Their Democracy and Ours

Proletarian democracy is a million times more democratic than any bourgeois democracy; Soviet power is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.


Marxists, including the ICT, have written volumes on the topic of democracy. Some may ask if it is worth revisiting what could be seen as a settled question, but given that current events (be it elections or various movements for "democracy") time and time again bring such questions to the fore, it is justified to propagate essential Marxist theoretical constructs to new audiences looking for solutions to what seem to be contemporary problems even if they in reality have a long history. An illustration of this is the turmoil around arguably the most important threat to humanity, the gathering environmental catastrophe, which as grain by painful grain passes through the hourglass with ever more reports of events evidencing the severity of the issue, is at the forefront of the public mind. Despite the mounting pile of evidence and the overwhelming scientific consensus that urgent and radical action has to be taken to eliminate the risk of massive disaster including possible human extinction amongst the mass extinctions underway, the increasing numbers of those aware of the gravity of the situation are colliding with a political system which in no way is capable of the deep transformations required. George Monbiot(1) has recently written a piece(2) which criticises this political structure as lacking, where he writes, as any authentic Marxist should agree:

Our system allows the victorious government a mandate to do what it likes between elections, without further reference to the people ... This is not democracy, but a parody of democracy. By contrast to our five-yearly vote, capital can respond to government policy every second, withdrawing its consent with catastrophic consequences if it doesn’t like its drift. There’s a massive imbalance of power here. The voting power of capital, with modern trading technologies, has advanced by leaps and bounds. Electoral power is trapped in the age of the quill pen.

However, despite his willingness to go to the root of the problem, capitalism and the political scaffolding which supports it, and despite a diagnosis which we can largely share of the looming catastrophe and the inadequacy of our political institutions, we have to part ways when it comes to the solution to the dilemmas posed ever more starkly by the objective reality as it unfolds. For Monbiot, the solution lies with the Extinction Rebellion (XR) prescription of “tempering representative democracy” even if he, and even they, XR, can sometimes combine their reformism with vaguely revolutionary slogans and rhetoric.(3) But the working class, subject to the sharp end of “misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation” (Marx), cannot afford such vaguery. We need clarification. What we are talking about as Marxists, as class conscious revolutionaries, is not some sort of “Citizens Assembly” touted by XR, however selected, which talks and makes its findings available to the capitalist state and relies on that state to remedy the malady. XR's three prime demands are:

1. Government and other institutions must tell the truth and declare a climate and ecological emergency;
2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025;
3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

This is obviously a recipe for continuation of the existing political structures, for working alongside them, not their revolutionary replacement.

So, if we reject XR and its reformism which essentially amounts to getting the capitalist turkeys to vote for Xmas, what can we offer? Well, perhaps we can retain some of Monbiot’s vocabulary and elaborate on our vision of “real democracy”, or to use our explicit terminology; “proletarian democracy”.

We haven’t invented a class divide. It is the fundamental fact of current society, and in our time, this distils ever more into the division between the capitalist class who own the means to extract profit from those who do not, the working class. It is this division which gives rise to diametrically irreconcilable opposing interests, on the one hand the drive to maximise profit and on the other to defend or improve conditions, and even the elimination of the divide itself, the revolutionary perspective. It is hardly surprising that in such a situation of antagonistic interests, the existence of generally accepted concepts, theories, even word definitions untainted by the self-interest of the contending classes is lacking. The subject of the present article, democracy, is no exception.

