Posts Tagged ‘Political Theory’

More on US Military Funding of al-Qaeda and Islamist Militants

January 9, 2016

I’ve received a couple more extremely interesting comments from Michelle Thomasson about the wars in the Middle East and the US funding of Islamist militants. She writes

You probably already have this info… but just in case it is also relevant here. One of the three most important military officials re the war on terror, General Flynn (was head of the Defence Intelligence Agency), is caught admitting on video what the U.S. government already knew in 2012 about the establishment of a caliphate by Islamic extremists and then still supplying them the arms (though not mentioning they may have been supplying some clapped out weaponry). Clip from Democracy Now, https://youtu.be/MQDRGrA9I7A?t=3m17s

If people really understood!

and

The information is out there, yet still most of our mainstream media peddle devastating misinformation for the war mongers!!

Here is a very telling clip from Joe Biden talking to people at Harvard. I can imagine he thought they were too smart to try and fool hence the honesty to appear ‘informed’ but he has tried to withdraw comments since his admission. The clip is just over 2mins and the Biden mishap comes in at 1 min:

Interestingly, Qatar mentioned in the link above was involved in paying a very large ransom to IS for UN peacekeepers under the scrutiny of the Israelis, it is a rather unusual way to openly give militants a big wad of money: https://youtu.be/PMDc_NBsfi0

And with Israel that brings up a conundrum, as ISIS/IS (Daesh) is just an extension of Wahhabism why have these recent medieval-like slaughterers not included Israel in their target sights? Wahhabism was always against Zionist goals…

And for your records here is Hilary Clinton admitting how they used the “Wahhabi brand of Islam to go beat the Soviet Union” makes it sound like a baseball match! This information is so terrible, when are they going to wake up to what they are doing re the havoc, desperation and destruction they have designed for millions of people?

I also have some short notes I wrote up on the roots of Wahhabism if you want them with an interesting quote re Zionism from John McHugo the author of ‘A Concise History of the Arabs'(2014)

I’d be very interested in the notes on the origins of Wahhabism, as well as the quote about Zionism from John McHugo. And it is very strange that Israel has not been attacked by ISIS or al-Qaeda, when so much Arab and Islamic politics is fiercely hostile to the Jewish state. If you look on Youtube, there are a number of pieces on there claiming that ISIS is the creation of the Israelis and funded by Mossad. I haven’t looked at them, because it’s too much like some of the stupid, genocidal conspiracy theories about Jews and Zionism that influence and motivate the Neo-Nazis, ever since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

And the mainstream media is silent about nearly all of this. The award-winning American journalist, Glenn Greenwald, speaking on one of the clips, explains why mainstream American journalists are hostile to blowing the lid off this particular can of worms. He states that journalists are just as susceptible to the hyper-patriotism as the rest of society; that many of them come from the same socio-economic groups as the politicians, generals and business leaders they interview. They’re dependent on them for stories, and so don’t press them or criticise them, for fear of losing leads or stories. He also adds that much of it is motivated by professional jealousy after the Snowden revelations. They were angry at the way they were excluded from the material Snowden revealed, and bitter about the way he received journalism awards while they didn’t. So they’re personally hostile against him, and against the journalism he represents.

Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has also been discussing the issue, and the reason why mainstream historians by and large are hostile to taking into account the role of clandestine groups in politics. Any mention of conspiracies is excluded from respectable academic discussion as it recalls all the murderous and stupid fantasies about vast, global conspiracies by Jews and Freemasons, fantasies that have resulted in the deaths of millions. But real conspiracies – by corporations, secret political groups and the secret state, do exist. You only have to look at the way the CIA orchestrated coups in Latin America and the Middle East. Or simply at the way the CIA again funded much radical art and movements in the 1950s through to the 1970s, in order to present the West as much more culturally pluralistic and democratic, in contrast to the monolithic, totalitarian East.

