Sunday, December 29, 2013

Troubled Thailand

Demagogues arouse the passions of the disaffected. They voice popular grievances and articulate demands questioning the legitimacy of the incumbent rulers, while all the time laying the groundwork for their own  rule. They use street protests to block, intimidate, or drive from power the dominant faction in the government. Throughout the ages, the choreographed  so-called 'mass revolts' played many roles: (1) it served to destabilise an electoral regime; (2) it provided a platform for its oligarch funders to depose an incumbent regime; (3) it disguised the fact that the oligarchic opposition had lost democratic elections; (4) it provided a political minority with a ‘fig-leaf of legitimacy’ when it was otherwise incapable of acting within a constitutional framework and (5) it allowed for the illegitimate seizure of power in the name of a pseudo ‘majority’, namely the protesters.

Some  have argued two contradictory positions: One the one hand, some simply reduce the oligarchy’s power grab to an ‘inter-elite struggle’ which has nothing to do with the ‘interests of the working class’, while others maintain the ‘masses’ in the street are protesting against an 'elitist regime'. Some support the masses ‘in revolt’ simply because of their ‘militancy’, their numbers and street courage, without examining the underlying leaders, their interests and links to the elite beneficiaries of a ‘regime change’. A few even argue that with popular, democratic demands, these revolts are progressive, should be supported as 'terrain for class struggle'. In other words, join the uprising and contest the oligarchs for leadership within the stage-managed revolts. What they are unwilling to recognise is that the oligarchs orchestrating the mass revolt are authoritarians who completely reject democratic procedures and electoral processes. Their aim is to establish a ‘junta’ (in the case of Thailand’s opposition couched  in the non-elected but radical sounding title a 'peoples council'), which will eliminate all democratic political and social institutions and freedoms and impose harsher, more repressive and regressive policies and institutions than those they replace. Not all the elected regimes are progressive.

Many ‘democracies’ are ruled by one set of oligarchs.  In Thailand, the democratically-elected Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, represents a section of the economic elite with ties and support in the rural areas, especially the North-East, as well as deep trade relations with China. The opponents, led by Suthep Thaugsuban, are urban-based elite and favour a more neo-liberal agenda linked to the US against the rural patronage-populist agenda of Ms. Shinawatra.
"We are rich and our children are educated in Bangkok," said Nonthapan Suwananon, an anti-government protestor who manages an office. "They are poor, uneducated and have been bought out by Thaksin and his lot."

The  vote in 2011 was  Pheua Thai 15,744,190 votes and the Democrat Party 11,433,762. The overall turnout was over 71% - a large number compared to the USA. The final margin was 4.2 million votes. It was, by any comparative standard, a landslide with a giant rebuke to Suthep who had been involved in  running the country for the previous 3 years. All observers agree that Pheua Thai will win any future election.  Hence the opposition to the calling for any election and the boycott and obstruction of the process to have an election in February.

 While neither the ruling or opposing factions represented the interests of the wage workers, the principle of representative government is the best we have got at present. When the oligarchs ‘stage-manage’ mass revolts and take over the regime, the big losers include the democratic electorate and most of the protesters. Liberals who had thoughtlessly supported the ‘mass revolts’ will later publish their scholarly essays on ‘the revolution betrayed” without admitting to their own betrayal of democratic principles.

Greatly adapted from here

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