It is no cliché that capitalism is in crisis. Nor is it a hollow phrase that this crisis is putting strain on capitalism’s precarious “democracy”. And so the executive Branches, which are the left-overs from the King’s absolute powers, become greedy for more power, and so, in turn, this provokes strong challenges from the more democratic Branches of the State. And hopefully challenges from the people, too. This interests us in LALIT because, as the issue of electoral reform looms large in Mauritius because of the imbroglio over the auto-classification of candidates, so we are placing on the agenda the need to strengthen the more democratic Branch, the elected members of the Legislature, relative to the autocratic Prime-Minister-and-nominated-cabinet. And this is not always easy for people to grasp without helpful examples. The history of this very moment is providing just these kind of helpful examples.
Let’s take three examples in the news right now – the USA with the more-than-autocratic Donald Trump, Britain with the executive represented by a cornered Theresa May, and France with Macron, a Napoleon embattled by Yellow Vests.
Trump, the right-wing maverick, was elected partly by a new way Steve Bannon and Company found of manipulating people through algorithms on the internet via the murky team in Cambridge Analytica, a company since folded up in disgrace. For this kind of trickery to work, democracy already has to be in crisis. And the capitalist economy had to be in crisis enough, too, for people to be vulnerable enough to fall for any old lies supplied to their cell phones by the Trump team. So Trump is a symptom of a crisis in capitalist democracy.
But he is not just a symptom but, as he now reigns like a Monarch with his son, his daughter and his son-in-law Royal Dauphins from his three Palaces – the White House, the private Trump Tower and the private Mar-o-Lago club – this becomes and will continue to become, in turn, a cause of more severe political crises. He is ruling, and will continue until halted by the people, to rule by a mixture of executive Order and veto, control over the Courts, as well as by lies, threats and repression, and in a pre-feudal theocratic mode, even issuing Papal Bulls on Twitter. For an example of a Papal Bull, he just tweets, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights”. A decree. A decree to justify a hideous annexation.
But, this autocratic Trump reign then, in turn, provokes a challenge from the more democratic part of the State, the House of Representatives in the first instance, and then even the Senate where the Republicans have a small majority. So, Trump’s wall money is blocked. Until a veto. The 2020 mid-term elections produced not just a Democratic majority against Trump, but also a surge in more left-wing pro-democracy Representatives within the Democratic Party being elected. And so the Legislative Branch, the elected people, fights to get democratic control over the executive Branch with its residual monarchical powers. But this does not happen by itself. It implies and requires that the people mobilize.
Theresa May is in one of those ridiculous positions that only a crisis in capitalism can produce.
Here is the story:
Her predecessor, Cameron, in a tight spot with half of his Conservative Party, and even of his Cabinet, wanting to stay in Europe and half wanting to leave, called a referendum to supposedly settle the question. Though a referendum is a blunt instrument. He was sure the “remainers” would win. But the pro-Brexit people, also curiously resorting to Cambridge Analytica for one aspect of their manipulation of electors, won. Theresa May who was against Brexit, is now the Prime Minister in charge of getting Britain out. This is untenable. A King can do that kind of thing but an elected person cannot – so the two aspects of the Prime Minister – that she was elected to Parliament as a person with integrity, and that she then acquires residual royal powers – come into conflict within one person. So, capitalism’s very limited form of democracy is in total disarray in Britain – even in crisis.
But, here too, this provokes a healthy democratic reaction. The elected members of the British Parliament, under the elected Speaker’s control, are trying to push back, retake power. Today, as we write, by a comfortable majority of 27 votes in Parliament, the elected MPs last night wrested power over setting the agenda in Parliament from the executive Branch.
And it is possible that another Referendum, again more democracy rather than less, is the only way out of the imbroglio.
France’s Macron, an arrogant pro-military President without a real Party to control him, also tried to rule by imposing upon the people. One of his edicts concerning a fuel-price increase, in turn, provoked the nation-wide Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) street protests that, in turn, forced him to abandon democratic means and use brute repression, on the one hand, and to deepen democracy by accepting the demand for Cahiers de Revendication (Lists of Demands) via the country’s 35,000 elected Mayors (decentralized democracy), on the other. So again, we see how two Branches of the State, under the pressure of a crisis in capitalism not dissimilar to the 1920’s and 30’s crisis, are forced to compete for two different ways of resolving conflict: more repression or more democracy.
Democratic Parts of the State relative to the executive
We write this article, after discussion in LALIT at the level of our central committee and branch meetings of the importance of supporting the more democratic, elected elements of the bourgeois State – the House of Representatives and even the Senate, the Parliament or National Assembly and the Mayors – when they confront the executive. And in terms of electoral reform, LALIT’s aim is three-fold:
- Increase the power of the people over their elected representatives in the Legislative Branch and in regional/local democracy. This through elections at all levels, and the right of recall at all levels.
- Increase the power of the Legislative Branch or regional/local democracy relative to the executive Branch.
- Decrease the powers of the executive Branch.
But, of course, we remember that it is not enough to change the Constitution. It is the economy that we aim to change. It is the economy that needs to be under the peoples’ democratic control.
So, we live in very interesting times. What might seem like boring conflicts, if analysed in terms of their relationship to peoples’ power, become not just interesting but helpful in the quest for a new society without one class (a small one at that) controlling all past production – in terms of capital produced by the many – and the land, sea and air, and imposing decisions on all other classes of people. By analysing the present conflicts, and acting for more peoples’ power, we can prevent environmental collapse, as well as decide on what to produce – all by much more democratic means.
26 March, 2019