Monday, January 20, 2014

Democracy and Law

If you have just laws, you have no overwhelming need for elections, the laws and accountability through these laws (i.e. constitutional and general law including employment law) can form the essence of democracy and protect the citizen and provide for an accountable system of government; elections are in contrast something of a lottery, and they can rarely provide a result that really represents the majority interests, although it always holds this promise out to the electors. The law is something that is crafted over time by society to, ostensibly, provide social justice; it is in this sense science at the level of politics. But this science meets with the anti science of current economics, the science that wishes to ignore science and opt for chance; the anarchy of the markets, it sees order and the idea of a 'command economy', an economy guided by humans, to be the enemy. It therefore likes lotteries. Here therefore it has met the rigors of the class struggle. The struggle for just law sits alongside the struggle for more authentic democracy, it is the bedrock of the move to greater accountability.

The fact is that the law in current advanced capitalist societies has failed to represent the majority, and electoral democracy has also failed to defend their interests, and this is the major problem of our times, we have seen protests ranging from Brazil to Egypt via Turkey and Greece. This is a problem that cannot be solved by more and more elections with the same arrangements (as in Egypt is being tried, but at least the recent elections are over a constitution). Certainly, less corruption and more genuine accountability is always to be welcomed if it is at all possible or credible by election, but can this be achieved within most of the present corrupt parliamentary systems in Europe? Specifically Greece, Spain, Italy, the UK, or within the EU state apparatus that sits atop them, there is a democratic deficit.

The law in capitalism supports capitalism, this is obvious, which means it supports a system of wages and exploitation and the anarchy of the markets. Lately this system has bailed out massive corporations and banks, but called for austerity for workers, who are also intended to pay for these bail outs in their taxes. This is patently unjust, but there is no law that can really intervene; at best more obvious fraud may be tackled with ineffective fines and in a very few cases imprisonment of individuals (e.g. Madoff). So the problem of current democracy, even if it was at its best and most representative and accountable, always hits the wall of law which defends capital against its critics. The structures of exploitation are legal, so to abolish them would therefore be illegal, unless the law is changed. Can the law be changed by the elected lawmakers in parliament?

Superficially this is the role of the executive power, but we can readily see that no party or representative is so radical as to suggest the abolition of the employment laws that allow for exploitation, on the contrary, we even, since the onset of the crisis, have witnessed a return to near slavery with the expansion of zero hours contracts in the UK and 'mini-jobs' in Germany. Precarious kinds of labor are rife these days. Electoral democracy has stagnated not because it has the possibility of ever actually functioning perfectly but has merely lately slipped into bad ways, but because we have reached its political limits within the capitalist economy and the laws that maintain it and it maintains. This has been shown to us by the crisis. The crisis has revealed the truth of electoral representative democracy, that it has limits of representation, and so is limited democracy, limited by law and by economics, There will be calls, against this, for a new constitutive power, new law, and new kinds of democracy; we have seen the start of these with the Occupy type movements. But many of these calls avoid looking at the issue of class, and therefore tend to ignore the necessary role of the majority working class in protests, which is likely to lead to fragmentation. Recently more working class protest has broken out in Burgos, Spain, which have so far been successful and have not been shy of this dimension.

Gary Tedman

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