|Hard Sell: The insurmountable problem facing President Joe Biden’s democratic capitalist missionaries, is that in order to fill the cups of the oppressed with freedom, they will first be required to empty their own pockets.|
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN has just wound up his virtual “Summit For Democracy” and, frankly, I’m none the wiser. The underlying premise of what looked suspiciously like and anti-Chinese, anti-Russian, propaganda exercise: that democracy is threatened by the advance of authoritarianism; was poorly defended by the American President and his supporters.
Our own Prime Minister (whose participation in Biden’s summit was, for a few encouraging moments, a matter of some doubt) certainly failed to advance a credible argument that democracy was under attack. Indeed, her most serious critique was reserved for the disinformation spread by the leading social media platforms. That all of these are based in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, did little to dispel the intellectual confusion characterising the entire summit.
How much more helpful it would have been had Jacinda Ardern chosen to broaden the debate by comparing the present historical moment with that of the 1930s.
Ninety years ago, Democracy, as a political system, was unquestionably under unrelenting ideological attack. From the radical Left came the critique that the democratic system was nothing more than a smoke-screen designed by the ruling classes to hide the true power relationships of capitalist society – which were economic, not political. In the oft-quoted observation of the French writer, Anatole France: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
The Right lamented the weakening effect of democratic party politics on the expression of the national will. The unity of the people and the power of the state could only be undermined by Democracy’s relentless focus on the rights of the individual. The slogan of Benito Mussolini: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”; summed up the political objectives of the radical Right admirably.
Crucially, these anti-democratic ideas were not the preserve merely of party activists, academic authors, newspaper columnists, and radio personalities – the 1930s equivalent of today’s social media communicators. The assault upon Democracy was led by substantial nation-states.
The Soviet Union, through its mouthpiece the Communist International or “Comintern”, heaped nothing but scorn on Western “bourgeois democracy”. It was condemned for offering no credible response to the poverty and despair unleashed by the Great Depression. Against the dictatorship of Capital, the Comintern offered not democracy, but the dictatorship of the working-class. Its clinching argument: “There are no unemployed in Russia!”
Germany, under Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party – the Nazis – pretended not to feel the loss of the parliamentary democracy that had been swept away by the “National Revolution”. Gone was the vacillation, weakness and political gridlock of the hated Weimar Republic, and in its place stood the volksgemeinschaft – the national peoples community – which was credited with restoring order, unity and prosperity to the German nation.
How do Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany compare, as anti-democratic proselytisers, with Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation and Xi Jinping’s Peoples Republic of China – supposed leaders of the authoritarian crusade against which the “Summit For Democracy” set its face?
Frankly, today’s authoritarians aren’t a patch on their 1930s predecessors.
If the Russian Federation had genuinely turned it face against Democracy, deriding it as a failed experiment imposed upon the Russian people by the rapacious nations of the West, why would its leader devote so much time and energy to maintaining the pretence of leading a democratically-elected government? Would someone cast in the mould of Joseph Stalin really feel obliged to rig election after election in the manner of President Putin? Is it not more accurate to observe that the sins committed against democracy in Russia are, in fact, proof of its enduring hold upon the imagination of the long-suffering Russian people?
What about those 100,000+ troops massed along Russia’s border with Ukraine? How “democratic” is that? A better question might be: How would the Russian people react if their President did not do all within his power to keep the military forces of Nato as far from Russia’s borders as possible? If Russia and its allies had military forces ranged along both the Canadian and Mexican borders, and its navy was galivanting around the Gulf of Mexico, how bellicose do you suppose the American people would expect their president to be?
Just for the record: the last time so many foreign troops were massed along the Russian border was June 1941.
Even accepting that the Russian Federation is a deformed democratic state, the same, surely, cannot be said of the Peoples Republic of China? Is it not the case that President Xi Jinping has openly boasted the superiority of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” over the failing democracies of the West? Hasn’t he contrasted the extraordinary economic growth of China, and the dramatic improvement in Chinese living standards, with the grotesque inequality and moral disintegration of neoliberal capitalism? For those countries still struggling to join the rich nations’ club, President Xi’s characterisation of authoritarianism as the fast-track to prosperity, must be tempting.
