USA: More Repressive Than North Korea (was Re: RES: a trip to North Korea)

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Apr 25 13:53:51 PDT 2000

At 01:48 PM 4/25/00 -0700, Doug & Brad wrote:
>>That's a pretty weird exercise. This thread seems to me about that
>>ancient controversy, whether bourgeois democracy is a sham or not.
>>For all its flaws, I'm on the non-sham side, and our resident
>>Leninists seem to be on the sham side. Your counterfactuals are pure
>>but empty mental exercises about which one could never say anything

I agree that hypothetical counterfactuals are nothing but inconclusive speculations - so you got a point here. On the other hand, counterfactuals need to be valid ones - you cannot treat NK or Cuba as counterfactuals to bourgeois democracy for the simple reasons that ceteris paribus does not obtain, hence you cannot really tell whether civil liberties or lack thereof are due to the presence/absence of political institution known as parliamnetary democracy or to some other institutional/cultural/political factors.

Of course that makes little difference for those jailed as "enemies of the people" or thrown out of US-supplied helicopters as "godless communists" - but that is a quite different story.

>I can understand people back in the mid-1920s claiming that
>"bourgeois democracy" was a sham, greatly inferior to "democratic

You are missing an important point - like in the computer game "Civilization" - democracy may be desirable and useful under one set of conditions but not very desirable or useful under another. But unlike in the computer game "Civilization" - in real life democracy cannot be established by the key player's fiat, it must be built on a host of social institutions that are conducive to it.

In Russia ca 1917 or, say, Ethiopia ca 2000 - bourgeois democracy would be anything but a sham, because those countries do not have social institutions necessary to sustain that form of government - but that of course does not mean that bouergeois democracy is a sham in Western Europe or the US.

One-size-fits-all political system is a sham often used to legitmate the business of imposing US institutions on foreign countries. Likewise, criticizing Russia (or other countries) for the lack of democracy or any other Western-style social institutions is like chastising African-Americans ca 1864 for being unskilled and illiterate and thus "responsible" for their discrimination by Whites.


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