- Capitalism and Alternatives -

What has all this to do with democracy?

Posted by: Krasny ( Internationale, All Countries... ) on January 15, 19100 at 11:54:32:

In Reply to: More Democracy w/ Krasny posted by Samuel Day Fassbinder on January 14, 19100 at 11:20:48:

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: : : : *That's one thing you have to hand to the Founding Fathers: the relatively peaceful transition of political power and the seperation of powers. This is what has come to be seen as 'democracy.'

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: : : SDF: When in fact it's a limitation on democratic power, to protect the elites from the rest of us, it's all explained in Hamilton, Madison, and Jay's THE FEDERALIST PAPERS.

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: : *I disagree. At least *insofar* as the seperation of powers

: SDF: The peaceful transition thing, well hey, I guess it's better than the politics of the later (post-1025 CE) Byzantine Empire, or of the Romans after Marcus Aurelius died in 180 CE, but, well, whatever. And I don't follow how the separation of powers promotes democracy. What if the legislature votes in the end of money and the democratization of property? Would the real elite put a gun to the President's head, and then send out the troops? (one recalls that the nuclear button was taken away from Ronnie Reagan at one point...) Would the Supreme Court, a completely unelected body, declare it all "unconstitutional"? At any rate, in the final analysis, real Federal power under the separation of powers is held by the Commander-In-Chief, e.g. Andrew Jackson's genocide against the Creek and Cherokee Nations, FDR's threat to pack the Supreme Court, Bush's use of troops in Saudi Arabia, Clinton's use of bombers in Serbia etc. etc.

*Well, first off, I never claimed that the idea of seperation of powers was a panacea for the political exercise of racism, Tammany Hall styled political intrigue or wag-the-dog antics on the part of the C in C. Having said this, and whatever its limitations may be in its present context, concentrating power in the hands of a single body is an even worse idea. When the time came for Stalin to commence the forced collectivisation of the Ukraine (to take one example), 8 million people lost their lives; compare and contrast that with what eventually happened to Nixon when he decided it was 'in the national best interests' for him to retain control of the Oval Office tapes. I'm not saying it's a perfect mouse trap. Certainly, the fact that this is a class based society means that principles such as a constitutional seperation of powers only operates insofar as this arrangement is in the best interests of a particular class. That's not to say that the principle *itself* is unsound.

What has all this to do with democracy? I should think that so long as there is the (perceived) need for a state, and so long as states continue to operate, that seperating out roles and responsiblities in such a way as to keep the judiciary (the combining of legislative and executive powers doesn't particularly bother me... and I agree with Marx that at least in the initial revolutionary phases, combining the roles of the legislative and executive is pragmatic) as free and independant as possible in the exercise of constitutional powers within the state would be readily apparent. But don't take my word for it... ask any Chinese pro-democracy dissident which legal system (s)he would prefer.

Is there room to improve? Of course. What your long winded (that's irony there mate... *no one* can top the Kras in this regard) harangue tells me is that the era of big business rule must be brought to an end; not that seperation of powers is some elaborate political-philosophical bourgeois intellectual trap (Krasny sucks in a powerful lungful of air...).

: Hamilton, Madison, and Jay explained in the FEDERALIST PAPERS that the separation of powers was necessary to prevent, among other things, the tyranny of the majority, at least that's the way I recall it. So I view the separation of powers as a limitation upon the democratic power in society: bourgeois-dominated elections, schooling for bourgeois society, labor and consumption for the sake of capital, all contributing to the same domination. "And so the culture industry, the most rigid of all styles, proves to be the goal of liberalism, which is reproached for its style." -Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, from the Dialectic of Enlightenment

* I admit it... that last salvo is a real head scratcher. You can't possibly believe that the bourgeois domination of the nation - political, economic, cultural, etc. - would be made *more difficult* were there a greater concentration of roles and responsibilities in fewer hands. Also, I believe that it was the advent of the electoral college, which was BTW (IMO) an obscenity that these FF's saw as a method for preserving oligarchy in the face of 'Jeffersonian excesses.' This and the property-age-gender-race requirements in order to cast a ballot at all virtually guaranteed that the US would remain firmly ensconced on the plantations of the ruling elite (something in which Jefferson too had something to gain). More bath water, mate...* --K

: : and the peaceful transition of power goes. I believe having a constitutionally recognized independant judiciary is a good thing and has served to limit the power of the executive and legislative branches and has overseen the peaceful transfer of power for the most part...

: SDF: It seems to me that elite control over the election process is the factor most responsible for the "peaceful transfer of power," its threatened disruption doubtless responsible for the assassination of Martin Luther King, junior, for instance...

*Yes, in the contest of sham democracy (or what Lenin referred to as the 'democratic facade') versus actual democracy in the form of a social movement, you are correct, the ruling elite will cling to power and exercise every violent and unscrupulous means at their disposal. No argument there. SDF, we can both agree that change has to happen. For me, in the case of the principle of a seperation of powers, it's a question of what do we keep; indeed, *and* even enlarge upon or 'make concrete' as Lenin might say - and what do we get rid of as mere tools of the bourgeoisie in their bid to remain in power. Unless you think we should just get rid of everything in the name of a consistency which simply *must* be seen as truly revolutionary. We could declare eyeglasses as emblematic of bourgeois intellectualism, typewriters (PC's) as tools of class oppression, and arrest anyone with a cell phone or mini van... er, wait a minute... can't we keep that last one...? (see what I mean? it's truly insidious!)

Truly, I hope we can exercise a bit more discretion in our use of the term 'revolutionary.'* --K

: : understand, I'm not saying it is 'democracy fulfilled'; it's what people have come to see in this country *as* democracy and I would say that it works pretty well - for a political-economic paradigm whose ultimate aim is the domination of one class over all others... which is why it must be overturned (same for me BTW once there is a "worker's state". States are all about the suppression of one class by another.) but let's not throw the baby (seperation of powers in a civil government) out with the bath water here. This concept will prove equally useful and beneficial in any socialist government *and* it will arguably be even more important than it is now.* --K

: SDF: Huh? Isn't the class system itself a "separation of powers" -- one power operates its muscles, the other moves around money and tells everyone what to do? Frankly I'd prefer the job rotation of powers, on balance...

*I was going to point out that my eyeglasses analogy wasn't really fair, considering that they really do not match up all *that* well... then I came across your analogy here. You can't be equating the principle of seperation of powers within the state with the class division of society??? Again, if a divided (even if as you might say, *only* in principle) bourgeousie is so formidable, I fail to see how a formal concentration of authority helps your case here.* --K

: "Real democracy" will any rate be our best bet. As for your "definition," i.e. your support for activism, I agree (since obviously the present society is vastly undemocratic), but my question tried to get at where such democracy COMES FROM, the stork doesn't bring it, it isn't hatched...

*Well comrade (in the fraternal sense...;), it seems to have been snipped out. I did post a bit on the topic of 'how.' People like us with our fancy PC's and gift for the gab have to get those who have '...nothing to lose but their chains' off their arses.* --K

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