Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 50 Number 31, August 15, 2020 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Unaccountable Cartel Party System of Government:

Restructuring the State to Serve Narrow Private Interests

There is widespread frustration and opposition to the decrees coming from the government in the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic. People are not only distrustful, but are in many cases extremely angry that the government is not listening to them, is incoherent and is putting the needs of "the economy", by which is meant the concerns of private interests, above the health of the people, their claims on society, and the genuine concerns that are being voiced by the workers and their unions and broad sections of society.

In this context, the government, and in particular the inner circle around Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his Special Adviser Dominic Cummings, and Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove, have been pushing ahead with changing the arrangements of the executive power of the state and its bureaucracy. In the name of "efficiency", they have been restructuring the state in the service of private interests, while concentrating power in the hands of the executive. This is in line with the character of an electoral system based on disenfranchising the electorate.

Under the cartel party system, the big political parties no longer operate as the mechanism by which people participate in politics, linking them to the state power. Instead, the electors have no control over those whom they elect to represent them. The cartel parties treat the electorate merely as voting cattle, and systematically wreck public opinion through manipulation, confidence trickery and disinformation to secure enough of a vote in order to come to power through electoral coups d'etat.

On August 8, thousands of health and care workers in over 30 cities and towns held physically-distanced marches to defend their dignity and to speak out loud and clear that public sector pay inequality is not acceptable. Rally following the march in London.

As a system, this began during the Thatcher era and was fully perfected by the New Labour project under Blair. In the present, it has degenerated into a disarray of warring factions and an inoperative and dysfunctional parliament. In the current state of the system, not only do parties come to power in electoral coups, but political factions usurp power through coups within these parties.

Boris Johnson and his circle came to power in such a coup within the Conservative Party last year, beginning with the deliberate engineering of a constitutional crisis last autumn, a crisis created by the breaking of taboos such as the wielding of prerogative powers to rid the party of dissenting voices, its old guard. Johnson's faction finally gained overall power in an electoral coup at the end of the year.

These restructured mechanisms are meant to ensure that the electorate leaves politics to the politicians. Indeed, the Johnson/Cummings axis goes so far as to claim that it is they rather than Parliament which represents the people. The electorate is not accepting this assertion, and people are instead looking to an alternative in which the working people themselves are the new social force in control, who no longer look to some other force or figure for authority but themselves constitute the authority and decide matters directly.

The private interests that the existing authority represents are in increasing contradiction with the ever-more highly socialised society and economy. Their drive to do anything to make big scores, in fierce mutual competition, is creating chaos. The answer to the chaos is being sought in the police powers, making the issues that the people are fighting on criminal matters. In opposition, the people are clamouring for a say over the matters that affect their lives.

The existing authority in fact increasingly lacks legitimacy. The alternative is expressing itself in the resistance, through which people are speaking in their own name and rejecting the existing authority. This striving for the alternative is pointing to the need for instruments of government whose principles are based on the vesting of decision-making power in the people themselves. In this spirit, in the upsurge against racism, in the upsurge of the nurses who are rising to safeguard the future of health and social care, or of the teachers and other education workers in the schools, can be seen the people speaking in their own name. People have been joining in the building of forums which make speaking in their own name possible, and this must be built on and strengthened, not jettisoned in the interests of "business as usual".

Rather than simply describing the problem and continuing to seek authority elsewhere, what is being revealed as people speak out in their own name is that there is a necessity for change, including the need to give resistance an organisational and political direction. The work to build a mechanism in which those who present themselves for election are accountable to the electors is crucial in this context. Therein lies the path for renewal of the political process and for society's progress.

Nurses and health workers marches and rallies on August 8.
Top: London and Birmingahm. Bottom: Newcastle.

On some of the recent changes in arrangements and related issues, see:
Need for Democratic Renewal: Corruption and Destruction of the Polity Is Now the Name of the Game, Workers' Weekly, Number 29, August 1, 2020
Gove's Lecture on "The privilege of public service", Workers' Weekly, Number 29, August 1, 2020
Reorganising the Arrangements of Government: Cummings and Gove Push Ahead with their Overhaul of Whitehall and the Civil Service, Workers' Weekly, Number 28, July 25, 2020
Conflict Between Government and Civil Service: Head of the Civil Service and National Security Adviser Steps Down, Workers' Weekly, Number 26, July 11, 2020
Changing Arrangements at Number 10, Workers' Weekly, Number 26, July 11, 2020
Parliamentary Constituencies Bill: Necessity for a Renewal of the Political Processes and Institutions so that the People Are Empowered, Workers' Weekly, Number 24, June 27, 2020
Major Review of Electoral Law Announced: Necessity to Overcome Anachronism of Political Process and Institutions, Workers' Weekly, Number 23, June 20, 2020
The Farce and the Tragedy of Government's Handling of Covid-19 Pandemic: How Should Democracy Be Organised?, Workers' Weekly, Number 21, June 6, 2020
The Queen's Speech, Workers' Weekly, Number 13, April 11, 2020


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