Cicero wrote: ‘People think I have lost my senses if I speak on politics as I ought, and a powerless prisoner if I say nothing.’
Nicolas Werth, the great chronicler of Stalin’s murdered millions, achieved by the silent approval of the masses, defined the authorising system of the genocide as being possible due to ‘the fictionalisation of the political discourse.’
In Britain the last gasps of theorising on power came from the shipwrecked European exiles washed upon its shores after the wreckage of Russia and Germany, Isiah Berlin and Lewis Namier whose writings today can be seen as worthless, mere visa applications. The last sixty years have simply been void of either deep analysis or high aspiration of our human crisis.
Numbed by an epoch of dictatorships, we bowed our necks and accepted the appalling transfer of power from political forum to banking institution, from legislation to information technology. With Edward Snowden a homeless exile in Russia, in danger of his life, the words Cicero wrote to Marcellus in exile, still stand: “Wherever you are, remember, that you are equally within the power of the conqueror.”
If you want a date from which this distortion of rational political discourse began surely, the foundational moment arrives with the first issue of paper money establishing the American Revolution, which bore the motto: ‘Libertas carior auro’ – Liberty is dearer than gold money. Once the transfer of owned wealth was accepted as surrendered to receive in its place a piece of paper – that is enslavement – it was to be renamed liberty.
The American adventure began with clarity – facing the knowledge that elite rule worked but the masses had to be acknowledged. John Adams, founder of the new nation, author of ‘A Defence of the Consitutions of the United States’, wrote: ‘I was always for a free republic, not a democracy, which is arbitrary, tyrannical, bloody, cruel and intolerable as a government.’
The macabre doctrine of government by a universal-franchise has doomed the world to a cycle of genocidal disasters, the worst of which – if things do not change – has yet to come.
Montesquieu wrote in his still radical text, ‘L’Esprit des Lois’: ‘Le bas peuple, qui est le tyran le plus insolent que l’on puisse avoir…Ils sont en quellque façon libres et par consequent insolents; car il n’y a rien pis que la populace libre.’
‘There is nothing worse than a free populace.’ The phrase still shocks. However, an examination of modern history shows that what has structurally presented itself as the rule of the masses has not only revealed itself to be either a rule by dictator or by a tiny oligarchy, e.g. World War Two with a popular dictator versus an imposed dictator allied to a tiny American elite.
The recent holocaust that shattered Iraq was steered by two dubious leaders against the recorded desire of the British and American masses.
More profound remains our present situation. For those romantics who believe still that the mass electorate must decide – a completely new situation now adheres. The nation state – vehicle of the electoral process – is now an empty shell whose only reality is its national football team. All the cords and sinews, blood and muscle of the modern community stretch way beyond the local electorate.
As Harold Laski wrote back in the 1930’s:
‘A new formula was needed for a state of which the roots had spread beyond the voting audience.’
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