[NOTE (9/23/17)]: I added some more theses in the “Democracy” section and the “Communism” section.
In any case our sole adversary on the day of the crisis and on the day after the crisis will be the whole collective reaction which will group itself around pure democracy, and this, I think, should not be lost sight of.
-Friedrich Engels, Letter to August Bebel in Berlin (1884)
- Democracy is a method of political organization in which each participant in the organization either directly or indirectly (through delegates or representatives) participates in the collective decision-making of said organization through voting. The verdict reached by the majority supervenes on the minority: all members of the political organization must obey the decision no matter if they themselves voted for it or not. An alienated body, oftentimes called the State, must enforce the democratic will of the majority, for otherwise said democracy would only be a formal and hollow democracy, and not actually democratic in essence. Of course, there may be protections guaranteed for minorities so that the tyranny of the majority does not oppress a minority past a certain limit.
- Democracy is the ruling ideology of nearly all modern, developed countries today, even though many countries’ democracies do not completely live up to the standard of pure democracy I put out.
- Democracy existed in Ancient Greece for instance, but democracy was only extended to male freemen, which consisted of only a minority of the city-state, while the democratic decision would go on to impact the entire population of the city-state. Even this very limited, partial form of democracy existed extremely rarely in slave-holding and feudal societies, mostly in just very specific localities. Democracy had not yet achieved the universalization that it would experience under the capitalist mode of production. For the rest of this article, I will exclude this primitive form from my theses on democracy.
- Democracy in its modern form is the product of a long tradition of liberal thought, stretching from the Enlightenment to the establishment and propagation of liberal democracies throughout the world. As a result of being the fruit of liberalism, democracy relies on implicit liberal assumptions about the essence of the human being.
- Democracy is the implicit ideology of liberal bourgeois society; it is the common-sense thought that arises out of the implied and often unconscious assumptions of liberal individualism. These assumptions include taking the abstraction of the atomized individual as the starting point of political thought, political equality of these atomized individuals as a universal, and the idea of political consent through an unspoken social contract between said abstracted atomized individuals.
- Democracy arises out of the sacred legal relation of private property upheld by the bourgeois epoch. Bourgeois right is the right to exclusion, the rights of the private property owner to alienate their body, their actions, (and most importantly) their property from the human community. Bourgeois right is therefore to make possession mutually exclusive and to divide society into atomized property owners.
- Democracy is the resolution of the contradiction between the abstract ideal of the private property owning individual and the concrete reality of collective humanity: abstract private property owners unite on the basis of private property and implicitly entrust the safekeeping of their private property to an alienated body, the State, via the unspoken social contract. They must unite upon a basis in which atomized private property owners exchange thoughts in the marketplace of ideas and then estrange their powers to an alienated body that then enforces the content of the ideas which have the most currency and the most demand, in other words, the ideas that best uphold the bourgeois right that lies at the foundation of democracy.
- Democracy and its bourgeois right cannot understand communism’s abolition of private property and its affirmation of the real human community except as the negation of its very basis of existence. Neither can it understand right except as an instance of exclusion, rather than an instance of inclusion, as an instance of the real human community, as an instance of the common possession of each other, what we do, and what we work on.
- Democracy is mutually alienated individuals coming together every decision-making period as a unity of divisions, a unity of atomized individuals, the “lonely crowd”. The vote affirms the atomization of said individuals: they are united in their alienation and they are alienated in their unity. The vote affirms the mutual alienation of voters through both the voters’ estrangement of political power to the alienated State and their separation from each other through the partition of the organic masses into discrete units (in other words, the individual is cleaved off from the whole of society and then asked to make a decision about the whole of society).
- Democracy, to legitimize its own existence and therefore the existence of capitalist private property, must incessantly focus on political participation as the end all be all of human activity. It makes one’s political life seem like one’s true life, one’s only life. As a result, democracy destroys human existence, our species-being, by alienating us from each other through alienating each of us from our lived activity. “The members of the political state are religious owing to the dualism between individual life and species-life, between the life of civil society and political life. They are religious because men treat the political life of the state, an area beyond their real individuality, as if it were their true life. They are religious insofar as religion here is the spirit of civil society, expressing the separation and remoteness of man from man.” (Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question)
- Democracy’s fantasy of the atomized individual voters as sovereign human beings is in sharp contrast with their actual existence, where these alienated voters live under the inhuman conditions of capitalist class society that consistently violate them and render them as essentially non-human, non-species-beings. (Human beings have so far never existed.) This general democratic fantasy generates the dream-like states of democratic ideology, where these supposedly sovereign human beings saunter around in the feverish reveries of liberal utopia. In the utopia of liberals, the ideological exaltations of the unrealities of “freedom” and “equality” morph them into becoming the seeming fixtures of capitalist ontology. These fixtures constitute what we perceive as the concrete terrain of reality. The reverie that is a union of falsehoods is in all actuality a living nightmare disguised as a escapist daydream. “Political democracy is Christian since in it man, not merely one man but everyman, ranks as sovereign, as the highest being, but it is man in his uncivilized, unsocial form, man in his fortuitous existence, man just as he is, man as he has been corrupted by the whole organization of our society, who has lost himself, been alienated, and handed over to the rule of inhuman conditions and elements – in short, man who is not yet a real species-being. That which is a creation of fantasy, a dream, a postulate of Christianity, i.e., the sovereignty of man – but man as an alien being different from the real man – becomes, in democracy, tangible reality, present existence, and secular principle.” (Ibid.)
