Today in Britain we are sold the lie that we live in the longest running “democracy” in the western world. In the scheme of all historical human interaction it is in reality, just a blink of the eye. It is a false democracy. There are those on the left that continue to advocate not participating within this “democracy”. Who continually state that a mass uprising is imminent and there is no road to Socialism via the Parliament. You may think at this point I agree with them.
But it has never been quite so simple. Here in the UK or now in a western dominated Global Capitalist world. It was never easy to imagine revolution suddenly sprouting forth. There have been a few flash points in the past and a couple of near misses. But we are where we have always been, with the vast majority of the working class population happy to accept that democracy works for the working class.
The above picture is the reality of the current situation. But Marx also stated, “Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory.”
Lenin on Britain and the parliament, “the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should, from within parliament, help the masses of the workers see the results of a Henderson and Snowden government in practice, and that they should help the Hendersons and Snowdens defeat the united forces of Lloyd George and Churchill. To act otherwise would mean hampering the cause of the revolution, since revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, a change brought about by the political experience of the masses, never by propaganda alone.”
To put Lenin’s comment into today’s context. It is necessary to support Corbyn in defeating the Tories. “revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class”. How very apt. Until such times as the working class actually vote for even a Social Democratic Government, how can we expect real change and a move towards Socialism? Real change cannot and will not take place unless and until the vast majority of the working class is organised, educated and ready to accept and take the lead role in “the revolution”.
Democracy is from the Greek, Demos – people and Kratos – power/rule. So a true democracy is “people power” or “people rule”. Wolfy Smith, “Power to the People” for those of us old enough to remember
I am going to stick with “all power to the soviets” Or all power to the workers councils, whether in factories, call centres, shops supermarkets, industry, offices, etc and communities.
Our democracy was born from the struggles of aristocratic landowners and Lords usurping the power of the monarchy and giving it to a Parliament. This was designed to negate the power of the Crown and supplant that power with the power of this new aristocratic ruling elite. Throughout the industrial Revolution, it was then strengthened by the new ruling class to emerge from the Industrial mill, mine and factory. It actually took until 1948 for complete universal suffrage to be implemented in the UK. It was only then that one person one vote was fully ratified and it took until 1968 for that to happen in Northern Ireland. Strange that eh!
What did we achieve by this universal suffrage? Well to quote Marx again, “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”
This is the reality. We still have a democracy that is as far removed from the working class as it has always been. Our democracy was not created by us, nor was it created for us. It took hundreds of years just to achieve universal suffrage. It is becoming more and more removed as the decades roll on. Look at our representatives in any of the Parliaments. There are very few from the working class. Look at our first line of democratic control, our local Governments. This has been reducing at a rate that is astounding. They are becoming no more than management companies to administer central Government policy.
The Paris Commune is held up as the bastion of what a true democracy could be. I still revert to “all power to the Soviets”. What is true democracy? Every left sect will have their own view on this. From the Trots, to the Tankies and the Anarcho-whatever sect of Anarchism you are. (Why are there so many bloody Anarchist sects now? I preferred it when there were only Anarchist-Communists and then Anarcho-Syndicalists, it was so much easier)
Democracy has to be rooted in both the workplace and in the local community. It is only through working class control of both, that a real democracy can ever be achieved. It is only by working within and engaging with our communities and workplaces, that real change can ever occur.
There is not now and has never been any real democracy within any workplace in the UK or western world. Apart from actions like the Clyde Shipbuilders and Caterpillar Work-ins etc.
Workers, even in a unionised environment have no real say on the day to running or forward planning of that industry or sector. It is the ultimate in a dictatorial form of government and control.
All decisions are made by the board of Directors, relayed through the management, to the supervisors, for the workers to follow blindly. There is no mandate sought from the majority to decide on the policy or direction that the company wants to pursue. The workers are there only because they have a skill set to sell to the company, which is where their input begins and ends. They are no more than a mere commodity. Like a piece of steel or paper. And just like those commodities, when a cheaper source is found, they will be discarded and replaced by the cheaper or more efficient commodity.
Companies will always state that their people are the most important part of their organisation. All the while they refer to them as resources, with a Human Resources department to control and look after them. In another part of the company they have a purchasing department, which is there to control and look after the other resources that the company requires, like steel, paper, pens, wood, screws etc.
The current fixation in Scotland with the Fair Work Convention is no more than “partnership agreements” that relegates the Unions into subservient layer of management, that ends up implementing Government and management dictates. There can be no partnership where one partner controls everything and the other partner is referred to and treated as a resource.
Here is the core of the democratic deficit within the workplace and wider community or nation. The workforce is treated as no more than a mere resource, a commodity and never as an equal partner within the organisation. The workforce has no input into the workings or direction of the organisation. Until such time that the workforce has control of “the means of production”, democracy in any disguise is nothing more than a sham under these conditions.
