Workers' Liberty 17, January 1994. Socialism and Democracy

Socialism and Democracy: democracy, direct action and the class struggle

Published on: Wed, 08/04/2015 - 17:19

Was advocating extra-parliamentary direct action to bring down the elected Thatcher government anti-democratic? Are 'by democratic means' and 'by parliamentary means' identical concepts?

Socialism and Democracy: Workers' Liberty special issue (no.17), January 1994

Download the pamphlet as two pdfs:

  • Debate from 1982 between Michael Foot, then Labour Party leader, and John O'Mahony (Sean Matgamna), with a 1994 introduction
  • Appendices, including texts on socialism and democracy by James P Cannon, Max Shachtman, V I Lenin, and Hal Draper.

Read it online:
Introduction: Democracy, direct

1917 was a democratic revolution!

Published on: Sat, 04/08/2007 - 19:07

Max Shachtman

The 1917 revolution was one of the greatest democratic moments in history.

The Bolshevik Party, which is now lyingly identified in both outright bourgeois and hypocritical Labour Party- style anti-socialist propaganda, as an enemy of democracy, was, above all else, the great force for democracy in the Russia of 1917. It was a force, moreover, without which the workers and peasants of the former Tsarist empire would have been crushed and their drive for democratic self-rule drowned in blood. These are the truths propounded and convincingly argued for by Max Shachtman.

Shachtman was a founder of

Marxism and democracy

Published on: Sun, 08/04/2007 - 14:15

By James P Cannon. This is an extract from Cannon's reply to a criticism of his court evidence in 1941.

Comrade Munis [1] is dissatisfied with our assertions at the trial that “we submit to the majority”.

The Oehlerites also are scornful of this declaration and represent it as some kind of capitulatory repudiation of our principles in order to impress the jury. All these assumptions are without foundation. Our “submission to the majority” was not first revealed at the trial. We said it before the trial and continue to repeat it after the trial. It is a correct statement of our position because

The movement of the majority

Published on: Sun, 08/04/2007 - 13:45

By James P Cannon, from Socialism on Trial, 1941. This is an extract from Cannon's evidence in the court where, during World War 2, he and other American Trotskyists and trade unionists were put on trial and jailed for hindering the US war effort.

Q: And how will the dictatorship of the proletariat operate insofar as democratic rights are concerned?

A: We think it will be the most democratic government from the point of view of the great masses of the people that has ever existed, far more democratic, in the real essence of the matter, than the present bourgeois democracy in the United States.

PR, democracy, and socialism

Published on: Sat, 07/04/2007 - 19:49

By John O'Mahony
(Socialist Organiser, 5 January 1989)

Democracy is one of the most abused and prostituted words in the political dictionary. Mrs Thatcher is a great "democrat" in her speeches and demagogy—the self same Mrs Thatcher who has done more in the last decade to increase the element of autocratic state control in our lives than any prime minister since the end of World War 2. The same Mrs Thatcher who works as the relentless agent of the economic tyrants who control British finance and industry, and therefore rule our lives, completely outside any democratic control or accountability

Labour Party: the sham of "one member, one vote"

Published on: Sat, 07/04/2007 - 19:42

By John Bloxam and John O'Mahony

"After the rising of the 17th of June [the East Berlin workers uprising of 1953] the Secretary of the Writers Union had leaflets handed out in the Stalinallee in which it can be read that the people had forfeited the confidence of the government, and could only win it back by redoubled efforts. Would it not be simpler if the government dissolved the people and elected another?"

Bertold Brecht, The Solution

One member one vote" has now become the main political rallying cry of the right, and their voice and base in Fleet Street (narrow base, loud voice!). The

Vladimir Lenin on democracy and dictatorship

Published on: Thu, 05/04/2007 - 14:32

Lenin called for the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as a great expansion of democracy.

By "dictatorship" he meant the rule of a class, not of a Hitler or a Stalin. This is an abridged version of Lenin's "Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat", adopted by the founding congress of the Communist International in March 1919. Long-forgotten contemporary references and examples have been cut.

FACED WITH THE GROWTH of the revolutionary workers' movement in every country, the bourgeoisie and their agents in the workers' organisations are making desperate political

Democracy, Direct Action and Class Struggle: the Defects of Bourgeois Democracy

Published on: Sun, 25/03/2007 - 21:23

John O'Mahony

The malaise of bourgeois democracy in Britain is now a subject of much discussion and concern. The discussion on democracy, early in 1982, between Michael Foot, then leader of the Labour Party, and Socialist Organiser, a forerunner of AWL, may help readers form a clearer picture of the issues beyond small-scale financial corruption.

When Foot wrote articles in the Observer on democracy, revolution, socialism, and Stalinism, his immediate point was to insist that Trade Union direct action to resist the attacks of the Thatcher Government on the working class and the labour movement, would be a

Michael Foot: My kind of democracy (part 1)

Published on: Sun, 25/03/2007 - 21:18

Why parliament? Can those old arthritic limbs still move as the nation needs?

Why parliamentary democracy? Why should democratic socialists and, more especially, democratic socialists in Britain, continue to assert their faith in the supremacy of Parliament? Were those who framed the Labour Party constitution right in their sense of balance when they declared that their objective was to sustain a Labour Party in Parliament and in the country?

These questions touch some of the present discontents within the party, and it is right that the answers should be sought afresh. It is not possible or

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