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A radical left in Parliament, a contradiction or a perspective?

Tuesday 19 March 2019, by Marko Kržan

As we know, the left-wing parties of Western Europe, such as the German party Die Linke, play a folkloric role or, in the best of cases, that of a moral corrector and have very little influence on political events. Their parliamentary work is mostly limited to agitation. In Eastern European countries, these parties often fail to enter Parliament. [1]

However, in some southern European countries they have become an important factor, without which governments of the liberal left could not have existed. This is true at least in Portugal [2] and Slovenia [3]. In a sense, this is also the case in Spain [4].

This poses the question of how these parties can defend the demands of the working class and whether this situation can serve to reinforce the anti-capitalist movement of workers. In this article, I will try to describe some of the subjective and objective obstacles that are to be found on this path and to consider possible solutions.

Being radical in a system that absorbs

In principle, the question of whether anti-capitalist parties should enter parliament has had a positive response for a long time. Already in his day, in controversy with his opponents (supporters of the boycott of the elections), Lenin affirmed that the parliament, and I use here the expression of Althusser, is an ideological apparatus of state that those who fight for socialism must use. This apparatus is indeed a forum for agitation and, at least in modern parliaments, a source of funding for a party. It should be used to strengthen the anti-capitalist movement. However, we must not forget that this is the apparatus of a capitalist state. Parliamentarism, separating politics from economics and considering the population as the sum of atomized abstract individuals ("one man, one vote"), and not in collective terms - a particular class or social group - makes compromises between the capitalist class and the subordinate classes. These compromises may be more or less favourable for the working class (workers, small and medium-sized farmers, small artisans and proletarianized white-collar workers), but it is still a compromise aimed at maintaining its exploitation and subordination.

This is why parliamentarism feeds opportunism. In the struggle for popularity, parliamentarians (deputies and their assistants) adopt the jargon and objectives of "reality", they tend to adapt to the dominant ideology or to one of its spontaneous variants. The more their lives depend on Parliament, the more likely they are to intrigue for privileges and responsibilities within the party. Such practices create a gap between them and party members [5]. They are only asked to participate in formal rituals to confirm the decisions already made, as is expected of all voters in a bourgeois democracy. Although the "classical" parties successfully practise this mechanism, for the anti-capitalist party it is destructive, because it widens the gap between its programme and the possibility of realizing it. It is not an exaggeration to speak of the emergence of a small bureaucracy which, in its relation to the anti-capitalist party, re