Some of this reluctance to concede the role of clandestine groups is probably due to academic inertia. Doctoral students are placed under the supervision of academic supervisors, who made demand major changes to their work if they don’t agree with it. Doctoral students are required to show they can make an original contribution to research, and while students obviously do need advice and guidance, it also puts limits on how original or radical an academic dissertation can be. Also, some of the academic institutions are in receipt of monies from the intelligence services. Lobster also published a list of these some time ago.

I also think part of the problem is that the whole notion of the role of powerful, secret interest groups controlling politics is unacceptable because it problematizes vast areas of contemporary politics. The dominant ideal of the democratic West is that our rulers are essentially benign, and however beneficial or detrimental their particular party politics may be, the foundation of their power is that of the sovereign individual, as established by liberal political theorists going back to John Locke. It is also tacitly assumed that government and corporations will also work for the public good, despite obvious scandals involving political corruption.

Genuine parapolitics raises profound question marks about all this, by showing how secret groups or factions within political parties, in concert with allies in the media and the military-industrial complex, can and do manipulate public opinion, and world affairs without reference to any kind of democratic mandate. Instead of the Whig view of history, which sees it as the gradual march of progress, culminating in the establishment of liberal democracy, or the Marxist view, which sees history as produced by impersonal economic forces producing inevitable changes to the social fabric, and hence the ruling ideologies, it shows history to be made by big business and political factions, with the sovereign people there only to provide a democratic façade for decisions that have already been made by their social superiors for their own class political and economic benefit. It explicitly raises the problem that you can’t trust what politicians and big business tell you. And not just in the superficial, cynical sense, but right to the core of the political process and the nature of the democratic state itself.

And that’s unacceptable to large parts of the media and the academic establishment, embedded and nurtured as they are by the status quo.

Advertisements

Sir John Fortescue on Parliament, Taxing the Aristos and the Wealth of England

November 1, 2015

Part of this post is going to be in Late Middle English, which isn’t easy to read. Nevertheless, please bear with it. I’ll include a rough translation into modern English as well.

In my last piece, I blogged about how the Tories had started lying about the British constitution and the role of the House of Lords after their plans to cut tax credit for the poorest in Britain were thrown out by the Upper House. After listening to their rants, which essentially come down to ‘How dare they defy us! This ain’t democratic’, I thought I’d look up what Sir John Fortescue wrote about such matters way back in the 15th century.

Sir John Fortescue was one of the founders of English and British political theory. He was at one time Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, and one of the country’s leading intellectuals. Douglas Gray, in his introduction to the chapter on philosophy and political theory in prose, writes

In his various works he shows a concern for the continuity of traditional political values and for the need to define them and the institutions in which they took form. The Governance of England discusses with clarity and elegance English constitutional principles and suggests some administrative reforms. Fortescue has great faith in the English tradition of “limited” government by the king (dominium politicum et regale) as against the despotic rule of the French king. His view that the test of ‘limited monarchy’ is in its fruits leads him into an unfavourable discussion of the French system which makes us think of Chartier’s Lament of the Third Estate. Unlike many other contemporary works, The Governance of England shows an awareness of actual political conditions and of the way in which differing economic and social structures are reflected in a country’s political institutions.

Here’s the words of the man himself:

Sir John Fortescue: The Governance of England

The Fruit of Jus Regale and of Jus Politicum et Regale

‘And howsobeit that the Frenche kyng reignith upon is peple dominio regalie, yet St. Lowes sometime kynge there, nor eny of his progenitors sette never tayles or other imposicion upon the people of that lande withowt the assent of the .iii estate, wich whan thai bith assembled bith like to the courte of the parlemont in Ingelonde. And this ordre kepte many of his successours into late dayes, that Ingelonde men made suche warre in Fraunce, that the .iiii estates durst not come togedre. And than for the cause and for gret necessite wich the French kynge hade of good for the defence of the lande, he toke upon hym to sett tayles and other imposicions upon the comouns withowt the assent of the .999 estates; but yet he wolde not sett any such charges, or hath sette, uppone the nobles of his lande for fere of rebellion. And bicvause the comouns ther, though thai have grucched, have not rebellid or beth hardy to rebelle, the French kynges have yere withyn sette such charges upon them, and so augmented the same charges, ,as the same comouns be so impoverysshid and destroyed, that thai mowe unneth leve….

