Debate from ROAPE Volume 16 Number 45/46
Whose Democracy? Bourgois versus Popular Democracy
Authoritarianism, militarism and repression dominate the African political scene. What are the prospects and frontiers of democratic advance? Is liberal democracy a viable option under African conditions? Radical sceptics are joined by liberals who agree that it is not: Africa cannot have liberal or ‘bourgeois’ democracy so long as there is no proper bourgeoisie. In any case, is democracy really a priority? This essay reviews the critique developed by African radical democrats and the support it has drawn from liberal and dependency analysis. What is the radical democratic option? The primary concern is how to capture state power; the breaking of the hold of ruling classes over the lives of the oppressed. Liberal democracy has not been given much place in such strategies and processes. This, however, is changing. Increasingly forces of the left have come to accept liberal democratic platforms and alliances as means of securing the survival of popular democratic organisations and to expand the ‘democratic space’ . Ultimately, it is a question of constructing the popular bases from which state power can be contested.