Politicians, much like advertisers, are ever ready to surprise the unawareness of the thoughtless. They must use language, the quintessential political tool, with a tone of deep-felt conviction and an air of solemn sincerity. And no politician, in his electoral language and speeches, could omit a panegyric of democracy and a declaration of his total commitment to it.
Some readers may have since long concluded that “democracy” is an oxymoron. In its practical use, the term refers to the metamorphosis of the general interest, replaced by interests particular and proprietary. But the metamorphosis is craftily disguised, to prevent or discourage the gradual and laborious investigation of reason.
On these grounds these notes are directed at those who, at one at time or another, may have heard people say that “we do not live in a true democracy.” Nevertheless truth is always truth, and reason is always reason, they are the intellectual gold which defies destruction. But gold, at times, may be so much dispersed in various veins of ore that some chemistry is needed to recover it. Especially in an Orwellian climate when “democratic” authorities even deny the most clear, visible, undisputable and undeniable physical evidence, available to all. One most recent example is the prime minister of Spain, declaring that the Catalonian referendum, for which millions voted and hundreds were injured, “did not happen.”
I will therefore attempt to ascertain the ambiguity, disentangle the interpretations and recover the logical and tenable meaning of an idea, masked behind a confusing collection of syllables. And to study, within the confines of a blog, the helpless and unavoidable drifts of democracy (as currently meant), whereby it inevitably becomes the opposite of itself, under any regime, even the most openly “democratic.” This with the objective of inspiring skepticism about “democratic” revolutions at large, of any type, color or composition – for who has not heard people say at times, “we need a revolution ?!”
To begin with, the word itself is mimetic, promiscuous and undefined, even in its core meaning and synonyms. For Toqueville, author of “Democracy in America,” as an example, democracy suggests egalitarianism. But for Spencer, the XIX century philosopher who applied Darwinian theories to society at large, democracy is synonym of differences, of natural selection and of a fight for survival. It was Spencer, not Darwin who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.”
Between these extremes such a large number of more-or-less related ideas could be accommodated, as to make the word but a collection of syllables, as I said, “of no allowance to the bosom’s truth. (1)“
Why then, we may ask, everywhere in the world, he who exercises political functions defines himself “democratic,” ignoring the lexical violence that the word implies – and disregarding democracy’s historical bad reputation. For indeed, democracy, starting with Plato and Herodotus, suggested mediocrity, hedonism, materialism, and a whole range of negative values, reflecting the inferior instincts of the blunt monster with the uncounted heads (2), of the fool multitude that choose by show (3) and of those who love they know not why, and hate upon no better a ground (4).
Today, as we know, democracy is almost a magic title of respectability, a passport of sorts without which it is practically impossible to join the world assemblies of civilized states. Even though an impartial analysis proves democracy to be the regime of pretense and dissimulation.
To conceal it, one trick consists of giving the word qualifying adjectives of endowment. By sound association, “Endowment of Democracy” comes to mind, which, as we know, is a well-funded CIA organization, actually an endowment of hell, designed to establish aberrant puppet governments, which do not even attempt disguise their dictatorial, let alone nefarious nature.
Other more palatable but meaningless qualifying adjectives, used to disguise the original lexical fraud, are “true”, “substantial”, “real” – as in “true democracy,” “substantial democracy,” “real democracy,” etc.
Let’s ignore the misleading adjectives, and reflect on the idea that in a democratic regime, the center of gravity is within the citizens and not within the ruling classes. Even so, we face a mutation whose causes are inherent in the very concept of democracy. To cause the mutation are not the enemies of democracy. It is the endemic, inevitable and toxic mutation of oligarchy. Recognizing the phenomenon are now critics from both the traditional ideologies of Right and Left.
In the classic writings on the subject, oligarchy, as a government by the powerful few over the impotent many, lays in the middle, between monarchy (government by one), and democracy (government by all).
In practice, however, oligarchies are the only form of government. They are varied, more or less hierarchical and centralized – but they are always and only oligarchies.
Even in a monarchy the policies and decisions of the king are the expression of an organized group that both confines and sustains him. But this equally applies to democracy, which, in its etymological sense, can only exist during the fleeting moments of glory, when popular power removes the hierarchical structures of the past during a revolution.