- Democracy’s defenders and ideologues counterpose democracy to dictatorship; they see dictatorship as the antithesis of democracy and define dictatorship as when decision-making is imposed by those in power over others who have no political voice. The unity of opposites of democracy and dictatorship provides the spectrum of political configurations achievable by bourgeois society. As Gilles Dauvé shows in When Insurrections Die, the seeming opposition between democracy and dictatorship is a false opposition and in fact passes into unity (unity through division and division through unity): democracy easily transitions to dictatorship when dictatorship is needed and dictatorship easily transforms into democracy when democracy is needed. All of this is for capital to achieve the political form best suited for its own reproduction given the material circumstances.
- Democracy is a noose around the neck of the proletariat while pacifying the proletariat through the bourgeois illusion of equality through both the vote itself and the imposition of the result of the vote. It is the self-managed counterrevolution, allowing the proletariat to manage the conditions of its exploitation and alienation without giving it the capability to overturn the social relations of production and production of property relations at the core of the capitalist mode of production.
- Democracy is both all-powerful and toothless: all powerful because it in theory gives the masses control over everything within the parameters set by the capitalist framework, and toothless because it cannot touch the capitalist relations of production and private property relations at the heart of capitalism itself.
- Democracy shows us how subdued we are as a class: we are so weak and we are so obedient that we do not need the stick of the State’s full repressive potential behind us to keep us quiet and orderly, but rather only the carrot of false self-management dangling in front of us. We gladly self-regulate the conditions of our exploitation and alienation through majority affirmation of the state of affairs of capitalism. Doing so, we keep guard to watch ourselves and thus we make sure that we stay locked up in the inhuman prison that is created out of our alienated social relations.
- Democracy is stuck in a self-refuting trap: democracy assumes that people will vote upon their self-interest so that the democratic decision will be legitimized as that which upholds the self-interest of the majority of the population, yet it is democracy itself and all democratic ideologies, which are more-or-less spontaneous reifications under democracy, that fundamentally obscure self-interest, especially the self-interest of the proletariat. In the place of self-interest resides various political aims and aspirations of limited scope, which all lead back to upholding the capital-form in their various ways. Democracy naturally produces ideological reifications that obscure its bourgeois class character. These reifications lead to all kinds of people acting in ways that will continue to support democracy, various positions acceptable inside democracy, and what democracy protects, namely capitalist private property. Through the delusion of political consent, through the illusion that under reified class society we will be able to easily know what exactly our self-interest is and vote accordingly, we have capitalism, democracy, and democratic ideology reinforcing and determining each other in complicated ways.
- Democracy will have to be destroyed by the proletariat acting upon its own naked self-interest. The proletariat’s greed for more money for less time worked will inevitably come into conflict with the existing relations of production by blockading the relative and absolute extraction of surplus value. The proletariat’s anger will also inevitably come into struggle with the existing private property relations as it destroys or loots bourgeois private property. As this conflict raging in the economic base and legal superstructure plunges the economy into a crisis of valorization and finally into the disintegration of the capitalist mode of production, it will then destroy the material-economic basis and legal basis for the political form of Democracy.
- Communism is not just workers’ collective democratic ownership of the means of production plus generalized self-management. That perspective ignores the value-form and the firm as a site of capital accumulation. Without abolishing the value-form and capital accumulation, generalized self-management is a lie, since human beings cannot take control over their lives with the anarchy of commodity production and competition between firms imposing an impersonal, seemingly external force upon society. We will have not yet slain the monsters that we have birthed into the world from our union with alienated productive relations.
- Communism’s revolution is not the affirmation of democracy. It is not the culmination of a long series of imperfect democratic forms ending in the purest possible form of democracy. This is because communism is “not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself.” (Marx and Engels, The German Ideology) Rather, it is “the real movement [of the proletariat] which abolishes the present state of things.” (Ibid.) “The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” (Ibid.) As a result, we cannot impose from above the form in which the communist revolution will take, as “this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.” (Marx, Theses on Feuerbach) “Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.” (Ibid.) Likewise, the debate over democratic forms as the only possible reality of communist revolution is a purely scholastic question.
