By Paul Feldman
You don’t have to be told that the world has changed dramatically since the pandemic. The old “normal” was revealed as a hollow shell in country after country. States around the world have failed the people.
We can’t return to the old ‘normal’. A massive economic downturn is inevitable and much more. In any case, the old normal was the problem in the first place. The massive, global protests against police brutality and racism after the murder of George Floyd testify to that.
So a democratic revolution is actually a practical necessity.
What is a democratic revolution?
The way I look at it, a democratic revolution changes state power, the system of rule in society. It’s a revolutionary transition brought about by mass involvement.
The existing system was established during almost a century of revolution. In 1649, England became a republic after the execution of Charles I for provoking a civil war with Parliament. Ordinary citizens formed the New Model Army to carry the revolution through. It wasn’t democracy as we have come to know it but there was certainly mass involvement. Power passed from the Crown to Parliament and the New Model Army.
In 1688, a second, political, revolution, consolidated the changes and created a new state framework with a constitutional monarchy. This framework remains the foundation of the modern British state.
By 1700 the scene was set for the state to encourage the development of and create the conditions for capitalism and empire. The democratic side of the constitution came much later after a series of bitter struggles in the 19th century. It wasn’t until 1929 that all men and women had the vote.
So why do we need a modern, democratic revolution now?
The present state – in particular Parliament, government, the major political parties, local government, public health agencies, the bureaucracy that runs the NHS, the BBC and so on – has failed the people over the pandemic.
The pandemic has exposed in the cruellest way state-driven inequalities and discrimination in society in terms of class, race and age. Workers, minorities and the elderly are the principal victims of coronavirus.
Over the last 30-40 years, the post-war welfare state has given way to a market, corporate-driven state. Or what some call a neoliberal state. Inequality has soared, climate change is out of control and democratic rights, like the right to vote, rendered largely ineffectual. We have representation but minimal influence, let alone power.
As a result, the state was ill-prepared for the pandemic. When the virus hit, the public health framework was fragmented. Local authorities, who had been starved of resources, were left out in the cold. There had been no attempt to learn from pandemic exercises. The UK, and England in particular, was exposed to coronavirus before it arrived. It’s no accident that the US, the UK and now Brazil have the highest death rates globally.
For those who think neoliberalism has been dealt a blow by the pandemic, think again. The UK government has outsourced testing to Deloitte, the world’s largest so-called professional services network. And track and trace has gone the notorious outsourcing global corporation Serco.
Parliament has been sidelined. Scientific advice is rejected with the aim of driving people back to work to get the capitalist economy functioning again. People have largely been left to their own devices.
When the state cannot protect its citizens from a pandemic, when it refuses to deal with climate change, with deepening inequality and open racism, it’s time for a democratic revolution.
This is about more than getting rid of the Tory government, important as that is. It’s about creating a new, truly democratic system from top to bottom.
It’s about remaking the state, remaking democracy. The system right from the government down to the police is beyond reform. So it’s about system change. Then let’s think about what the aims of a democratic revolution should be; how we can build support for the campaign and what actions we should prepare.
Join us online on June 15 to take the project for a democratic revolution to the next stage. Register for ‘Change the System – next steps’ here.
This is an amended version of the introduction I gave to the
‘Change the System’ online event on June 8