This was the opinion of Joseph DeMaistre the critic of the French Revolution, which he uses as an example of a phenomenon applicable at large. The moments of true democracy and democratic intoxication in the French Revolution were short, ephemeral and destructive. Not much later, the guillotine began working overtime, destroying in the end, even Danton and Robespierre, themselves original architects and masters of the very revolution that destroyed them. And which left in its wake a bloody Civil War leading to an ironic finale. For a movement steeped in blood, and started by finding everything wrong with kings and nobles, ended with finding that there was nothing wrong with an emperor.
Nevertheless, radical changes in political structures may occasionally occur without bloody revolutions, especially if, for a lucky combination of events, an idealistic and charismatic leader somehow manages to collect the favor of the masses. “Lucky” is the correct adjective, because the forces of the established cliques appears unbeatable. Examples are Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. In contrast, we know what happened to Salvador Allende in Chile and earlier on to Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. The rarity of the success of a charismatic leader is proof of its extreme difficulty
This does not mean that, in time, cliques may not develop inside the newly established political power circles – even with a charismatic leader. But, at least at the beginning, the charisma of an inspired leader makes it possible to realize otherwise unthinkable reforms for the benefit of the overwhelming majority.
Returning to our theme, even Rousseau, who examined the subject at length in his book on the Social Contract , concludes that democracy, in its etymological meaning never existed nor can ever exist.
For people constantly assembled to manage the public business are unimaginable. Hence, commissions and committees with limited numbers of participants are created, and soon a minority is in power.
But the very creation of commissions and committees is the death knell of democracy. For the few will impose their will on the many. Hence we arrive at the paradox that the democratic illusion is the effect of a practical impossibility.
These conditions is what Robert Michels – a sociologist who lived at the onset of the XX century – referred to as the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.” Furthermore, when large masses of people have acquired the generalized condition of equality, meaning the right to vote and a theoretical equality under the law, that is the moment when they require the ruling by the few, by the restricted oligarchies.
Not only, but since this condition is a patent contradiction of the principles of democracy, it is necessary that the oligarchies be concealed and that they conceal their concealment. They do so, typically, with a paroxysm of public displays, where the glow and the glitter help the public forego and forget the real state of affairs.
Which, in the end, confirms that democracy is a regime of illusions, and that what appear as the most benign of political systems is or can be the most evil in reality. Wars are the most glaring example. The self-proclaimed most democratic country in the world has proven the source, instigator, participator and promoter of most wars of the last 100 years.
The majority principle, the essence of democracy, is practically turned upside down, and becomes the minority principle, which is the essence of autocracy. It is an autocracy that relies on large numbers, and in some ways it is even more dangerous than autocracies whose base is more restricted.
Historically, Plato, Herodotus and Aristotle already demonstrated that democracy is the stifling and oppression of the virtues of the few by the vices of the many.
To demonstrate the worthlessness of popular elections, Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote a comedy titled “The Knights.” It takes place in the Athens of the Vth century BC and the protagonists are two demagogues contending for victory in the forthcoming popular elections. One is called the Saussagemaker, the other Paflagon. There is also a third character, a senile man, muddled in thought, weak in understanding, and easily manipulated with blatant and fraudulent promises. He represents the public, the voters.
The play was a satire on the Athenian democracy of the Vth century, where the political protagonists’ aim was to gain the confidence of the voters.
How did they do it in practice? Aristotle gives us an explanation, showing the methods used by two noteworthy contenders for victory in the Athenian elections, respectively Cimon and Pericles.
Cimon, who was enormously rich, organized splendid parties and banquets for the people at large. Pericles, who was not as rich, simply pre-sold government positions in exchange for electoral funding and votes. Which means that Cimon bought favor with current private, and Pericles with future public resources. This was the origin, says Aristotle, for the immorality of magistrates.
The system was then observable, given the limited size of Athens. Today the system is the same in its essence, though it is not easy to discover what prospective contenders promise in return to their fund-givers.
In the end an invisible and secret curtain masks from the duped voters the real power of what we call the deep state. And democracy is reduced to the celebration of ceremonial rites, further hiding the reality behind the mask.
In other words, democracy is a promise made with the conscious intent to break it.
But let us explore further the concept of oligarchy. We habitually identify as oligarchs the multibillionaires who make up the 1%, but the system is more complex.
Originally, oligarchs were a caste (as in India), but since ‘caste’ is of ambiguous meaning and pronunciation, the term “oligarchs” took over. However, it is incorrect to equate oligarchy with caste. For a caste is a static societal construct. It is construed of horizontal, impermeable strata, the top, the middle and the low, with essentially no intermingling between the strata.
