. This reached its apogee when £1 trillion of public money was handed unconditionally to corrupt banks by a Labour government whose leader, Gordon Brown, had previously described “financiers” as the nation’s “great example” and his personal “inspiration”.

This is not to say Parliamentary politics is meaningless. They have one meaning now: the replacement of democracy by a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born. The old myths of British rectitude, imperial in origin, provided false comfort while the Blair gang, assisted by venal MPs, finished Thatcher’s work and built the foundation of the present “coalition”.

This is led by a former PR man for an asset stripper and by a bagman who will inherit his knighthood and the tax-avoided fortune of his father, the 17th Baronet of Ballentaylor. David Cameron and George Osborne are essentially fossilised spivs who, in colonial times, would have been sent by their daddies to claim foreign terrain and plunder.

Today, they are claiming 21st century Britain and imposing their vicious, antique ideology, albeit served as economic snake oil. Their designs have nothing to do with a “deficit crisis”. A deficit of 10 per cent is not remotely a crisis. When Britain was officially bankrupt at the end of the second world war, the government built its greatest public institutions, such as the National Health Service and the great arts edifices of London’s South Bank.

There is no economic rationale for the assault described cravenly by the BBC as a “public spending review”. The debt is exclusively the responsibility of those who incurred it, the super-rich and the gamblers. However, that’s beside the point. What is happening in Britain is the seizure of an opportunity to destroy the tenuous humanity of the modern state. It is a coup, a “shock doctrine” as applied to Pinochet’s Chile and Yeltsin’s Russia.

In Britain, there is no need for tanks in the streets. In its managerial indifference to the freedoms it is said to hold dear, bourgeois Britain has allowed parliament to create a surveillance state with 3,000 new criminal offences and laws: more than for the whole of the previous century. Powers of arrest and detention have never been greater. The police have the impunity to kill; asylum seekers can be “restrained” to death on commercial flights and should fellow passengers object, anti-terrorism laws will deal with them. Abroad, British militarism colludes with torturers and death squads.

The playwright Athol Fugard is right. With Harold Pinter gone, no acclaimed writer or artist dare depart from their well remunerated vanity. With so much in need of saying, they have nothing to say. Liberalism, the vainest ideology, has hauled up its ladder. The chief opportunist, Nick Clegg, leader of the minority Liberal Democrats, gave no electoral hint of his odious faction’s compliance with the dismantling of much of British post-war society.

The theft of £83bn in jobs and services matches almost exactly the amount of tax legally avoided by piratical corporations like Rupert Murdoch’s. Without fanfare, the super-rich have been assured they can dodge £40bn in tax payments in the secrecy of Swiss banks. The day this was sewn up, Osborne attacked those who “cheat” the welfare system. He omitted the real amount lost, a minuscule £0.5bn, and that £10.5bn in benefit payments were not claimed at all.  The Labour Party is his silent partner.

The propaganda arm in the press and broadcasting dutifully presents this as unfortunate but necessary. Mark how the fire-fighters’ action is “covered”. On Channel 4 News, following an item that portrayed modest, courageous public servants as basically reckless, the presenter Jon Snow demanded that the leaders of the London Fire Authority and the Fire Brigades Union go straight from the studio and “mediate” now, this minute. “I’ll get the taxis!” he declared. Forget the thousands of jobs that are to be eliminated from the fire service and the public danger beyond Bonfire Night. Knock their jolly heads together. “Good stuff!” said the presenter.

Ken Loach’s 1980s documentary series, Questions of Leadership, opens  with a sequence of earnest young trade unionists on platforms, exhorting the masses. They are then shown older, florid, self-satisfied and finally adorned in the ermine of the House of Lords. Once, at a Durham Miners’ Gala, I asked Tony Woodley, now the joint general secretary of Unite, “Isn’t the problem the clockwork collaboration of the union leadership?” He almost agreed, implying that the rise of bloods like himself would change that. The British Airways’ cabin crew strike, over which Woodley presides, is said to have made gains. Has it?  And why haven’t the British unions risen as one against totalitarian laws that place free trade unionism in a vice?