But, blessyd be God, this lande is ruled undir a betir law; and therefore the people thereof be not in such peynurie, nor therby hurt in their persons, but thai bith in welthe, and have all thinges nescessarie to their sustenance of nature. Wherfore thai ben mighty, and able to resiste the adversaries of this reaume, and to beete other reaumes that do, or wolde do them wronge. Lo, this is the fruyt of jus polliticum et regale, under wich we live.’

Roughly translated, this means that

‘although the French king reigns over his people due to royal dominion, St. Louis the Pious, the former king there, and his ancestors, never placed taxes or other charges on the people without the assent of the three estates, which when assembled are like parliament in England. And this order was maintained by many of his successors into later days, that Englishmen made such war in France, that the three estates did not dare to come together. And then because of that and from the great necessity the French king had for the good and for the defence of that land, he took it upon himself to place taxes and impose other charges on the common people without the assent of the three estates; but he would not set any such taxes, nor has he set them, on the nobles of his land, out of fear of rebellion. And because the common people there, although they have complained, have not rebelled or are not hardy enough to rebel, the French kings have every year since set such charges on them, and so raised the same charges, so that the common people are so impoverished and destroyed, that they may scarcely live…

But, blessed be God, this land is ruled by a better law,; and therefore its people are not in such penury, nor their persons hurt, but they are wealthy, and have all things necessary to their sustenance of nature. For that reason they are powerful, and able to resist the adversaries of this realm, and to beat other realms that do, or would do them wrong. Look, this is the fruit of the just politics and rule, under which we live.’

I’ve left out for reasons of length Fortescue’s description of the poverty of the French common people, as shown in their food, dress and so on.

The essence of his argument is that the French people are poor, because the common people have to pay all the taxes, while the aristocracy are exempt. But because in England everyone, including the aristos, pay tax, we’re wealthier, healthier, and better able to give Johnny Foreigner a good hiding if he tries anything.

Now Fortescue was a member of the aristocracy, writing when the monarchy had much greater powers than today. But there are clearly parallels to today’s situation, in which the government is trying to increase the tax burden on ordinary people in order to reduce it for the upper and middle classes. And as Fortescue could have told him, this has had an effect in making the common people poorer and their lives more miserable.

Clearly, Fortescue is another pillar of the British/ English constitution Cameron hasn’t read, along with Magna Carta. It seems Jeremy Corbyn’s right about the Tories being ‘overeducated and under-informed’.

Source

Douglas Gray, ed., The Oxford Book of Late Medieval Verse & Prose (Oxford: OUP 1988).

Cameron’s Totalitarian Tweet

May 16, 2015

I’m not on Twitter, and this comes from word of mouth, as I remember it. It may not be entirely accurate. Nevertheless, if even the slightest gist of it is accurate, then it’s one of the most ominous and frightening things a British politician has said in recent years.

Mike from Vox Political last night read out to me a tweet from David Cameron, in which the Prime Minister announced that the state of affairs, in which people were allowed to get on with their business, provided they broke no law, had gone on for too long. The chilling implication was that it needed to be curtailed.

One of the most basic, fundamental principles of political freedom is the rule of law, under which the citizen should be allowed to do or think what he or she pleases without interference by the state, as long this doesn’t contravene any legislation. This is so basic to western ideas of traditional liberty, that I honestly couldn’t see how any British politician could make a statement like this, unless it was in the context of combatting extremist ideologies, such as radical, violent Islamism. I wondered if Cameron had uttered this as part of the government’s campaign to protect British children from radicalisation through a counter-campaign against the propaganda of groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda.

