Elections and Democracy: The future of humanity will not be decided through the ballot box

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Elections and Democracy: The future of humanity will not be decided through the ballot box
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Elections and Democracy: The future of humanity will not be decided through the ballot box. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

This is a good and necessary

This is a good and necessary article denouncing the democratic propaganda of the bourgeoisie. However, this paragraph struck me:

"Today, in Britain as elsewhere, parliament has become more of a rubber stamp for legislation, almost all of which is proposed by the government. In France it is evident that the National Assembly no longer has any power: 80% of the laws it votes are presented by the government; once voted this law must be put into effect by the President of the Republic and, to take effect, must wait for the signing of the presidential decree. Besides, the President can bypass parliament to legislate by recourse to edict or even, in France, with the aid of Article 16 of the constitution which gives him full powers. In Britain the prime minister has taken on the powers of ‘Royal Prerogative’ in matters such as foreign affairs, defence and security. This insignificant role for parliament is expressed in a ridiculous participation by MPs in its sessions: most of the time there are very few who follow the debates, when in the 19th Century, it was the place for fierce and impassioned debates and sometimes brilliant discourse, like those of Jean Jaures in France or Karl Liebknecht in Germany."

All of this seems to be contradicted to some degree by the situation in the US, where the political difficulties of the US bourgeoisie have led to a situation where the President is actually increasingly hampered by the legislature, i.e. nearly the entirety of Obama's agenda was blocked by the Republicans in Congress, including the unprecendent refusal to consider his last Supreme Court appointment. It is true that Obama found ways around some of this blatant obstructionism--such as issuing a record number of Executive Orders (some of which were found unconstitutional by the courts), but Congress was nevertheless a major thorn in the side of the executive during his Presidency. Similarly with Trump, he has been unable to pass any kind of health care reform bill through Congress--although paradoxically primarily because of infighting between competing factions of his own party. Perhaps this has more to do with the particular politcal situation of the US bourgeoisie today than it represents a general tendency--itself a reflection of decomposition--but in a kind of perverted sense, the legislature (and even the courts) have in some ways become more important than they were in the political life of the ruling class. Of course, it is also the case that these legislatures increasingly function more as transmission belts of various ideological and monied interests (when they are not engaged in sheer political theatre and nonsense); they are hardly shining examples of the vigorous and productive debate and deliberation we are told are so emblematic of "democracy," something reflected in the fact that Congress' approval ratings generally hover in the teens--lower than Trump's and Herpes'. The spectacle of the Republican Party big-wigs trying to negotiate their health care reform bill in private, behind the backs even of members of their own party seems to make the article's point, but it is also the case that whatever bill they come up with will face genuine, sincere opposition from legislators that may very well sink it. This isn't all for show all the time.

Still, I know this article will earn the ire of many who will denounce it for its insufficient effort to distinguish "bourgeois democracy" from the "proletarian democracy" ("real democracy") of the workers' councils. So, is there only one democracy? Does democracy itself have a bourgeois class nature? Can we say that the workers' councils are in some sense an expression of a deeply historical genuine democratic human instinct of which the democratic ideas of the bourgeois revolutions (if not their realization under capitalism) are also an expression or are these on fundamentally different planes?

Whose 'democracy'?

jk1921 wrote:

Still, I know this article will earn the ire of many who will denounce it for its insufficient effort to distinguish "bourgeois democracy" from the "proletarian democracy" ("real democracy") of the workers' councils. So, is there only one democracy? Does democracy itself have a bourgeois class nature?

'Democracy' means 'people power', where 'people' is a self-defining category.

The bourgeoisie define 'people' as 'property owners', the proletariat will define 'people' as 'social producers'.

