Why Democracy is Never Safe as Long as there is Private Ownership of Society's Productive Property.
Democracy in Politics, but Monarchy in Economics?
Private ownership of property is the greatest enemy of Democracy. But, these two terms deserve to be appropriately defined. Capitalism, or "Free Enterprise," is the system in which society's productive forces are owned by a very few. Mines, factories, and farms, all glistening with the tiny bodies that work them, are owned privately. This is the system of Capitalism.
Democracy is more elusive, and for this reason, easier for politicians to manipulate. But, if it means anything to the people, it means the right for each person to have an equal voice in the society in which they participate. For some, this is compatible with the system of "representation," in which people choose others to have power over them. For others, it requires completely voluntary associations, in which no person is obliged to pass the law of any other except if they choose to obey it.
These two systems of thought naturally represent opposite currents. Capitalism -- everything, the whole economy, shall be under the might and power of a very few, isolated from the vast majority, completely independent of them. The vast majority shall have the right to obey or starve. They must submit to the rules of their boss or supervisor without argument, without voting, without choice or option -- their choice is to obey, or to to starve to death. Capitalism is a monarchy of economics, with all of the pageantry and warped lies and cold-hearted rulers.
Capitalist power becomes a hereditary power, too, as wealth passes from generation to generation. And so we have the well-known families that have controlled entire nations for centuries: from Roosevelt to Medici and from Carnegie to Rothschild. The strongest trends within Capitalism are that the child shall inherit the professional class of their parents. For all of these reasons, Capitalism is exclusive: it is a society where 95% or more of the people have absolutely no voice in the most important factor of their lives, their livelihood.
Democracy represents the opposite trend. Capitalism excludes the majority, Democracy includes it. The Capitalist trend is to isolate power, decision-making, and authority within the hands of a very few, the monarchs of industry. The Democratic trend is to decentralize power and decision-making, to make it more available to the common people who must put up with however society functions.
These two ideas, Democracy and Capitalism, are incompatible in their substance. One tends to make the majority empowered, the other tends to make a very few empowered; one gives power to everyone, the other isolates it to just a handful. Democracy is always cannibalized by Capitalism. There is no human being who exists "just within the economy" or "just within society." Everyone has economic needs, as much as they have social needs; everyone must live through both realms of society's laws and economy's tyrants.
Private ownership of the means of production is at odds with Inclusive Society -- the two cannot exist side-by-side. The history of the world should be enough to demonstrate this point.
Only Capitalists Can Vote -- Or Only Their Vote Counts
"The Property-Requirement of Voting." You need to own property, that is, landed property, if you want the right to vote. In the United States, the working class was not allowed to vote until the Civil War. [*1] This is a lesson often skipped in American school classes, because it would change the significance of the terms of oppression in the country.
In Japan, the situation was the same, except it lasted until the Second World War. To quote W.G. Beasley, written from a Conservative point of view, "...the property requirement for suffrage remained in 1912 the payment of 15 yen a year in national taxes, despite several efforts to reduce or abolish it." [*2] Japanese historian Sen Katayama describes the same policy, writing from a radical Leftist point of view describes the same thing as Beasley, except in more detail...
The history of Belgium is, again, identical. When strikes broke out in the 1880's, it was only the Socialists who agitated for universal suffrage, so that it would include all workers. Quoting Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx's son-in-law, concerning a strike for the worker's right to vote, "...the Belgian miners and glass workers, severely and brutally repressed, have re-entered their industrial galleys, and the most perfect calm would reign in that El Dorado of bourgeois liberalism, if the organised Socialists did not continue the agitation in transporting it to the ground of universal suffrage." [*4] A Conservative, Catholic historian, like Vernon Mallinson would put it in terms like this...
In Italy, the trend towards Authoritarianism went side-by-side with the trend towards aggressive Capitalism. It took almost two decodes for the dictator Mussolini to wrest power from the government. But Mussolini was never voted into office -- he was handed the government by the king of Italy himself, in what historians have called the March on Rome. He was able to use a few million votes for the Fascist party, against the Socialist Party's over ten-million count, to gain control of the government. And even then, these votes for the Fascist Party were hardly democratic in their substance. It took years and years of removing the right to vote for the workers. To quote an Italian journalist and Liberal...
The France to emerge after the Great French Revolution, the one where Napoleon would find his place in history, was likewise a government controlled solely by the Capitalist class. To quote François Victor Alphonse Aulard, reputed to be the First Historian of the French Revolution, "Democracy, however, was suppressed in 1795, by the constitution of the year III, or, if not suppressed, at least profoundly modified by a combination of universal suffrage and suffrage with a property qualification." [*7]
You were probably taught in public school that the French Revolution was about Democracy and granting the right to vote to the common person. Lie. You were probably taught that the Liberals in Italy represented the strongest opposition to Mussolini's hi-jacking of the government in favor of Capitalists. Lie. But then again, public schools, by being government-controlled, are necessarily Capitalist-controlled.
