As soon as any conversation about direct-democracy comes up, or even just a Democratic system that includes the participation of the populace in the lawmaking process in some other way, inevitably it is opposed by someone claiming that it is “mob rule,” or decrying the “tyranny of the majority.” The idea is that if the population votes directly on laws and regulations, instead of elected politicians, Society will devolve into chaos or will oppress the minority of the population.
This belief actually originated with people who opposed Democracy in the previous centuries, when the people were trying to overthrow the various monarchies throughout Europe. It’s based on the classist ideas that the majority of the population are dumb, brutish, and violent needing to be governed by the “enlightened” minority, usually a ruling class like the old Nobility of Europe, the Bourgeoisie of Capitalism, or some academic aristocracy. It is built on the basic idea that the masses are actually incapable of being educated, rational, and even incapable of knowing what they want. This idea not only has no material basis, but flies in the face of all existing evidence, and even the very principles of Republican Democracy.
Republicanism is a system of Government where the population, instead of voting directly on laws and regulations, vote for “Representatives” who then make and vote on laws and regulations. It trusts the masses to choose Representatives, people who are supposed to vote how the people that elected them want them to, but it does not trust the masses to be able to vote on those laws and regulations directly, or to be able to compose those laws and regulations. It’s a completely contradictory concept. If the people are capable of choosing a Representative, they are capable of voting on laws and regulations directly. And after all: those representatives are supposed to vote how the people want them to anyway. It’s an unnecessary “middle-man” relationship which allows the possibility of those “representatives” to abuse their power and vote directly in opposition to the desires of their constituents, which is undemocratic.
But that last part is why a lot of proponents of Republican systems support it to begin with. They believe that directly-Democratic systems allow for the “tyranny of the majority,” which needs to be counteracted by Politicians being free to vote in opposition to the will of their constituents when that will is oppressive to minorities. As an example, the argument is often made: “what if the majority of the population is racist? They will simply make laws to oppress the racial minorities.” This argument can only be taken seriously if it existed in a vacuum devoid of historical understanding. Because we have seen for 400 years Republican “Democracies” do exactly that to racial minorities, or even racial majorities as was the case in apartheid South Africa. In fact, the very reason we understand how Governments can oppress people in this way is because of so many actions by Republican Governments doing exactly this. Republicanism is not, and never has been, a protection against tyranny and oppression. In fact, Republicanism more easily facilitates that tyranny and oppression.
That undemocratic flaw of Republicanism, that “Representatives” can vote in direct opposition to their constituents desires, allows the possibility that they can create laws that actually bring any semblance of Democracy to an end. Republican Government places all the power to make laws into the hands of a small group of people. All the masses can do is try to pick good representatives and hope they use this power responsibly. These “Representatives” can, and very often do, use the power instead to increase their own power, wealth, and oppress groups they hate or that oppose their actions. However, they don’t need to even do this to violate the assumption made by the “tyranny of the majority” argument. If republican government behaves as it’s supposed to, with the Representatives voting and enacting laws reflective of the people’s desires, and the majority of the population is bigoted and racist. Then that is what those laws will reflect, and it is exactly what they have reflected in the past. Such as the Jim-Crow laws and the well as the “one drop” rules of the U.S. Republicanism even exacerbates this fact, because it’s much easier to push a minority dissenting voice to the Side so that it’s arguments aren’t even heard.
A Republican Government brings the majority voice to the front through the “winner takes all” Representative system. That representative will vote and voice the opinions of the majority of people (if they behave how they are supposed to in such a system.) They won’t voice the arguments or vote how the minority of the population votes, because that’s not the purpose of this system. So often the arguments of the minority aren’t ever even heard in the lawmaking process. Whereas, in a Direct-Democracy, or a similar system, there are no such representatives, so the minority of the population is involved in the lawmaking process directly, their arguments are heard and their votes are cast. This increases the possibility that they can influence the majority to avoid being persecuted and marginalized.