The BA workers, the fire-fighters, the council workers, the post office workers, the NHS workers, the London Underground staff, the teachers, the lecturers, the students can more than match the French if they are resolute and imaginative, forging, with the wider social justice movement, potentially the greatest popular resistance ever. Look at the web; and listen to the public’s support at fire stations. There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience. Unerring. Read Shelley and do it.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

24 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on November 3rd, 2010 at 9:53am #

    Ok how about another meeting DV did it once before yes it will take a lot of us I know one person I would like to be there and could make it happen or try. DV if this sounds good try it again I sort of make it now month to month so can you send the jet and will probably need expense money a room facing East just kidding not about making it month to month but this has to start somehow.

  2. mary said on November 3rd, 2010 at 10:11am #

    What a great analysis and what magnificent words! All of them are true.

  3. Don Hawkins said on November 3rd, 2010 at 1:05pm #

    Rise like lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number.
    Shake your chains to earth like dew.
    Which in sleep has fallen on you.
    Ye are many – they are few.
    — Percy Bysshe Shelley

    You have to admit so far not to many lions rising as I just watch the leader of the free World today and appears will slumber to the center. The Jon Stewart rally well which in sleep has fallen on you. Granted ye are many-they are few and the few ever noticed they have a secret hand shake. Do we need that no the truth and knowledge should do just fine a lot of us working together but first bring it together

  4. Don Hawkins said on November 3rd, 2010 at 1:33pm #

    Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it. ~Albert Einstein

    And the State just what is that? I think old Beck forget’s to mention certain things on his blackboards like his boss the person who signs the check’s a good example go from there. The State demands what well number one rule, law consume as best you can maybe two job’s or three so you can someday become a CEO of a major corporation maybe a corrupt Senator heck you could become a movie Star and really embrace the system while telling people about the system and when you get older do commercials for say a reverse mortgage. In 1849 Henry David Thoreau could not have seen the rise of the corporation. Massey Massey Massey Exxon Exxon Exxon Goldman Goldman Goldman USA USA USA drill baby drill drill baby drill move to the center is it no no no.

  5. Don Hawkins said on November 3rd, 2010 at 3:41pm #

    Mitch McConnell just said the Democrats are getting it wrong the American people just said the Republicans were right in say no to Obama’s policy’s. McConnell not only are you corrupt but crazy as the only thing the American people could do was vote for evil or less evil is there any part of that you don’t understand?

  6. jayn0t said on November 3rd, 2010 at 7:12pm #

    ‘Born of the “never again” spirit of 1945, social democracy in Britain has surrendered to an extreme political cult of money worship’. Yeah, the firestorms of Dresden, Cologne, Hamburg, etc., the mass rape and ethnic cleansing of Germany, all of it excused by ‘never again’, the slogan of Zionism, mindlessly repeated by Pilger, were so much better than ‘money worship’. Apart from that, it’s a pretty good article.

  7. Gary S. Corseri said on November 3rd, 2010 at 9:49pm #

    Re the above comment: Surely the slogan “never again” was used before Zionism’s appropriation of it? One can imagine a dyspeptic Genghis Khan telling his warriors he would “never again” eat horse meat marinaded in bull piss! Pilger’s reference, of course, is to the hard-won understanding of the Brits, following two catastrophic world wars, that the imperial wizards of the British Empire had not only lost their empire, but damn near destroyed the world in the process. The masses were determined “never again” to be so gulled; they demanded social democracy–and they got it.

    What Pilger laments here is the way the British model–and other European models of social democracy–, has been enfolded, engulfed and usurped by a New World Order which transcends the sovereign state and the rights and protections won by the masses after decades, even centuries, of struggle. Pilger is right when he asserts that many of us appear to be in “slumber” (as Shelley had it)–and that this is probably more true in the UK and the US than in continental Europe. Pilger’s attributing that “slumber” to the ubiquitous surveillance which is a mundane fact of life in contemporary Britain (and America!), and to the criminalization of quite natural acts of resistance–his attribution is a dire warning and alert to all of us who seek to transform our neo-feudalistic world.

