DEMOCRATS AND DEMAGOGUES
If Plato is “demagogue”, his pupil, Aristotle, could be seen as “democrat”. Two “philosophers” continue to quarrel on issue today, and yet it seems as it were between Greek “demos” and Latin “populus”. In the last century two inherently linked concepts - “democracy” and “populism” - are connotatively confronted as, due this connotation, they also denote two different things, and as the issue were about teaching the people or learning by the people. Beyond this connotation, however, differences vanish as it vanishes when bearing in mind that the word “populus” is simply a Latin translation of the Greek word “demos”.
Since modernity rediscovered “people” as the sole legitimate sovereign, especially during the past century onward all kinds of regimes claimed to be “democratic”.
Democracies and democrats, however, are populists by definition and in their operation - if modern democracy approximates the famous phrase of A. Lincoln : “government of the people, by the people, for the people”. And any introductory book in political sciences and in theories of democracy - printed in the West, and not only there – tries to show as an established fact that it is representative, majoritarian and it is procedural. That is, insofar as not all individuals of a people can agree on all issues and cannot govern in everydayness, democracy is representative ; being a plural unity, the sovereign is represented by majority of itself : by what happens to be quantitatively and intensively most wished, most preferred and what happens to be the most widespread opinion, or what is conceived to be at its best interests of this composed sovereign. Further, democracy is deliberative in that it acknowledges the possibility of majority being wrong and therefore the minority have the right of expressing freely its opinions and feelings, as well as its political organisation in hope that they will became quantitatively most present in that given society, and therefore legitimated to be represented as governance of society. Majority and minority - being representative and being represented - are alternated, usually in a period of four years, mostly through elections of political parties.
Political parties, we are assured, are there as agencies which aggregate and articulate political preferences, wishes and whatever may happen to be perceived by a population as its own interests in a given moment of elections. Hence, insofar as system works according to these principles and procedures party leaders and party activists are of necessity populists : the very meaning of their existence and their function is collecting, articulating and representing - as proposal of a governing program - the most popular preferences and self-conceived interests. In other words they are there to register sheer facts, i.e. factual and actual preferences, feelings, desires and opinions of people, without any trying to teach them what is worthy of wishing, preferring or is their “true interest”. Because, we are told, and this is typically populist, “the people itself knows better than anyone else what wishes, and what is its own interest”. Otherwise democrats would become demagogues.
Thus the alternative to the populist is the demagogue, i.e. the teacher of the people. The demagogue does believe that there are objective truths and that these truths are not a matter of majority, and even less the virtue of the majority of population. Therefore the demagogue undertakes to teach the sovereign, i.e. the people on what the people should prefer, wish and conceive as its true interests ; in other words to teach it what is valuable to be wished, not just what happens to be the case. Most of the time the function and role of the demagogues is played by philosophers, the scientists and the artists, as well by religious prophets, disciples and activists of civil society ; and the most of the time in style of Shakespeare’s character, M. Antony : albeit they do not necessary claim “to bury Caesar”, i.e. actual political regime, well might claim to be there “not to praise him”, i.e. neither regime nor the people . Hence, in democratic systems the demagogues mostly are to be found in Universities, research Institutions, and artistic Clubs, respectively in religious institutions and the civil society. Therefore, there might be some truth on Kojève’s observation that philosophers are a kind of tyrants . To these might be added as well scientists, artists, prophets, religious activists, and others who do not achieve this position practically, because of their limited life-span, and because their teachings often became sufficiently widespread and accepted by the majority of population only after their biological death. However, there is e class of political demagogues who overtly seek the political power, and who effectively achieve it, “in order to teach the people from above”, most probably ending in tyrants, like many of greatest reformers of society and human history.
