Democracy: The Threat to Liberty | Jake Muscat
The French Revolution, unlike what we are taught in schools, was not a popular overthrow of a tyranny by the people. Principally it was members of the bourgeoisie and aristocratic class who initiated it at the meeting of the Estates – General.
The Revolution in France never took on a popular form. It remained purely a bourgeoisie phenomenon driven by the power of money. The Revolution had abolished the privileges of the guilds so that capitalists would be given free range, and also abolished the privileges of the peasants so that the capitalists would have cheap labour. The Parliamentary regime which was produced by the French Revolution was but a mere imitation of the British system which had a monarch with limited power, and ministers responsible to the Houses.
The true purpose of parliamentarianism was to subjugate the monarchy in order to obtain sovereignty and exercise power for its own interests. Simply put, the purpose of the French Revolution was not to give power to the people but to take power from the monarch and give it to a wealthy few. Liberal democracy is not liberty for all, but liberty to the well-off.
Today we speak of universal suffrage, however universal suffrage did not give assurance to the sovereignty of the people. Firstly, it is impossible for a people to exercise sovereignty if they are divided amongst themselves. For a people to be truly sovereign they must also be united, and democracy rather than working towards unity is a promoter of constant strife. Prior to any election, candidates may repeat the typical mantra of wanting to unite a nation through the ballot box but the ballot box itself is in actual fact the cause of an individualistic, atomised, and fragmented society based on factionalism.
Democracy may be said to be the system of the people but there is no group which democrats distrust more than the people. Ironically, the people are the most dangerous threat to democracy. Democracy only demands legitimacy from the people; it cares not for their opinion.
Prior to the French Revolution, the people would be represented by representative bodies known as estates. Estates had no interest in being democratic or in representing individual interests. The organic structure of the pre-French Revolutionary society rested on corps and orders which were endowed with privileges to defend their interests. This way they were a counterbalance to the governing monarchy which without these corps would turn into a tyranny, and likewise, without the monarchical authority, the corps would descend into anarchy.
What the French Revolution did was suppress and abolish the corps and orders which protected the people from the power of the state in the name of, ironically, liberty.
The people were said to be sovereign, however since they were incapable of exercising power over themselves they were forced to entrust that power to political parties. Political parties would henceforth exercise sovereignty through the legitimation of the voting people who are without any defences against the power of the state. In democracy, the people are made to believe that the sole organs of protection against abuse are political parties and unions – both of which are politicised and controlled. In truth, the electoral process is not meant to represent the people but rather to ensure the elite have “legitimate” power.
In a free democracy, the people whom that democracy is meant to represent were taken from their own land due to industrialisation, indoctrinated by compulsory schooling, and informed by state controlled media. In as much as the people pay taxes and consume, they do their part in keeping the system going. As a result of his individualistic nature, the democratic man cannot organise himself and take a stand. He sees himself as powerless when facing the state as a result of the atomisation of society.
Vasily Rozanov, a Russian philosopher, describes democracy as “the system by which an organised minority governs an unorganised majority.” Under democracy, man is reduced simply to his utilitarian aspects: producer, consumer and taxpayer. In truth, 21st century democracies have come to practice the scheme used by 20th century totalitarian dictatorships through a more subtle route.
In order to fulfil these utilitarian duties, in a democracy, man must be without a nation, without an identity and without religion. He must be morally relativistic, conform to the crowd, and have the gratification of his desires as his only aspiration.
If the democratic man has not yet reached this stage of utilitarianism, he is well on his way there. Democracy sees not to represent the people but to utilise them as a sort of human reserve once every election for the purpose of legitimising a minority elite. This of course is contrary to human nature, but whether or not we discover so is something which has yet to be seen.