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Anarchism in Interesting Times

Democracy is not Enough – Rip it up and Start Again

ballotThere’ll soon be a white supremacist in the white house. He’ll be advised by an actual Neo-Nazi, while his Chief of Staff provides a connection with the old conservative establishment. Trump’s vice president elect, Mike Pence is a renowned christian extremist, homophobe and biblical literalist. This group of far right demagogues will have control over the most powerful armed forces on the planet and the codes to an arsenal of nuclear weaponry. He’ll roll back on targets set at the wholly inadequate Paris climate talks at a time when climate action is required immediately. He’ll appoint right wing judges to the supreme court who will be able to reverse Roe Vs Wade and lead to restrictions on and in some states outright bans on abortion, threaten same sex marriages and deny rights to trans people. If his plans work out, millions of people will be deported and people of colour will face even greater threats from cops than they already do. All of this because a quarter of Americans of voting age cast their vote for Trump. If this is democracy, it’s not enough.

Here in Ireland, women do not have reproductive rights. The state can and does force women to have C-Sections and undergo invasive medical procedures against their will. Abortion is effectively outlawed, despite the fact that the majority of voters would say yes in a referendum to repeal the 8th amendment that makes it so. But never mind what a majority of voters think. There is only one person who should get to make a decision about ending a pregnancy – the one who is pregnant. It took over twenty years to pass legislation to allow very limited access to abortion if she is at risk of dying, and it took the death of a woman in an Irish hospital for that to happen. Now as an unelected  ‘citizen’s assembly’ of ninety nine randomly selected people deliberates on whether to advise the government to have a referendum on the 8th Amendment, you have to wonder, even if we get it, how long will it take to legislate on the outcome? Meanwhile women will continue to travel to England for abortions, order the abortion pill online, or not and go through the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy, or die because she is not deemed ill enough. Is this what democracy looks like? It’s not enough.

Ireland also saw mass protests and boycott of water charges over the last few years. The Labour Party came to power in coalition with Fine Gael after promising they weren’t going to introduce them. By the end of their term they were calling protesters against the charge fascists and extremists. So called ‘democracy’ allowed this to happen. Boycott and protest defeated them. Despite mass non payment and public opinion being resolutely opposed to a charge for water, for now they have only been postponed. Democracy, they tell you reflects the will of the people. This sort of democracy clearly doesn’t, it’s just not enough. Tory privatisation in Britain, Brexit, Fine Gael austerity in Ireland, all these things were either only had the support of a minority or a very slim majority.

Only last year, a memory that seems of the distant past, much of the radical left of Europe had hope that the democratically elected SYRIZA government in Greece would overturn Troika imposed austerity measures. That was the program they were elected on, but when they tried to implement it they found a solid wall of EU and international finance intransigence blocking their way. Many who had supported them and seen them as the next great hope, cried ‘betrayal’. But it wasn’t that, the problem was that democracy is not enough; Not the type of democracy that we are used to anyway, the one where you vote every four or five years for the people who are going to make the decisions that determine what your life will be like, whose intentions we barely know, the one where senior civil servants hold the purse strings and have massive influence over policy, the one where corporations have more power than even these elected governments.

With environmental catastrophe looming – some climate scientists reckon we could be heading for a seven degree Celsius rise in temperatures, when two degrees is as much as we can afford – elected governments around the world  first ignored warnings, then played lip service to doing something about it. What we’re talking about here is all life on the planet being wiped out, but democracy as we know it can’t handle that. The system we live under and it’s constant need for fossil fuel powered economic growth is driving us towards extinction. Relying on leaders, elected or otherwise to save us is as good as doing nothing. Corporations, who control the world’s wealth won’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of their profits and politicians are only ever thinking of how to gain or stay in power. Stephanie Lord at describes how the Irish political wheels keep turning in a recent article on the Citizen’s Assembly: “Political parties view time in election cycles. After the locals, there will be preparation for the next general election of 2021 – if the government manages to last that long.”

So this thing we call democracy is going to get us killed, but what’s the answer? Dictatorship? With that you still have the problem of relying on the few to make decisions for the many. To gain control over our own lives we need to go beyond democracy. Collective decision making is great and all, but who makes what decisions and what values should those decisions reflect? Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Autonomy – The individual should have control over their own body (who they sleep with, use of birth control, abortion, drugs etc), the community should manage it’s own affairs without outside interference so far as the decision does not effect another community.
  2.  Participatory democracy – Everyone effected by a decision should play their part in making that decision, with full access to all the facts. Local assemblies should be based on face to face democracy.
  3. Confederalism – Communities come together to form confederated regions with delegates mandated by each one to make decisions that are more regional, or even global in nature. No one a decision effects should go without their say in the matter.
  4. Solidarity – Mutual support among groups in society. Putting racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and sexism and all other oppression in the dustbin of history.
  5. Education – To promote the values of a free society, education should from the earliest age foster critical thinking, ethical behavior, ecological awareness and decision making capacity, along with the ability to make a meaningful contribution to society. Every child should be able to see the realisation of their ambitions as a realistic possibility; be that as a footballer, a dancer, an engineer, a writer, a farmer, a chemist or anything else.
  6. A communal economy – Call it socialism, call it communism, call it anarchism or communalism – take the world’s resources and wealth out of the hands of a tiny minority, produce goods for human need not private greed, live by the maxim – “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.”
  7. Social-Ecology – A society that stops trying to dominate nature, that exists in harmony with the natural world, whose economic activity not only strives to meet the needs of humanity, but also to repair the damage to our world done by capitalism.

The upshot of those seven points is a revolution. Those in power won’t let you vote for any of this, we have to build it ourselves, so in our movements of resistance it is important to apply these ideas as far as possible, to build the structures of our future society while we work to dismantle the old.

If you want a more in depth look at how we might achieve the kind of society outlined above, and how it might work, check out my ongoing series Communism versus the Commanding Heights. The long overdue part 3 is coming soon. 

If you would like to see my opinions on politics, football, science and technology, or dogs, you might like to follow me on twitter

One comment on “Democracy is not Enough – Rip it up and Start Again

  1. n8chz
    November 18, 2016

    Reblogged this on In defense of anagorism.

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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