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“Democracies” deny the popular will while suppressing protest and dissent

Originally published: Black Agenda Report on February 14, 2024 (more by Black Agenda Report)  |

What is democracy? Dictionaries provide a variety of meanings but in general, they define it as “rule by the people,” which includes the election of representatives in a legislature or a parliament. This simple definition is easily understood but when one takes a closer look at the nations which call themselves democracies, it is clear that the word is now little more than a “get out of jail” free card to cover for what is, in fact, oligarchic rule. No one has to look very far to see the discrepancies between democracy as advertised and how states really function.

Most people here in the United States, 61% according to one poll, want a ceasefire in Gaza. That number is significant but it shows no correlation whatsoever with how the state acts. Only 69 members of the House of Representatives and 5 members of the Senate have publicly called for a ceasefire. Even worse than the sparse number willing to speak up for what the people want, those who say they want a ceasefire are duplicitous in making their own case. Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland has visited the Rafah border crossing and was incensed that Israel is preventing aid from getting through to Gaza. In a speech on the senate floor he called Israeli officials war criminals but when push came to shove, he was pushed and he voted to send $14 billion in aid to Israel. It seems that elected representatives see no need to actually represent their constituents.

The same is true in the rest of the “democratic” nations known as the Collective West. A leaked letter from a cabinet level ministry in the Netherlands read in part, “What can we say so that it appears that Israel is not committing war crimes?” The outgoing prime minister is angling for the NATO General Secretary’s job and wants to stay on the good side of the U.S., hence the need to give the appearance that Israel isn’t committing crimes that the whole world can see. Meanwhile, Dutch civil servants protested against their own government’s support for Israel and yes, they were ignored. That nation has been ordered by its Supreme Court to stop selling F-35 fighter jet parts to Israel but the elected government has chosen to appeal their court’s decision.

Not to be outdone, France is forcing any organizations receiving governmental aid to repeat debunked allegations that Hamas committed atrocities on October 7. Aurore Bergé, the French Minister for the Fight against Discriminations, said, “what happened on October 7th is that thousands of women were exterminated, murdered, burned, or raped.” She added, “On behalf of the government, I have requested a meticulous review of all statements from all feminist organizations related to October 7th and its aftermath, because I refuse to allow the state to financially support associations that cannot clearly define what happened […] I have asked for all financially supported organizations to be thoroughly scrutinized—hundreds and hundreds of associations—because being feminist means speaking out, it means supporting the women who were mutilated on October 7th. If there is any ambiguity about statements that have been made, it would not be right for these associations to continue receiving government subsidies, it’s as simple as that.” In other words, French organizations are being forced to lie if they want to continue functioning.

The U.S. and European nations are not alone. Canada, neighbor to the north with an undeserved reputation for being more humane, actively pursues a campaign of suppressing protest and dissent. El Jones and other members of a delegation were scheduled to speak to members of the Canadian Supreme Court about anti-Black racism in that country. Just one hour before they were scheduled to meet, they were informed that unnamed social media posts made court clerks feel “unsafe” and that some delegation members such as Ms. Jones would no longer be allowed to speak. She was never told what the offending post was, but she has concluded that pointing out Israel’s genocidal policies was the cause of the rescinded invitation.

This same Canadian government paid homage to a Ukrainian Naz i in the parliament elected by its citizens. Fallout from the scandal made clear that Nazi worship is not what the people there want to see at all.

Protest itself is criminalized in the world’s so-called democracies. The United Kingdom has forbidden the wearing of masks at protests:

No protester should be able to evade justice by wearing a face covering. That’s why we’re banning them. Offenders could receive up to a £1,000 fine and a month in prison.

The liberal democracies are not so liberal after all. Their elected representatives are bought off and cowardly. They may, like the Netherlands prime minister, want a plumb position, or members of congress want to avoid being targeted by well funded lobbyists in Washington. The U.S. treats every nation as an enemy, and even friends may be threatened and punished if they don’t toe Uncle Sam’s line.

This missive is an examination of responses to the U.S./Israeli/NATO war crimes being committed against the popular will. But the same questions can be asked about the lack of a public health care system or a shredded welfare state or increases in homelessness. None of these issues are addressed by electoral politics. The F word, fascism, comes to mind. Neo-liberal corporate power, including corporate media power, is combined with militarism to disappear the disaffected and to intimidate others into being silent.

In the U.S. we are told that this presidential election is a fight for democracy against the evil and undemocratic Donald Trump. But Trump did nothing as president that his predecessors didn’t, and in any case he can’t get rid of a democracy that doesn’t even exist. The word should be stricken from discussion about the U.S. and its puppets who are decidedly undemocratic and authoritarian when they want to act against what their people want.

Democracies are few and far between. The countries that use the word so readily do so because they know they are nothing of the sort. The rest of us must know it too and stop using this word to describe an increasingly dystopian world.

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