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Dominating Interests’ Democracy in Crisis

By Farooque Chowdhury

28 January, 2011

Democracy, a political form of class domination, has now been converted into a commodity by a section of organizations driven by dominating interest, and is being delivered to countries in the periphery. The marketing of the political system by the centre of the present world order is part of its quest for safer domains for accumulation.

It signifies the crisis of the political system as the classes/segments in the periphery that need the system for its rule are failing to develop it. The crisis of democracy is not only in the periphery. The center is also having problems with the form. Recent incidents in advanced capitalist countries and neocolonies reiterate the crisis. The crisis reflects the declining capability of the dominating economic interests as it is the dominating economic interests that keep its political systems working.

Spread of democracy, as conceptualized by the dominating ideology, has come to a halt as The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2008 showed. Forty-eight countries assessed by the EIU were having a high risk of social unrest. Moreover, democracy, even according to the dominating concept, is not as prevalent as is imagined. Rather, in some countries it is being diminished.

There are, according to the EIU definition and index, only 30 “full democracies”, 50 “flawed democracies”, 51 authoritarian, and 36 “hybrid regimes”; the US and UK are near the bottom of the full democracy category; the US experienced an erosion of civil liberties while the UK faced problems in the functioning of government and erosion of civil liberties; half of the world population lives in a democracy of some sort; only about 14% live in “full democracies”; more than one-third of the world’s population still lives under authoritarian rule.

A Financial Times/Harris Poll during the financial melting down found: 81 % in Italy, 70% in Germany, 68% in France, 63% in the US, 61% in Spain and 59% in the UK believe that there should be increased government regulation of business activities to prevent future global market crises.

The index and the poll figures tell the precarious situation the dominating political system is facing. The unresolved contradictions are declining to follow the dictates of the dominating class interests and bury the dynamics of history and the triumphant capital found its incapacities to resolve the contradictions in the periphery and in the centre. Consequently, the crisis of democracy, by the dominating concept and standard, remain alive.

Democracy of the ruling interests is essential to the dominating capital. “Empirical evidence shows that”, writes Boris Pleskovic, “a stable, democratic government … is more likely to promote economic … freedom than an authoritarian one.” In “Unfinished Debate: Economic Growth – Openness – Individual Freedom” (Beyond Transition, the World Bank Group) he says: “One advantage of an open economy is that a country can use savings elsewhere … to finance its own investment. …[D]eveloping countries should grow faster because of diminishing returns to capital in industrial countries and capital should flow to developing countries where returns should be higher. … Only in the last 15 years have economists rediscovered that institutions, such as economic freedom (property rights, legal protection, free trade, rule of law), social capital, and investment in people (education, health) are important for economic growth. … [E]conomic freedom is closely linked to economic growth .… [H]owever, there is no doubt that autocracy cannot guarantee economic and political freedom. [A] study finds that dictatorships are invariably hostile to private property except in a few cases such as Chile, Singapore, and South Korea.”

The above statement shows that dominating ideology now-a-days understands that autocracy stands against the prosperity of capital. Capital has learned it. The old “game” of imposing military rule has been replaced, in most cases, by imposing donor designed democracy. But, the game itself is a reflection of the world system’s failure as it shows that the allies/compradors of the dominating capitals are incapable of assembling and running a system which is democratic to the dominating capitals, which can safeguard capital’s free flow to and return from periphery, which can ensure higher returns, and which can make the system safe from anguish and discontent of the ruled. If the democracy-design, the design for imposing democracy in the periphery by the centre, is considered for the time being in isolation of the design of LIC (low intensity conflict) the reality that emerges is not encouraging. It shows: (1) failure of the ruling classes/segments in peripheral societies to set up a system that can safeguard the dominating class and capital interests; (2) a degeneration and decay of the comprador ruled systems in these societies; (3) failure of the existing systems in these societies that can absorb shocks from class conflicts without endangering itself, that can accommodate all the competing sections of the ruling classes/segments, that can act as safety valve to ventilate and accommodate aspirations and demands of the contending/opposing classes or segments without raising the fear of losing grip on the ruling system.

The magnitude of decadence in class rule in many former colonies goes down to such depth that at times colonial rules appear sober, law abiding, more capable of safeguarding property and absorbing shocks from class conflicts. Most of the former colonies’ exercises with status quo degenerated to anarchy, mal-governance, flagrant violation of rule of law, criminalization of entire political process, etc. to the level that endangers status quo. This reflect the concerned class’/segment’s limits of historical capability, in other words, the incapability of delivering a system safe and assuring to the dominating interests.

The ruling mechanism in many of the societies that got liberated through struggles under the leadership-not-comprador also degenerated or failed to develop. A number of these societies later turned neocolonies. Both the groups have got entangled into the world system and have started behaving, with inherent limitations, the way the world system allowed them and the ruling mechanism these societies ultimately established are travesty of democracy, neither safeguarding the dominant interests nor upholding the interests of the dominated.

The countries in the east and central Europe and in the central Asia are having “exercises” with new political arrangements and neo-ruling segments, the segments that appropriated, accumulated and amassed a fortune in the post-revolutionary societies. Requirements to safeguard and expand the fortune and the contradictions within these societies are giving shape to the ruling system there. The present performance in many cases, however, fails to reach the level acceptable to the dominant concept, the level that does not jeopardize the rule of the segments, and thus ensure their confinement in the world system. The segments of these societies that are in control of the ruling machine there sometimes perform to the level of rulers in some underdeveloped, strife-torn society.

But they cannot escape the pressure from below. So, enter many other actors, from outside of these societies, deputed by the dominant interests, and thus it signifies the crisis deep in and incapacities of these societies, an integral and essential part of the world system, a part that holds significant quantities of strategic and prospective resources including sun rays for longer time, and so the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance is adopted in January 2007, and other initiatives are taken by many actors in many other countries.

Primary results of these initiatives are coming to daylight, onto the hot streets in some countries.

[This is the slightly modified version of a part of a chapter from The Age of Crisis]




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