Craig Murray: Democracy’s Demise

What we had from roughly 1920 to 1990, when voting really could make a difference, is not what we have now. We live instead in a post-democratic society.

Twilight of Westminster. (Joe Lauria)

By Craig Murray

British Labour leader Keir Starmer’s determination to use his refusal to alleviate child poverty as the issue with which to demonstrate his macho Thatcherite credentials, has provided one of those moments when blurred perceptions crystallise.

A Labour government in the U.K. under Starmer will bring no significant changes in economic or foreign policy and will make no difference whatsoever to the lives of working class people.

If dividends were taxed at the same rate as wages, that alone would bring in very many times the cost of lifting the two-child benefit cap. But that would hurt the owners of capital and be redistributive, so it is firmly off Starmer’s agenda.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, Wes Streeting, shadow health minister, and Starmer have no intention of attempting to bridge society’s stunning and ever-growing wealth gap.

Rather they seek to emphasise “wealth creation” and return to trickledown theory. Alongside “wealth creation” they talk of “reform”, by which they mean more deregulation and more private, for profit provision of public services.

The Labour Party has not only abandoned all thought of securing a capital interest for the worker in the enterprise where they work. The Labour Party has also abandoned the ideas both of state intervention in the unequal dynamic between worker and employer, and of facilitating and supporting self-organisation of Labour.

Tory anti-union legislation is to remain, and who can forget Starmer banning Labour MPs from official union picket lines?

The Labour Party in power is also not going to repeal the hostile environment for immigrants legislation, or the Tory attacks on civil liberties and the right to protest.

What precisely therefore is the purpose of the Labour Party? An extension to which question is, what then is the purpose of the next U.K. general election?

To register disgust at the rule of the Tories by voting in an alternative set of Tories?

There has been an undercurrent of concern about the sprint to the right under Starmer, but somehow the two-child benefit cap has crystallised it in the public mind. The fact that there is no real choice on offer to the electorate has even broken into the mainstream media narrative (the embedded video, not the tweet, though I agree with that too).

It is not just a Westminster thing. Famously, the Scottish National Party (SNP) have won eight successive electoral mandates on Scottish Independence while their elected representatives have done absolutely zero about it. They have not even really pretended they intend to do anything about it.

Western democracy appears to have failed in the sense that elections can achieve nothing that makes any difference to the lives of ordinary people. They only make a difference to lives of members of the political class, who jump on or off the gravy train according to the result.

This is not an accident. Those who have threatened the neoliberal order have been destroyed by lies like Jeremy Corbyn — lies which the billionaire-and state-controlled media were delighted to amplify — or cheated out of election like Bernie Sanders.

In the United States, the current lawfare attempts to remove Donald Trump as a presidential candidate are an extraordinary denial of democracy. Trump is accused of paying off sexual partners and of retaining classified documents.

Bill Clinton paid off sexual partners in a much more egregious fashion and Hillary’s data-handling arrangements were much worse, with zero legal consequences for either, but that does not seem in the least to concern the “liberal” Establishment.

The role of the U.S. security services in the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story during the last Presidential election should have been a giant wake-up call. But liberals were more interested in stopping Trump than in preventing the security state from manipulating the result of elections.

There is an “end justifies the means” approach by supposedly liberal thinkers that supports any action against Trump, as it supports the banking ostracism of Nigel Farage, because their views are not entirely those of the neoliberal Establishment.

Neither Trump nor Farage are close to my own views, though I differ from them in different ways from, but no more than I differ from, Starmer and Joe Biden. But what is happening to both of them should be put together with what happened to Corbyn and with the gutting of Labour by Starmer, and even (God help us) with what happened to Liz Truss, as part of the same process of ensuring the political agenda does not offer any real choice.

Clement Atlee, Labour prime minister from 1945 to 1951. (Wikipedia)

It has become banal to note that concentration of media ownership between state and billionaires, and social media gatekeeping by billionaires’ corporations in cahoots with state security services, has contributed to the limitation of accepted “respectable” viewpoints.

I am less and less confident I see any solution.

In looking to start this chain of thought, I was thinking of saying that I no longer believe in the Western model of democracy, but can find no acceptable alternative. On writing I find that I do in fact believe in the western model of democracy, but that model no longer exists.

What we had from roughly 1920 to 1990, when voting really could make a difference, is not what we have now.

