Joe Biden Has No Business Lecturing the Rest of the World on “Democracy”

The question of democracy is confused by its own lack of precise definition. The problem is reflected from the start in the attempts to define the then vague term ‘democracy’ inherited by history books from the rare and hard to resolve case of Athenian ‘democratia’. The figure of Rousseau is a foundational turning point here but his terms are themselves subject to confusion, viz. the ‘general will’. This terminology was never secure or even clear, and invoke metaphysical question marks. Needless to say, the Athenian case was forever contradictory given the foundation of slavery, and sure enough, the rebirth of democracy eerily duplicated the Athenian ‘democratic contradiction in terms’. And the issue in that generation of the first crystallization of ‘democracy’ at the end of the eighteenth century equivocated the dilemma of direct democracy and electoral democracy, the latter an obvious candidate in the far more extensive state systems beyond the Athenian polis where direct democracy was enabled, yet itself subject to the case that Thucydides brought to the tragic genre.
The American case was thus a poor example of anything like real democracy and in the wake of the French Revolution the rise of socialism attempts to repair democratic foundational ideas (and the contradictions of the French Revolution) in the legacy of ‘real democracy’, or democratic socialism. But the critique of bourgeois democracy in the dawn of modern capitalism was never successful in practice and in some ways the legacy of Marx, despite his strong core democratic instincts, produced a prejudice against liberalism and its democratic manifestations, always as Marx so acutely noted, compromised by the unpredictable element of the capitalists as a hidden (or not so hidden) oligarchic faction. The idea of democracy thus suffered a kind of sucker punch blow and we see that in the period of Lenin the idea of democracy in a so-called socialist revolution was under suspicion from the start, especially in the context of Russian history, close to a lost cause.

We should cut to the chase, and note that democracy never had a secure foundational moment and it is not surprising that its status equivocate. The history shows the obvious: an idea in search of realization and the endless series of ever inadequate starting points.

The obvious solution is to really define the term and then realize the idea by reform or revolution for the first time. Attempts to restore the idea by a recursion of the original poorly defined starting points can never work because the present is living through the endgame of those starting points. The confusion can only be resolved in a revolutionary redefinition, revolutionary including the reformist at least in principle. The point is clear from the Civil War: the false definition of democracy finds a revolutionary restart and redefinition, itself soon challenged by the reactionary losers and their lost cause.
Although marxism confused the issue with notions such as the dictatorship of the proletariat, the basic idea of ‘real democracy’ intuited by the original socialists is the idea waiting in the wings for its true realization becyond the Stalinist monstrosity and, sad to say, the American monstrosity.

The Biden administration recently organized the Summit for Democracy to fight rising global authoritarianism. But Washington bears central responsibility for the widening inequality, rising political cynicism, and withering of democracy worldwide.

Source: Joe Biden Has No Business Lecturing the Rest of the World on “Democracy”

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