Democracy, arms and Tony Benn


Tony Benn made a great speech in the UK parliament about arms dealers. Following the November 2015 Paris massacre by adherents of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), someone on Facebook posted his speech. Interesting too that these days describing Tony Benn’s “common sense” as “hard left” is now thought of as a joke – mainstream media spin is being taken over by people’s voices on social media.

The notion that the ISIS attack on Paris was primarily due to religion is false. Throughout history we’ve seen bombings and massacres by non-religious groups – IRA, Basque separatists, Baader Meinhof gang, My Lai massacre that a whistle blower leaked to Seymour Hersh and most wars come to mind. Howard K Bloom’s brilliant book showing evil doesn’t exist and what we call evil is simply the workings of human genetics spells it out. His book, The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into The Forces of History, shows how societies and history works – it’s worth reading.

No, the Belgian and French citizens who conducted the Paris massacres had suffered racism in their societies and were ready to lash out. They became politicised by clever ISIS social marketing appealing to adventure, power, belonging, and spiritual fulfilment. Not much different to any stupid young generation going off to war.

We all now know that ISIS is a product of American foreign policy. Carpet bombing a whole population to kill a few militants then supplying arms to those still alive has to end badly, unless you’re an arms trader. As to the psychology of an ISIS fighter, Islam comes a distant third after family and nation in their concerns (and that stems from research by an ex-General of the US military).

So where does this leave us with Tony Benn? Militarism and how to end it? After 47 years in parliament Tony Benn refused to stand again, saying he was “leaving parliament in order to spend more time on politics.”

He said “Parliamentary democracy is, in truth, little more than a means of securing a periodical change in the management team.”

Admittedly he was  talking about the First Past the Post anti-democratic UK system, but given the number of people who refuse even to vote his comments apply to most modern societies. As Bertolt Brecht in Der Politische said:

“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. They don’t hear, don’t speak, and don’t take part in politics. They don’t know that the cost of living, the price of beans,fish, bread, rent, shoes or medicine, all depend on politics. The political illiterates are so stupid that they proudly swell their chests saying they hate politics. These imbeciles don’t know that from their political ignorance comes prostituton, abandoned children, and the worst criminals of all – bad politicians and corrupt lackeys of national and multinational companies.”

brecht not voting

Real democracy only begins with a fair vote under a system of proportional representation. Real democracy is about collaboration: groups of people getting together and making decisions that work for everyone. It’s not about forcing your will on other people by outvoting them 51%. That only leaves 49% of people unhappy.

I’m left hoping that more people get involved with politics, that more people understand militarism and that more people understand that the enemy is within, within our own humanity. The challenge for humans is to overcome our own propensity to violence.


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