The parliamentary sham

Parliament and parliamentary elections have nothing to offer the working class


In the ascendant period of capitalism, parliament was the most appropriate form for the organisation of the bourgeoisie. As a specifically bourgeois institution, it was never a primary arena for the activity of the working class and the proletariat’s participation in parliamentary activity and electoral campaigns contained a number of real dangers, against which revolutionaries of the last century always alerted the class. However, in a period when the revolution was not yet on the agenda and when the proletariat could wrest reforms from within the system, participation in parliament allowed the class to use it to press for reforms, to use electoral campaigns as a means for propaganda and agitation for the proletarian programme, and to use parliament as a tribune for denouncing the ignominy of bourgeois politics. This is why the struggle for universal suffrage was throughout the nineteenth century in many countries one of the most important issues around which the proletariat organised.

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

According to a substantial number of politicians and media outlets, one of the most positive outcomes of the recent British election was the fact that Labour’s surprising revival was largely based on a kind of upsurge of young people, breaking with habits of apathy or cynicism towards “politics” and seeing the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn as offering a real alternative, hope for a more equal and fairer society.

Reply to the Communist League of Tampa: Why communists oppose participation in bourgeois elections

We are publishing here a critique of the article ‘Towards a communist electoral strategy’ which recently appeared on the website of the Communist League of Tampa (in Florida, USA). We have already published previous correspondence between ourselves and the CLT, in which we welcomed their recognition of the necessity for a world communist party, while also highlighting some of the key differences between our Current and the CLT regarding the conception of the ‘mass party’, the question of whether the communist party takes power, and the relevance of the old social democratic programmes to the communist project today. With the publication of the article ‘Towards a communist electoral strategy’ by Donald Parkinson, these differences seem to have widened, or at least become clearer. A comparable process seems to be underway in the relationship between the Tampa group and its Miami affiliate, which has now changed its name to the Workers’ Offensive Group and has adopted a statement of positions which are much more in line with those of the communist left. At the same time, the Miami group has declared that it wants to maintain the discussion with the group in Tampa. We support this decision and want the discussion between ourselves and Tampa to continue as well: hence the present contribution, which we hope will stimulate a response from the Tampa group and others.

100 years ago: the Russian revolution of 1905 and the Soviet of workers' deputies

In this issue, we continue the article begun in International Review n°122, where we highlighted the change in period which formed the backdrop to the events of 1905 in Russia, as capitalism entered the watershed between its ascendant and decadent periods. We also described the conditions that had favoured the radicalisation of the struggle in Russia: the existence of a modern, concentrated and highly conscious working class confronted by the attacks of a capitalism whose situation had been worsened by the disastrous effects of the war with Japan. The working class was thus led into a direct confrontation with the state in order to defend its living conditions, and organised in soviets to undertake this new historic phase in its struggle. The first part of this article recounted how the first workers’ councils were formed, and what needs they answered. This second part analyses in more detail how the soviets were formed, how they were linked to the movement of the whole working class, and their relationship with the trades unions. In fact, the unions – which already in 1905 no longer corresponded to the organisational needs of the working class in the new period, only played a positive role inasmuch as they were pulled along by the movement’s dynamic, in the wake of the soviets and under their authority.

Editorial: Class struggle, not the vote, will decide humanity's future

All the forces of the bourgeoisie, the left, the right, the far right and the extreme left, not to mention the trades unions, all came together in the grand electoral orchestra, whether in France and Holland for the referendums on the European constitution, for the parliamentary elections in Britain, or the Länder elections in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany's most heavily-populated region).

No! to Capitalist Elections, Yes! to Class Struggle

We are daily being bombarded with propaganda about how absolutely important the election is this year from the media, politicians, labor leaders, clergy, academia, civil rights leaders, rock stars, movie stars, and anti-war movement leaders ? from all the institutions that prop up the capitalist state. We are told that this is the most crucial election in our lifetime, that the future of humanity literally hangs in the balance. But it?s all a load of nonsense.

1933 - Democracy opens the door to fascism

Sixty years ago, in January 1933, an event of historic importance struck capitalist civilisation: the arrival of Hitler to power and the installation of the Nazi regime in Germany. To listen to the bourgeoisie, fascism was brutally imposed on capitalist society, forced onto its reluctant body. Not for a moment does this lie stand up to the test of historic facts. In reality, Nazism in Germany, as fascism in Italy, is the organic product of capital. The victory of Nazism came about democratically. As to the repugnant racism, the nationalist hysteria or the barbarity which, again, according to the democratic bourgeoisie, characterises the fascist regimes, they are not at all specific to these regimes. They are, on the contrary, the product of capitalism, in particular in its phase of decadence, and the attributes of all factions of the bourgeoisie be they democratic, stalinist or fascist.

