Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Democracy and Human Rights: Anarchist, Communist and Liberal versions

Many ignorant Americans believe that "liberalism" is an unambiguously good thing. After all, doesn't every racist cracker hate liberalism? Aren't the opinions of racist crackers good enough for us? What need do we have for a brain when we can just take the opinions of racist crackers and invert them?

Oh yeah, and then there's all that propaganda about how the Western countries are liberal democracies. Shouldn't that be the ultimate stamp of approval? After all, it's not like corruption exists in any EU country, is it? What could make more sense together than liberalism and democracy? It's like fire and gasoline!

In Europe at least, the word liberalism is tainted, about on par with neo-liberalism in North America. It's correctly perceived as being right-wing. So although I don't know one way or the other, I have trouble imagining European politicians proclaiming proudly about their countries being 'liberal democracies'. They'll whisper it instead.

Well, if liberal democracy is bad then what are the options? Wai ... what? You mean there are other options?!

Liberalism vs Communism vs Anarchism

Liberalism is predicated on a system where the capitalist elites are guaranteed their power against the majority. As a result of this, all liberal theory aims to justify and, since justification is impossible, rationalize its inherent power inequalities and injustices.

So the liberal concept of democracy is predicated on "representatives" who disintermediate (and disempower) the people from the reins of power. And of course, on the concept of "parties" who ensure that a faction of the people (or their representatives) can still rule.

Meanwhile, the liberal theory of human rights is predicated on rationalizing whatever moral code suits the elites of the moment through nonsensical gibberish and handwaving abracadabra. I need say no more than what I've already said - it is nonsense.

This is seen most easily by comparing it with the communist and anarchist versions of democracy and human rights.


Ignorant people knowing nothing of democracy beyond the liberal propaganda often dismiss one-party states as inherently undemocratic. This is not so. A state is democratic or undemocratic depending on its actions, on its conformance to the wishes of the people. If the mechanism were telepathic communion precipitated by sexual orgies, then it would still not matter.

Communist theory comes from the experiences of the Paris Commune. It is not based on rationalizing the privileges of powerful people since these were guillotined so it has no need to divide and conquer the populace. We can see this in the fact that communist democracy is based on consensus.

In a communist democracy, it doesn't matter that there is one party or one electoral candidate, because less than 90% approval of the party is shameful and less than 80% is cause for revolt. Compare this with liberal democracy where less than 50% approval is routine and a leader with 50% of the votes behind him proudly proclaims that he has a "mandate". To dominate the 50% of the population presumably.

So when American propaganda scorns the Cuban elections of Fidel Castro because he's the only candidate ... this is just completely fucking nonsense. It's especially galling because there are real anti-democratic forces in the Cuban and Chinese systems (the politburos are unelected) but the USA's propaganda rags prefer to focus their condemnation on deviations from right-wing liberalism.

Similarly, the communist version of human rights ... well actually look no further than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for that. Communists invented it. Especially awe-inspiring is the blatantly communist clauses approved even by dumbass Anglo-American governments. Such as:

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

You really have to think like a lawyer to appreciate it but once you do. I mean, think about it. It doesn't say that rich property owners have the right to own property. Nor does it say that everyone has the right to BUY property. No no no, it says that EVERYONE has the right to OWN property. Imagine that, the poor and destitute have the right to own property! All written in black & white, in a document signed by Anglos. Well, some Anglos since it was never signed by the USA.

The defining characteristic of communist human rights, the fingerprint seen in the UDHR with suitable analysis, is that process doesn't matter, only outcome does. The process by which human rights are made to happen is so completely irrelevant, so completely outside communist theory, that it's never even aluded to. Communists just don't care. Hell, communists are willing to murder to redress the social order so it's not like they can care.

But more generally, it's indicative of a communist blindness to process, to the dynamical nature of reality. I suspect totalitarian communism would work very well as a means of regulating a perfectly static system. Something like the original Wiki Wiki Web was supposed to be - a static membership of programmers focused on producing static Document Mode artefacts.


At last we come to the best. Anarchist democracy is based on participation. It does away with the nonsensical concept of "representation", as if one person could really represent a multitude, and takes "rule by the people" literally. The only kind of "representation" allowed in anarchist democracy is the statistical kind where a statistically representative subset of the population is drafted by lottery to serve on a jury.

Since anarchist democracy is not predicated on disintermediation, juries have great power. They can not only nullify a law in a specific case, as is no longer true in the USA, but they can repeal it for all cases. With sortition replacing elections, juries of citizens are even responsible for making the laws. Roderick T Long has an excellent article on how juries ruled democratic Athens.

Which leaves only anarchist human rights but that's a story all its own. Suffice to say that they are a system as concerned with process as with outcome. This is necessary in order to recognize both the dynamic and static components of human freedom. Components of freedom which themselves reflect the dynamic and static components of human beings individually and of humanity as a whole.

Communist human rights form an excellent base for anarchist human rights, but additional concepts such as rightful possession and rightful expropriation need to be developed. Rightful possession to define who ought to use an object in any given circumstance, and rightful expropriation to define what ought to happen when usage transfers from one to another.


Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis, although I must raise some points of disagreement from a communist standpoint. First, the idea that communist theory does not care about process and that it is outcome-centric is particularly strange in the light of dialectical materialism. Dialectics, whether successful or not, are intended to constitute a whole process-centric world outlook. In fact, dialectics are somewhat epistemologically related to process theory and, more fundamentally, scientific realism. The other point is about organization. Aside from the endless debate on the withering away of the state, communists are (as a rule) not particularly opposed to mechanisms like sorticion. For instance, if you check the book "Towards a new socialism", which is reasonably orthodox-marxist, the political proposals presented are in fact based on those ideas, inspired in Athenian democracy (as those ideas are by necessity).

Richard Kulisz said...

Trying to pass off dialectics as a political or economic process is a cheap cop-out. It's implicit in nearly all political ideologies, save maybe extreme fascism. It's also void of concrete details because it's a META-process, and not a process!

Dialectics doesn't tell you how to transition from one configuration of possession of users & objects to another configuration. It only talks about how to DETERMINE how to transition blah blah blah. So it's NOT A PROCESS.

And claiming that "we'll figure it out LATER" is good enough is fucking ludicrous. Especially when right-libertarians have concrete answers which, while entirely ludicrous, still appeal to a great many people.