Saturday, December 07, 2019

I Done Already Told You Cats What Time It Is...,


craigmurray |  Just as we are not conditioned to recognise the violence of the state as violence, we do not always recognise resistance to the state as violence. If you bodily blockade a road, a tube station or a building with the intention to prevent somebody else from physically passing through that space, that is an act of physical force, of violence. It may be a low level of violence, but violence it is. Extinction Rebellion represents a challenge to the state’s claim to monopolise violence, which is why the Metropolitan Police – a major instrument of state domestic violence – were so anxious to declare the activity illegal on a wide scale.

Ultimately civil resistance represents a denial of the state’s right to enforce its monopoly of violence. The Hong Kong protests represent a striking demonstration of the fact that rejecting the state’s monopoly of violence can entail marching without permission, occupying a space, blockading and ultimately replying to bullets with firebombs, and that these actions are a continuum. It is the initial rejection of the state’s power over your body which is the decision point.

Just as I used the example of tax evasion and healthcare to demonstrate that the state’s use of violence is not always bad, I use the example of Extinction Rebellion to demonstrate that the assertion of physical force, against the state’s claim to monopoly of it, is not always bad either.

We are moving into an era of politics where the foundations of consent which underpin western states are becoming less stable. The massive growth in wealth inequality has led to an alienation of large sections of the population from the political system. The political economy works within a framework which is entirely an artificial construct of states, and ultimately is imposed by the states’ monopoly of force. For the last four decades, that framework has been deliberately fine-tuned to enable the massive accumulation of wealth by a very small minority and to reduce the access to share of economic resource by the broad mass of the people. 

The inevitable consequence is widespread economic discontent and a resultant loss of respect for the political class. The political class are tasked with the management of the state apparatus, and popular discontent is easily personalised – it concentrates on the visible people rather than the institutions. But if the extraordinary wealth imbalance of society continues to worsen, it is only a matter of time before that discontent undermines respect for political institutions.