Its origins lie in the Greek: δημοκρατία, dēmokratiā, from dēmos 'people' and kratos 'rule' but what superficially appears to be very attractive was from the very first a form of class rule by one part of the “demos” over another. The famous Athenian democracy only applied to male slave owners, not the slaves or women. However, it is perfectly understandable that our political ancestors, at a certain historical point, saw in democracy a way to end the class divide which reduced the vast majority to the lowest state of dependency as mere detail workers, slaves to work rhythms dominated by the mechanised pursuit of maximum profit achieved by maximum exploitation. If all could partake in the democratic process, i.e. if the franchise were universal, then surely the vast numerical superiority of the exploited would ensure that sooner or later, they would conquer political power and consequently wield state power to institute the classless society. Our direct political ancestors, Marx and Engels included, supported the Chartist Movement(4) which quickly gained massive traction amongst a working class tortured by the degradation of the Industrial Revolution, often in fact not working, trapped in disease ridden slums and grinding poverty, devastated by a series of poor harvests which had cast the shadow of starvation over millions, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the Reform Act of 1832(5) and the Poor Law Act of 1834 to alleviate the condition of the working class. And likewise the ruling class were aware of the threat that “universal manhood suffrage” posed and rejected the three petitions which were presented to Parliament over the next ten years, in 1839, 1842 and 1848, despite the strength of feeling these apparently showed (3 million signed in 1842). The Chartist movement, under Fergus Edward O’ Connor, attempted violent direct action, and dozens of Chartists were deported following the crushing of attempted uprisings, strikes and riots. It was to be another seventy years before some of the major reforms demanded by the Chartists were to be met (1918). But by this time the ruling class had in place the means to de-fang the threat of the working class – a widely read yellow press and the existence of reformist political parties which channelled the working class vote. In the UK this was provided by the Labour Party, founded in 1900, having grown out of the trade union movement and socialist parties of the 19th century. It overtook the Liberal Party to become the main opposition to the Conservative Party in the early 1920s. Marx wrote of such parties;

As against the coalesced bourgeoisie, a coalition between petty bourgeois and workers had been formed, the so-called Social-Democratic party. [...] The revolutionary point was broken off and a democratic turn given to the social demands of the proletariat; the purely political form was stripped off the democratic claims of the petty bourgeoisie and their socialist point thrust forward. Thus arose social-democracy. [...] The peculiar character of social-democracy is epitomized in the fact that democratic-republican institutions are demanded as a means, not of doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labour, but of weakening their antagonism and transforming it into harmony. However different the means proposed for the attainment of this end may be, however much it may be trimmed with more or less revolutionary notions, the content remains the same. This content is the transformation of society in a democratic way, but a transformation within the bounds of the petty bourgeoisie.

Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

As evidenced by the ensuing historical reality and of course our own experience, the granting of universal suffrage (including votes for women which generally lagged behind the granting of male universal suffrage), the parliamentary path has been ineffectual as regards eliminating capitalism, but highly effective in preventing revolutionary opposition to capitalism, even at crucial points where the so-called workers' parties, the Social Democratic Parties described above, sided with the national ruling class which led millions of proletarians to their early deaths in imperialist war. And today, as the iron laws of capitalism once again lead a profit-starved ruling class to revoke whatever protections the parliamentary process granted to the working class in exchange for supine surrender to exploitation, it is small wonder that increasingly, our class is rejecting the quasi-democratic process that they know only leads to equally reactionary outcomes. A leading example of this real world abstentionism is well illustrated by the situation of the number one capitalist power, the USA.(6) Marx and Engels were all in favour of the working-class siding with the bourgeois democrats in the fight against monarchy as this prepared the terrain for the final class confrontation of proletariat vs bourgeoisie.(7) But to simply win the existing state via the ballot box as a springboard for ushering in nascent communism was rejected. The only change Marx and Engels made to the Communist Manifesto, came after the Paris Commune of 1871—when the armed workers of Paris took control of the city and formed their own institutions of direct democracy. Marx declared the lesson of the Commune was that the working class cannot "lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes." i.e. a state designed to enforce the rule of the most economically powerful class cannot be simply taken over and used by workers to create a new, socialist society. "From the very outset," says Engels in his 1891 introduction to Marx’s Civil War in France,

the Commune was compelled to recognise that the working class, once come to power, could not go on managing with the old state machine; that in order not to lose again its only just conquered supremacy, the working class must, on the one hand, do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against itself, and, on the other, safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment.

Today some workers are increasingly aware of the rotten reality of capitalism’s quasi-democracy, a fig leaf behind which lies the class domination which is the essence of the capitalist relation. Power is bought and sold, electoral success requires massive resources which only those parliamentary outfits able to attract the backing of big business and trade union bureaucracies can command. The massive resources which the capitalist parties command ensure they have their hands on the reins of power. And even here the billions spent by firms to “lobby” MPs into voting laws in their interest goes on far away from any workers’ scrutiny. The hollow illusion of democracy is yet another example of the primacy of economic power, the real source of power in this and every other historical class-divided social formation. Just as Marx described, the modern State is the present-day instrument of class domination which grew out of absolute monarchy, not an impartial power standing outside of sordid material interests impartially representing all citizens.(8)

So, if as we have stated many times before, democracy under capitalism is a snare and a deception(9), a means to chain the exploited class to the capitalist mode of production perpetually often through political party organisations which pay lip service to socialism (and we could also include other forms of reformist organisations like XR which operate in the framework of the capitalist political process as evidenced by their demands) but in reality relegate its programme to a far away mythical future all the while suppressing any real class resistance to exploitation, then what do we as aspiring revolutionaries offer?

