Can Democracy Save Us?

As a columnist for the Anglo-Indian magazine Socialist Factor, I find it inspiring and gratifying to see fellow socialists in India fighting to elect Socialist candidates, and working to make their country better through a democratic system.

I was also inspired and motivated by the success of Iceland’s Pirate Party in bringing fundamental change to their country, and throwing banksters and conservatives out of office following the financial crisis.

From time to time such democratically achieved successes give one hope that real change is in fact possible through the ballot box. But in most countries on this planet, and in most international organizations as well, I see no real hope that the frightening challenges facing our world can conceivably be addressed effectively, much less overcome, through democratic means. I find myself increasingly at a loss for words when I read appeals from friends on the Left around the world which are framed as calls for more democracy, or building movements to achieve democratic majorities which can bring about major structural change.

Anyone who has read carefully about the current environmental dangers threatening life on Earth, anyone who understands the basics of the science involved and the widespread agreement among scientists about what is now possible and growing more likely every day, will know what I mean when I say: There is not a snowball’s chance in hell, as we say in Tennessee, that any international consensus about how to prevent disaster will emerge soon enough to save our asses if these scientific projections are accurate. The only thing that could even conceivably replace our filthy, poisonous industrial economy fast enough to make a difference in the horrors which are developing would be complete, perfectly coordinated international cooperation to make that fundamental transformation: eliminating the use of most fossil fuels, banning the production of most plastics, placing strict mandatory controls on the use of water and the production of meat, and much, much more.

Does anyone really believe we are even crawling in the direction of real international cooperation with the democratic, pseudo-democratic, fake-democratic and fraudulent sham-democratic jockeying for power kicking up so much dust in the media and the world’s political capitals? Can anyone deny to me with a straight face that, every day, we race farther in exactly the opposite direction, with new disputes and proxy wars and subversion between world powers being the order of the day?

The United Nations, for all the well-meaning, idealistic and motivated people who work there and do its work around the world, has become a pathetic joke in terms of ever being capable of challenging the massive entrenched power of those who fund it and dominate the Security Council. Far too often, the UN is a political tool of the United States of America, which manipulates and instrumentalizes it in ways that even many NATO partners find frustrating and distasteful, although when it gets down to the wire and it’s time to vote, they usually suppress their grumbling and vote the way their allied colossus wants them to vote.

The very idea that the UN is capable of preventing environmental disaster is laughable. I do not mean to denigrate the hard work of those who organized and supported the Paris Climate Summit and the Paris Accords, and I am gratified that there are so many people who are passionate about saving the planet. But we have no more time to indulge in wishful thinking about the Paris process simply because the alternatives are too scary and intimidating. The levels of emissions reduction in the Paris Accords are not remotely capable of slowing global warming and they fail to even directly address the acidification and plastic poisoning of the oceans and the food chain. Without an emergency, mandatory plan to meet these objectives rapidly, it will be too late to save the food chain and the environment, if it is not already too late. Can anyone reading this seriously imagine such cooperation between – just to name one example – America, the EU, China and Russia? Setting aside for a moment the fact that the 1% and their deadly industrial minions will never make such sacrifices voluntarily (in America they refuse to even admit that we are standing precariously on the edge of the abyss … New pipelines! New nuclear plants, even after Fukushima persuaded some European countries to abandon nuclear energy! Here in Germany, a new highway tax to pay for more work on the country’s overloaded highway system: slow progress on electric cars against resistance from Germany’s huge and powerful auto manufacturers): even in countries such as China and India, the desire for industrial equality and consumer goods which are killing Mother Earth is strong. Would these countries behave in any more of an enlightened manner, were we to have an emergency meeting of the United Nations to negotiate an immediate plan to save the environment? How do we imagine such consensus could come about?

I am convinced that it will never come about through the auspices of the fraudulent democracy which is the order of the day in so many countries. Even if there were to be a real hope of building a movement which could persuade a world majority of the necessity for such change, most life on Earth would be long gone before it could come to fruition.

Here in Germany there is a term for the (inadequate) proposals of the Green Party to change popular thinking about environmental issues: the Greens’ suggestion in the last national election that it would be a good thing for everyone to refrain from eating meat for one day every week was scorned as attempted “Öko-Diktatur” (Eco-Dictatorship). The Greens were lampooned mercilessly in the press for wanting to control the behavior of Germany’s allegedly politically conscious citizens, and sustained losses in the election as a result. That is the mentality faced by anyone who seriously believes democracy or dialogue can save the environment.

And the environment is only one issue, even if it is the most pressing.

On issues of nuclear weapons, the worldwide police-surveillance stated created by the United States and others, the use of the mainstream media to control public opinion, and the rapidly growing digital addiction which is cutting off our brains from our physical surroundings — and making us ever more susceptible to spying, thought control and thralldom to huge corporations with a technical grip on the world’s computer-run infrastructure – it is almost impossible to imagine any democratically-based consensus developing which could slow or prevent the approaching crises.

Of course, I am aware that this sounds like a plea for authoritarianism, and I suppose that it is, although I am fully aware that it will not win me many political allies. But I believe that a deluded optimism is far more dangerous than a clear view of a frightening future. In spite of my anarchist heart, I want life on this planet – not only human life, but especially plant and animal life, which it appears ever more likely we would destroy along with ourselves – to survive. And that means, as I see it, in fact, some kind of Eco-Dictatorship. My vision of a revolution that could save the planet would produce something like worldwide socialism with adequate Basic Guaranteed Incomes and a mandatory emergency plan to save the environment. We will not even begin to go in that direction any time soon, much less make substantial progress, via the ballot box.

Consensus is dead.