Signing petitions isn’t enough. Here are some ideas for stopping Boris Johnson’s coup.

Boris Johnson
Emily Apple

People have reacted with outrage to Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament. Johnson claims that the suspension is purely in order to start a new session of parliament. But critics, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, believe it’s an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has also described it as a “coup”.

Over a million people have now signed a petition to cancel the suspension, MPs have threatened to refuse to leave the chamber, and calls for a general strike trended on Twitter.

But what else can you do to stop the coup? Here are some ideas:

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Take to the streets

If you haven’t already, sign the petition. But signing a petition isn’t enough. Action is also needed.

Protests to “Defend democracy. Resist the parliament shutdown” have been called across the country for Saturday 31 August, because:

we can’t just rely on the courts or parliamentary process to save the day. We all have a duty to stand up and be counted.

Demonstrations are being held in a variety of places, including:

If you’re not sure what’s happening in your area, search “Stop the Coup” in Facebook events for protests near you.

Stop the coup! Stop the arms trade!

As The Canary previously reported, Johnson’s anti-democratic stance shouldn’t surprise us. After all, there have been several other times when the PM has shown he doesn’t really care about democracy, both at home and abroad.

Securing post-Brexit arms deals is one of the government’s key trading plans according to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). It reported that:

Prime Minister Theresa May’s search for post-Brexit trade deals has seen an unwelcome focus on selling arms to some of the world’s most repressive regimes.

These countries include Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Both of these countries, along with many other human-rights-abusing regimes, have been invited to Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI), one of the world’s largest arms fair, taking place in London in September. During DSEI 2017, then defence secretary Michael Fallon said that, following Brexit, the UK would:

spread its wings across the world

Shut down DSEI!

People are taking direct action against DSEI from 2 September with the aim of shutting it down before it even begins. With enough numbers, this could happen. And what better way to oppose Johnson’s coup than to shut down the trade in death and destruction that his no-deal Brexit will rely on? As the old saying goes, ‘hit them where it hurts’ – in the pocket.

Protests will take place at the east gate (nearest Docklands Light Railway (DLR) – Prince Regent) and the west gate (nearest DLR Royal Victoria) of the ExCeL centre. Days of action include:

This isn’t just about Brexit

The likes of Jacob-Rees Mogg would like you to believe that the reaction to the PM’s coup is simply a “candyfloss of outrage”. But this isn’t about whether you voted Leave or Remain. It’s about an unelected leader subverting democracy.

It should also be a tipping point for all our outrage. It’s the outrage that all of us have about years of austerity, of cuts to public services, the war on disabled people, and the number of children living in poverty while the government turns the UK into a playground for the rich. It’s the outrage at the fact we’re in the middle of a climate crisis that the government is ignoring; and it’s about the fact the UK is fuelling wars and profiting from arming dictators around the world.

And it’s also important to remember that all of the above happened under our current facade of democracy. As SNP MP Mhairi Black stated:

It’s because it is not a functioning parliament, it is a joke.

So when we talk about Johnson ripping up our democracy, we should also be looking at alternatives. We need to reclaim our political power as something other than putting a tick in a box every few years.

Finally, if we’re serious – and we need to be serious because so much of our future and our children’s future depends on what happens over the next few weeks – then our actions have to be serious. Signing petitions isn’t enough; marching and quirky placards aren’t enough. If we want real change then we need to look to the type of protests happening in France and Hong Kong. We need to be loud, we need to be persistent, and importantly, we need to be disruptive.

