Putting Socialism on the Agenda By William Bowles

31 August 2006

The basis of government [is] wrongly confused with the sovereign [or people], whose minister it is …. It is simply and solely a commission, an employment, in which the rulers, mere officials of the sovereign [or people], exercise in their own name the power of which it makes them depositories. This power it can limit, modify or recover at pleasure. – Rousseau[1]

Okay, hopefully refreshed after an extended withdrawal from all things Internet, I’m ready to enter the fray once more. However, I intend to do things a little differently from now on. I will continue to add third party content to the site, especially aggregated links like the excellent ICH, VTJP, URUK Net and others, but I will no longer distribute a complete list of new files added. Instead, click on this link to new files added. Also, take advantage of the RSS feed above which is automatically updated from the Home Page list of newly added files, then you get links delivered directly to your desktop.

I will continue to send my own essays out to subscribers first, and I will feature essays I consider of particular interest to readers along with a short summary of the contents aka Information Clearing House.

Also, I want to shift the focus somewhat, as I consider that there are more than enough articles and essays covering the various and sundry crimes of capital being produced by what is now a fairly substantial body of good writers.

Rather, at least based upon what readers seem to respond to the most, I want to focus on content that explore the way forward, or perhaps the various avenues being explored including developments in places like Venezuela, Cuba and other points South and to what degree their experiences can be applied to our own situation.

I think it’s time we put the idea of socialism back on the front burner given the parlous state of the world.

I know that this is not an easy subject to deal with as many on the Left still seem to be living in a time-warp and indeed the very idea of socialism has suffered a real setback since the demise of the Soviet Union and other comparable countries. However, it strikes me that we have no choice; as my good friend Patricia so aptly stated: ‘It’s either socialism or barbarism!’

What form it will take and how we can regain the initiative is as yet unknown but the reality is that capitalism is now more virulent and dangerous than at any previous time, not only to the people of the planet but to the planet itself!

We in the developed world have a very special responsibility, after all it‘s our alleged leaders who are doing the damage and it’s we who are permitting it to happen!

The current situation is somewhat paradoxical insofar as worldwide opposition to the predations of the pirates is probably unparalleled. Compare the situation today with that of the last major war the US unleashed on the planet, Vietnam. Even as the invasion of Iraq was being planned and then executed, public opposition was enormous, not that this stopped them but it does signal a major change in the consciousness of many millions of people.

This massive opposition also explains why the US and the UK specifically have gone on the offensive against their own populations, fearing quite rightly, the potential power of the population to interfere with their plans.

Yet in spite (or perhaps because?) of the universal condemnation of the leading capitalist states’ wars of predation and the commensurate lack of an alternative to the present insanity, opposition finds itself essentially powerless. This is a situation made all the more precarious because of the role the ‘war on terror’ plays in demonising and isolating all who oppose imperialist rule, for it is under the pretext of fighting the ‘terrorist‘ that increasing sections of opposition to the rule of capital are now being targeted by the very same laws allegedly designed to stop terrorism.

Central to the issue is, in my opinion, the nature of democracy, first under capitalism and then under socialism, for without a clear idea of how real democracy works, we will forever be at the mercy of those who constitute the political class, the professional politicians and their army of ‘spin doctors’ and other parasites, without which the ruling elites could not maintain their rule.

This is why our governments increasingly resemble those Latin American dictatorships of the 1970s and 80s, what Guillermo O’Donnell called “delegative democracy” which he described as:

“Delegative democracies rest on the premise that whoever wins election to the presidency is thereby entitled to govern as he or she sees fit, constrained only by the hard facts of existing power relations and by a constitutionally limited term of office.” [2]

The so-called liberal democracies of which the US and the UK claim to be, have degenerated into a mockery of the democratic process.

“The growth of executive power, the emasculation of parliament and the destruction of inner-party democracy and civil liberties have contributed to voter disillusionment in the very countries which like to present themselves as democratic models for the world, but which no longer live up to their own liberal principles.’[3]

If we are to stand a chance of defeating the scourge of capitalism, it will be firstly through redefining the nature of democracy, the decision-making process itself. It means doing away with a ‘democracy’ which has been described as:

“… corresponding to its economic model, based on treating the voters as consumers whose political choices amount to superficial whims in response to marketing techniques.”[4]

Whether we can reclaim and redefine the democratic process without also transforming the economic basis of society is something of a chicken and egg problem considering how closely intertwined the two processes are but without our direct participation in the political process, there is no possibility for change, except for the worse.


1. All the quotes are taken from ‘Democracy and Revolution – Latin America and Socialism Today’ by DL Raby, Pluto Books, 2006. (I will shortly be writing a review of this book.)
2. ibid
3. ibid
4. ibid 


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