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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: March, 2012|
The Trouble With Democracy . . .
|Democracy is no solution to the current economic problems of Greece, Ireland, etc. because democracy is the political medium in which those problems were generated. There is no ruling class which can be held to have brought about the economic crisis in its own interest, and which can be punished and overthrown as a means of overcoming the crisis. The economic system which caused the crisis was freely chosen by the democracy, insofar as anything is freely chosen in these things.
It might be said that the electorates did not choose to have mass unemployment, wholesale bankruptcy, and a reduction in their standards of living. They only chose the means which led to this end. But the means which seem to serve the purpose of the moment is all that is ever chosen by an electorate which acts freely, having overthrown its ruling class and having freed itself from hidebound tradition, superstition, and fears related to another would. Free action in the flux of the passing moment cannot have a long-term end as its democratic purpose.
It might be pleaded that the democracy is not really responsible for the crisis that democratic action has brought about, because it was not sufficiently informed about the probable consequences of the avant garde finance capitalist devices that it chose to ratify at election after election. But where, within the system, was there an authority which might advise them, warn them, and compel them to engage in voting for some long-term interest, instead of for some immediate financial advantage?
For twenty years the economic advantages came thick and fast from the increasingly tricky financial devices that are now being condemned because of the crisis they led to. The more the system succeeded, the greater the demand became for ever more tricky investment products, and the more every authoritative or traditional curb on free economic action was felt to be intolerable. Ten years ago Ireland boasted of having the highest per capita level of entrepreneurship in the world. Capitalism was great. Capitalism was freedom.
When the free action of capitalism, chosen freely by a democracy, over-reaches itself and goes into crisis—as it must do—then the only thing for the democracy to do is grin and bear the period of austerity until the system picks up again. And that is, to a considerable extent, how the Irish democracy is behaving.
But there is an element that cannot do without a scapegoat. And the only available scapegoat is Grossdeutschland.
All that Germany has done for sixty years is tend to its own economic affairs conservatively. It developed its national economy by means of staid, old-fashioned relations between local industry, local banks, and local Governments, and it carried on making things while its rivals made the tricky financial devices that were the particular precipitating cause of this crisis.
Germany was at the core of the stable European structure constructed by European Christian Democracy in the 1950s. When Britain was admitted to this structure (with Ireland in tow) in the 1970s, it set about subverting that structure by exerting free market pressure against the "social market".
There was socialist opposition within Britain to joining Europe on the ground that Europe would prevent the further development of socialism in Britain. The opportunity for further socialist development in Britain came in 1977, a few years after it joined Europe. It came in the form of a Royal Commission report advocating industrial democracy. Industrial democracy was defeated—but not by Europe. It was rejected by the socialists in the Labour Party and the Trade Unions because it was not "the socialist revolution". Then, some years later, a very militant socialist, Kim Howells (who was Arthur Scargill's lieutenant in Scargill's catastrophic Miners' Strike of 1984-85) became Labour's Minister for Competition in Europe. His object was to overcome the European "social market" restrictions on the free action of international capital. This was successfully accomplished over the years.
British politics remain effectively nationalist throughout all the vagaries of ideological fashion. Britain lives off the world. It became incapable of feeding itself and it outran its own raw material resources in the late 19th century. It arranged, by means of manufacturing and war, for the world to feed it. That is still its relationship with the world, with financial services having replaced manufacture. Britain's national interest is globalist, and all parties collaborate in tending to it.
The European Community, when Britain was admitted to it, was self-sufficient economically, and was guided by a supra-national Commission, which kept it in kilter and arranged for a considerable degree of re-distribution. That was very much against the British interest, and by means of relentless pressure, sustained for decades, it succeeded in marginalising the Commission, in establishing globalist competitiveness as the ideal, and in destroying European Christian Democracy as an organised force.
Germany, while not disputing the matter openly, and while giving way in principle, remained a hold-out for the old system, at least in its own internal affairs, by the conservative force of inertia. That is why it remains the one really functional economy in Europe today. If something of the original European project is to be retrieved from the shambles, it depends on Germany to tend to it. And so we get the howl of Grossdeutschland.
Insofar as there is a demand behind the howl, it seems to be that Germany should pay off everybody's debts, so that they can then just carry on as before.
The globalist ideal of forming the human race into a single market can be presented as an ideal of universal democracy. In its historical origins, it is a construct of Ameranglian military, economic, and political power. And, insofar as a global market has actually been constructed, it functions under American hegemony.
