against the party system

Every class struggle is a political struggle. Marx

Don’t shoot the messenger.

I have just began reading from Qaddafi’s Green Book. I take it this was one of his intellectual contribution to accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the race. In the first chapters that I have read, he critiques parliament and party rule, arguing they are but dictatorships of the party and cannot be called democratic.

He saw the book as, and here, I will let him speak for himself

THE GREEN BOOK presents the ultimate solution to the problem of the instrument of government, and indicates for the masses the path upon which they can advance from the age of dictatorship to that of genuine democracy.(emphasis mine)

About parliaments he writes

The parliament of the winning party is indeed a parliament of the party, for the executive power formed by this parliament is the power of the party over the people. Party power, which is supposedly for the good of the whole people, is actually the arch-enemy of a fraction of the people, namely, the opposition
party or parties and their supporters. The opposition is, therefore, not a popular check on the ruling party but, rather, is itself opportunistically seeking to replace the ruling party.

take a look at our situation, where as Dr. Ndii rightly said, our politicians are morally bankrupt and if they represent anything, their stomachs must be high on the list. The majority of parliamentarians come from the ruling/ controlling party. How can they be a check on a government of which they form the majority?

According to modern democracy, the legitimate check on the ruling party is the parliament, the majority of whose members are from that ruling party. That is to say, control is in the hands of the ruling party, and power is in the hands of the controlling party.

When he writes about the party, his argument is even more pointed than he would be given credit for. This may not be true for all places, but for a Kenyan, it rings closer to home

The party system is the modern equivalent of the tribal or sectarian system. A society governed by one party is similar to one which is governed by one tribe or one sect. The party, as shown, represents the perception of a certain group of people, or the interests of one group in society, or one belief, or one region.

Look at the composition of the parties, and they are almost all of them an extension of the tribe.

Anyone who listened to Muraithe or other Jubilee honchos speak, wouldn’t find truth in what he says next

Such a party is a minority compared with the whole people, just as the tribe and the sect are. The minority has narrow, common sectarian interests and beliefs, from which a common outlook is
formed. Only the blood-relationship distinguishes a tribe from a party, and, indeed, a tribe might also be the basis for the foundation of a party. There is no difference between party struggle and tribal or sectarian struggles for power.

Up to this point, I think he makes quite valid points.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

28 thoughts on “against the party system

  1. john zande says:

    He lost his mind with power.

    Politically and culturally, we should celebrate and venerate those leaders who keep their heads.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. shelldigger says:

    By substituting a few words in one of those paragraphs…

    According to modern democracy, the legitimate check on the president is the congress, the majority of whose members are from that ruling party. That is to say, control is in the hands of the ruling party, and power is in the hands of the controlling party.

    …and that is why we are so fucked at the moment. Our check, that is congress, fails to act because it is favored by the ruling party, and forgets its duty to the nation and constitution first.

    So, I find myself in agreement as well. However I still see a failing democracy better than a dictatorship. But our dictatorship seems to be blooming quite well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      He would argue, your democracy is not failing, it’s designed to be so. It is not democratic in nature. The parties represent, generally, the interests of its sponsors

      Liked by 3 people

      • shelldigger says:

        …and i cant really argue with that. We have the best gov’t money can buy.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Barry says:

          I was reading just the other day that the founding father’s had no intention of creating a democracy. They wanted to form a system that prevented any faction (even if a majority) from imposing their will on the entire population. I think they failed.


      • basenjibrian says:

        I liked your comment and I clicked on it 🙂

        My response, though, is from a older song by Talking Heads:

        “Same as it ever was”

        Or an even older song from The Who:

        “Same as the Old Boss”

        It is darkly ironic that a violent dictator like Qadaffi would write thus. His ideal of government is the caudillo system. That is not saying I agreed with the horrific decision by the Peace Prize President to support European meddling in Libya….look at the horror show in North Africa now, but how exactly is this “Green Book” offering any “solutions” to the ever present problem of governing a fractious, greedy species in larger states?


        • makagutu says:

          I am glad you would ask. His political solution to the problem of tyranny is direct democracy. He proposed popular conferences and people’s committees. I have no idea whether this was put to practice and whether it would be possible for large states. It is open to debate.


  3. Barry says:

    According to modern democracy, the legitimate check on the ruling party is the parliament, the majority of whose members are from that ruling party
    That is not necessarily true. Since NZ introduced MMP in 1996, the ruling party (or more often, a coalition of parties) has always been a minority of the members of Parliament. They govern only with the consent of the other parliamentary members.