Now it seems that what practical politicians do and are left to do is this interplay between being populists and being demagogues. The space of the play is composed from many subspaces, which are taken to show penalties, fouls and other rules of game, usually broken from the other. First, there is the epistemic line, which for populist is taken to say that there is no secure, objective truth, and the sole possibility left is to take as such the direct and factual truth of majority ; for demagogues there are truths, even universal truths, and that democracy is grounded on such truths on human nature, natural rights and dignity of all human beings, contrary to sheer opinions of majority. Again, there is a moral line, which according to populist is agreed from majority that ruling by majority itself, indeed is morally right procedure, since there is none better one ; for demagogues this is nothing but a nonsense, because moral weight is not necessary on the side of majority, and because the agreement of individuals does not by itself legitimise morally : individuals may agree on highly immoral things. Finally there is a dividing line about the knower of both epistemic and moral truths, manifest on the question of what the people, i.e. what the sovereign knows. According to liberal-democrats, i.e. populists, people itself knows what are their real wishes and their best interests, without leaving this to any state, party or elite to show and teach them what they wish, and what are their best interests ; on contrary, demagogues argue that even in the case that people knows their wishes directly, i.e. phenomenally and existentially, it is only a minority of elites, specialist, and professionals who may know best what should be wished and which are peoples real interests, and the best ways they are served. In all practices the lines however are blurred, and parties have converged : According to populists, i.e. liberal-democrats, teaching the people, i.e. the sovereign is treating the people as immature, and thus contrary to natural human dignity and human liberty. But the same populists have treated the most parts of population for the most time as immature : within their society the youth to a certain age - usually between eighteen to twenty-five years - women, the poor, illiterate, and today immigrants, indigenes, etc., excluding them by the right of vote, office holding, and so one ; and outside their society, the “non-civilized peoples”, regarded as apt to be colonized, to teach them, to integrate, to naturalize, to assimilate, i.e. to teach them civilization and democracy, as their own truest good and interests. In democratic, liberal, conception of “the people” as sovereign body, autonomous, authorized to self-rule is qualified through “maturity”. As theorized and legitimized by J. St. Mill, liberal “liberty” is meant only for “mature” people : “It is, perhaps hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties”. Mill goes without saying who is it that measures and observes this “maturity”. He is clear however that from liberty and from his doctrine are to be excluded “persons below the age”, and that all “those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions”. Because of this criteria from being “people” have been excluded entire peoples, races, societies, since : “for same reason, we my leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as its nonage” . Hence, through series of exclusions of parts of populations from being mature enough as to rule, or at least to take part in ruling processes, populist end up to what demagogues say : excluding from ruling all “immature persons” and this means entire social strata, races, peoples, etc.
And here it is exactly where the demagogues often enter the scene : emancipating, i.e. teaching the excluded that they should wish, that it is in their real interests, and that it is in their own right and human dignity, etc., to take part in governing und ruling processes, within the country, and in the community of peoples and nations through being decolonized, liberated and becoming equally sovereign. However demagogues itself, like populists often claims that the people is the best knower of its own wishes, feelings and interests, even that “people is unmistakable”, and that elites and the rulers of the people itself have to learn by the people. During the governance by communists (1944-1990) Albanian society have experienced this puzzle of people being at the same time “unmistakable knower” and an unit to be taught by narrow elite specialized to rule the people : On the one side, communists represented themselves as populists, presenting the people as the true bearer of knowledge and wisdom, and themselves as being taught by the people, simply expressing its feelings, desires, wishes and interests. Thus, Enver Hoxha, proclaimed that peoples in general, Albanian people in particular, is unmistakable. And this not only in period of being guided by the Communist Party, but during all its history, even when guided by costumes, traditions and mentalities, now considered reactionary and to be “burned by fire” . Many practices and rituals have been established to “save the close relations between the party and the people”, as visits of Enver Hoxha, himself, and other party leaders in different cities and villages of the country, “to listen”, “to ask”, “to teach from the simple people” ; office-holders, intellectuals, and party-members were send regularly, or as a kind of punishment, “in midst of the masses” in order “to learn by them” . In typical populist fashion the differences between people and elite have been blurred in the slogan : “The Party says what the people will, and the people does what the party says”. Similarly to populists the political party listens, aggregates and articulates the wishes, preferences and interests of people itself, and builds the governing program according to these and – what populists do not say - the objective laws of society and history.
On the other side, communists claimed that they, and their party, have emancipated, i.e. liberated Albanian people, each social strata, one after the other : woman, youth, proletarians, villagers, true intellectuals, entire population from its own ignorance, exploitation, and its own reactionary costumes, traditions and mentalities. Such emancipating and liberating results all were presented as being achieved because of being projected and guided from the Communist Party, this small group but the most progressive and most qualified to rule, because of being vested with highest scientific knowledge, i.e. Marxism-Leninism, the knowledge of objective laws of society, history, economy, and even nature and the universe in general. As have been said : communists were not professionals on any specific area, but they were specialists in knowing the line of Party and on leading the people according to its teachings, thus occupying the ruling role in each field of society, and of each other organisation, including the state in general . Insofar, they represented themselves as true demagogues, as teachers of people, as that elected elite which showed the people the true way to liberation, emancipation and the building of the good (socialist) society, toward full flourishing and wellbeing of the sovereign itself. In order to avoid this statements sounding as contradictory - that the people is at the same time “unmistakable knower” and to be “emancipated from its own ignorance”, albeit left in this state by reactionary classes – communists advanced a very peculiar definition of the people : the people includes “those classes, strata, social groups and other social forces which support and help the progressive development of society, which in this or that way take part in the process of revolution, in a given time”. Here Mill’s sign of “maturity” is replaced by the sign of “progressiveness”, and like Mill’s it doesn’t say explicitly who is it that measures and observes who is and who is not “the progressist” one, although implicitly this is the communist party and communists. However the definition tries to say that people is unmistakable par definitionem : it is always, at any time on the site of progress, of the good and the right. Albeit claimed to be “dialectic”, the definition is only a dynamic one : it shows that certain social force, classes, strata, even individuals may belong for some period of time to “people”, and latter become its enemies . But even the definition might make rational that the people is unmistakable, it is a highly qualitatively restrictive definition : the people may be a single person in a given population, exactly a person know and who acts alone toward the progress of history, as it alone understands it. Hence entire social strata, classes, parts of peoples were excluded from being “the people”, and here is where the populists enter the scene remembering that it couldn’t be someone outside of the people who knows best and even decides who and when there is a people, except his own “personal people”.
