Going Up in Smoke | Guy Fawkes and the Protest Against Power-Abuse



This time last year I asked what might be a suitable guiding thought as we headed for bonfires and fireworks in this peculiarly English celebration on 5th November. A year ago it was a time for lamenting the parlous state of our democracy:

Nick Griffin’s BNP sweetening the fascist message again, government advisors being sacked for speaking the truth and politicians drawing power to themselves in the name of democracy, when democracy is precisely what we aren’t getting – in the light of all this, perhaps tonight we should take to the fields and parks and scream and shout in awe of fire and explosions in burning lament.

So what should our thoughts be this year? We have a new coalition administration, the king-makers being a supposedly liberal democratic party who have let their manifesto and core beliefs go up in smoke as they grasp power with a Conservative party hell-bent on reducing the size of every public service. Why? The reason given will be ‘reducing the structural deficit’ – but when ancient forests are being sold off, MPs cheer as the most draconian cuts to core services are announced by a trustafarian heir to a baronetcy, while media barons are given huge control over our news agendae and  poor people exiled from central London over arbitrary caps on benefit, we can be sure that the motive is not financial but political.

Guy Fawkes was stitched up, burned by a Catholic-fearing ruling class determined to strengthen their hold on power and sway over the people. We don’t gather round bonfires and watch fireworks to celebrate his foiled plot and subsequent execution… We gather as a symbol of those who would terrorise us into giving up democracy, those who would use violence to harm the functions of state.

So this year, as the rockets lift off and the effigies burn, perhaps we should let embers settle in us to spark protest. There are other ways to reduce debt, and saddling students with £40,000 of it for a degree isn’t one of them. Enjoy the show, and sign up for action.