Journal of Emancipation | Spanish

Democracy

Marxist Dictionary

Form of organization of the political apparatus of the bourgeois state legitimized through the representation of the social conflict as a market -the Parliament- in which the major tendencies of opinion -substantiated in the parties- exchange interests under a set of rules that guarantees the survival and development of the state itself and the nation it forms.

Origins

The bourgeoisie, in order to assert its leadership over the social whole, that is, to impose through the state the needs of national capital accumulation in a given territory/market of its ownership, does not require giving the state political apparatus a specific form. Its first experiences in political power took forms as different as an oligarchic republic in Venice, a corporate state in Florence, the communal assembly in Castile or the Cromwellian dictatorship in England. It is only after it reaches maturity and considers ” constituting the social body into a nation”, i.e., when it considers taking over a class structure already driven by industrial production, that it will elevate the liberal myths to the principle of government, giving space to the “people”, i.e., accepting a specific political space in the state for the aspirations of the petty bourgeoisie. “Modern democracy” is then defined as a system of “representation” based on the universal suffrage of property-owning individuals.

It was the emergence of the proletariat as a political subject after the 1848 revolutions that advised the bourgeoisie to grant a space for self-organization to the workers… although only after virulent struggles that were the object of repression, almost always bloody, by the democratic states.

Rising capitalism then accepted the proletariat as a recognized political subject within bourgeois society in a big part of Europe. It accepted that the workers were “represented” within its institutions of government, conscious that there was a margin, within its own domination, for the achievement by the workers of advantages and opportunities for their own organization and constitution as a class (legal recognition of strikes, of universal suffrage, etc.). At this moment, although it feeds the reformist and revisionist tendencies, the effort to obtain this recognition is part of the process of political constitution of the class and the development of its organization as such (centralism).

Democracy-fascism-stalinism

The entry into the imperialist phase, which will serve as a prologue to the decadence of the system and with it the universalization of state capitalism, will transform the organization of the bourgeoisie and its relationship with the state, making the parliamentary participation of the workers obsolete and counterproductive.

State capitalism is no longer a capitalism based on free competition but a monopoly capitalism, and the political apparatus of the state is being transformed accordingly. The trade union is transformed from an intermediary to a monopolist of labor power, on a par with other industrial monopolies. Imperialist war and participation in the administration of the war economy by parliaments lead the big political parties to move from being expressions of competing interests seeking representation vis-à-vis the state to seeking to be propped up by the state itself. It is not by chance that the betrayal of the big social democratic parties materialized into the approval of war credits. The party apparatuses became specialized representatives of the state against certain social sectors, monopolists specialized in the management of large currents of opinion. Opinion itself gradually became another industry, gaining framing power with the development of communication technologies (radio, television, Internet, etc.).

The counter-revolution would leave its mark on this global reorganization of the bourgeoisie and the state and of the bourgeoisie in the state, which until 1937 overlapped with the world revolution. The two specific forms of vanguard of the counterrevolution, fascism and stalinism, will apply themselves to the destruction of the space of sociability and workers’ democracy created for decades by the Second International around the trade unions and the social-democratic parties: grassroots organizations, people’ houses, cultural associations, cooperatives, etc. The counter-revolution, by mowing down the mass base from which class political organization emerged, accelerated the tendencies towards state capitalism under totalitarian forms.

It is these totalitarian forms that served the “democratic” powers and in particular the liberal and stalinist sectors, from Spain to the USA, to build the opposition fascism-democracy first and democracy-communism (as in stalinism), later as recruitment slogans for the world war and the cold war respectively. This does not mean by any means that the so-called “democratic states” remained liberal democracies: the integration of the trade unions, the emptying of the parties and the destruction of the space of workers democracy, accelerated in the 1930s and led to their last consequences during the war under the anti-fascist banner and with the leadership on the ground of the stalinist and socialist parties.

Democracy today

Today we live universally under different forms of state capitalism. The omnipresent logic of the market and competition of rising capitalism gave way to the merging, through the financial system and the state, of individual capitals into large monopoly groups. As a result, the state became a sort of organic whole, a monopoly of monopolies that, through more or less formal systems, regulates the whole of social life from top to bottom: from wages through coordination and agreement between employers’ associations and trade unions, to the “energy basket” and the information distributed through the mass media monopolies.

In such a framework, [anti-parliamentarianism|Parliament is no longer the place where the various class fractions and interests meet and negotiate]. The bourgeoisie is no longer organized through a “market of ideas and interests” but as an organic whole that segregates opinions for mass consumption through a thousand channels. Channels that distribute the same product with different flavors.

Elections become a mere gymnastic exercise of the state bourgeoisie’s capacity to generate opinion. Of course, while still selling us the sacredness of elections as an expression of a non-existent “popular will” or an illusory “power of the citizenry”.

This does not mean that the bourgeoisie controls everything without question from a perfect “control panel”. Although it is the captain of the state and the big financial and capital groups, it is neither monolithic nor alone in society. A pack of hyenas is not exactly a model of harmony no matter how coordinated it is, and like any dictatorship of an exploiting class, its rule requires the active complicity of the intermediate layers. There is no lack of examples of different kinds of petty bourgeois revolts in the daily news around the world. In these, we will be called upon to “defend democracy” over and over again. They are aware that in that field the working class cannot, under any circumstances, assert itself as a politically independent class, but they do not give up hope of framing us around the democratic state as cannon fodder for their internal and external disputes.