Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The gulf with parliament

Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, is a deeply worried man. What apparently keeps him awake at night is the growing gulf between people’s aspirations and the response – or lack of it - from parliament over the invasion of Iraq and New Labour’s plans to spend £70 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons. In a less than coherent article courtesy of The Guardian, Murray says that "public opinion must surely soon start to percolate past the impenetrable object that a mute and cowed parliament of place-people has represented these last four years". Praising the example of the Democrats in the US Congress – who have finally started to question the war they authorised in 2003 because it is going so badly wrong for the US – Murray hopes that the same could and should happen in Britain. Why? Because in his words, "it is past time to bridge the gulf between parliament and people that the Iraq war has opened up". For Murray, Saturday’s anti-war march in London will accordingly be directed to that end.

Only someone who wants to preserve the status quo of the parliamentary political system – through which the economic and political ruling elites govern – can advocate reviving it, especially when millions are clearly moving in the opposite direction. Murray is such a person. He is a leading member of the Communist Party of Britain – a party which actually stands for the exact opposite of what its name might suggest. The aim of this organisation is not social revolution but, according to its programme, the creation of a "new type of left government, based on a Labour, socialist and communist majority in the Westminster parliament". This is more or less the reformist formula that one Joseph Stalin, brutal overlord of the Soviet Union, had inserted in the party’s programme in the late 1940s. Stalinist control had already ensured that the British party supported the murderous purges that had taken place in the USSR, along with the Stalin-Hitler pact, the post-war division of Europe and the subsequent crushing of revolutions in East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Little has changed over the years. Murray’s party to this day remains one that regards the parliamentary state as a neutral body to be influenced and pressured rather than a set of instruments for capitalist rule. Hence his call to "bridge the gulf".

Anyone concerned with developing democratic rule in Britain would actually be concerned with how this gulf could be widened not bridged, deepened not filled in, about how to win support for democratic alternatives. Political power, in any case, has never been exercised in parliament. Today, not even the cabinet holds the reins of power. This is manipulated by the presidential-type, authoritarian regimes that are now the norm in Britain, arising first under Thatcher and now expressed through Blair (and soon by Brown). Blair’s regime is itself directly responsive to the source of economic power in the shape of the representatives of the global corporations. These secret power structures are inherently undemocratic and can never be converted into anything better or more progressive. Increasing numbers of people sense that the notion of parliamentary democracy is more fictional than real. They are turning away from New Labour in large numbers and are increasingly reluctant to waste their votes at election time. These frustrations are the basis for extending the principles of democracy throughout every sphere of society, from local affairs to control over economic and financial resources. It's got to be better than flogging the dead parliamentary horse any more.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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