Cuba and China Essay
Democracy, or the power of people, is rather old form of rule. While the word â€œdemocracyâ€ originated in the Ancient Greece in 5th century BC, this form of rule had existed even before this, found in ancient India republics before 6th century BC. However, it was the city-state of Athens in the Ancient Greece that presented this word in the sense which resembles, in some features, the modern vision of democracy. In Athens, people had the right to vote, to take the most important decisions, influencing the political situation of their state.
Of course, not all the population could vote â€“ women and children could not vote as well as disabled people. In fact, only one forth or one sixth of the citizens of Athens could vote and participate in a political life of their state. However, it was the first form of democracy and it had many aspects in common with todayâ€™s notion of democracy. For example, all the citizens of Athens, poor or rich, powerful or powerless, had the right to vote, they were equal in this right. The democracy, in the form in which it existed in Athens and in the Ancient Greece, was not preserved until our time.
Moreover, great changes took place in Europe in 18-19th centuries, in the form of revolutions. The right to vote and to participate in the political life of a state directly is not the main factor characterizing democracy in the modern world. Democracy in the modern sense includes such basic postulates as the basic freedoms: of speech, of expression, of the press, of association et cetera. The democracy in the western world is much more associated with the notion of free market and free trade.
However, these preconditions are not exactly true for some countries, for example for China, where free market and free trade can coexist with the lack of democracy, where there are no basic freedoms (for example, the freedom of association â€“ the assembly of Falun Gong in China was violently dispersed by police and banished for practicing in China). Cuba which has made some steps toward the free market economy, opening some part of its economy for the US dollars, does allow the internationally recognized organization of the Red Cross to its prisons, where political prisoners are kept in big numbers.
The rule of Communist Party as the only party in the country is observed both in Cuba and in China. And this excludes another characteristic feature of democracy â€“ pluralism, the possibility of many political parties to take part in the political life of the state. Before we proceed to explain the lack of democracy in Cuba and China, it is necessary to understand what democracy means and why China and Cuba should become democratic.
In the twentieth century, democracy has gained such popularity that most world rulers describe their rule as democratic. However, most countries were not democratic, and some even became totalitarian. Generally speaking, the term â€œdemocracyâ€ is misused in two ways. First, democracy is expanded into a laundry list that contains almost all kinds of good things. Second, democracy is modified by adding an adjective to the term. Since Western bourgeois democracy is the prototype of modern democracy, modifications are made along two lines.
Either rulers characterize their systems not as bourgeois democracies, but as â€œpeopleâ€™s democracies,â€ â€œproletarian democracies,â€ or â€œsocialist democracies,â€ or they emphasize local characteristics of their system, such as â€œBurmese type of democracyâ€ or â€œAfrican type of democracy. â€ What is democracy? Etymologically, the term means rule by the people. Democracy originated in Athens more than 2,500 years ago, when Cleisthenes allowed all citizens of Attica to preside over the affairs of the city. Athenian democracy took the form of direct democracy.
Citizens, which excluded women, slaves, and resident aliens, participated directly in making laws. Moreover, regardless of their properties and talents, rulers were selected not by ballot but by lot. Not surprisingly, virtually all famous Greek scholars were no fans of democracy, regarding tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy as corrupt forms of government. Democracy includes two forms: popular sovereignty and individual liberty. This paper defines democracy in terms of political freedom, which involves both positive and negative aspects.
Positive freedom refers to a situation in which people have the ability to participate in government; negative freedom means a situation in which people are free from arbitrary interference from government. Modern democracy adheres to the dual principles of popular sovereignty and individual liberty, but has its own distinctive features. Ideal as the principle of popular sovereignty may be, it is technically impossible to let the people in a nation-state decide everything. As a result, modern democracies are representative, not participatory (or direct).
The principle of popular sovereignty in modern times hinges on two major mechanisms: the separation of powers and the competitive election. While the ruled choose their rulers during an election, rulers are mutually checked and balanced before and after the election. In determining the nature of a particular political system, the competitive election is more important than the separation of powers. A division of labor is employed in any government, particularly a modern one. Despite the importance of liberalism for modern democracy, popular sovereignty precedes individual liberty.
Popular sovereignty talks about the purpose of government; individual liberty comprises the notion of government. The term that means â€œpeopleâ€ has undergone great changes in terms of class, education, gender, race, and age. Besides, individual liberty is historically and culturally specific. In the twentieth century, democracy and totalitarianism are regarded as two ends of the political spectrum. To put it in terms of ideal types, a government respecting both popular sovereignty and individual liberty is democratic; a government violating them is totalitarian.
Falling somewhere in between, most systems are neither democratic nor totalitarian in the strictest sense of the terms. Some may respect popular sovereignty but violate individual liberty; others may violate popular sovereignty but respect individual liberty. Todayâ€™s Islamic Republic of Iran and eighteenth-century Britain are cited as respective examples of these two types. Throughout human history, not many regimes have ever been totalitarian and most have been authoritarian. Compared with totalitarian regimes, authoritarian regimes are less willing and less able to damage peopleâ€™s rights and interests.
The United States of America when compared to China or Cuba, presents the example of â€œdemocraticâ€ democracy towards which China or Cuba should strive. Because now, when we took a closer look at the notion of democracy in the modern world, we are going to analyze the kind of democratic situation and democratic changes that took place in two of the most controversial countries in the world: China and Cuba. To reach conclusions as to the qualitative aspects of Cuban politics in the post-transition era, we will examine aspects of political culture as they relate to the formation and practices of civil society in democracy.
From this angle one can interpret some key dimensions of politics in particular settings. Transition to democracy (and its consolidation) depends on a multiplicity of factors, including elite decisions, institutional arrangements, pacts between competing social actors, a constitution and organizations typical of liberal democracies, a favorable moment in world history, supportive international structures, and a measure of good luck. Political and economic factors also impinge on the likelihood of democratic transitions and survival.
But political and economic factors determine neither transition to democracy nor democratic stability. The impact of the economy on democracy is not automatic, unidirectional, or necessarily predictable. According to Mattiace and Camp (1996), democracy is the product of multiple causes working together. In contexts where the system confronts unresolved foundational issues and consensus is elusive â€“ on such matters as how the political community is defined, who has authority, what the rules of the game are â€“ political questions become an affair of the heart, lending themselves less to compromise and pragmatism.
As a result, democracy tends to be endangered, particularly in places where institutional democratic norms are weak and personalism is high. This is likely to occur in Cuba after Fidel Castro (as it has before and during the socialist years). Though democracy will be established in Cuba sometime in the future, Cuban democracy will not conform to normative models of liberal democracy. Democracy in the way it is in Cuba will be characterized by features of incivility in civil society.
The democracy that is most likely to emerge on the island will be far from perfect, will share striking continuities with the past, and will dash the hopes of many who dream of democracy. The cynicism about democracy also has a long genealogy in Cuban intellectual history. As far back as the nineteenth century cultural pessimists on the island have remarked on the frustration that has followed modern projects of independence, nationalism, republicanism, and democracy. Democratic aspirations have a long history on the island, as long as the trajectory of their frustration. The notion is not as alien to Cuban soil as many believe (Dealy, 1996)
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