Cleaning up the image of the democratic state
Over the last few years in Britain, and especially recently, there’s been a number of ‘independent’ inquiries, parliamentary investigations (often televised live), police, parliamentary and ‘independent’ reports into all sorts of scandals and injustices, some of which go back decades. With several major inquiries in progress or just starting up, those that have been pronounced upon or, like the report on the 2003 Iraq War just out, it appears that the state is ‘cleaning up its act’ and, at last, holding those responsible for unacceptable, immoral or criminal behaviour to account. Senior politicians and top police officers are bought to book and the media, from its right to left wing, as in the Hillsborough case for example, celebrate the ‘justice for victims’. But under capitalism there can be no justice for victims and the primary aim of all these inquiries, reports and investigations is to strengthen the ideology of democracy and its ‘rule of law’ behind which lies the strengthening of the totalitarian state. The bourgeoisie may make scapegoats out of one, two or even more individuals from within its ranks but this itself only serves to reinforce its overall democratic campaign against a presently disorientated and weakened working class. It is only at such times that the ruling class is able to unleash such campaigns because if the working class was struggling in any significant way even the bourgeoisie’s ‘rule of law’ would be lifted and, as with the miners’ strike of 84, the state would be confronting it with all the forces and methods available to it however heinous and brutal.
Let’s look at some examples of the inquiries and investigations going on within this democratic campaign.
The Chilcot Inquiry into Britain’s role in the 2003 war in Iraq. After 7 years and ten million quid, the 2.6 million word Chilcot Report has been released. There’s nothing surprising about its conclusions. Tony Blair didn’t lie it says but that’s not even the point; the whole war was based on a mendacity that’s stock-in-trade for the whole ruling class. The intelligence on the threat posed by Saddam was ‘flawed’ apparently but reading it one can see that it clearly warned that the war would increase the jihadist threat and increase regional instability in the Middle East. In this sense the family of one soldier killed in the war was going in the right direction in labelling Blair (and his clique) as “the world’s worst terrorist”.
Despite not being accused of lying, Blair does come in for particular criticism in the report, and was the only individual mentioned in the initial oral presentation of it. Everyone denounces Blair but it was the whole of the British bourgeoisie that was overwhelmingly behind supporting the war of the US NeoCons: the cabinet, the civil service, the military, the secret services, politicians of all parties, all faithfully supported by the media as it obediently danced to their lying tunes. The intelligence that was acted upon was what was required and made up by the British ruling class in order to fulfil its imperialist interests covered by its democratic facade. It’s not a question of individuals but of the state apparatus. All the individuals involved in fomenting this war, from the civil service, the military, intelligence, the cabinet office, the media, have all been promoted or are doing very well in high-paid positions – including Tony Blair the “Peace Envoy” to the Middle East!
The lawyers arguing about ‘who lied’ deliberately avoid the point. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, an admirer of the BBC, hits it on the head: “The essential English leadership secret does not depend on a particular intelligence.... The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous”. “Never again”, “lessons will be learnt” are just continuations of the democratic lie. After around half-a-million Iraqis had been killed, the country fractured and the rise of an ISIS closely linked to the Iraq War and the role of US and British intelligence, British imperialism then unleashed the 2011 Libyan war with similar lies, similar ruthlessness and similar results.
Chilcot can’t teach us anything because the imperialist policies of Blair government are still the policies of the British state as expressed by the current political set-up. Most recently in the British bombing of Syria, the Cameron government had the full support of a significant number of the Labour Party and the majority of the media in the US-led ‘War on Terror’ (which parts of the Labour Party equated to the ‘war against fascism’). And these fantasy politics of British imperialism continue with forces on the ground in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in order to defend its own ‘national’ interests, i.e., contribute to the war of each against all in the Middle East
One of the aspects of the inquiry and the general discussion, particularly in relation to the families of British servicemen and women, has been the need to beef up British militarism and its equipment so that its imperialist interests can be better managed. In this sense it’s similar to the ‘Walter Reed scandal’ in the US which exposed the atrocious living and medical conditions of Iraqi war veterans which was then linked to a campaign for a better organised military.
Finally, Jeremy Corbyn has apologised on behalf of the Labour Party, the same Corbyn that saluted the killers of Hamas and Hezbollah from the same ‘Stop the War Coalition’ that supported Islamic fundamentalism against US and British interests.
