Waging the Battle of Democracy

Indian farmers discuss and decide their course of action to defend their rights
at mass meetings, this one in Muzaffarnagar, September 5, 2021.

At Biden's Democracy Summit and since then, over and over again, the claim is made that the U.S. is the bastion of democracy. While no doubt many immediately recognized the fraud of the U.S. claim, the fraud concerning democracy itself may have been missed. Biden recognized that there is great dissatisfaction among peoples worldwide with "democratic governments that they feel are failing to deliver for their needs." Battles for democracy are raging in the U.S. and worldwide, such as those demanding health care for all and everything needed for all to combat COVID-19, justice and accountability, peace and an end to aggressive wars and sanctions, the affirmation of rights of women, Indigenous peoples, refugees, workers, youth, farmers and others. Peoples around the world are indeed dissatisfied with existing governments and their failure and dysfunction.

The peoples' battles are also going beyond those to defend rights within the existing liberal democracies. They are addressing the quality and character of democracy itself which is what comprises the battle of democracy. That battle has entered a new phase as a result of the growing organized resistance and consciousness of the peoples that they need to directly exercise control over the decisions which are made in their name. There is a consciousness that they could do a far better job of governing. Biden's drive and initiative is to put different forms and rules in place to block this striving of the people to themselves exercise control over the decisions which affect their lives.

A main problem he faces is that in striving to perpetuate the old and exhausted U.S.-style democracy and its constitution, he is attempting to defraud history, the forward march of history, which is demanding modern definitions of democracy and forms and structures consistent with modern times. He is ignoring the existing clash between conditions of life for the majority and authority by and for the rich. Conditions are demanding an end to the existing authority of the rulers and a democracy of the peoples' own making, where the people decide. The fraud being perpetuated is not only that the U.S. or India, or Britain, France, Canada and other countries do not and cannot deliver on human rights, but that they are trying to uphold a system whose aim is to keep in check the striving of humanity to bring into being governing authorities which are consistent with the conditions today -- with humanity's great advance in terms of all its human productive powers and ability to humanize the natural and social environment and bring into being societies which are fit for human existence.

The battle of democracy has entered a new phase in that the existing democracy of the rulers is not only unsustainable, it is rapidly driving the world in a backward and dark direction of greater wars and destruction of the human and natural environment.

The Old has no future. This is something which terrifies the rulers who are doing everything in their power to escape history. The battle of democracy recognizes that it is time to make way for the New, like drafting modern constitutions which bring into being arrangements and societies constituted in the interests of the people. Part of making way for the New is settling scores with the Old, particularly the old forms and concepts of democracy enshrined in existing institutions and constitutions.

It is not an accident that Biden chose to call his plans a Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal. He is hitting not only at existing authorities and striving to put in place different organizational forms. He is also targeting the thinking and outlook of the peoples to affirm their right to be; their growing demands that their rights be met and that governments that refuse to do so should be removed. He is trying to undermine the work done by the fighting forces which represent the interests of the people all over the United States as well as abroad whose claims on what belongs to them by right are bringing forward modern conceptions of democracy and equality, modern definitions of rights by virtue of being human which humanize the natural and social environment and open the path to progress.

For example, the U.S. commonly promotes concepts like "we the people," and that U.S. democracy is government "of, by and for the people." This phrasing is promoted on a world scale and often taken up by those fighting for democracy. Indeed, the pressure is such that "of, by and for the people" is put forward as the goal of the battle of democracy. A problem is that the phrasing provides a reference point to the existing U.S.-style democracy. It comes from a civil war speech by Lincoln, at Gettysburg. As a reference point, it serves to reinforce that it is this U.S.-style democracy that must not "perish from the earth," as Lincoln put it. It seeks to divide people into deciding what and who are legitimately democratic using the U.S.-style democracy as the model and goalpost.

Part of the problem is that "the people," and "rule by the people" are not defined. An impression is given that "we the people," refers to the majority. But both in form and content, in the existing liberal democracies, it does not. Biden, for example, has repeatedly said that "we the people is the government." The rule is by the government, and the people are the ones governed. Vice President Kamala Harris at the Summit spoke in a similar manner. She said, "Democracy is the people. And democracy is our best hope. So, as we go forward, let us do the work that democracy requires. Let us go to work, let us deliver together for the people."

Both make clear that there is a separation between the people, those governed, and those governing. Those governing, the "we" and "let us" referred to are the government: "Let us deliver together for the people." In this manner, the modern striving of the peoples for democracy to be a people's democracy is blocked. It is a given that a people's democracy must empower the people themselves to govern and decide -- not representatives of the rich.

The notion promoted is that this separation between those governing and those governed over, cannot be overcome. Government is seen as something ruling over the vast majority, not something controlled by them and accountable to them.

(Photos: Kisan Ekta Morcha, X. Campbell)

This article was published in

Volume 52 Number 1 - January 9, 2022

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