Hypocrisy of Liberal Democracy at the Expense of Class Struggle

Hypocrisy of Liberal Democracy at the Expense of Class Struggle

2 min. read | By John Clark

Bureaucracy is not very original but still entirely valid to point out that liberal democracy is the preferred political system for the class rule of the capitalists.

Liberal Democracy in Class Struggle
Liberal Democracy Inside Class Struggle | © Kiri Vadivelu

While the iron fist of the state is always at the ready, the legitimacy that comes with universal suffrage and a limited but significant body of formal rights is worth a lot in securing the hegemonic position of the exploiting class. Their wealth, power and influence enables them to dominate the electoral process, the workings of government and the operations of state administration to a huge degree. They must be somewhat flexible and ready to accept some adverse outcomes but their fundamental interests aren't normally at risk.

More authoritarian forms of rule are problematic in a number of ways. Liberal democracy allows for necessary tactical concessions and compromises to be brokered within an agreed upon set of rules that limit and contain the class struggle. Social tensions can be relieved under such a system, where a harsher form of rule can only suppress them indefinitely.

At the same time, liberal democracy establishes a reliable 'rule of law' that is predictable and efficient. The state power is as arms length as necessary but still controllable. Conflicts of interest within the ruling class can be arbitrated and governments will play by an agreed upon set of rules that more directly dictatorial regimes may not adhere to.

What is fairly obvious in all of this, however, is that liberal democracy rests on a certain level of stability and social compromise and it can become an unaffordable luxury at times of societal crisis. The neoliberal decades have seen systems of rule and administration that were developed at a time when concessions were being brokered, adapted to meet the needs of a uniformly regressive agenda. At the time of Reagan and Thatcher, this new order was relatively stable but, in this period of 'polycrisis,' things are far less secure and certain.

We are seeing great instability and a crisis of legitimacy for political parties (from conservative to social democratic) that have shared the task of managing capitalism. We are also seeing a mood of reactionary rage and the development of a social base that can produce a mass fascist movement. Working class resistance is beginning to confront the limitations of regulated systems of class compromise that are no longer viable.

Liberal democracy is by no means a spent force and the dominant sections of the ruling class are certainly not ready to give it up at this point. I would say, however, that the writing is on the wall. Under the impact of economic instability, class war 'solutions' that drive down standards, intensifying global rivalry and the disastrous impacts of environmental degradation, the minimum level of stability and social compromise needed for liberal democracy won't be there. If the working class can't provide a solution in the period ahead, the alternative remedy will be decidedly authoritarian, if not fascistic.

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