So, 'democracy' is a socio-historical product, there are more than 'one democracy', and there is no 'democracy itself', the 'nature' of any 'democracy' will be determined by the class that has (or aspires to) political power. That is, there is an ideological component to 'democracy', and I would assume that the term 'proletarian democracy' (or, workers' democracy) would become more often used, as the revolutionary proletariat develops itself.

jk1921 wrote:
Can we say that the workers' councils are in some sense an expression of a deeply historical genuine democratic human instinct of which the democratic ideas of the bourgeois revolutions (if not their realization under capitalism) are also an expression or are these on fundamentally different planes?

'Democratic' notions (if we regard this as 'participation of many rather than just few') seem to have been present in all sorts of historical contexts.

But democratic workers' councils will have to be consciously built by workers themselves, there is no 'objective law' that will produce them. Whilst workers don't develop themselves, class society will remain (even if capitalism breaks down, without conscious workers another exploiting class will develop).

And... this workers' democracy cannot be built by a Leninist cadre party. There is no 'special' minority who can bring either democracy or non-democratic revolution into being, for workers. Leninists really believe that they, and they alone, have access to 'Reality'.

Marxists must insist that only the workers can build 'Reality-for-Workers'. The bourgeoisie have been lying for 300 years that their 'scientists' have 'True Access' to 'Eternal Reality'. This elite notion of a 'Knowledge' outside of those who produce it, for their own needs, interests and purposes, is a central ideological prop of the bourgeoisie. And Leninists prop up this prop, for their own elitist purposes.

'Reality' is always a 'Reality-for-some-human-purpose'. As Marx said, 'we create our object'.

Only we workers can build 'democracy-for-us'.

Trying to reflect more on the

Trying to reflect more on the importance of reinforcing the ideology of democracy for the bourgeoise today: I think there is a genuine fear in the more central factions of the bourgeoise in the developed countries that ostensibly democratic state structures are under some real threat today. That is part of the somewhat frenzied reaction of the central factions of the bourgeoisie to "populism" - within their own countries, but also to the (re) emergence of various forms of "authoritarianism" in the world in recent times: Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Duterte in the Phillippines, etc. This is of course also in part what drives the reaction to Trump and his apparent fondness for such authoritarian leaders and his supposed own authoritarianism or even allegations of "fascism." Should the state structures in the central countries move more in this direction there are factions of the bourgeoisie who could lose big; thus, all the hair on fire reaction about the "decline of the rule of law," "violations of democratic norms," etc. is not just purely ideological, I think--it reflects a genuine fear about the reciprocal effect of decomposition on the bourgeois state itself. There is a kind of Rawlsian "veil of ignornance" problem for the various factions of the bourgeoisie--wherein certain factions of the bourgeoisie fear for their place in any future illiberal political structure.

Part of the bourgeoisie is becomming very concerned about some of the societal trends emerging over the last several decades that have resulted not just in an apathetic electoral abstentionism, but in a real decline in civic and democratic values in the population in the core countries themselves. In the US for example, this has tended to take the form of a kind of social psychology of Republican voters, which reveals them to have real authoritarian tendencies, mostly uninterested in democratic norms, prone to violence, narcissicism, confirmation bias and "motivated reasoning." The book the "Republican Brain" was one manifestation of this tendency, which suggested that Republicans just think differently than everyone else; they are not true democratic subjects; they are something like a foreign authoritarian body infecting the democratic polity.

However, recently it seems these same factions of the bourgeoisie have discovered a new threat from the left--the so-called "illiberal millenials." Where Republicans/conservatives have authoritarian tendencies, the illiberal millenials have, perhaps even scarier, totalitarian ones. This illiberal left is also infected by the social tendencies towards narcissicism and confirmation bias, and while their values tend to be "progressive," they also fail to have the necessary humility and sufficiently self-critical personalties that supposedly make democratic debate possible. The spectacle of ideologically motivated young leftists shutting down unwelcome speakers on college campuses is a well known example of this, but the extent to which this kind of mentality has escaped the confines of academia (the so-called "campus left") and has actually led to some considerable electoral support for dangerous "left-populists" (channeling the bourgeois press here) like Sanders and Corbyn (although Le Pen allegedly has quite the youth following in France) has parts of the bourgeoisie freaked out.