    • makagutu says:

      I think NZ does seem like an anomaly. In most places, the party with the majority is almost always the ruling party.
      Having said that, he still argues that party rule is not democratic.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        Under our system there is no party with a majority, and even governing coalitions such our current one are minorities.There are 120 members of Parliament, and the coalition consists of 46 Labour Party members and 9 NZ First members – a total of 55 – 6 short of a majority.

        I’d dispute that parties actually rule. Governments govern. The functions of government are carried out by an independently appointed civil service. The executive sets policy but has no direct control of the civil service.

        Personally, I’d rather live in a representative democracy, where the representatives are responsible to their electors, than in a direct democracy where no one is responsible for anyone but themselves and the result is tyranny by the majority.


        • makagutu says:

          How would you have tyranny in direct democracy?
          I think the how of making direct democracy work is the problem for large states. And often times, like where I live, representative democracy is really a farce.


            • makagutu says:

              Two very interesting articles but I don’t think they address the issue raised by Qaddafi. My problem with his political solution seems to me unworkable but it wouldn’t easily result in a tyranny


              • Barry says:

                I believe the rule of law would not prevail in such a system. Ignoring for the moment the problem of logistics, which is indeed a big problem, I believe such a system would end being a form of “populism”, instead of a form of democracy where rule of law prevails. I’ll give you a local example.

                In the 1860’s European settlement was at it’s height and there was a desire to take land to satisfy the needs of the settlers. Māori had no concept of land ownership in the European sense, but they did have a concept of land usage rights that was totally alien to the settlers. As a consequence, the settlers believed they had could take land as they saw fit. Members of the general assembly were, on the whole somewhat more educated, and understood the consequences of simply grabbing land. They introduced a land court to oversee land transfer and ensured Māori had a say in governing the country by guaranteeing they had permanent representation in the houses of Parliament (we had both an upper and lower house in those days). While many of the other goals those politicians wanted were not achieved, and some goals achieved were later watered down or reversed, resulting in the New Zealand Wars, if it had been left to the “masses” in all likelihood, the Māori population would have been all but wiped out. Think of what happened to the indigenous American population.

                Another example would be our so called “anti-smacking” legislation. Technically it wasn’t anti-smacking, but it removed the defence of using violence to discipline or correct a child. Parliament reached this decision after a considerable amount of debate, but it was hugely unpopular at the time. So much so that there were sufficient numbers to force a citizens’ initiated referendum on the issue. The arguments were mostly the “rights” of parents being denied on the one hand, and on the other, the evidence presented by sociologists, pediatricians and others of the harm that the use of violence does to the child and society as a whole. The referendum was strongly in favour of the of the “rights” of parents to disciple children as they thought fit. Citizen initiated referendums are not binding and Parliament decided to ignore the popular choice on this occasion. Today there is a small majority that is “anti-smacking”, but I doubt such an attitude would ever have come about if popular opinion had prevailed.

                I think “the masses” tend to make decisions based on personal feelings and prejudice rather than necessarily on making informed decisions. As individuals we are not required to justify our opinion. On the other hand elected representatives are required to justify their choices publicly.

                After the marriage equality bill was passed into law, several politicians were quizzed as to why they voted as they did, and only one politician stated he voted according to the wishes of his electorate and opposed the bill. He claimed that regardless of the evidence and his personal wishes he had a responsibility to vote according to the wishes of his electorate. (There’s a reason his party is described as populist.) In all other cases, the politicians stated that irrespective of personal preference or the preference of their electorates, they made their decision based on evidence presented to Parliament and particularly to evidence presented in Select Committee. In NZ, all bills pass through a Select Committee stage where all members of the public and all organisations have a right to present written and/or oral submissions. This can run into hundreds of hours of submissions, and it would be impossible for the average member of the public to find the time to consider them all. A number of politicians admitted they voted against what was the apparent wish of their electorates, and in some cases against their own personal prejudices, as the decision had to be based on evidence and not on what was popular. Clearly not all politicians are so principled, and there are some populists among them, but in Aotearoa, going into politics won’t make you rich or powerful. Perhaps it might only be because we are the least corrupt nation in the world and have a relatively high rate of public participation on politics, but I don’t see how Qaddafi’s system could avoid cronyism, intimidation, and other forms of corruption.


                • makagutu says:

                  You make very valid points that I am not going to dispute. As I have already said, it is difficult to see how Qaddafi’s system would be made to function.
                  Having said that, I think on taking on the issue of marriage equality, it should not even have arisen in the first place, as seeing that marriage is a private affair & I think government involvement should extend only to the point about it being between consenting adults.
                  Politicians most often than not, follow their own wishes. In public choice theory, it is argued that public officials work for their interests first and foremost.