Voting for Clement Attlee made a difference. The Establishment won’t make that mistake again.

The concentration of media ownership is only one facet of the concentration of wealth and political power which appears irreversible by democratic means, in that we will never be given the opportunity to vote for anyone in official politics who opposes it, or to hear the arguments against it on any media platform with an equal access to the market for ideas.

We live in a post-democratic society. That is difficult to accept, but it is true.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep his blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

21 comments for “Craig Murray: Democracy’s Demise

  1. jamie
    July 25, 2023 at 16:28

    I came to believe that democracy is an “autocratic system” that instead of using coercion it uses psychological manipulation; a practice that has been developed by the church and handed down to the western political system.
    Instead of one person holding power, democracy has a number of people in power, and one person is elected after another, different faces, dress, sex, color skin but always the same person, same ideology, same scope and objective, keep the status quo and the same people in power.
    Recently, I have read someone calling the western elite a “mafia”; i believe it is even worse, the mafia brakes the law, western elite creates a legal system that allows them to operate in an illicit way without being held accountable for.
    If we think that information is the building block of life, that the big bang along with energy it has released an endless flow of “information” then we should give information its due importance.
    Switzerland is a good example; a direct democracy requires the population to be very well informed in order to be able to make best choice during referendums and initiatives; that is why I believe in Switzerland information in media are much more controlled and piloted by the government than in any other country; almost all media report the same news, with the same point of view, no critical thinking, hardly anyone criticize the government.
    The most read “news paper” in Switzerland is the 20 minuten, a “trojan horse” developed in Paris, France and spread to Switzerland with the same pro-EU perspective. The articles in this media are such low quality, they parroting what CNN, NYT and the like write /say and when they try to write their own piece, the journalistic flaws are impressive; and it is difficult to understand why in such rich country the most read media is such low quality, perhaps propaganda is one answer… then you ask yourself, how can people be properly informed and educated to make political decision when media are coordinating what people read, all omitting “uncomfortable truth” that could change the political status quo? What is the value of democracy if people are disinformed? Mearsheimer I believe once said that democracies lie more than dictatorships, I believe is true. More than lying, they omit truth, which is not illegal, is it? not yet.
    During covid 19, the Swiss government apparently even tried to increase its influence on media by offering subsidizes to them; I believe the people vote against such initiative. So yes sometimes democracy can still work despite information control, but not when fear is used and information is aimed at reinforcing it.
    To me media plurality is mostly a myth and Switzerland proves it; perhaps it is better live in a authoritarian state that people are aware that information are withheld than in a democracy were people are being manipulated and their perception distorted. Perhaps people in authoritarian states are more free than us, more willing to seek for the truth than we are.

    • Otto
      July 26, 2023 at 06:59

      What an excellent post. It has given me much to think about- thank you.

  2. mgr
    July 25, 2023 at 09:43

    The Western ideology of “zero/sum” which is enthusiastically embraced by neocons is a destroyer of democracy. Hell of a job…

  3. Afdal
    July 25, 2023 at 04:05

    The greatest trick that the capitalists who overthrew feudalism ever played on people was to convince them that the historic enemy of democracies, electoral oligarchies, are actually “representative democracy”. Dispense with this fiction once and for all and you’ll have opened your mind to real alternatives.

  4. WillD
    July 24, 2023 at 22:54

    Democracy was always a very reluctant concession to the growing power of the masses, a series of hard won electoral and parliamentary reforms over many years – until the powerful worked out how to deceive the masses into believing their vote made a real difference, and lull them into a false sense of relevance.

    As a system of government it is deeply flawed, and riddled with so many holes that a clever child could bend it to its will without much effort.

    I was born in a fascist country in Europe, and enjoyed the illusion of democracy for a few years. Now, it looks like I will die in one, too.

  5. Bona Corybugus
    July 24, 2023 at 20:59

    The intellectual working class/”middle class”, Chomsky’s “10%” that are educated to the highest levels to fill positions in the professions and the State’s apparatuses, run and reproduce ideologically (via the “education” system) the capitalist mode of production “on behalf” of the capitalist class: they constitute what is more commonly referred to as “the liberal elite” and do “Very nicely, thank you very much” out of their politico-economic position.

