Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Party System and the Deep State


The common belief shared almost universally even by the most trenchant critics of “liberal democracy” is that it is the legislative arm of the State – the Legislature or Parliament or Congress – that determines the political direction of a country and its people; and that the Executive (the bureaucracy or public administration) merely executes or implements what is decided by the Legislature. And it is an even more ingrained belief that this political will emanates directly from “the electorate” through the election of political “representatives” to the Legislature or Parliament. And, as we know, this political will is expressed through an electoral process that is monopolised by political parties.

What few understand, however, is the simple truth that even the political organisation of electoral parties must conform to strict “constitutional guarantees” that allow the Deep State (the bureaucracy or, if you wish, “the system”) to control the constitution of political parties – their membership, their charters and programs, their funding. Even before it begins to formulate its political program, therefore – indeed, right from its political birth and inception – a political party must conform to the organisational rules laid out by the Deep State in the Constitution. Remember that, as Carl Schmitt incessantly reminded us, the Constitution sets out the rules – but it does not tell us who precisely is the person who decides! In other words, there are two levels at which the Deep State controls the outcome of elections and the implementation of the so-called “political will of the people”. The first level is by setting out strict rules – the strictest possible because they are legislated in the Constitution – with which all political participants and parties must comply. Indeed, as we know, many constitutions either explicitly or implicitly institute political parties as being already part and parcel of the Constitution itself! In other words, even before political parties can express the will of their members, they are already obliged to play “by the rules”!
But the second level of control is that even though the rules are set out clearly in writing since the Code of Hammurabi or the Roman Decalogue, the reality remains that the Constitution does not prescribe who precisely will decide upon the rules and – most important – on their “exception”! The constitutional rule is ultimately dependent both for its interpretation (the Judiciary) and for its enforcement (the Police or the Army) upon the decision of a particular person or group of persons! This means that the bourgeoisie is always able from the outset to determine the outcome of “the parliamentary game” by sheer virtue of the fact that its own members occupy the offices of political power in the Deep State!

Of course, once political parties succeed in having their “candidates” elected to the institutions prescribed by the Constitution – and most specifically to Parliament -, then the candidates elected, the “electoral or party representatives”, are even more constrained and bound by the parliamentary rules set out in the Constitution! One thing is for an elected representative to get to Parliament; it is quite another once that “representative” gets to Parliament – because once in Parliament the representative can no longer simply represent the electorate or party that got her or him elected but must indeed first and foremost represent the Constitution! He or she must be bound by the myriad rules laid out either in the Constitution and in all its instrumentalities. Essentially, a representative or member of parliament must act always “in the interests of the nation” – which is to say, in the interests of the persons who already are the guardians of the Constitution, which is to say, in the interests of the Deep State as it is constituted by the bourgeoisie!

It is not the case that the bureaucracy of the Deep State is impersonated or embodied by functionaries selected at random or indiscriminately from the body of the population – from the body politic. As everyone knows, the selection of the bureaucracy is almost exclusively decided by the existing bureaucracy – and this bureaucracy goes back to the early establishment of modern bourgeois parliamentary regimes. This is a way of saying that the old Absolutist State, the Ancien Regime, never truly died: it simply metamorphosed into the present-day State bureaucracy, into the Deep State. The Parliaments that the bourgeoisie established since the American and French Revolution, and since the earlier English Revolution with Oliver Cromwell and the Long Parliament – these parliaments had the paramount and indispensable function of absorbing and neutralising the conflicts and contradictions and antagonisms existing in our societies provoked predominantly by the sheer violence and brutality of the bourgeoisie, by its domination over the rest of society. And the bourgeoisie achieved this aim, albeit reluctantly, through its co-optation of social antagonism by means of the institutions of parliament and ultimately of the political parties.

Indeed, it is a historical fact that the organisation of working-class parties themselves – the European social-democratic parties and Labor parties – quite faithfully mirrored the bureaucratic organisation of the bourgeois Deep State because, once the “elected representative leaders” of these parties joined the Parliaments it was impossible for them even to begin to govern and legislate without complying with and strictly adhering to the bureaucratic decision-making processes of the bourgeois Deep State. As we have seen with greater intensity and frequency recently, political parliamentary representatives are invariably torn between formulating and promoting their political “mandates”, on one side, and then winning over the co-operation of the existing bureaucracy in order to implement them!
Almost invariably, elected representatives find that by the time they attempt to implement their mandates the bourgeois bureaucracy – empowered by the constitution – bluntly forces them to restate and indeed recant and renounce their original “democratic mandates”. To the degree that the democratic mandate of parliamentary representatives has to be translated into the rules of the parliamentary game and then be made to fit into the straitjacket of bureaucratic execution – by that time any “transformational” and indeed “revolutionary” or even “democratic” content that these mandates had is totally lost in the bureaucratic maze!

The Deep State – the bureaucratic Executive – thus has the power to neuter and defeat any conflictual and antagonistic content that the bourgeois constitutional electoral process might have placed in motion. As one droll but piercingly accurate anarchist motto has it, “if elections could change anything, they would be outlawed!” This histrionic motto in fact quite accurately and brilliantly summarises the reality that “elections” (parliamentary democracy) are entirely dependent on “the constitution” (the deep State) which ensures that elections cannot change the Constitution erected by the bourgeoisie: - quite simply because such a change - and not this or that insignificant policy, fruit of the squabbling between political parties and politicians – would clearly amount to the most serious crime! There is no crime more serious in a constitutional democracy than any attempt to change the Constitution! The Constitution is sacrosanct to the bourgeoisie not because it contains the infamous “democratic guarantees” idolised by Benjamin Constant and Alexis de Tocqueville or Edmund Burke, but simply because these “guarantees” are the foundations of bourgeois domination over the entire nation and its population! They are “guarantees” – in other words, they are legal rules independent of the democratic will of the society, and specifically of the working class – that do not emanate from the society itself but – as the word “guarantee” suggests – from a pre-existing “constituted power”! Modern bourgeois capitalist regimes adamantly and rigorously and violently proscribe any and all attempts at “constituent power”!


In the “parliamentary game”, the sheer connivance of political parties in the bolstering of the Deep State is starkly evidenced by the phrase “Her Majesty’s loyal opposition”. The concept of “loyal opposition” clearly illustrates and demonstrates how the “alternation” of political parties in forming governments is entirely subordinated to maintaining the status quo embodied in the Constitution and administered by the Deep State! The “loyal opposition” to which all political parties must subject themselves under the Constitution demonstrates the ultimate supremacy and pre-eminence of constituted power over constituent power – of the status quo over any revolutionary velleity by the antagonistic movement; it represents the forswearing and abjuration by political parties of any activity that may challenge the established constitutional order. (For a revealing exposition of the historical development of political “opposition” parties in the United States, see R. Hofstadter, The Idea of A Party System. For Europe, see our already cited M. Duverger, Les Partis Politiques.)

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