[lbo-talk] Arab Spring: The Libyan Remix

Marv Gandall marvgand at gmail.com
Thu Aug 25 14:11:28 PDT 2011

On 2011-08-25, at 12:20 PM, c b wrote:

> A tyrant who kept his nation independent is being replaced with a
> tyranny that bows to the will of the EU. The people are probably worse
> off, as are the Iraq people today. Among all the weaker nations,
> independence probably depends on having an authoritarian state.
> Eventually Venezuela, Bolivia, and Equador will probably have to
> abolish elections or give in to being dependencies of the U.S.
> Carrol
> ^^^^
> CB: Uhuh

It seems to me there are two reasons for this contempt for popular democratic struggles abroad displayed by Carrol and seconded by Charles.

The first is that Carrol and other Western leftists who cheerlead for "authoritarian states" (I wouldn't, BTW, place Chavez, Morales, and Correa in the dock with Quadaffi) have never experienced repression or the practical difficulties of underground organizing. They take democratic rights for granted because they are far enough removed historically as to have largely forgotten the bloody struggles waged by the early trade union and socialist movement to win the right to form parties and unions and to organize within and outside of the political system. While Carrol, when pressed, would dutifully acknowledge those sacrifices and the hard-won gains which allow him to tap out jeramiads, he refuses at the same time to acknowledge the validity of the same struggles for democratic rights currently being waged in the Mideast, echoing instead the superior conservative presumption that "the people...in all the weaker nations" would be better off under authoritarian rule than parliamentary democracies.

On the other hand, the tendency to belittle these democratic struggles accurately reflects the contradictory nature of bourgeois democracy. The extension of the vote and other political rights allowed the working class and its organizations to operate legally in the open, but bourgeois democracy, as the property of the ruling class, has also served to perpetuate the capitalist system in a far more effective and orderly way than when those rights were supressed. As such, bourgeois democracy has disappointed both revolutionary socialists who saw participation in electoral politics as a tactic to educate and organize the masses for insurrection, and of social democrats who saw parliament as the instrument for the gradual and peaceful transformation of the system. So when Carrol, Charles and others, including ourselves, see the mass euphoria surrounding the overthrow of tyrants like Quaddafi and the drafting of a new liberal democratic constitution as a likely prelude to dashed expectations, we're the ones in this case who are talking from from a long experience of a political system which has to date has been the most successful in history in containing dissent and coopting it in its service.

But it is still a political opening for further struggle rather than a cause for despair and the embrace of what is, in effect, an enlightened despotism favoured by Carrol and, it would appear, Charles, and you can see how this difference has played itself out over Libya and similar issues.

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