In rejecting bourgeois democracy, we are not turning our backs on the concept of the empowerment of the vast majority. On the contrary, the task of the revolutionary organisation is to realise that empowerment of the majority, the power of the non-exploiting masses. In contrast to the limited version of “democracy of the moneybags” to echo Lenin, we advocate proletarian democracy whose essence can be distilled to almost a line of print – “All officials, without exception, elected and subject to recall at any time.”(10)

This is the essence of our proletarian democracy, our rejection of capitalist representative democracy where every five years or so we are allowed to pick who can do as they see fit for years on end, and as we know, what they see fit is hardly what we see fit. And how can this refreshingly sane social power come into existence?

The consequence of the capitalist process, its innate tendency to create crisis provokes resistance amongst the growing numbers of the oppressed, from which arises the broad reality of the process leading to social revolution. A process going from small-scale to mass resistance; from the collapse of local authority the rise of the councils and the smashing of the state; and councils taking power.

Faced with declining conditions, and an official labour movement which acts as a fire blanket suppressing the working class threat, workers have little choice if they want to stand up to the encroachment on their conditions during times of capitalist downturn: they have to take matters into their own hands, i.e. the wildcat strike, which is done outside of union control. It is a direct response to the collaboration of the capitalists and the union bureaucracy. Free from the trade union shackles, such strikers can implement their own, effective, tactics to extend their struggle. This is the beginning of revolutionary power, independent proletarian power.

Such workers form strike committees outside of official union control. These committees can be regarded as worker’s councils in embryo. The workers involved elect a committee of strikers, all subject to recall, to coordinate the strike actions, to obtain support, and most importantly to spread the strike. The general assembly of striking workers has the power to ratify or reject the actions decided upon.

In times of massive class upheaval, the mass strike is where other workers show their support for the wildcat strikers. As the situation boils, workers occupy workplaces and seize state property. In the ensuing confrontation with the authorities, the forces of the capitalist state, there arise the workers’ councils.

From confrontation to the destruction of the state: the worker’s councils are formed out of strike committees and further strengthened by community organisations. Given the revolutionary perspective, propagated by a well-rooted revolutionary party, gathers support in such organs, mass strike turns into an insurrection; the councils begin to assume economic and political control distribute arms seized and undertakes the destruction of the opposing state power which along with naked force will be hiding behind hollow slogans about pure democracy (meaning the parliamentary process the ruling class can always dominate) and other such siren songs.

It is this process which allows the working class to take power, to establish its own state, better labelled a semi-state as it is simply a tool to be disposed of when the violent opposition of the ruling class is quelled and socialism established globally. Obviously the intersection between capitalist crisis, independent proletarian class struggle, revolutionary organisation feeding in class consciousness, the capacity of the State to quell resistance and the like can take many concrete forms and only in rare circumstance where the necessary factors align can revolution succeed, but in essence, this is the only way for the working class to establish its own power, to be able to overcome the opposing power of its opponent, the capitalist class.

Although to the modern ear the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” sounds somewhat ominous, we have to remember that, as we have shown above, so-called capitalist “democracy” is in reality the dictatorship of the capitalist class. The capitalists will not simply walk away from their property, their status, their living standards, their ideological perspective, life as they know it.(11) The rule of the working class, described by Marx himself as the dictatorship of the proletariat, is not simply the continuation of politics as usual under a different guise, the election of so-called socialists to parliament. Nor, as anarchists endlessly depict as the hallmark of ‘’authoritarian Marxism’’, is it a case of a determined revolutionary minority taking power into their own hands.(12) No, what is meant is the rule of the vast majority of the population through their own council forms which as outlined above operate on democratic lines.

