A new report published by the Cambridge Centre for the Future of Democracy has concluded that “dissatisfaction with democracy is at an all-time global high”. This is reflective of the deep crisis facing liberalism – the dominant political ideology of the capitalist establishment. This, in turn, is tied to the crisis of capitalism, which has seen workers’ living standards slashed in recent decades.
The report’s researchers drew their findings from surveys taken between 1973-2020, involving over four million respondents. These show that satisfaction with ‘democracy’ has been sharply falling since a high-point in 2005. It is now at an all-time low.
The UK and US are among 27 countries flagged as “democracies in malaise”, and a further seven are recognised as being in “crisis”. Most tellingly, the group of countries declared as having “democratic stability” comprise only 2% of the world’s population!
Crisis of liberalism
It is clear from the report (and from world events generally) that liberalism is in crisis. The so-called ‘centre-ground’ is collapsing, offering no way forward for workers and youth.
The victories of reactionary figures such as Trump, Bolsonaro and Johnson, as well as mass support for left-wing figures such as Corbyn and Sanders, is a reflection of the increased polarisation in society. Ordinary people are seeking alternatives to the rotten status quo.
The report correctly states that the political crisis was triggered by the economic crisis. It expresses deep concerns in the ability of democratic institutions to perform their supposed tasks.
In reality, however, these functions amount to attempting to smooth over the contradictions of a system built on exploitation. Fundamentally, democracy under capitalism has always been a fig leaf for the rule of the bosses and bankers. Workers are excluded from politics in all manner of ways. Dissatisfaction with this kind of democracy – a democracy of the rich, for the rich, by the rich – therefore contains a progressive side.
While this report acknowledges some of the symptoms of capitalism in crisis, it fails to propose any solutions other than appealing to politicians simply to do better. But attacks on workers are not the result of poor policy decisions. These flow from the logic of capitalism in crisis.
To save the system after the 2008 crash, the ruling classes imposed brutal austerity measures on workers and the poor. In doing so, however, they created the conditions for political and social instability.
The only solution to the impoverishment faced by millions of people worldwide is a complete clearout of capitalism.
There can be no ‘nicer’ version of capitalism. Instead of patching up this broken system, we must fight for a socialist society where the majority, not a wealthy elite, are in power.