Peter Petroff May 1934
Source: Labour, May 1934;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
It has now become the fashion to denounce democracy, Parliamentarism and democratic forms of government are regarded by some people as obsolete.
Schemes of “reform” of the democratic machine by the setting-up of “economic councils” of some kind to supplement or rather to supersede Parliament are being put forward from diametrically opposite quarters. Society is ripe for the change from capitalism to Socialism, and all sorts of people are busy advertising political pills to cure the impending social earthquake.
Various forms of dictatorship are being advocated – from the extreme right and from the extreme left. Here, again, extremists meet.
Reactionaries have, at all times and in all countries denounced democracy. This is not new. It is only natural that the magnates of capital and their ideologists should now, when the workers may use the weapon of democracy, mobilise their forces.
However, that this time should be chosen by people of “advanced views” to carry on a campaign against democracy is characteristic of the confusion of thought that prevails.
Demands for emergency powers to be given to a government, or for the usurpation of the rights of the electors by an arbitrary prolongation of the life of Parliament, or the limitation of the rights of members of Parliament and parliamentary commissions (as is being advocated in France) are a sign of the times. This, however, is a game at which two can play.
These people of “advanced views” by advocating such measures sincerely believe they are talking revolution. They remind one of a Moliere hero who believed he was talking poetry while in reality he was talking prose.
Of course, after a Revolution a provisional government has to use emergency powers for a short time in order to clear away the remnants of an old regime.
This was the case during the Paris. Commune. On March 18 the proletarian National Guard gained a victory, but already on March 26 all the power was delivered to a body freely elected by adult suffrage.
Yet our modern theorists without a theory are advocating dictatorial methods without a Revolution.
And what alternatives to democracy are being put forward nowadays?
Dictatorship of the Fascist or of the Bolshevist type.
Present-day Europe provides us with sufficient models of dictatorship and autocracy.
The modern form of dictatorship is the One-Party State. The features of the ruling party determine the features of the state.
Italy and Germany are two types of reactionary Fascist one-party states. The economic basis is private capitalism. The ruling class in both these countries are the magnates of capital – their interests are held to be identical with the “interests of the nation.”
Russia, on the other hand, is an example a revolutionary Bolshevist one-party state based on state capitalism with communist aspirations in its ruling party. The interests of the working class are assumed to be identical with the interests of the state.
In all these states all opposition to the official policy of the ruling party is vigorously suppressed. No other parties or groups can legally exist – oppositional groups or shades of opinion within the ruling party are severely persecuted.
In the one-party state there is only one absolute truth, and that is in the possession of the party – or its leader. Any deviation from it is criminal heresy.
“Mussolini is always right,” reads one of the ten commandments of the Italian Fascists.
The little puppet Hitler is the infallible “leader” who has brought to the German nation a new gospel.
In Soviet Russia it is the Party that is infallible. Trotsky expressed that at the last party congress he attended: “The party is always right.” Stalin is now declared to be its theoretical, spiritual and political leader.
In democratic states the principle is that all power emanates from the people. In the one-party state of the Fascist type the principle is that all power emanates from the leader; in Bolshevist Russia from the party.
While under Fascism the party is only an instrument in the hands of the real rulers, in Bolshevist Russia the party was – at all events still in theory – the institution in which the dictatorship is vested. Therein lies one of the main formal distinctions between the two types of one-party states as a system of government.
In the one-party state the elections are a mockery. There can be no other candidates except those put forward by the one party. The word “election” loses its meaning as there is no selection, no choice. All the elector is called upon to do is to endorse the official candidate. He may decline to do so by abstaining from voting or by spoiling his ballot paper. In the first instance he risks his limbs, liberty and livelihood, in use second instance his negative vote is of no avail since there is no control in the counting of the recorded votes. Thus, Mussolini and Hitler could afford themselves the luxury at an “election.”
In Russia the elections are performed not by secret ballot, but under severe pressure by a show of hands. They are extended over a number of days.
Yet the Russian system is referred to as a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
When Marx coined this expression he had in view a democratically-elected body using coercive measures against an obstructive minority during a short transitional peril after a Revolution.
Lenin perverted this clear meaning into dictatorship of one proletarian party. In the course of events in Russia party dictatorship narrowed down into the dictatorship first of the Executive Committee, then of the latter’s political bureau, finally of its general secretary – Stalin.
In the one-party state there is constant confusion between party organisations and state institutions. Sometimes party organisations take upon themselves functions of state institutions, sometimes state institutions, take over party functions.
The one-party state invariably has a regimented press, as only the one official opinion may be expressed.
The result is decay and degradation of the entire social and political life of the country.
All the progressive forces of the country are driven underground, hunted by an almighty and corrupt secret police, while the rotting system spreads its microbes all over the globe colouring the shirts of infected individuals in various countries.