What Would a Real Democracy Look Like?
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Date(s) - Thu 21 May
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

5th Floor, Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft



Democracy is today’s all-popular buzzword, beloved alike of mainstream politicians, the Arab revolutionaires, and young people protesting in Spain. For people like David Cameron democracy means a parliament which gives rein to the tyranny of market forces, and the grotesque inequalities that brings. Those facing poverty and unemployment expect the opposite of this democracy – freedom from want, and a just society.

Every movement against capitalism also strives for democracy (and most of today’s meagre rights were won by such struggles from below), but democracy of a different character. Fundamental change requires the creation of a movement which mobilises vast numbers of the system’s victims. They cannot be involved if they cannot shape that movement or articulate their demands through it – if they do not have real, rather than fictitious, democracy. This is not an abstract question. We see a striving for such democracy every day. Anti-cuts committees, active union meetings and grassroots campaigns all have democratic discussion and decision-making at the base, even if at higher levels there may be bureaucrats at work. However, as long as the dictatorship of wealth is dominant, these currents can express only the first part of democracy – “demos” (the people).

In Paris in 1871 it was the “Commune” (against a parliament at Versailles); in 1917 in Russia the soviets opposed the Duma and Constituent Assembly; in Germany two years later workers’ councils challenged the Reichstag, and so on. Such democratic forms from below appear equally in revolts against dictatorships: witness the shoras in Iran in 1979 or Solidarity in Poland in 1980.

Above all, our democracy is based on collective units of the people where they can exercise a powerful control. In place of the ongoing dictatorship of the market masked by an occasional “X” on a ballot form, it offers active debate and an electorate to whom all representatives are continuously answerable. Ultimately, whether the decisions made are enforceable depends on revolution being successful.

Come and debate how a real democracy might work at this meeting organised by Bristol North Socialist Workers Party.