The Corbyn Case

Democracy is not Class-Neutral

Farooque Chowdhury

Despite wide preference for democracy as a political system, or process, it has got some problems; and the problems begin with its definition.

With the term democracy, the general perception is bourgeois democracy, which is nothing but dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Lenin exposed this fact decades ago. Mao had a long discourse on the issue in the perspective of the pre-1949-China. Yet, illusions and mispercep-tions persist, as the aspects/perspective Lenin and Mao discuss are either missed or ignored.

Incidents that go on almost daily, in legislative assemblies, and in acts of executive and judiciary tools of state machine, in advanced bourgeois democracies are eye-openers to perceive the character and nature, to be specific class character and class nature, of bourgeois democracy. Here, the problem is with propaganda and scholarship.

Bourgeois propaganda machine, a powerful part of bourgeois media, hides/presents in a skewed way those facts that expose democracy’s class character. Overwhelming part of the bourgeois scholars also do the same job.

So, the overwhelming perception of bourgeois democracy is democracy-universal, which is not only an erroneous perception, but also a lie, a distortion of facts as democracy isn’t class-neutral, as no political system or process simultaneously and equally can serve all class interests. Even, bourgeois democracy will fail to serve bourgeois interest if, hypothetically, it’s made class-neutral.

In former British colonies, Westminster, etc. are perceived as an ideal example of democracy. However, in the mainstream media, in proceedings of legislative assemblies and courts of law, in acts identified as executive performance, facts exposing class nature of democracy are abundant. A recent case is of Jeremy Corbyn, a former Labour Party leader in the United Kingdom.

A report in Morning Star, UK, (“Military sent Corbyn a warning during bid to become PM, says the former Labour leader”, June 23, 2022, said:

“The military sent Jeremy Corbyn a ‘warning’ during his bid to become prime minister and intelligence services deliberately undermined him, the former Labour leader said in an interview with Declassified UK.
“Mr Corbyn spoke to the publication [Declassified UK] about actions taken by government institutions, senior officials, politicians and parts of the media to damage his chances of becoming PM.

“A week after Mr Corbyn was elected Labour leader in 2015, the Sunday Times ran a story quoting a ‘senior serving general’ who said the military would take ‘direct action’ if he was elected.

“‘When that story came out […] we obviously challenged it straight away and they said it was a rogue element and they didn’t speak for anybody else,’ Mr Corbyn said.

“‘But I thought it was a sort of shot across the bows, a warning to me.’

“MI5 and MI6 met Mr Corbyn in 2018 during confidential talks where they discussed security and foreign policy.

“The existence of the meetings was leaked to the press by the services, Mr Corbyn said, in articles which implied a Corbyn victory could be concerning for security.

“In June 2019, CIA director Mike Pompeo was recorded privately saying: ‘It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected.

‘It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back.

“‘We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.’

“Mr Corbyn said that the lack of British media reporting on the comment is because the platforms are largely ‘supine’ and self-censoring.

“‘The vast majority of the mainstream media haven’t lifted so much as a little finger in support or defence of Julian Assange,’ he said.”

The Declassified UK report [“Exclusive: Jeremy Corbyn on the establishment campaign to stop him becoming PM, June 22, 2022, which the Morning Star report cited, said:

“The media assault on Corbyn during his tenure as Labour leader from 2015-20 will be recorded as perhaps the most intense political assassination in modern British history.

“The campaign to make sure he never made it into No 10 came from the usual suspects on the right such as the Sun and the Telegraph, but self-styled left publications like the Guardian and New Statesman were key to it as well.

“The campaign also included, crucially, large parts of his own party. The reality is that barely a single element of the British establishment didn’t mobilise to see off the threat he posed.”

It said further: Some 34 major national stories attacking Corbyn as a “threat” to British security had come from elements within the national security state.

So, the mainstream media are also there.

The anonymous general referred in the report said: “There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.” There’re MI5 and MI6 also.

Corbyn’s statement cited above leave no illusion about the way bourgeois democracy, and the state machine, work in safeguarding its interests, or the interests it is assigned to protect. Similar exposures are many, but these go unnoticed by the mainstream scholars. The MSM also ignores the fact of bourgeois political life.

Corbyn was neither going for radical transformation of nor smashing down the state machine. Despite this fact, if he encounters such a reality, then, sensitiveness of the interests the machine serves are clear as daylight, as is also clear the connections the machine entails. It’s also part of politics of a certain class interest that feels uncertain or threatened with distant possibility of change in its politics, deliberation of parts of state machine, allocation of resources, etc, although the Lab Party in no terms stands for abolition of machines for exploitation. There was no question of fundamental change in the area of participation in politics, which is a major issue in democratic arrangement, and for people’s political power. Elevation of one or two leaders to certain posts in state machine doesn’t change these. Despite these facts, the advanced bourgeois democracy acted in the manner Corbyn has described.

And, another fact is: Everything in bourgeois state machine isn’t formal, isn’t arranged formally. A major part of this machine moves on informally, always not in public view. Many informal connections play crucial role in the operation of state machine, and in securing exploitative interests. This fact is also ignored by the mainstream—media and scholars. Someone may like it or not, Lenin helps understand these facts related to bourgeois democracy.

If this is the reality in advanced bourgeois democracy, the state of democracy in former colonies/present day neo-colonies is easy to perceive as these systems/processes in these countries are nothing but arrangements, etc. to safeguard interests of dominating classes; and the dominating classes are exploiting classes.

With imperialism having interference, the entire business of politics, be it political institution or electoral/legislation, etc. processes or participation, in these countries turns into nothing but mockery of democracy and safeguarding of exploiting system. In any area of domestic or foreign policies—politics, no doubt—this is stark, and politics is, Lenin argues, “participation in the affairs of state, direction of the state, definition of the forms, tasks and content of state activity”. (“Plan for an article ‘On the question of the role of the state’”, Collected Works, vol. 41, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1971) In class divided society with the exploiting classes as the dominant class, the exploited classes have no scope for participation in the state affairs, in direction of state, in defining forms, tasks and content of state activity until and unless political and organisational power of the exploited stand as an active political force. The space, relative in real term, that is occasionally or intermittently gained is either due to urgencies of the dominating/exploiting interests or development of people’s political struggle. With this reality, the Corbyn case is an eye-opener if someone denies looking at past experiences and incidents in that advanced bourgeois democracy and in other advanced bourgeois democracies.


[Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh. His recent publications include With the Passing Time, NGG Books, 2021 (]  

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Vol 55, No. 5, Jul 31 - Aug 6, 2022