Dictatorship and Plebiscites

For people casual acquainted with political theory, we know that dictators quite like plebiscites in a way that they dislike parliaments. We can see in the UK, the way in which some of the Brexiteers, but not their leadership, are frightened of both parliament’s consideration of interpreting the referendum result and/or running a second one.

That’s Democracy!

they wail, but so is Parliament. Democratic politics is about expressing the will of the majority under the rule of law. It should involve debate and compromise; it often doesn’t.

The anglosphere’s political theory starts with Hobbs who posited the need for a strong sovereign to tame the bestial nature of the mob through to Paine’s “Rights of Man”, first suggesting inalienable human rights. The latter has ensured the establishment of a representative democracy based on universal suffrage but we know this has been challenged in existential terms by Fascism and in lesser terms in the UK by the move towards mayors and commissioners, rather than councils and the mindless and reactionary New Labour mantra “with rights come responsibility”.

Totalitarians have their theorists also, one of them is Carl Schmitt, and I was pointed at him in a paper, entitled, “The Paradox of Plebiscites: Why Do Authoritarian Submit issues to the voters?” by Matt Qvortrup, currently teaching at Coventry.

I hope to write more, arguing that the dumbing down of politics, the building of a super-hero culture and the destruction of debate is anti-democratic. When I am ready, I’ll convert it into an essay and post it to the blog.


Dennis Jarvis @flickr CC 2012 BY-SA Romania-2354 – Freedom has a Price……..

Related Reading

  1. google search q=fascism+and+plebiscites+carl+schmitt
  2. Google’s link to Matt Qvortrup’s paper, in Word.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Schmitt
  4. Dictators + Plebiscites MQvortrup
  5. Referendums: A Device for Despots? at History Today, no really by Nigel Jones, but behind a paywall.
  6. Thatcher was right about referendums by Philip Stephens, published in the FT, dated 2007 and quoting her from even earlier. Her line,
    and Atlee’s are problematic if we are beginning to question Parliamentary Sovereignty as inadequate to defend the rule of law.
  7. Why referendums are anti-democratic by Mike Mcnair, published at Labour Party Marxists, this is one of the best at quoting left winger’s theory in defence of their case, by which I mean he goes beyond blunt assertion.
  8. Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe a review by Fukiyama of Linz & Stepan’s revised work on Autocracy, referenced by Qvortrup
  9. Mcnair references Kautsky’s Parliamentarism, direct legislation by the people and social democracy
  10. The Weekly Worker also reviews Kautsky http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1100/kautsky-on-referenda/
  11. Solidarity also comments in the light of the Momentum coup. It interestingly looks at the decline of the Workers Party in Brazil, after its adoption of online democracy, but not the experience of Podemos, which I believe to be similar.


2 thoughts on “Dictatorship and Plebiscites

  1. I have added to references to the list at the bottom. One from the FT, quoting Thatcher’s opposition to them in the ’70s and one from the Labour Party Marxists, which is good on reviewing the thoughts of the great and not so great teachers. I also added the comment that, her line, and Atlee’s are problematic if we are beginning to question Parliamentary Sovereignty as inadequate to defend the rule of law. Courts have taken to defending the citizen against Government’s which in the UK means against Parliament because the Government controls Parliament, not the other way round.

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