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Issue #1776      May 10, 2017

Culture & life

Electing only the best

Isn’t bourgeois democracy a brilliant system? By only involving people in the election process every three years (Australia), every four years (the USA) or even every five years (the UK), short, well-funded campaigns by demagogues can run away with the result. Hitler, let us never forget, was elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933.

Thanks to the policies Hitler unleashed first on Germany and then on the world, it became difficult afterwards for Fascists anywhere to get themselves elected to government (except in Argentina – and apartheid South Africa, where of course the majority had no vote). Elsewhere they had to rely on military coups and the like. In the last few decades, however, that has changed.

Taking advantage of the turmoil following the overthrow of Socialism in the USSR, reactionary demagogues with deep pockets and the support of the capitalist media were able to gain power in a number of countries while posing as “champions of democracy”. A wave of Fascism swept over the Baltic States, other former Socialist countries in Eastern Europe and parts of Africa and South America.

Where the people did not appear keen to jump on this bandwagon, “volunteers” were organised, comprising religious fanatics, clandestine Western military units (“special forces”) and hard-line neo-Nazis, always keen to be helped into power. These volunteers – with careful direction – organised “spontaneous” demonstrations, usually violent and often prolonged, against progressive governments. When conditions were right these demonstrations magically transformed into “colour revolutions”.

Curiously, these “colour revolutions” were acclaimed by Western governments that abhorred actual revolutions elsewhere. Curiously, also, they invariably brought to power extreme right-wing governments. Even when their initial popular target was a reactionary government, such as Mubarak’s in Egypt during the so-called “Arab Spring”, the uprising was subverted so that in the final outcome one reactionary government had been replaced by another.

Capitalism had not only learnt how to apparently “mobilise the masses” and win the streets, but how to convert the process of revolution itself into another of its tools to control the masses. In fact, of course, this appearance was and is illusory. You can’t “create” a revolutionary situation: when the people refuse to go on living in the old way and the government finds it can no longer rule in the old way, then you have a revolutionary situation. Even then you will not have a successful revolution unless you also have a revolutionary Party equipped with revolutionary theory. Egypt did not have this and the “Arab Spring” went nowhere.

Most of the time, however, capitalism is happy to rely on its good old standby, bourgeois democracy, the inconvenience of elections with their turmoil and relatively minor uncertainties notwithstanding. Regardless of who “wins”, the capitalist system is never threatened. Robert Menzies, founder of the Liberal Party, was once asked by a journalist what would happen if the Communist Party won a federal election and became the elected government of Australia. Menzies assured his questioner that such an eventuality would never be allowed to occur. No one had any doubt that he was referring to the use of the army. So much for the democratic will of the people!

As if the system isn’t stacked against the working people enough already: all the daily newspapers and most of the radio and TV stations are owned by capitalist corporations or extreme right-wing media moguls, the difference between them being largely one of style. In essentials, they all push the same line, so no matter where news stories are sourced they have a uniformity of viewpoint. This very uniformity serves to reinforce the notion that they are bringing you the truth, on the principle that if everyone says it, it must be true. No alternative is possible.

Capitalism has always had the advantage over the working class of ready access to the mass media and plenty of money with which to pay for ads and also for purchasing editorial support. At the time of the October Revolution in Russia, the system had broken down to such an extent that the capitalist newspapers no longer had a monopoly or even a superiority but had to compete with the papers of a myriad of political forces: Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Constitutional Democrats, Anarchists, to name only a few.

Today, capitalism makes sure it has control of the mass media. Oh, it does nothing so crude as to ban particular parties’ newspapers or radio programs. No, it tolerates them, thus demonstrating its “commitment” to democratic rights.

If you don’t like the government, you have the “right” to use your millions (assuming you have some) to set up your own media empire and take on the government you don’t like. If you don’t have any millions available, of course, the odds are somewhat stacked against you. This imbalance in the resources available to the political forces of the ruling class and those of the workers is a potent weapon in the arsenal of capitalism.

In the last US election, the American people were faced with a choice between a Fascist demagogue and an extremely reactionary tool of Wall Street. Wall Street’s candidate got the most votes but the Fascist with his populist message was declared the winner. Now France is faced with a very similar “choice”. Either way, the people are the losers.

Then Britain will go to the polls, so that the representatives of British capital can be given the “authority” to amend their relationship with American and European capital to suit their own interests and not those of the British people. The capitalist mass media is already feverishly demonising the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is perceived by “the City” as a closet “Red”. He is in fact only a Social Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders in the US he actually talks about Socialism, and that will never do.

A plethora of distractions are being thrown before the British public to confuse the outcome: Scottish nationalism, racism, fear of foreigners, alarmingly shrill cries that the country will be overrun by refugees and all the British people’s jobs will disappear, and more of the same. The outcome should be very interesting.

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