Archive for May, 2012


Greece and the Illusion of Democracy

2519 years have passed since the Greek first invented democracy; this might be the year in which they prove that it doesn’t work. Well, at least that representative democracy doesn’t: one’s elected “representatives” should carry the will of the electorate and translate it into law, right? Right: faced with the prospect of  draconian austerity measure which are as inhuman as they are ineffective, the will of the Greek electorate is rather clear:  forget ’em. How much of the Greek population supports this rather reasonable point of view is debatable. The digit 66% circulates a lot, but this is only the percentage of people who voted parties opposing the austerity package. If people were asked to directly decide on the issue, they would probably react like Icelanders did in 2010, when a similar proposal was rejected by 93% of voters. I shall not, however, argue this particular point: underestimated as it may be, let’s, for argument’s sake, accept the 66% estimate as true; there is no doubt, in any case, that 66% voted for parties that rejected the measures.

The result? Parties supporting the measures won 49.7% of the seats in the parliament, being therefore only two seats short of having their way. A few quirks of the electoral laws made this a breeze: the warmest supporters of this piece of social slaughter, New Democracy, having lost almost half of its support, was awarded 17 seats more, based on a rule that gives 50 seats, or 20% of the total, to the party that comes out with a majority, no matter how thin or relative this may be. Another law states that albeit, by mathematics, a seat corresponds to only 0.4% of votes, parties getting less than 3% do not get any. By grace of this, 13 parties, the vast majority of which are against the measures, were arbitrarily denied the representation they deserved.

New elections are now scheduled in June, by which time the Greek, having realized that their opinion doesn’t really matter, will desert the ballots, and accept whatever fate German bankers have decided for them.

The Greek example is a very clear one, but similar laws (extra seats awarded to majorities and arbitrary entry barriers) exist in virtually every parliamentary democracy. The idea is that they make it easier to form a majority: I shall only point out that having a single party, as the Soviet bloc did for 40 years makes it even easier to form a majority, saves a lot of paper in the process and, in the case of the Soviet bloc, did actually reduce unemployment, exploitation and social disparity, which is pretty much the opposite of what the austerity package does. But more about this later.


The Myth of Islamosocialism

One of the wonders of linguistics today is that most Tea Party voters–the kind of people who can hardly spell their own name–can generally spell the 7-syllable word “Islamosocialism”. It is ironic that this show of multisyllabic prowess is wasted on a concept that is vastly imaginary. The theory goes: socialists (a term which, in the mind of the radical right, is freely interexchangeable with “communists”, “liberals” and “not quite as radical right-wingers”) are a fifth column of international Islamism, and help promote it in every country. The concept has always been shaky, and has never been so much so as now: the so-called Arab Spring, driven by the Muslim Brotherhood is erasing every trace of Marxist policies in most of the Middle East and Northern Africa, with approval, military and diplomatic help from the NATO.

Not that this is new: Muslims received support from the US and their lackeys in Indonesia (1965), Afghanistan (1978), Bosnia (1991) and Kosovo (1999) against Marxist governments. A decades-old feud also pits the Marxist Fatah against the Islamist Hamas in the Palestinian Territory; the latter actually allied itself with Israel (which it vowed to destroy) rather than co-operate with a left-wing group. Examples of alliances between Islamist movements and Marxist ones are few, far between and unsuccessful:

  • during the Russian Civil War, a Tatar Islamic sect, the Waïsi Movement, supported the Red Army. It was then suppressed by the Soviet authorities in the 30’s. Stalin, in that period, suppressed pretty much anything, generally without any valid reason, so there is no saying how the matter would have ended had the Soviet Union had a sane leader. At any rate, Tatars generally supported the Nazis from then on.
  • during the Iranian revolution, the non-atheistic Marxist movements (i.e., those that were Marxist in name only) united with the clergy against the Shah. Immediately after the revolution, they were first marginalized, then suppressed with violence. Something very similar is happening in Morocco.
  • during the Gulf War, the somewhat socialist-inspired Saddam Hossein made a half-arsed appeal to Muslims to help him against the US troops. It didn’t really work, save for antagonizing Muslims and Americans after the war. The end result, some 12 years later, was the toppling of the Hossein government by an alliance of Americans and Islamists, and its replacement by what is substantially a Muslim theocracy: the new Iraqi constitution, written with the blessing of the US, includes the clause that “no law can be that contradicts the fixed principles of Islam” along with an ambiguous ban on “Saddamist” parties that can very well be used to suppress any left-wing movement.

Where does the myth stem from, then? Well, from Europe, really. European right wing parties generally draw much of their support, in spite of generally unpopular social and economic policies, from their purported stance against immigration, and immigration of staunch Muslims is almost invariably its most visible aspect. Left wings, which, as Stephen Gowans rightly points out, are more or less lost, try to find a sense of identity not only in opposing this stance, but also by courting Muslim voters (truth to be said, they often try to court Christian and Jewish voters as well). This is foolish, of course—Marxism is not compatible with any of the monotheistic religions, and immigration is an instrument of the Capital to reduce wages, deflect attention and hostility from the ruling classes and dilute the voting pool with elements that haven’t had any education in Marxist principles—but it has made it so that a number of people, most of which American, immediately associate anti-capitalism with pro-Islamism.

In the end, any alliance between Islamism and Socialism is very much like the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact: intrinsically unstable, politically impossible and only feasible in the eyes of those who dislike both. But the very existence of the concept, tenuous as it may be, is another sad memento of a Left that can’t be true to itself.