Democracy in Flames (Part I)

I’m so fascinated by this article that I decided to translate it in full.

Here’s part 1:

By Maxim Kantor.

We live in strange times, where there are many who are scared of the word “democracy”. It is impossible to bring a hundred cultures to the common denominator, but it very easy to start a worldwide fire. War today is the only order, the only desirable status quo for the democratic nomenclature. As such, the desirable result of war is not surrender of the enemy, but a continuous animosity.

A war is expected in acquiescence. It’s not about any specific reason in any specific country. If there’s no war in Syria, it will happen in some other place. Wars transcend boundaries with the same ease as capital. War transaction is executed as easy as a bank transaction, and it’s impossible to keep track of who gets the profits. It’s customary to say that the US gets the profits. But it’s a conditional fallacy. The wars of today are different – not the kind we read about in textbooks. And the benefits of these wars are different.

Absolutist conditions (armies adhering to conventional warfare) have long ceased to be observed. Napoleon wanted a duel, but received a dirty rout; but the goals of war remained the same – to win. Today the goals are different. The desideratum result of war is not victory over an enemy, but the continuous animosity.

This may seem paradoxical, but in reality this endless hostility is a logical mechanism in a democratic history. It’s not about peace treaties meeting the conditions of a victor, not about accepting the laws of a conqueror – it’s about the triumph of endless antagonism where the parties’ arguments do not carry any meaning: every side has its own truth, there’s no way towards any sort of agreement. The so called Third World consists of countries where such animosity smolders: even if there’s a showy punishment of a far-away dictatorship, it’s not about improving the lives of the hostage population. Inside those countries there’s a deliberate push for animosities – but progressively, through the abundant pluralism. Any diplomatic encounter ensures that there are many truths, that anyone has a right to his opinion. The permanently simmering enmity of Israelis and Palestinians, the mutual hatred within Afghanistan, the competition of the armed parties in the East – all of these deliberate war resources maintains the fire, preventing it from dying out. Rebels get provided with weapons, opposing parties get financing not because of sympathy with their cause, or belief in local cultures. “Civilized” people understand that by giving weapons to bandits they provide fuel for the fire that otherwise would cease.

The representatives of national/religious/clan minorities are being convinced that their beliefs are to be defended against possible threat of autocracy. It is stated: it’s better to have chaos than totalitarianism; and everyone nods in agreement, no one has any sympathy for a tyrant! Any inconveniences (like local terrorism) which result from such provocative rhetoric are accepted as an inevitable price of freedom. A citizen from a far-away barbarian country is convinced that he has to accept his own participation in civil war, because he’ll become not only a soldier but a potential voter.

We are not talking about an underground movement or a civilian army or terrorists. These concepts are inevitable consequences borne by the general scenario. The point of the process is that democracy now functions is this manner – with endless civil wars as a nurturing environment of democracy, which equates itself with free market.

Such proposition doesn’t carry any malevolence – political history has always been characterized by military action; what makes the current phase unique is that today the victory over enemy is unnecessary. Today there are no evil puppeteers – any participant can become a puppeteer; in a new world democracy people are made to fight permanently. Ethical minds can’t comprehend why spend hundreds of billions on wars when for a fraction of a cost we can build cities, provide education and healthcare. An average citizen is being told that cities will be built when democracy wins, when soldiers make peace and vote for new construction. And yet the peace never comes.

To destroy a planned economy

The peace doesn’t come not because of some devious US policies that won’t allow for peace in any given country. The peace won’t happen for a simple reason that there are democratic forces involved in a conflict; forces that are represented by multiple parties, therefore having multiple reasons and goals. The number of conflicting ideas is abound: there can be no peace treaty that can bring an end to the potency of a democratic choice. If the choice was at least between countries or societies, perhaps it could be finalized; but the problem is that the market doesn’t offer such choice. There’s no single country that presents a valuable choice, as a way of life for its citizens; there’s no society that would want to maintain its social structure for a long time. A country and a society became variables, functions of capital and markets. Capital doesn’t know boundaries: today money likes America, but if all of a sudden it likes China or India or Mars, then the transaction will happen immediately. In reality it’s already happening – such movement happens in all directions, depending on the yield. Similar to the failure of Versailles Treaty or the Brest Peace Treaty to stop the remaking of world’s borders, modern agreements on the scorched ground of the bombed countries do not guarantee anything. Stability is not expected because stability is not valuable in current society. Just 100 years ago a governed territory would be created, managed by an installed ruler; today no one needs it – permanency is not wanted. Stability is a synonym of decay. Let everything be in motion. When evaluating Iraq or Afghanistan operations, many say that the goals of war are not achieved – the war continues and this is a failure. But the desired results are indeed achieved – the results of permanent civil war, instability, simmering hostility.

