Socialism is essential to Democracy

We are constantly told that we live in a democracy. The word was used repeatedly as part of the justification of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were seeking to implant our democratic values in these countries.

Yet of what significance is our democracy if we in fact live in a capitalist state, in which all the main parties believe that the great wealth and capital being made by private individuals and companies should be left almost completely with those private concerns?

The abandonment by Labour of its socialist heritage has left no main party arguing that great wealth should be harnessed, even occasionally, for the public good.

The potential for democratic change is gradually being worn away. The early Labour Party believed in achieving socialism by democratising the state. Now all the parties want to reduce the state, leaving most of us with a correspondingly reduced ability to influence the way things are run. Increasingly, those with money and power are just left to get on with it.

We easily delude ourselves that we live in a modern democracy. The level of political debate was much higher in Britain in the early part of the 20th century. This was largely because Labour, through the socialist principles gradually taking root in in the party, posed a genuine alternative. Immediately, prior to the First World War there was a major debate in the Labour Party on voting reform. The relative merits of proportional representation and the alternative vote were fully discussed, with the latter being narrowly favoured. By contrast, New Labour completely ditched the whole question. Now the remnants of New Labour are seeking to crush even the move towards the alternative vote system.

Democracy can only be meaningful if the different parties stand for clearly defined and different positions. Labour must rediscover its roots and integrity if it is to make a contribution