The establishment neo-liberal centrists are taking it from both sides and with each side increasingly abandoning any commitment to a democratic deliberative compromise of ideas (something that would require admitting the possibilty that one's beliefs might be wrong) and opting for something that more and more resembles competing Gramscian (anti) hegemonic campaigns to eradicate the opponent through a "war of position," it is no wonder that there is an increasing urgency on the part of the main factions of the bourgeoisie to try to reinforce democratic mores. Now, there is nothing that requires the bourgeoisie to organize itself democratically, but that has mostly been the way it has been done for the last two and half centuries in the central countries and the fact that this arrangement appears to be under some real threat today--from the social conditions of captialism itself--has got the bourgeoisie worried.

I read an article recently written by a teacher who was expressing his deep concern over what he described as the total lack of a moral compass among his students--not a lack of moral compass in terms of substantive values--they probably mostly reject racism, xenophobia, discrimination against LBGTQ+ communities, etc.--but a lack of what might be called the "process values" that undergird the functioning of a supposedly democratic society. His students were marked by severe narcissicism, an instinctual desire to defend their friends and community members even when they have committed wrongdoing, a lack of respect for people who disagree with them and various other forms of attitudinal tribalism. To the extent to which they identify with the progressive values of inclusion and the respect of "otherness," it is in terms of these  others having equal access to the ostensibly "meritocratic" public sphere of utility maximizing capitalist self-actualization. Now, being a ruthlessley utility maximizing individualist might be a beneficial personal quality for becomming a winner under capitalism (re: Trump) and in this sense there is something rational about it, but there seemed to be a concern in this article that the extent to which such behaviour was becoming generalized (even in a progressive guise) was threatening to the continuation of democratic capitalism itself. Even capitalism cannot function well if everyone is a utility maximizing libertarian individualist all the time--someone has to do the care work, someone has to stand up for some basic process values that put the way things are done in society above the end utility result. In other words, there has to be some institutions or structures in society that can step in and say the ends can't always justify the means in every instance or even captialist society cannot function. Another way of putting it is that a healthy capitalism must have a set of ground rules (democratic norms) for settling competing substantive disputes in a way that goes beyond "might makes right." I think this kind of analysis can be overdone. It can come off as "millenial bashing" and it seemingly contradicts other evidence which shows an increasing tendency towards real forms of social solidarity among this group, but these concerns nevertheless demonstrate some real fears the bourgeoisie has about the future of its ostensibly democratic arrangements, while also suggesting to us that some outward manifestations of solidarity may not be as deep as we hope.

Of course, the ICC article is correct that the two sides of this process are not equivalent in their relationship to democratic ideology. They perform somewhat different ideological functions. The right-wing authoritarians tend to be more openly skeptical of democracy, while the left tends to speak in its name. But it is also clear that speaking in the name of democracy is often a kind of ploy to advance a particular substantive agenda. In other words, democracy is only valuable, should only be defended, when it leads to the right substantive result.  While this reveals a certain hypocrisy or lack of seriousness about "real world" democratic processes on the part of many leftists, this seems little different than the attitude of the main factions of the US bourgeoisie today--who cannot fathom that their democratic processes (albeit within an institutional structure inherited from the 18th century) have actually produced a President Trump--that an authoritarian with little concern for democratic norms (the bourgeoisie's rules of the game) can be democratically elected.

This result then can only be the effect of the subversion of the democratic process itself--the intervention of an evil, authoritarian, but above all a foreign actor (Putin) who conspired to manipulate Republican authoritarians and left-wing totalitarians to acheive his Machiavellian goals through a warped electoral process. Of course, in engaging in this ideological campaign, the main factions of the bourgeoisie--perhaps unwittingly--only reveal the extremely tenuous and ultimately illusory nature of their democratic superstructure. How can anyone seriously believe that a society with so many authoritarians and reckless totalitarians who do not care about democratic norms and principles (like learning to vote for the lesser of two evils when you don't get everything you want) and a political structure that can so easily be manipulated by a foreign authoritarian actor is really "democratic" in the first place?

