‘My dear, the Noise, the People…’: On Fears about Assemblies

von Dimitry Kochenov

Recent European Parliament election results will no doubt keep scholars of all sorts busy for a while. It seems to be the right moment for saying a word about the possible dangers that heightened attention to this institution (one among many in a coherent complex structure) can bring. We will no doubt hear about the deficient political cultures in the Member States and the potentially harmful effects that they might have on the glorious progress of the wonderful technocratic exercise, said to be spoiling all the fun. The Parliament is not the Parliament we like, it has to be stopped! ‘Karaul ustal’ – tapping into the wisdom of the proverbial revolutionary sailor Zhelezniak, who justified the destruction of the Russian Constitutional Convention roughly 100 years ago by the fact that the guards of the palace where it was deliberating ‘were tired’.

Such accounts are obliviously about the nature of democracy – John Mueller’s ‘Ralph’s pretty good grocery’ for the minimal human being – not about any particular assembly. Moreover, quite logically, arguments against democracy, regretfully, frequently end up being arguments against the people: look how stupid, racist and uneducated they are! Do the latest election results give room for such arguments? Of course they do, yet the citizens of the Union are those whom the Union cannot choose and will have to accept: democracy teaches humbleness. The trouble is that the appeal of democracy and its win-win position compared with other forms of societal organization lies precisely in the fact that in a democracy the rulers do not need to be particularly enlightened or chosen with the help of divine intervention: no need to be Elizabeth II. They can be as silly and laughable as any passer-by in the street.

The good thing about this though is that democracy also implies alteration: today it is a silly man from the right – tomorrow an enlightened philosopher from the left and vice versa ...

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