“I do not like the thought of the community telling me what to do with my property.” Is another argument I’ve heard often, and I am always left wondering: why is community governance worse than the dictatorship of owners and politicians? In a Direct-Democracy, you have as much of a voice as anyone else, and an equal vote. If you do not like a proposition, then voice your opinion, argue against it, and vote against it. That’s more power than you have under any Republican Democracy, where you simply have to hope that your “Representative” votes the way you want, and you only have the empty threat to not vote for them in the next election. Besides, I can assure you that no one in a directly-democratic assembly would want to take your personal property from you. What use would they have for a house, or car, or any other personal item, which they all already have? We’re talking about Communism, a system that provides all these things to you as a right, and that has abolished monetary wealth. No one has any means of benefiting themselves by taking these things away from others. Especially since we’re talking about a directly-democratic assembly, a group of equal citizens acting together for mutual benefit, not a dictatorship of any single person. There is no way that such a group could take the personal property of you in a way that would satisfy the greed of everyone in the community. And there would be your own family and friends in the assembly who would also have the same vote as you, who could help you stop such actions.
The one argument in defense of Republicanism that has some merit, is the one that argues: “the people do not have time to vote on every law and regulation, to make and hear every argument. The whole population cannot be full-time Governors.” This was certainly true when Republican Government was first conceived, and when it reemerged several centuries ago. But that was before technology that has connected all of us, allowed us to span continents in a matter of hours, and made the need to do so obsolete through the use of electronic communication. In the l8th century, when Republicanism became so popular, it took weeks to travel only a few hundred miles, and all original documents had to be hand-written, not to mention that even printing presses were hand operated. Governance was a slow process, and popular votes even slower. Now, technology has made the process, and the process of dispensing and discussing information, all happen at the speed of thought, all without requiring anyone even leaves their homes. It is possible for everyone to be engaged in Government while performing their jobs. The argument that the populace has no time to govern themselves is also rooted in the assumption that governance must be a fulltime job, that laws must be constantly passed. This is because that’s how our current government works. This is mostly due to useless politicians trying to justify their careers, and also due to the nature of Capitalism, which requires constant interference from the State in order to continue limping along.
A Communist society would provide for everyone’s needs inherently through the nature of the system, meaning there is no need for Social-welfare systems, and no constant adjustment of regulations. The people wouldn’t even need to engage in any governing activities more than on an annual basis, or to meet an emergency need. Government could be small, with little bureaucracy. And a system that is uncomplicated is less alienating to the populace, which encourages participation, making for a healthy Democracy.
But, of course, a healthy Democracy is no longer the goal of Republicanism. What I have been pointing out is readily apparent to everyone, and far more than Communists see the flaws in Republicanism. Even many opponents to Communism are just as critical of Republican Government as I have been. Republicanism is perpetuated by the Bourgeoisie precisely because it allows them to maintain control in an undemocratic way. Not as individuals, but as an Oligarchy. Because the wealthy realized long ago what I am trying to tell you: that the only way to end conflict among them, the constant attempts by them to individually take power, was to ensure no single one of them had power. That was the purpose of Republican “Democracy:” it was meant to be, from the beginning, an Oligarchy of the wealthy. Republican “Democracy” is Democracy for the rich, the owners of the means of production, and subjugation of the poor, the workers. They maintain the facade of Democracy by letting you pick your tyrants from time-to-time. They can rest easy in this process, because so long as the means of production is privately owned, one of their own will always be picked for these offices, these “Representatives.” Because the owners of the means of production will always have the most influence, and the most wealth, so they can reach more people, more of the population will always know the names of the wealthy Bourgeois politician and what they say. Any working class citizen who attempts to compete simply won’t have the funding, or the political influence, to match the Bourgeoisie. So in all but a few rare and token instances, the working class person will lose the political race.
But what about a Communist Republican system, like so many Leninists advocate, why can’t that work? I will readily admit that a Socialist Republican Government is much superior to a Capitalist one, and preferable. It cannot be dominated by the Bourgeoisie, because they don’t exist under a Socialist System. However, as we’ve discussed, there isn’t even a need for it anymore, and the more the populace participates in the Governmental process the more faith they have in it, keeping it healthy and perpetuating it. No system facilitates this better than a directly-Democratic one. And even a Socialist Republican Government is capable of developing an oligarchical group. Because those in power have an advantage in elections over any challengers. There is also simply the fact that they can, once in office, behave undemocratically by voting in opposition to their constituents’ desires, and even changing laws to end Democracy. The only sure way to avoid this, is to not have such “Representatives,” to not have lawmakers, and instead make the people as a whole the lawmakers. It entails the same risks towards “the tyranny of the majority” as Republicanism, and thus requires the same diligence of the population to oppose it. But, Direct-Democracy lacks the systems which make the “tyranny of the majority,” or the destruction of Democracy, more likely to happen.