Looking into the history of democratic developments, it is possible to state that anti-democratic movements have played a key role in the path of democratization. Moreover, it is important to add that the anti-democratic movement in general and active campaigns against democracy, in particular, have fostered the establishment of democratic institutions throughout the world. Even the American democracy was born as the result of social conflict.
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According to Lijphart, the Westminster model of democracy provides a throughout insight into the essence of democracy not only in the United Kingdom but in the rest of the world as well. Lijphart argued that “by concentrating power in the hands of the majority, the Westminster model of democracy sets up a government-versus-opposition pattern that is competitive and adversarial” (p. 16). Furthermore, the conflict characterizes the representation of the interests of the major group. There are few large and strong interesting groups and they function in different sectors. There is no multiplicity of interest groups under the Westminster model.
However, it does not mean that the United Kingdom is an undemocratic state. On the contrary, the conflict within this model fosters the democratization of society.
Democracy as a form of government is universally recognized as the only effective system of governance. Nevertheless, the history of global democratic development is marked by anti-democratic movements. One of the main purposes of anti-democratic movements was to show the failure of democracy to protect or represent the rights and freedoms of minorities. In essence, democracy is the rule of the majority; it serves the interests of the dominant groups. Minorities, on the other side, are left with the single option – to accept the interests of the majority as their own. Even though the minorities can become majorities as the result of new elections, there are always groups the interests of which are neglected for the sake of the majority.
The role played by anti-democratic movements can be defined as consensus-oriented. Lijphart argued that societies need a democratic regime that emphasizes consensus instead of opposition, “that includes rather than excludes, and that tries to maximize the size of the ruling majority instead of being satisfied with a bare majority” (p. 33). There are several perfect examples of consensus democracy. For example, the European Union is a multiethnic entity; however, conflicts are rare.
In specific terms, democracy grants and supports the following rights: to vote, to be elected, of political leaders to compete for votes, free and fair elections, freedom of association, freedom of expression, alternative sources of information, institutions for making public policies depending on the votes.
These are the fundamental requirements for democracy. Nevertheless, this list is not self-inclusive as democracy stands for the broader meaning. Democracy is the government for people and by people. However, the majority rule undermines the core values of democracy, the ones which emphasize the importance of majority representation as minorities are simply excluded from the rights.
Special attention should be paid to the voting rights of women. In this example, the anti-democratic movements have played their key role – granted the voting right to women. Before 1971, women did not have the right to vote in Switzerland. Australian aborigines had no voting rights until 1962 while the United States had no universal suffrage until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed (Lijphart, p. 52). The women had to fight, of course through social campaigns and peaceful actions, for their voting rights.
It is important to add that the concept of democracy is not stable as it is changed and modified with every generation.
Today the idea of democracy is rather different than it was only 100 or even 50 years ago. Modern democracy grants equal rights to all people in all aspects of their lives. The racial, gender, or any other differences are not legally recognized. In other words, race and gender have no importance in modern society as democracy ensures equal protection to all people. One of the most recent examples of the anti-democratic movement is the attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The conflict between the Western and Islamic countries is very long. In addition to the ideological differences, political differences have also played an important role in conflict development. The United States responded to the attack with the war in Iraq. The result of the war is the establishment of democracy in the country. From one side, democracy establishment through military intervention is not a democratic way of bringing peace. On the other side, the anti-democratic and anti-American movements resulted in the democratization of the previously oppressed society.
Speaking about democracy development and the role played by anti-democratic movements, it is helpful to refer to the most anti-democratic system of Nazism. Relying on the definition of democracy, Nazism fits the core values of democracy perfectly as it was the system of the majority – only a dominant group of people was given rights and freedoms while the others were oppressed and excluded from the political and even social life of the country. From one side, active and open oppression of the minorities is absolutely undemocratic. From the other side, the rule of the majority is democratic in essence because the interests of the dominant groups are met.
In relation to Germany, the Nazis rose to power because of the strong social support. Nazism is often considered to be negative because of the oppressions and the actions of Hitler during World War I and World War II. The millions of murders of the Jewish people and the repressions against other nations turned Nazism into a hated ideology. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that in essence, Nazism is nationalism. Nazism is based on the belief that the interests of the nation should be protected, that the rights of the citizens have to be taken into account above the interests of others. Therefore, Nazism gained wide and stable social support for several decades. Nevertheless, in the early 1930s, the traditional supporters of Nazism turned against it. Traditionally, Nazism was supported by the social class defined as bourgeois, rich families for example. The voters supporting these parties turned against democracy as Mann argued that in the early 1930s anti-democratic moods were especially common because of the overall economic depression. The industrial workers gave their voices to the left; the Catholics voted for Catholic parties; the bourgeois parties had the support of the rest of society. The anti-democratic movement added popularity to Nazism which turned into political might. The Nazis did not appeal to the selected group of votes; they especially appealed to Protestants of all classes and radicalized them.
Lijphart. The Westminster Model of Democracy. Mann. Fascists.