"Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you." – William Blake (1757-1827) from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Saturday 19 March 2011

Democracy, Dictatorship or Merely Rhetoric?

When we talk of modern definitions we also have in mind certain antiquated notions, that are nevertheless bandied around and passed off as new. Listening to the political rhetoric of recent days, from certain leaders of western imperialism one can only be amazed, both at the childishness of their world view, and in the way they conduct themselves.

With the passing of the recent UN Security Council resolution, authorising the imposition of a 'no-fly zone' over Libya, the person of Muammar Gaddafi has joined the long list of 'dictators' that western imperialists disapprove of. The charge is levelled without any notion, or even discussion about what system of governance is in place in Libya; or what the role of individuals such as Muammar Gaddafi is in relation to that system.

But that's rather beside the point as far as this discussion is concerned. The charge of 'dictatorship' is levelled all too freely. Still it is clear what western imperialists have in mind, when they speak in such terms. A 'dictator' to them is someone who refuses to do their bidding; someone who stands up, not just for him or herself, but for their collective too.

According to Wikipedia the term actually originated in ancient Rome. It was in fact an official title, an office conferred by the Senate, upon a magistrate who was to rule the republic in times of emergency. In the context of the present emergency facing the Libyan people, Gaddafi might well be considered a dictator. By the same token western imperialism - which in this instance would appear to be Anglo-French led - could be viewed as the Barbarians at the gates.

As happens all too often, a term that wasn't pejorative in its original context, has become nothing but pejorative today. It sometimes works in the opposite direction. The term 'Tory' for example, as a political label freely accepted by the likes of David Cameron, stems from the Irish word t├│raidhe, which again as Wikipedia informs us referred in its orginal context to an 'outlaw, robber or brigand'.

On the outbreak of World War II Charlie Chaplin released The Great Dictator, a comic satire but also a powerful and heartfelt denunciation of fascism. Leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar (to cite just a few) were stooges of reaction and world imperialism, which at the time was in crisis (facing emergency), but that's really about as far as similarity between them and their ancient Roman counterparts goes. They were defending a class system, not their respective nations.

In the aftermath of WWII it served a purpose to present these personalities as dictators, autocrats, political leaders ruling by decree. The purpose was to obscure the fact that these individuals were merely cogs in a machine; part of an apparatus with networks and connections that stretched far and wide, and not restricted by national boundaries either.

Overall it would be largely a positive development the way things have turned out; if it were not for the catcalls of certain influential philistines. To them a dictator is someone who won't do what they're told even when they've been told what to do - which could be anyone, including you and me.

In the same vein the democracy has come to mean whatever a person (any person) wants it to mean. For imperialists, or those whose agenda is to subvert the world and bend it to their wishes and whims, a democracy is any system that enables them to get what they want. When they don't get what they want they cry 'dictator' and adopt the 'pro-democracy' verbiage.

What this reflects is that modern society (which includes the whole world and the nations and peoples within it) remains class divided. Karl Marx pointed out that "the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production." Marx and those who followed his trajectory, argued that any system of governance would be more or less democratic, only insofar as this is a reflection of the class composition of the society from which it springs. Democracy, far from being that 'city on the hill' is always and everywhere a battleground.

One such follower was V.I. Lenin. He admonished his fellow social democrats when he pointed out that:
... it is constantly forgotten that the abolition of the state means also the abolition of democracy; that the withering away of the state means the withering away of democracy. - from The State and Revolution

At the time of course Lenin and his supporters were still calling themselves social democrats but were also learning to disavow the term. European parties of the Second International had earlier betrayed the decision of the Basle Congress of 1912 which pledged to oppose plans for imperialist war. Lenin and his party were among those that remained true to the decisions. It was ultimately decided that:
We must call ourselves the Communist Party—just as Marx and Engels called themselves
and further he adds:
... the name of our Party (Social-Democrats) is also scientifically incorrect. Democracy is a form of state, whereas we Marxists are opposed to every kind of state. - see Lenin, What Should be the Name of Our Party etc

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