History of the World Crisis

Lecture 12: 
The Crisis of Democracy

Translated by Juan R. Fajardo, 2000

(Delivered to the “Gonzales Prada” People’s University,
at the Peruvian Student Federation hall, Lima, on Septemberr 25, 1923.)

Author’s Notes:

The symptoms of a crisis of the democratic order could be felt since before the war. What has driven this crisis? Capitalism's and the proletariat's parallel increase and concentration. Economic life, the economic forces of the countries, have passed into the hands of these two great powers, beside which the State has acquires a role, not as arbiter, but as mediator. The conflicts, the contrasts between one force and the other, have not been able to be solved by State save by deals, direct agreements between them. In those deals, the State has but played the role of mender. Within the old society's forms the forms of a new society were incubated. The nation, by virtue of the new social reality, has ceased to be a predominantly political entity, to become a predominantly economic entity. This change in the nation's substance has determined the crisis of the political State. History shows us that a society's forms of social and political organization correspond with the structire, with the tendency of the productive forces. Bourgeois society, for example, no origin other than the birth of industry. Within Medieval society, the bouegoisie was the industrial class, the artisan class. As the bourgeoise grew richer, as industry grew, the privileges of the aristrocracy, of the nobility, became unbearable. The laborer and the bourgeois were mixed at that time into a single class: the people. The bourgeoisie was the people's vanguard and it was the class which led the revolution. Laborer and bourgeois coincided in the wish to abolish the aristocracy's privileges. Thus, the fall of the aristocracy, of the Medieval order, more than by abstract reasons of ideology, was determined by concrete reasons in the emergence of a new form of production: industry. New forms of production have been created under the democratic order, the bourgeois order. Industry has developed extraordinarily, pushed along by the machine. Huge industrial enterprises have emerged. The expansion of these new productive forces does not allow the old political molds to endure. It has transformed the structure of nations and demands a transformation in the democratic order's structure. Bourgeois democracy has ceased to correspond with the organization of the productive forces which have changed and grown formidably. That's why democracy is in crisis. Democracy's typical institution is the parliament. The crisis of democracy is a crisis of parliament. We have already seen how the two great contemporary forces are capital and labor and how, beyond parliament, these forces clash or struggle. Democracy's theorists might suppose that these forces are, or should be, proportionaly represented in parliament. But it is not so. Because society is not split cleanly between capitalists and proletarians. Between the capitalist class and the proletarian class there are a series of amorphous and intermediary layers. Besides, just as the whole proletarian class does not have a precise awareness of its historical and class necessities, the whole of the capitalist class is not gifted with a precise class consciousness. The mentality of the big industrialist or the banker is not the same as the mentality of the medium rentier or retail merchant. This disperison of social classes is reflected in parliament which thus does not exactly reflect the large interests in play. The political State turns out to be the representation of the all the social layers. But the conservative force and the revolutionary force polarize into singular interest groupings: capitalism and proletariat. Within the parliamentary order there cannot be but coalition governments. Today, the tendency is toward factional governments.

Currently, the intensification of the class struggle, the expansion of social warfare, has accented this crisis of democracy. The proletariat attempts the decisive assault on the State and political power in order to transform society. Its growth in the parliaments is threatening to the bourgeoisie. Democracy's legal instruments have turned out to be insufficient for preserving the democratic order. Conservatism has needed to turn to illegal action, to extra-legal methods. The middle class, society's intermediate and heterogeneous zone, has been the nerve center of this movement. Lacking a class consciousness of its own, the middle class feels itself equally distant from, and inimical to capitalism and the proletariat. But within it are represented some capitalist sectors. And, as the current battle is waged between capital and the proletariat, all intervention from a third element must operate to the benefit of the conservative class. Capitalism and the proletariat are two great and singular camps of gravitation which draw-in the scattered forces. Whosoever reacts against the proletariat serves capitalism. This falls to the middle class, from whose ranks the fascist movement has recruited its proselytism. Fascism is not an Italian phenomenon, it is an international phenomenon. The first European country in which fascism appeared was Italy because in Italy the class struggle was in a sharper period, because in Italy the revolutionary situation was most violent and decisisve.

Process of fascism. Its rise to the top. Its systems. Its methods.

Fascism in Germany, in France, in Hungary, etc. Lugones in Argentina.


Read Next Lecture >>

J. C. Mariategui
Internet Archive 

Marxist writers'
Internet Archives