cj#547> The Rise & Fall of Democracy


Richard Moore

        Consider the dance which has been been going on between what I
would call the _elite_ and the _people_ since the middle of the 18th
century.  As the feudal era was ending, the elites included royalty, the
churches, the land-aristocracy, and the business-wealthy -- and their hold
over the people was essentially total.  This is the context out of which
democracy arose.

        What happened is that certain elites were out to re-divide the
elite pie, cutting themselves the lion's share, and cutting out others
altogether.  Essentially, the emerging business-wealthy were tired of
butting up against the established hierarchies, and began to favor
republics as a better environment for the further development of
capitalism.  But this business-oriented sub-elite needed allies in order to
make a grab for power.

        They turned to the people themselves, and offered them a
partnership in a new regime.  The people provided the troops to overthrow
the old regimes, and received in return the promise of a democratic
republic -- liberty, equality, fraternity, and all that.  The United States
and France led the way, and demonstrated two quite-different paths to a
modern republic.  Eventually, the rest of the "western world" followed
suit, and the "modern democracy" has become a seemingly permanent -- and
dominant -- political structure.

        Once the other elites were ousted, what remained was an uneasy
partnership between the business-elite and the people.  It was the
surviving elites who drafted the new constitutions, and became the
political and economic leaders of the new republics.  They made sure
royalty, nobility, and the church were dislodged from power -- by the pen
in the States, and by the guillotine in France.

        The adversarial nature of this "partnership" became clear right
away -- when the U.S. Constitution was first drafted in 1789 -- WITHOUT a
bill of rights.  The elite had shafted the people, and the people had to
rise up to demand their promised democratic guarantees.   Ever since,
there's been a tug-of-war for control.  Sometimes the elite reigns supreme,
as in late 19th century America.  Other times people manage to elect
effective representatives, as in Britain during the 1950s.

        The partnership continued as long as the elites needed the people
on their side -- to provide labor for the factories and fodder for the
cannons.  But the current global situation -- really since the end of WWII,
but more obviously since the end of the Cold War -- is a whole new ball
game.  With modern hi-tech weapons (including nuclear), massive armies are
no longer necessary or cost-effective as a means of maintaining
imperialistic arrangements in the Third World.  And with modern corporate
globalism, today's business-elite does not need "home base national
fortresses" to defend their plants, markets, and access to resources.

        This "business protection" function -- formerly carried out on a
push-and-shove basis by the "great powers" -- is increasingly being carried
out systematically by internationalised institutions: IMF, NATO, Brussels,
etc.   Consequently, the nation state has become more of a hindrance than a
benefit to the modern mega-corporation.  It's the dominant nations which
advance the standards in environmental protection, worker's rights, and
other such "emotional" and "wasteful" measures.  Small, weak nations are
more amenable to rape and pillage by corporate developers, and the Third
World is the elite's prototype of how they'd like the whole world to

        Thus a decision has been made by the elite to dump the strong
nation state, dissolve the partnership with people, and return to a
neo-feudal system with an all-powerful corporate elite  and an essentially
disenfranchised people.   This is what is behind the whole
Reagan/Thather/Friedman mythology of free-trade, government "inefficiency"
and "corruption", privatization, market forces, downsizing, etc. etc.
Public infrastructures and institutions are being dismantled, and control
is being turned over to elite corporate hands.  This is an historic and
radical _political_ revolution -- on a scale with the American or French
Revolutions -- but its existence is covered over in the media by
smokescreen discussions of  secondary and short-term economic issues.
Big-time history is happening in front of our eyes, and only the collatoral
changes are being noted.

        The elite scheme is to make governments weaker, nations smaller,
and to eliminate political rights and social entitlements -- essentially to
eradicate the structures that support democracy.  Citizenship is to be
replaced by the roles of employee and consumer.  Political and economic
control of the world will devolve to faceless bureaucratic commissions, set
up to further the interests of the corporate elite, and backed up by a
U.S./NATO/Judge Dredd, media-praised Strike Force.  "We bombed Lower
Slobovia to make it more competitive" will be the standard battle report in
this new regime.  We've seen test runs of the Judge Dredd
judge-jury-executioner machinery in Panama, Iraq, Somalia, and Bosnia.

* * *

        Maastricht, Scottish independence, ethnic or regional autonomy,
stronger international peace arrangements -- these are all developments
which might have much to be said for them taken in isolation, or if
implemented within a democratic framework.  But within the context of the
corporate elite storming the bastille of democracy, it is necessary to
re-examine _all_ changes and reforms from the perspective of whether they
strengthen or weaken our fundamental democratic institutions.  If we don't
look at the big picture, then we'll be like the frog who submits to being
cooked -- the victim of a sneaky slow-boiling policy.

        The fact is that the modern nation state is the most effective
democratic institution mankind has been able to come up with since
outgrowing the small-scale city-state.  With all its defects and
corruptions, this gift from the Enlightenment -- the national republic --
is the only effective channel the people have to power-sharing with the
elites.  If the strong nation-state withers away, we will not -- be assured
-- enter an era of freedom and prosperity, with the "shackles of wasteful
governments off our backs".  No indeed.  If you want to see the future --
in which weak nations must deal as-best-they-can with mega-corporations --
then look at the Third World.

        The last thing you see in Third-World countries is freedom and
prosperity.  What you in fact see are governments which increasingly
specialize in two functions: suppressing the population, on the one hand,
while on the other hand they negotiate with the international investment
community and corporate investors.  When all nations have been whittled
down and made weak, then the world will have become essentially a patchwork
of plantation-states.  We'll have a  neo-feudal global system where the
corporate elite act as a kind of royalty, extracting tribute from all the
little competing  nation-fiefdoms.

        There is a brief window of opportunity -- while modern democracies
continue to survive -- in which the people can wake up and peacefully seize
control of their governments.  After those governments have been
devolved/downsized, it will be too late.  And with modern weaponry under
the command of the elite, there will be no possibility of the people
arising anew in revolution.  If the people in any of the little fiefdoms
try it, they'll be dealt with as Iraq has been in the Gulf War and its
aftermath: demonized by the global media, bombed by Judge Dredd, and left
to starve under embargoes.   It won't be nice to mess with Earth Inc.!
Preservation of strong national sovereignty in the modern democracies is
the rock-bottom foundation needed by the people -- without it democracy
will without doubt disappear from the world.

* * *

    Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
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