Britain: Abuse scandals reveal abusive system

An Establishment cover-up?

"Trust me, I’m a politician. Now, you’re really having a laugh" was how Andrew Rawnsley put it in the Observer (13/7/14). Never before have the institutions of British capitalism been so distrusted. The media, bankers, and the church: support for all has been dramatically undermined. Capitalist politicians, however, top the list.

Just before the local elections one poll asked voters what word best described their feelings about Westminster politicians. Almost half answered ’angry’.

The latest poisonous scandal – relating to charges of child abuse – leaking out of Westminster will do further profound damage to the capitalist parties. When the expenses scandal first broke we raised a comparison with the gigantic corruption scandal in Italy in the early 1990s. It resulted in the disappearance of whole parties and a complete restructuring of the Italian electoral system in the ’clean hands’ operation.

The ongoing expenses disgrace in Britain, against the background of the worst economic crisis in 80 years and a prolonged fall in incomes for the majority, have enormously corroded the authority of parliament, but have not yet led to the kind of meltdown that took place in Italy.

Depending how the current child abuse cover-up story unfolds it is not excluded that a crisis on an Italian scale could now be posed.

Back when the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal first broke the outpouring of anger that took place was not only against the abhorrent actions of one individual, but of the systematic cover-up of those actions by different capitalist institutions over a period of decades. All the attempts of individuals, including individual police officers, to take action against Savile were blocked because he was an ’important’ person close to Margaret Thatcher.

And as Brian Caton’s interview graphically reveals, he assisted Thatcher’s government in attempting to carry through privatisation and to break the unions.

Deep-rooted problems

In the weeks and months following the Savile disclosure there was an attempt by the representatives of capitalism to divert this mood into concentrating on dealing with individual predators like Savile, while emphasising that they are rare aberrations. Unfortunately, however, while the scale of Savile’s abuse may have been exceptional, it reflects a deep-rooted problem in capitalist society. One UK study, by Child and Women Abuse Studies, estimated that one in 20 women and one in 50 men have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

The latest allegations surfacing in the press show that Savile was not alone, not only in society but also in the corridors of power. The Sunday Mirror quotes a former Tory party activist who says that in the 1980s he: "helped procure the youngest and prettiest" boys for several cabinet ministers after being told to find "entertainment".

The Sunday Mirror also reports that the Tory activist told Thatcher what had taken place. He also alleges that Michael Havers, the brother of Baroness Butler-Sloss who was originally heading the government inquiry into the issue, was present at at least one such "entertainment".

Regardless of whether this is true, Havers was attorney general from 1979 to 1987. If, as is claimed, a dossier of evidence relating to a paedophile ring at Westminster was deliberately destroyed, it was likely to have happened on Havers’ watch.

We do not know whether there was an organised paedophile ring at Westminster, or whether all the revelations currently appearing in the press are accurate. It is no surprise to socialists, however, to learn of child abuse by MPs or other powerful figures. Capitalism is a system built on exploitation and power. A tiny minority have enormous wealth and power while the vast majority is exploited. The capitalist parties’ role is ultimately to rule in the interests, not of the people who elected them, but the tiny capitalist elite that hold power in British society.

Capitalism warps and distorts human behaviour, leading to all kinds of horrors. Child abuse takes place in all classes of society, most often within the family. But given that the sexual abuse of children is fundamentally about power, it is to be expected that it is more common among those who hold powerful positions in society (as is domestic violence) and that it is often carried out against those with the least power.

All children are largely powerless, but as the Savile, care home, and grooming scandals have all shown those children who suffer abuse are often selected because they are in especially vulnerable and powerless situations.

Cover-up attempt?

It is sickening but not unexpected, if members of Thatcher’s government – whose day jobs were carrying out crimes against the working class – the miners’ strike, anti-trade union laws, the poll tax, introducing the anti-gay Section 28 legislation, to name a few – were also abusing the powerless for ’entertainment’. Nor were the crimes committed limited to the Tory Party as the accusations against the Liberal Democrat Cyril Smith show.

By announcing a judge-led inquiry into what took place, the government hoped to be seen to be taking action, while in reality kicking the problem into the long grass. Once this might have worked, but today, when suspicion of capitalist politicians runs so deep, it will not be possible to prevent the further deepening of public anger at the cesspool of Westminster.

Even if, with the collaboration of the majority of the capitalist press, they manage to pull off the difficult task of largely postponing the issue until after the general election, they will not prevent it further damaging Westminster’s authority.

The initial choice of Butler-Sloss to head the inquiry shows again the arrogance and stupidity of the current government, imagining that a woman at the very heart of the establishment, with a long history of acting in its interests, would be a credible choice.

The ranks of high court judges are not packed with anti-establishment figures, to put it mildly, with almost 70% having been privately educated and almost 80% having gone to Oxbridge. Butler-Sloss, nonetheless, seems to have got a particularly distinguished record for whitewashes.

Even the Pope has admitted that 2% of the Catholic clergy are paedophiles. But it has been revealed that, when investigating cases of child abuse in the Church of England, Butler-Sloss explained to one victim that she was not intending to refer to a Bishop in her final report. This was not because he was innocent, but because she did not want to undermine the Church of England!

To have continued to insist on Butler-Sloss heading the inquiry would have completely discredited any report the inquiry produced. They have been forced to search for a seemingly more ’independent’ figure.

Workers’ inquiry

Inevitably, any inquiry in the hands of representatives of the ruling class will attempt to consign whatever it finds to being a problem of the distant past. However, the Sunday Mirror’s report suggests that some of those involved in the 1980s are still active in politics today. More generally, child abuse remains endemic in society. It is true that there has been progress, particularly in the form of laws and regulations to protect children.

The Savile and Rolf Harris revelations will undoubtedly have given greater confidence to other victims of abuse to speak out. But the huge cuts and privatisation that this government is carrying out, and which began under Labour, are tearing apart the limited safety net that previously existed.

At the same time, we live in a world where inequality is growing, where more and more workers are in insecure low-paid work without any trade union representation, in a world in which whistle-blowing against abuse is much more difficult and it is easier for abusers in powerful positions to get away with it. It is also a world where workers’ organisations with the power to defend services and challenge abuse, are under vicious attack. The fight against cuts and for workers’ rights is an essential part of combatting child abuse.

Socialists demand a genuine, democratic, workers’ inquiry into child abuse involving Britain’s establishment, past and present – including Westminster and the Church of England. Such an inquiry would be conducted by democratically elected and accountable representatives of the trade unions, community organisations and abuse survivors’ groups. It could provide the working class with the truth.

The Mirror’s revelations will add fuel to the burning anger that already exists with the establishment parties. In the short term this can contribute to the ’anti-party’ mood and even to votes for Ukip, who are just another pro-cuts party of the 1% but are widely presented as the best stick with which to beat the establishment.

The need for a new party of a completely ’different type’ is more urgent than ever. A mass workers’ party would stand for the powerless against the abusers of power. It would stand, as Brian shows the POA did, against all cuts in public services. It would also fight for a massive extension of democracy – including a real right for constituents to recall their MPs and for MPs to only receive the salary of a skilled worker.

Socialists would also argue for such a party to stand for an end to capitalism – a system built on exploitation – and a democratic socialist society. Such a society would be built on an entirely different set of relationships, free from the power, coercion and inequalities that are fundamental to capitalism. Only then would it be possible to begin to completely eradicate child abuse.

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July 2014