But there is a deeper question about "democracy" here that Marxists need to address and the ICC article kind of skirts it. In talking about the workers' councils during the German Revolution, it states that the councils were "cajoled" into supporting Social Democracy. First, that is an odd way of putting it. What was the original French word? What does "cajole" mean in this context? Second, this comes up against the problem inherent in a certain leftist way of looking at the outcome of a given democratic process in that it is only "legitimate" if it is produces the right result--the one we know to be true through our access to something approaching the historical truth via a process that may not be itself democratic (LBird actually has a point here). It couldn't possibly be the case that the German working class--falsely or not--simply thought that supporting the SPD meant that the revolution had already been accomplished. That it was the right thing to do at the moment. Or that it simply preferred social democracy to the uncertainties of a continuing revolutionary process.There had to be some kind of interference from some foreign, "outside" force to produce this flawed or illegitimate result--some "cajoling" (I assume from bourgeois ideology). But this doesn't seem entirely different from the standpoint of the main factions of the US bourgeoisie vis a vis Trump--a refusal to accept that sometimes democratic processes don't go the way the most conscious of us want them to, that sometimes democracy leads to incorrect results without necessarily being the result of some corrupted process OR that sometimes the ostensibly most conscious of us--the vanguard--were the ones who were in fact wrong. Or that it may simply not be possible to eradicate "corruption" from these processes altogether, that it is a fact of the human condition and that before anyone can denounce corruption it has to be decided in some fashion via some deliberative process whether or not a particular viewpoint is in fact even corruption in first place.

But it is hard to see--if we even think the workers' councils are an expression of some democratic process (something that needs to be explored itself)--how there is any "outside" to democracy? Isn't everything always on the table? Social Democratic "cajoling" (bourgeois ideology of whatever form) seems no more "outside" the deliberative process of a workers' council--its just another set of ideas that need to be debated and acted upon, accepted, modified or rejected outright--than a Putinist intervention in an American election is. How are these things any more "outside" the process than when an ostensibly democratic subject decides to vote a particular way because God instructed it thusly? Some body, some processes has to decide what is bourgeois ideology in the first place, but it seems no more or less problematic when some deliberative process is affected by some force that is acknowledged to be inside the polity as when it comes from something perceived to be outside of it. Is it any worse that the US election was affected by Putin than it was by the Koch Brothers (who probably had more to do with the outcome than Putin anyway) or when the workers' councils are cajoled by Social Democrats versus when they subcumb to their own distorted preferences?

Of course, the entire idea that there could even be something like "distorted preferences" should be anathema to anyone who takes democratic processes as some kind of end in themselves in the first place--democracy would always be its own legitimation; the outcome of a given democratic process can't be illegitimate or "wrong." There could be no such thing as "false consciousness" (an idea that has generally been dismissed as hopelessly tainted by Leninism [which doesn't mean it is wrong]). But rightly few people would (or should) take such an argument on its face, revealing that in the end relying on "democracy" alone to legitimate political action is going to leave us wanting something more......



Is 'democracy' workers' power or bosses' power?

jk, I think that the first issue to be discussed is what we mean by 'democracy'.

As I said in my previous post, if 'democracy' translates as 'people power' (with 'people' being defined by the politically powerful who argue for this 'democracy'), then workers would define 'democracy' to be 'workers control of production'.

That is, 'democracy' means 'communism'.

For workers, there can't be any other definition, because a 'communism' that wasn't a product of workers' conscious self-determination wouldn't be 'communism'.

So, here we have a 'democracy' which is socio-historical. There is no simple, just 'democracy', no ahistoric 'democracy', no classless 'democracy' - only a 'democracy' that we define, which is defined to our needs, interests and purposes. That is, not defined according to bourgeois needs, interests and purposes.

