Tuesday, 6 February 2018

If the suffragettes were active today they'd be despised by the establishment elitists

This week the political establishment and the right-wing propaganda rags have been celebrating 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave some women the right to vote in General Elections for the first time.

There are several extraordinary things about this celebration. 

The first is that the 1918 Representation of the People Act wasn't an equalisation of voting rights at all, it was a deeply sexist and classist compromise designed to enfranchise a small number of property-owning women from the privileged classes, whilst maintaining the disenfranchisement of millions of ordinary woman.

Yes it was a small step in the right direction, but the way it was done is indicative of the sexist and elitist attitudes that still abound today in British society, and especially in Westminster and the right-wing propaganda rags like the Express, Daily Mail, and S*n.

The next thing to note is that this compromise legislation was only achieved through the sustained political activism of the Suffragettes (a word initially coined by the Daily Mail as a term of abuse).

Make no mistake about it, the political elite and right-wing media who are lauding the achievement of the suffragettes today are exactly the people who would have bitterly despised and disparaged them at the time.

The suffragettes protested noisily and often, they regularly associated with trade unions and left-wing political movements, they interrupted political speeches, they defied the law, they criticised the elitist political establishment, and many of them even resorted to destruction of property and acts of violence in the name of their cause.

As a result they were continually criticised in the press, harassed, arrested, and even fed through tubes that were brutally forced up their noses when they went on hunger strike.
  • Now look at the new Tory drive to criminalise political protest. 

  • Look at the contempt with which the political elite and the right-wing press sneer at modern day activist movements. 
  • Look at the unbridled hatred of trade unions and the political left that pervades the ruling Tory party and the right-wing press. 
  • Look at the barely disguised contempt with which most politicians consider the views of the general public, and the contempt with which right-wing press hacks expect us to believe their campaigns of lies and smears against social progressives and the political left.

  • Look at the contempt with which the Tories deliberately filibustered the debate on votes at sixteen for no other reason that they know that young people won't vote Tory because the Tories have nothing to offer the young except more debt, lower wages, worse services, and more expensive housing and education than any previous generation.
  • Look at the way the Tories and the right-wing press smear the centre-left democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn as some kind of terrifying extreme-leftist when he's never said anything remotely as militant as Syvia Pankhurst's declaration that she was going to "fight capitalism even if it kills me".

The absolute brass neck of the establishment elitists is extraordinary. They laud the social progressives of the past at the very same time as they despise and disparage the social progressives of the present.

The lesson from 1918 is clear. Society does not advance because powerful elites benevolently choose to improve things on our behalf. It advances because ordinary people stand up and fight for their rights.

And even when pople eventually overcome the combined resistance of the political elitists and the mercenary hacks who do the bidding of the right-wing press barons, the establishment elitists only give away compromises instead of the full freedoms that are demanded.

Every generation must keep up the fight for social justice because when the elitists who rule over and dictate what we see in the media us are not completely indifferent to our suffering, they actively make things worse by erecting new barriers to social mobility, new methods of persecuting the poor, the sick, the young, and the disabled, new curtailments on workers' rights, and new laws designed to silence those who would use facts and evidence to protest against them.

Any generation that gives up on the fight for social justice simultaneously betrays the brave activists who went before them by allowing their achievements to be undone, and betrays the generations who come after them by ensuring that they have to work twice as hard just to make up the ground that was lost during the period of widespread public apathy.

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