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Year 2005 No. 46, April 12, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Representative Democracy and the May 5 General Election

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Representative Democracy and the May 5 General Election

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Representative Democracy and the May 5 General Election

When Tony Blair stood outside Downing Street to announce May 5 as the date of the general election, he was only publicly confirming what has been described as the "worst kept political secret" in recent times.

            In fact, the Labour government had been treating the electorate with contempt. The de facto election campaign had already been underway for months. The way in which the party in power can manipulate the very calling of a general election, based on its calculations as to what best serves its aim of getting back into power speaks volumes about the system of Westminster style "representative democracy". Far from being an opportunity for the electorate to confer a democratic mandate on the government of its choice, these machinations and playing games with the electorate show that in the system of representative democracy the general election is intended to serve as a means to manoeuvre into power this or that party which it is considered will best serve the interests of the financial oligarchy. In this respect, the catching of votes is what is required, the bourgeoisie trying to settle in advance the issue of who is to govern.

            Now that the election campaign has officially begun, the three "mainstream" parties, which are increasingly being made adjuncts of the state, its administrative arm, are going all out to impose their agenda on the people through the monopoly-controlled media and other means. Pressure is being applied on the electorate that they must choose between Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dems. Some declare that those who don't vote for the Labour Party will be responsible for bringing a Tory government to power while others declare that the Lib-Dems are the real alternative to the domination of Labour and the Conservatives. This is a fraud which is aimed at conferring legitimacy on the implementation of the political programme of the financial oligarchy in Britain, a goal which all three parties are committed to carrying through from May 6.

            The features of this programme are well known to the working class and people of Britain as a result of the last eight years of the Labour government and the preceding 18 years of Conservative governments.   This programme is based on the assertion that the interests of the financial oligarchy to "compete in the global market" are in fact the national interests and that every aspect of the country's life must be subordinated to these interests. The pursuit of these interests is having a serious impact on the economic, social and political life of the people and threatening world peace.

            In the main, it is marked by the dismantling of the social democratic arrangements that were put in place at the end of the 2nd World War as the preferred means of ruling the country, which largely began with the Thatcher government, and now, with New Labour, their replacement by the structures of a corporate fascist state. With regard to the economy, privatisation is its main feature and even social programmes like the provision of health care and education are being turned into new sources of profit for the monopolies. Along with privatisation, there is a relentless attack on hard won basic democratic rights and even on the notion of the rule of law itself. In foreign policy, this programme is marked by a warmongering and colonialist course involving gross interference in the affairs of various countries, up to and including participation in wars of aggression and colonial occupation.

            This is the programme which all three "mainstream" parties stand for. The significance of the May 5 General Election is that it is intended to confer legitimacy on the moves after May 5 to further consolidate and entrench these new arrangements. It is precisely the undemocratic and anachronistic system of "representative democracy" which has the role of conferring legitimacy on the implementation of this programme. Therefore, after May 5 the political representatives of British finance capital will declare that their programme of the primacy of monopoly right – delivering public services to the private sector, attacks on democratic rights, resort to the use of arbitrary state power and involvement in wars of aggression – reflect the will of the people of Britain who elected them "democratically".

            In this situation, it is essential that the working class and people enter the General Election with the intention of opposing the programme of the financial oligarchy and blocking its implementation. The working class and people must bring forward politicians from the collectives to which they belong, whether workers, women, national minorities, pensioners and so on, who can represent their aspirations and ideals and who remain accountable to them. They must go all out behind their representatives and all candidates of the alternative, particularly those standing on pro-worker and anti-war platforms. They must go all out to maximise the votes cast in favour of such candidates and to deprive the "mainstream" parties of any mandate for their anti-people programme.

            At the same time, they must not fall victim to illusions about the possibilities of the system of "representative democracy". This system emerged and evolved in order to keep the decision-making power out of the hands of the people and the people will never be able to use it to empower themselves. It is in the course of the struggle against the programme of the monopolies, including during this election campaign, that the people will have to develop mechanisms which facilitate their own empowerment. The task is to use the May 5 General Election to further strengthen the movement to bring into being a pro-worker, pro-social and anti-war government and to overcome the marginalisation and disempowerment of the electorate inherent to the anachronistic system of representative democracy.

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