Representation from the workers on local Government, is a pre-requisite of linking the workplace with local democracy. “All power to the Soviets” We need to be looking at the creation of a Federal structure nationally, where the workplace and local councils, will be represented to work for the agreed policies of their electorate.
The unions of course have a major part to play in this. They need to engage with their communities and start to work outside their particular branches.
Marx on this, is still as valid today as when it was written: “Apart from their original purposes, they must now learn to act deliberately as organising centres of the working class in the broad interest of its complete emancipation. They must aid every social and political movement tending in that direction. Considering themselves and acting as the champions and representatives of the whole working class, they cannot fail to enlist the non-society men into their ranks. They must look carefully after the interests of the worst paid trades, such as the agricultural labourers, rendered powerless [French text has: “incapable of organised resistance”] by exceptional circumstances. They must convince the world at large [French and German texts read: “convince the broad masses of workers”] that their efforts, far from being narrow — and selfish, aim at the emancipation of the downtrodden millions.”
“aim at the emancipation of the downtrodden millions.” There is the key statement. Our Unions need to increase and develop on the Unite Community and Area Activist Committee structures and ethos. Here is a Union using its resources to work actively and organise within the wider community. The Area Activist structure also needs to be replicated as this engages the real Union Activists and links them with local campaigns.
Local Government or community democracy is just as negated by a lack of working class control that exists in the workplace. What do we have in local Government? Councillors elected every few years to administer the whims and wishes of a central Government and local un-elected council managers making the decisions. This does not represent the working class or our communities in any way. The ruling class realises the power of a truly diverse and democratic Local Government. That is why it has spent decades systematically destroying it.
Who does our democracy really represent? It represents the very same people and organisations that it always has from its inception. The very same people who created it in the first place. Our democracy is only really representative of the wealthy, the ruling elite, trans-national global finance, global corporations, aristocratic landowners and is controlled by these same bodies, through the non-democratic use and control of the media.
When we are now having Presidential style elections in Scotland and Britain as a whole, national democracy is even more of a sham. No more do we elect people who will represent the best interests of their constituents. No we elect sectarian political parties, whose representatives only serve what is best for their particular party. Democracy is not about electing parties. Democracy is about electing people to represent the wishes of the majority from their particular, workplace, their particular local community onto a regional and then national democratic Government that implements the wishes of those workplaces, communities, through the creation of a federal system of Government. It is never about propping up and blindly following the policies dictated from the leadership of a party.
Democracy should not be about electing political parties that will then only represent the wishes of corporate power, corporate media and global finance, whilst ignoring the wishes of the majority. It needs to represent the majority. It needs to be rooted in the workplace and in the community and represent these groups.
Does all this mean that we should not be involved in this sham democracy? The answer is of course we need to be involved. We need to be involved and we need to fight for control. Because until such time as the mass of the populace is on our side, we need to show up this sham democracy for what it is.
Lenin on this to Wullie Gallacher and Sylvia Pankhurst on parliamentarianism, “At present, British Communists very often find it hard even to approach the masses, and even to get a hearing from them. If I come out as a Communist and call upon them to vote for Henderson and against Lloyd George, they will certainly give me a hearing. And I shall be able to explain in a popular manner, not only why the Soviets are better than a parliament and why the dictatorship of the proletariat is better than the dictatorship of Churchill (disguised with the signboard of bourgeois “democracy”), but also that, with my vote, I want to support Henderson in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man—that the impending establishment of a government of the Hendersons will prove that I am right, will bring the masses over to my side, and will hasten the political death of the Hendersons and the Snowdens just as was the case with their kindred spirits in Russia and Germany.”
The UK and all western Democracy should be an anathema to all Socialists. It is held up as the mother of all parliamentary democracies, but is built on privilege, control and lies. That is why it needs to be engaged with and destroyed. Those that advocate a non-parliamentary revolution in Britain are only playing out the same mistakes from the past.
But that does not mean we need to carry out the same failed interventions from the past. We need to learn from the past and adapt to today’s realities.
Change to the democracy will only come from workplace and community organisation and unity. Through that control we have to create a new or recover a “mass party of the working class”.
Remember when this was a mainstream party policy. “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”
Marx “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.”
If we do not engage with the current system and start undermining and thereby the destruction, of that system, then we will always be on the outside looking in. We will always be marginalised. Only by engaging with it and putting forward a new democratic ideal in our workplaces and our communities can we hope to create that mass movement that will create a new state, real democratic state.
We need to expand and start to take control of local democracy. Then organise and force change to workplace democracy. From that base we can change the national agenda and start the process of creating a real working class Federal democracy, with the working class controlling the levers of power. Where nations and regions are autonomous but co-operate on national interests, and where wealth is evenly distributed, from the wealthiest regions to the others.
Workers of all countries unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.
All Power to the Soviets.