The Guardian • Issue #2004


For a workers’ democracy

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2004

At the end of this month, Australians will participate in another federal election. Our elections, an expression of bourgeois democracy, are often presented as an exemplar of our freedoms, the ability to make choices about who leads our state.

In some respects, this is true; in others, it is not. It is true to the extent that our bourgeois democracy provides universal suffrage and (with some regulations aside) provides the opportunity for anyone to run for office.

However, bourgeois democracy is just that: bourgeois. What does this mean? It means that our system was created for the sole purpose of representing the bourgeoisie – the ruling capitalist class – who control the economic (and social) operations of our state. Here, the social democrats and conservative liberals operate as the two wings of capitalism. The former alleges that the system can be reformed such that capitalist economic growth can alleviate workers from the worst abuses of capitalism, while the latter promotes capitalism as a system of endless opportunity for the hard-working individual.

The wind beneath these wings is our media, both state- and privately-owned. Here, the realities of the working class and the policies and parties that could improve their lives go virtually unheard. In Australia, the bourgeoisie’s stranglehold on the media landscape is particularly bad. Last year, Michael West Media reported that:

“Rupert Murdochdemocs News Corp owns fifty-nine per cent of the metropolitan and national print media markets by readership – up from twenty-five per cent in 1984. Nine Entertainment is the second-largest media owner, with a combined twenty-three per cent readership share.”

In addition to print media, “three corporations – News Corp, Nine, and Seven Media Holdings – collect eighty per cent of Australian free-to-air and subscription TV revenues, with News Corp picking up forty per cent, almost double that of the next in line Nine.”

The purpose of these corporations is to protect bourgeois democracy, which safeguards its own interests.

There should be no illusions: bourgeois democracy does not serve the working class. Workers cannot be emancipated under the current system which is designed to protect the profits and interests of the ruling capitalist class.

While the above is true, it is important to protect bourgeois democracy from reactionary elements in the ruling class. This has become increasingly important with the rise of fascism around the globe. Here, right-wing populists such as Clive Palmer, masking themselves as alternatives to “the system”, riding on the high levels of government mistrust and misinformation, are nothing more than capitalists only concerned with enriching themselves at the expense of the working class. Thus, the deterioration of bourgeois democracy is not a pathway to liberation; bourgeois democracy must be transformed.

The working class has gone as far as it can with a bourgeois program, it must build and fight for a revolutionary program with its interests at its heart. The arena in which the contents of such a program is fought for is in our trade unions – the broadest organisations of the worker. Here, it is important that workers are won to the labour movement in increasing numbers by developing militant, radical agendas that challenge the ruling class such that it becomes inevitable that a workers’ democracy is established.

A workers’ democracy will be a system designed to represent the interests of the working class. Here the state will be a tool controlled by workers for workers, safeguarding their interests. To get here, however, we must run two tactics. One which protects bourgeois democracy from reactionary elements and another which builds a movement that transforms our current state of things. If these two tactics can advance the working class will win.

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