Socialist Worker

Fight for a genuinely democratic society

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2670

People took to the streets to defend democracy

People took to the streets to defend democracy (Pic: Guy Smallman)


On many of the demonstrations against Boris Johnson there are placards calling to “defend democracy”.

That sentiment has a broad echo. For the Financial Times newspaper Johnson “has detonated a bomb under the constitutional apparatus”. It is an attack on “the seat of British democracy, long admired worldwide”.

Socialists should be for the defence and extension of any democratic rights, especially as economic and political turmoil have seen such rights under attack in many parts of the world. But far from subverting an otherwise glorious system, Johnson’s manoeuvres have illustrated how limited “British democracy” really is.

This works on lots of different levels. For a start, people we never vote for are a part of it.

During recent events the parasitical monarch played a role in the way decisions are made.

Jacob Rees-Mogg was despatched to Balmoral to secure the queen’s agreement to Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament. And this week another unelected element shuffled into prominence—the House of Lords. Whatever MPs decided, it was possible that the Lords, including

91 hereditary peers, could block a decision.

In any case cabinet minister Michael Gove last weekend refused to confirm that the government would implement what parliament voted for anyway. None of this goes against the present laws and regulations.

Accountability 

MPs face virtually no accountability to those who voted for them. Mike Gapes and Chukka Umunna were elected as Labour MPs. But they could defect to The Independent Group for Change or the Lib Dems without any mechanism to enforce a by-election.

A petition to remove your MP can be used only if they are found guilty of serious criminal offences or are found to have fiddled their expenses.

Many MPs, elected under manifestos to respect the Brexit referendum result, are working flat out to overthrow it.

For most of history prime ministers have been able to commit British troops to war without parliamentary approval. This changed over Iraq.

But in that case parliament was lied to with the active engagement of most of the British political establishment, the spies and the media.

Much more fundamentally the whole system is designed to be an obstacle to fundamental change, not to enable it.

Parliament is part of a wider method of governing in the interests of a minority.

The judges, the senior civil service, most of the media, the military, the armed forces, the police, and the heads of the education system are all committed to capitalism.

After Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader, an army general openly said that there might have to be a mutiny if he wanted to dump nuclear weapons or pull Britain out of Nato.

Some people in these institutions—just like sections of big business—are now outraged and angered by what Johnson is doing.That won’t change their readiness to unite with Johnson if necessary against Corbyn, let alone any genuine movement of working class people.

Parliament is wholly open to economic pressure—investment strikes, runs on the pound, soaring costs to borrow money—as nearly every Labour government has found.

The ruling class ensures we don’t get to vote on what the economy produces or how it’s produced—or who gains and loses out in the process.

Many people are aware we don’t really live in a democracy. In July a poll found 63 percent of people feel Britain’s system of government is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful.

We shouldn’t be defending what we already have, we should be fighting for real democracy.

As the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1918, “Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited.”


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