Dead Men Left

Monday, February 28, 2005

Reviewing Paul Foot's last work, The Vote: how it was won and how it was undermined, Francis Wheen opines:

While illuminating our democratic deficit, Foot doesn't fall into the trap of dismissing liberal democracy altogether: "Whatever its chronic weaknesses and paralyses, the parliamentary system and the thin gruel of democracy it offers us are indispensable to any agitation for progress." How odd, then, that his book concludes by urging us all to join the Socialist Workers' party - the same party which derides last month's elections in Iraq, where millions of voters turned out despite enormous difficulties, while it cheers on the Ba'athist neo-fascists and theocratic gangsters of the so-called "resistance".

It is breathaking that an apparently sympathetic review of a 500-page book arguing passionately that the only plausible route to democracy lies through the actions of ordinary people themselves should glibly conclude that democracy, in fact, can arrive with the US Marine Corps. Hal Draper, the great US socialist, wrote long enough ago of socialism's "two souls": one, a profoundly democratic belief in the possibility and necessity of working people changing the world by their own actions; the other, an elitist view of working people as passively receiving bounty from enlightened "socialist" leaders. That the pro-war "left" goes further, and now sees in Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush such a virtuous elite is a fine tribute to its moral disintegration.