  8. Don Hawkins said on November 4th, 2010 at 2:44am #

    Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
    Henry David Thoreau

    What the hell happened well let’s see since the invention of the television then of course the industrial revolution we all live in a yellow submarine not exactly we all live in a World where nothing is real any more. Nothing is as it seems. Oh there still is the real World of course like if you work for a rather big corporation called the United States military you know USA inc another way to kook at it is a big giant welfare company and yes you get to play with high tech things like how about those two people in a room with the key’s 99% boredom 1% terror or the nameless face in a room looking at the computer generated screen and the joy stick got them now another American can go eat at another corporation and do it fast and never mind the sawdust in the food along with a few other compounds let’s not forget a few more who get to go to foreign lands and get there arms and leg’s blown off while doing the same thing to the other side while making the general population basket cases that would be men, women and children did I forget anybody. Then if you do make it sort of as the mind after doing this changes a little come back to the greatest nation on Earth and heck can turn on the TV and watch Fox New’s or Oprah, wheel of fortune a rerun of happy day’s. Last night Beck said Fox had the biggest share 7 million and CNN next with only 2 million you know who watched the elections evil less evil and all those things I just mentioned are they corporations oh yes they sure are well I guess am one share. How’s Randy Quaid doing these day’s yes all the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players and careful what you play maybe Super Storm did old Randy in. Oh speaking of super storms Mr. President moving to the center are we? Now the last time many of us checked we are all about 6.9 billion going down the drain in not such slow motion and it’s not the economy stupid a few other minor little problem’s like the destruction of a planet called Earth somewhat a miracle of the known Universe and you are moving to the center is there something, someone maybe this big giant corporation controlling your mind? Just thought I’d ask. I wrote this in somewhat simple terms so now I will turn on say CNBC the Capitalist New’s Broadcasting Corporation and listen to the greatest minds in human history then again maybe just well dressed fool’s or Fox New’s or CNN and see who’s best dressed today as we all move to the center. Randy Quaid can you drive a tractor much work to be done or Tiger can you drive a tractor how about you Oprah or Stewart? Don’t want to be a slave do you really have you all ever heard of a prison for the mind.

  9. Don Hawkins said on November 4th, 2010 at 3:35am #

    Gotta break out of this place we’re in
    Runnin’ out of time and out of sin
    We were living smoke and mirrors anyway
    Gonna drive all night ’til we disappear
    Chasing down the miles so far from here
    As the smoke and mirrors start to fade away
    You know we’re still the same… still the same

  10. jayn0t said on November 4th, 2010 at 6:27am #

    “Pilger’s reference, of course, is to the hard-won understanding of the Brits, following two catastrophic world wars, that the imperial wizards of the British Empire had not only lost their empire, but damn near destroyed the world in the process.” – thanks, Gary, but no. For all his qualities, Pilger is a traditional leftist, and has a traditional leftist view of world war two – ‘we’ were on the side of the good guys. The analysis you put forward comes from Pat Buchanan, a conservative, not from the left.

  11. Gary S. Corseri said on November 4th, 2010 at 8:45am #

    I know that Buchanan is no Leftist, but I’m not at all sure what is meant above, i.e.: “Pilger is a traditional leftist.” Pilger is in his mid to late 60s now, and no doubt his views have evolved over time–as, indeed, his work in film and his writing clearly indicate. It should not surprise us that, as decades and half-centuries pass, interpretations of historical events converge in ways that would have been unimaginable earlier on. If Buchanan’s analysis of Britain’s mood after WWII has been more accurate than that of the “traditional left,” then let’s give credit where it’s due. But… let’s also be careful not to pigeon-hole astute social critics like Pilger.

  12. jayn0t said on November 4th, 2010 at 5:24pm #

    Pilger made all the mistakes of the left of his generation, and then some. In a nutshell, he was soft on Stalinism. If he ever renounces anti-fascism, and states categorically that there was nothing to choose between the two sides in WWII, I’ll say ‘another lefty who has made the necessary step to really oppose Zionism today’. As for Buchanan, I mean his ‘Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War’, which really does explain how foolish it was for Britain to attack Germany – he’s surprisingly sympathetic to the Empire, for an Irish-American! But Buchanan is soft on Britain and America. The thing is to oppose all sides.

  13. kalidas said on November 4th, 2010 at 5:46pm #

    Didn’t grave robbers once discover a Neanderthal’s grave marker with the hammered out epitaph “never again!”
    Subsequent detection found cave drawings depicting his travails. It seems an ancient chisler, a “crafty” trader of skins, had done gone and usurped the plans to his new invention, the wheel.

  14. PatrickSMcNally said on November 4th, 2010 at 7:58pm #

    > there was nothing to choose between the two sides in WWII,

    For the majority of east Europeans a victory won by Stalin was clearly much more the better. Hitler’s goals of cultivating living space in eastern Europe depended upon treating the Slavs in the way that the American Indian was handled here in North America, and he was quite explicit about that in his Table Talk and elsewhere. It is not necessary to dwell at all upon Jews when grasping the fact that for most Slavs a victory by the Soviet Union was the better outcome.

