Democracy and dictatorship

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

It is not ruled out that if the democratic facade of imperialism creates a crisis that threatens to unravel the economic system, the imperialist bosses would not hesitate to revert back to military dictatorship.

In the last few days there has been yet another spat between the civilian government and the so-called military establishment. The rumours of another military takeover have been gyrating ferociously in society and the political arena. The circumstances for the military to intervene are very much there if one recalls the experiences of previous military coups in Pakistan. However, the military has not struck yet. Backward and conservative layers of society are very much in favour of such an act. Sections of the military’s officer caste are itching to carry through the coup in a false notion that through such a despotic regime, rampant corruption, crime and other ills that have engulfed Pakistan can be eliminated. The exceptional vocabulary used by the civilian government against the military’s top brass in this ongoing conflict has goaded the top brass of the army that has ruled the roost in this country. This has also heightened tensions within the armed forces. The proclivity of the imperialists, although fleeting, for the present regime has further aggravated the angst in the military. That is what the Memogate scandal is all about.

All this has put enormous pressure on the military high command to strike with a vengeance. However, the military bosses have been reluctant for a putsch up till now. This is not flowing from their love for ‘democracy’ or for newfound humanitarian causes but the main reason is that the top generals have lost the confidence and moral conviction to impose direct military rule. The first and foremost cause of this deficit is the erosion of the military’s discipline and chain of command by the massive influx of capital, mostly of the black variety. Secondly, the conflagrating society and a disastrous economic situation have produced circumstances where it is almost next to impossible to rule this country stably and assert the state’s power deep into society. Thirdly, the situation internationally has changed sharply in the last period and military dictatorships are no longer in vogue. The imperialists who dominated the so-called third world through such despotic regimes have been forced to deploy the facade of democracy to continue their plunder and exploitation. Not only is such marionette democracy cheaper for the imperialists but military dictatorships can provoke mass revolts due to their blatant repression that the youth and working classes are no longer ready to tolerate. The past experiences of the imperialists with their military stooges have not been exhilarating. From Noriega in Panama to Ziaul Haq in Pakistan, their despotic toadies became so megalomaniacal that they went berserk by defying their masters and had to be physically eliminated.

On the other hand, the present day liberal and democratic sycophants of imperialism are crying hoarse to save the ‘system’. These sections of the Pakistani ruling classes are the beneficiaries of this democracy, which is in reality of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. The masses have suffered because of the excruciating poverty, price hike, unemployment, disease and misery. Thirty-eight thousand people in Pakistan fall below the poverty line every day. But the most important fact, which is undermined and concealed by the media, is the socioeconomic policies carried out by the military dictatorships and the so-called democratic regimes are fundamentally the same. In the present government, not even the faces of the most important ministers under dictatorships have changed. Whatever the political nature of the regime might be, the dictatorship of the financial oligarchy is always there and will always be as long as society is shackled in this ailing capitalist system. It is not ruled out that if the democratic facade of imperialism creates a crisis that threatens to unravel the economic system, the imperialist bosses would not hesitate to revert back to military dictatorship. In the last analysis, it is their interests of plunder that shape their policies of regime selection. The history of capitalism is witness to that. Ted Grant wrote in his epic work, The Unbroken Thread, “In the history of society there have been many methods of class rule. This is especially true of capitalist society, with many peculiar and variegated forms: republic, monarchy, fascism, democracy, dictatorship, Bonapartist, technocratic, centralised and federal, to give some examples.”

The military has directly ruled the country for half of its chequered history. The main reason was the failure of the ruling class to complete the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. A class that got its profits and surplus through plundering the state and monstrous exploitation of society gave the most powerful state institution its blessings to intervene to retrieve the crumbling capitalist system. In the process of such long dictatorial rule, the military itself became part of the plundering elite and it is not an accident that leaving aside its huge share in the black economy that constitutes two-thirds of the whole economic base of Pakistan, it is also the largest business enterprise with assets of more than $ 27 billion in industry, farming and services in the formal sector. This financial status of the military is the main interest of its elite along with largesse of the country’s resources to be spent on defence to keep its structures running and the commissions from its defence contracts expanding. It is also a fact that the military expenditures increase more in the so-called democratic regimes than under direct military rule. This shows the pathetic character of Pakistan’s civilian political elite.

At the moment, the economic crisis has become so severe that its reverberations are exploding the contradictions within the ruling elite and the state institutions. The right-wing has never been weaker. The state institutions are in internal decay and hence these acts of desperation from the judiciary and the army. Even if the imperialists manage to engineer a patch-up, it would be fragile and short-lived. A military coup, though not the most likely perspective, cannot be ruled out. However, if it comes from the lower tiers it will be a gory affair leading to a bloody civil war, pulverising an already devastated society. A military dictatorship will be a terrible setback for the masses. It will push mass consciousness backwards and create illusions in bourgeois democracy yet again. The vicious cycle of different variants of capitalist rule will continue to ensnare the masses. But in the present harrowing socio-economic scenario, it can also provoke a mass revolt that will not stop at the stage of bourgeois democracy. For a genuine workers’ democracy the modes of production, the economy and resources of the country have to be in the collective ownership of the toilers. Only such a revolutionary change can end this cruel agonising suffering and salvage society.