  4. Tish Farrell says:

    I find I’m agreeing with Qaddafi too. As to his paranoia, he may have had good reason for it – given what happened next! Libya reduced to chaos UKUS style. I wonder why we did that. The real reason that is.


  5. “Up to this point, I think he makes quite valid points.”

    These types of documents often do, but my reading of history is that living under a democracy is better than the alternatives, even though most democracies are a hot mess.


  6. Veracious Poet says:

    Multi-party democracy in Africa has come to mean a hyena-eat-hyena-system. It’s an endless struggle between majority and minority thugs. Winner takes all. Citizens exist only on voting day.


  7. Qaddafi’s referring to the tyranny of the majority. He could have extended his argument to any democracy where a majority anything wins over a minority anything else. This is even true for parliamentary coalitions. It’s also the basis why we don’t use party voting (in the sense he uses it) here in the States.

    Not having an election based on party affiliation forces the electorate to form coalitions and individual candidates to make statements about their intentions. Of course, even this can get subverted, so it’s not a magical cure for the problem of a majority tribe lording over minority ones. Indeed, the tribe’s still there. It just formed a different way.

    Whoever finds the way to politically enforce consensus across a diverse country and population should be up for a Nobel Prize, I think. Smaller and more homogeneous nations could get away with raw democracy. Everyone else gets to have problems.


    • makagutu says:

      He argued that plebiscites are frauds.

      Plebiscites are a fraud against democracy. Those who vote “yes” or “no” do not, in fact, express their free will but, rather, are silenced by the modern conception of democracy as they are not allowed to say more than “yes” or “no”. Such a system is oppressive and tyrannical. Those who vote “no” should express their reasons and why they did not say “yes”, and those who say “yes” should verify such agreement and why they did not vote “no”. Both should state their wishes and be able to justify their “yes” or “no” vote.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would have to disagree with Qaddafi on this. A plebiscite is only as weak as it is set up. They’re still not ideal for other issues, such as emergency actions. He’s got to oversell the point here if he’s trying to establish the illusion of public control of his dictatorship.


  8. Barry says:

    Not having an election based on party affiliation forces the electorate to form coalitions and individual candidates to make statements about their intentions.
    That’s precisely what we had in Aotearoa New Zealand until 1996. We managed without parties for the first 50 years of self government. Constitutionally, parties didn’t exist, but by the time FPP was replaced, we’d had a two-party duopoly for 70 years. I can recall one election where a third party gained 26% of the popular vote nation wide, but didn’t gain a single seat in Parliament. In the next election the party gained 30% of the popular vote but gained only two seats. It wasn’t due to gerrymandering, but simply the way the third party vote was distributed across the country. It was a major reason for a call to change the system.

    We don’t have fixed term governments as you do in the US. Our governments have a maximum term of three years and rely on the confidence of Parliament to govern, and that can be withdrawn at any time. Now here’s the important part: since the introduction of MMP, the party or parties that form the government have less than 50% of the seats in Parliament. Coalitions are formed after elections, not before, and they are coalitions on a few key platforms only that last until the next election. Parties that form the government coalition are free to vote independently of government sponsored legislation apart from those few areas agreed to in the coalition agreement. And what’s more, they frequently do. It’s not unusual for the government to have to negotiate with one or more opposition parties for support on a piece of legislation as there is insufficient support within the governing parties. It’s also not unusual for government sponsored legislation to fail. That’s the nature of democracy. No bill introduced into Parliament can be passed into law without the support of at least one opposition party.

    Whoever finds the way to politically enforce consensus across a diverse country and population should be up for a Nobel Prize, I think
    I think this is the crux of the matter. Two points:

    (1) While our country is small, it is diverse, possibly even more so than the USA – one in four New Zealanders are immigrants. Perhaps our system works because there is no majority stance on almost any issue (apart from our anti-nuclear stance?). No single group has sufficient weight to impose their view on the rest of the population.

    (2) The system relies on a huge amount of good faith and mutual respect to function at all. Without consensus and compromise the system would fall apart. But I don’t think consensus can be enforced. It has to be desired and sought after. This seems to be part of the Kiwi psyche, at least for now. I don’t know if this is unique to us, but it’s certainly not universal world wide, and so what works for us might not work anywhere else.

    Our attitude to our form of democracy is similar to our attitude to our national flag. A majority of the population don’t like it, but we can’t agree on what would be better. Perhaps that’s the way it should be.


  9. […] this post, I highlighted some of what Qaddafi identified as the problems of democracy as presently practiced […]


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