The “dictatorship of the proletariat” is thus not envisaged as lasting forever but a temporary necessity to suppress a class enemy. The soviet form is the historically discovered form by which this can be achieved. It will then allow the dictatorship of the proletariat to fade from the stage of history. What will remain is a mechanism for producing and distributing the requirements of society. In this sense the proletarian state is described as a semi-state, it desires its own end as a state in the sense of an organ of violence, as a machine for the suppression of a class enemy.

The exact nature of the class bodies gathering the non-exploiters (including amongst others the unemployed, students, independent producers as well as the working proletariat) is yet to be determined but in all likelihood they will be territorial. The dispersed nature of capitalist production and the expulsion of so much of the population from the productive process by a crisis-racked capitalism means that it is hardly possible to rely on workplace gatherings and delegates from large enterprises alone.

If the proletariat does not have sufficient social weight or comprehension of its situation, necessarily limited at the outset, if it fails to centralise its power and fails to eliminate the bourgeois state, if the positions of authority created by a centralised organ arising from the territorial organs, subject to delegation are held by those hostile to the organised revolutionary proletarian minority, the result is capitalist preservation.

The centralised organ arising from a process of delegation from the territorial organs, given the prevalence of the revolutionary perspective, will dictate over the entire socialist territory as it extends globally. It will not tolerate any other power and will resort to whatever means necessary to impose its will. Its decisions will be carried out on the ground by the local manifestations of the proletarian power which will creatively apply the instructions received. Thus we have a two way process, the authority lies in the hands of the centralised organs but they in turn lie in the hands of the popular bodies and are subject to recall by the latter. This democracy is far more reflective of the needs of the majority than the process which takes place under capitalism where the political process is warped by ownership of the media by a few, sponsorship of political parties by capitalists and unions, the minimal participation of a cross in a box every few years.

The proletarian revolution is not aimed at small autonomous organs, independent communes in every city, small scale production, federalism etc.(13) It is the outcome of proletarian unity, a deadly weapon aimed at the head of the bourgeoisie everywhere. Its will is determined by the non-capitalist majority electing recallable leaders and their collective power is absolute so long as they are mandated.

Whilst the members of the proletarian party and possibly parties have no automatic right to positions of authority within the dictatorship of the proletariat, failure to align with the revolutionary perspective, the election of those opposed to the revolutionary perspective inevitably means the defeat of the proletariat. There are no guarantees in this process. The question comes down to the capacity of the proletariat to assimilate a revolutionary perspective sufficient to overcome its antithesis. It cannot be imposed on the masses by force, it has to be recognised as expressing their interests.

Thus, an organ of power arising from civil society is not in itself revolutionary or counter-revolutionary; it becomes a battleground between the perspectives contending for power. It becomes the sole power by following the revolutionaries’ directives to sweep away its class enemy and begins the process of total transformation of society, or it falls under the influence of those advocating capitalist preservation and is eventually swept away.

However, let us clarify if needs be, what we are talking about is the vast majority of the population exercising power through local councils, electing instantly recallable delegates to higher level councils covering wider geographical areas and taking the necessary measures against the opposition of the ruling class. Let us also clarify this has nothing in common with the Stalinist conception of the ruling vanguard party, still prevalent in regimes like the Chinese, perhaps allowing some sort of subordinate role for some sort of organs gathering the masses. We reject any separate power, any minority claiming to represent the proletariat acting outside the process of proletarian democracy. Neither was this the perspective of the Communists of 1917 which remains the only example whereby the revolutionary process actually crossed the starting line of smashing bourgeois state power.

Proletarian democracy as advocated by all genuine revolutionaries is totally incompatible with the Stalinist concept of the Party dictatorship. The ICT is crystal clear on this.(14) The Stalinist regime was not the fruition of the revolution, its intended outcome, but an expression of its defeat. A defeat which was set in motion almost from the outset, a defeat which no organisational form, soviet democracy included, no matter how genuine an expression of proletarian interests, could avoid. To understand the 1917 revolution, one has to take into account the premises on which the Bolshevik revolutionaries based their perspectives. A predatory imperialist war, haemorrhaging unprecedented volumes of blood and spawning horrific levels of deprivation on the home front, was exhausting the main players.

