Friday, August 23, 2013

Are you in the real 'democratic' party?

Is the U.S. an Actual “Democracy,” Even by its Own Standards?

Noam Chomsky has a commentary on this issue in Salon.com this week, but it is so over-buried with extraneous points that I thought I’d make it clearer.  His key point is that American opinion, as measured by issue polls, is routinely ignored by the government and the parties.  And that has been true for years.  If the population was convinced the Earth revolved around the Sun, it would not matter, as the ruling Congress and President would still act like the Sun revolves around them and their wealthy benefactors - and act on that principle. These are the people some of us voted for!  For them, ‘democracy’ is damned.  Why?  Because the logic of the system overrides any concerns of the population, and the Congress and the President mostly know that, but will never breathe it aloud.  It is their secret.

Marxism has a powerful critique of bourgeois democracy.  The “legislative’ form of political power was the weapon of choice by the rising bourgeoisie against royal rule.  Voting was key in its ability to defeat its absolutist opponents, because of course any system of voting that allows people other than royalty to ‘vote’ would be democratically superior to a system that doesn’t –at least to the majority.  This political point still works for U.S. imperialism in combat with various kinds of authoritarian regimes, and to some extent it is true, which is why it still works.

To this day, the U.S. uses ‘voting’ as its measure of democracy, and a grand cudgel against dictators it doesn’t like.   Dictators it does like – like the Royal House of Saud and their Wahabbist fundamentalist minions - are ignored.  The U.S. has a long history of ignoring dictators it likes, and denigrating votes that do not go in the direction of U.S. imperial interests.  Even though others wave the ‘cudgel’ against the U.S. when it does this, it doesn’t really care.  Hypocrisy is the air they breathe.

As five sterling international examples illustrate, ‘voting’ doesn’t matter unless you vote for who the U.S. wants.  The CIA finally openly admitted on Monday that they overthrew the democratically elected government of Mossedegh in Iran in 1953.  In Vietnam it was obvious, when the U.S. and their South Vietnamese puppets scuttled a national election that Ho Chi Minh would have won, an election mandated by the Geneva Convention of 1954.  Or in Chile, when the elected socialist Salvador Allende was overthrown by the CIA and its military allies in 1973 and thousands were massacred.  Then there is the 2009 military coup against progressive Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, which was another American ‘wink/nod’ coup, with no consequences for the Honduran military and elites.  The last example is from last week, when the elected Morsi government in Egypt was overthrown by our long-time allies in the Egyptian military, with another ‘wink’ from the U.S.  Morsi was no socialist but a reactionary Islamist, but the principle still stands.  A small bloodbath has ensued.  Arbenz, Lumumba, Goulart, etc. are just other elected targets on the U.S. list who were successfully overthrown.  There is also a long list of unsuccessful attempts –in Nicaragua, Venezuela and in Ecuador. 

Internationally, there is really not much of an argument over American ‘democratic’ hypocrisy.  It is a given.  However, let us look at the situation domestically.  Are they hypocrites here?  Are ‘we’ here in the U.S. even a 'representative' democracy?  The answer is no - and it is built right into our Constitution. It is all legal.  

Take the Senate.  It is an undemocratic institution – EVEN under a so-called representative democracy.  The Senate allows a tiny state like Wyoming, with a little over 500,000 people to have two senators, while the state of California, with over 38 million people, has 2 senators.  This is blatantly undemocratic.  The Senate should be abolished.

Take the Electoral College that ultimately elects the President.  The Electoral College removes the right of direct election of the president from the hands of the electorate, and replaces it with a group of ‘chosen’ hacks dominated by the two standing parties. They could unseat a President who got the most votes, if needed.  What happens if in the unlikely scenario a socialist won the popular vote?  No need to wonder.  This is blatantly undemocratic.  The Electoral College should be abolished. 

Take the present legal ability to ‘gerrymander’ – change voting districts into whatever shape or population the state legislatures want.  In the 2012 election, the Democratic Party won 1 million more votes in elections to the “House of Representatives” but the Republican Party maintained a large majority in the House – due to gerrymandering.  Of course, the Democrats do this too – here in Minneapolis they gerrymandered two wards to remove Greens from the City Counsel.  It shouldn’t be legal that ‘elected’ officials do undemocratic things.  Gerrymandering is blatantly undemocratic.  Gerrymandering should be abolished.

Take the Supreme Court, the third ‘leg’ of the U.S. government.  The people serving on this institution are not voted on, but appointed … for life.  They are essentially political appointees, not objective 'legal' appointees.  The Supreme Court is not a democratic body, it is a permanent body.  They are not beholden to anyone except those who appointed them, and only for that moment before appointment.  This is blatantly undemocratic.  After all, who has a job for life except the Pope?  The Supreme Court should be abolished in its present form.  

All three ‘branches’ of U.S. government are, by law, undemocratic, even in this ‘representative democracy.’ 

And then there is the issue of voter participation.  According to one former Connecticut senator, only 45% vote for president, 35% for Senate and 25% for Congress.  The majority of possible voters are staying home.  If you can win 13% of the votes in a Congressional election - you are in!   This has all the relevance of those votes for the powerless but partly popular high school president.  The population as a whole has given up on the 'voting' game.