Not least because so many of those aspiring nations are only too aware that the phenomenal growth experienced by China was set in motion by the enthusiasm of Western investors for a nation state that did everything within its power to crush “bourgeois democracy”. The fact that this prime destination for foreign (especially US) capital did not permit a multi-party system, free and fair elections, a free and outspoken news media, or, most importantly, an independent trade union movement, was precisely the reason why they were so keen to relocate their factories in Chinese territory.
China’s great sin isn’t that it maintains rigid control over the lives of its people; or that it represses the Uighurs of Jinjiang Province. (After all, the United States, the UK and Australia invaded, mangled and economically crippled Iraq in the same cause – i.e. combatting “Islamic terrorism”.) No, China’s great sin is that she refuses to allow contemporary Western capitalists to dictate her future in the same way as their nineteenth and twentieth century predecessors.
Viewed from this perspective, President Biden’s “Summit For Democracy” (to which, confusingly, the Philippines were invited, but Singapore was not) begins to look like those great evangelical gatherings of two hundred years ago, where one distressed clergyman after another rose to speak of the unfortunate millions of Africans and Asians dwelling in the darkness of religious error, their souls in peril, and urgently in need of the liberating word of God – followed, after a decent interval, by the not-so-liberating instruments of Mammon.
The great advantage of the Christian missionary movement was that the paradise it promised lay not in this world, but the next. The insurmountable problem facing Biden’s democratic capitalist missionaries, is that in order to fill the cups of the oppressed with freedom, they will first be required to empty their own pockets.
And where’s the profit in that?
'It is not the voter who counts,' quoth Josef Stalin, 'but who counts the votes.' Elective oligarchies, plutocracies, kleptocracies and/or kakistocracies are not democracies, and these days politicians must be amazed at just how little democratic pretence they can get away with.
Maybe they aren't actually getting away with it, judging by the draconian measures of plutocratic self protection being enacted in, e.g. the US and the UK. The Fat Cattists must be having nightmare visions of approaching pitchforks.
Like a lot of social and political commentators I think you have missed the fact that the world has changed. In efforts to get votes all political parties in democracies have changed from caring about their societies (as was the case pre 1950) to now caring only about the next election. Inevitably this has turned into a race to the bottom. Anything was OK as long as it resulted in more votes at the next election. Politicians have embraced or tolerated things like sex self identification, BLM, made being a landlord undesirable, etc - all totally ruinous activities for society - acceptable or even desirable.
Democracy has turned into a competition for votes using any idea that appeals to another voter. This has the result of fracturing society.
Add to this a current resurgence of Socialism. One can find endless Youtube videos that show students and people under 30 a explaining that societies problems would a be solved by the Government handing out money. Demands that housing is a human right is simply a demand that Governments should pay for a home for us all.
These ideas are pure socialism where no one has any responsibility , either for themselves or to society.
And like it or not Adern is a died in the wool socialist. These changes over the last few decades appeal to her base beliefs and I am sure that if she could find a good reason elections would be seriously delayed - as she has tried to do with local body elections and it was only the law that ensured the national elections were held in 2020 .
"why would its leader devote so much time and energy to maintaining the pretence of leading a democratically-elected government?"
I'm not sure. But it might have something to do with public opinion both within Russia and outside, although many cultures seem to prefer stability over freedom. Not necessarily a terrible choice if you're not disagreeing with the government publicly. By the same token, the Chinese seem terrified of stirring up the people by doing too many things they don't like – at least the Han people. I remember saying on this site many years ago and on a few others as well I think - that the Chinese treated their minorities like shit, particularly their Muslims, and nobody in the West cared except perhaps for those who supported the Tibetans. But even so, two wrongs don't make a right here. Everyone claims the moral high ground, but nobody really has it.
A good example of how Ardern thinks is her statement in the last couple days that "she did not mislead local councils about the compulsive taking over of the councils water assets"
It urns out that she planned earlier this year that water assets would be
taken by compulsion - yet the councils all (or most) voted as to whether they would opt in or opt out. They certainly understood that it would not be a compulsive take over.
