Bizarre though it may seem, the idea that mob rule or “democracy” was both beneficial and sustainable was so widespread in the late 20th and early 21st centuries that it appeared, as Albertson has suggested, to be implanted in people’s minds at birth and maintained by the drinking water. The true societal imprint of democracy, à la terreur of 1793 or the witch hunts and genocides of both preindustrial and more recent times, was not foremost in people’s minds during this period. There was a widespread belief that the people were ruling themselves and that this could persist. A cursory review of the economic and political power structures around the turn of the millennium, however, shows that this was never more than an illusion. It explains why true democracy, when it finally reared its ugly head in more places than one, proved to be not only a bloody horror, but also an ideological disappointment.
In Russia, newly emerging from its imperial Soviet past, skilful manipulation of media and public perception by President Putin allowed him to reign as a semi-constitutional monarch for almost twenty years, setting a precedent for less beneficent rulers in mid-century. The ownership of, or collaboration with private mass media by politicians who sought with huge effect to exert a subtle influence over the images and ideas they projected and the resulting popular choices was also widespread during this period in Europe and North America, although elsewhere power was maintained more overtly by force and on principle.
In Western Europe, confusion between national polities and the emerging European government began to attenuate the effect of popular votes at an early stage, as public self-interest manifestly clashed with common sense in nations like Greece, Italy and Ireland, and were summarily overridden. Referenda and other expressions of national public opinion were suppressed or circumvented and uncooperative local rulers were sidelined in a Machiavellian process that ultimately revealed its true oligarchic and ultimately imperial nature. Although the European empire was far from democratic and arguably became a casualty of the democratic resurgence as it collapsed in the 2040s, its insistence on “austerity” was still prescient. The disappearance of economic growth and the demographic crises of the 21st century led to the collapse of European government-issued paper money and the European Civil War, but the principles developed by the early “European Union” still echoed in European minds during the later part of the century as the tiny pseudo-autarkies of Europe – and their individual citizens – jostled for survival.
In what was called the “United States of America” (broadly North America south of the 49th parallel), a carefully media-managed oscillation occurred between eight-year terms in power for the “republicans” and “democrats”. These parties were beautifully named, since both labels could have been fairly applied to almost all citizens. This system allowed financial and industrial oligarchies to achieve continuous, concentrated power while also maintaining a semblance of change, accountability and public rule, and achieved this arguably for almost a century. The problem was that the rule was not beneficent. The system was only ultimately collapsed by the slow realisation that the votes of a majority in receipt of slender allowances of government largesse were being used to enslave the rest of society and divert their wealth to a bloated and hidden oligarchy devoid of a public service ethic. Political scientists have described the brutality of the ensuing “American purges” as a simple consequence of a century of pseudo-democracy. Those who insist that the Asian gold standard and the exhaustion of liquid hydrocarbons were at fault are confusing the trigger with the weapon itself.
Observers around 2000 would have been shocked and perhaps appalled to learn that it was the Chinese model of carefully controlled and broadly beneficent but certainly not democratic state rule, anachronistically labelled as “communism”, that would survive the turmoil of those horrific decades. The horrors of the “cultural revolution” had sullied the model and it did not gain respect in Western minds until well into the 21st century. Nevertheless, it bore the marks of sustainability early on: popular support for “communist” policies was always extremely high and it was obvious – at least within China – that the occasional outbursts of “democratic dissent” were no more than thinly-disguised Western propaganda. Anderson has stated that it was China’s accumulation of commodities and technologies – naturally labelled “theft” by other countries that had saved nothing from the wreckage – and its prescient early adoption of commodity-based trading that allowed it to be so successful after the collapse and restructuring of international trade. It achieved this without euthanasia despite its obvious disadvantages in terms of both food supply and demographics. The combination of popular support for the government, a stable mechanism of succession and a robust ideological defence against the corrosive ocean of “democracy” had eliminated the forces of media bribery and distraction. This ensured that more or less safe hands remained on the Chinese tiller even during the worst periods of global unrest.
It was Adolf Hitler in the 20th Century who first used democracy as a stepping-stone to his short-lived, destructive and racist autocratic empire. In the aftermath, shocked Europeans used “cordons sanitaires” to restrain democratic parties that were planning to abolish democracy. So the mob was allowed to do whatever it wished except abdicate. In the dying decades of democracy the “sharia plus” party in France used demographic change to impose ideological rule and ultimately abolish democracy itself, although in Germany its advance was highlighted and ultimately thwarted, at great human cost and in the teeth of global disapproval, by the Schmidt measures. Afterwards, perhaps due to long echoes of its 20th century nightmare, Germany was ultimately last to abolish thoroughgoing democracy, as early constitutional revisions eliminated media influence and distraction. The fourth Basic Law set out in much more detail not only the structures that would govern Germany and their selection, but the principles according to which they would govern and the culture that they would foster with the precision and detail of a Thomas Aquinas.
The early 22nd century constitution of England technically made permanent its status as the last democracy in the world, after a relatively bloodless transition. Nevertheless, the values, identity and behaviour of the English ruling class are enshrined in that document to such a degree that the word “democracy”, like the description of 21st century China as “communist”, is no more than a semantic anachronism. The triumph of the enlightened ruling class of England – and the restrictions under which they rule – are not concealed by this trick of language. Instead the English have transformed the concept into a thing which is a hundred English miles from democracy, but of which the English are nevertheless uniquely proud.
© tyrannyofthepresent 2012