A successful toppling of the Russian regime by the proletariat was not the end point, but the starting point of the authentically internationalist revolution revolutionary Marxists always had in their crosshairs. The point was not the level of development of Russia alone, a largely peasant economy albeit with a powerful and concentrated industrial proletariat, but the ripeness of the European situation and beyond. It was this world revolution which was the real prize and objective of the process which could only begin in any given national territory. In Russia the alignment was complete, when the workers turned the Bolshevik Party into its own party in the course of 1917 because it alone stood for “all power to the soviets”. When the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in the organs of mass proletarian democracy, the soviets, the forces of capitalist order began to crumble. The actual insurrection, in contrast to the deadly backdrop of war and hunger, was almost non-violent and certainly did not require much of a plan.

Its immediate consequences were to see the spread of soviets to more places in Russia and an outburst of unfettered activity at the grassroots. However, as every soviet supporter knew this could only be the opening act of the global proletarian revolution which had no geographical limits. The whole Bolshevik programme cannot be understood without reference to its international character. The insistence on outright opposition to the imperialist war in 1914 distinguished the Bolshevik party as the only major European party to oppose the war with revolutionary demands. It was the Bolsheviks who led the split at the Zimmerwald and Kienthal Conferences with the centrist and pacifist socialist majority. And Bolsheviks shared exactly the sentiment of Rosa Luxemburg that

The question of socialism has been posed in Russia. It cannot be solved in Russia.

At the Third Congress of Soviets in January 1918 Lenin stated,

The final victory of socialism in a single country is, of course, impossible. Our contingent of workers and peasants which is upholding Soviet power is one of the contingents of the great world army.

And in March, at the time of the acceptance of Brest-Litovsk he repeated this:

It is the absolute truth that without a German revolution we are doomed.(15)

And doomed the Russian proletariat was. There was no master plan for the Party to come to replace the soviets. In fact it was rather the opposite. Some Party members called for it to be dissolved others lamented that party members were doing too much in the Soviets and abandoning the communist role of propagandising for communism throughout the working class. The Bolsheviks demonstrated early on that they were willing to work with any other party which supported soviet power. However as the difficulties mounted the other parties abandoned the soviets leaving the Bolsheviks as the only Party which unequivocally supported soviet power.

However, the economic crisis inherited from the bourgeoisie brought starvation. The cities, the heart of the working class were abandoned en masse in the winter of 1917-18:

In the aftermath of October, the country suffered an economic collapse on the scale of a modern Black Death... The capital lost no less than a million inhabitants in the first six months after October as workers streamed from the capital in search of bread.(16)

Isolated, the revolutionary regime held out in Russia but the objective material reality of horrendous hardship meant that the Bolsheviks, even before the civil war and Allied intervention, had begun to resort to ever more draconian means to maintain labour discipline and acquiring food from peasant producers. The soviets, always at best a work in progress (even before October 1917) and never having the chance to develop much beyond the initial experimental stage, were reduced to rubber stamps for the Communist Party-state which under the pressure of an economic collapse "unparalleled in the history of humanity"(17) gradually took on the role of dictator over the proletariat. We can also point to a flaw in the revolutionary regime which facilitated the Party dictatorship; the creation of Sovnarkom. To start with, the Bolsheviks set up a cabinet of the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) to run the Departments of State. Calling the leaders of these Departments “People’s Commissars” (Trotsky’s brainwave) did not hide the fact that they were Ministers in the old sense. Instead of relying on the class-wide bodies of the soviets to elect an executive which ran the government, the Bolsheviks had already begun the process of supplanting soviet rule. This was not a conscious process but the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (RSFSR) developed in war conditions into a new state body dominated by the Red Army and the Cheka. It brought military victory at the cost of the proletarian core of the revolution.

Until mid-1918 Sovnarkom always made sure that the Soviet Executive (VTsIK) got the chance to discuss and reject Sovnarkom plans but in practice this happened less and less often as the revolution was faced with international invasion. The Congress of Soviets which began as quarterly affairs had ceased to be such by 1920. In some ways, even if the form of soviet rule had been more firmly adhered to it would have made little difference. The need to send the most class-conscious workers to fight in the Red Army in the period 1918-20 tore the heart out of properly functioning soviets. The Party was by default quite rapidly transformed into the real governmental organisation in Russia.”(18) The revolution, along with it the nascent proletarian democracy was dying. There was a chance to revive the soviets in 1920 when the civil war ended but by this time the road to Kronstadt lay open and after Kronstadt the adoption of NEP, and the banning of factions inside the Communist Party only hammered the nails into the coffin of proletarian power.