Arderns confusion about democracy and socialism is so well obvious here.
Singapore: Fascism with shopping malls.
So He Pua Pua is democracy? Ardern's ability to hold two completely incompatible sets of beliefs at the same time is astonishing.
"Anything was OK as long as it resulted in more votes at the next election. Politicians have embraced or tolerated things like sex self identification, BLM, made being a landlord undesirable, etc - all totally ruinous activities for society"
I love the way conservatives are always saying this sort of thing, yet never tell us exactly how this is all ruinous for society except that it annoys them.
And politics in New Zealand, largely because of the three-year term has always been about the next election. And to be honest probably everywhere else as well but it's been well entrenched here for almost ever.
If Arden is a socialist, I have a bridge I just love to sell you. In fact, Barry I don't think you actually understand what the word socialist means, except insofar as you define it as "Everything the government does that I don't like."
I think if you are going to look at places that are restricting freedom, you should have a crack at the beam in your own eye – all these extreme right countries such as Hungary, Poland, India and the like who are shutting down newspapers, jailing opposition politicians and journalists, and passing laws that make criticism of the government almost impossible. Not saying that there are left-wing countries like China which do the same, but let's at least try to be evenhanded.
Yes, democracy becomes endangered the more wealth creative capitalism concentrates towards plutocracy on the "Right" or Govt. Monopoly Capitalism under the "Dictatorship of the Proletariat Socialism" on the "Left" -
and the more profitable private enterprise - i.e. individual citizen participation in capitalism - is made more difficult or destroyed by confiscating its profitability, as e.g. in an extreme example was done in the Soviet Union under Stalin, when starving and deporting their "kulaks" to slave labor camps in Siberia.
Therefore - in view of what dangers there are for democracy under a growing proletariat of have-nots who have nothing to offer but their labor alone - I believe that there will be increasing understanding among the well-to-do among us that -
for improving the sustainability our social welfare system we are not against increased taxation as long as it is for direct national wealth creation in collective (NZ Super Fund)and PERSONAL accounts, e.g. KiwiSaver (or potential "Home Ownership Saver"),
with the poorest beneficiaries not excluded from the effort.
(I.e. with a part of a benefit channeled into wealth ownership creation.)
Or what else could be better for strengthening democracy ?
And they're not willing to do it. A lot of the Dem donors would prefer the authoritarian option of the Republicans to that.
As a, perhaps, aside, aren't the billionaires who run things in the post-Keynesian world dense? The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet, mathematical to a fault, was brought around by his missus. There's something 'human' with billionaires, either via inheritance or the strange ways of making a fortune. Yet in their laps ... just like the 19th century before the socialist movement.
And America produced in reaction ... Bernie Sanders. One person. They will die the American, salesman, way and take us with them.
This is the sort of freedom we like said the capitalists in the USA as they transferred their working operations to China. As Chris put it:
Not least because so many of those aspiring nations are only too aware that the phenomenal growth experienced by China was set in motion by the enthusiasm of Western investors for a nation state that did everything within its power to crush “bourgeois democracy”.
The fact that this prime destination for foreign (especially US) capital did not permit a multi-party system, free and fair elections, a free and outspoken news media, or, most importantly, an independent trade union movement, was precisely the reason why they were so keen to relocate their factories in Chinese territory.
Now I've read your article, quite right Ukraine should be a neutral zone. However as Ukraine gets more democratic, the more Putin would view it as a threat. And Ukraine will get democratic as Taiwan did in reaction to China.
Putin is an old authoritarian kleptocrat with the same moral right as Gaddafi. A democratic Russia wouldn't care about its neighbours being democratic. Loving the Russian Europhile authors of the 19th century I will never not believe the Russians are not worthy of democracy.
I suppose the Real reality is exploitation of resources and inventiveness. Demo-cracy be damned.
I'm working my way through ze higher ideas.
China's wrong is not to do with disallowing Western direction, it's to do with over-doing totalitarian command. The Uighurs are a good cause.
There's something very wrong with China. Trying the whole totalitarian thing.
Post a Comment