But in a democracy oligarchies change, evolve and adapt themselves to current cultural and social conditions. Rather than comparable to castes, oligarchies can be compared to wheels, or cliques – in the image of an Italian thinker – the “wheels of democracy.”
Quite explicitly, there is a never subsiding conflict between those who belong to a clique, and those who don’t.
This is why, when we see in positions of power and responsibility people unknown, often clearly incompetent, of uncertain merits and certain demerits, we ask ourselves to what clique do they belong.
For this is one of the great divisions of our society. It is a profound division, built through careers, personal links and connections, envies and hatreds that weaken, corrode and corrupt the social fabric. And yet, until it will last, this represents the accepted, material, official and constitutional fabric of society.
Within the cliques, protections and favors are exchanged and/or purchased with allegiances and services. It could be money, remunerative positions, promotions, immunities and privileges.
Incidentally, this is why so many new positions, departments and a vast network of remarkably useless secretaries, secretariats, under-secretariats and assistantships are routinely created.
Such generally accepted favor-exchange network may seem aseptic, but it is actually a septic tank of infectious material. On the surface it may appear a way to distribute favors (and power) from those above to those below, a form of democracy. In reality, protections, rewards and services are often grounded in violence and/or prevarication.
In the oligarchic wheels of ascension and declension, participants are but resources to be exploited, with arrogance in the upper regions of the wheels and servility in the lower. In the intermediate regions, arrogance and servility vary dynamically, servility towards those above and arrogance towards those below.
Masters and servants are tied by links similar to those between accomplices – links are guaranteed by favors, threats, blackmail and intimidation. Or even violence when criminal organizations are part of it.
Political crimes, on various scales, result from a broken pact or the sudden inability of someone to keep it.
And what are the forces that keep the wheels turning? They are illegality and inequality. The epidemic of the “wheels of oligarchy” grows in proportion to social inequality and to the unequal application of the laws. That offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice (5) has been amply demonstrated. And the greater the inequality and social injustice, the greater the demand for patronage, which is the father of protection.
The greater the patronage, the more endemic the violations of the law, which, in the abstract should be equal for all.
Lacking equality and legality, democracy thus becomes a cover for a system of hierarchical powers, based on the unequal exchange of favors between the powerful and the impotent, and on the generalized illegality favoring those who belong to the oligarchical cliques.
A preference given to someone because of a connection, however innocent, is the first step in the building of a clique, or of a clique becoming a criminal conspiracy. The difference is not in quality but weight.
This power structure, due to the evolution of the current culture, is now capillary and reaches to the extreme ganglia. If we could lift the veil and have a vision of the whole, we would be probably be astonished at the reality hidden behind the representation of democracy.
Vertical chains of power, mostly invisible, sometimes secret, link politicians, bureaucrats, magistrates, professions, hierarchies in economy, finance, university, culture, entertainment and the vast number of councils, centers, institutions, NGOs etc. In principle they should be independent of each other, but often they are drawn into the same eddies of power, responsibilities and functions.
That is, democracy is but the inevitable realization of the iron law of the oligarchies. Which does not mean that everyone subscribes to it. Those who do not for ethical reasons, must be able to afford it. The vast majority cannot.
Nevertheless, the system of patronage, conditioned though the exchange of rewards and allegiances, cannot be endless. Resources that enable it would have to be infinite. But there are limits to sustainability, typically due to the pauperization of society and to the rapacity of those at the top of the wheels. The pauperization of society is usually not a problem because it is carried out by degrees, on the principle of the poor frog in a water-filled pan and killed by gradually bringing the water temperature to the boiling point.
But there are other reasons. The cliques that constitute oligarchies could not exist if everyone would enjoy their privileges. If so, we would then have a democracy, not an oligarchy. To exist, a system of oligarchies needs people who do not belong to it. And for the system to thrive, those outside the oligarchy must be given the hope of belonging to it.
Discounting for a moment facade and deception, this is the current essence of the American Dream. In Europe, the message is currently mixed. Given the ongoing and determined war against ethnic Europeans, the deep state is spreading the message that Europeans must accept forced immigration and forced miscegenation. Lest it may sound as an exaggeration, watch this short video. https://youtu.be/dz7-iuO1JpA
Oligarchical wheels carry within themselves a contradiction that inevitably divide those who are inside from those outside. The conflict will appear as a clash between the outsiders, who will call for the adherence to universal rights and values, and the insiders who couldn’t care less.
