Editorial from the June 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard
We are supposed to be living in a democracy. But we aren’t. Or rather, we are living only in a very partial democracy. This is because the democratic features existing decision-making institutions and arrangements have are undermined and distorted by the class structure of present-day society.
According to democratic theory, everybody should have an equal say in making decisions. This is not just in the sense of votes being of equal value but also in the sense of having an equal opportunity to express and present views should we want to do so. This equality, which is a basic condition for the functioning of a true democracy, does not exist under capitalism where some people have more money—and therefore more chance to put over their views—than the rest.
One of these people is Sir James Goldsmith, the sixth richest person in Britain with assets of £1200 million. He has his political views. There's nothing wrong with that. He is as entitled as anyone else to hold and express whatever views he wants. That's perfectly democratic. But Goldsmith is not like everybody else. He is a very rich man. He is more equal than others and has decided to use his riches to set up and finance his own political party, the Referendum Party, campaigning for a vote on the (irrelevant) issue of whether nor not Britain should stay in the European Union. That shows just how undemocratic capitalist society is.
Goldsmith is reportedly prepared to spend £20 million on putting his personal political views across. This sort of money is enough to buy modern premises, publish millions of leaflets, pamphlets and press releases, insert full page advertisements in the national press, and hire office staff, canvassers and candidates. By financing a candidate in every constituency in Britain, Goldsmith is able to buy the chance to put his personal views—both in writing and via TV and radio—to every voter in the country. Just because he is rich. By contrast, we as a small but long-established and serious political party have never had the opportunity to do this.
We are not surprised at this flagrant negation of democracy. It is merely an illustration of the way capitalism prevents a true democracy, in which everybody would have a genuinely equal say in decision-making, from existing.
We will continue as best we can on our limited resources to put forward the case for socialism (we can only afford to put up a handful of candidates in the coming election). As a society based on common ownership of productive resources, socialism will be a classless society where there will be no privileged individuals and groups. Which is the only basis on which the principles of democratic decision-making can be fully applied.