Democracy, monarchy, republicanism

Barbados ditches the monarchy. So should we!

On 30 November-1 December, the Caribbean nation of Barbados became a republic, removing the UK monarch as its head of state. The English monarchy took control of Barbados from 1625, wiping out the island’s indigenous population and creating a society based on slavery. The forced labour of black Barbadians played a crucial role in the rise of the first capitalist empire: by 1660 Barbados generated more trade than all other English colonies combined. Enslaved Barbadians resisted fiercely, including through a major uprising in 1816, an important precursor to the abolition of slavery in the...

PR as code for Lib-Dem coalition

I agree with Billy Hayes (interview in Solidarity 608) that proportional representation is more democratic than First Past The Post (FPTP). I think he’s closing his eyes, though, to the political drift shown in many of the PR motions to Labour conference: “In 19 of the last 20 general elections [back to 1950] parties to the left of the Conservatives won the popular vote yet the Tories have governed for two-thirds of that time”. The exception would be 2015, when Tories plus Ulster Unionists plus UKIP added to over 50%. (Going back further, the Tories alone got 50.2% in 1900). But in every...

Interview with Billy Hayes: Time for socialism, time for PR

At Labour Party conference, a motion supporting proportional representation was defeated 42-58, with constituency votes heavily for but union votes heavily against. Billy Hayes is a member of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (LCER) executive and former Communication Workers' Union general secretary. He spoke to us in a personal capacity; these views are his alone. A cut down version was published in the print version of Solidarity 608 with the headline "We need socialism, but democracy helps". The CLPs voted 80% for PR. What we've yet to do is convince the bulk of the unions. Only four...

The World Transformed: scratching the surface

A lot of radical things were said at this year’s The World Transformed festival. As one participant said, many speeches only scratched the surface. Clear political conclusions or concrete demands weren’t always drawn out. For example, at a panel on “Kill The Bill,” speakers said that we cannot support police reform and that we must instead “abolish the police” – all the while talking about the negative implications of the police bill. Occasional jibes were made at “white people talking about Trotsky or whatever, telling us how to do a revolution.” Nevertheless, TWT was an informal, accessible...

Oppose the Elections Bill

The Elections Bill, designed to suppress turnout in UK elections, is yet another weapon in the Tories’ multi-faceted assault on democracy (Police Bill, Spycops Bill, Overseas Operations Bill, threat of a new anti-strike law). The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) estimates that the Bill, about to return to Parliament as it reopens this month, will disenfranchise more than two million people – in addition to the millions who are already not on the electoral roll, due to successive voter-suppressing changes over many years. Over the next decade, this latest ratcheting up of the assault on electoral...

PR is not a shortcut round class struggle

In my Constituency Labour Party (CLP), when we discussed which motion to prioritise for Labour Party conference, much of the left argued that a motion calling for Proportional Representation (PR) was the most important, more important than my class-struggle “Build Back Fairer” motion. The PR proposal was, so they argued, the door which opened the way to everything advocated in the other motions. After all, the Tories’ current parliamentary majority, won through First Past the Post (FPTP), comes despite them holding a minority vote share. With a more democratic electoral system, we wouldn’t be...

Ballots, bullets or...

In 1909, as now, right-wing politicians in the USA were pushing new voter-suppression laws; and at that time vast voter suppression was already routine, against African-Americans in the Southern states. The Socialist Party was still weak (2.8% of the poll in the 1908 presidential election), as was the US union movement, but the SP discussed the threatened block to political advance by electoral means as did the much stronger German Social Democratic Party at the same time. This was the contribution (International Socialist Review, October 1909) by James Connolly, active in the USA between 1903...

Electoral reform yes - "Progressive Alliance" no

In the run-up to Labour Party conference on 25-29 September, one area where the left (and the Labour right, too) remains split is on the question of Proportional Representation. There has been a major organised push to get PR motions on the conference order paper this year. Some on the Labour left oppose PR on the grounds that it would make the process of getting a Labour government more complicated, and that the whole idea is often packaged with support for a “progressive alliance”, some sort of electoral non-aggression pact between Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP...

"Questions of democracy are where to focus our energies"

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, spoke to Sacha Ismail in late March 2021. For an interview Clive did with us in March 2020, see here. There could still be another 30,000 deaths as we approach the end of lockdown, and maybe much more. Even with the vaccine program at full tilt, in the absence of a proper test and trace system, an isolation system and social support for people, it’s still potentially a dire situation and could still overwhelm the NHS. [This was even before the "Indian variant" of Covid was widely discussed.] NHS workers have launched their demand for a 15% pay rise. Do...

Tories prepare voter suppression

Embolded by their success on 6 May, the Tories are proposing new measures to (further) restrict election democracy in the UK. One — a proposal to change executive mayoral elections from a “supplementary vote” system to “first past the post” — is designed to make it harder for opposition parties to win mayoral elections, at a time when the left-and-centre vote is more split than a right-wing vote consolidated around the Tories. Already this time around, the change would have prevented Labour from winning the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor, handing the position to the Tories on the basis...

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