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Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 12:32:04 +0000

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Date: Wed, 12 May 2004 08:09:48 -0400
Subject: [WW] Mumia on And what a 'democracy'

...and what a ‘democracy’!

By Mumia Abu-Jamal, Workers World, 13 May 2004

(Jean-Jacques) Rousseau thought that representative government was an absolute farce. He says the moment you vote and give up your power to some other people, they begin to represent themselves or other interests, not the interests of the people. (laughter)

--C.L.R. James, Modern Politics

What do we mean when we use the term democracy?

What does it really mean in this world at the dawn of the 21st century, when America is the sole superpower, and the United Nations is little more than her noisy instrument?

Every day, the Bush Regime promises it will bring democracy to Iraq, and one can almost hear the swell of the band, the flags rustling in the breeze.

But what does it really mean?

We are told that democracy means the rule of the people. But is that really the case, not merely in Iraq, but in the United States itself?

We live in a nation where the ruling regime had the least votes in the national election, an election, it should be said, where a minority of eligible voters participated.

How is this even remotely the rule of the people?

Nor can we just make this claim about the fitful Americans, for the same can be said about elections in Europe, in Latin America, and beyond. Voters are unreceptive to democratic elections, and a look at them around the world shows people deeply dissatisfied with the democracies that claim to represent them. The reason is simple: they don't.

Canadian journalist Richard Swift, in The No-Nonsense Guide to Democracy (New Internationalist, 2002), explains why:

Our current system of democracy—highly centralized governments in which we are ‘represented’ by a class of professional politicians—seems to have betrayed the promise of self-rule. And while the lack of real choice in competitive candidates and ideas amongst these professional politicians is a part of the malaise, it is hardly the whole picture. The system of centralized state power seems increasingly remote from most people's lives and it becomes difficult to believe that politicians (no matter what their views) concerned with the micro-management of society and economy have any real interest in what is important to us. (pp. 24-5)

That feeling of political alienation is reinforced by something which happens after every election: the politicians say one thing, yet no sooner is he or she in power, when they do something else. It literally happens every time.

Swift explains: A consequence of this is an extraordinary popular hostility to not only the political class but government per se and all its works. Conservative politicians have proved the most adept at harnessing this hostility (often glorifying the market at the expense of the ‘corrupt’ state) and using anti-government rhetoric to achieve, paradoxically, the very positions of power they are attacking. They are even prone to attack ‘big government’ at the same time they are cynically using the powers of government to reward their friends and vanquish their enemies. (p. 250)

American policy-makers no more want democracy in Iraq, than they do in America. They want people in positions of illusions of power, who answer to American business leaders, not the Iraqi people. They want market rule, not popular rule.

Marx called the modern state's executive nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie. (Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, Kerr, 1998, p. 14)

We talk about, and claim our fealty to, democracy, but in this country, as in much of the West, what determines who runs, who wins, and who benefits, all comes down to wealth.

Who but the very wealthy (or those they support) can dare to afford to run for elective office? The U.S. Senate is little more than a millionaire's club. The two-party-endorsed men running for president are millionaires, who went to schools for the rich, and come from well-to-do families.

When is the last time you heard a major politician even mention the working class? If they cannot even mention them, how do you think they will even begin to represent them? They don't. They can't.

To talk about democracy is not enough. It must be practiced. Its best practice is protest and dissent.