Now add to this the myriad legal and political rules and controls that guarantee that only two parties are represented in the Congress.  These rules ultimately mean that these two parties have been institutionalized as ‘official’ - and that is undemocratic. 

Whose parties are they?  Both parties represent different wings of American capital, with different voting bases.  The Republicans attract small businessmen.  The Democrats appeal to various ethnic and sexual constituencies.  However, both are owned by different capitalists, and sometimes the same capitalists.  The present Republicans are a vicious, backward minority party, and only retain their inordinate influence in government because of the above-mentioned undemocratic methods.  The Democrats preserve their political influence because they can say, “Look how fucking crazy the Republicans are!”  This has allowed Democratic Party neo-liberalism to flourish for years, a neo-liberalism that is just a gentler Republicanism.  So we get stuck with two official forms of Republicanism.  Again, all because of the legally undemocratic nature of the state we live in.

Now add to this the influence of capitalist money and the capitalist class on elections and current representatives. This is all legal - even before ‘Citizens United.’  The overwhelming majority of money in U.S. elections and donations comes from a tiny segment of the capitalist class, and nearly always has – something like .04%.  These are not ‘peoples elections” and ultimately the elected officials are not 'people's officials either.  Concentrations of money are legal.  This is so well known at this point, I won’t belabour it.  Then we add the media – which is controlled for the most part by 6 giant mega-corporations – the same oligarchic capitalists who are funding the elections directly, or manipulating public opinion.  They are also the ones choosing what to present regarding elections or issues between elections.  TV is the heaviest investment most candidates make.  Private property in the media, and virtual private ownership of the public airwaves, is also legal.  

Add to this the ability to hack computerized election machines and the increasing attempts at legal voter suppression of various types – mostly by Republicans - and you get a picture of an electorate that is not in control at all – even in a so-called ‘representative democracy.’ (See review of “Armed Madhouse” below, on election fraud.)  Some countries use a simple national identity card to allow all to cast a vote, yet here that is off the table because the States control this issue.  A whole sector of the electorate is banned from voting to various degrees – so-called felons and ex-felons.  This is also legal.  (See review of “The New Jim Crow,” below.)

So if all these abridgements of democracy are legal – in-built into the Constitution and the basic system of laws and ‘states’ rights, in-built into the very existence of private property – it means that you cannot defeat these measures by piling more legalities on top of legalities.  Liberal legal tinkering will not change the deep and wide un-democracy of the U.S. form of government and law, which has existed for almost 250 years at this point.  We are no spring chicken at this, much as our leaders think they sprang out of the head of Medusa yesterday.

Rosa Luxembourg, in her battle with the Social-Democrats of Germany in 1919, pointed out that workers councils, in geographic areas and in worksites, were far more democratic than the farce of German ‘representative democracy.’ (Read review of “All Power to the Councils,” below.)  Just as union meetings are far more democratic than the corporate farces called ‘annual shareholder meetings’ – where those with the most money have the most votes.  True democracy – closer to direct democracy - involves the majority of people voting and speaking where they work and where they live, in workers’ councils, farmers’ councils, soldiers’ councils, regional councils and other grass-roots political formations.  Councils are the form of political power that a rising proletariat uses against the capitalists, much as the capitalists used ‘legislatures’ against royalty.  Why?  Because they are MORE democratic. 

The ‘parliamentary’ form is coming to the end of its lifespan – certainly it has reached it here in the U.S.  In many other countries, it will never even attain this flawed state, as stability of the generic voting mechanism is many times based on a level of economic prosperity.  Every actual socialist, communist and proletarian anarchist endorses the council principle, though bureaucratic / Stalinist elements do not. 

In order to usher in actual, deeper democracy, we need a new socialist Constitution here in the U.S.  This is the way to attain workers’ democracy, not this ‘phantasm,’ which the rich and their cretinous allies call democracy.  It is really ‘their’ democracy, not ours.  In a way, what Socialists want is to deepen the original revolution against royalty – this time against the economic royalists.  So the question becomes, are you a modern Tory … or not?

Red Frog
August 20, 2013

P.S. - The Obama administration has been turned down by the African Union, the UN, NATO, the British poodle (not yet the French social-democratic poodle) and even opinion in the U.S. about the usefulness of missile strikes against Asad's military over the 'red-line' invented by Obama.  Yet you can still see that American opinion has no effect on the leaderships of our oh-so-democratic 'parties.'  Both party leaderships now support a bombing campaign - Obama and Boehner.  A 25% minority of the population want one, so the ruling-class media has geared up to change that.   LIsten to NGR - National Government Radio - and almost all you hear is government officials explaining why we need to bomb Syria.  None of them admit that the collateral damage alone will kill 1,000 civilians easily.  And now the plan has morphed into 'regime change' as another goal.  All you Democrats - look who your best friend is now and ... again.  And you call yourself  'anti-Republican!'  There is no greater secret ally of the Republican Party than the Democratic one.

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