Featured image via screengrab

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    1. Johnson’s action couldn’t be more representative of the revolt of the elites. We have lived through forty years of this, at least, and little by little our democratic rights have been stolen from us and at each theft we have said: “Well, maybe it’s not too bad, and if the government says…” The arrogance of Johnson’s move is only a taste of what he will do if he isn’t stopped. Look at what he did over union ballots. We have to wake up the common folk to that fact that even the smallest retraction of their democratic rights must be fought tooth and nail because anything else leads to a disastrous loss.
      The arms trade is the right target. It is a disgrace. A moral dung heap. Yet shouldn’t we be more ambitious? War should be outlawed. Any head of state who prosecutes it should be put on trial in the Hague. All conflicts should be settled by negotiation and that should be the law. If you have a boundary dispute with your neighbour you have no right to punch her in the nose. You have to go to the courts. Why then do we accept the international punch in the nose? Only because it serves the rich and powerful. The common folk have nothing to gain from war. The greatest gift the world’s leaders could give to us is peace. But they won’t. We have to force them.
      Johnson’s action is a spit in the face of the common folk. It is intended to send a message. Democracy is being suborned. We have never had as part of our tradition what the French had during the revolution of 1789: the idea that if our leaders don’t serve us, we have the right to bring them down. All the same, who do our democratic institutions belong to if not us? We send MPs to parliament but parliament isn’t theirs, it’s ours. Our work pays for it. Our work pays them. We merely lend them our power.
      We live in a democracy but democracy has many interpretations. There weren’t any prominent Tories at the commemoration of Peterloo in Manchester on 16th August. But Andy Burnham was there. And Mike Leigh. Rees-Mogg doesn’t see Peterloo as watershed in the battle for political rights because he thinks his class has the right to hand them down to the rest of us, and we should be grateful. The constitution, unwritten though it is, is his teddy bear, because he thinks the aristocrats and monarchs of yesteryear are the heroes and heroines of our history. We think its the Peterloo martyrs, the Chartists, the people who built the unions, the suffragettes, the Greenham Common women. His view of democracy is in a different universe from ours. He’s running around like a poodle with two willies because his PM has emptied his chamber pot on the heads of the people.
      If we are to defeat the revolt of the elites, if we are to ensure our version of democracy prevails, we must show Johnson and his tribe of liars who sit atop the stinking manure of their mendacity that we are willing to take control when they affront us in this way. Occupy Downing St. Occupy the House of Commons. They are ours. Why should we tug our forelocks to politicians whose salaries and pensions we pay from our graft? There are 650 of them and a mere 300 or so Tories. There are 40 million of us and most of us aren’t Tories. Most of us are not harbouring candy floss outrage but cast iron anger and disgust. We can overwhelm them if just decide to. We have played by the rules of democracy. They have played fast and loose. It is time to show them what people power looks like, what equality looks like, what a society run in the interests of the common folk looks like. It is time to toss Rees-Mogg’s top hat into the gutter.

      1. Your anger is palpable and justified.

        Yet, I don’t sit comfortably with ‘people power’, ‘Peterloo Martyrs’, Chartists, and suffragettes. The latter three have their place in history, and the former is a nebulous concept encompassing both rule by tub-thumpers and ‘wisdom of the crowd’. The ‘wisdom’, beyond scope of estimating the weights of oxen, makes dangerous assumptions about the rationality of a rabble.

        In zeal to promote proletarian values and expectations lurks risk of discarding cultural treasures bequeathed by the ancestors of effete and avaricious individuals like Johnson; incidentally, Mogg is a cultivated person I should be happy to converse with.

        Only through Aristocracy (and church) together with people of intellect associated with it, has arisen the ‘high culture’ of literature, philosophy, mathematics, music (not the caterwauling of the likes of Bieber), and latterly the quantitative sciences (from which arose, now essential, modern technology). Plebeians, left to their own devices, could never have come up with any of that. In the past, economic so-called ‘inequality’ served purpose.

        In the present day, matters are different. What various socialist ‘martyrs’ failed to achieve is now possible and to (almost) everybody’s benefit. Modern ‘wealth creation’, by that meaning opportunity for everyone to transcend limitations of subsistence living, opens huge possibilities. These can be grasped without abandoning legacies from the past and without settling into some lowest common denominator culture wherein people are fearful of displaying talent, powers of discrimination, and values, separating them from the crowd; some ‘elites’, so long as they don’t pull up a drawbridge behind them, have an essential place.

        Also, the class warfare undertone of your polemic is anachronistic. Social structure is far more complicated than in the past and is more fluid, perhaps it could have had greater fluidity if socialist doctrine did not decree abandoning grammar schools in the name of specious enforced ‘equality’.

        Modern socialism ought direct its efforts towards re-establishing the engine of wealth creation (regulated market-capitalism within a mixed economy) to create sufficient wealth for a ‘dividend’ enabling all persons to live in dignity and to explore their aptitudes and potentialities. Moreover, we need societal goals to motivate interest. These may range from eradicating malaria to exploiting solar system resources for benefit of all. Some, e.g. the second example above, will enable adventurous people to take risks.

        Our immediate problem rests with preventing loathsome creatures like Johnson from precipitating irreversible collapse into neo-liberalism and Ayn Rand style dystopia. Appeal to socialist mythology offers no relief. Modern times offer new tools. There is no need, except in extremis, for violence. For example, Internet technology and other modern communications provide plentiful scope for acts of disruption if those of requisite skills have time to apply them. Street protest shows a presence but more covert interference in mechanisms of the state coupled with various kinds of disobedience offer opportunity to have Johnson cowering in his radiation-proof bunker under Whitehall. Bloodless revolution is feasible. Yet it must have overarching aims beyond fixing immediate grievances.

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