Riots and democracy: 2 keys to dismantling the same reactionary ideology

23 February, 2021

riots and democracy Barcelona

Riots and democracy are the buzz on all the front pages and television news these days in Spain. Politicians and protesters oppose these two concepts while remaining within the same ideological universe: some say riots occur because there is no democracy, while others say there is no place for riots in a democracy. If we already discussed the counterproductive nature of riots ariots as a tactic, today we will critique the reactionary ideology peddled to us by one or the other side during this empty debate.

Table of Contents

Riots and democracy in Barcelona

Democracy, opinion, and expression

Democratic ideology tells us that in a parliamentary democracy the opinions of the governed rather than the interests of the ruling class are what sets general policy. The system claims to ensure that all opinions can be represented within the political apparatus of the state through the electoral ceremony, a mass opinion poll that, in many places, is also mandatory.

What is left unsaid is the fact that opinion is the product of a large industry: that of the media, the educational apparatus and social participation, those pillars of democracy. And that the same electoral ceremony represents more than anything else the isolation of the individual who is asked to put himself for a moment in the place of the state and express those variants of the publicized opinion that have made the greatest impression on him by choosing between different teams of managers.

According to this ideology, expressing one’ s opinion would be the engine of political change and the freedom to express it the guarantee that it is equally possible for everyone to shift democratic opinion.

There is a basic problem: reducing the political struggle to the exercise of the expression of opinions, understood as a lever to modify opinion and therefore the action of the state, is a contradiction in several steps that breaks down on all sides on further inspection.

Firstly expressing opinions per se is a powerless move against the opinion-producing industry… its only chance at being heard is to become instrumentalized. Secondly the state’ s actions and guidance may attempt to present themselves as reflecting the opinion it produces…. but the ends of the state are given by the nature and needs of the system, not by anyone’s opinion.

The alleged sufficiency of expression and riots

For democratic ideology, engaging in politics would therefore be, above all, expressing oneself publicly. That is what the media and politicians tell us every day.

The paradox being that those who embrace rioting as a tactic are doing the same thing!!!! Rioting is for them a form of expression that when it makes itself heardand gets picked up in the media manufacturing opinion for the system, it could change things.

How? Out of pure democratic magic.

Believing in the political utility of riots is not only a form of accepting to leave the terrain of class struggle, it is pure democratism, i.e., pure magical thinking.

Netflix ideology: revolution as some huge riots

riots spanis revolution

Democracy as an ideology affirms the citizen in order to dilute the existence of classes and conflicts. The citizen wears more clothes than Barbie: he is a consumer, voter, protester, shopkeeper, entrepreneur, environmental defender…. Everything as an individual and everything and anything except a class-interest-conscious worker. The citizen par excellence is the responsible and well-meaning petty bourgeois democrat.

Denying the working class, denying classes as political subjects, lies at the heart of the democratic ideology.

That is why it reproduces, in its own way, clichés of the most reactionary ruling classes of all times with its own twist. The first: revolution is either a coup d’état -the classic tenet of reactionary thought against the Russian Revolution, for instance- or else it is nothing more than a purposeless, futureless rampage, what Hollywood and Netflix keep telling us again and again.

What’s really interesting is how this ideology, the B-side of democratism, reactionary to say the least, permeates the advocates of rioting as a political tactic. The image above, a screenshot from a social network taken yesterday, clearly illustrates this. The Bolshevik three year period which featured the emergence of the proletariat in Spain as a determining political subject, the background of the world revolution, the presence and massive debate on the Russian Revolution, the peasant insurrections throughout the peninsula and the revolutionary general strikes… are reduced to memes of toppling city streetcars and smashing street furniture.

Obviously in the context of a revolutionary moment, riots are not the determining factor. That is why the ruling classes of all ages try to reduce revolution to riots, to public order problems that they can handle in a purely repressive manner. Of course, riots did not represent political leverage for anything during the Spanish Bolshevik triennium. Those who saw hope in them were the same classes that still sighed with relief over a Tragic Week in which class strength had been diverted to burning convents, churches and properties of the odious Catholic church… and therefore renouncing to question the bases of the class power of the bourgeoisie and its state.