Anarchy & Democracy
Definition of Democracy
Etymology: Democracy as the power of the people (and so of each individual composing “the people”).
Abraham Lincoln advocated democracy as:
“the government of the people, by the people, for the people” (The Gettysburg Address, 1863)
However, actual democracy as it exists in political systems today is based on:
- delegation of power (the individual is not any longer in control of his life)
- representation of interests (the interests of the strongest people prevail)
- imposition of will (everybody is subject to the decisions of the majority).
If we examine a bit closer current reality we might even say that current
democracies are the will imposed by a minority, delegated by a relative majority,
in order to protect the interests of parasitic strata (e. g. the bureaucracy),
national categories (the so-called liberal professions) or financial and
economic actors (the banks, the corporations).
Nothing to do not only with the will of the people but also with the will of each and every individual.
Critique of Democracy
The most radical critique of democracy from an anarchist point of view was from the coiner of the word “Anarchy”, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon:
“This is, notably, the pretension of DEMOCRACY, when it presents itself as the form of government that is best capable of representing the sovereignty of the People. Now, if I am capable of showing that democracy, like monarchy, is nothing other than a facade of sovereignty; that democracy doesn't offer an answer to any question posed by the idea of sovereignty; that democracy cannot, for instance, neither establish the authenticity of the actions attribute to the people, nor say which is the objective and the end of society; if I am able to show that democracy, away from being the most perfect of the governments, is the negation of the sovereignty of the People, and the beginning of his ruin, we will have proved, practically and juridically, that democracy is nothing else that a constitutional despotism that follows another constitutional despotism.”
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, La Démocratie, 1848
Malatesta wrote about majority rule:
“We do not recognize the right of the majority to impose the law on the minority, even if the will of the majority in somewhat complicated issues could really be ascertained.
The fact of having the majority on one's side does not in any way prove that one must be right.
Indeed, humanity has always advanced through the initiative and efforts of individuals and minorities, whereas the majority, by its very nature, is slow, conservative, submissive to superior force and to established privileges.”
Errico Malatesta, Maggioranze e minoranze, 1920
Recovery of Democracy
However, if for democracy we intend the power of the people, that is of each individual, to take autonomous decisions about his/her life and to select to which community (if any) he/she wants to be part, in that case we can recover the term democracy and give to it a new lease of life.
“By democracy, of course, I do not mean "representative government" in any form, but rather face-to-face democracy.”
“What I am referring to is an evolving tradition of institutional structures, not a social "model."
Democracy generically defined, then, is the direct management of society in face-to-face assemblies - in which policy is formulated by the resident citizenry and administration is executed by mandated and delegated councils.”
“I wish to propose that the democratic and potentially practicable dimension of the libertarian goal be expressed as Communalism, a term that, unlike political terms that once stood unequivocally for radical social change, has not been historically sullied by abuse.”
Murray Bookchin, Communalism