I think that you're making a political mistake to regard 'democracy as defined by the bourgeoisie' to be 'democracy', which is precisely what you're doing in your posts, as far as I can tell. Whilst you do this, you'll clearly oppose (this form of) 'democracy', but then that leaves you disarmed when trying to give a political account of 'communism' (which can then appear to be non-democratic, with all the Stalinist overtones that that acquires), to sceptical workers, who've heard all the elitist bullshit before, about a 'specially conscious' minority who 'know better' than workers themselves.


A few points of

A few points of clarification, as I know my last post was, well--unfocused.

1.) I do not think its so easy to seperate something called "workers' democrcy" or "proletarian democracy" from "bourgeois democracy." They are both derived from concepts and practices inherited from Classical Antiquity and then reborn in the bourgeois Enlightenment. The two phenomeon may not be the same thing, but they share many of the same problems--some of which I tried to address in the last post.

2.) It is not even clear here, though, whether the ICC sees the workers' councils as an expression of any kind of democracy at all. I'll have to read the article again, but it seemed to suggest that "democracy" was precisely what dug the grave of the German Revolution. Its not clear if this means a particular form of "bourgeois democratic ideology," (Social Democracy) or "democracy," as a set of institutional arrangements and societal mores. Its also not clear if there is really any difference in the end.

3.) I don't think bourgeois democracy is entirely "fake." Yes, it has never lived up to is own ideological self-conceptulization, but that doesn't make it a complete fraud. And yes, much of the history of the corruption even of the limited forms of democracy offerred by the bourgeoisie under decadence and state capitalism that are laid out in the article are true, albeit with the caveat that I think decomposition, which is marked by a certain loss of political control by the main factions of the bourgeoisie may be in some cases "reinvigorating" some of the democratic state architecture that has somewhat laid dormant for several decades, i.e. my first post about the US political situation, but also a possible effect of "populism" in general. Of course, this doesn't make electoral democracy any more worthy of the support of the working class, which was the main point of the ICC article.

However, I think there remains a commitment among the central factions of the bourgeoisie in the developed countries to organize society "democratically," which while in fact a powerful political illusion on the terrain of the class structure, is also something more than that: its about regulating the competition between various bourgeois factions and organizing social and cultural life around a certain hegemonic consensus--a kind of unwritten grammar of social life that is both ideological, but also something deeper that you might need the tools of psychoanalysis to fully grasp (like Reich, et. al. used them to try to understand fascism). My point in referencing the article by the teacher I had read was to try to show how some of that may be starting to fray today causing some real concern among elements of the bourgeoisie.

But perhaps the Frankfurt school was right--and the ICC seems to echo some of their ideas in ways (or maybe its the other way around?)--that there really isn't much difference between outright authoritarianism and this kind of "democratic hegemony" I am trying to describe. Both are just forms of the "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" or expressions of the inherently totalitarian nature of modern state capitalism.

Differences in versions of 'democracy'

jk1921 wrote:

A few points of clarification, as I know my last post was, well--unfocused.

1.) I do not think its so easy to seperate something called "workers' democrcy" or "proletarian democracy" from "bourgeois democracy." They are both derived from concepts and practices inherited from Classical Antiquity and then reborn in the bourgeois Enlightenment. The two phenomeon may not be the same thing, but they share many of the same problems--some of which I tried to address in the last post.

To address just this point of yours, jk.

I think that it's quite easy to separate 'bourgeois' from 'proletarian' versions of 'democracy'.

The former relates to 'politics' (ie. narrow 'parliamentarism'), whereas the latter relates to 'production' (ie. the widest application of social power).

The former relates to 'isolated individuals', who vote often without discussion and debate, and are therefore vulnerable to the undemocratic media controlled by the few, whereas the latter relates to 'social individuals', who vote after lots of argument and clearly expressed choices, and who are therefore only 'vulnerable' to critical thought, openly discussed by the many.

If I were to get to the heart of the issue with a wary worker, who was just starting to question what 'communist democracy' means in contrast to 'normal democracy' (sic), then I'd say that the difference was that 'proletarian democracy' means workers get to elect their bosses, not just their MPs.