With no successful workers’ revolution anywhere else it would take only a few years for Stalin to bury the original Bolshevik perspective of an international revolution where the proletariat held power through its own organs of mass participation. The Stalinist counter revolution emerged, not as the culmination of the victorious revolutionary process as is often claimed by our class enemies, but as its undertaker. The prediction of the Left Communists of 1918 that:

If the Russian revolution is crushed by the bourgeois counter-revolution, it will be reborn from its ashes like the Phoenix; but if it loses its socialist character, and by this disappoints the working masses, this blow will have ten times more terrible consequences for the future of the Russian and international revolution.(19)

came nightmarishly true. We are still fighting those “ten times more terrible consequences” today. The rise of a monstrosity whereby the capitalist class ruled and exploited through the Party State’s ownership of the means of production, and where workers remained powerless wage-labourers as is the capitalist norm is a heavy burden to shake off. The soviet form which brought the working class to overthrow the capitalist class in 1917 remains a shining example of the POTENTIAL of proletarian democracy. It is the historically discovered practical form of how the working class can create a body to suppress the bourgeoisie and its hangers on, which functions only through the self-activity of the mass of the class. Eventually it can become a mere administer of an economy which provides for the material and social fulfilment of everyone without a state, national frontiers or money. The condition for a world without war which can really tackle the environmental problems which capitalism cannot.

In conclusion, we appeal to all those who can see that the current political, economic, social system which has at its heart the accumulation of profit for a numerically insignificant capitalist class at the expense of the exploited majority has nothing to do with any authentic vision of democracy, is in fact on a trajectory to destruction, be it through environmental catastrophe as Monbiot and many others rightfully indicate, to further explore the genuinely democratic ideas of revolutionary Marxism, to consider the perspective of the ICT defending the liberating core of Marxism, defending working class independence, defending genuine proletarian democracy based on delegation not representation, from the falsifications which only serve to perpetuate a grossly unequal, unstable system which threatens our very existence. It is on the basis of this proletarian democracy that we can institute the system change proclaimed on so many XR placards and elsewhere which will enable us not only to survive, but to create a sustainable, sane society which our ancestors dreamt of but which capitalism, however it is administered, can never deliver.


(1) See “Capitalism is Dead” (George Monbiot) but Only the World Working Class Can Bury It. Monbiot has gone to the heart of the matter in some of his diagnosis:

For most of my adult life I’ve railed against “corporate capitalism”, “consumer capitalism” and “crony capitalism”. It took me a long time to see that the problem is not the adjective but the noun…"Our choice comes down to this. Do we stop life to allow capitalism to continue, or stop capitalism to allow life to continue?

(2) George Monbiot, Extinction Rebellion is showing Britain what real democracy could look like

(3) In the same article Monbiot states:

Our climate and extinction crises expose the failures of all quasi-democratic systems, and the blatant capture of ours by the power of money turns the UK into a global crucible. In XR’s outrageous, reviled protests we see the beginnings of what could become a 21st-century democratic revolution.

(4) In 1838 a People's Charter was drawn up for the London Working Men's Association (LWMA) by William Lovett and Francis Place, two self-educated radicals, in consultation with other members of LWMA. The Charter had six demands:

  • All men to have the vote (universal manhood suffrage)
  • Voting should take place by secret ballot
  • Parliamentary elections every year, not once every five years
  • Constituencies should be of equal size
  • Members of Parliament should be paid
  • The property qualification for becoming a Member of Parliament should be abolished

(5) An Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that introduced changes to the electoral system of England and Wales. It abolished tiny districts, gave representation to cities, gave the vote to small landowners, tenant farmers, and shopkeepers and to householders who paid a yearly rental of £10 or more and some lodgers. Only qualifying men were able to vote; the Act introduced the first explicit statutory bar to women voting, by defining a voter as a male person. The Act also increased the electorate from about 400,000 to 650,000, making about one in five adult males eligible to vote.