- Communism’s revolution will see democratic and non-democratic forms spontaneously emerge as a result of the ongoing class struggle. The councilist ignores the fact that though councils have been the spontaneous form of the class struggle in many examples through history, not all council-forms have revolutionary content and not all that has revolutionary content is in the council-form. It is not our job to cleave ourselves away from the masses by standing above society as an arbiter of what counts as the form of the real movement and what does not, based on predefined criteria. What matters more is the content of the revolution, whether or not it immediately begins the communization of society at the start of the revolution. This is because we know that revolutions that do not begin the communizing process immediately and instead aim to first build a so-called “workers’ state” inevitably end up with the revolutionary leaders managing a capitalist economy.
- Communism is not compatible with democracy. Repeatedly, Marx defines communism as the free association of producers. We see this in The Manifesto of the Communist Party and the section on “The Fetishism of Commodities” in Capital Volume 1. We know that private property is incompatible with the free association of producers, because it takes an alienated and coercive body, the State, to enforce the legal right to private property. (I will not address the pretensions of anarcho-capitalism at this point.) Democracy too is incompatible with communism, being fundamentally based on the abstract, atomized, private property owning individual of the liberal imagination, the story of whom I described earlier. In addition, producers cannot be freely associated if the majority can impose any kind of will onto the minority. As the imposition of the democratic will is the essence of democracy (if democracy is to avoid being in name only), it follows that free association is mutually exclusive with democracy. To be freely associated with one another implies that we cannot have an alienated body enforce dictates upon us.
- Communism’s critics who claim that communism is involuntary are missing the point: communism is the free association of human beings. As such, it is the natural order of human beings. Communism is the exclusion of all unfree associations of human beings. Thus, all class associations will be abolished. And a classless society is the affirmation of freedom, as the structuring logic for all oppressions would cease to exist.
- Communism is the real human community, full stop. The real human community will exist if and only if we destroy all social barriers to human potential, all barriers between human beings, and all reifications (including the value-form, all consequences of the value-form, the democratic-form, and all forms of social identity-roles) that seemingly acquire subjecthood by arising from our alienated social relations and then come to dominate us, who seem like passive victims of our own alienated activity. Those three types of things to be destroyed are all equivalent. They are three different ways of saying the same thing. “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” (Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party)
- Communism is the real human community. However, we currently live before the onset of the real human community: we live in the capitalist mode of production, where the forms of the past dominates the present. Capitalism appears to us as the great inversion between subject and object. Runaway world capital is the great autonomous subject of bourgeois history, and we who in actuality have reproduced capital daily through our past actions (and nearly every one of our present actions) appear as merely passive objects contemplating in stunned-awestruck-amazement almighty autonomous capital in its swift footsteps towards global annihilation of all that exists. That is, unless we in various ways collectively stop reproducing capital. The inversion between subject and object grants us human beings the delusions of passivity and grants social abstractions that arise from our alienated actions the delusions of grandeur. For the real human community to emerge, at some point we as the collective working class must shatter these delusions of passivity and grandeur.
- Communism’s social planning is a consequence of the abolition of the value-form. It is a necessity to prevent the social abstraction of the value-form from appearing back onto the world stage and then dominating human beings and our activity once again. With rational social planning, the present will dominate the future and the past will no longer dominate the present moment.
- Communism’s self-management should not be conflated with democracy. Order in communist society arises organically: people take control of their lives and arrange their relations with others to their heart’s desires, so long as they do not engage in unfree associations with other human beings. Imposing federated and delegated democracies (workers’ councils or even just general societal councils) as the form that communist society must take is therefore contradictory to the idea of free association as it forces a certain incredibly specific and limited kind of human activity, and more than that, makes that form of activity dominant over anything else. This impedes the fullest expression of individual human potential. If we were to decide everything under communism via democracy, it would follow that we would be having meetings and elections at least every hour. Nothing would ever happen besides incessant meetings upon meetings, and delegates calling delegates up and down the chain of command. Who would be able to stand this? This would be both boring and banal. Communism cannot be boring and banal; it is the complete freeing of human activity and potential.
- Communism’s self-management and free association is organic, spontaneous, natural order. It is the order that human beings will organically, spontaneously, and naturally gravitate towards in a classless society where property relations have been abolished. Without the perversion of the alienated forms of commodity exchange, private property, class, and capital, human beings will reorganize themselves and spontaneously prevent the re-emergence of alienated forms. Being trapped inside capitalist society and the limits of consciousness within capitalism, I cannot tell you how exactly communism’s natural order will look like in practice. However, when we reach that stage, all the distorted and alienated forms of class society, from back when we were ruled by reified abstractions that were a product of our own alienated activity, will seem like just a bad dream.