The boring old idea of representative democracy (rightly slated as being fundamentally hierarchical and unrealistic by all good anarchists) would still be massively dangerous in the hands of someone who knew that we don't have it and in fact we've never come close!
By The Mutualist
Aug 28, 2014
The fairy story we learn at school or from our parents says that we all vote for representatives who then sit in a big building and represent the interests of our community in a discussion about how best to run the country, that they regularly come back and ask our opinion about things, that we can change our representative for anyone we want every few years if they aren't up to the job, that if they weren't sure about a really big decision they'd call a referendum so we could all decide directly. If this was to be believed then aren't we already governing ourselves? Some people have the audacity to claim that we are!
There is a problem with this fairy tale. It is demonstrably not true. what about the following?
- The fact that studies have proved that we live in oligarchy and 99% of us have virtually no impact on what the government does however hard we vote!
- The fact that there are massive entry barriers to become a representative of the people like the fact that in the UK it costs about £34,000 to become an MP.
- That the mass media, made up of just a handful of huge corporations, artificially empowered by and working closely with the state can sway elections any way they want.
- That instead of asking what the people want they tell us what they want to do for/to us and it is usually a long way to the right and more authoritarian than most people want, despite mass media propaganda.
- That they can promise anything during their campaigns and not deliver without fear of consequences apart from the slight risk of not being elected again unless they can put enough spin on it that people will forgive them.
Now here is another dirty word to all good anarchists; reform. What kind of sensible, reasonably moderate sounding reforms might help tackle this?
- Legally binding contracts between the people and their representatives tying them into delivering their campaign promises.
- Stricter rules against corporate lobbying.
- The use of technology to hold cheap, quick referendums on important issues.
Of course, those of us who understand that the state is just the armed wing of the capitalist class know full well, and have always known, that if the people took control of it, they'd be done. The system would be undermined so badly that it would collapse anyway.
The point here is that anarchists should feel free to join in with efforts for reform especially when they are well aware that such reforms would in fact sabotage the system, possibly beyond repair. In fact if we join in we can be right there when people who thought they could make the system work better see it for what it really is when the system's defence mechanisms kick in against them. We can be there to hold their hand and lead them to the inevitable truth that the system is working just fine for those who run it and that the only thing to do if we want change is to try to tear it all down so we can start again.