David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, has been stabbed to death. Police have arrested a 25 year old man and declared it a terrorist incident, with possible links to Islamic extremism.
There has already been an the predictable outpouring of public grief. Even Angela Rayner, who mere weeks ago proudly announced that all Tories are “scum” , going as far as to double-down on her statement and defend it as true, has declared herself to be horrified at the attack.
It is understandable that people should be horrified by this. Killing, regardless of context, is never pleasant. But there is a difference between a rational and humane dislike of murder, and the hysterical and unprincipled public grieving that we are currently seeing, particularly from people within the working-class movement.
Amess was a particularly unpleasant Conservative, as his voting record during his 40 year tenure as an MP shows.
As of 2019, he had voted against allowing same sex marriage six times. He voted against laws promoting human rights or equalities thirteen times. He specifically voted against laws aimed at creating equal rights for gay people 22 times. He voted for military intervention in other countries 16 times.
He voted ten times to restrict access to legal aid and to reduce corporate tax 20 times. He voted to sell off England’s forests, to privatise healthcare, against disability benefits and to end financial aid for working-class students.
This list could go on for a long time. In fact from the perspective of the workers’ movement, you would struggle to find an MP’s track record that paints a worse picture. David Amess was a firm and resolute enemy of the working class, as evidenced by his actions.
But, while it is indisputable that the inequality and brutality that both Amess and his party championed has lead to the unnecessary and preventable deaths of hundreds of thousands of working class people — millions if we count overseas wars — it also certainly true that his death has achieved nothing.
His empty seat in parliament will almost certainly be filled with another Conservative who will go on to vote through the kind of laws that Amess spent his life voting for and his party has pushed for centuries, since they were established to defend the rights of the landed gentry against the march of progress.
An individual has been killed, an individual will suffer the consequences of killing him, and if we’re lucky that’s where the story will end. If we are unlucky of course, and this was the act of a Jihadist of some stripe and not the work of a disturbed mind, we will see mass sympathy for the Tories and the establishment — with some justification: whatever can be said about the way things are and have been under the Tories, the medieval, backward vision that death cults like ISIS and Al Qaeda believe are worse.
Even if, by some slim chance, he has been killed in the name of any kind of progressive politics — or at least some act of revenge from a victim of the system of poverty he represents, which is extremely unlikely looking at the news — then this act of violence will actively harm our movement. Although this prospect is almost certainly a thought exercise, it’s still worth saying.
But that is where any caution ends. Beyond his family and those who witnessed the murder, this is fundamentally not a tragedy for society as a whole. Knee-jerk sympathy and outrage is just as backward as knee-jerk applause.
While it is understandable that sitting Labour MPs cannot say “no great loss,” neither do they really need to say anything — and that is before we get to those on the left who are not MPs, who are supposedly deadly opposed to what Amess represented.
“Horrific. MPs do these surgeries to make themselves available in person to any constituents who might need help,” wrote Matt Zarb-Cousin, Corbyn’s former spokesman and the Rebecca Long-Bailey leadership bid campaign manager, before retweeting someone saying Amess gave them their first job (working for the Tories) and other Tories saying what a kind, compassionate and cheerful man he had been — ignoring his politics and voting record presumably.
This was a bit like saying, when asked about the serial killer next door, that they’d always been polite and fed your cat when asked.
To the left of him, Aaron Bastani, editor of Novara media and avowed communist, chimed in: “This is so dreadful. 2 politicians have now been murdered while trying to fulfil their duties as public officials. If they can’t do that without fear of violent attack we lose a major part of being a free society.” “This is an attack on a democratic society,” he added before turning over his flagship talkshow that night to the topic “Why can’t Britain keep its politicians safe from harm?”
So one socialist, one postmodern communist — what of the actual communists? We turn to them before responding to all of this at once, as it is probably the strangest response of all, having absolutely no skin the the game whatsoever compared to those above who earn a living in part by being acceptable to publish.
“SIR DAVID AMESS — the Communist Party expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Sir David Amess, who was murdered today,” opined the Communist Party of Britian’s official facebook page. “Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths [said], ‘This is a tragic loss of life. While we had profound and important political differences, nothing can justify this violent and cowardly act, which is an assault on the democratic rights of us all.’”
First things first, at least Bastani and Zarb-Cousin were not so moved by his death that they felt the need to use his honorific “Sir” as the CPB did — twice.
Most newspaper do not bother with these titles most of the time — it’s quite bizarre to see this respect for feudal honours bestowed by the monarchy from Leninist revolutionaries — but it is a good indicator of the lack of thought and the knee-jerk establishmentist thinking that is shot through the left, which becomes visible at times of crisis.
There should have been no talk of democracy or democratic rights or a free society because Amess and the Tories do not represent any of those things. Amess came to power with the support of a billionaire media, to run the country with the support of the billionaire class — selling, cutting and starving at every step of the way. Being available for the odd question about traffic regulations from constituents changes none of this.
We live in a capitalist society with a democratic element, and in no way should we give up on that element, the ability to run MPs and councillors when it might serve us well; the right to assembly, though under attack now by the Tories — as it always has been, is also a right we support and need; but that doesn’t mean we can talk about living in “a democratic free society” in the exact same language as the establishment press.
Where is the democracy for the worker given three 12 hour shifts in three days then nothing for a month? What freedom do they have when they cannot make the rent — what decision-making process were they, and presumably Amess, both part of that gave them a say? General elections paid for by the same corporation responsible for zero-hour contracts, poverty pay, property speculation and all the rest?
For the people who actually struggle against capitalism, it is entirely inappropriate to offer our condolences — we should offer our silence, at best. That’s far more than the ruling class ever offer; as our communities disintegrate as a direct result of their actions, they then pile the blame for the fallout onto us in their press.
Whether MP’s surgeries now have a security guard or a bit of vetting is such an obscure, minuscule issue when placed next to the truth we should be repeating, perhaps quietly for now: Amess’s class oppresses our class. He was indisputably our enemy.
Marx famously said that “When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror.” We are still waiting for our time, but until it comes, no tears for the enemies of our class.