As the coronavirus pandemic returns with a vengeance in mainland Europe and prompts a range of panic, emergency counter-actions in the UK, one thing is clear: the system is not up to the challenge that is Covid-19.
No surprise there. The system – aka capitalism – also fails its citizens when it comes to rapidly-accelerating climate change, gross inequality, precarious, low-paid jobs and racial inequality.
Basically, it’s system failure all round. The pandemic is actually the crisis of neoliberal capitalism itself.
In a different world, one based on co-operation and collaboration, where public health came first, we would wait it out until a vaccine was found and dense, cramped, low-standard housing eliminated.
The stock markets and financial institutions deem otherwise. Open up the economy, they demand, to protect shareholders and sustain profits. Of course, these managers of other people’s wealth almost certainly work from home in luxurious conditions. Another case of the officer caste and the poor bloody infantry.
Meanwhile, we suffer a populist government with sinister designs on our basic freedoms, careering towards a calamitous no-deal Brexit on December 31 and terrified of the reactions of countless millions heading for the dole queue.
For leadership and inspiration, do not even think of looking to the new Labour leadership under Sir Keir Starmer. It has nothing to say to anyone and is virtually a junior partner in Johnson’s government.
When we published Democracy Unchained in 2017, the Real Democracy Movement asked:
The loss of legitimacy and authority of the present state-political system of rule, and a marked shift towards authoritarian rule, is indisputable. So what can and should we do about it? There are two main options: 1. try to make the existing system more democratic and responsive to the majority who are effectively excluded from power 2. build a real democracy with new, people-centred forms of governance that value and incorporate past achievements.
Many are concerned that the gains we have already achieved down the centuries could be lost in an upheaval and may feel that Option 1, which would mean pressing for reforms, is preferable. But is it realistic? Is the capitalist type of state capable of being reformed and made into something that will work for the majority? Option 2 is obviously a huge undertaking. It will involve mass social participation and creative practice over a sustained period. It is undoubtedly the hard choice but in reality it almost certainly is the only practical path to a real democracy.
Now is the time to build this new kind of challenge, and not waste our time pressing the government to respond because they are part of the problem, not the solution.
Instead of banging our heads against a brick wall trying to reform a bankrupt system, campaign for new kinds of democratic assemblies out of which can come ideas and actions for dealing with the pressing issues of our time.
The existence of undemocratic bodies at the heart of society and government can be addressed by creating a new written, democratic constitution that places power in the hands of the people and establishes a co-operative not-for-profit economy.
All this amounts to a plan for a democratic revolution. The RDM has sponsored working groups to develop this strategy. Contact us if you want to be part of this exciting transformation project.