Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

January 2005 • Vol 5, No. 1 •

What Kind Of ‘Democracy’ Is This?

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

“Authority is never with hate.”

—Euripides (480-406 B.C.E.), Greek Poet

We live under the reign of almost universal political contempt. It doesn't matter which party, politicians are in the employ of others, and that isn't remotely those who voted for them, but rather those who could afford to finance them.

Oh, they don't come out and say it (often); but look at how politicians treat those who claim to be their constituents. The only common denominator is betrayal. Former president, Bill Clinton perfected this to a high art. Virtually everybody who voted for him got betrayed, sooner or later. And the real deal is, it isn't personal; that's the way the system was designed, and has developed.

To many of the men who we are accustomed to call “the founding fathers,” the word “democracy” was a bad word. They hated, dreaded, and feared the very idea of a democracy. New York's delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1789, Alexander Hamilton, admired monarchy, and sought ways to check “the amazing violence and turbulence of the democratic spirit.” [see Jerry Fresia's Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and Other Illusions (Boston: South End Press, 1988), p. 16].

Historian Brian Price put it neatly at a lecture at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, when he asked: “Is it possible for a class which exterminates the native peoples of the Americas, replaces them by raping Africa for humans it then denigrates and dehumanizes as slaves, while cheapening and degrading its own working class—is it possible for such a class to create democracy, equality, and to advance the cause of human freedom?” (Fresia, p. 5)

It took centuries of struggles by Africans, workers, women, and others to begin to erect some semblance of democracy, but, as in a pendulum, things swing from one end to another; nothing stands still. When folks stop fighting, other interests fight on.

In the present political structure, wealthy anti-democratic elements continue to wage war through the purchase (or rental) of politicians, who then use their positions to advance the economic interests of their benefactors. That's how quietly, almost invisibly, through both Democrats and Republicans, the silent march of globalism has come to almost dominate all areas of our lives. The WTO, the IMF, and other international pacts, eat out the hearts of local communities by supporting the efforts of international trade, while carving out spaces where little vestiges of democracy once reigned.

And war, because it is used by states to mobilize people in ways they wouldn't accept otherwise, is but an instrument in this global trade war. I mean, seriously: does anybody really believe that the Iraq war is “to bring democracy?”

The great socialist leader, Emma Goldman, at her anti-war trial (for opposing World War I), said:

“Verily poor as we are in democracy, how can we give of it to the world?” [Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History of the United States. (NY: Seven Stories Press, 2004), p. 23].

And even if we accept the present political structure, how can we reconcile this system of “winner take all” with any idea of democracy? Even in the parliaments of Europe, in England, France, or Germany, minority parties receive representation in proportion to their voting strength. Here, 51 percent of the votes means 100 percent of the power. The 49 percent? Nothing.

We don't really believe in democracy in America, nor have we ever done so. America stands for domination. Period.

It is domination that is being exported to the Middle East, just as it was exported 100 years ago to Indian Country, to Oklahoma, and to Mexican territories. “Democracy” was a bad word then; it's a bad word now, used only as a mask for something else.

How else, in the name of democracy, could we be so dominated, so controlled, so acquiescent? How else could we be so powerless, in the face of ever-growing repression?

—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, December 13, 2004

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