Authoritarianism, Democracy, and Current Situations

First things first – Authority and power compels submission.

When submission is given willingly without coercion, or even if by coercion but under contractual terms of mutual advantage, in a transaction – let’s say my submission to your authority in exchange for this and that –  by recognition of the authority submitted to, you could argue it is just.

Anti-authoritarians would argue that all authority is unjust. The point is we can at least debate about it.

But when the submission is coerced without consent then we enter into a different zone. Though coerced submission can occur in the furtherance of justice, if the ones coerced were previously in the commission of injustice and their surrender was necessary to check their injustice.

Often, the compelling of submission will be seen as unjust and unfair by most people. There are exceptions. history is full of them. The submission of the chaotic slavic tribes on the Volga to the reign of Rus overlords, by their own invitation, is one example. Anyway, I have no desire to argue with ideologues on he particular details, we can all find common ground from which to proceed further.

By definition, authoritarianism is social control, compelling a strict obedience to a governing authority.

Such authority could be a State and its governing apparat, non state institutions, or persons, also operating as authority.

Authoritarianism is not totalitarianism, the two concepts are different, though related as a fruit, leaves, and branches from a tree are related things.

Totalitarianism is authoritarian governance intensified, often Statist (though in theory it’s possible to conceive of supra-state totalitarianism, in the case of supra-state governance regimes) . In totalitarianism a state, or a governer, concentrates control over virtually all aspects of a society. This includes means and modes of production, child bearing, family composition, health care, social mores and values, the media, public gathering, war making, and so on. Total social control by the state, or at lest near total.

From cradle to the grave, virtually total social control and observation of the controlled.

The excuses given for the necessity of such control are irrelevant, the control itself is relevant.

For example: Kemal Attaturk and Franco were authoritarian, Stalin was totalitarian.

Now – between leaping to paranoid delusion, and sticking heads in the sand before obvious political realities, is a middle ground.

I say obvious, because they are obvious political realities, which often are commented on by an increasing number of professors, political activists, and journalists, and even made into Ph.D thesis material by budding scholars.the realities can be spun by the right or the left, but they remain what they are.

There is a middle position – simply recognizing the truth to a set of affairs and adjusting our lives as best as we can to living in an increasingly “interesting” world.

And maybe, for those with some balls or guts, something increasingly rare in our age, speaking up about things. And deeds to help those in need around us, and for those with faith prayer before, and on top of, these deeds.

Here is a controversial opinion, to be sure. Some say that in our lifetime we are witnessing “the Stalinisation” of American society, while most lack the courage to acknowledge it or do anything about it in what little time remaining.

This is debatable and contentious, and may strike one as paranoid. But there IS something to the idea that our society is growing increasingly authoritarian, in ways undreamed of by our grandparents generation. None can deny this, they can say that such authoritarianism may be needed, for our security, but none who are honest and informed can flat out deny it.

A man (once called by Bob Dillan “the most interesting man alive”) who is somewhat controversial is the Dervish Shaykh and thinker, Ian Dallas, Abdul Qadir al-Sufi.

He has a quirk of putting realities, both political and spiritual, into words that can cut through to the chase, and “get to the straight dope.” sometimes this becomes tedious slogans, but often he comes up with remarkably lucid and cutting observations.

Below, he makes a very interesting point about how recent developments here, in the USA, seem to mirror some aspects of Stalin’s regime. it would be stupid to overstate this past it’s point of legitimacy, he’s not saying that we live in a collectivist regime of terror. Only those incapable of reading nuances would leap to that conclusion. But what he is saying is that you really cannot deny the degree of authoritarianism entering democratic societies – he looks at Pakistan firstly, but he hints that the analogy also fits for Anglo-American societies.  To quote:

…What we are now witnessing is the Stalinisation of the formerly democratic state.

According to an NKVD (former KGB) directive: “To have had relations with an arrested person constitutes a sufficient reason for that person to be arrested in his turn.” For example: the arrest of the chief political administrator Andrei Khromov was directly motivated by this brief note sent by Malenkov to Stalin: “Here is someone who is without doubt close to Iakovlev (the Commissar of Agriculture who had just been arrested ten days before), for Iakovlev has recently recommended him for a post of responsibility.” Twenty four hours later Khromov was arrested.

Another Stalinist doctrine was ‘passportisation’ as a means of netting unwanted elements and having them removed. The compulsory issue of identity cards was considered a threshold move to total police control of the urban population.

Another doctrine was the plan to ‘disgorge detention centres’ – as prisons became overcrowded there had to be an emptying out of prisons with transfers to ship-prisons and secret remote centres. Suicides were useful, also.

According to the Russian secret police a vast conspiracy of terrorist organisations threatened the State. The Report stated that “these terrorist elements supported from outside the country were recruiting young men, unemployed and socially dissatisfied to participate in terrorist acts, industrial sabotage, and the use of chemical weapons as well as bacteriological ones.

In 1935, 8,300 families plus 41,000 people were forcibly deported from the region of Kiev to allow the police to eliminate undesirable elements said to be hiding among them.

That is Stalin’s Kiev in 1935 not Zardari’s Swat Valley in 2009. “

Again, this isn’t muddled conspiracy thinking, he’s making a fairly lucid historical comparison, and a point about modern politics, and one that should only be disregarded by those who truly trust our governments and leaders.

And do you trust them?

I don’t.

If you do trust them, then may I ask, why?

4 Comment

  1. Only after reading 1984 by Orwell did I realize the nature of a totalitarian rule and the extent to which we take our present rights for granted. Coming to the US from India allowed me to understand this by my observation of American attitudes. Many things that appeared to be ‘sad but true’ to me were inconceivable for my American friends. In the same way someone from Iran/Myanmar may feel the same about me.

    A minor comment on the reference to Pakistan. I doubt if Zardari is as much in control of the government/military apparatus in Pakistan as Stalin may have been in the Soviet Union. Nervertheless, Zardari or Kayani, whoever the person at the top may be, your point stands.

  2. Good point about Zardari, in a way he very much is just a “passenger” .

    One of my little sisters last night told me that she’d never read 1984. 1984 and Orwell’s “Animal Farm” – this used to be required reading when I was in high school. Native Son, and To Kill a Mockingbird she did read, instead. I think there is some well meaning slight of hand going on here, no doubt racial conflict is important in US history, but I think the lessons about totalitarian rule contained in 1984 and Animal Farm are MUCH more important and relevant..

    If there wasn’t slight of hand going on here, they would at least have to read those books in addition to 1984. If High School students here no longer have to read 1984 as an essential part of their high school reading then they are losing out on something very important.

    The fact that social processes in America and Britain slide in authoritarian directions, and that some day what is common in Myammar may possibly be not so uncommon here, requires a perceptive eye. Americans and the British take too damn much for granted, as far as our rights and liberties and suchlike. People forget how fortunate they are to have liberties that, for sake of argument, they don’t even deserve because of their sloth like willingness to mortgage them off piece by piece…

    Britain and America both are only a few states of emergency away from authoritarianism.

  3. I can understand if they consider 1984 to be not relevant. Books like Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies should be a part of the required reading list. Hope they see some sense before it is too late, unless if it already is.

  4. I have a feeling it already is. I could be wrong, and indeed I hope that I am wrong…

Leave a Reply