But no. Cameron was not merely discussing the radical threat of extremist ideologies peddled by Islamist terrorist organisations. He was speaking generally, in order to justify the scrapping of the Human Rights Act. And in so doing he had expressed the fundamental principle behind the great totalitarianisms of the 20th century.

What made Fascism and Communism modern dictatorships, what distinguished them from the despotisms, absolute monarchies and dictatorships of previous centuries, was that they called for the active support, involvement and approval of their citizens. We were taught at College that they differed from ancient Rome, for example, in that the streets could be empty when the emperor or dictator drove through it in his chariot. All that mattered was the supreme ruler’s safety.

This wasn’t totally true, as the Roman emperors put on a series of spectacles in order to win popularity with the masses, and to demonstrate the power of the Roman state. It was Nero competed as a charioteer at the circus, and why he entered the Greek cultural festivals in the south of Italy as a bard and harpist. He was also careful to make sure he had his own claque in the audience, to give them their cue when to give their master the massive applause he demanded.

Nevertheless, the statement is largely true. The traditional, Conservative, medieval and early modern view of political freedom considered that the monarch should have absolute power. This was partly justified on the grounds that the head of state needed the widest range of action and powers available in cases of national emergency. In the 16th century this was compounded with the notion that a monarch’s subjects had no right to resist his authority, although they could flee persecution from a tyrant.

Nevertheless, in England it was felt that law emanated from the king in parliament. Only the two acting together could properly government the kingdom. It was also felt that while the king possessed absolute power, in practice he should give his subjects the greatest possible degree of personal freedom and so interfere as little as possible in their affairs.

Charles I said as he was about to be executed that he had done everything he could to preserve his subjects’ freedom, but government was no business of theirs. By the standards of the Liberal view of political freedom, this is nonsensical. Liberal political theory, following John Locke, considers that political freedom consists of the citizens being allowed to make their own laws through the election of their governors. Under the older, Conservative view, Charles’ statement made perfect sense. Even if the king acted alone, purely on his own account, without the constraints of parliamentary government, he could still preserve and serve his people’s freedom through actually passing as little legislation as possible, and allowing them to get on with their own business.

This changed with the French Revolution and the emergence of the activist style of politics. The nation consisted of those who actively supported the regime and its ideological programme. This meant that every citizens was required to give their absolute support to the government. Thus in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Stalin’s Russia, the individual had to join the party’s organisations, which permeated into every aspect of society. Hitler declared that citizens shouldn’t be left alone, not even in a cribbage club.

Cameron’s demand that it simply wasn’t sufficient that ordinary Brits should be allowed to get on with their lives, so long as they obey the law, takes him well into the ideological territory of the totalitarians. He and his Lib Dem enablers have already established ‘secret courts’ to try those accused of crimes, the details of which are too sensitive for the press and general public to know. This has largely been justified under the pretext of preserving national security from the threat of terrorism. Previous governments have tried to prevent certain details from being presented as evidence in open court, and the identity of vital witnesses from being revealed, on the grounds that they were gathered by and were members of the intelligence services. The publication of such evidence, or the intelligence operatives involved, would seriously compromise national security and weaken the government’s ability to counter the threat of further terrorism.

Cameron, however, has gone far beyond that. This is no longer about national security. This is about drumming up and enforcing absolute support and unquestioning obedience for the Conservatives and their programme. Not to give your support, to maintain that people have a fundamental right to freedom of belief and expression, now appears to make you an enemy of the British state, at least as Cameron now conceives it.

Centuries of traditional British freedoms are under threat, even those predating the formal establishment of democracy. Cameron and his minions must be stopped from scrapping the Human Rights Act. If he succeeds, it’ll mean the beginning of a Tory despotism similar to that of the Fascist states of the 20th century. Remember, Hitler too stated that private industry needed strong, authoritarian personal rule, and Mussolini declared that Fascism consisted fully embraced the free trade economics of the Manchester school.

