The capitalist system may have nominally democratic institutions, but it relies upon working class compliance, passivity and lack of involvement in the process to carry out its worst and most illiberal functionings. The capitalist propagandists have done their work, and have effectively destroyed any belief in democracy as the idea that folks can run their own lives and own communities. Years of battering and enforced passivity has come to mean that for most of the working class the idea of them being in charge of affairs is inconceivable. The most damaging thing to the cause of true democracy is the repeated assurances that what we have nowadays is a democracy, and so all the sleaze, all the dumbing down, all the secret negotiations and dirty deals get lumped together to suggest in people's minds that democracy is not all that great. Our masters wouldn't want it any other way.
There are further anti-democratic forces at work in the general political discourse, some of which have been with us a long time. One of the most potent is the argument that there is a need to elect to Parliament the people best able to run the country. Thus there is a selection process for candidates that has a set of criteria to be fulfilled to show ability, usually involving being white, and university-educated, and either a teacher, lecturer, lawyer or banker. Thus Parliament is stuffed with clones of the type most likely to help the ruling class rule. Any notion that Parliament is there to represent the people, and that a constituency should elect someone that they think is most like them, and represent their interests, goes completely out of the window. Even the most limited scope for democracy is subtly elided by propaganda, ideology, and the practice of the main institutionalised parties. Democracy is not a set of rules or a parliament; it is a process, a process that must be fought for. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism. It is not a struggle for reforms, for this or that political system, for this or that leader, for some rule change or other—it is the struggle for an idea, for a belief, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians or their bureaucrats, but upon ourselves.
The public view of politicians is already low. They are often seen as careerists and opportunists or even as liars and sleaze merchants. But with all the questions about how best to run the economy and the petty managerial differences that were blown up around them, they have added to their dubious reputations by also becoming utterly boring. Never was politics less inspired.
The fact that politicians have become mere state functionaries means they have come to share the same ideas. These assume a continuation of the status quo. During the election, it was massively agreed by all the main parties that whoever won or lost, the future would be capitalist business as usual. And whilst it has become common for politicians to be depicted in the image of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, what we don't see is very much analysis pointing to the reasons why this has come about. It is mainly because governments have to react to economic conditions over which they have little control and these pressures take no account of the aspirations different governments may have.
Some of the language used by Conservatives or New Labour politicians may sound different. Conservatives may claim to uphold the best and most enduring values from the past, speak of the virtues and freedoms of economic individualism, and the merits of life in a property-owning democracy. From the mouth of Tony Blair, we hear the aim of social equality expressed as “equality of opportunity” where “everyone gets their chance to fulfil their true potential” in a “meritocratic nation”. But in both cases, the language expresses a shared support for the capitalist system whilst putting a gloss on an anti-social society that cannot work in the interests of the majority of people.
The reality behind the gloss is class ownership of all the means of producing goods and all resources. It means markets and profit deciding what can be done, a widening gap between rich and poor and the certainty that most people throughout the world will continue to live in poverty. It means the shackling of all the powers of human labour to exploitation and private gain. This is the out-dated world and the ideas that justify it that Labour, Tory, and other reformist politicians now hold in common.