    With the exception of the (small) Communist constituency amongst their number, they are not the political friends of the manual working class/”working class”, as has been majestically revealed by their reaction to the former’s role in the Brexit result in the UK and Trump’s election in the US – a veritable miasma of contempt for the “deplorables” contrasting with an effortless presumption of intellectual/moral superiority for their own part

    Perhaps the most despicable of this “liberal elite” are those who putatively rail against the status quo on various economic, political or morals grounds but who offer nothing but capitalist ideological “solutions” in response, from the most vulgar (religious, nationalist) to the most “radical” (Capitalism “with a heart”/State Capitalism, where certain sectors of society are nationalised – health, education, utilities, etc.).

    It is in the latter area where the deficiencies in their education reveal themselves: absolutely no understanding of the structure of the capitalist mode of production or the logic of its processes ( Most pertinently, there is no awareness of the irony of desiring a return to the post-WW2, Western-specific, 25-year “up cycle” ( (aka “the golden age of liberal democracy” and only made possible, at root, by Cold War military spending) which ultimately ended in the mid-1970s stagflation which neo-liberalism sought to “cure”!

    The author of this article is one such example. He is self-admittedly not even a Socialist. He has no place on a “progressive” website.

  6. DebsWas Right
    July 24, 2023 at 18:07

    “People get the government they deserve, and they deserve to get it good and hard.” — H.L. Menken.

    Just as US has no future, so to the UK. And for the same reasons. We are all but the .01% getting it good and hard.

    Greed, selfishness, and bigotry is easy for Power to market. From Thatcher through Blair to Bojo, to Sunak. The people bought into wars and policies they thought would make it better for them personally, or at least make it worse for others they didn’t like. Moreover, the country looked at Corbyn and believed they saw a rabid anti-Semite as told to them by Murdoch?

    Now like in the US, there is no choice. A continued Tory horror show, or Starmer, a second rate Biden, and Biden is third rate.

  7. peon
    July 24, 2023 at 15:56

    But the crisis of western democracy is a crisis of neo-liberal, neo-conservative dreams of neo-colonial domination in perpetuity. With the rise of BRICS, the SMO denazifying Ukraine, and the ascension of Eurasian economic alternatives to the world economy/ies, the age of colonial/settler domination is waning. Just, “please don’t drop the A-bomb on [anyone].”

  8. Jimmy Smith
    July 24, 2023 at 14:51

    Who should know better if a country is a democracy than a former President?

    “America has no functioning Democracy.” — former President Jimmy Carter, 2013

    That was a decade ago, and America keeps accelerating down the slippery slope, so that flag was planted much higher up Democracy Hill than where we are today. To be honest, I think I just saw Herr Goebbels staring at us in surprise as we blew past him still picking up speed.

  9. Jerry Smith
    July 24, 2023 at 14:40

    The last time an election really changed the course of America was 1932. Replacing Hoovernomics (aka, Bidenomics) with The New Deal at the demand of the people who were suffering and wanted real change and real hope.

    That is what democracy looks like.

    In the modern world, a vast majority of citizens tell pollsters that their nation is going in the wrong direction. But no election ever changes the direction in any real way. New hair styles, new ‘hot button issues’ as opiate for the masses after the election, but the direction does not change, and citizens will tell pollsters a year after the election that the country is still going in the wrong direction.

    That is not what democracy looks like.

    If we are going to fight a War for Democracy, we need to begin a lot closer to home.

  10. Francis Lee
    July 24, 2023 at 13:48

    The post-modernist denial of the possibility of objective reality is now firmly entrenched in reactionary elite circles.

    This denial involves, 1. ‘Groupthink’ is defined as a process where a group with similar backgrounds and largely insulated from outside opinion making and decisions without critically testing, analysing and evaluating ideas and outcomes.

    2. ‘Doublethink’ where two incompatible thoughts can be carried on at the same time. It of course follows that if everyone is thinking the same then no-one is thinking at all.

    Finally, 3. Double standards. Describing the behaviour of your opponents as despicable, inhuman and a violation of human rights, when ‘our’ side is doing exactly the same. Of necessity this involves all of the above mechanisms.

    Orwell explains further:

    ‘’Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and of course there is no kind of outrage – torture, the use of hostages, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians – which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘‘our’ side.’’ (George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism – 1945).

