2011: the year we took on the unaccountable elites
The people are fighting back - even Charles Moore wonders if ‘the Left may actually be right’
Suppose you had read an article on January 1, 2011 predicting that popular uprisings would topple President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and seriously threaten a whole host of other long-established and corrupt Arab regimes; that the Murdoch media empire would be facing meltdown, with Rupert Murdoch himself humiliated by a custard-pie thrower at a Commons select committee hearing; and that bookies would be offering odds of 6-1 in July that David Cameron would be the next member of the government to quit.
You would have dismissed the author of the piece as a fantasist. What on earth is going on?
What I believe we are witnessing is the reversal of a 40-year trend. The big story of the first three-quarters of the 20th century was the Rise of Everyman - the way that ordinary people gained political, social and economic rights which the rich had denied them for centuries.
But since the 1970s, a counter-revolution against the people, which began with the coup in Chile in 1973 when the democratically-elected leftist Salvadore Allende was replaced by the right-wing General Pinochet, has become the new reality.
The counter-revolution, which has been about putting the people back in their place and re-establishing the dominance of the rich, received an enormous boost with the victories in Britain and the US of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, whose 'free-market' economic reforms ushered in the age of globalisation.
Since the 1970s, as the veteran British socialist Tony Benn has observed, political power has effectively been transferred from the ballot box to the wallet and all over the world, democracy - real, true democracy - as opposed to the banker-friendly faux-democracy aggressively promoted by the US State Department and neo-con think tanks, has been on the retreat. That is until now.
Some may not see the connection between the toppling of a decrepit dictator in the Nile Valley, the Arab spring in general, anti-austerity riots in Greece and the fall from grace of News International, but I would argue there's a strong one. Namely that all are manifestations of the growing public anger against undemocratic and unaccountable elites across the globe.
The people are in revolt and the elites - be they based in presidential palaces in Cairo or comfortable offices in New York and London - are on the back foot.
While there was bread on the table, people didn't seem to care too much that the people calling the shots in their country were so powerful, so arrogant and so obscenely rich. But in the current economic crisis, where everyone (except, of course, the global elite) are having to take a hit, people quite rightly are questioning why things have to be this way.
And it's not just the Left who are asking searching questions about the economic order we live under and asserting that we've all been had by one gigantic con-trick: Conservatives are beginning to smell the coffee, too.
In a Daily Telegraph article entitled 'I'm starting to think the Left may actually be right', the paper’s former editor Charles Moore wrote this weekend: "One thing that is different is that people in general have lost faith in the free-market, Western, democratic order. They have not yet, thank God, transferred their faith, as they did in the 1930s, to totalitarianism. They merely feel gloomy and suspicious.
"But they ask the simple question, 'What's in it for me?', and they do not hear a good answer... It turns out - as the Left always claims - that a system purporting to advance the many has been perverted in order to enrich the few."
Remember that's Charles Moore, biographer of Baroness Thatcher, penning those words, not Tony Benn or Noam Chomsky.
In Britain, what has appalled so many about the News International scandal is not just the phone-hacking, but the light it has shone on the undemocratic way in which we are governed. Political power in a democracy is supposed to reside with the people; in fact it resides with a small clique of elite media and financial figures, who the elected politicians, of all parties, feel obliged to cosy up to.
And while establishment voices have tried to assure us that 'Murdochgate' is a storm in a tea-cup, hyped up by those awful lefties at the Guardian and the BBC, the reported slump in sales of other News International titles and the calls on social media for a boycott of Murdoch-owned papers suggests that the public thinks very differently.
"I did it for all the people who couldn't," declared Jonnie Marbles, the comedian who 'custard-pied' Rupert Murdoch in Westminster last week. "Maybe what I was trying to do was remind everyone of that - that he is not all-powerful, he's not Sauron or Beelzebub, just a human being like the rest of us, but one who has got far too big for his boots."
Bringing down people who have got far too big for their boots is, in essence, what 2011 is all about. And with the global economic situation only worsening, it's highly likely there'll be a few more undemocratic tyrants publicly humiliated before this truly extraordinary - and refreshingly rebellious - year comes to an end. ·
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