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When a man like Abhisit Vejjajiva looks in the mirror, he does not see the same thing that we see when we look at him – or, at least, that is not the only thing he sees.
We look at Abhisit Vejjajiva objectively and we see a blood-stained hypocrite wholly unfit for public office. When he looks at himself, he sees a man with an entitlement to rule, he sees a man of virtue who can do anything he likes to further his own purposes and for that to be justified because of his entitlement and his personal virtue.
So, when it comes to abuse of power for political purposes, to corruption and double-dealing, plotting secret conspiracies and to a whole range of day-to-day activities aimed at bolstering the feudal order, he believes himself entirely justified.
Further, knowing what he himself is willing to do to secure power and wealth, he assumes that anyone else would do as well. So, he is more than willing to use violence to end political protests and so the dissidents must also be terrorists. He will spread money about for political purposes (as in the current ‘buffet budget’) and so the opposition must be involved in vote-buying. And so on and endlessly on.
“It is with man as with commodities. Since he comes into the world neither with a looking glass in his hand … man first sees and recognises himself in other men. Peter only establishes his own identity as a man by first comparing himself with Paul as being of like kind. And thereby Paul, just as he stands in his Pauline personality, becomes to Peter the type of the genus homo.” (Five baht for recognising this quote.)
So what can be done with people who refuse to accept the legitimacy of other people’s views because of the accident of birth and their unwholesome education, buttressed by the deference of ‘Thai culture’?
It is, as I have noted before, local election time in Bangkok and the candidates are out in the streets calling out to passers-by – on the way home last night, I was accompanied for some distance by one of the murderous cockroach-mobiles, in which a smug, well-fed man with an obvious sense of entitlement was making plain his political message: ‘ber song, ber song’ and holding out two fingers. I very nearly wound down the window and gave him some number two of my own but managed to restrain myself.
This numbering is the principal form of political communications in Thailand: the many posters and billboards lining the roads regularly feature the head of the candidate, sometimes the head of a party leader is this is deemed helpful and the number of the candidate on the ballot paper. A comparatively small number of posters have eschewed the faces of candidates for a policy message, largely from Puea Thai as might be expected but also some from the fascist NPP. Although posters and communications are colour coded (light blue for the murderers, blue and red for Puea Thai and yellow for the fascists, principally), little effort is made to use symbols or other non-verbal items. This is not very surprising in the case of Puea Thai, since it is the successor of parties that have been dissolved by ‘court order’ (which it is illegal to criticise) more than once and it is hard to build up particular momentum. The murderers do not use many symbols because they do not actually stand for anything. The fascists of course use a yellow swastika to show the true nature of their politics.
How does this type of democracy fit in with the concept of Thailand as still a feudal state, as I have described it elsewhere? Well, I came across this idea from Goran Therborn* today:
“To the extent that the popular masses could not be excluded from the politics of the ‘legal nation,’ nor be kept isolated and encapsulated by local bosses and notables, the classical form of parliamentary politics was no longer an adequate instrument. It had to be supplemented or replaced by an original politics able to take hold of these new, partly-emancipated masses and keep them in a position of subordination. This new kind of bourgeois leadership may be termed plebiscitary politics. By means of mass appeals, the politician’s message, and above all his image and attractive personal qualities, are conveyed to the people through public posters, mass-circulation newspapers, loud-speakers, and the television screen.”
This seems to be an accurate description of what is going on here: in order to hold on to its control, the feudal aristocracy has had to concede some measure of democracy (‘Thai-style democracy’) to the bourgeoisie but only that amount of democracy that allows feudal-dependent bourgeois elements to grab their own slice of power, money and status.
When that form of democracy is threatened, as for example by the formation of Thai Rak Thai, the feudal power-brokers use the various institutions under their control to smash the dissidents, as we have all seen.
“Inputs into the State,” p.53 of What Does the Ruling Class Do When It Rules?
Bearing in mind his complete indifference to any form of policy discussion and his reluctance to express any meaningful opinion at all beyond vaguely moralistic and paternalistic platitudes, it might be wondered why as Prime Minister* Abhisit Vejjajiva and his regime cling so fiercely to power when it is clear they were neither elected nor wanted and are serving up the most brutal, incompetent and corrupt government in the modern history of Thailand. There seem to be several reasons:
1) Puppetmasters in the Privy Council and elsewhere force them to hang on to power for fear that a democratically elected government would ‘reform’ the judiciary and then proper investigations would be made into the state killings of 85 pro-democracy protestors, the hundreds of disappearances that have followed, the massive campaign against free speech and so on.
2) The money. Certain Ministers have (allegedly and according to anecdote) been very busy diverting your tax baht into their own pockets and those of their numerous cronies with a view to buying votes in any forthcoming election and, indeed, providing each other with tasty nest eggs. The military of course has been looting the public purse since the disastrous 2006 coup.
3) Denying power to anyone else simply so as to perpetuate the existing status quo for the elites and prevent any meaningful change in society being made. After all, if democracy were not such a potent institution, then why do the ruling classes work so hard and extensively at denying it to the masses.