Randolph Bourne: War is the Health of the State

September 3, 2013

Cameron’s attempt to mobilise parliament to support an attack on Syria last week powerfully reminded me of the observations of the American Anarchist intellectual Randolph Bourne. Bourne (1886-1918) was a literary scholar, writing for the journals The Dial, The Seven Arts and The New Republic. In the chapter ‘War is the Health of State’ in his unfinished book, The State, Bourne described the way the state and the ruling classes use war to advance their social and ideological control, establishing a uniformity of opinion and quelling dissenting minorities. He stated

‘War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate co-operation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties, the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion, which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the idea of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation, instead of converting, merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in war-time attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values, culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Other values such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.

War – or at least modern war waged by a democratic republic against a powerful enemy – seems to achieve for a nation almost all that the most inflamed political idealist could desire. Citizens are no longer indifferent to their Government, but each cell of the body politic is brimming with life and activity. We are at least on the way to full realization of that collective community in which each individual somehow contains the virtue of the whole. In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throw himself whole-heartedly into the cause of war. The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out. At war, the individual becomes almost identical with his society. He achieves a superb self-assurance, an intuition of the rightness of all his ideas and emotions, so that in the suppression of opponents or heretics he is invincibly strong; he feels behind him all the power of the collective community. The individual as social being in war seems to have achieved almost his apotheosis. Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice and labour. Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature, would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men. But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defence, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of ‘democracy’, it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.

For these secular goods, connected with the enhancement of life, the education of man and the use of the intelligence to realize reason and beauty in the nation’s communal living, are alien to our traditional ideal of the State. The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rivfal group has meant, through all history – war’.

‘A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naïve faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily, and upon none more than those members of the significant classes who have had bequeathed to them or have assumed the responsibilities of governing. The State provides the most convenient of symbols under which these classes can retain all the actual pragmatic satisfaction of governing, but can rid themselves of the psychic burden of adulthood. They continue to direct industry and government and all the institutions of society pretty much as before, but in their own conscious eyes and in the eyes of the general public, they are turned from their selfish and predatory ways, and have become loyal servants of society, or something greater than they – the State. The man who moves from the direction of a large business in New York to a post in the war management industrial service in Washington does not apparently alter very much his power or his administrative technique. But psychically, what a transformation has occurred! His is now not only the power but the glory! And his sense of satisfaction is directly proportional not to the genuine amount of personal sacrifice that may be involved in the change but to the extent to which he retains his industrial prerogative and sense of command.

From members of this class a certain insuperable indignation arises if the change from private enterprise to State service involves any real loss of power and personal privilege. If there is to be pragmatic sacrifice, let it be, they feel, on the field of honour, in the traditionally acclaimed deaths by battle, in that detour of suicide, as Nietzsche calls war. The State in wartime supplies satisfaction for this very craving, but its chief value is the opportunity it gives for this regression to infantile attitudes. In your reaction to an imagined attack in your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody shall think, speak, and act together. ~And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas’.

Randolph Bourne, ‘War is the Health of the State’, in George Woodcock, ed., The Anarchist Reader (Fontana Press 1977) 98-102.

Historical, Constitutional and Philosophical Observations on the Tories’ Plans to Privatise the Courts

July 28, 2013

I have to say that I’m still somewhat stunned by the Conservatives’ suggestion that the court service should be privatised. This seems to be absolutely barking mad, and attacking the most fundamental, basic duty of the state, at least as it has existed in the West since the ancient world. In the Middle Ages the basic function of the state was to provide military protection and promote justice. There were private courts on the manors of the feudal aristocracy, along with the system of royal courts that also dispensed justice at local and county levels. These were the hundred and shire courts of Anglo-Saxon England. After the Norman Conquest, Henry I introduced the ‘justices in eyre’, judges that went on regular set circuits around England hearing cases. I believe the assize system was introduced by that other ‘lion of justice’, Henry II. One of the reasons England never developed the more extreme versions of feudal serfdom that existed on the Continent was because Henry I insisted on his right as king to govern and enforce his laws over the peasantry through the royal courts, thus preventing the aristocracy having the absolute control over their tenants and villeins that their counterparts in the rest of Europe had.

