Socialist Standard No. 1385 January 2020

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    The so-called anti-fascists of our time do not know the real meaning and the history of fascism, and they call fascism any government, individual or actions which are not fascist either, and they relate fascism with racism only, even more, Leon Trotsky was not an anti-fascists when he supported the dictatorship of one party to rule. That pamphlet on nationalism written by SLP is a very good pamphlet, as well it is a book review written by Adam Buick titled: What was Nazism, and the book by itself provides  a proper definition of Nazism and Fascism


    The editorial committee has received the following letter from Comrade Ray Carr about the editorial in the January issue:

    I have to say I was somewhat surprised with parts of the editorial in the January 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard – “Brexit done, back to capitalism as usual” Twice this seemed to refer to the Brexit referendum of 2016 as a democratic vote. First it suggests that as the Labour Party was seen as part of the reason why Brexit did not get implemented; “they were punished for, in effect, not respecting a democratically made decision”. It goes on to state; “– but a democratic vote having been satisfied “. Well in the opinion of this socialist, the democratic vote that satisfied Brexit, obviously the December 2019 General Election was about as democratic as the 2016 referendum, namely, not anything to do with meaningful democracy.

    A previous article in the Socialist Standard, November 2019 – “Thoughts on Democracy and Brexit” stated that a deeper analysis of the 2016 referendum shows that it was not even democratic in terms of so-called capitalist democracy, which is a very pale shadow indeed of what socialists would see as meaningful democracy. That article stated that 27 percent of the electorate did not vote in the 2016 referendum and this meant that over 60 percent did not vote leave, meaning that those who did vote leave were in fact a minority. We could probably complete a similar analysis of the recent General Election and it would turn out that a government with a large majority was elected by a minority of voters.

    If we consider how democracy might operate in a society of common ownership and democratic control which would have been brought about by a conscious majority organised in a democratic way both politically as well as in other ways, we would conceive of a situation where decisions would be made by people who would be well aware of the consequences of both sides of the discussion and this would be backed up by a free flow of information, therefore a democratic decision could be made. Both the 2016 referendum and the recent General Election had neither of these requirements of democracy and this would apply to any referendums or elections within capitalism. In fact in regard to the two votes being discussed the opposite was the case, both were decided on the basis of people being unaware of their true interests and being flooded with misinformation and mass media bias.

    Obviously it has to be accepted that not everything can be considered in a short editorial, but it is surely unwise, to say the least, to give the impression that we consider capitalism as democratic, it is based on the dictatorship of capital and therefore meaningful democracy within it is impossible. We of course recognise that the limited opportunity it gives us to stand candidates and put forward the socialist case in various elections and in other ways is an advantage when compared to totalitarian dictatorships, and we need to make use of these opportunities whilst we have them. However whilst recognising this we need to be as critical of the lack of genuine democracy available within capitalism as we arein all of its other outdated and unacceptable features.



    I recall in the “interests” of democracy and the “expression” of the will of the Scottish people when the first referendum on Scottish home-rule took place in 1979, there was incorporated within it the 40% condition which required 40% of the total electorate to vote “Yes” in the referendum.

    The result was that 51.6% supported the proposal, (48.4% said no), but with a turnout of 64%, this represented only 32.9% of the registered electorate. So no home rule.

    Many critics said because of the inaccuracy of the electoral register, it meant the dead “voted” no.


    Ray seems to be using the same argument as the Remainers that the 2016 referendum wasn’t democratic because (a) a majority of the electorate didn’t vote for it and (b) that those that did were misinformed. In fact he seems to be going further and saying that these apply to all elections under capitalism.

    But neither stand up. If (a) was true then our party will probably never have taken a democratically valid decision and that this will be rare even in socialism. Having said this, I can agree that, in important changes to devcision-making provcedures, a “super-majority” could be required. I also think it shows that referendums are not the best way to make decisions.

    As to (b), no doubt the majority of those who vote for capitalism have been brainwashed in one sense or another and maybe enough voters were misled by lying propaganda during the referendum campaign to get Leave over the line. But that’s not the issue. It is not why people vote for what they do, but whether elections, here in Britain under capitalism, accurately record how they voted and so are democratic in that sense.

    I would say they do. I have been an election agent for the party in many elections and have attended many counts. At these I have never seen any evidence thst the elections were not properly conducted or that the votes were not accurately counted. The sad fact is that the vast majority in Britain currently want capitalism in one form or another and any election, however perfectly organised and conducted, will give this result. A majority want capitalism and get it.

    The other thing of course is that we as socialists do not require or expect the political institutions of capitalism to be perfect from a democratic point of view (they can’t be in a class-divided society), only that they are sufficiently democratic to allow a socialist majority to win control of political power.  It has always been our case that in Britain they are.


    The democratic method, if it is to be more than the mere counting of heads, requires participants that are both well informed and politically literate. This cannot said to be the case in a situation where a minority controls and manipulates access to data.


    Actually, under capitalism democracy is not much more than the counting of heads (which is Britain is done fairly and accurately) but it is significant for us where the result of the counting decides who gets to control political power.

    The other aspects of (“bourgeois”) political democracy are important too, in particular the freedom to organise trade unions and parties and the freedom to publish journals and pamphlets and to hold meetings.

    If you don’t want to use the term (limited political)  “democracy” to describe this situation you will have to find some other way of distinguishing it from political dictatorship where these facilities don’t exist. Otherwise you end up like those “left communists” who don’t think it matters whether the working class is living in a “bourgeois democracy” or a fascist state.


    Nevertheless I think Ray Carr has a point. I think we should try and use terms like limited democracy in describing what we have under capitalism. As we usually do, of course.


    Agreed. But the editorial never said that what we have under capitalism is democracy. It merely remarked that the 2016 referendum was “a democratically-made decision”.  A choice was put before the electorate, votes were cast and counted, and a majority obtained for one of the choices. So, was it “democratically made” or not? Ray seems to be saying that it wasn’t but his arguments for saying so imply that no vote or election under capitalism can be described as “democratic”. Which I don’t think we can say is the case.


    “Otherwise you end up like those “left communists” who don’t think it matters whether the working class is living in a “bourgeois democracy” or a fascist state.”

    As indeed the SPGB effectively did by sitting on the sidelines during working class struggles against fascist regimes in Spain, Germany and Italy during the 1930s and 1940s, content instead to reiterate a platitudinous “preference for democracy over dictatorship”  (e.g. January 1941 Socialist Standard)


    If you are going to say what our position in the second world slaughter “effectively” was (other than socialist internationalism) it would have to be pacifist. What was, rightly or wrongly, being “effectively” said was that limited political democracy was important for the working class but could not or should not be defended by war. This is not the same as the “left communist” position that “bourgeois  democracy” is not worth defending as bourgeois democracy/fascist state same difference.

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