I left this comment on an article in The Journal titled ‘The abolition of the Seanad is an act of political vandalism‘, by a member of a group called ‘Democracy Matters‘. Incidentally I was listening to Tavis Smiley and Cornel West’s radio show a few weeks back and Cornel West spoke of the time when he went to Venezuela, Hugo Chávez arrived with copies of West’s book Democracy Matters, asking him to sign them. He had put Democracy Matters on the Venezuelan school curriculum. The subtitle of West’s book is ‘Winning the Fight Against Imperialism’, a fight no doubt close to the heart of the Irish group.
‘Democracy Matters’ in me arse. It is true that the proposal to abolish the Seanad is just a ploy by Fine Gael to tap into the general anti-political mood, in which ruling politicians are perceived as pigs at the trough, a perception that has a large degree of truth.
However, the net effect of abolishing the Seanad on democracy in Ireland will be minimal, since the Dáil is on the whole subservient to the demands of big business and finance capital. The Seanad has never stood in the way of such demands; on the contrary, it has offered up a nice spectacle in which beautiful souls wring their hands at the way things are going, thus giving the impression that Ireland’s great and good actually care about democracy, when in fact what they care about is the State and the Law.
Or, to be more precise, they care about bourgeois democracy, described by Raymond Williams as ‘the coexistence of political representation and participation with an economic system which admits no such rights, procedures or claims’. They identify with the priorities of big business and the rich and look down on the public, whom they pretend to shower with ‘rain and sunshine from above’, as Karl Marx put it.
So, whilst financial dictatorship tightens its grasp over European populations, driving them into misery and stripping them of social and labour rights, of freedom of information and freedom of communication, will Democracy Matters and sympathetic political grandees take a stand on the material requirements for basic democratic equality? They will, I repeat, in me arse.