    So the ship of fools is making steady progress toward a huge iceberg, but the fools in the ship have no awareness (or supressed awareness) of this fact. But this lack of consciousness is actually functional for the powers-that-be.

    ” … What we are dealing with here is a political system which, essentially, does not appeal to rational forces of self-interest, but which arouses and mobilizes the diabolical forces in man which we had believed no longer existed…. or at least died out long ago.” (Eric Fromm – Fear of Freedom.)

    • July 24, 2023 at 17:11

      I would add one more item which is that elites end up believing their own lies. They dole the lies out to their media outlets, then hear those lies told back to them with force and emotion. This reinforces those ideas in their minds and makes them act as though the lies are in fact, truths that have been brought forth. They then continue to pursue policies based on those lies.

  11. July 24, 2023 at 13:28

    The prosecutors charge Trump with crimes similar to what Clinton did. This is a bad (and Trumpist) comparison.

    1) Clinton was not merely prosecuted, he was impeached, for diddling around with Monica, or for not admitting it.

    2) The prosecution of Trump is like the prosecution of Al Capone, the gangster who was convicted of income tax evasion. Everyone understands that in the absence of strict legal means to take down a big menace, the prosecution uses whatever it can find at hand that takes down the target.

    “The Disintegration of Bourgeois Democracy” (in quotes because it is the title of an article) is well underway. Murray writes badly about it because, as he says, he can find no acceptable alternative. We can, and it will meet the first test: crushing Trumpism.

    • Steve
      July 24, 2023 at 22:35

      “Crushing Trumpism”

      Yes, let’s censor, cut off from the banking system, use lawfare and to persecute, and otherwise disenfranchise the 70MM voters who voted for the Bad Orange Man, then we’ll have democracy again. Nevermind that Republican voters have come to loathe the ‘Conservative Inc’ establishment uniparty politicians like Romney and Cheney. They must be not be allowed to vote for anti-establishment Mean Tweets ever again. Much like how Democratic voters must not be allowed to vote for left-populists like Bernie Sanders. They must be forced to vote for cyphers like Biden or Jeb! Bush who won’t rock the Beltway boat and make glitzy DC dinner parties uncomfortable.

      Democracy of the uniparty, by the uniparty, for the uniparty.

      What could possibly go wrong?

  12. Michael Chebo
    July 24, 2023 at 12:42

    Revolution is the only way forward

  13. JonnyJames
    July 24, 2023 at 11:19

    I totally agree. The NHS, initiated under the Atlee gov. is slowly being privatized, and the UK will be

    As far as the US: “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery” (Jimmy Carter, 2015) The Citizens United decision by the bribe-taking “Supreme Court” formalized money as free speech, and bribery. There is no functioning democracy in the US, period/full stop.

    “…But liberals were more interested in stopping Trump than in preventing the security state from manipulating the result of election…”

    BigMedia continues to give Trump free publicity almost every day, negative or not – there is no bad publicity. He is kept in the public eye. As Paul Moonves said, he’s not good for the country, but he’s great for media profits. The fact that we are given a “choice” between two freaks like Trump/Biden underlines the lack of meaningful choice.

    As Chris Hedges said years ago: “in the US there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs” That sums it up.

    However, most UK/US folks are still in denial and mesmerized by the media driven spectacle. Even folks who are critical of US gov policy still cling to the de-facto one party dictatorship and believe that there is a difference between the R team and D team.

    Rationally, it is plain to see the corruption and lack of democratic accountability, emotionally few are willing to admit we live in an empire run by a bloodthirsty kleptocratic oligarchy.

    • Terre
      July 24, 2023 at 14:45

      This independent american agrees with both you and Craig and thanks you gentlemen for your clear, careful and generous thought.Damn depressing!

    • SH
      July 24, 2023 at 16:59

      Well maybe now is the time, actually way past time, for folks to take up the banner of 3rd parties …

      • Steve
        July 24, 2023 at 22:43

        It’s been done. The best they can do is play spoiler, like Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 or Ross Perot in 1992.

        • J Anthony
          July 25, 2023 at 08:55

          As long as it spoils the widely-accepted delusion that the 2-party system is legit, what’s the problem?

    • DebsWas Right
      July 24, 2023 at 18:16

      Agreed. Small note, I believe it is Les Moonves who ran CBS who made that statement, not “Paul.”

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