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AUTHORITARIAN DEMOCRACY Armenian News Network / Groong June 14, 2005 By Tugrul Keskingoren We have been experiencing so-called democratic revolutions around the world today. These opposition movements from the Caucasus to Central Asia, from Iraq to Ukraine, are toppling the old regimes and their state structures. Inexperienced opposition movements and their leaders are taking over the state and have continued to control the entire society on behalf of democracy in the Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Iraq, Lebanon and many more countries both now, and more to come . However, no one questions the social nature of the democratic ideas contained in these opposition movements. Where are they emerging from, and what exactly do they attempt to achieve? Is the problem in these countries really democracy, or perhaps instead the exploitation of the market and natural resources through the use of these so-called democratic movements. The purpose of these movements is not really democracy, but use of political goals to achieve economic means. The process of colonialization involves many different stages that take place within different historical time periods. As part of this, both political and economic methods are used as tools in these stages of its development. For instance, the cultural, political and economic occupation of Sri Lanka and India in the 18th century, or similarly the method of `divide and rule' in Africa was undoubtedly similar to today's tragedy in Central Asia and the Middle East. As Franz Fanon points out in his book describing this dynamic, titled `Blacks Skin, White Masks,'  democracy is a mask used as exploitation by the powerful. We have been witnessing the neo-colonialization process by colonialist powers and Trans National Corporations (TNC) in the context of the so-called democratic structure and movements. The meaning and the real notion of democracy have changed, and today democracy and civil society are part and parcel in a process that serves the interests of the powerful, rather than creating freedom and equality within modern society. Freedom, free speech and civil society are the true nature and characteristics of a democracy; however replacing dictators with puppets will not bring democracy and solve the socio-economic issues for these underdeveloped and developing nations, but will only serve to sustain further relationships of exploitation. The recent cases of the Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Iraq have shown us that old and corrupt, anti-democratic regimes cannot survive by disregarding the people's democratic demands and sustaining economic equality. On the other hand, the opposition movements of Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Iraq stepped up and demanded more democracy supported by other exploiters. A dichotomous situation for a so-called democracy. In contrast to the argument of some scholars, democracy is actually a very vague term that is defined in the context of cultural parameters rather than within a universal pop-culture. Democracy in Iran may be exercised differently than that of Western Europe, because there exists in Iran a unique cultural and historical development of democratic structure and institutions and socio-economic paradigms that are specific to the Iranian context. Therefore, we must define and understand the democratic ideal within its appropriate cultural context. Democracy does not serve the interests of TNCs, but that of the people in these countries. Yet, today some neo-liberal scholars argue that the meaning of `democratic' openness has transformed into a description of democracy as a political approach that is unable to survive without the free market. However, the state structure in developing countries has become dispersed and polarized by NGOs and their financiers, the TNCs. The state has been weakened in this way and has lost control over the society in favor of the interests of the elite or petit bourgeois. For the TNCs, in order to sell more products, the state structure should be weakened and tariffs should be abolished for their own good, not for the good of the people of these countries. This was the beginning of the decreasing power of the nation state regarding the neo-liberal capitalist policies. According to some views, such as those of Thomas Friedman, foreign direct investment (FDI) and free market capitalism bring more opportunities and democracy to the underdeveloped and developing nations. In reality, FDI has not brought freedom to the developing nations, but has produced an environment in which there results cheap labor, the existence of workers without unions, socio-economic chaos, more debt to the IMF and World Bank, and last but not least, meaningless independence and sovereignty. There has been an increase in the power of the nation-state and national borders in the developed nations, whereas the economic, cultural and political borders of developing countries have been weakened. Moreover, invisible borders and the diminishing power of nation state in the developing nations have generated socio-economic anarchy and chaos for these nations. In the context of imperialism and neocolonialism, democracy cannot be imposed on nations from the `outside.' In his book, `Democracy in America ' Alexis DeTocqueville argues that American democracy has been developed and constructed within a democratic societal and state structure, which is by the people for the people. It took a long time to build and construct American democracy and the free institutions and democratic behavior that support this. This was influenced by the ideas of freedom and equality. Some other scholars argue that American democracy has developed just within the last two hundred years. If this is the case for the development of the democratic process in America, then one must argue that it will take a long time to build democracy and to shape a civil society in countries such as Iraq or Kyrgyzstan. Most importantly, Americans built their democratic state after they received their independence from England. Democracy was not begun under British colonialist rule because democracy cannot be exercised under military or `civil' occupation. Each is examples of the occupation of both mind and culture and prevents democratic political organization and idea of civil society. It is important to note that the next colorful revolution may take place in the Caucasus region. The case of Azerbaijan in the context of democratic struggle is also a good example of and reflects the power struggle between the puppets of colonialism (so-called democratic opposition movements) and the authoritarian state structure. This conflict will have a considerable impact on the region, because colonialists do not discriminate between the exploitation of either Armenia or Azerbaijan. How do you define democracy within this class of power struggle? Democracy is neither a product of pop-culture nor exercised by colonialist powers. Colonialism cannot be the watchdog for any democratic structure and ideas, because the power holders' economic interests overlap with anti-democratic movements and paramilitary organizations, as we have seen in Latin and Central America. In this sense, how can colonialism protect the real nature of a democracy, when the `black skin white masks' attempt to sell their products or to exploit the countries they have occupied? It is a dichotomic process. We are within a certain historical stage of human development; therefore in order to improve our society and to continue along this path of social and economic achievement, we cannot live without democracy. NOTES: 1 http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/05/20050527.html 2 Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks 3 Alexis DeTocqueville, Democracy in America -- Tugrul Keskingoren is a Ph.D. Candidate and Graduate Teaching Assistant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Sociology. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org