Finally, most popular lies of American textbooks are those concerning Tsarist Russia. It is often asserted that the "Kadets" were a Liberal Party, who wanted the vote for everyone. This is wrong: the Kadets were hard-line Monarchists who never criticized the tzar and always fought against the right to vote for workers. To quote the politically-moderate, Russian historian Nicholas V. Riasanovsky in regards to the Kadets' suffrage law...
There's a reason why the lie was kept up that the Liberal Party of Russia wanted suffrage and the right to vote for everyone. It was the only serious opposition party to Socialists and Communists. To admit that the Liberal Party of Russia doesn't believe in the right to vote, in a meaningful Democratic sense, is to admit that there is no possibility for Democracy -- without Socialist Revolution.
Oliver Cromwell today is remembered as someone who fought the British Monarchy in favor of those who believed in voting for representatives. But, again, we find the same type of exclusion as practiced elsewhere. All the way back in the middle of the 1650's, to quote David Hume, "The plan of Cromwell's parliament ought to be restored, by making the representation equal, and by allowing none to vote in the county elections who possesses not a property of 200 pounds value." [*9]
This tradition continued for hundreds of years in Great Britain. Its opposition became known as Chartism, a working-class movement that sought to both expand the right to vote as well as to restrict the power of elected rulers. They were called the "Chartists" because they advocated a charter with six points, the third of which was, "No property qualification for members of Parliament—thus enabling the constituencies to return the man of their choice, be he rich or poor." [*10]
Another point of the charter point to the domination of government by Capitalism. Number four: "Payment of members, thus enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person, to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country." To quote the Marxist August Thalheimer in regards to a General Strike on behalf of Chartism's ideal, "It is also during this period that the third franchise reform in Great Britain, that of 1885, took place through which a new electorate was created and the number of electors in rural districts was trebled. Through this reform a certain section of agricultural labourers was given the vote." [*11]
Could it even be surprising to find the same practice being wildly popular in Ancient Rome? To quote Jean Jacques Rousseau from 1762, "It happened in addition that the town tribes, being more on the spot, were often the stronger in the comitia and sold the State to those who stooped to buy the votes of the rabble composing them...."
Elsewhere, Rousseau wrote of the Ancient Roman government, "He [the Consul] therefore gave the people, by means of this assembly, all the authority of numbers to balance that of power and riches, which he left to the patricians [the rich]. But, after the spirit of monarchy, he left all the same a greater advantage to the patricians in the influence of their clients on the majority of votes." [*12] All of this history is perfectly summarized by the Council-Communist and Anti-Bolshevik Anton Pannekoek...
And What About Today's Voting Restrictions?
Today in most developed nations, the largest group disenfranchised from voting include the young and the previously incarcerated. For the most part, property restrictions have been lifted -- for direct participation in government. However, new developments have come into play. Mass media, for instance, is large enough to deserve its title, the Fourth Branch of the Government.
More than just the media, every single one of those countries that used to have property-requirements now has party-requirements. And, in order to get anywhere in the party, you need to have the funding. In the United States, it can cost thousands and thousands of dollars to run as a candidate for either of the two major parties, the Republicans or the Democrats. [*14] This isn't the fee to pay for campaigning costs and staff, but the fee that goes directly to the party's central headquarters, the way one would buy an office in the Middle Ages.
Other social institutions, enjoying to keep their ill-gotten privileges, naturally support their foul neighbors, like a thicket in a swamp. The university system and the church are used to influence, direct, control, and manipulate public opinion. In competition with television crews and news stations, they still are able to deliver a believable message to ignorant masses. Keeping the majority out of the government was replaced with a system of fooling the majority -- or, at least, the system already implemented for fooling the masses was simply expanded.
Party-rule, university-domination, church-control, and this deafening, blinding, all-pervasive media -- television, movies, radio, internet, etc., etc.. These are some of the things that can be used to create the same effect as a property-restriction upon property. They are all the tools of the undemocratic, authoritarian nightmare of isolating power into the hands of a very few. If Capitalism were to be destroyed, church and party could hardly exist, except if they were to attach themselves to new terms of exploitation.
Only those who can threaten Capitalism are going to create Democracy. Given these centuries and centuries of history, only those who are willing to demolish private ownership of productive property are also going to be capable of establishing something resembling true Democracy. If there is one thing that stands between the individual and their right to have an equal voice in decision-making, is it not Capitalism? If there is something that keeps a human being from holding an equal right to everyone around them, is it not the domination of the state by the richest? If you genuinely believe in creating Democracy, then you can only genuinely believe in abolishing the Property-Rule of Capitalism.
*1. "Voting in Early America," by Ed Crews, published by Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Spring 2007, History.org.