Today, even the appropriation of the resources of a defeated country is unnecessary; the shrewd will get them anyway, after the sovereign nation will cease to exist. The goal of wars nowadays is “democratic hegemony” to use the current political jargon; and such a goal is not the hegemony of a new order, different from the one existing before the war – it’s the hegemony of permanent chaos. The state of chaos is being achieved by methodical efforts, the need for chaos is as high as ever – as the dying liberal economy may only survive by wrecking chaos. Chaos is not a dirty word, but a doctrine of a global economy; it is understood that free chaos produces fairness; in economists’ terminology the markets’ free competition produces “fair price”. This thesis has not been proven, as Moscow real estate prices demonstrate it and the economic bubbles contradict it. But such thesis exists. According to this thesis, chaos reigns supreme. In the countries ravaged by war no one is preoccupied with delivering medical supplies or rebuilding the industries; everyone is busy organizing the elections among the three rebels’ leaders – it must be decided who will run things in the next three months. Then there will be another election, where the next thug is elected, and so on. Every loser will jeopardize his supporters; every winner will open prison cells. Such rotation of loudmouths needs to be supported – it’s called free elections; crowds vote for the endless rotation of scoundrels. What’s important here is the cycle of contracts, of corporate speculations – a business is going on, which is considered a progress of civilization. Such business will not necessarily improve the lives of the defeated, but the citizens of the defeated country will become participants of the global process, they will become part of the global market.

“Have mercy!” a Syrian or an Afghan (or a Russian) is screaming, “we have lived under the different laws and our civilization is different.” It is being explained to those savages that they can’t remain on the sidelines, that there’s a global civilization now, that markets transcend boundaries – and that everything that is beneficial for a free market is beneficial for humanity. In a certain sense that is true, although such benefit is short-lived: free markets move like Genghis Khan armies, using territories, but not cultivating them. Some don’t like it, some think that it would be better for markets not to leave burnt ground behind but bright cities with happy citizens. But all that is a long perspective; today we have no choice: no one can be excused from the global process. Even if the contested territory doesn’t present any interest for trade or for extraction of resources, its participation in market square carries symbolic nature. Market today is the whole world. To build something on an empty lot is unprofitable, thus it will not be built; but the destruction of a country must proceed, alas, because markets should not have borders – everything is for sale. It’s a depressing logic, but it’s a dominant logic, we have no other today. The final destruction of a planned economy is indeed the goal of current permanent war. The conditions for competition must be created all around – in many cases it’s a competition with our own peers for a right to survive.

A triumph over the weak.

Perhaps this is a time to ask: is tyranny better? If it’s not democracy then what? Isn’t it clear that everything else is worse?

In the course of a permanent civil war “tyrants” are easily produced, the press assigns such definition to anyone who, just yesterday, was a friend of a free world. In an instant we learned that Saddam, Kaddafi, Mubarak, Assad are tyrants; these players have not become worse today than they were yesterday. It’s just that the world has changed. The mantra “X – is the new Stalin and Y – is the new Hitler” is readymade, instead of X and Y you can use any name and the crowds in the squares get riled up and are ready to fight with a new Hitler – who wasn’t a Hitler yesterday. Such exaggerations come into existence not because of some wily scheme, but because democracy has mutated, metamorphosed; there are new criteria of evaluation. It’s possible to say that the demands of democracy towards some society or a nation that such a democracy intends to serve, have changed. Under the new criteria Assad is a tyrant, although yesterday he wasn’t yet a tyrant.

Pinochet is not a tyrant, but Assad is a tyrant; at first glance it’s a shameless double standard. But there’s some logic to it. The destruction that accompanies the overthrow of a next tyrant supersedes tyranny in its mercilessness. But there’s no political malice behind it – the politicians indeed wanted pure democracy, and the principles of democracy are more preferable than tyranny. When the citizens swear allegiance to the democratic values, nothing can trump those declaration. The unfairness of democracy is manifested, chaotically and irrevocably, in complying with the chaos of free markets. Sooner or later democratic doctrine becomes scarier than tyranny. The icy kiss of democracy, unlike the iron stomp of tyranny, does not kill right away.

The peculiarity of our current historical fragment is that democracy equates itself with free market; today, democracy is dependent on competitive triumph of the strong over the weak. Democracy declares victory of success over failure as its achievement. Competition per se is not the problem: every participant, however strong, has a chance to win. But what makes these particular triumphs different, from, let’s say, the triumphs of Pericles, is that a society doesn’t win from the victories of the strong. The subject of Pericles’ democracy or Jeffersonian democracy was society, and not some particular outcome of a competition. Today’s society – is a stage for a free market; people are spectators at best, but rather a hindrance to the competition. In theory, democracy does not allow for the triumph of the strong over the weak: such triumph happens in the course of a competition; it is moderated by the rights of other citizens – the strong is dependent on society where he shares the responsibilities of citizenship. But the hybrid of the last decades – “democracy – free market” – cements the victory over the weak as something permanent, creates a caste of “super citizens”, the strongest players, citizens of global market – but not citizens of a particular society. The successful are automatically becoming powerful political force; and not in any given stand-alone country – since the market is not subject to boundaries. Banks’ CEOs, heads of corporations, owners of natural resources companies do not represent society; they don’t even represent their own capital – they represent the new formation, new democratic nomenclature.


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