It is amazing how many people there are in the western world who have no interest in changing opportunities for the better. For example, just look at all the Democrats and Republicans running for office this year. Most of them will tell you that they are running “for their platforms”. In other words they are running to win their parties. If only it were that easy; we could say that politics is a popularity contest and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.
No, that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the fact that most of the leading university press publications are completely focused on candidate selection and primary elections. Issues of voter suppression and voting fraud are not discussed at all and neither is the growing crime wave. In the US in particular, we know that the economic recession has caused many people to lose their jobs, meaning they cannot buy the goods or services that they need or want, therefore spending money is at an all-time high. The result of this is unemployment and rising poverty.
Incomes have collapsed for the vast majority of working class families in both the US and UK. In fact over the past two years the UK has experienced the biggest cut in its budget of any major developed country. This has had a devastating effect on consumer sentiment and consequently on the political parties. The parties now have to find a way to make up for lost income and to win over the British public. Not by offering more state welfare or more job protections, but by doing a better job of creating real opportunities for the new labour force that is coming into the labour markets. A better job for new labour, which in the end will create more tax revenues.
That is why this kind of politics is not going to work. The current system of politics in the UK and throughout the developed world is totally unsuitable for modern democratic societies. For one thing it is based on elite power and cronyism, both of which have nothing to do with democracy. It is also corrupt at every level. The creation of a truly democratic politics, one that is responsive to the needs and interests of ordinary people, is absolutely essential if the political parties are to survive and succeed.
The problem for the political parties and their representatives is therefore not that there are too many voters. It is not that there are too few voters. The problem is that neither of these things are appropriate criteria for the selection of representatives. Instead, what is more important is a mixture of voters and a good mix of party membership. In this way we can ensure that the composition of the legislature reflects the composition of the country as a whole.
The kind of politics that we have currently seen in the UK and throughout much of western Europe is characterised by elitism, corruption, corporalization and permanent decline in the standard of living. This kind of politics is not compatible with democracy. By its very nature it is incapable of providing a space for popular participation. As regards political studies, it is quite clear that the concept of democracy requires public institutions to be democratic. Otherwise we have a situation where the governed no longer trust the governed, and the governed no longer trust themselves.
It was an error not to include democracy as a basic term in the founding documents of the European Union. Without a basic political understanding we will end up with the kind of politics characterized by a handful of powerful politicians ruling over a majority of citizens who have no political power. The EU was designed for this kind of system. So, the challenge for the left in UK and the progressive forces across Europe today is to build an anti-elitist political movement which can provide a viable alternative to the existing elite-elite axis. Such a force must be democratic in nature and based on popular participation.
An important ingredient of such a movement is the development of a genuine commitment to scientific socialism or social-democratic socialism based on social investment based on equity. Science and technology have provided great opportunities for all but the elite. A crucial aspect of scientific investment should be the public good – not private profit! So, science and technology can play a decisive role in building a sustainable economy for the future, but it cannot be the basis for unlimited political rights provided by the state.