Britain set about achieving world dominance through colonial expansion—the expansion of the population of Britain to regions of the world that were considered suitable for reasons of climate and of having a native population that might be exterminated easily—combined with the establishment of formal Imperial control over regions not suitable for colonising.
The British colonial and Imperial structure reached its greatest extent through victory in its 1914 war on Germany and Turkey and the seizure of the recently-established German colonies in Africa and of the Turkish Empire in the Middle East—in which various peoples had lived in peace for centuries but have been in conflict ever since. However, Britain over-reached itself in its expansionist war of 1914-19 and its decline began almost at once.
Britain's American colony, which had taken half a continent for itself as a state, became the hegemonic world power as the power of its mother country declined. And the decline of the mother country began as a consequence of its failure to defeat Germany by its own power, and its being rescued from the verge of defeat by the American declaration of war in its support in 1917, and the arrival of American Armies on the battlefield in 1918.
America won the Great War, but then left it to Britain and France to arrange peace in Europe—and to make a complete mess of it. France wanted to secure its position against a defeated and demoralised Germany, making sure that a German war of revenge would be impossible, but Britain prevented it.
America retired from the scene, allowing conflicted Anglo-French hegemony to make a shambles of Europe, before coming to the rescue again in 1944.
The British Empire launched its second World War in 1939, without having made serious preparations to fight it in earnest. It depended on France to do its fighting for it. France, having been prevented by Britain in 1919 from achieving its object of a strong frontier against Germany, was not eager to hear the main burden of the war for a second time. Following the battlefield defeat of May 1940, France made a settlement with Germany. Britain withdrew from the battle while refusing to negotiate a peace.
Dominance of the seas of the world by the Royal Navy enabled Britain to maintain Europe on a war-footing, thus maximising the probability of a German-Russian war. When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, Britain immediately declared itself to be Russia's ally, declared Bolshevik Russia to be a great peace-loving state, and began to churn out Bolshevik propaganda. At the same time it deferred the opening of a Second Front in France, which America was eager to launch when it joined the war in December 1941. The American position made military sense, but Britain obstructed it for political reasons. The Second Front was not opened until June 1944, by which time Russia had not only held the German invasion, but was pushing the Germans back into Europe fast. The American/British and the Russian Armies met in central Europe in May 1945, and the Cold War began. Eastern Europe, "from Stettin to Trieste" as Churchill put it, was removed from the world market.
China had lived peacefully with the rest of the world for centuries, until the British Empire made war in it in 1840 and forced it to engage in market relations with the British world market—in the first instance by opening itself to the sale of opium by British merchants. That was the first of a series of wars to destroy the Chinese state and plunder and commercialise Chinese society.
In the 1850s American warships sailed to Japan, which too had been at peace for centuries, and demanded market access. The Japanese, with the example of China before them, opened themselves to the world market, but they did so in the form of organising their clan communities into capitalist enterprises and making themselves active players in the capitalist world market, instead of being passive victims to be plundered. And, since they lacked raw material resources of their own, they set about acquiring them as Imperialists.
The British Empire made an alliance with the Japanese Empire before making war on Germany in 1914, and Japan became a protector of British interests in Asia. But America disliked the Anglo-Japanese alliance. America, having jolted Japan into capitalist Imperialism, came to see it as an inevitability that in its Pacific expansion it would have to make war on Japan. When the British Empire emerged from its Great War heavily in debt to the USA, the Americans insisted that the Anglo-Japanese Treaty should not be renewed.
Britain did not see its way to defying the US on this issue. If it had done so, the likely outcome would have been an arms race (with navies) ending in war—and an Anglo-American war was widely expected in the mid-1920s. So Britain ended its alliance with Japan. And a Japanese proposal that the League of Nations should adopt a statement of racial equality was rejected.
When American decided in 1941 that the moment had come for its war with Japan, it issued an ultimatum which Japan could not comply with, and Britain seconded the ultimatum. By doing so, Britain admitted to itself that it could only sustain its economic position in the world as America's shadow. When Japan responded to the ultimatums by bombing American ships at an island in the middle of the Pacific, it also struck at the British Empire in Asia—and the Empire never recovered from the blow.
Japanese Imperialism had been actively breaking up the Chinese state. The state of Manchukuo, which it formed out of it, seemed to have been viable. The defeat of Japan led to the re-unification of China. And the Communist movement, organising the base of Chinese society, quickly established its dominance over the American-sponsored Kuomintang middle-class stratum during the war against Japan, and in the civil war after the Japanese surrender.
