As we write, the US-sponsored ‘summit for democracy’ is about to take place online. For two days on 9 and 10 December, delegates from around the world are logging on with the stated aim of agreeing on measures that would ‘safeguard democracy and human rights’ across the globe.
USA appoints its friends as global guardians and itself as their supreme leader
The US regime has invited government leaders and private sector representatives from 110 countries to attend this virtual summit. The nations invited include many US allies, Nato members (with the notable exception of Turkey), Anglosphere and Commonwealth countries, Japan, India and others that, if not under the complete dominion of US imperialism, are at least causing no present grief to the imperialists or their profit margins.
While the bourgeois parliamentary system is held up by the USA and its allies as the ultimate form of democracy, Marxists have long recognised this ahistorical notion to be false. Democracy is not an abstract concept, but a class one. The most important question to ask when looking at any particular democracy is: Democracy for whom? For what class?
In a capitalist society, the reality is that democracy is only really for the owners of monopoly capital, who also own and control the mass media, the education system, the government, the church, the army and so on. Those same monopolists use this control to exercise a dictatorship over the rest of society, over the working masses.
In a socialist society, by contrast, democracy is massively extended, becoming for the first time real democracy for the working masses, for the majority, while those same working masses exercise their own much smaller dictatorship over the dispossessed capitalist minority in order to prevent them returning to their old exploitative position.
Clearly there is a huge gulf dividing capitalist democracy and workers’ democracy, just as there is a huge gulf dividing the types of state (capitalist and socialist) that administer those widely diverging democracies. Only under socialism will democracy move from being an abstract concept and an aspirational ideal to being a practical part of everyday life as far as the working people are concerned.
As Comrade Lenin pointed out in his seminal work on the state: “Marx grasped this essence of capitalist democracy splendidly when, in analysing the experience of the Commune, he said that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in Parliament!” (The State and Revolution, 1917, Chapter 5)
In Britain, the only ‘electable’ parties (ie, those that have financial backing from the bourgeois class and the support of its mass media) are those that are reliable props of imperialism and will serve it without question.
When the imperialist Labour party elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader and was proposing some extremely modest reforms in favour of the working masses, a Goebbelsian slander campaign was mounted in the bourgeois media, supported by most of the party leadership, spreading totally spurious accusations of antisemitism against the party and those supporting Corbyn, which effectively destroyed its election prospects.
Upholders of independence and freedom are notable by their absence
The shape of things can sometimes be seen by absence, and considering this is a meeting of the ‘international community’, there are some rather glaring absences. China, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, the DPRK, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Laos, Syria … in fact, any and all countries that are either actively working towards some form of socialism, or are standing in the way of the US’s imperialist aims. Afghanistan, the recipient of 40 years of US imperialism’s brutal, forced ‘democracy’, has also been denied a voice.
This international meeting to safeguard global democracy (from the Greek, ‘demos’ [whole people within a state] and ‘kratos’ [power or rule]) is missing something major: namely, people. The countries excluded compromise nearly a third of the world’s population.
Moreover, two of the guests have been invited with the intention of reinforcing hostile propaganda and entirely anti-democratic aimes: the Chinese province of Taiwan and Venezuela’s manufactured opposition ‘hero’ Juan Guaidó.
As Ben Norton of the Grayzone has pointed out, Guaidó is “the fake puppet president of Venezuela, who has never won a single vote to be so-called ‘interim president’ … There are over 190 countries recognised by the United Nations, at the peak only around 50 of them recognised Juan Guaidó.”
Only one quarter of the world’s governments recognise Guaidó’s claim to ‘leadership’, while the vast majority recognise the government of Nicolás Maduro. Those who ‘recognise’ Guaidó do so in spite of all the evidence, solely in order to curry favour with US imperialism.
Similarly, the invitation to Taiwan, as if it were a separate and independent country, although it is internationally (including by the USA!) recognised as being a part of China, only serves the interests of the imperialists, who wish to use Taiwan as a stick to beat China with and are therefore working to inflame tensions between the province and the mainland.
Reunification has long been a goal of the Chinese people, including the majority of those living in Taiwan, after the island was separated from the motherland in 1949 as a result of its occupation by fleeing counter-revolutionaries when the workers and peasants of the Red Army, led by Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China, marched into Beijing and established the People’s Republic of China.
As with the attempts to stir up tensions and foment separatist strife in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, meddling in relations between Taiwan and China is quite rightly seen as hostile interference aimed at undermining the country’s unity and territorial integrity.
In complete (and utterly anti-democratic) violation of the rights of nations to national sovereignty, the imperialists want to break up China in order to weaken it, the better to exploit its people and resources.
This is the plain truth about imperialism. As Lenin long ago pointed out, it seeks domination, not democracy!
What kind of democracy?
In response to the provocative convening of this summit, China held its own international forum on democracy on 4 December, attended by dignitaries and intellectuals from over 120 countries, regions and international organisations.
