By Gilbert Mercier
From people's rule to a broken social contract
It is ironic, considering democracy's pitiful state worldwide that, in accordance to its etymology, it literally means "common people's rule" or, more simply, "people's power." The English term democracy and the 14th-century French word democratie come from the Greek demokratia via the Latin democratia. The Greek radical demos means "common people," and kratos means "rule, or power." How did we manage to pervert such a laudable notion of power to the people and diametrically turn it into a global system of rule at large under the principles of oligarchy and plutocracy? Everywhere we look, from east to west and north to south, plutocrats and oligarchs are firmly in charge: puppet masters of the political class. They have transformed democracy into a parody of itself and a toxic form of government. The social contract implied in a democratic form of governance is broken.
Neoliberal corporate imperialism: a global one-party system
Mark Twain wrote: "If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it." This quote from the gilded age has never been more accurate than it is today. A vote implies real choice, and we have none. From France to Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, India and of course the United States -- all of which pass for great democracies -- political choices have become largely reduced to two electable political parties with different names to accommodate the local cultural flavors. This comforting idea of an option between left and right that spices up democracies' voting menus is a farce. For example, in France, the so-called socialist Francois Hollande and his right-wing predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy are both docile servants of neoliberal and imperial policies dictated from elsewhere. Both, Sarkozy and Hollande, are proponents of austerity measures imposed by financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, etc.), and also imperialist actions such as rejoining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and intervening militarily in Libya (Sarkozy) and Mali (Hollande).
Although there is rampant dissatisfaction with politicians globally, few people are willing to admit that democracy is broken or take direct action to create a new system. According to an October 2014 poll, only six percent of US voters think that their Congress is doing a good job, and 65 percent rate its performance as being poor or very poor. Even more telling of the popular sense of an assumed general political corruption, 63 percent of US voters think that most members of Congress are willing to sell their votes for either cash or campaign contributions. In France, President Hollande's approval rating has crashed to 13 percent: the lowest for any president since the early 1960s. Despite France's revolutionary history, the country's constitution gives its president the power to remain in office until the full term of his five-year mandate and, if necessary, to rule by decree.
"Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it" wrote Howard Zinn. People worldwide are fed up with their politicians, and they are protesting. Yet, as if most are suffering from a collective Stockholm syndrome, they are not sufficiently pro-active to rid themselves of their abusers by all means necessary. Voting was meant to be a sacrosanct civic duty in a democracy, but it has become the unconscious action of sleepwalkers.
Gilbert Mercier is the Editor in Chief of News Junkie Post and one of its co-founders. Mercier is a French journalist, photojournalist and filmmaker -- writer/concept writer, director, producer and art director -- based in the United States since 1983. In the early 1980"s Mercier hosted and produced (more...)
Iran, 1953: The CIA helped overthrow the popular anti-monarchist Mohammad Mossadegh, largely because he nationalized Iran’s vast oil resources, and replaced him with the Shah. Oil reserves were returned to Western control and 26 years of despotic rule followed;
Guatemala, 1954: The U.S. overthrew the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz and soon turned Guatemala into killing fields. Last month, former dictator Efrain Rios Montt was convicted of genocide by a Guatemalan court. Those in the U.S. who made the killing possible and profited most from it, however, remain at large;
Vietnam, 1950’s: After the Geneva accords of 1954 set up elections to unify Vietnam, the U.S. spent the ensuing years making sure no elections were held, knowing Ho Chi Minh would win in a landslide. Twenty years later, after American forces had killed four million people and destroyed three countries, the Vietnamese drove the U.S. out anyway;
Congo, 1961: Three months after Patrice Lumumba became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the newly-independent Congo, the U.S. helped overthrow his government (he was executed by his captors several months later). Soon thereafter began the murderous reign of Mobutu Sese Soku, who also embezzled billions of dollars, much of it “aid” from U.S. taxpayers, though successive American presidents were happy to look the other way because he ensured Western business elites easy access to the Congo’s vast resources;
Brazil, 1964: Reformer Joao Goulart had been president for three years when the military, with U.S. support, overthrew his government. Fifteen years of despotic rule followed, as all traces of democracy vanished amidst an orgy of torture and killing;
Indonesia, 1965: One of the bloodiest episodes in recent history began with a Washington backed and armed coup that resulted in the killing of approximately one million peasants and the installation of the dictator Suharto. Ten years later, Suharto invaded East Timor, again with crucial U.S. support (and weapons) and wiped out 30% of the Timorese population;
Dominican Republic, 1965: Shortly after the CIA assassinated long-time dictator and American puppet Rafael Trujillo because his act had gotten too extreme, Juan Bosch became president in the nation’s first free election in 38 years. Five months later, U.S. backed generals ousted Bosch, and a groundswell of popular support for his reinstatement was snuffed out by a U.S. invasion. Another Washington puppet, Joaquin Balaguer, became president in a fraudulent election that took place with 40,000 American soldiers occupying the tiny nation and participating in the murder of Bosch supporters;
Chile, 1973: Much as it has done in Venezuela in recent years, the U.S. began funding oppositionists and fomenting strife as soon as Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970. With additional help from the U.S., the Chilean military overthrew and murdered Allende in 1973 and the long reign of fascist Augusto Pinochet began;
Haiti, 1990-2004: In a country that suffered one agony after another under U.S. playmates Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier, a popular upsurge led by the Lavalas party swept Jean Bertrand Aristide into office in 1990. A coup three years later by generals close to drug cartels begat brutal repression until Washington allowed Aristide to return on the condition he implement harsh austerity measures. When he chose instead to push the widely supported program of Lavalas, the Clinton administration whisked Aristide out of the country at gunpoint. Haiti has been ruled by heirs of the Duvalier tradition since.
One dramatic change in the last 50 years is the consistent opposition of the American public to such interventions. This was perhaps best illustrated in the 1980’s when U.S. solidarity movements undoubtedly prevented greater bloodshed in South Africa, El Salvador, Nicaragua and possibly other places. One striking feature were the thousands who travelled to work alongside Nicaraguan peasants as well as to serve as a human shield, knowing the U.S. backed contras were less likely to murder Americans. The intelligentsia here, if it ever reported this remarkable phenomenon, surely prefers to forget; people in Nicaragua and the rest of Latin America, not to mention the Washington planners of contra terror, most definitely have not.
Nicolas Maduro is not the issue. Hugo Chavez was never the issue and none of the individuals mentioned above were ever the issue. What was, and is, the issue is the effort of a galvanized populace to wrest control of their economic life from U.S. investors and the local stooges who do their dirty work. That is something the Super Rich here cannot abide, and all preventive measures are on the table, including war, unspeakable atrocities, even genocide. By remaining ever vigilant and supporting those throughout the hemisphere (indeed, the world) who work to create a new day, we can perhaps block further U.S. interference in Venezuela, not to mention Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico, Honduras and oh so many other places.
Bridgeport native Andy Piascik is a long-time activist who has written for Z Magazine,The Indypendent and many other publications.