The Twisted Ways of Democracy

By William Markiewicz

Dictatorship, democracy, is in the eye of the beholder, depending on how much you care. The nation that functions smoothly is the one where the citizens feel they have their say in matters concerning them. Most of them don't care what the government does abroad or to minorities, democratically or not. Therefore what their superpower government does to others becomes mostly a coffee table topic for the intellectual minority. When the difference that separates 'us' from 'them' is blurry, the authorities have the upper hand in explaining their position; that's what PR manipulators are for.

In dictatorships, of course, all written laws may be broken without much explanation. When Stalin, in an anti-Semitic outburst, wanted, against all Communist credo, to send the Jews to Siberia, he took an extra-easy anti-constitutional step, because who else cared besides the Jews?. Apparently Kaganovich, a Jewish member of the Politburo, asked in a trembling voice, "All the Jews?"

When democracy turns autocratic then it differs from dictatorship in that subtle pressures replace brutal oppression. The public that has gradually become accustomed to an autocratic government (remember McCarthyism?), develops such a thick skin that it simply stops reacting to the violation of the Constitution, especially when it hits foreign countries or a minority.

If, because of some ultrapowerful lobby for example, the democratic/autocratic government decides to take a step against a foreign weaker nation as now in Iraq, or hypothetically, against its own minority, let's say, against the Jews, it is possible that only Jews would protest and, like Kaganovich, not all of them. Solidarity is a capricious guest; note how many Serbs have betrayed Milosevic.

Marx said that history operates in cycles. (I consider it surprising that a materialist like Marx admits a cyclic pattern of fate, almost a cosmic and mystic conception). From this angle, our times are at the lowest ebb for democracy and, according to Marx, we may be unable to turn the tide.

Back to the index of the Vagabond
© Copyright 2002 E-mail to: William Markiewicz