Studies in Communism
Representation And The State
it was fondly thought that a great step had been made in advance when faith was lost in an hereditary monarchy and claims laid to a democratic republic. But even the necessity for such claims was only to be found in the fact that the State's function was mainly legislative and judicial, not industrially administrative. An instrument of oppression used by one class over another, and quite as much so under a democratic republic as under a monarchy, its capture by the bourgeoisie, subsequent to the republican agitation only meant that its existence was becoming less an absolute and more a representative one—and therefore more anonymous and changeable in character—its position was becoming more and more hazardous in view of the advancing industrial conditions in the direction of social production and distribution. Thus as economic conditions have made for Socialism, the political reflex has made less and less for the success of State tyranny. Let us analyze what the failure of the Capitalist State—as the last political reflex of class society—means.
Of late years, the cry for proportional representation, second ballot, etc., has grown in volume. The reason for it has been the obvious failure of the House of Commons, or Chamber of Deputies, as the case may be, throughout capitalist civilization to represent what is termed the opinion of the country. In other words, a majority on the Government benches of the People's Chamber may actually represent a minority of opinion in the country, and generally does not represent the true proportional majority in the country. The historic failure has long been pointing in this direct ion. On the other hand, the Capitalist State existing as a reflex of economic conditions, it can be seen that whilst the cost of its management is being paid for by the capitalist class out of the surplus value, the basis of its recognition of working-class representation is the growing class consciousness of the latter class and the growth of revolutionary endeavour on its part. Even, therefore, as a palliative, and out of sheer despair of curtailing the growth of this spirit, the Capitalist State must give heed to the question of electoral reform, in its various phases of proportional representation, adult suffrage, etc., and even to the question of the abolition of the House of Lords.
Now, on all these questions, the division is rapidly becoming a class, and not an individual one. Bourgeois Radicalism, with its theoretical belief in the modification of the State structure in every particular, and antagonism to Imperial development, has found that the continuance of the society to whose support it looks, demands that their foreign policy shall be a continuation of Tory traditions, and their modifications of State structure exceedingly slow, timid, and expedient. Conversely, in matters of foreign policy and on questions of State structure, the Tory would adopt an attitude of absolute autocracy and non-negation of the status quo. On either of these rocks, capitalism would be bound to split. Radicalism
meaning the undoing of its political power to oppress, and Conservatism the centralization of the power to such an extent that its very menace would be its own undoing. Hence, whilst the political rewards and family traditions have formed the basis of individual adherence to this or that party, concessions to social expediency have been the basis of their political continuance and securement of the stability of the system. But this has meant the gradual but certain coming-together of the two parties for the defence of the profit-mongering system, the equally certain emphasising of their class-basis, the taking of common action against strikers at home and empire-disrupters in the colonies or abroad. The Liberal Statesmen has vied with his Tory confrere in oppression in Egypt, South Africa, and in India, as well as in shooting down the workers at home.
The growing evidence of the hypocrisy of this party system, its essential class unity, has been the cause of Labour, from relying on mere trade union activity, taking to political action. In the whole of that action compromise has been more apparent than stern defiance. But even so it has presented to the capitalist politician some evidences of the inherent tendency of class-society to undo itself.
To counteract such a possibility, all that capitalist politicians can do, with safety, is to concentrate their endeavours on the political reforms of adult suffrage, second ballot, and proportional representation as already indicated. Yet even so, to so extend the franchise and to secure a larger continuance of power, the task of the capitalist politician is no easy one, for to hunt the devil of corruption from parliament to people by an extension of the franchise, is only to more readily expose the basic rottenness of capitalist society and bring about the downfall of its empire.
More and more would it become apparent that the M.P.s were but the puppets of the Party Whips and of the Cabinet, which were but the agents of the desires of trust-magnates, whose growing financial power would involve the corruption of business, politics, and citizenship; the easy punishment and bossing of Premiers, Senates, Titular Monarchs, and Republican Presidents; the ruin of the little middle-class whose affected contempt of the manual labourer would thus slowly vanish together with their position. Carrying with it, as can already be seen, the negation of legislative and judicial dignity, by rendering justice a farce and legislation chicanery, it would inevitably reveal the State's function as one coercive of persons and not administrative of things, and show that the instability of a corrupt society demanding, the stability of a free society would not require, the punishment of persons for evils which were socially produced and not individually malicious. It would also show, that the punishment or coercion of persons was no guarantee of social calm.
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