DEMOCRACY & NATURE: The International Journal of INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY
vol.9, no.2, (July 2003)
The criminal ‘war’ (if the military suppression of a vastly inferior army could be called a war) on Iraq, which, for the first time since the second world war, took the form of a preventive war followed by a brutal invasion and full military occupation of a country in order to integrate it into the New World Order, was not of course unexpected. In fact, it was perhaps one of the most anticipated wars in History, as the decision for it had in fact been taken long before the launching of the invasion, notwithstanding the pure theatre that went on in the Security Council for months before. D&N was going to press when the war began and therefore we are able only to initiate the discussion on this crucial matter in this issue, which will definitely affect the world for many years to come.
The discussion on the war theme opens with my contribution (Takis Fotopoulos) whose aims are fourfold. First, to show that the present invasion and occupation of Iraq is in fact the culmination of a campaign that began with the war in the Gulf in 1991 and continued with over a decade of constant bombardment and embargo, with the overall aim of establishing a client regime in Iraq as a means of achieving a number of important economic and geopolitical aims. Second, to discuss the role of the UN in the New World Order and the change in its role between the ‘Clinton doctrine’ and the ‘Bush’ doctrine’. Third, to discuss the criminal invasion itself and the dubious character of the ‘victory’ claimed by the transnational elite, all the members of which, directly or indirectly, took part in this campaign and, fourth, to examine the role of the Left in relation to the war.
The second contribution on the war is ‘An open letter to European Peoples’ by John Gerassi which, although written just before the launching of the invasion, is still highly topical as far as its analysis and conclusions are concerned. This bright polemical text not only accurately describes the type of political and economic ‘democracy’ that has been established by the leading member of the transnational elite, the American elite, in its home place and, through its overwhelming military power, is being exported today all over the world—the latest victim being Iraq-- but also raises some important questions concerning the European peoples, whose elites have not as yet managed to completely eradicate (apart perhaps from Britain) all remaining vestiges of social controls over markets. Of course, the answer to these questions, could not be given in terms of advocating the return to some kind of social democracy and welfare state-- an approach which, as D&N has attempted to show all these years, is both ahistorical and utopian-- but in terms of attempting to build on the socialist and democratic aspirations of European peoples (which are still much stronger than those in the USA) in order to create a new antisystemic movement for a genuine political, economic, and ecological democracy.
Damon Young’s paper opens the discussion on the second theme of ‘paideia and democracy’, continuing the discussion opened in the last issue. In a very interesting contribution, the author stresses that the Chorus of classical Greek tragedy ‘creates the conditions for individual, organic self-development’. Although no one would of course dispute the crucial role of culture-- part of which was expressed in the Greek tragedy-- in the reproduction of democratic institutions, still, one could not ignore the even more important role of the democratic institutions themselves. Clearly, the existence of ecclesia was the necessary condition for the development of democratic culture and, in this sense, it is the ecclesia that was even more crucial in creating the conditions for individual, organic self-development. Similarly, when the author states that ‘tragedy was crucial to the successful actualization of a good democracy’, one may point out here that some sort of reversal of causation seems to be involved, since it was the democratic paideia institutions and particularly the direct participating of Athenians in decision-making that created the culture reflected in tragedy and its chorus rather than the other way round, as this statement seems to imply. Finally, one may raise some reservations about Young’s point that ‘we embrace our narrative traditions because they show us what can be’. However, sometimes we have to break with tradition to create a new system of social organisation. There was, for instance, no democratic tradition before the Athenian democracy, nor is there a democratic tradition today—unless what is meant by this is the historical evolution of representative‘democracy’, which however has almost nothing to do with democracy.
Alexandros Gezerlis’ paper powerfully continues the discussion on education in relation to a democratic paideia that we opened in the last issue. The author is particularly critical of the individualistic trend within the libertarian movement on education, which began with Max Stirner and sees today a strong revival, following the general retrogression of the libertarian movement towards individualism. Gezerlis, after going through a strong argument against the libertarian claims of some of the approaches proposed by supporters of libertarian education, concludes that we need a new democratic conception of education in which paideia is seen both as civic schooling and personal training.
The Platonic views on paideia are commonly being taken as a guide to the contours of democratic paideia. However, although it is not disputed that some of Plato’s insights on education are useful, it should not be forgotten that Plato was in fact an enemy of democracy and of democratic politics—the very foundation of democratic paideia. Yorgos Oikonomou’s paper is very useful in this connection since it gives a comprehensive view of Castoriadis’s powerful critique of the Platonic ideas, clearing up in the process a widespread misunderstanding, whereby Plato is believed to be the cornerstone, or the foundation of Greek political thought and its representative par excellence. As the author stresses at the outset, ‘for Castoriadis, Plato is the total negation of Greek thought and indeed of political thought’. Oikonomou then goes on to show in detail how Castoriadis’ critique demonstrates the effective Platonic concealment and distortion of important classical Greek beliefs, chiefly beliefs concerning politics and democracy.
The thematic part of this issue concludes with George Skoulas’ insightful paper on the theoretical dimensions of authoritarianism, which is relevant to both the two themes of this issue. It is relevant to the ‘paideia and democracy’ theme when it highlights the psychological, philosophical, social and political dimensions of authoritarianism, as the negation of democracy— which is the basis of paideia. But, it is equally relevant to the present ‘war’ against terrorism (although not analysed in the paper) since this war is nothing less that the contemporary form of authoritarian rule, as exercised by the transnational elite. Although the paper is based on a critical theory analysis of authoritarianism, as the latter appeared in the authoritarian regimes of the interwar period, still, many of the characteristics of this ideal type of authoritarian rule apply to today’s’ reality as well. This is not surprising, given that the foundations of authoritarianism are founded in the concentration of political and economic power at the hands of various elites—a process which has been accelerated in the present neoliberal globalization. Furthermore, the market economy and its values, particularly individualism and the related positivist logic, are even more dominant today than in the prewar period. Of course, the forms authoritarian rule takes today are very different from the traditional forms of authoritarianism—a fertile theme for further investigation
Finally, the Dialogue section hosts an interesting intervention by Omer Caha on the ‘The End of Traditional Antisystemic Movements’ theme. His point of reference is the contribution of the feminist movement in humanizing the Turkish political and economic system—a good point of departure for a more general discussion on the significance of such movements in the South.
Takis Fotopoulos, Editor