July 2011        

First World democracy—In whose interests?

Some of the mass insurrections in the Middle East have received more and different forms of support than others, which clearly demonstrate the cherry-picking nature of that support and similarly its slavish intentions, especially in relation to oil-rich Libya.
     Recent insurrections—both violent and non-violent—in several countries of the Middle East have in the main sought and gained the support of the so-called First World democratic states, which have patronised the dictatorial rule of these same countries as outdated, corrupt, and offensive to the democratic will of the people.
     But while these insurrections apparently seek and pursue a path that will lead to democratic rule as espoused and led by the First World, the same demonstrating peoples should be careful what they wish for. In the very birthplace of democratic rule the so-called will and wishes of its people are being ignored and rebutted by their state machinery as a means of eradicating just opposition to austerity measures enforced on those people by their governments and the EU and IMF.
     The country, of course, is Greece, and it was from this same place that the word “democracy” came, meaning “rule of the people,” which was used to describe the political systems of the 5th to 4th centuries BC in Greek city-states such as Athens—which is ironic, given what we are witnessing on our television screens.
     As the planet globally reels from its neo-liberal economic excesses, “democratic” countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal teeter on the brink of bankruptcy and collapse—which, we are told, can be resolved only by strict and stringent enforcement of economic belt-tightening, which will impoverish not only our lives but those of successive generations. In so doing we will save the EU phenomenon and ensure the survival of German and French banking.
     Unlike Ireland, however, the Greek people have harnessed their opposition into effective street protest, which, if appropriately and properly dealt with in a true democratic way, would not descend into the chaotic violence as evidenced in recent newsreels.
     The fact that the people’s opposition to their government’s austerity measures is not being listened to creates the conditions that promote the very violent scenes we have witnessed and that can be so readily dismissed by the so-called defenders of democracy as wanton violence. But those in this country who readily dismiss that type of street violence as peculiar to Greece or to the Continent should think again.
     Our coalition Government has had its 100-day honeymoon, and over the next few months the very austerity measures we were not allowed to vote on but which have the country’s “democratic stamp of approval” will really start to kick in. Already their impact on school travel, special-needs assistants in schools, hospitals etc. is beginning to manifest itself, and these are only the very tip of the iceberg upon which our livelihoods will crash.
     There is no sign of recovery—in fact the opposite is very evident.
     The savage cuts in public spending, as dictated not only by the EU and IMF but, more importantly, by the financial markets will very shortly leave many, especially those in the middle classes, potentially in civil and social destitution. In the light of the fact that we have recently returned a coalition Government that is practically beyond political reproach, it is hard to see how that same Government can be toppled except by implosion (and there is no point in expecting the Labour Party to light that fuse!).
     What, then, of our democratic process as regards respecting the wishes of the people, thus ensuring the rule of the people?
     At that stage the Irish people will have no alternative but to seek and similarly demonstrate their support for that alternative. If the democratic processes do not provide for acceding to those wishes, then for certain sections of the people their outlet will be through violence, possibly and quite probably along the lines witnessed in Greece. Proper democracy would not allow this to happen, and it is very clear that as our leaders rightfully extol the virtues of not living in dictatorial despotic states, such as those in the Middle East, we are not in a position to divest ourselves of the opinion that we live in a real democracy.
     The civil and social interests of the people of the planet are clearly at the ransom of dictatorial interests and pursuits. In “democratic” countries, such as Ireland, we are subservient to the diktat of finance capital and its institutions, which can determine our very existence—even in our First World democracies! The fact that democracy’s birthplace has its people on the streets demonstrating—a lot of which is becoming more and more violent—is evidence that First World democracy as it operates at present does not work.
     World leaders’ slavish devotion to finance capital, and the rush of Kenny, Gilmore, Noonan et al. to return to the finance markets, belies the fact that more of the same will only deliver the same. History has shown that while neo-liberal economics might have pulled its horns in for the present it will not be too long before they reappear to erode the legislative controls imposed on their intentions and methods, and we will arrive at another economic collapse.
     Gramsci was right when he wrote: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid systems appear.” It’s time to bury the old!

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