Of course, there's much more to be said politically, but the notion that a worker can replace a 'boss' who won't give them a payrise, for one who will, starts the debate about just who determines our lives, and why.

It seems to me that whilst comrades like you just accept that 'democracy' means 'parliamentary democracy', you'll (rightly) criticise that form of 'democracy', but then, having accepted and spread the bourgeois notion of 'democracy', you'll be unable to describe a political process that means that workers themselves will decide collectively what they wish to produce, to meet their own needs, interests and purposes.

I think that this will lead to an elitist notion of 'revolution' and an elitist notion of 'communism', and the process and end result will be nothing to do with workers' self-emancipation, which, to me, can only be 'democratic'. There is no elite that can 'know better' than the class conscious proletariat, organised for democratic production.

Non ex hoc mundi
Democracy is a dangerous mirage

As the lost desert wanderer drifts closer to death, they begin to have desperate visions. These visions are illusions called mirages, light rays that are bent and produce displaced images of distant objects and scenery.

Newborn sea turtles, confused by the lights of the businesses along the seafront, shimmy and scoot away from the ocean only to be eaten by crabs, get stuck in the sewer or smashed by cars and other vehicles. The false promise of the street lights, the literal beacons of civilization, leads them away from the water to their demise. One can imagine electric traps for mosquitoes and other insects having a similar allure.

This is how democracy has led the working class away from seizing the means of production and taking political power for themselves.

Democracy is a subjective term. It’s a colloquialism that has no exact meaning; a mystifying degeneracy. It’s an umbrella term and a safe word, the use of which compels curious minds to reconcile numerous and often contradictory definitions. The way the global proletariat clings to democracy today is a clear sign of the the working class’ political immaturity and historical amnesia, which continues to exist in an era of ubiquitous Internet and information technologies.

For hundreds of years now, workers have been kept effectively powerless for the sake of “the profit motive”. We elect politicians who cater more to businesses and corporations than to the people they’re supposed to represent. Instead, we should remove the middle men and figure things out for ourselves together. The persistent distraction of perfecting democracy will not allow us to do that.

Democracy has only been and can only be part of a system of class rule where one class of people dominate, exploit and oppress another class. Workers don’t need “more” of it. We need anti-authoritarian communism. A healthy rejection of democracy is essential to pro-revolutionaries and the project of creating a classless society of freely associated people. It is every bit as essential as our rejections of patriarchy, racism, nationalism and authoritarianism.

Democracy in the purely procedural sense is a method of political organization in which individual participants take part in decision-making through voting, either directly or indirectly (via delegates and representatives).

The vote won by the majority supervenes the will of the minority. Every individual of the body must obey the decision-making and voting process, whether consenting to the majority’s opinions and actions, or not.

The state, an alienated body, is tasked with enforcing the democratic will of the majority in a way both sides agree on and perceive as fair and balanced. This ensures the unity and integrity of the procedure as a whole. Of course, there may be guarantees for minorities to prevent “tyranny of the majority” when it is viewed in excess. But democracy serves the majority by design, and the will of the minority always takes the back seat.

A show of hands is common sense in group decision-making. The criticisms of democracy found here are not of a group of friends or co-workers making a decision on where to eat. (Although we don’t recommend it if you’re hungry!) But this is still the scope of consideration in most attempts to define democracy. Could there be more to it?

Revolutionaries should not to limit themselves to the purely procedural definition of democracy.

“Broadly speaking, one can define democracy as the behavior of humans, the organization of those who have lost their original organic unity with the community. Thus it exists during the whole period which separates primitive communism from scientific communism.”