Fascism and democracy: both enemies of the working class

The strong electoral showing of Le Pen in France and the party of Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands has led to talk in the media of the danger of fascism returning to Europe. “Not since the 1930s has the threat of racism and fascism been so great” wrote a commentator in the Guardian (9/5/02). The Socialist Workers Party has been saying we’re living through the “1930s in slow motion” for some time. With the increased prominence of political parties that explicitly base themselves on intolerance, xenophobia, and opposition to immigration, while posing as ‘new’ alternatives to the tired old parties of the centre, we’re being asked to believe that fascism is on the agenda again in Europe.

Zimbabwe and the myth of democratic change

The recent election in Zimbabwe was, according to a Guardian editorial (14/3/2) a "crime against the people". The election was "thoroughly fixed, fiddled, manipulated, and comprehensively stolen". Surveying the scene the editorial-writer found that "The evidence of massive fraud, rooted in intimidation and skulduggery of every kind, was to be found in every province, every township and every polling station. In short, the whole thing stinks."

World Revolution and Communist Tactics (1920) by Anton Pannekoek

Introduction - Parliament is alien to the working class

Faced with another general election, and the calls by any number of so-called ‘socialists’ for the working class to chose between the capitalist parties standing for parliament, genuine communists have to reaffirm their total rejection of the whole ‘democratic’ circus.

Foreign policy in the election: All parties are militarist

In their election manifestos all the political parties made grand statements about Britain’s role in the world. Labour set out its “ten-year vision for British foreign policy”; the Tories talked of Britain being “one of the world’s most respected democracies, one of its most influential leaders” while the Liberal Democrats called for an “internationalist approach”. As ever, the reality behind such words is a brutal defence of national interests.

A new government to further reduce workers’ living standards

Once the dry ice of the election spectacle has cleared, the new government can get on with its job: defending capitalism at the expense of the working class.

After every election it’s the same, regardless of which party gets in. The indications are that, this time round, the ruling class prefers Labour to provide the best team for looking after its interests.

London Mayor election: Capitalist 'democracy' is a fraud

The circus of the elections for London mayor and the Greater London Assembly has rumbled on for months. From the controversies over the choice of candidates by the Labour and Tory Party to the interventions of Malcolm McLaren as a candidate and Chris Evans with his £200,000 for Ken Livingstone, there has been a constant attempt to keep this innovation in local democracy in the news. Jeffrey Archer was originally selected because he was supposed to be some sort of ‘character’. His replacement, Stephen Norris, was more famous for his mistresses than his political standing. With the Labour Party the saga that finally lead to the election of Frank Dobson over Glenda Jackson (significantly an ex-film star) and Livingstone, and the subsequent decision of the latter to stand as an ‘independent’, was dragged out longer than even the worst soap opera would ever have dared.

The democratic torture chamber

America and Britain, we are told, went to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq in order to defend civilisation and democracy from terrorism and rogue states. The torture and humiliation inflicted on Iraqi prisoners reveals the true nature of democratic civilisation.

India: Bourgeois elections can only give rise to bourgeois governments

The electoral circus in the 'biggest democracy in the world' is now over. Over also is the drama about who would be Prime Minister after Congress leader Sonia Ghandi turned down the job. The new parliamentary circus has also completed its first shows with a 'Communist' presiding over the proceedings. A really unique historical situation, likely to be counted among the wonders of the world! All factions of the Indian bourgeoisie are very happy, as its democratic credentials have been satisfactorily substantiated and its stature as a worthy member of the 'international community' has been elevated a lot in comparison to its principal competitors, China and Pakistan.

The Revolutionary Perspective Obscured by Parliamentary Illusions

At the end of the last article in this series, we looked at the principle danger posed to the social democratic parties operating at the zenith of capitalism’s historical development: the divorce between the fight for immediate reforms and the overall goal of communism. The growing success of these parties both in winning ever increasing numbers of workers to their cause, and in extracting concessions from the bourgeoisie through the parliamentary and trade union struggles, was accompanied, and indeed partly contributed to, the development of the ideologies of reformism...

Anarchism or communism?

In the last article in this series we looked at the combat waged by the marxist tendency in the International Workingmen's Association against the reformist and "state socialist" ideologies in the workers' movement, particularly in the German party. And yet according to the anarchist or "anti-authoritarian" current led by Mikhail Bakunin, Marx and Engels typified and even inspired the state socialist tendency, were the foremost proponents of that "German socialism" which wanted to replace capitalism not with a free stateless society but with a terrible bureaucratic tyranny of which they themselves would be the guardians. To this day, Bakunin's criticisms of Marx are presented by anarchists and liberals alike as a profound insight into the real nature of marxism, a prophetic explanation of why the theories of Marx led inevitably to the practises of Stalin.

In government or in opposition, the ‘Left’ against the working class

It only needs a brief glance to show that while the political crisis of the bourgeoisie really is developing, the left’s coming to power hasn’t been verified, or rather, over the last year the left has been systematically pushed away from power in most European countries. We only have to look at the examples of Portugal, Italy, Spain, the Scandinavian countries,

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