The Hillsborough inquiry, a response to the entirely justified anger and indignation of many to this slaughter (96 crushed to death at a football match in 1989) and its cover-up, has found many elements of the state culpable, including some named individuals. Some of these might, probably will not, go to jail but the state becomes stronger with this result that suggest that ‘victims matter’. Police forces are polished up and the constant refrain of ‘lessons will be learnt’ means absolutely nothing because the police remain a repressive arm of the capitalist state, and the football authorities and the media, who hounded the fans and their families even in death, can now present clean hands.
The result of the Hillsborough inquiry gave rise to demands from the left for an inquiry into South Yorkshire police and its role in the attack on miners at the Orgreave coking plant in 1984. But everyone knows what happened: the police attacked the miners and the BBC and the rest of the media consciously inverted the story to make it look the other way around. There’s already been an inquiry into this and the BBC, in order to maintain any credibility, had to admit what it had done and apologise – presumably ‘learning lessons’. But this hasn’t stopped some, on the left in this case, for calling for more investigations and inquiries, a sort of enquiryitis going around in circles while everything stays the same or rather gets worse.
There have also been various parliamentary select committee inquiries, some televised live, to examine contentious issues and individuals; Philip Green and the now bankrupt BHS, Mike Ashley and Sports Direct (scandal of low wages and aggressive management) for example. These nauseating individuals and their ‘interrogators’ are all part of the game which, like ‘banker-bashing’ is going nowhere while the workers of both companies are either losing their jobs or continue to suffer the same conditions. And the daily grind of exploitation continues to deepen for the working class.
There are inquiries into the role of British intelligence in the killing of civilians during the ‘troubles’ in Ireland, investigations into the role of MI6 in the abuse of young boys at the Kincora home in the North and the role of these agencies in 50 killings related to the British army’s IRA agent ‘Stakeknife’. Another circular waste of time for the victims aimed at not uncovering the past but covering up the present and the future activities of these self-same agencies with the same aim of presenting a ‘clean’ democratic state.
There are various investigations into sexual abuse such as the 2014 Goddard inquiry which will also look at the question of the 150,000 children in Britain that were taken from their families by groups including the Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Church of England, Salvation Army and Barnado’s and sent abroad from the 1920s to the 70s, with many suffering sexual and physical abuse. Along with the state, to which they belong, these organisations were running a massive children’s ring of sex slaves and cheap labour. The result of the Jimmy Savile inquiry, where those that supported him have been promoted by the BBC while those that flagged up his ‘institutionalised ‘ abuse have been forced out, shows how meaningless are words like ‘Sorry’ and ‘lessons will be learnt’ and that will certainly apply in the Goddard attempt at ‘closure’, i.e., the whitewashing of the state. And apart from anything else these inquiries are a goldmine for the lawyers and other parasitic layers. But the real underlying motive is the strengthening of the state by presenting it as ultimately clean, moral and democratic.
While making a show, in one circus after the other, of its ‘clean hands’, the British ruling class continues its war against the working class and the war against its rivals, backing torturers and butchers while manipulating various elements of terrorism to its own ends. When they are not facilitating the expression of terrorism they are using it. In this sense the British bourgeoisie are no different from their counterparts everywhere, who also have their own ‘clean hands’ campaigns.
The bourgeoisie’s ideas about ending corruption and the recent London summit to this effect, involving all sorts of professional gangsters and their cliques, was beyond any parody. And London steeped in money from all sorts of ‘enterprises’, and with its offshore networks, stands as probably the most ‘corrupt’ of all national capitals.
None of these expressions of capitalism: corruption, ‘mistakes’, ‘bad policing’, cover-ups, greed, unemployment and fear at work, increased exploitation, sexual slavery and abuse, none of these are exceptions to capitalism which can be overturned or even altered by any number of inquiries. These are integral expressions of the whole system along with the tendency to increased militarism and war. There can be no fair capitalism just as there can be no ‘fair day’s pay’. The essence of this system is profit, exploitation and militarism and no inquiry can even begin to attenuate that. Nor can the bourgeoisie, who are increasingly gripped by the irrationality of their system, do anything but follow its devastating course and try to manage its rhythm. For this they have to continually swamp the working class ideologically with all their various campaigns and ‘investigations’. For its part, and as weak as it is at the moment, the working class is the only force that is capable of posing a new society but for this it has to fight for its own interests and if it begins to do that we won’t be seeing the bourgeoisie setting up inquiries into the excesses of the capitalist state.
 For a deeper look at this question see: http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201601/13764/british-bombs-will-increase-chaos-middle-east.
 The US itself is no stranger to ‘scandals’ and ‘inquiries’ and uses them, like Britain, to strengthen the democratic state and settle internal squabbles. ‘Watergate’ was a famous one and the Iraqi Abu Ghraib scandal and others were used to ease the US Neo-Cons out of office.