The Great & Good

Who are Hoi Polloi?

You and I, that’s who: Hoi Polloi is Greek for “The Many” who, in 508 BC, spilled onto the streets of Athens and staged a spontaneous, leaderless revolt against the tyrant Isagorus and his old friend, the Spartan King, Cleomenes. Cleomenes and his army had backed Isagorus’ claim to Athenian leadership, and when Cleomenes attempted to dismantle the existing Council of 400 and replace it with 300 of Isagoras’ supporters, the people of Athens had had enough: they gave chase and Isagorus and his Spartan friends found themselves barricaded on top of the Acropolis.

Given the very suddenness of the revolt, they’d had no time to stock up on food or water and were forced into a humiliating surrender on the morning of the third day. Cleomenes and his army were banished from Athens forever, as was Isagorus and some of his lucky supporters. The unlucky ones were executed

Hundreds of aristocratic families exiled by Isagoras were recalled to Athens, and one of them – Isagoras’ arch rival, Cleisthenes – was asked to design a new form of government.

Re-installing the oligarchy or establishing himself as tyrant was out of the question. Instead, Cleisthenes established democracy based on reforms drawn up three generations earlier by the poet Solon. From the words Demos (meaning the citizen body), and Kratos (meaning power), Democracy rapidly spread throughout the Greek world, but lasted only two centuries before the Romans put an end to it. Democracy would not be seen again for two thousand years. Senate shmenate.

The ancient model differs somewhat to modern democracy, since ours is Representative and there’s was Participatory. Greek citizens didn’t vote for MP’s to debate and decide upon the issues of the day on their behalf: they did it themselves. In person. Although any citizen could speak at the Assembly, it tended to be the more erudite and educated citizens who dared. The rest were heard only when voting by acclamation.

Greek democracy was strictly for adult men of Greek birth. Women were not permitted to vote, nor were slaves, upon whom the whole edifice of democracy depended: they worked while there masters played politics.

The question is: who are the slaves today? Well, again: that’d be you and me. Wage slaves. Not as bad as being flogged or bought and sold, I grant you, but slavery nonetheless.

We can do better than this.

I started this party because I want to wrestle democracy back from the political class who claim to represent us. They don’t, and rarely do. They represent the rich and powerful, and always have.

Of the three major political parties, two of them date back to 1678. The Tories changed their name to the Conservative Party in 1834, and the Whigs became Liberals in 1868, then Liberal Democrats in 1988. Believe it or not, the Liberals were once as powerful as the Tories, and actually dominated politics for 45 years from 1715 to 1760.

But lets be clear on this: the Liberals aren’t so much liberal as slightly less conservative than the Conservatives. “Liberal” is a relative term, as demonstrated by the Liberal Democrats current alliance with the Conservative Party.

But it was labour that demanded and got democracy. That’s right: labour. Workers. And it was the workers who established the Labour Party, which ultimately let them down.

Which brings me to here and now.

We don’t have leadership anymore. We have management. Leaders want what’s best for their people; Managers simply exploit them. They have a very narrow area of interest – namely themselves – which precludes doing what’s best for all. Leaders lead their people to a brighter future; managers lead them up the garden path.

When the Tories talk about doing what’s right for Britain and getting this country working again, they mean working for them, and people like them. If they’re all right, everything’s peachy keen as far as they’re concerned. And that’s how they’ve played it for centuries.

The Labour Party grew out of the union movement, but once they achieved enough parliamentary seats to govern, their leadership became decidedly unsure about the socialist principals that got them there. Hence the last Labour Prime Minister referring to one of the faithful as a bigot (once she was out of earshot).

And the Liberal Democrats? You wonder why they even bother coming up with policy. I suppose they do it, safe in the knowledge they’ll never win an election. But when they do, they do so many U-turns everyone gets dizzy.

This country has only had universal suffrage since 1928. Yes, women got the vote in 1918, but only if they were over thirty and owned property. It wasn’t till 1928 that working class woman were able to vote on the same terms as men. And what a mess: despite the Tories fighting tooth and nail to prevent democracy, they continue to be a dominant force. Had the Labour cabinet been doing what’s right for the country, rather than jockeying for position in preparation for Gordon Brown’s inevitable defeat, this country might be in a better position than it is now.

I say “might” because you just can’t tell with the Labour Party anymore.

We’re living in a democratic dictatorship, and it’s high time we got back to the principals that finally saw hundreds of years of bloody struggle force the establishment to accept democracy. I formed this party because I don’t think Parliament speaks for the people now, any more than it did a hundred years ago. Parliament speaks for itself.

It’s about time we had our say. If you’re interested in a new paradigm, join the party. And for those of you who don’t vote, have a look at The History of Democracy. If you knew how much blood, sweat and tears were shed so you could vote, you would.

The History of Democracy