The recent North Korean election recorded a vote of 99.7% in favour of Kim Jong-Un’s party. This is reminiscent of the votes in favour of Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet Union, and in Nazi Germany. The results, one supposes, could not have been 100%, as there must have been people who were too ill to vote. Of course, there was only one party to vote for in each case. In a democracy, on the other hand, in a real democracy, there are real alternatives for the group who will control the state apparatus, the military, police, treasury, etc. and this control will be for a limited time. A one party system is not actually defined as a totalitarian state, it could be a ‘benign dictatorship’, but no instances of the latter have ever existed. A totalitarian state is one in which the power of the state is not limited by any law. So, for instance, its citizens can be subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment – there is no habeas corpus. Historically, what ordinary people have had to fear is their own rulers, kings, dictators, popes, oligarchs, etc. who have presided over totalitarian systems There have, of course, been some terrible invaders, like Genghis Khan and Adolf Hitler, but looking at the twentieth century as an example, places two and three on the killer list are occupied by Stalin and Pol Pot who killed their own people. Hitler and Genghis are exceptions.
A democracy therefore needs, among other things, the following:
I. Laws that protect individual rights and liberties – habeas corpus being the most important – that are unshakable.
II. Freedom to criticise the policies of the government and suggest alternatives – this implies that one knows what they are.
III. Political parties, candidates for government, that put forward genuine alternative polices in regard to important issues that are controversial – issues that citizens have differing opinions about.
To erode any of these fundamentals is to promote a slide away from democracy towards totalitarianism.
I’m prompted to write this because of the comments of Shorten about the change in refugee policy, about Labor’s acceptance of ‘turn back the boats’. It seems to me that he was saying almost exactly what Abbott and Morrison were saying when the policy was put forward. Sameness of policy by the major political parties is thus to contradict principle III. What is worrying is what this kind of consensus signifies, for it’s not like everyone agreeing to tax us fairly (which is itself a corollary of I). It signifies the weakening of principles I and II, the two really important ones. Here are some ‘non-democratic’ measures/policies which the present government has enacted/wants to enact which have not met any significant opposition from Labor.
1. Keeping operational matters secret.
2. Ministerial power to strip people of citizenship.
3. Increased powers of ASIO and AFP.
4. Increasing defence spending.
5. Demonising refugees.
6. Refusing to rationally address IS and other radical groups - calling them a death cult, etc.
7. Use of preventative detention laws in which terrorist suspects can be held for up to 14 days – the Stasi boasted that you would confess to pretty well anything after 3 days with them, we’ve not quite matched their methods yet!
8. Labelling those who oppose irrational, unAustralian, unpatriotic, etc.
Labor endorses pretty much all the above.