It was during the Middle Ages that the system of royal courts, such as the Court of King’s Bench, developed. In the Middle Ages and 16th and 17th centuries, kings were expected to dispense justice as they were God’s anointed through the coronation ceremony. This did have a very authoritarian aspect to it, as in the views of some constitutional theorists in the Tory party, it meant that as the king was the fountainhead of justice, he was above the law. This view was gradually altered and finally rejected with the growth of constitutional checks on the crown and the Glorious Revolution. Social Contract theory also supplied a rationale for royal government: the king was the people’s representative. Kings had been chosen and set up by their subjects at the very beginning of human society, in order to protect them, their livelihoods and property. As their representative, he had the right to rule them, preserving their freedom and protecting them from injustice and attack. Finally, in an age when all government is personal government, kings had a right to rule because the countries they ruled were literally theirs. It was their property, in the same way landowners lower down the social scale owned their estates, and administer justice over the serfs there.

Clearly the decline of feudalism has removed these circumstances as the basis of royal government, just as centuries of secularisation means that extremely few people would argue for the return of an absolute monarchy on the grounds that they had a sacred right to govern through their coronation. They did, however, act as the core of the modern state through their establishment of the central institutions of justice. Since the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, at least, the state has been recognised as a separate institution to the kings that governed it. Hence Charles I was executed for his crimes against England, an idea that was so radical that it was almost unthinkable then. Nevertheless, the execution established the fact that Crown and state were separate, and that the judicial system, as part of the state, had the power to judge the monarch. Justice and the courts thus became the core feature of the modern concept of the state.

This is threatened by the privatisation of the courts. The ancient conception of the state was t6hat it was something that belonged to the public. For the Romans it was the res publicum, the public thing. The term has survived in the modern English word ‘republic’ and similar terms in the other European languages, including the Russian respublik. 16th and 17th century political theorists, like Locke, used the term ‘commonwealth’, from the words ‘common weal’, the common benefit or wellbeing. The state is therefore something that belongs to and affects everyone, even if it is effectively governed by a very select view, as it was before the extension of the franchise in the 19th century. This is threatened by the privatisation of the courts, which places justice in the realm of the private, rather than the public.

There are important constitutional problems with this. Courts have had the right to impanel juries, and try and punish offenders because they received their legitimacy from the state, either through itself or as a crown institution. If privatised, the courts would not have this source of legitimacy. They would be a private company, acting in its own interest. They would have the administration of justice as their function, but like other companies their main role would be to provide profit to their shareholders. Essentially, the justice they dispensed would be private justice, albeit administered on behalf of the res publicum. Now I can imagine that some traditional Conservatives would object to this. Peter Hitchens on his blog for the Mail on Sunday has stated that he objects to private prisons on the grounds that only the state has the right to persecute and punish crime. This is a very good point. If the courts are privatised, it raises the question of the difference between them and, say, a protection racket run by a local gangster. Both can claim to be providing protection for the people under their rule, and both are equally acting in the interest of private individuals. A privatised judicial system might still have the claim to be providing public justice if it has a contractual relationship with the state, or some other constitutional tie that establishes it as the legitimate source of justice. Nevertheless, its constitutional legitimacy as a public institution would still be considerably weakened.

