The September issue of The Socialist Standard creates the unfortunate impression of a sharp division of opinion within the SPGB and the WSM on the vital issue of democracy within capitalism. The editorial in the September issue of The Socialist Standard states that ‘we must not [conclude] that capitalist political democracy is a sham,’ while RDC writes: ‘It can be argued that even the limited democracy allowed … is a sham’ (p. 10). The apparent discrepancy is bound to confuse readers.
I do not think that any real division of opinion exists on this issue. At most there may be differences of emphasis. RDC acknowledges that voting and the freedom to protest are ‘important rights,’ so clearly he does not regard capitalist democracy as a complete sham. At the same time, the author(s) of the editorial concur with RDC in stressing the limits of capitalist democracy.
I suggest that we formulate our position as follows.
‘No political system under capitalism is correctly described as democratic. However, the political systems of many (though far from all) countries do contain certain democratic elements. These democratic elements have arisen in the course of historical development, often – as the editorial notes – as a result of working class struggle. It is extremely important to socialists that these democratic elements be preserved and (to the extent possible) strengthened and extended, even though they can never neutralize the essentially undemocratic nature of capitalism. The stronger and more extensive the democratic elements in political systems, the greater the scope for the spread of socialist ideas and the surer the prospect of a smooth and peaceful transition to socialism. ‘
Stephen D. Shenfield
Well done Diego!
We don’t usually mention sport in the Standard but, just as we are going to press this month, an interesting item popped up on the BBC website. A triathlete approaching the end of a race in Spain saw the chap in front turn off the route by mistake. Out of a sense of fair play, Diego Méntrida just stopped before he got to the finish and waited to allow his fellow athlete to cross the line first. No big deal in sporting terms, because this is not a mega-business like football, but in its small way it helps to counter the lie that portrays life as necessarily a dog-eat-dog affair.