Mazzini’s Reply to the Today’s Cynicism about Democracy’s Founders

Giuseppe Mazzini

There’s considerable cynicism today about politics and the effectiveness of voting. Some of this is justifiable to a certain extent, coming from the fact that all three of the main political parties – Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives – have embraced Thatcherite neoliberalism to a greater or lesser extent. So much so, that many people cannot see any real difference between them, and so despair of there being any effective change in policy. As a result, they either don’t vote, or else vote for UKIP. The Kippers present themselves as being qualitatively different from the Liblabcons as they put it, but are in fact merely the extreme Eurosceptic Tory Right which has somehow managed to find a largely Left-leaning working class constituency.

Apart from this, there is a facile cynicism about democratic politics, expressed in sneers at the motives of the people who fought and died for modern citizens – Britain, Europe and indeed across the globe – to have the vote. They are seen as acting purely in their own interest, not that of succeeding generations. You sometimes see the comment posted up on the web and made elsewhere at elections that ‘They fought for themselves to get the vote, not for me’.

T’ain’t true, as the great Italian patriot, revolutionary and democrat Giuseppe Mazzini made clear. Mazzini was an early 19th century Italian nationalist, who wanted to see the Austrian Empire expelled from the peninsula, and its multitude of states united into a liberal, democratic Italian nation. Although a patriot, he also believed firmly in the brotherhood of humanity, and from the middle of the 1830s used ‘nationalist’ as a term of abuse. He ultimately wanted a federation of peaceful, free, sovereign states. He declared although it was necessary to struggle for national freedom against foreign oppression, patriotism should be no obstacle to ‘the brotherhood of peoples which is our one overriding aim’.

He was also very much aware that democratic revolutions and uprisings could and did fail before their ideals would be victorious. Nevertheless, the ideas that motivated the revolutionaries would continue to develop and spread even when the revolutionaries themselves had been cut down. He believed that the next revolution would see the triumph of freedom and democracy in Italy and Europe, and looked to future generations for their fulfilment. In 1839 he wrote that modern revolutionaries ‘labour less for the generation that lives around them than for the generation to come; the triumph of the ideas that they cast on the world is slow, but assured and decisive.’ (Mike Rapport, 1848: Year of Revolution (Little, Brown 2008) 18).

So you have it from the mouth, or the pen, of one of the great architects of modern European democracy itself: the revolutionaries did not fight and die merely for themselves, but for us.

Cynicism about the increasingly identikit nature of the parties will only change when they do, and that will mean long, hard work by activists or the victory of genuinely alternative parties, like the Greens, Socialist Party or TUSC. The facile cynicism about the motives of the 19th century founders of democracy can be combatted by showing the words of the revolutionaries themselves, people like Mazzini, who looked to future generations to fulfil their dream of a world of peace, democracy and international brotherhood. Let’s do our best to honour their vision and sacrifice.

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4 Responses to “Mazzini’s Reply to the Today’s Cynicism about Democracy’s Founders”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  2. Bring back immediately women's state pension at 60 / Against loss age related tax allowance at 65 Says:

    When real socialists stop bothering about negative campaigning and constantly putting UKIP all over so-called left wing blogs, and begin to offer people today something with positive campaigning will anything change.

    As Gandhi observed, People’s Politics Are Their Daily Bread.

    We cannot wait to help a future generation. What future from a generation now of kids suffering Rickets and compromised immunity system. Stress is made worse from a childhood of poverty and hunger.

    If TUSC had been all socialist parties merged into one, much like Grece’s SY.RIZ.A., and had had sufficient trade union clout, their banned party political broadcast would have been shown on all TV channels, and the council elections would have given direct help to people already by large numbers of new councillors.

    New councillors that could have become new council leaders or councillors within the cabinets, that are the top decision makers in councils.

    The Bedroom Tax would have been gone.

    Councils might have already been providing free daily cafes inside an empty shop on the high street, left vacant for years.

    The socialists had the best chance since the Second World War to put in local party support towards next year’s general election.

    They got nowhere. No MEPs with No2EU. No councillors but one re-election of the socialists that I can find anywhere (?)

    TUSC is the only party that said a truth that effects 530,000 women now and millions more to come from the total losses coming in 2016 of state pension, that is food money denied just as much as sanctioned benefits:
    the state pension is not some generous gift from government, but deferred wages from our youth.

    Today, as never before in my two thirds of a century of lifetime, is voting more important for our daily bread.

    – Women denied state pension at 60 from 2013, who tend to be poorer than men.
    -Young enslaved in Workfare.
    – Disabled / chronic sick not just denied benefit but taxed with such murderous cruely as Bedroom Tax, when MPs get a second home allowance of extra bedrooms by the tens of thousands of pounds plus expenses.
    – Working poor losing benefit when wages flat-lined back to value of 2002, when prices have not.
    – Women suffering two thirds of Austerity job losses in putblic sector, when half of women are employed in government / councils, and a significant amount of these women being early retired from 50-55 with a small works pension, relying on getting state pension at 60 when this is lost and then vastly reduced after 2016.
    – All job losses in NHS mostly to women.

    These and many more millions would vote socialist if they just knew you existed.

    The English are conservative and vote loyally, because they fear the new. Their adage, All This Changes, It’s Scary.

    But millions no longer have that luxury.

    Our lives depend each day on government, who have turned against so many of us directly.

    So is socialism just going to campaign endlessly, while offering people who are dying today nothing?

    Ask the trade unions who have given Labour one third of a billion over 30 years, instead of the socialism that invented the trade union movement.

    Here is how to gain the votes of the millions going hungry today:

  3. seachranaidhe1 Says:

    Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.

  4. Mazzini's Reply to the Today's Cynicism about Democracy's Founders | SOCIALISM: the Informant Says:

    […] Source: Mazzini’s Reply to the Today’s Cynicism about Democracy’s Founders […]

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