The idea that courts can be privatised is something that the Tories have taken over from American minarchism and Anarcho-Capitalism. One of the founders of modern Libertarianism, E. Nozick, believed that the functions of the state should be reduced to the barest minimum. This was to be enforcement of contracts. Rothbard, the head of the American Libertarian party, argued that the courts should be privatised and opened up for competition. They would have no power beyond the voluntary acquiescence of the parties in dispute in the courts’ decisions. It’s a small detail, but it also shows the difference between American Anarcho-Capitalism and the libertarianism now promoted by the Tories. Anarcho-Capitalism is peculiar, in that although it promotes capitalism to its fullest extent, it shares many of the same concerns and features as left-libertarianism, such as Anarcho-Communism. Both forms of Anarchism share a common belief in the absolute sovereignty of the individual. Both also view the state as inherently oppressive. The great Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, declared ‘He, who says ‘the state’, says oppression’. Both types of libertarianism also stress individual’s sexual freedom. They consider that people should be able to engage in whatever kind of sexual relationship they choose, provided that it is reciprocal and between consenting adults. Thus Right Libertarians tend to differ from other Conservatives in their acceptance of homosexuality and free love. There is also a tendency in Right Libertarianism to demand the legalisation of drugs, on the grounds that the individual should have the right to consume whatever recreational substance they choose. Again, this is in marked opposition to traditional forms of Conservatism, which tends to be far more puritanical.

Now it seems to me that the Tories here have lifted some of the ideas of Anarcho-Capitalism but have very definitely rejected the ethos behind them. Margaret Thatcher believed very strongly in ‘the strong state’, reinforcing the powers and providing more funding for the police force and the security services. In doing so, she alienated many Libertarians, who bitterly resented her authoritarianism. Robin Ramsay, the editor of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, wrote a piece on the death of one of the founders of the Libertarian Freedom Association a little while ago. Ramsay is a member of the Labour Party, although very critical of New Labour and the influence of the transatlantic Right in the Party since the Second World War. He stated in this article, however, that he had been supported in publishing Lobster by the aforementioned Libertarian. This gentleman regarded him as another Libertarian, albeit socialist, rather than capitalist, but felt that he had a common cause with him against the growth of state power. And he bitterly resented Margaret Thatcher for what he saw as her betrayal of libertarian principles. It thus seems to me that if and when the Conservatives privatise the courts, they will nevertheless retain and possibly extend their powers as the agents of state control.

And this raises a further point on the legitimacy of these courts derived from Anarchist theory. 19th century Anarchism and its predecessors denounced the state and its system of justice, particularly because of its class basis. Europe was governed by the very rich – the aristocracy and the rising middle classes – and the laws they passed protected and enforced their power. During the early 19th century, for example, the British government passed a series of punitive legislation curtailing working class dissent and protest in order to prevent a popular uprising, similar to that which had occurred just across the Channel. The governing class was composed of rich landowners, who passed laws heavily penalising poaching. At the time poaching was regarded as a traditional right held by rural labourers. It allowed them to feed themselves during times of famine and economic depression. It did, however, represent a threat to landed property, who responded by passing laws prescribing long sentences and transportation for poachers. Most of the legislation passed in 18th century England was designed to protect property, not human life. Hence the enactment of the death penalty for crimes like sheep stealing. It was in this legal environment that the Anarchists attacked state justice as aristocratic, capitalist justice, and believed that only through the destruction of the state would a truly classless society emerge.

Since the extension of the franchise in the 19th century and the gradual ascension of the House of Commons over the House of Lords, the state and its institutions have had a greater claim to be genuinely impartial. This has been especially true since the rise of the classless society in the 1960s. This would, however, be undermined by a privately-run court system. The courts would be run by their shareholders and investors, who are by definition capitalists, for their own profit. Justice would mean private justice on behalf of the rich. And almost certainly it would lead to corruption and conflicts of interests. How would a system of private courts successfully prosecute a leading shareholder or the chairman of the company that runs them? Everyone is supposed to be equal before the law, but in those cases there would be great opportunity for the accused to interfere with the judicial process in his favour. In short, he could put pressure on the judge, as a friend or employee, and gain acquittal.

The Conservatives have claimed that they are rolling back the frontiers of the state. They aren’t. They are privatising its institutions, but these still have all the authority and coercive power of the state, but are far more likely to be partial in their decisions.

The privatisation of the courts is a profoundly immoral idea, that completely undermines the idea of the state as the dispenser of impartial justice regardless of social origin. It should be rejected without hesitation.