  15. jayn0t said on November 4th, 2010 at 8:20pm #

    McNally: ‘For most Slavs a victory by the Soviet Union was the better outcome’ – maybe. But for members of other ethnic groups, the opposite. This perspective is just as racist as its converse.

  16. PatrickSMcNally said on November 4th, 2010 at 9:31pm #

    > But for members of other ethnic groups, the opposite.

    In the sense that Germans were not able to build expansive settlements across eastern Europe one may say that they would have been better off with a victory, just as Europeans were better off after conquering North America for living space. But no protracted effort was made to expel European populations in order to make way for Russian settlements. The German authorities ordered a massive evacuation in the last stages of the war which led to many Germans dying along the way. Subsequent propaganda has tried to attribute every such case of the German-ordered evacuation to expulsions. Stanislaw Schimitzek gives a useful debunking of this in TRUTH OR CONJECTURE? GERMAN CIVILIAN WAR LOSSES IN THE EAST. But there was no extended plan for clearing out Germany by the Russians. Maybe the world would be better off if the German populace had been totally expelled and a Jewish state founded on that territory instead of Palestine. But that wasn’t done, and many east Germans have had fond memories of the DDR. There’s no comparison with Hitler’s intent of turning Slavic east Europeans into the new American Indians.

  17. 3bancan said on November 4th, 2010 at 10:10pm #

    PatrickSMcNally said on November 4th, 2010 at 9:31pm #

    “Maybe the world would be better off if the German populace had been totally expelled and a Jewish state founded on that territory instead of Palestine”

    Beautifully put!…

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain said on November 5th, 2010 at 3:07am #

    A truly excellent piece by Pilger. As for jaynot-look,mate, when you’re in a hole of your own construction, the first thing to do is stop digging. Arguments of moral equivalence between the Soviets and the Nazis are the stock in trade of the most ghastly Rightists, too numerous to mention individually, so, in my opinion, you are associating yourself with some real bastards.
    Pilger is spot on, and the actions of the Cameron pathocrats and their Lib/Dem fags are a sinister new phase in the market capitalist neo-feudal project. The Tories lied, over and over, without conscience or remorse, led by the charming psychopath Cameron, that they had ‘changed’. They even invented PR slogans of stunning mendacity like ‘Red Toryism’ to label their entirely fraudulent new ethos of love and kindness for the rabble. Still,I bet that they got a laugh out of it.
    Once in power, once joined by their fellow sons of privilege like Clegg, the mask was swiftly dropped, and what emerged were uber-Thatcherites, even more driven by class hatred and sheer antipathy to those unlike themselves. Thatcher’s mob at least included some paternalistic, ‘one country’ Tories, a type whose relative humanity was simply the result of their fear of stirring up the proles by too ruthless mistreatment.
    The new Tories, however, thanks to years of study at the feet of US Republican ideologues, are fearless and relentless. They imagine that, with the sewer of the Rightwing media totally behind them, that there is nothing they cannot do. The sheer viciousness of policy, so far, targeting the poor massively disproportionately at every opportunity, gives the game away. This is, above all, about the slaking of the psychopaths’ immense taste for sadism, the same impulse seen in Zionazi mass torture in Occupied Palestine and the whole archipelago of horror and terror that is the US war against Islam. Even if there was not the phony excuse of the financial implosion, this is what the Tories were always going to do. Indeed Tory/Lib Dem coalitions in local government have been putting this agenda of ferocious class hatred and social revenge into operation for some time, yet the patsies really seem surprised by the sheer nastiness of it all. I’ve got advice for them. Look at Ireland, Iceland, Greece,Latvia or the whole of Latin America in the ’80s and ’90s, and believe me, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

  19. jayn0t said on November 5th, 2010 at 4:13am #

    Anti-fascism is just as racist as fascism. Thanks all for confirming my hypothesis. Maybe it would be ‘better off if the German populace had been totally expelled’… If ‘real bastards’ are people who think murdering Germans is as bad as murdering anyone else, I guess I am one…

  20. PatrickSMcNally said on November 5th, 2010 at 5:59am #

    > If ‘real bastards’ are people who think murdering Germans is as bad as murdering anyone else

    No, but equating the effects of a lost war of conquest with Hitler’s plans for Lebensraum in eastern Europe is not honest. The German authorites ordered a chaotic evacuation which led to many deaths and was then followed by some further brutal expulsions by the Poles and other groups which Hitler had hoped to colonize. Then it stopped and no further attempt was made to turn east Germany into a loving space settlement. But, yes, if the Israel/Palestine mess could have been avoided by just making Germany an openly Jewish state then the world would have been better off.