“…The democratic phenomenon appears with clarity in two historical periods : at the time of the dissolution of the primitive community in Greece; and at the time of the dissolution of feudal society in western Europe. It is incontestable, that during this second period the phenomenon appeared with greater intensity, because men had really been reduced to the status of individuals and the ancient social relations could no longer unite them.” (Camatte)

Classical Greek democracy, also called Athenian democracy, was the first democracy in the world. It lasted for about three-hundred years with some minor periods of interruption before Athens joined the Roman empire. There was not “universal” suffrage (even this is limited to citizens rather than residents). Women and slaves were barred from voting, as well as any male citizen that did not own land. These qualifications resulted in the participation of only fifteen to twenty-five percent of Athenian citizens. (Thorley) This figure is comparable to modern mid-term election turnout in the United States of America.

In the context of philosophical thought, modern democracy is the product of a long tradition of liberal thought, stretching from the Enlightenment to the present age of liberal democracies. As Marx once said, “Democracy relates to all other forms of the state as their Old Testament.” (Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, pt. 2, sec. c) It has become the standard form of government in the world today, although some democracies are variably formal and hollow.

The democratic ideology has become the implicit ideology of bourgeois society in modern times. It is the common-sense thought that arises from implied and often unconscious assumptions of liberal individualism.

These assumptions take the abstraction of atomized individuals as the starting point of political thought, and go on to assume political consent through an unspoken social contract between these same abstracted atomized individuals. Some of them come together every decision-making period or “election cycle” as a unity of divisions, a unity of atomized individuals, as the “lonely crowd”.

They vote and the elections affirm the atomization of said individuals: they are united in their alienation and they are alienated in their unity. Mutual alienation is affirmed through both the voters’ estrangement of political power to the alienated state, and their separation from each other through the partition of the organic masses into discrete units. The individual is basically cleaved off from the whole of society and then asked to make a decision about the whole of society.

As the fruit of liberalism, the democratic ideology relies on malformed liberal assumptions about the essence of the human being. It assumes that an alienated body, the state, is required to hold back the evil supposedly inherent in human beings. Without the state, asked many of the Enlightenment thinkers, what would prevent us from harming one another?

Democracy arises out of a sacred legal relation called private property which is upheld by the bourgeoisie. Bourgeois rights, often referred to commonly as “human rights”, are nothing but the rights of exclusion. They are the rights of the private property owner to alienate themselves, their actions and (most importantly) their property from the general human community. Bourgeois right therefore aims to make possession mutually exclusive and this causes the social division of atomized property owners.

There is a contradiction between the abstract ideal of private property, the individual as the owner of this property, and the concrete reality of the unalienated or natural human community. Owners of private property unite on the basis of safekeeping this property. They entrust this duty to that alienated body called the state, by way of an unspoken social contract.

These atomized owners of private property are compelled to unite upon a basis in which they exchange thoughts in the marketplace of ideas. They then estrange their power as individual capitalists to an alienated body (the state), which then enforces the content of these ideas based on which have the most currency and are the highest in demand. In other words, the ideas which succeed and come to the surface of society are those most loyal to the bourgeois rights that lie at the foundation of democracy.

Democracy is both all-powerful and toothless: all-powerful because, in theory, it claims to give the masses control over everything within the parameters set by the bourgeoisie and the wider capitalist framework…but toothless because it cannot touch the capitalist relations of production and private property at the heart of capitalism itself. We see this stretched to its limits by bourgeois economists and the mainstream advocacy of workers’ cooperatives and self-management in general.

Within democracy, each of us live inside our own bubbles or spaces, like the characters from the children’s story The Little Prince or the teen comedy film Bubble Boy. Everyone has some degree of understanding of their alienation and exploitation, although it varies greatly between individuals. We do our jobs and endlessly work hard to keep warm, fed and comfortable. Our qualms with the status quo, whatever they might be, are limited in such a way that allows us to be managed based on our atomization. One group of workers is kept apathetic about the concerns of another by using all the normal divisive devices like racism, sexism and homophobia. When one section of the working class rises up against some injustice, all other sections are contained by the ruling class from spreading the struggle in solidarity with their fellow workers because as groups of atomized voters, they know exactly what our strengths and weakness are. Like a patient of an organ transplant, capitalism’s health is maintained only via the immunosuppression of its most vital cells and organs: the working masses.