Today the situation is not, and it seems that it even could not be so much different today but “one person, one people”. In the age of the people conceived as sovereign there seems no escape from being either populist or demagogue, and for most part both of them at the same time. The key concept of the age, it is the concept of “people”, seems to be an “empty concept”, a concept to be filled with any content, according to strategically chosen aims of actors taking part in an ages-continuing political game. Hence, the people looks like a throne, left empty by sudden death of the sovereign king, and the struggle of “royalists”, each supporting their preferred son of the king as legitimate claimer of that throne. As a sovereign body, people is composed by many particular bodies, prone to be partialised according to any imaginable criteria, as status, class, social strata, relationship to knowledge, to power, to state, and so on. It is an objective unity, one that has objective interests and duties, as what it should wish and prefer, and it is a subjective unity, as one what subjectively conceives its own interest, wishes and preference, and this is its sole “objectivity”, if one wish to use the word.
Taking in hand this possibility of partialization through definitions - especially from March 2010 onward - Edvin Rama, the leader of Socialist Party of Albania in opposition, consequently socialists en mass began to speak of a people in opposition : “the people in opposition”, “the oppositional people”, and further of the “socialist people”. Described and called to protest, as a particular people, unjustly enthroned by - what is passed without saying loudly - another people, “people in position”, or “democratic people” (according to membership in Democratic Party of Albania in position). So what is going on is an attempt of politicians to create each of them its own special people, even “personal people” in order to rule it consequently “from them, by them and for themselves” - be it as s populists or as s demagogues or as both at the same time. And in this endeavour it is the population who supports them, applauds them, and sacrifices themselves in order to elect them as their representatives.
There isn’t still any convincing explanation for this behaviour of population. If one supposes that the people is manipulated by elites, this implies a demagogical supposition that there are objective interest and wishes of the people, but which are not known to it due its being manipulated ; if one supposes that the people is unmistakable and the best knower of its own interests and wishes, as populist would say, then it couldn’t be manipulated and this implies that people have the governance it deserves and it wishes, and it knows at best... that it is so.
Now, my supposition is that the later hypothesis is more reliable : choosing from its sovereign will the people have chosen populists, instead of demagogues. This supposition, however, does not mean that I consider this choice better than the other : it means only that the people have the governance they have created themselves. Now if population is not satisfied with its own choice of populists instead of demagogues in these last twenty years in Albania, the demagogues are awaiting. Neither of them satisfies the idea of governing “of the people, by the people, for the people”. However the third possibility, being governed by a mixture - at the same time populist and demagogue - is experienced for many years during the socialist regime. And if I am more sensitive against this “mixture”, perhaps it is that I myself have experienced it in first hand. And dissatisfied.
Quoted literature Historia e Shqipërisë, vëllimi IV, ed. Akadamia e Shkencave e RPS të Shqipërisë – Instituti i Historisë, 1983. Hoxha, Enver : Fajla në plenumin e 4, Dhjetor 1974. Hoxha, Enver : Raport në Kongresin e VII, Tiranë, 1976 Hoxha, Enver : Raport në Kongresin e VIII, Trianë, 1981 Hoxha, Hoxha : Raporte e fjalime (1967-1968) Kojève, Alexander. : Tyrannie et sagesse, quoted according to : Vincent Descomb, Vetja dhe tjetri, ISP&DITA 2000, Tiranw, 2008 Kushtetuta e Republikës Popullore Socialiste të Shqipërisë, 1976 Materializmi dialektik dhe historik, ed. Universitetii Tiranës, Fakulteti i Shkencave Politike-Juridike, Tiranë, 1883 Mill, John St. : On Liberty and other Essays, Oxford University Press, 1992 Shakespeare, William : Julius Caesar, scene III, Act I