By Mubarak Sooltangos

The prime aim of democracy is said to be “government by the people”. Democracy in the world is quite widespread and commonly acknowledged as being a means of giving power to the people. But in actual practice, where in the world, are countries ruled by their people? There are of course, in so called democratic states, roaring declarations that real power belongs to the people, that people’s wish is supreme, that people’s vote is sacred and that the “voice of the people is the voice of God” (vox populi vox Dei), but such falsehood intended to lure people is only heard in electoral campaigns.

The only instance where the voice of the people has a significance is when they choose the representatives who will represent them in parliament. Even this is an adulteration of democracy, because when politicians are elected, they represent themselves or their parties, which is miles away from representing the people. If politicians were to represent the people, this would require them to ask their constituents (the people), regularly, what they want. Where does this consultation ever take place in the world?

If rulers and elected members of parliament are supposed to represent the aspirations of the people who placed them in power, there should be some form of accountability. Where and when is this virtue practiced, even in election time? In electoral campaigns, the stress is on electoral promises for the future and never on accountability for past actions of politicians standing for re-election. If, in any country, elected parliamentarians do represent their people, it is only on the basis of race and religion, where they must be seen to satisfy the wish of the electorate which voted them into power.

One-party system, or “no-choice democracies”

We assume that, in elections, people have the choice of electing their representatives out of diverse candidates, on the basis of merit. Even this is an illusion. Some countries hold elections, but with only one party being represented and entitled to obtain votes. In some countries, like Singapore, opposition candidates are subjected to such harassment, including endless court cases for bankruptcy and libel that they prefer to abdicate. Do the people then really have a choice of who to vote for? Media are under perpetual constraint not to oppose the government. Is this an illustration of democracy? Singapore may be a successful country, but it should have at least the decency of saying that it is not a democratic state.

China, in spite of its success, does not pretend to be a democratic country, and this is an honest claim. America, with all its boasting of being a living democracy to the extent waging war with the declared intention of introducing the rule of democracy where there are dictatorships, offers very little freedom of choice to its own population in its elections. Voters only have a choice between far right and extreme right political parties.

How pure democracy has been polluted

In most democratic countries, with varying intensities, electoral campaigns are fraught with personal attacks, intrusion into the private lives of opponents, mudslinging, violence and especially, with the large audiences connected to social media, fake news liable to switch votes from one party to another. Under these circumstances, do people vote for the most able candidates, or are they rather brain washed by the perception of ability or incompetence sold to then in election rallies and by the media?

What is practiced under the cover of democracy is something completely alien to the rule of the people.

So, when the ardent defenders of democracy sell the values of “their democracy”, to the extent of going to war for its sake, this is in itself a denial of democracy, which is supposed to promote healthy debates and consultation. There is nothing wrong with democracy, provided it is applied by using fair means to give real power to the people. In what we have described above, there is everything but fair means, honesty, selflessness, transparency and accountability. The sellers of democracy promise, on the surface, the virtues of pure and well-intentioned democracy, but they have a set of practices, before, during and after elections which defeat the very principles of democracy. In reality, what is practiced under the cover of democracy is something completely alien to the rule of the people, which I will call “democratism”.

“Democratism” promotes minority rule

Democracy has historically been the preponderance of the voice of the majority in free elections, and this is all right. But it is a minority which is constantly pulling the strings and obtaining what it wants after elections, or rather buying its favours by corrupting the people placed in power by the majority. Historically, this minority, being in reality an oligarchy of the rich, has never wanted to have any official or published say in the formulation of any electoral manifesto. This is mere fodder for the credulous wishing to be convinced for whom to vote. After the elections, irrespective of who is in power, the affluent, who are in fact capitalist diehards, manoeuver to buy privileges and they are the real masters, acting from behind the curtain.

Oligarchs, although they are few in numbers, are smart people. They have found a way of establishing beforehand, prior to elections, what they require after elections, in spite of the paradox that it is a majority which elects leaders. Their strategy is two pronged, applied partly before and partly during elections. Before the actual electoral exercise, they look for a candidate who has the required qualities to allow him to win an election and be adopted as a leader. The prerequisites are: a dominating and authoritarian personality capable of being obeyed within his own party without any question being asked, a track record of achievements, preferably in social or political sectors, a charisma to attract the electorate and to be accepted as a torch bearer, an ease of communication, an ability to raise passion and emotion in public rallies, and an absence of any qualms in making electoral promises that he will never honour.