Marx himself was in conflict over these questions and explored them in some detail. He wrote of democracy as early as 1843, and described it then as a “particular form of the existence of the people” (Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, pt. 2, sec. c), contrasting it with monarchies of the era, and exploring the state as a product of human activity and idealism.

Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto “that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.” (ch. 2, par. 68). This contributed greatly to the rise of social democracy and bourgeois socialism and has become a theoretical basis for democratic socialism even today, though it has largely been misinterpreted or misrepresented from the start. Even though Marx was engaged in polemical discussions with groups like the German social democrats and others during the 1870s, his criticisms were not made public.

Marx goes on to abandon any references to genuine or “true democracy” when describing a situation where “the political state disappears” (Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, pt. 2, sec. c), later consciously choosing to describe this situation as only communism instead.

The “true democracy” or pure democracy advocated by Marx in his youth is evidence that the young Marx of 1843 was a radical democrat and not yet a communist. This is because “true democracy” in this sense is a mode of management within class society, while capitalism and communism are of modes of production and societies in and of themselves. In 1843, Marx had not yet completely uncovered the value relations at the core of capitalism. He had yet to analyze the productive relations of society. As a result, at the time of the writing of the Critique of Hegel, Marx did not have the coherent pictures of capitalism and communism that he would develop in the following decades.

“…The ideas he put forward even in the Critique (which was later published by Engels) are by no means unproblematic. They include a theory of transition in which bourgeois right in distribution would still prevail, through the use of labor notes, and in which his description of the “first stage of socialism” is far closer to capitalism than it is to the more attractive second stage, with no mechanism given to explain how the one can change into the other”. (Endnotes 2)

There is further evidence of the evolution of Marx, and Engels on this issue. In a letter to August Bebel Engels wrote the following:

“As to pure democracy and its role in the future I do not share your opinion. Obviously it plays a far more subordinate part in Germany than in countries with an older industrial development. But that does not prevent the possibility, when the moment of revolution comes, of its acquiring a temporary importance as the most radical bourgeois party (it has already played itself off as such in Frankfort) and as the final sheet-anchor of the whole bourgeois and even feudal regime. At such a moment the whole reactionary mass falls in behind it and strengthens it; everything which used to be reactionary behaves as democratic. Thus between March and September 1848 the whole feudal-bureaucratic mass strengthened the liberals in order to hold down the revolutionary masses, and, once this was accomplished, in order, naturally, to kick out the liberals as well.”

Democracy and bourgeois rights cannot understand communism’s abolition of private property and its affirmation of the real human community, except as the negation of its very basis of existence. Neither can it understand right except as an instance of exclusion, rather than an instance of inclusion, as an instance of the real human community, as an instance of the common possession of each other and the property we work on.

There are many communists and even anarchists today who call for a defense of genuine or “true democracy” and the safeguarding of the liberal bourgeois state against the rising tide of right-wing populism, nationalism and authoritarianism. They often ask “would you rather live in fascism?” They become delirious and reach out for the liberal bourgeois state like the deserted traveler grasps at a false image of an oasis. This is the essence of the democratic mirage.

Source: https://postproletariat.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/first-blog-post/

Political choices

Well, Nehm, when workers starting to develop their class consciousness ask any of us communists what political method we're advocating, I think you'll have to come up with a snappier answer!

I'd say that there are three possible methods: individualism, elitism and democracy.

Further, I'd say that individualism is suitable for bourgeois class society, elitism is suitable for Leninist dictatorship, and democracy is suitable for collective production by workers.

If you disagree with me, then you have to tell workers what your political method is, for reaching social decisions about production and distribution.

So, I'd equate 'communism' with 'democracy'. That's why I call myself a Democratic Communist, to ensure that any worker speaking to me knows that Communism is nothing to do with Anarchistic Individualism in social production, or Elitist Bolshevism in social production.

Social production can only be controlled by the social producers themselves. That's what Marx meant by proletarian self-emancipation.