China’s state council also released a white paper titled China: Democracy That Works, outlining the Chinese methodology and commitment to a “whole-process people’s democracy under CPC leadership”, refuting the “self-appointed judges” in the USA and elsewhere who presume to make themselves arbiters of democracy.
Talking of the US’s brand of ‘democracy’, president of China Media Group (CMG) Shen Haixiong said: “If it can’t put people at the centre and improve people’s wellbeing, no matter how exquisite the rhetoric is, this kind of democracy is just deceiving itself and others.”
But China’s people-centric system is exactly what threatens the US and scares its rulers so badly. Not only does it highlight the democracy-in-name-only model that the imperialists export under threat of death or poverty, but it also gives people everywhere a view of an alternative; of truly mass participation and self-determination.
Having both been left off the democracy summit’s invitation list, the Russian and Chinese governments issued a rare joint response, while the Russian foreign ministry released a scathing statement, pointing out the hypocrisy permeating the event: “The evidence suggests that the United States and its allies cannot and should not claim the status of a ‘beacon’ of democracy, since they themselves have chronic problems with freedom of speech, election administration, corruption and human rights.”
In support of China and its democratic system, a joint statement from parties all over the world emphasised the need to respect the differences and promote the exchange of ideas between peoples.
It stated: “We are of the view that the judgement of whether a country is democratic hinges on whether the people can become the real masters of the country. While it is necessary to observe whether they can enjoy the right to vote, it is even more important to observe whether their right of extensive participation is guaranteed.”
The bourgeois media make a point of referring to India as the ‘world’s largest democracy’, although it is smaller than China both territorially and in terms of population. Their aim is to underline the non-admittance of China into the ranks of ‘respectable’ and ‘approved’ nations.
Meanwhile, even the US-based Freedom House’s has downgraded India’s ‘democracy index’ to the status of a “partially free democracy”, owing to the country’s endemic corruption and the lack of electoral participation (or any other say in the country’s affairs) for huge swathes of the population.
India’s glaring failings as far as its own impoverished people are concerned are rarely discussed by our media, unless as some kind of unavoidable problem stemming from its (apparently inexplicable and permanent) ‘poverty’. On the other hand, a single Chinese citizen voicing dissatisfaction will be given a virtual megaphone by the same organs of our ‘free, impartial press’ and presented as grounds for economic and even military intervention.
The obvious disregard for objective facts highlights the imperialists’ agenda of both driving a wedge between neighbours, China and India, and of defining democracy, or its lack, however they see fit, creating consent for war.
The fact that India upholds the classic bourgeois parliamentary model of capitalist democracy (and facilitates the looting of its resources by imperialist corporations) makes it a ‘model’ country. The fact that China doesn’t do either makes it a pariah, despite the fact that the lives of the Chinese people are immeasurably better in every respect, and their participation in the running of their communities and their country is fully facilitated.
In China, a poor peasant or worker can rise to become a leader. In the USA, $14bn is needed to secure the presidential nomination of one of the major parties.
We face a similar exclusion here in Britain, where the overwhelming power of monopoly capital allows our rulers to dictate not only which toothpaste brands we may ‘choose’ between but also which political brands will offer us the semblance of a ‘choice’ at election time – all the while making sure that the real business of the state is carried on by unelected (but carefully educated and selected) officials behind closed doors and far from the public gaze.
The more that the working masses have striven for freedom and for socialism, the more our rulers have been forced to justify their actions in terms of ‘democracy’, ‘rights’, ‘freedom’ etc. But the more they do so, the more these words seem to lose all real meaning.
After decades of waging genocidal wars under the banner of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’, a worker in an oppressed country today will feeling nothing but fear on hearing that the US and its allies are on the way to deliver ‘democracy’ to his country, too.
Meanwhile, just as in the US, so here in Britain, more than half of adults routinely do not vote in elections, because their experience tells them there is absolutely no point. Whichever ‘brand’ of politician the voter selects, whatever the colour of their rosette, the result is the same, since all the capitalist parties serve the capitalist class.
Thus the capitalist class continues to rule in its own interest and to pass the burden of its system’s economic difficulties onto the backs of the workers at every turn.
Not for nothing are politicians and their journalistic accomplices among the most despised and least trusted members of our society. Who now watches and trusts the news? Who any longer bothers to read the leaflets and manifestos that are pushed through their letterboxes at election time? Who still believes that promises made by politicians in order to gain votes will ever really be kept?
This is the workers’ experience of ‘democracy’ in a rich imperialist country. Who can blame those elsewhere for struggling to remove such shackles, or for resisting their reimposition if they have already freed themselves from the diktat or finance capital?
While the imperialists and their hirelings continue to cling on to their decaying and parasitic system, painting it in bright colours and working up ever more bizarre justifications for its defence, the masses of humanity are coming to see more clearly by the day that the only true democracy is a people’s democracy.