- Richard Seymour comments on more and more draconian anti-protest laws which are being applied to attack public activism:
To understand why this is happening, it is necessary to grasp the relationship between neoliberal austerity and popular democracy.- Meanwhile, Robyn Benson contrasts the Cons' constant efforts to dismiss environmentalists, First Nations and other concerned citizen groups as "special interests" against their eagerness to serve as the puppets of the oil industry at every turn. And George Monbiot exposes the Cons' UK cousins as using public money to lobby for the destruction of sustainable oceans and fisheries.
In a previous era, when neoliberal austerity was first being prepared in tandem with a racist, authoritarian crackdown, Greek political sociologist Nicos Poulantzas spoke of the "redeployment of legal-police networks" as a constitutive element in a new "authoritarian statism". In this regime, formal parliamentary apparatuses would be retained even while substantive democracy was eroded. Stuart Hall, writing a few years later, remarked of Thatcherite neoliberalism that "under this regime, the market is to be free; the people are to be disciplined".
Why this authoritarianism? Why, in freeing "the market", was it necessary to discipline the people? If the focus is limited to austerity – neoliberalism in its "shock doctrine" form – then the problem can be interpreted simply as one of crisis management. The state assumes measures for enhanced popular control at just the moment when it is trying to manage an unpopular reorganisation of public services, welfare and capital-labour relations. But in fact, this is merely a conjunctural form of a wider problem.
Just as the definition of crime is inherently ideological, so the decision as to what constitutes an "official" protest or an "extremist" outrage is in part ideological and normative, deriving from the legal and political culture of policing in a given state and bureaucratic categories deployed by local and national forces. Necessarily, then, this is an inherently politicised form of policing. It is not merely demonstrative, showing by example what styles of protest are tolerated (ineffectual ones, largely), but practical in the sense that it drastically foreshortens democratic possibilities.
The reorganisation of states today in an authoritarian direction is part of a longer-term project to contain democracy while retaining a minimum of democratic legitimacy. That is what the anti-protest laws are about.
- Alice Funke, Paul Wells and Chantal Hebert each weigh in on last night's by-elections - which saw the NDP hold onto its 2011 position in Toronto Centre and Bourassa, but fall short of adding substantially to its previous high-water mark.
- Finally, Brent Rathgeber and David Sachs both recognize Stephen Harper's direct responsibility for the bribery scandal engineered by his chief of staff and his Senate cronies. And Andrew Coyne notes that Harper's latest spin doesn't stand up to even a sliver of reality:
[Harper's story] requires nothing more than that you believe that, even after the revelation of Wright’s treachery, the prime minister was kept in the dark about the full extent of the operation, and of the others’ role in it; that, knowing the truth of their own involvement, they nevertheless allowed the prime minister to tell Parliament, falsely and repeatedly, that Wright acted alone; and that, when at length the full dimensions of the cover-up were uncovered, the prime minister, though he had at last been persuaded to accept Wright’s resignation, demanded no similar price be paid by the others who had betrayed him, such as Gerstein.
It asks us to believe a prime minister famous for his controlling ways took almost no interest in what his subordinates were up to; that finding his almost childlike trust betrayed, he reacted with Christ-like forgiveness; and that, notwithstanding his own utter blamelessness, he has refused for months to answer the simplest questions about what he knew, admitting only as much as the belated emergence of facts demands.
It requires that we accept that a prime minister who says he would never have agreed to any piece of the plot — the payoff, the audit tampering, the Senate whitewash — somehow found himself surrounded by people who, on the evidence, tackled the lot without hesitation.
Where could they have got the idea that this was acceptable? How could he have been so wrong about them? Why, it’s almost unbelievable.