Monday 28 September 2020

Will they be coming for the socialists next?


The guidance for schools which the UK government published last week applies only to England, but that doesn’t mean that it should be of no concern to us here in Wales. Whilst the specific issue (relating to the curriculum) is a devolved matter, the current government has amply demonstrated recently that it is no respecter of such boundaries; but the even bigger concern for us should be that the attitude behind their move leaks across into other areas of policy and legislation. The inclusion of the word ‘capitalism’ when they label any “… publicly stated desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism, or to end free and fair elections” as an ‘extreme political stance’ is another dangerous step towards authoritarianism. It is hard to see how any teaching of modern history, politics, or economics can exclude any mention of any alternatives to the capitalist economic model; the desire to produce students who only know about one particular ideology, and one particular type of economy, is the sort of thing we generally associate with states such as North Korea rather than a European democracy. Arguing, in the same paragraph, for the protection of free speech is also the sort of nonsense we would expect from such a regime; what they mean is that we have the freedom to say whatever we are permitted to say, a rather limited definition of the word ‘freedom’.

It’s a short step from labelling anticapitalism as an extreme view to banning those arguing for an alternative to capitalism from participating in debate or political activity. It’s another short step from banning mention of alternatives in schools to banning it in universities, or to devising programmes such as Prevent to ‘re-educate’ those who do not conform. We have already seen attempts to label supporters of Extinction Rebellion as terrorists; it’s all too easy to see how socialists might be added to the list. It is increasingly clear that those at the heart of the current government have a strong authoritarian streak, view the masses as people to be instructed and controlled rather than citizens, and want to impose their view of the world on society as a whole. One of the lessons of history is that freedoms do not usually disappear all at once, and authoritarianism doesn’t appear overnight – both things happen in a series of small steps; by the time people realise where that series of small steps has taken them, it’s already become a big leap and is too late to reverse. I’m not sure that the current PM knows or understands any of this – he seems to be ideology-free, have no patience with or interest in the details, and be a generally lazy and incompetent individual whose core belief revolves around only himself and his desire to be PM. He’s little more than a bumbling and occasionally funny (although that’s wearing very thin) front man for the real ideologues, not all of them holding elected office. But being a willing tool just makes him more, rather than less, dangerous.

1 comment:

dafis said...

Politics in general has spawned several variants of the "authoritarian" species over recent years. The prevalence of intolerance across the entire spectrum of beliefs and ideologies beggars belief. Instead of learning to resist intolerance we seem to have moved as a society towards major clusters of groupthink which demand unconditional adherence to their particular "faith". Now the biggest threat right now may be the Tories because they are the party of government in the U.K but we already witness among opposition parties in the U.K and in the 4 nations a steady drift to their own brands of intolerance. Even the SNP which to their credit seems to have united a variety of stances for well over a decade now has a potential schism within it, all fostered by cliques who value their own agendas above the broader objective. As for Plaid it seems to have boxed itself well and truly into a corner by grasping at all sorts of fashionable ishoos while avoiding any sustained effort on the real challenges of independence. That is the fascism of holding an office rather than holding power. But they all circle the same plughole eventually.