One of the more abused words in the English language is the word “democracy” which has come to mean just about anything. Our politicians love talking about the glories of democracy, especially after they have won an election. When they lose, as we are seeing with the Left these days, well, it is an assault on democracy! The word has become a Western version of Juche, the North Korean state ideology. It is not a form of government, but a mystical spirit that is the essence of the people’s goodness.
For Progressives, democracy is one the of the primary abracadabra words in their book of incantations. Whatever they want, it is almost always decorated with the word democracy or some reference to it. It’s not that they have any respect for the will of the people; it is that they truly believe their whims and causes are imbued with the magic they associate with the word democracy. Democracy is what they call that supernatural force that guides history and carries the righteous to the promised land.
This article from the Progressive site Jacobin is a good example. America, of course, is not a democracy. It is a representative republic. In fact, what we have come to know as liberal democracy in the West is explicitly not democracy. Instead, Western nations employ various forms of representative government. The reason for that is experiments with democracy have been disastrous. It turns out that mob rule is not a great way to run a country. The usual result is a blood bath followed by a tyrant.
Of course, the Left is not all that interested in democracy as a form of government. For them, it is trolley they ride from where they are now to the place they wish to be. That place is where they have an iron grip on society. Naturally, while they are waiting for that trolley to take them to the promised land, they sing the glories of the trolley system they call democracy. If things don’t work out as planned, well, the system is not democratic and the proof of that is they lost. After all, the spiritual goodness of the people is on their side.
The linked article is interesting and entertaining for a number of reasons beyond the less than credible claims about the glories of democracy. What’s fascinating about it is what it reveals about the Left. The author, after detailing what he sees as the facts of the undemocratic outcome, falls back on the example of revolutionary France. Appropriately enough, for a site called the Jacobin, the author wants some sort of National Constituent Assembly, where the people can fashion a new constitution.
The National Constituent Assembly lasted two years and can only be viewed as a failure, as it led to the radicalization of the Paris mob and eventually The Reign of Terror. Roughly 16,000 people were sent to the guillotine and another 25,000 were hung, shot or beaten to death by mobs. All of these murders were done in the name of the people. After all, what is more democratic than murdering people in the name of the people? Most of those killed were in no way opposed to the revolution. They either got in the way or failed to do what the radicals expected.
Nowhere in that long piece does the author mention Maximilien Robespierre, Les Enragés (“the enraged ones”) or Madame Guillotine. He later celebrates the Marxist revolts of the 19th century and then the glories of the Bolshevik Revolution in the 20th century. No mention in those cases of the bloody outcomes. That would require either a reconsideration of the glories of radical democracy or the celebration of senseless murder by angry mobs. It’s better to just skip past those problems.
That’s the revealing bit in the piece. The Left has learned nothing from the past, even their own past. The Right is often accused of being captive to a romanticized past, but it is the Left that is trapped in a permanent time warp. The first radicals of the Left followed the logic of Rousseau to its natural conclusion, murdered a bunch of people and then gave way to a tyrant. They keep repeating this pattern without ever having learned from past results. The Bolsheviks, for example, looked to the Jacobins as examples.
Part of this is explained by the radical fixation on the future. The Left has always been blind to the past as they put all of their energy into reaching the glorious future. The bigger issue is that radicalism is an intellectual dead end. When the only acceptable answer to the natural inequality of man is more democracy, you eventually end up with pure democracy, but the same natural inequality. That leaves enforced equality as the logical next step. With coercion naturally comes political violence and then terror.