Elections are important as it opens an avenue for people’s participation. True that it does not give full democratic participation and the right to express what one wishes, however it is futile to think, in a bourgeoisie democracy where state power is in the hand of the rich, that we could get a fair chance of changing the set-up through such elections. Only in a situation of complete social breakdown with masses coming to the streets to decide their destiny, that the elections could give an approximate alignment of forces. It can happen in an advanced and developed country where workers’ movements are powerful and conscious about the role that could be played.
In any case, a fundamental criticism made by progressive thinkers is the backward nature of elections conducted on the basis of electorates geographically marked out. In such electoral systems though nationality, caste and communal nature of the elector could be dominant factors, the social nature of the elector is less counted. The soviet system introduced at the time of the Russian revolution was based on social identification instead of geographical division. Workers voted in the factory instead of participation in elections in the residential area. Thus Soviet democracy (sometimes referred to as council democracy) is a form of democracy in which workers’ councils called “soviets” (Russian for “Council”), consisting of worker-elected delegates from factories form an assembly. The soviets begin at the local level and by collecting delegates from all elected soviets, can go on to form a national parliament-like assembly. In the initial stage, elections were restricted to work places and only workers could vote. According to Vladimir Lenin and other Marxist theorists, the soviets represented the democratic will of the working class and are thus the embodiment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
" The soviet system introduced at the time of the Russian revolution was based on social identification instead of geographical division. Workers voted in the factory instead of participation in elections in the residential area "
However debate continued and it was suggested that all citizens should vote but through electorates representing the social existence of the voter. Thus doctors will exercise their franchise by voting in the doctors’ association. So will the engineers, peasants, artistes and others including housewives. In such a system, even the bourgeoisie will send their delegates through employer federations and chambers of commerce. Thus it became a democracy with universal franchise where everybody voted through the assembly of ones social practice. It is expected that each delegate will represent a social strata of the respective assembly. While working people will dominate the national assembly, interests of all classes will be heard in such an assembly. The process begins when the workers of a city elect their local soviet. Others will send their respective delegates representing their social practice. This body holds both legislative and executive power for that city. The idea is identical to the Paris Commune. The Local Soviets choose their delegates for their District Soviet. These district soviets in turn elect their Provincial Soviet. Lastly, the Provincial Soviets then choose their delegates for the regional soviet. Each soviet has legislative-executive power over the territory it governs. This elective process of a group of soviets electing the Council above will continue until the National Soviet (the supreme governing body of the nation) is formed. Thus the Supreme Soviets became elective as well.
" Only in a situation of complete social breakdown with masses coming to the streets to decide their destiny, that the elections could give an approximate alignment of forces "
Each large soviet (including some larger locals) elects a small Executive Committee. This assembly deals with the day-to-day affairs of the territory that its soviet governs. The Executive Committee is subservient to its soviet, its actions must be in accordance with the soviet’s legislation, and it only operates during times when the soviet is not in session.
This method is somewhat resembles Athenian democracy. However, this fascinating democratic system did not function smoothly due to the degenerate one party system. At the beginning all political tendencies were allowed to participate in elections. But due to wars that brought in severe constraints even Lenin agreed to ban certain rightwing chauvinist parties. This led to bureaucratic degeneration and systems of worker councils and the soviets were subverted.
Thus democracy collapsed in the Soviet Union. After the breakdown of the soviet bureaucracy there was an attempt to go back to the soviet electoral system instead of a parliament based on regional electorates. But the western powers were more effective in dragging the people to accept Putin’s system of democracy that now exists in Russia.