The right to protest: Cameron the dictator?

In response to yesterday’s CSR, there was a series of protests staged across the country. However, my recognition of this on Twitter caused some distrest amongst my Tory and right-wing minded followers. Consider the following tweets @me:

Dyslexic_Trojan

1) I do not underestimate their power you over-estimate there childishness most ppl accept the cuts

2) It is there right but it’s not there right to hold the nation to ransom

3) They can write to there MP’s or concentrate on finding new jobs

ArnieEtc

4 )We live in a parliamentary democracy, if you don’t like what’s happening you change it through ballot box/We live in a parliamentary democracy, so should accept the democratic will of Parliament!

5) I don’t see how unelected bodies threatening an elected parliament can be considered ‘democratic’!/They have no right to threaten damaging actions against our nation, just because they don’t like the outcome of an election.

Now you see, there is a common theme to both right-wing political commentators’ tweets: they have a very restrictive and coercive view of democracy. They ignore the fact that more people voted collectively against the cuts, in fact, even the Tories hadn’t promised to eradicate the structural deficit in their election campaign! Now to counter each claim:

  1. This was a reference to the protest video provided by the Guardian, which I had tweeted. As I have already stated, more people voted against the level and speed of the cuts outlined. Regardless, we do not live in a dictatorship and one of the fundamental rights of a democracy is to allow people the right to protest. Calling these people ‘childish’ is unbelievably disrespectful! These people, and I am one of them, are fighting against a considerable assault upon our livelihoods – this is in no sense of the word, “childish”.
  2. You see, this is a traditional line thrown towards the union and protest movement, as though they are only a small and restrictive selection of population. The only people these protests hold to account are those, predominately comfortably off, people making the decisions at the top without a care in the world for the very regressive effects their policies are having on people. The people who support this line are the businessmen who don’t want to see their profits undermined in the tight competitive capitalist system we live in. So Cameron can tuck himself into his bed at Chequers whilst people are being thrown out of their homes because of housing benefits cuts, but people have every right to protest.
  3. This is again an argument that is divorced from the context of what has just happened. There is set to be 490,000 public job loses, and given the contractual relation to the private sector with PFI etc, there is set to many job losses in the private sector as well! Now, how are people expected to find these ‘new’ jobs when there is no growth strategy, and they are faced with ever reducing benefits and a possible housing crisis (due to the assault on social housing and housing benefit etc)? How are people to be encouraged into finding a job in an increasingly depressive market?
  4. Now two tweets that have the same meaning attached to them: a very specific definition of politics that ignores the many forms of political action and organisation and says the only legitimate form is electoral democracy. Now, you see this can be undermined in so many ways. For one, we have a political electoral system (FPTP), which means that people aren’t always able to change it through the ballot box, in the way they wish. For example, the Green Party, unlike the three main parties, don’t want cuts – but the electoral system means that they can’t be given a majority to ensure this. So, people should not be expected to put up and shut up, or to turn to another political party and forget their beliefs – they should be allowed other forms of protest. This argument that we should somehow always accept parliament as the absolute moral authority is the type of argument you’d expect in a dictatorship like Iran!
  5. This is an assault on the civil society forms of protest such as social movements. As Gramsci emphasised in his work around hegemony, the civil society is a crucial area for political protest (however, there is work that refers to how Gramsic has three forms of hegemony – regardless, his best conception emphasised the importance of civil society being separate from the state and the economy, but having a relationship still). Civil society protests are important when considering the gendered nature of democracy, for example – for many feminist we are in a continual state of transitional democracy as we are yet to have equality between women and men. By defining democracy as exclusively to do with people who are elected into parliament, it denies groups that are excluded by this process a form of political representation. These organisations are representative, they are representative of groups excluded and ignored. They are often more democratic than parliament itself (in terms of structures, representation of interests etc).

Now, it seems that there are a few out there (on the right) who are rightfully worried about the protests that are to come against these cuts and harmful policies. Some people on the left seem to be a bit jaded and demoralised from the review, hardly surprising. However, we need to make sure that we don’t let the Tories depress us to the point that we can’t make our voices of objection heard. There is nothing about protesting, when it is peaceful and constructive, that harms anyone other than the government’s “we are all this together” or “these cuts are inevitable” lines!

In Sum, Nick Robinson’s disgraceful actions to a rightful protest sums up some people’s views on the right side of the political spectrum re protests:

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