Sunday, November 27, 2011

Egyptians Beware: Elections Are a Trap

President Obama wants elections and a civilian government in Egypt. Egyptians! Please don't fall for this trap.

Elections are a trap that ruling elites use to prevent people from making the world more equal and democratic. This is why agents of the American plutocracy, from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush to Barack Obama, always insist that wherever overtly undemocratic regimes (like monarchies or military rulers or Presidents-for-life) are unable to control their populations, then there should be elections of a national government. From the United States itself to Iraq and Haiti and now Egypt, this is the plutocracy's game plan for social control, to make class inequality secure against popular movements.

The trap works like this. The elections produce a national government that, based on the electoral victory of its politicians, claims to be the representative of the people with, therefore, legitimate authority to rule over the people. The government then makes and enforces laws that reflect the values and interests not of ordinary people but of the very wealthy. The people are trapped, because they feel that the elected government is exercising legitimate power that they have no right to challenge.

The leaders of the upper class do not allow elections to take place until they are confident that they can control the outcome sufficiently to ensure that the trap functions properly. They gain this control by their ownership or control of the important institutions in society: the large businesses that control people with the threat of firing them, the mass media, and often the labor organizations and religious organizations.

It is a mistake to believe that the important distinction is between a government of military generals versus an elected civilian government. Both are equally capable of being used by a privileged, wealthy elite as an instrument of class domination. The important distinction is between a government that is an instrument of ordinary people for abolishing class inequality and creating a non-capitalist economy based on "from each according to ability and to each according to need," versus a government that is an instrument of an upper class for making socially-produced wealth the exclusive property of a few and suppressing popular efforts to make society more equal.

Governments that are instruments of a wealthy elite, that have objectives that most people oppose, need to exert power over people; they therefore need to be centralized national governments that claim the right to command the people to obey its laws. When they hold elections in order to be able to get away with this, they are fake democracies.

In contrast, when ordinary people are shaping society by widely shared values of equality and mutual aid, they need no such authoritarian top-down government. What they need, instead, is a way to democratically cooperate with each other on a large scale in order to achieve social order. The kind of government that does this, and which is truly democratic, is one based on voluntary federation of local community and workplace assemblies that have the exclusive power to make and enforce laws--laws passed by local meetings in which every adult who opposes class inequality and who will be bound by such laws is free to participate as an equal with all others. (See further discussion of this in Thinking about Revolution.)

Democracy is a crucial goal today. But elections do not a democracy make. Elections in societies based on class domination are a trap. When Jimmy Carter or some UN committee arrives to inspect the elections and give them a "Seal of Approval," beware! It's a trap.

Real democracy requires the disbanding of all the institutions that the upper class uses to control and dominate people, especially the military and the police forces. Merely having a constitution that says the military has limited power and is subservient to the civilian government is not enough. If an instrument capable of dominating the people exists, the privileged elite will use it or threaten to use it to maintain their privileged status, no matter what a constitution may say. The revolutionary movement must persuade the rank and file soldiers to come over to the side of the revolution and refuse to obey orders from the military top command, which means the military as an institution must be destroyed. To accomplish this, the revolution must make its goal of abolishing class inequality crystal clear, because this is the goal that will inspire working class soldiers to support it, even at great risk to themselves.