As a consequence of the War launched by the declining British Empire, the territory of the world market shrank, and the world was simplified into a confrontation between the two victor Powers, which met in central Europe as the representatives of two antagonistic systems.
Britain, the creator of the world capitalist system, had brought it to the verge of collapse. It was kept in being by the USA. Capitalism was re-floated in modified form by American military, industrial and financial power. The money system of Cold War capitalism was the dollar. But the US had to turn a blind eye to deviations from the Free Market while Communism was an expanding force in the Third World. In 1965 Indonesia was saved for capitalism by the massacre of a million of its citizens, and for the next quarter century it was allowed to operate an aberrant national capitalism—which was declared to be a system of corruption and abolished when the Cold War ended. And General Suharto, who had saved Indonesia for capitalism with American backing, and was sustained by America for a generation, was declared to be a tyrant.
Japan had no Imperialist hangover. It had become Imperialist as a matter of capitalist economic necessity. After 1945 it was able to acquire raw materials through commercial relations with the Cold War capitalist market, and to sell its products into that market. It was a shining example of capitalism in the Free World—until the Cold War ended. Then, about twenty years ago, it was told that this could not continue. It was reminded of what America had done to it in 1945 and was cautioned that it might be done again if it did not pull in its economic horns.
In 1990, with the Soviet Union fragmenting and China having become unsure of itself, the US found itself alone in the world as its master. It was a disorienting experience for it. It had never been without an enemy to conquer, from the very first moment of its existence when it had a long series of native peoples to exterminate. And now it found it could not do without an enemy. So it concocted an enemy out of Saddam Hussein, whom it had helped to power, and who was governing Iraq on Western liberal lines.
Saddam had made war on Iran in the Western interest, blocking the Islamic Revolution which, it was feared, would otherwise have run through the Middle East. While Iraq was fighting Islam, the oil sheikdom of Kuwait, made into a state by Britain, was stealing its oil. Saddam was given the green light by the American Ambassador to take direct action against Kuwait, but when he did so Britain started war-mongering against him, and the US followed the British lead. The Arab League tried to play the part of mediator between Iraq and Kuwait, and there is little doubt that the matter could have been resolved peacefully.
It was a principle of the United Nations when founded that it should operate as far as possible through regional bodies. This principle was enforced in America. South American states could not go directly to the UN with complaints. They had to go first to the Organisation of American States, which was controlled by the US.
If the Arab League had been allowed to deal with the Iraq/Kuwait issue, that would have given it status as the regional UN body in the Middle East. It was important to the West that that should not happen, so the Arab League was brushed aside.
Last year France, Britain and the US purported to be acting at the behest of the Arab League when they overthrew the Libyan State. They now complain that they are prevented from carrying out the Arab League policy on Syria by the perverse conduct of China and Russia.
The term "the Syrian people" is now being used, as "the Libyan people" was last year, and "the Iraqi people" in 2003. It has been demonstrated that there is no Iraqi or Libyan people in the sense conveyed by the way the term is used. The suggestion is that there is a Syrian people kept in subjection by a terror State which somehow got control of them, and if that State was removed, there would be national democracy.
In fact the Western policy on Syria is a civil war policy, as it was in Iraq.
RTE has described the Syrian situation as one in which the Sunni majority is oppressed by the regime. But that is a programme of action, rather than a description. The object is to constitute the Sunni population into a coherent force, to give it the sense of itself as an oppressed religion, and to pit it against the existing regime as a confessional force which will establish a confessional state.
Al Qaeda, the great world demon for ten years, has been forgotten. It can hardly be declared to have been misunderstood, so it is just not mentioned. But it is well-known that Al Qaeda is a radical Sunni force, with its roots in Saudi Arabia, and that it was active in Libya and is active in Syria.
Ireland was riddled with Islamophobia a couple of years ago—a diseased fear or hatred of Islam. When a Muslim said on RTE that Sharia law would be established in Ireland if a majority of the Irish were Muslims, that was taken to be virtual terrorism. But now, as supporters of the warmongering against Syria, we are de facto advocates of Islamisation.
The sense in US policy seems to be that religious civil war at the present time seems to be the best way of maintaining Western control of the Middle East.
The west destroyed the liberal, secular, Westernising regime in Iraq, instead of invading Iran. Possibly it was thought that Iraq would provide a springboard for further conquests. The Shia democracy in Iran has confounded Western expectations by its durability and its resourcefulness and is close to displacing Saudi Arabia as the hegemonic power in the Middle East. And where would Western Middle East policy be without Saudi regional dominance?
C O N T E N T S