Democracy Direct or Indirect?
by Jiri Polak
DD Publishing House, 1993

Parliament in indirect "democracy" becomes a closed body living in a world of its own without much contact with its respective constituencies. It is an assembly full of intrigues, tactical manoeuvring and personal quarrels. In general, the MPs are forced to follow the party line - in the British House of Commons, there is the grotesque institution of the "whips" fulfilling this function.

The Iron Law of Oligarchy (formulated by Robert Michels): Organizations tend to develop interests and perspectives at variance with those of the rank and file. The more ignorant and passive most of the members are, the more freedom the leaders will have to develop and gratify their own special interests. Each organization may have been founded to serve a rationally defined purpose, but in its lifetime the organization tends to become an end in itself or, more precisely, a valuable resource and bulwark for its de facto leadership. What the actual leaders do and say will increasingly be tailored to serve the organization's, or their own, interests, rather than the purposes for which the organization was founded.

There is a myth according to which military spending is beneficial for the economy, that disarmament would increase unemployment, and also result in other disturbances. As shown for instance by J.K. Galbraith, the contrary is true.

Was it right or wrong to precipitate the collapse of the Soviet empire by arms race?

Many people, especially in the former communist countries of central and eastern Europe, are grateful to Ronald Reagan for his escalation of arms race because this was certainly the decisive factor behind the collapse of communism in 1989. This event was very welcome even to ecologically conscious people because it has created more favourable conditions for the improvement of the disastrous environmental policy of the former communist regimes.

To look at things in this way is, however, very superficial. Suppose that, during 40 years, A had been forcing B into drug addiction and made huge profits thanks to this business. When B is almost dead, A forces him to go through a costly weaning cure which saves B's life but leaves him in a wretched condition. Should B feel grateful to A? This is what the outcome of the cold war is about.

Even in the early 1960s, communist economies had run into trouble. Suppose the West had offered co-operation and environmental know-how, provided that the help would be used to avoid and remedy the worst environmental problems and to ameliorate the living standards of the Soviet people. Such a policy would have been possible during the Khruschev era of peaceful co-existence. It would have kept armaments at a low level and the environment would be in a much better state than it is now. Additionally, the absence of a threat from the outside would have undermined the credibility of the dictatorship inside the Soviet Union. The regime would have gradually withered away and developed pluralistic structures more and more resembling Western parliamentary systems. Amelioration of living standards is invariably accompanied by an increasing pressure for democratic reforms.

What happened instead? ... ...
Millions of human tragedies, radioactive pollution of vast areas, indescribable poverty, deterioration of health and increasing mortality, especially among children, ethnic conflicts which continue to kill thousands of innocent victims ...

The United Nations Organization is a sort of trade union for the national oligarchies the primary concern of which is to keep intact their power positions. Just one example:

While paying lip service to beautiful principles of human rights and democracy, the UN supported the Red Khmers, the worst butchers in modern history, after they had been driven out of Kampuchea by Vietnam. Why? ...

From conflict to co-operation

Modern oligarchic rule is based on conflicts among groups. Conflict creates and promotes cohesion inside the group and increases the propensity to submit oneself to a leader and an oligarchy who pretend to know what to do and to protect the interests of the group against other groups. The concentration of power in the hands of oligarchy is directly proportional to the intensity of conflict. Conflicts reach a maximum intensity in war, and therefore in wartime, there is also a maximum power concentration. In war, oligarchies can kill both soldiers and civilians without any pretense at justice, pretending that the interests of the country demand it.

... European party systems originate in conflicts among the most important groups of the nineteenth century: industrial entrepreneurs, workers, land-owners and peasants. ...

Western societies of the 1990's are very different from those which gave birth to party-based parliamentarism. A hundred years ago, politics was dominated by conflicts, either local, between groups inside a society, or inter-state, i.e., conflicts among national oligarchies using their populations as cannon-fodder. Today, such conflicts are much less important. There is no war-generating tension between big States.

Democracy of the Future

The transition to direct democracy will be a change of paradigm, or, in politological terms, a change of the political formula. Party-based parlamentarism is a zero-sum game, a constant battle among the party oligarchies who try to rob their rivals of as many votes as possible. In elections there are winners and there are losers. But no winning party can keep its power positions for ever. ...

In direct democracy, there will be no competition for votes. There will be no elections, no parties, no politicians. The point at issue will only be to find out which policy in any field of social activity is backed by how many citizens. The measures taken will reflect the wishes of the citizens to the greatest practically attainable extent. Even the preferences of minorities will be taken into consideration and satisfied as far as possible. The system being a co-operative one, there will be no losers, only winners.

A model of Direct Democracy

     |               THE REPRESENTATIVE BODY  (RB)                        |
              |                |      ^  ^   |  |     |         ^
           control     legislation,   |  |   |  |     |         |
              |        appropriation  |  |   |  |     |     Information
              v                |      |  |   |  |     v         |
      _______________________  |      |  |   |  |   ____________|_________
     | Head of the Executive | |      |  |   |  |  |   Expert Commissions |
     `~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~' |      |  |   |  |  |        Research      |
         |                ^    |      |  |   |  |  `~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'
     nomination           |    |      |  |   |  |                       |
         |                |    |      |  |   | appropriation            |
         v                |    |      |  |   |  |                       |
  _____________________   |    |      |  |   |  |                       |
 | Executive Committee |<-|----'      |  |   |  |   __________________  |
 `~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'  |           |  |   |  `->| Public Education | |
         |                |           |  |   |     `~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~' |
     nomination,          |    referenda |   |                          |
   appropriation,         |           |  |   |                          |
      steering            |           |  |  nomination                  |
         |                |           |  |   |                          |
         |                |           |  |   |                          |
         v             direct         |  |   |     _______________      |
   ________________   personal        |  |   `--->| The Law-court |     |
  | Administrative |  election        |  |        |     System    |     |
  |   Structures   |      |           |  |        `~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'     |
  `~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~'      |           |  |                              |
         |                |           |  |                              |
         |                |           |  |                              |
      service,            |           |  |                        Information 
    public order,         |           | random                          |
   social security,       |           | selection                       |
     medical care,        |           |  |                              |
        etc.              |           |  |                              |
         |                |           |  |                              |
         |                |           |  |                              |
         v                |           |  |                              v
 |                       A L L    C I T I Z E N S                          |

(The representative body would be selected at random. This random selection would be done separately in every identifiable group of the society so that various groups are proportionally represented in RB.)