Editorial: Down with leaders

One thing that all capitalist political organisations, whatever their political complexion, have in common is that they are organised around the leadership principle. At the apex is a leader or a leadership body, who will determine and control the direction of the organisation. Under capitalist democracies, the political leader is usually elected by a ballot of its parliamentary representatives and/or its party members (In the case of the Labour Party, members of affiliated unions can also vote). Although party members have some involvement in the annual Party Conferences, the party programmes that are presented at election time are ultimately determined by the party leadership. Once the party is elected to power, the party leader becomes the national leader. Aside from voting at each General Election and at the occasional referendum, the working class has no say in the running of the government. In political dictatorships, the leader is usually appointed by a governing clique or is selected on the basis of nepotism, as is the case with North Korea.

The leadership principle is not confined to the mainstream parties, the so-called revolutionary left base their politics on Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party, in which a body of professional revolutionaries will lead the working class to socialism. Political power rests with the Central Committee who control the decision making process within the organisation.

Not only in politics, but in other spheres of life we have leaders. Shareholders elect the company’s CEO and board of directors who make the investment decisions and have control over the workforce. Trade unions also have leaders. At school, we are taught about the ‘great’ leaders of ‘our’ country. So we are encouraged to believe that the most able and ‘talented’ of the human race are destined to be leaders, while the ‘untalented’ rest of us have to accept our place as followers.

Yet history shows that this has not always been the case. In the earliest formations of human society, which Marx described as ‘primitive communism’, there was no private property, no state no class divisions and people were able to participate without the need of leaders. However, when society developed to the point where a surplus could be produced over and above its basic needs, a minority class emerged that was able to appropriate it. To do this, the new ruling class needed a state machine that would rule over the exploited wealth producing class and keep them in order. Thus a political ideology promoting leadership emerged. Under capitalism, leaders are selected either from the capitalist class or from members of the working class who are willing to manage the economic system, on their behalf, so that the workers continue to produce profits.

Under socialism, where private/state property is abolished and the means of living are held in common, class divisions will disappear, there will be no need for political leaders and people will be able to participate freely in society. As the organisation of the Socialist Party reflects the socialist society for which it is striving, there is no place for leaders and is, therefore, under the control of its membership.