On bourgeois and socialist democracy

On 9-10 December 2021, the US regime held an online  ‘Democracy Summit’ to which it invited government leaders and private sector representatives from 110 countries The countries invited included all imperialist states, all Nato members (with the notable exception of Turkey), Anglosphere and Commonwealth countries,  and others, such as India, that, if not under the complete dominion of imperialism, are at least causing no present grief to the imperialists or their profit margins. Included on the lists of attending ‘democracies’ are apartheid Israel. In the present circumstances of escalating imperialist threats of aggression against Russia and China, it is not for nothing has it been characterised as a council of war!

While the bourgeois parliamentary system is held up by the USA and its allies as the ultimate form of democracy, Marxists have long recognised this ahistorical notion to be false. Democracy is not an abstract concept, but a class one. The most important question to ask when looking at any particular democracy is: Democracy for whom? For what class?

In a capitalist society, the reality is that democracy is only really for the owners of monopoly capital, who also own and control the mass media, the education system, the government, the church, the army and so on. Those same monopolists use this control to exercise a dictatorship over the rest of society, over the working masses. The ‘right to vote’ tends to disappear in a puff of smoke if the electorate does not vote ‘responsibly’ as directed by the bourgeois media.

To decide whether a country can really be characterised as democratic, China’s President Xi Jinping has said. “Whether a country is a democracy or not depends on whether its people are really the masters of the country.” Furthermore. “If the people are awakened only for voting but enter a dormant period soon after, if they are given a song and dance during campaigning but have no say after the election, or if they are favoured during canvassing but are left out in the cold after the election, such a democracy is not a true democracy.”  On these criteria, can the US or any of the countries of western Europe, for example, properly be called ‘democracies’?

According to the Chinese government:

● Democracy is about whether people have right to vote, but is more about whether they have the right to participate widely;

● Democracy is not only about promises people hear during the election, but more about the fulfillment of these words following the electoral outcome;

● Democracy is judged by political procedures and rules stipulated by systems and laws, but is further evaluated by whether these systems and laws are actually implemented;

● Democracy depends on whether rules and procedures to exercise power are democratic, but also depends on whether the power is subject to checks and oversight by the people.

China does everything it can to fulfil these criteria.

This is because in a socialist society democracy is massively extended, becoming for the first time real democracy for the working masses, for the majority, while those same working masses exercise their own much smaller dictatorship over the dispossessed capitalist minority in order to prevent them returning to their old exploitative position.

Chinese democracy operates primarily, but not exclusively, through its system of people’s congresses. In addition there is always extensive consultation on major policy issues before any binding decision is taking.  Examples include the following:

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, public opinion has been solicited on draft laws on 187 occasions, and more than 3 million comments from about 1.1 million people have been received, many of which have been adopted.

During the drafting of the Civil Code, 10 rounds of public opinion solicitation were conducted, resulting in over 1 million comments from 425,000 people.

“During online solicitation for the preparation of the 14th Five-year Plan, over 1 million suggestions were received in two weeks. The NPC Standing Committee has established 10 local legislative outreach offices. By June 2021, these outreach offices had conveyed nearly 6,600 pieces of advice on 109 draft laws and legislative plans, many of which had been accepted.

“The CPC Central Committee has organised or entrusted relevant departments to organise more than 170 consultative forums since 2012. On these occasions, it engaged in consultation with the other political parties and prominent individuals without party affiliation (non-affiliates) and solicited their opinions on matters of great importance such as the reports to the CPC national congress and plenary sessions of the CPC Central Committee and the formulation of the 14th Five-year Plan.

The central committees of the eight non-CPC political parties and the non-affiliates have made more than 730 written proposals, many of which have turned into major state policies.

“From March 2018 – when the First Session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee was held – to June 2021, the CPPCC National Committee received 23,089 proposals. In the fight against poverty, the CPC Central Committee entrusted central committees of the other eight political parties to monitor the process in eight central and western provinces and autonomous regions that faced onerous work in poverty alleviation. These parties made 36,000 interventions in democratic scrutiny over poverty alleviation actions, offered over 2,400 pieces of written advice to CPC committees and governments of the eight provinces and autonomous regions, and submitted more than 80 reports of various types to the CPC Central Committee and the State Council”.

Clearly there is a huge gulf dividing capitalist democracy and workers’ democracy, just as there is a huge gulf dividing the types of state (capitalist and socialist) that administer those widely diverging democracies. Only under socialism does democracy move from being an abstract concept and an aspirational ideal to being a practical part of everyday life as far as the working people are concerned.

