Democracy: A Revolutionary Cause
The American people have a long history of fighting for the ideal of democracy, of rule by “we the people.” When they kicked off the chains of monarchy in the Revolutionary War and found in the Civil War to end slavery, they were led by an ideal and a vision of democracy. Yet this has never found its completion, and cannot, under the capitalist system, which is based on class domination and exploitation – incompatible with true democracy and equality. Today as the capitalist system crumbles, destroying society, people are becoming aware that this ideal so valiantly fought for has become little more than a vote for a ‘lesser evil’ candidate – all beholden to corporate interests.
Under capitalism, there has been as much democracy as could be allowed as long as the ruling class maintained its domination and the system of private property. In an era when labor power was needed by the corporations to produce goods, a certain amount of democracy was permitted, and in fact was needed to keep social peace and the system functioning. With the introduction of the new labor replacing and labor-eliminating technology
— computers, automation, and robotization — these relations are being broken, as capitalism, the economic system based on one class profiting off the labor of another, objectively destroys itself.
While the American people hold this ideal of democracy as their highest value, and have been willing to repeatedly fight for it, the structure of capitalism only allowed it within certain boundaries. Two hundred and even a hundred years ago, the large number of Americans who were property owners, of small farms and businesses, made democracy based on small capitalist enterprises possible, with many people having some stake in the capitalist system. Since then, the consolidation of economic production in the hands of a few monster corporations has forever put an end to this.
In the past, “bourgeois democracy” allowed for certain rights and an illusion of fairness. Economic rights were never guaranteed as a part of this — that is, rights to the necessaries of survival: housing, food, medical care. These things were always sold for profit; however, a majority of workers were able – through selling their labor – to buy these basic things. This kept the system going and ensured a measure of social peace.
The struggles between workers and capitalists were mainly over how much of the fruits of their labor would be kept by themselves, and how much expropriated in the form of profits (a form of theft) by the capitalist class. In fact, the super-exploitation of weaker and poorer parts of the globe allowed for a section of workers to live relatively stable lives, with the ownership of some personal property and the prospect of a better life for their children.
With the introduction of computerized automation in production, which is accelerating ever faster, the basis of capitalism is being destroyed, and the result is social destruction. As Marx and Engels so poetically described it in The Communist Manifesto, “all that is solid melts into air.” The introduction of this automated, labor-replacing production, by destroying the basis of capitalism, is also breaking apart capitalist relations. No institution built on this collapsing foundation can remain standing, including that of bourgeois democracy, with the laws, traditions, and institutions that in the past upheld these class relations.
People are waking up to the reality that what they thought of as democracy is being dismantled. They are seeing that no matter who they vote for, the results are basically the same: the stripping of civil and constitutional rights and due process, attacks on workers’ rights to bargain collectively, and the takeovers of local towns and cities by non-elected bodies, as in the “Emergency Financial Manager” in Michigan and the Rust Belt. The legislative creation of corporate personhood and the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which allows corporations a free hand at buying elections, represents a huge step toward the imposition of fascism
— the merging of the corporations and the government.
Militarized police forces act as occupying troops in poor neighborhoods, where they kill at will. The criminalization of the poor and dispossessed – from the various laws against homeless people’s acts of survival (sleeping, begging, etc), to the rise of the privatized prison industry that profits on slave labor – all represent this move toward a fascist police state.
The stirrings in the form of resistance to the takeovers of local governments, the people’s occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol, the rise of the Occupy movement with its anti-corporate message, and the surge of interest in creating a Third Party, are understood as true exercises of democracy in the best American tradition.
With the latest drastic budget cuts and abandonment of the poorest workers, the legislative administrators of the capitalist system are showing their hand: that those of us they no longer need to exploit for our labor are expendable, and won’t be housed or fed or kept alive, much less given any civil or human rights.
No democracy is possible under these conditions. True and universal democracy can only exist in a society where people have full economic and political rights, based on public ownership of production and distribution
— “to each according to need” — not for the private profit of the few.
People are beginning to join their scattered struggles under the banner of a vision and understanding that the only possible alternative to this exploitive dying system is one based on cooperation. The struggle for reform and for democracy is now in reality a revolutionary one — to remake society along cooperative and truly democratic lines.
May/June 2013. Vol23.Ed3
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
P.O. Box 477113 Chicago, IL 60647 firstname.lastname@example.org
Free to reproduce unless otherwise marked.
Please include this message with any reproduction.
The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011