WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?
"America" stands for political rule enforcing economic interests
by Mumia Abu-Jamal
[This essay published in: junge Welt, 12/18/2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.jungewelt.de/2004/12-18/008.php.]
We live in times of a nearly universal political contempt. Regardless of party, politicians always work for others, for those with enough money to pay for their services, hardly those who voted for them. They naturally do not say this, no, couldn't be more wrong. However this is clear in seeing how politicians treat their voters. The only common denominator is betrayal. Former US president Bill Clinton developed this into a great art. Practically everyone who voted for him was betrayed sooner or later. Amazingly no one took it personally. The system functions this way.
The word democracy was more a swearword for most of the men whom we usually call the "founding fathers" of the US. They encountered the basic idea of democracy with hatred and fear. Alexander Hamilton, the New York delegate of the 1789 constitutional convention, raved about the monarchy and sought ways to control the "terrible force and turbulences of the democratic spirit". The historian Brian Price emphasized this when he raised the question during an address at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington: "Can a class that wiped out America's aborigines and replaced them by violently dragging people from Africa only to denigrate and dehumanize them as slaves while simultaneously disparaging and degrading their own working class possibly establish democracy, create equality and advance the cause of human freedom?" (Jerry Fresla, "Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and Other Illusions". 1988).
Africans, working men and women and many others had to fight for centuries to create the appearance of democratic conditions. However history is like a pendulum that swings from one side to the other. There is no standstill. When the struggles of one slacken, the interests of the opposing side prevail more strongly.
In the current political culture, the well-to-do anti-democratic elements continue their struggle by buying (or renting) politicians who then use their offices to enforce the economic interests of their benefactors. In this way, the globalization forces succeed almost imperceptibly with the help of both the Democratic and Republican parties to occupy and dominate all areas of our life. The World Trade organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international organizations bleed white the lifeblood of states and regions so international trade can grow and thrive and undermine everything that once had democratic conditions. The military war is nothing but an instrument in the global trade war since whole populations can be mobilized who otherwise would not acquiesce. We certainly don't need to ask any more whether anyone seriously believes that the Iraq war is waged "to bring democracy to the country". In her trial where she was indicted on account of her resistance to the First World War, the great socialist and anarchist Emma Goldmann declared: "As weak as we appear in the cause of democracy, how can we pass on democracy to the world?"
If we accept the existing political structure as given, how can we harmonize this system that operates according to the motto "Winner takes all" with any idea of democracy? In the European parliaments of England, France and Germany, the status of parties, even if they represent a minority, is determined according to the proportion of their votes. Here whoever receives 51 percent of the votes receives 100 percent of the power. The remaining 49 percent receive nothing.
In the US there is no real belief in democracy. Democracy has never occurred. "America stands for rule."