Those who do not participate even in a small way to the system of privileges, have no other option but to lament the lack of implementation of universal values. They may have little success in their claim. However, up to this time, this is all they can do or hope for.
Therefore, every oligarchical system profoundly fractures society. In old hierarchical structures and governments, the only alternative to keep the status-quo was violence and fear. And indeed fear, in the words of French philosopher Montesquieu is the engine that keeps despotism running. Violence is the hidden resource of every oligarchy that feels threatened.
In the context of a democratic system of government, the “hierarchical man”, who belongs or aims at belonging to an oligarchical clique even acquires some anthropological characteristics that define him, in appearance, clothing, speech and demeanor. Sometimes his face is a true index of his mind.
One consequent natural question is, can we do anything about it? All fractures within society create tensions, which can be controlled but only within certain limits. As mentioned, DeMaistre described the “heroic moments” of a revolution, when the furor of the insurgents destroyed the system of caste privileges.
That expression, “heroic moments,” suggests a destructive force, appearing occasionally, which shakes the system and re-establishes, for however little time, democracy in its etymological sense, under one law applicable to all.
But even without violence, maybe democracy in the end is this, the relentless and continuous work to limit, fight and remove the oligarchies. Fully realizing that after one oligarchy is destroyed another will arise, composed of the very people who destroyed the previous one. Demonstrating that the iron law of oligarchy admits no exceptions.
However, though admitting its strength of iron, the law of oligarchies does not describe a static system, but one in continuous motion. Which, in turn, suggests that democracy is not a result achieved once and for all. Rather, it is a continuous struggle to dismantle oligarchies. In this sense popular elections may change a government, but not the oligarchical system. They just re-shapes the oligarchical structure.
Unless a rare and unusual leader succeeds in imprinting his will and style against the opposition of the previous oligarchies and of the new oligarchies in training, so to speak. In the United States, an example was president Jimmy Carter (under whose presidency no wars were declared, missiles launched or bombs dropped). But he couldn’t fight alone the internal enemies who hated him for having upheld the rights of the Palestinians. The most powerful enemy in America threw its weight on the side of Reagan, and we saw since then what happened next.
In conclusion, democracy becomes the more unrealistic the more it is idealized. But, for any meaningful changes to occur, it is not mandatory to resort to DeMaistre’s “heroic moments of revolution.” Perhaps democracy can only be this: the possibility of creating “non heroic” moments for the removal of oligarchies. Said it another way, the ongoing task of democracy is a dissolving, or at least the weakening of oligarchies, without resorting to revolutions.
Which may seem a meager conclusion, when all the structures that keep up the system, seem designed to weaken democracy. Why then all regimes still like to call themselves democratic? Because among all political systems, democracy is the only regime that can represent itself as a disinterested form of power.
Up to the middle of the 18th century kings were ruling in the name of God. Then some kings modified the formula to read, “king in the name of God and through the will of the people. Later, after the sunset of monarchies, out went God and left was the “will of the people.”
Similarly, elected politicians can only act in the name of the people, in the name of somebody who is not themselves. Through such fiction, democracy is the most patent and potent mask of effective power.
A large part of the horrors we witness, can only be explained as the need of oligarchies to protect themselves. This ranges from the pauperization of America through uncontrolled immigration, to the wars waged on behalf of Israel and of the so-called deep state.
To end in an optimistic note. I like to think, with many others, that the new information venues, such as The Saker, The Greanville Post an others, which show people at large the reality of things, or at least another point of view, will enable us to create the conditions to defend ourselves, and perhaps even to reduce oligarchic power. Easier said than done, but we know that long and hard is the way that leads to light.
One recent positive indicator is the oligarchies’ fear of the Internet, leading to their initiatives to shut down sites they believe inimical to themselves. If and how we will succeed to prevent it from happening may be probably more important than any “democratic” elections.
Finally, those who are constantly surprised and disappointed in a so-called democratic government may remember the Latin maxim that a wise man is never surprised. The truth is, that things to come – except when imminently approaching – are equally hidden from men of all degrees of understanding.
If a wise man is not amazed at what is happening, it is not that he has thought more, but less upon futurity. He never considered things not yet existing as the proper object of his attention, or injected nonentities into his mind. Therefore, he is not surprised because he is not disappointed, but he escapes disappointment, because he never formed any expectations.
** 2 King Henry IV p2
** 3 Merchant of Venice
** 4 Comedy of Errors
** 5 Hamlet