To this we must, for the potential leader, add a capability of identifying an enemy, even a potential enemy, created in the minds of people which he vouches to fight against, and lastly, in finding a minority (racial, ethnic, religious or rich) against which is poured an extensive amount of hate speech, even in public, which the population impulsively appreciates and even welcomes. This is called the arousing of, and management of, negative emotion. The objective of this is to create a mountain of hate which can be used to rally a majority, not to fight their own case, but to fight against a designated common enemy. With slight variances, this is a new recipe which has proved its worth as an electoral strategy.

When “money buys all, and violence permits all”

Modern elections need huge amounts of money to be fought. The next step is the election itself, financed to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, by the oligarchy, to outstrip and outspend opposition parties by a long distance. This money serves to organize mammoth public rallies, with all the technical logistics needed, including providing free transport to convey masses of people to the event, to buy the allegiance of the press, to make fake videos to be widely circulated on social media, to delve into the private lives of opposition candidates and to advertise all their shortcomings, to organize physical threats by mobs to intimidate those susceptible of voting for the opposition, to buy the betrayal of electoral campaigners and agents of opposing parties and to obtain their allegiance. These are standard methods used, but in some countries, they can go up to actual physical violence depending on how arduous the task is to conduct and fight the campaign and win.

The oligarchs themselves will never interfere in the election mechanism proper, and will not want to be seen to be helping any political party. As cynical as this may seem, they can even accept to form part of the minorities targeted by hate speech. Their sole objective is to have their man in power to satisfy their demands and conduct economic policies which will suit them, with financial gains for both, of course being the final aim.

The poor voting for the rich

Having seen all these illustrations of the exercise of power, who are those who ultimately make the most of democracy, which is supposed to give power to the people in electing their representatives to parliament? Who are these people in power representing at the end of the day: ordinary citizens or capitalists?

The survival of this world lies in annihilating the system where “money buys all”.

Finally, the poor will have, unknowingly, voted for the rich, without these rich being actually seen or felt to have participated in the elections. This is the new name of the game which has been successfully used in several countries in the western world, hailed as having strong attachment to their democratic values and equality of human rights. Think of the number of potentially unbeatable candidates and parties which have nevertheless suffered humiliating defeats during the last ten years in the supposedly “free and democratic world”. Can coercion, vote rigging, hate campaign and fake news be alien to these defeats? Reflect upon the open and current alliance of right-wing heads of state which is palpable, and even blatant, and you will see the number of puppets holding political power but who yield to the possessors of economic power. Think about some of the irrational decisions taken by heads of state which favour the rich. These decisions are not willed by these heads of state, they are dictated to them, as the price they, and through them, their country, have to pay for having obtained the reins of power with the help of capitalists.

How capitalism has defeated democracy

The ultimate lesson to be learnt is that capitalism has defeated democracy, which was supposed to be the stronghold of equity and equality, as in the French republican credo: “Liberty, equality and fraternity”. It has brought the poor, who have totally different aspirations in life, as opposed to those of capitalists, to vote for the rich.

The survival of this world lies in annihilating the system where “money buys all” and coming up with something fundamentally different and humane, having better checks and balances and being more effective in keeping at bay the supremacy of money when it acquires so much importance to feed corruption and reap immoral gains. Otherwise, inequality in wealth and income, which is at the root of most of the elements of the present world crisis, even pre-Covid-19, will persist and will create more and more inequalities. For those who swear by democracy, please come to the reality that you are fighting for a virtue so completely adulterated that it disqualifies itself to be called by that name. We are all in Democratism without realising it.

So, when hosts of economists say that the alliance of democracy and capitalism is the best system the world has had so far, because it creates wealth, it is nothing short of a bag of wind.

Mubarak Sooltangos
Mubarak Sooltangos ([email protected]), a consultant, is the author of Business Inside Out (2018).