  21. 3bancan said on November 5th, 2010 at 6:15am #

    PatrickSMcNally said on November 5th, 2010 at 5:59am #

    “if the Israel/Palestine mess could have been avoided by just making Germany an openly Jewish state then the world would have been better off”

    ImhoPatrickSMcNally’s nearly exceedingly profound “humanity” expressed by “the world would be better off if the German populace had been totally expelled and a Jewish state founded on that territory” should win the Nobel Humanity Prize…

  22. Don Hawkins said on November 8th, 2010 at 3:43pm #

    Nonviolent resistance (or nonviolent action) is the practice of achieving socio-political goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and other methods, without using violence. Wiki

    I like Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia has much knowledge. We are out of time it only get’s tuffer from here I think many know but more need to know and will take a lot of us. The level of madness you have to admit has reached new high’s from the State. The State a little public a little private and there plan so far is nonexistent at least for us the people. It will take more than one try kind of like relentless. Ruff draft as for me I guess I could keep witting about the Arctic or the Amazon and 100 year storms we now seem to see in months not years and quoting the best minds we have that I have noticed are now saying out of time Nonviolent resistance, civil disobedience if my kid’s and there kid’s can at least have a fighting chance, some not all.

    “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace. Passive. Use the knowledge for defense, never for attack. ”

    Does it always’ work;

    The Cherokee refused to recognize the fraudulent Treaty of New Echota and therefore did not sell their livestock or goods, and did not pack anything to travel to the west before the soldiers came and forcibly removed them. That ended tragically in the Cherokee trail of tears.

    But sometimes;

    Nonviolent resistance marked by rejecting British imposed taxes, boycotting British manufactured products and mass strikes, led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) and the Indian National Congress.

    Then of course looked good on paper;

    The protests that raged throughout 1968 were for the most part student-led. Worldwide, campuses became the front-line battle grounds for social change. While opposition to the Vietnam War dominated the protests, students also protested for civil liberties, against racism, for feminism, and the beginnings of the ecological movement can be traced to the protests against nuclear and biological weapons during this year.

  23. Don Hawkins said on November 8th, 2010 at 4:25pm #

    The best minds we have who have a soul have been trying to get the word out now for about ten years. National Geographic, The History Channel as best they can are trying. The scientists as best they can some of the little people as best they can now the media here in the States used to try but for some reason have stopped not a good sign something is at play. Then of course the corporate counters with feel good commercials and sometimes not so feel good. The arguments from corporate are now so far from know knowledge it boggles the mind. So far they are winning and it is universal deceit and just on the off chance what we see with our own eye’s is true there really are no winners strange game.

  24. mary said on November 9th, 2010 at 12:53pm #

    A Christmas present for us – a new Pilger film: ‘The War You Don’t See’

    “In an extraordinary alliance of TV and cinema, John Pilger’s new film, ‘The War You Don’t See’, opens in the UK mid-December. Following its premiere at the Barbican on Tuesday 7 December 2010, the first Pilger film for three years will be showing at the Curzon Soho on Monday 13 December 2010 and at cinemas nationally, followed by a satellite Q&A. The following night, Tuesday 14 December, ITV will broadcast ‘The War You Don’t See’ at 10.35pm.

    “The new film is a powerful and timely investigation into the media’s role in war, tracing the history of ’embedded’ and independent reporting from the carnage of World War One to the destruction of Hiroshima, and from the invasion of Vietnam to the current war in Afghanistan and disaster in Iraq. As weapons and propaganda become even more sophisticated, the nature of war is developing into an ‘electronic battlefield’. in which journalists play a key role, and civilians are the victims. But who is the real enemy?

    “The Curzon Soho box office opens for bookings on Wednesday 1 December. Booking details and information about further showings in the UK and abroad will appear here soon.”

    Directors: John Pilger & Alan Lowery. Editor: Joe Frost. An ITV/Strand Films Production.