Actually this analysis seems incomplete. American ‘democracy’ was the result of an elite creation of a republic and a populist trend toward democratization. Thomas Jefferson was no working class revolutionary. That elite included slave owners who rigged the result but the potential for democracy, after a fashion, prevailed with limited suffrage. This process showed signs of class action but it was not the classic marxist process of class struggle, as such. One may stand correction here, but the rosy picture of the essay misses the point and blends two things, republican semi-democracy and class struggle. What is democracy? As Rousseau understood electoral democracy was only one variant, and as Marx understood that variant was limited and subject to control by the ‘bourgeois’.
The picture is murky however, and the basic point of this article is on the mark until it derails. But we forget the struggle entered and lost in the English Civil War where all the elements were present in a spectrum. But all of that failed. Then the Restoration produced the kind of rigged system of Parliament that was to influence the American system. Marx was very critical of such ‘democracies’. But then the Leninist era simply extruded the basic hidden hatred of liberal systems with a confusing mix that ended in dictatorship. Marxists keep proclaiming the democratic side of Lenin. But it is an obscure point. The Soviets seem to show a democratic trend but they disappeared. And democrat or not Lenin was rather careful to assume control with a secret police. The Civil War didn’t help.
So in fact we have a series of incoherent definitions of ‘democracy’ each with examples of their failure. Marx almost got it right but was still not quite there.
In any case we need elite vanguards with democratic/liberal assumptions who will work in relation to a popular trend toward full democracy. Marxists want workers to take total control of some revolutionary outcome. But while workers can create worker institutions can they full resolve the state question? The working class inexorably falls under the spell of a vanguard: we should be wary of that vanguard and make its assumptions democratic. That was the whole point, unstated, of marxism: an elite that could interact with a working class to produce revolutionary transformation. The whole point of marxism is to at least train that ‘elite’, and to cleverly insist it energize a working class. But a dictatorship of the proletariat? The phrase is a misleading catastrophe (granted the original meaning was different). What about the other classes? Marxism left the lurking strategy to simply liquidate the bourgeoisie. The bolshevik and chinese revolutions killed huge numbers, but the elites returned and took control, marxist elites, soon a new bourgeoisie. We must take into account the action of vanguards and stop pretending the working class is fully virtuous or able to create a viable communism. The actual construction is tricky and almost obscure. Worker communes would be terrific, but still the question of the state, inexorably turning into a vanguard controlled entity, needs further analysis.
All this blah blah about democracy: the real thing has never been accomplished. For reasons Marx well understood even though he failed to produce a correct resolution of the dilemma. The system of electoral democracy based on capitalism and private property has failed. we must therefor be careful about our use of the term ‘democracy’.
We must in the sense of our (ecological) DMNC do four things at once: found a democracy, create an economy that is communist but which may contain markets, and the creation of a Commons where equality stretches to the question of property, not the ordinary small scale property but the larger sphere of the industrial level, etc… When we take these elements in isolation we get false results. And we must solve the problem of state power: our model allows a strong presidential system but one that has limited powers and no full control of the economy or any tendency to state capitalism. A Commons is something rather different.
We need to define ‘democracy, and recall the larger analysis of Rousseau who wrote before the emergence of the definition of ‘democracy’ as electoral democracy. The latter may be necessary but not sufficient to create democracy.
Marx and his legacy marxists had the right idea at some point but then the later followers got misled by the useless muddle of bolshevism.
This contains our DMNC model, which is itself incomplete perhaps…
The historical record is clear: democracy was only won when poor people waged disruptive class struggle against the rich. We’ll need more of it to save democracy today.