As Comrade Lenin pointed out: “Marx grasped this essence of capitalist democracy splendidly when, in analysing the experience of the Commune, he said that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in Parliament!” (The State and Revolution, 1917, Chapter 2). In Britain the only ‘electable’ parties (i.e., those that have financial backing from the bourgeois class and the support of its mass media).are those that are reliable props of imperialism and will serve it without question. When the imperialist Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader and was proposing some extremely modest reforms in favour of the working masses, a Goebbelsian slander campaign was mounted in the bourgeois media, supported by most of the party leadership, spreading totally spurious accusations of anti-semitism against the party and those supporting Corbyn, which effectively destroyed its election prospects.

Upholders of independence and freedom were notable by their absence

No invitations to the imperialists’ ‘democracy’ Summit were issued to China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, the DPRK, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Laos, Syria … in fact, any and all countries that are either actively working towards some form of socialism, or are standing in the way of the US’s imperialist aims. The countries excluded comprise nearly a third of the world’s population.

In a shameless act of provocation US imperialism invited Taiwan to participate, as if it were a separate and independent country, although it is internationally (including by the USA!) recognised as being a part of China.

As with the attempts to stir up tensions and foment separatist strife in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, meddling in relations between Taiwan and China is quite rightly seen as hostile interference aimed at undermining the country’s unity and territorial integrity.

In complete (and utterly anti-democratic) violation of the rights of nations to national sovereignty, the imperialists want to break up China in order to weaken it, the better to exploit its people and resources.

As Lenin long ago pointed out, imperialism seeks domination, not democracy!

What kind of democracy?

China retaliated to imperialism’s relentless provocations by holding its own online international forum on democracy on 4 December, attended by dignitaries and intellectuals from over 120 countries, regions and international organisations. China’s state council also released a white paper entitled China: Democracy That Works, outlining the Chinese methodology and commitment to a “whole-process people’s democracy under CPC leadership”, refuting the “self-appointed judges” in the USA and elsewhere who presume to make themselves arbiters of democracy. As a Russian foreign ministry statement quite rightly pointed out, sheer hypocrisy permeated the US’s so-called ‘democracy’ summit: “The evidence suggests that the United States and its allies cannot and should not claim the status of a ‘beacon’ of democracy, since they themselves have chronic problems with freedom of speech, election administration, corruption and human rights.” 

In fact, while the imperialist powers were boasting of their ‘democracy’, US imperialism’s appeal to the British Supreme Court was taking place seeking Julian Assange’s extradition to the US to face espionage charges in relation to his exposure of US imperialism’s war crimes. The Oh So Impartial British judiciary shamelessly breached every pretence of justice in deciding that the extradition should go ahead – on the basis of non-binding promises made by US imperialism, even in the knowledge that the CIA had been considering kidnapping and/or murdering Assange.  Truly we would have to be complete fools to believe in imperialist ‘democracy’!

Talking of the US’s brand of ‘democracy’, president of China Media Group (CMG) Shen Haixiong said: “If it can’t put people at the centre and improve people’s wellbeing, no matter how exquisite the rhetoric is, this kind of democracy is just deceiving itself and others.

In support of China and its democratic system, a joint statement from parties all over the world stated: “We are of the view that the judgement of whether a country is democratic hinges on whether the people can become the real masters of the country. While it is necessary to observe whether they can enjoy the right to vote, it is even more important to observe whether their right of extensive participation is guaranteed.”

It is worth noting that in China, a poor peasant or worker can rise to become a leader. In the USA, $1.4bn is needed to secure the presidential nomination of one of the major parties.

In the case of imperialism, the slogans of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’ have degenerated into the dishonest excuses for waging decades of genocidal wars for domination, to the extent that a worker in an oppressed country today will feel nothing but fear on hearing that the US and its allies are on the way to destroy his country in the name of delivering ‘democracy’.

Meanwhile, just as in the US, so here in Britain, more than half of adults routinely do not vote in elections, because their experience tells them there is absolutely no point. Whichever ‘brand’ of politician the voter selects, whatever the colour of their rosette, the result is the same, since all the capitalist parties serve the capitalist class.

Thus the capitalist class continues to rule in its own interest and to pass the burden of its system’s economic difficulties onto the backs of the workers at every turn.

Not for nothing are politicians and their journalistic accomplices among the most despised and least trusted members of our society. Who now watches and trusts the news? Who any longer bothers to read the leaflets and manifestos that are pushed through their letterboxes at election time? Who still believes that promises made by politicians in order to gain votes will ever really be kept?

This is the workers’ experience of ‘democracy’ in a rich imperialist country. Who can blame those elsewhere for struggling to remove such shackles, or for resisting their reimposition if they have already freed themselves from the diktat or finance capital?