(6) Political disconnection in the United States has led to low voter turnout rates relative to the rest of the world, in recent elections in the 50-60% range. Overall voter turnout among OECD countries is about 70% and even many developing countries tend to see higher participation rates than those seen in most US elections. Approximately 64% voted in the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain, but participation fell to a minimum of 20 years during the 2016 election to just 55%. According to a February study published by the left-wing Knight Foundation, nearly half of eligible voters, or nearly 100 million people, do not participate in the election. "It's a very large group and it's half the country, so it's diverse," said Eitan Hersh, associate professor of political science at Tufts University and academic advisor to the Knight Foundation report. "Lack of commitment has to do with people not feeling connected to the electoral system and don't think it's important," he adds. (from BBC Mundo website)

(7) For example:

"The highest form of the state, the democratic republic, which in our modern social conditions becomes more and more an unavoidable necessity and is the form of state in which alone the last decisive battle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie can be fought out.” (Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State)

(8) Take a simple up to date illustration:

A company that has donated more than £400,000 to the Conservative Party since 2016 has received a £93.8 million Government contract for the supply of respirator face masks, Byline Times can reveal. Government documents show that Globus (Shetland) Limited won a contract, to be carried out between July 2020 and September 2021, for the supply of FFP3 respirators. This same company has donated hundreds of thousands to the Conservative Party in recent years, including £150,000 in 2019.The value of this contract is equivalent to the total revenue of Globus (Shetland) over the past two years. In 2019, the company turned over £50 million, following £45.8 million turnover in 2018. The contract was awarded without going to competitive tender.

Yet another example of what Marx stated in the German Ideology:

The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.


Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or “equality of all citizens before the law,” and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a “violation of public order,” and actually in case the exploited class “violates” its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner.

Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky

(10) Lenin, What is to Replace the Smashed State Machine?


What we are talking about is a civil war. And there are obviously material reasons for that. It is not possible to just pretend these things don’t exist because we do not like them. These things have got to be faced. And even after the battles have themselves been won, the remnants of the capitalist class and their hirelings will still, because they are dominated by the ideas of the capitalist period, they will still attempt to restore capitalism, to make a comeback, and it is for this reason that we repeat what Marx said about the period of transition and this is directly related to the development of consciousness. He said "Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." Yet the SPGB think all this is outdated rubbish and that Marx was wrong.

CWO 1984, public meeting with SPGB

(12) For a profound analysis of the results of anarchist refusal of Marxist theory, our pamphlet Spain 1934-39: From Working Class Struggle to Imperialist War, is highly recommended. This rejection was entirely conscious;

Here we should point out that the positions and analyses of the international communist left, through Bilan and Prometeo, were familiar to the leading militants of the anarchists. The Communist Left were arguing that rather than compromise with capitalism through entry into its governments what was needed was a move towards the destruction of that power. The anarchists were not unaware of the argument. They deliberately rejected it ... if in theory they denied the need for political power, even a proletarian one, in practice they helped to organise the bourgeoisie in government, giving them ‘left cover’ ... By this alone they can be correctly labelled as within the camp of the counter-revolution rather than a revolutionary force.

pg. 8-9


The anarchists reproach the communists on the ground that communism (so they contend) will maintain the State authority in the future society. As we have seen, the assertion is false. The essential difference consists in this, that the anarchists are far more concerned with dividing up than with the organization of production; and that they conceive the organization of production as taking the form, not of a huge cooperative commonwealth, but of a great number of 'free', small, self-governing communes. It need hardly be said that such a social system would fail to liberate mankind from nature's yoke, for in it the forces of production would not be developed even to the degree to which they have been developed under capitalism. Anarchism would not increase production, but would disintegrate it. It is natural that, in practice, the anarchists should advocate the dividing up of articles of consumption and should oppose the organization of large-scale production. They do not, for the most part, represent the interests and aspirations of the working class; they represent those of what is termed the lumpenproletariat, the loaferproletariat; they represent the interests of those who live in bad conditions under capitalism, but who are quite incapable of independent creative work.

Bukharin and Preobrazhensky, ABC of Communism


The organs of “workers’ democracy” will be the councils and mass assemblies, which will be based on the election and recallability of delegates… “There is no way for the working class to be free or a new social order to come about, unless it springs from the class struggle itself. At no time and for no reason should the proletariat surrender its role in the struggle. It should not delegate its historical mission to others, or transfer its power to others — not even to its own political party.” [Political Platform of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista, 1952].

For Communism, ICT, pg. 16

(15) 1921: Beginning of the Counter-Revolution?

(16) ibid.

(17) ibid.

(18) The decline of the Russian Revolution and the cult of the Party

(19) An Epitaph for the October Revolution?

Friday, October 2, 2020