Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts
Rousseau thought that representative government was an absolute
farce. He says the moment you vote and give up your power to some
other people, they begin to represent themselves or other interests,
not the interests of the people. (laughter) C.L.R. James,
*Modern Politics* (Detroit:bewick/ed, 1973).
What do we
mean when we use the term, 'democracy?'
What does it
really mean in this world at the dawn of the 21st century, when
America is the sole superpower, and the United Nations is little
more than her noisy instrument?
the Bush Regime promises it will "bring democracy" to
Iraq, and one can almost hear the swell of the band, the flags rustling
in the breeze.
But, what does
it really mean?
We are told
that democracy means 'the rule of the people.' But, is that really
the case, not merely in Iraq, but in the United States itself?
We live in
a nation where the ruling regime had the least votes in the national
election, an election, it should be said, where a minority of eligible
How is this
even remotely 'the rule of the people?'
Nor can we
just make this claim about the fitful Americans, for the same can
be said about elections in Europe, in Latin America, and beyond.
Voters are unreceptive to democratic elections, and a look at them
around the world shows people deeply dissatisfied with the 'democracies'
that claim to represent them. The reason is simple: they don't.
Richard Swift, in *The No-Nonsense Guide to Democracy* (New Internationalist,
2002), explains why:
system of democracy - highly centralized governments in which
we are 'represented' by a class f professional politicians - seem
to have betrayed the promise of self-rule. And the lack of real
choice in competitive candidates and ideas amongst these professional
politicians is a part of the malaise, it is hardly the whole picture.
The system of centralized state power seems increasingly remote
from most people's lives and it becomes difficult to believe that
politicians (no matter what their views) concerned with the micro-management
of society and economy have any real interest in what is important
to us. [pp. 24-5]
of political alienation, is reinforced by something which happens
after every election: the politicians say one thing, yet no sooner
is he or she in power,
when they do something else. It literally happens every time.
of this is an extraordinary popular hostility to not only the
political class but government per se and all its works. Conservative
politicians have proved the most adept at harnessing this hostility
(often glorifying the 'honest' market at the expense of the 'corrupt'
state) and using antigovernment rhetoric to achieve, paradoxically,
the very positions of power they are attacking. They are even
prone to attack 'big government' at the same time they are cynically
using the powers of government to reward their friends and vanquish
their enemies. [p. 25]
no more want 'democracy' in Iraq, than they do in America. They
want people in positions of illusions of power, who answer to American
business leaders, not the Iraqi people. They want *market rule*,
not popular rule.
the modern state's executive nothing but "a committee for managing
the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie" [Marx & Engels,
*The Communist Manifesto*
(Kerr, 1998) p. 14].
We talk about,
and claim our fealty to, democracy, but in this country, as in much
of the West, what determines who runs, who wins, and who benefits,
all comes down to wealth.
Who but the
very wealthy (or those they support) can dare to afford to run for
elective office? The US Senate is little more than a millionaire's
club. The two-party-endorsed
men running for president are millionaires, who went to schools
for the rich, and come from well-to-do families.
When is the
last time you heard a major politician even mention 'the working
class?' If they cannot even mention them, how do you think they
will even begin to represent them? They don't. They can't.
To talk about
democracy, is not enough. It must be practiced. Its best practice
is protest and dissent.
2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.