First edition: „Czas”, 25 grudnia 1924, nr 294
And so the monarchy of the old days, “divinely ordained” monarchy, has collapsed. Its last mainstays and last facade remnants lie shattered. Except Abyssinia, Afghanistan, Nepal, Siam, and several Arab countries, there is no absolute monarchy in the world today. There are still about 20 so-called “constitutional monarchies,” but both the old ones and those freshly emerged (Egypt) are sham monarchies while being in fact parliamentary republics. Their monarchs often have much less power than presidents of republics elsewhere, and even this minor power is based on the authority held by the people, the monarch being only one of institutions representing this authority. A metaphysical theory dating back to the earliest Semitic times, wherein God grants secular power to his state-ruling earthly successor who is then anointed for this office like a priest with sacred oils (Saul and Samuel), thus becoming a tool of divine Provenance, is considered detached from reality by the modern generation; it is no longer recognised in written legislation or general legal awareness. A rationalist theory prevailed that the general public in a country are a sovereign, power-wielders being only their mandataries. The people grant authority on a hereditary (monarchies) or periodic basis (republics). The people also control the authority, reducing it or taking it away if need be. The whole civilised and non-civilised world – except the several abovementioned places – rapidly organises its life around these concepts. I do not criticise, nor do I praise. I merely state the fact. Monarchy is gone.
Instead, omnipotence of the people spreads nowadays. The principle that authority belongs to all the people gave rise to universal suffrage, an equal right for adults of both genders. Thereby, a further step was taken towards empowering the public to wield authority than in any ancient state, which could be generally democratic but only a group of free people were eligible voters, unless the system was openly oligarchic (rule of a small circle of entitled people). Our generation is making an unprecedented experiment by granting authority to all adult men and women without exception. Authority thus becomes a million-limbed body, difficult to organise and be inspired by one will, not easily made mindful of state interests and not easily understanding facts. I do not criticise, nor do I praise. I merely state this.
For fear of this collective ruler, modern constitutions stipulate a theory of representation. The public are an ignorant ruler, moody and driven by sentiments and passions, with no personal opinion and easily seduced by ambitious and skilful Cleons1 who can flatter and manipulate them. This ruler does not understand phenomena or their causes but thinks and feels in most intuitive categories, those of slander and flattery. Normally obedient, apathetic and gullible towards his courtiers, this ruler sometimes becomes an uncontrollable force, during riots and revolutions. Therefore, he cannot rule independently, nor should he, hence the theory that he must be represented by specific entities. His representatives, parliamentary representation, should permanently exercise power in his stead. A vast part of the world is now being ruled in reality by parliaments, which increasingly seek supremacy over the second entity ruling in the name of the people, be it a president or a monarch. This entails that the representatives of the public rule while showing also all the negative sides of this situation, such as seeking popularity among voters, division into combating parties, the prevalence of demagogic parties, lack of professionalism, misusing mandates for personal or party business, weakness of the executive. I do not criticise, nor do I praise. I merely state the fact.
This is the state of affairs we can observe everywhere around, including our backyard. This has not satisfied humanity, and complaints are rife. Partly due to the war, and partly the predatory and materialist course taken by our civilisation, living conditions are harsh and this weighs down on people – high prices, overpopulation, overtaxation, no cash or credit, bad administration, social hatred, deteriorating ethics, weak government. Parliamentary rules cannot remedy these negative sides of the latest, post-war civilisation. This type of rule is often blamed – rightly or not – for having caused the mentioned phenomena in the first place. If only the fathers of the nation were different! If only they could form a different government! If only they steered the republic in a different way!
Because subsequent elections make no change to the composition and worthiness of parliaments, the whole principle of representative government is subject to increasingly severe criticism, and calls are voiced for a deep reform of the very system. There must be something amiss with the system if the society is dissatisfied – we can hear this conclusion everywhere. Apparently, the authorities cannot identify and eliminate the spreading evil under the system in its present form. Authority should therefore be re-organised.
