National Sections of the L5I:

The state

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Just because the adult citizens of the capitalist democracies are entitled to vote every four or five years, this is supposed to be “the rule of the people, by the people, for the people”. But the people have no say over what is produced, the nature of the economic system, or even whether to have peace or go to war. What exists in reality is rule for the capitalists by capitalist politicians.

News, debate, public life are in the hands of a tiny clique of media millionaires like Rupert Murdoch or Silvio Berlusconi. Political parties founded by the working class have been transformed into conservative clones.

Debates over policy and programme have been replaced by personality contests. Election campaigns become staged events made up of soundbites and photo opportunities. To raise the players of the political game above the slightest pressure from their party members or voters, millionaire donors pay the enormous costs of campaigning. In the Third World, this is called by its real name: corruption. But now, in the first world, too, parties regularly expose each other’s sleaze and scandals.

This poisoning of the roots of capitalist democracy brings its own reward. In prosperous times, apathy; in times of crisis, a burning hatred for all politicians. In the oldest democracies, the phrase “they are all the same” is commonplace. In Argentina, in the crisis of 2001-02, the middle classes as well as the workers took up the slogan “Get rid of them all!”

Behind the façade of this democracy stands the state. At its core is an apparatus of repression which protects the profits of the rich and the powerful. Engels long ago defined the essence of the state as “special bodies of armed men” – armies, police forces, and their auxiliaries: the judiciary, the prison system, the top state bureaucrats. In the most democratic republic and the most brutal dictatorship alike, the state remains an instrument of capitalist class rule.

The real character of the state is revealed by who it defends and who it attacks. Repression on the picket lines and demonstrations, surveillance, targeted at “the enemy within”, the growing prison population, all reveal that the police – and the soldiers when necessary – are the private security guards of the rich and the powerful, not the guardians of the people.

Do the police ever arrest an employer for taking away a worker’s means of life, their job? When an employer brings in strike breakers and the workers respond with a picket, the police rush to defend the scabs’ “right to work” with clubs and tear gas. If workers occupy a workplace to prevent its closure, the police will storm in to restore it to its “rightful owners”.