Democracy is dead: relics for sale

Sunday 28 June 2015 10:39

I’m an internationalist not a nationalist. Or put it another way, I don’t believe states are a good thing in themselves, and I certainly don’t believe in all the nineteenth century rubbish about one language, one culture one nation. I think the one question that is never nowadays asked of a state is ‘Who or what is the state for?’ The reason it’s not asked is because everybody knows that the state is not for the people. In many ways (think of all the propaganda about pain and self-sacrifice that we have to put up with) the state is for the rich. We are called to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the state and the good of the state is defined as the good of the rich. We have seventeen month hospital waiting lists to guarantee the incomes of the bondholders - how could we possibly think the state is for us?

However, back in 1973 I voted yes to joining the EEC. Like a lot of my contemporaries I saw around me a Catholic state where the medical services, the schools, social welfare in large part, juvenile prisons and a whole system of social control over women were in the ownership and control of the Roman Catholic Church. It was a state in which contraception was illegal, there was no divorce and abortion had never even been considered. It was a corrupt state in which politicians and property developers worked hand in glove, in which politicians bought votes with favours. It was a state in which justice was stacked against the poor (even more than today). It was a state defined by the number of people who emigrated every year. We were always and still are a province on the edge of a province, but back then the provincial mind-set was unbearable.

The EEC promised an escape, or at least a modification. It would allow us to turn our backs on the clientelist sycophancy of our relationship with the USA. It would open us to socialism, or at least social democracy to replace what shred of Catholic social teaching our provincial gombeen-men had permitted us. It would bring us wine and cheese and existentialism and garlic (in the village where I grew up and the nearby town you could not buy garlic). Besides, the states of the EEC had social welfare systems, health systems, education systems that we could only dream of - that in fact we still dream of.

I no longer believe in any of that. I no longer believe in European union. Or at least I no longer believe in the EU.

I no longer believe it because our governments have been bought and sold a thousand times over. Because nothing matters at the level of Government except capital. That is why a so-called socialist like François Hollande could vote to destroy Greece. That is why every EU leader has agreed that the sovereign government of one of its member states must be deposed by a capital coup. That is why the instrument of the coup is not tanks (yet) but money, a craven instrument of political power. And the government of my own country is the most craven of all.

Because if Syriza cannot overturn a failed policy (austerity) in its own land then there is no hope for any democratically elected party in the European Union. Because it’s clear that the EU leaders seek the overthrow of a government that is only mildly socialist but seeks to keep its promises to its people as far as possible.

Because in effect, democracy is dead. That is why the people who voted for the Irish Labour party on the grounds that it rejected austerity have seen some of the most painful cuts imposed by Labour. Because democracy is dead in Europe. It has been dying a long time but today is the date on the death certificate. It died in questionable circumstances; it may have been murder.

In Europe when you cast your vote you might as well buy a lottery ticket. You have no idea whether the party you vote for will honour its promise to you once it’s elected. Why? Because they all know that democracy is dead. They’ve been looking at the ailing body for years now and they knew for a long time there was no fight left in it. Nobody, they said a long time ago, really expects us to keep our promises.

Syriza is different and that is why it must be destroyed. Syriza must be destroyed because democracy is dead. Only fools and dreamers believe in democracy; the ‘adults in the room’ know that the people have no power and the markets are our masters. Democracy is dead in Europe. It may be dead everywhere, who knows. But in any case, we have possession of the corpse; we will bury it in Berlin.

Afterwards we’ll sell relics. You’ll be able to buy a fragment of the tooth of democracy or a hair of democracy’s head, and you’ll know that every cent will go to a good cause (yes, bondholders). We will have the four-yearly ceremony of the Exposition of Democracy, when a relic will be carried aloft through every street in Europe and the faithful will go into the Church of Democracy and make arcane marks on paper that nobody understands anymore. We already know that the language is meaningless. One day, we will have saints of democracy and we will ask them to intercede on our behalf instead of voting. The main thing is, the saints will do nothing. We will have the religion of democracy, and we will be its true followers and there will be priests and bishops and possibly a pope. In fact, we already have all that now, but we don’t quite realise it. In the future though, it will be more satisfying because we’ll know that prayers are never answered and that the ways of democracy are inscrutable and, in the end, everything happens for our own good whether in this life or the next. And, of course, deep down we won’t believe any of that, but old habits die hard and sure there’s always the bit of crack around the Exposition.

Or we could bring back the guillotine.