Lenin, Trotsky and the 99 percent: The denial of democracy

The Spanish fiasco of the Indignants is the latest avatar of the pernicious nature of the denial of democracy. Such a denial, when manifested by those who hold power, leads to a totalitarian State

Can an anonymous protester really claim to speak for the 99 percent?
Fabio Rafael Fiallo
On 8 December 2011 08:41

One of the key features of the Marxist movement, since the days of Lenin and Trotsky in the early 20th century, relates to its infatuation with what has been called the “avant-garde of the Revolution”.

This is supposed to be an enlightened elite, grouped in a political party, on which communist, anticapitalist organisations needed to count so as to, first, effectively seize power and, subsequently, carry out the reforms aimed at creating a perfectly egalitarian society.

According to the actual rules of the game of the international communist movement, this “avant-garde” – in fact the Party’s leadership – always had pre-eminence over the people’s will. For the followers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, the Party knew better than the people itself what was best for the latter and, therefore, could speak and act on its behalf.

Once the famous “avant-garde” seized power in a country (Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam), to consult the people through free elections became a burdensome and redundant exercise. Indeed, what would have been the use to seek the people’s views and preferences, and to allow them to choose among competing political options, since the Party, the rulers argued, had the competence and authority to do that itself?

The primacy of the “avant-garde”, at the cost of the people’s right to express its views and wishes through the ballots, led – now we all know – to the annihilation and imprisonment of dissidents and to the establishment of concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the transformation of China’s economy in a State capitalism, a good number of dogmas of the anticapitalist movement have fizzled out. In the post-Soviet, post-Mao era, the advent of the communist society is no longer seen as an ineluctable, scientific law of History, but merely as one possibility among others.

The “proletariat” has ceased to be regarded as the leading motor of the Revolution, this function being now entrusted to the so-called “multitude”, a loosely defined groups with disparate motivations. And in lieu of “imperialism”, a term too much reminiscent of the bygone era of colonial powers, it is the word “Empire” that today’s US-bashers such as Hugo Chávez prefer.

And yet, despite all these changes in the imagery of the radical left, the arrogant pretension to speak and act on behalf of the people hasn’t aged a bit in the hearts and minds of anticapitalist protestors.

The proof of such resilience is a slogan displayed by “Indignants” in Europe and the “Occupiers” in the US. That spellbinding slogan is no other than “We are the 99 percent”. Nothing less!


Better not to ask on which grounds these protest movements, which have never crossed swords in an electoral contest, can boast to represent the near totality of society (99 percent!). The answer to that question will be found nowhere.

Indeed, never has one been able to gauge their true political weight: like Lenin and Trotsky in their times, today’s protestors refuse to allow the ballots to test the degree of popular support to their vague, unrealistic and often contradictory stances.

There undoubtedly exists a democracy deficit in the manner in which European institutions currently operate, as much as there may be reasons to address, and correct, the clout that the Washington establishment and its bureaucracy have acquired over US politics.

The solution to all these shortcomings, however, calls for a reinforcement of democratic institutions and channels and, therefore, cannot and does not lie in a group’s pretending to represent the entire society without having received from the people a mandate and legitimacy to do so.

The reality check finally took place. It occurred in the very place where the manifestations of Indignants had started, namely Spain. There, the parliamentary elections held on November 20th dealt a heavy blow to the arrogance of the “99 percent”. The turnout reached an honourable 71.7 percent (down by merely two points, despite all the Indignants’ racket), thus demonstrating that Spaniards do not follow suit the Indignants’ contempt for parliamentary democracy.

More tellingly, the elections gave an overwhelming victory to the center-right Popular Party (PP), which had promised to enact austerity measures in the antipodes of the requests formulated by the Indignants prior to the elections. (The PP registered its best score since its creation in 1989).

The Spanish fiasco of the Indignants is the latest avatar of the pernicious nature of the denial of democracy. We knew that such a denial, when manifested by those who hold power, leads to a totalitarian state.

And now, when democracy deniers stay away from power by refusing to organise their struggle through parliamentary channels, the only thing they succeed in obtaining is the unlawful destruction of property, the filthy occupation of public places and, ultimately, the infertile vacuum of concrete political results.

Have the Indignants drawn lessons from the Spanish snub? It doesn’t look like it. Indeed, the day after the elections – that is to say, well before the leader of the PP, Mariano Rajoy, assumed the function of president of the government in accordance with the Spanish Constitution – the social media platforms (blogs, twitters) were invaded by a brand-new request of the Indignants: “Rajoy, Resignation!”

In terms of denial of democracy, the Indignants couldn’t have done more – or worse.

Fabio Rafael Fiallo is a Dominican-born economist, writer and former UN official. The author of four books, he has contributed articles, among others, to The Commentator, The Wall Street Journal, Real Clear World, Hudson New York, Le Monde, The Jerusalem Post and Le Temps (Switzerland)

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