Attempts were made to reform systems towards strong superior rules in a form of dictatorship in two major European states, Italy and Spain (let us not utter Russia’s experiment, in line with the rule guarda e passa2). Both of these attempts can today be considered undone. They presented some short-term and temporary advantages, especially the Italian one, and contributed to providing order in relations; but in the long run, they proved irreconcilable with the feelings of the masses and the psyche of modern people. Both dictators found themselves in a kind of vacuum, and Mussolini’s attempt to profit by the authority of one party had fatal consequences, leading to abuse, violence, crime, resentment among opponents and a tremor across the country. Today – by renouncing the fascist statute – he also abandons his dictatorship, and Italy is back among typical parliamentary republics with a hereditary president.
Having eliminated dictatorship and unable to return to Dei gratia monarchy, the current situation seems to present no option but to reform the existing parliamentary system, and all political schemes have recently appeared to be heading that direction. The general character of reforms becomes clear, in which the harried societies seek improvement to their economic, moral and political relations. The reforms are aimed at strengthening control over parliaments. Establishing Constitutional Tribunals to control legality of acts passed by parliaments is one way to achieve this end. Founding Chambers of Commerce to provide parliaments with economy-related opinions, be them binding or advisory, is another (as parliaments are unprofessional and dilettantish when it comes to economy). Creating State Councils to work on legislative proposals in terms of technicalities and subject matter is one more way to reduce excess power of parliaments. Putting the activity of individual members of parliament under close supervision, in various forms (tribunal judiciary which approves the validity of a mandate, supervising role of the party entitled to revoke mandates, voters’ right to dismiss a member of parliament and demand a new election) – is yet another way.
Moreover, there is growing hope that the situation will improve if “their highness the public” will be called on to directly decide on particularly difficult and disputable issues instead of leaving them to be solved by their mandataries. Indeed, it becomes a normal practice even in the old-type English “monarchy” that the House of Commons is dissolved now and again, almost yearly, and voters are asked about protective tariffs of the dominions, relations with Russia, the Geneva Protocol, etc. The last election in England was a model example of provocatio ad populum3. This is a strong yet not the strongest means of limiting the representation of the people – granting another public body the right to suspend the representatives and to ask the public directly about a way to follow in state affairs. The institution of plebiscites and referendums seeks the same if not an even further goal, adopted in increasingly many post-was constitutions, following the example of America and Switzerland. Referendums entail more than letting people decide on just basic and general matters – they touch upon the details of legislation and governance. Although this requires a great deal of maturity from the public, the institution develops and raises expectations that the parliamentary system will thereby be amended. I do not criticise, nor do I praise. I merely state the fact.
We have certainly not yet evolved into the last stage of political democratisation, but we are heading towards it – a phase when the direct rule of the people will be further strengthened and the parliamentary form will be further restricted. This will be a finalised democratisation to which Rousseau would have made no objections. Will it gladden and satisfy our grandchildren, will it cure their woes and worries, will they see it as a system that provides social balance at least for the time being? Possibly, it will achieve this – but on one condition, the most important, most central and most urgent condition. Namely, on the condition that there will also be improvements to the moral and mental sides of life. That our grandchildren are not only sovereign, equal and free, but also truly enlightened, educated and mature. Speaking of which, the Church and schools have a far greater role to play than the shape of political systems and remain fundamental determinants of the fortunes of societies. Political problems are in fact problems of belief, morality and education. Who properly educates future generations will also solve the issue concerning the future system. This system will be fatal and pernicious, especially if it follows the path of radical democratisation, unless the next generation is morally and mentally superior to the present.
1 Cleon (?-422 BC) – Athenian commander and politician, opponent of Pericles, excellent orator and demagogue. He defeated Spartans, who had been invincible, at Pylos in 425 BC.
2 Non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda, e passa (Italian) – “Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass.”
3 Provocatio ad populum (Latin) – appeal to the people, to the general public. British election in 1924, third one during two years, followed a vote of no confidence against a minority government, the first government ever formed by Labour Party.