Those who wonder how a totalitarian state sets in, and how an inattentive, even reluctant, population gets trapped by state propaganda, eventually getting caught up by oppressive measures, can just consider what recently happened in our Western democracies. We have had before our eyes the unfolding of a natural—albeit unexpected and accelerated—political process whereby democracy evolves into totalitarianism, and this without constitutional changes. It is in the very nature of democracy to do this. There is nothing accidental here—only the relatively fast process can be surprising.
Most Westerners believe that democracy is a political regime whereby the will of the people is respected, transferred to the representative assemblies, and automatically reflected by the government. The system cannot fail. Those who govern the country will inevitably respond to the will of the population’s majority and therefore the policies they enact meet the expectations of that majority. As a result, for the sake of its democratic legitimacy, the people are expected to submit to the decisions of the government and the imperatives of its laws. There is no way out. Legitimacy is based on an elective process, not on objective good.
Despite this “reassuring” theory, the true nature of democracy is quite different. First of all, the consent of the population is not free but fabricated by media and many influences more or less supervised or financed by the state. When people vote, they rarely promote candidates they have actually chosen. Quite the contrary, they support people that are put forward by political parties on the ground that they were found fit for political manipulation. Once those candidates are elected, they typically forget about those who voted for them. They turn to another world. They become detached from reality and connected to power. Here starts what modern democracy has been designed for: a weak and unstable political regime submitted to money powers that are definitely stronger and more durable than any of the short-lived political rulers. Behind the façade of elections and debates, the real purpose of democracy has always been the same since the 18th century: transferring the sovereignty from the hands of an impartial king to those of a wealthy class. The people, or nation, fit in the equation only as a legitimacy provider, while they have actually no say in the running of the country.
Because of its weakness and recurrent instability, modern democracy has but two options: unrest and chaos or strengthened centralization and state control. It chose the latter as no one knows what would come out of revolution. The second option is definitely safer for those who benefit from the regime. After all, modern democracy is based on universal suffrage and no one can go against it. Nobody can deny that laws that reflect the will of the majority are, if not the fairest possible laws, at least the best way to maintain social peace. The concept of a sovereign people gives the state an unprecedented power and no one can oppose it. That’s why democracy is so close to totalitarianism. They are both part of the same family, the family of mass political regimes where the people have no means to oppose the state since the state is supposed to be born from them.
The real beneficiaries of democracy are money powers. They support political activists and political parties on the condition that they will favour their financial or commercial interests. A politician has but few occasions to get into office. His dream is accessing public finances to his own benefit. Such a dream can only come true if he gathers support from money powers that will back his political success. Without their support, political power is only accessible with a significant personal fortune. Most of the political candidates know they only buy power with concrete promises made to those who are willing to pay.
Among the main money powers active in politics are weapons manufacturers, oil companies and energy providers, banks, real estate and commodity magnates, car manufacturers, international transport companies, media companies, and pharmaceutical companies. There are many others. The more they sell essential goods, the more powerful they become. That’s why ‘Big Pharma’ is so powerful. The recurrent collusion between pharmaceutical companies and political powers, identified in the U.S. as well as in Europe (for example, the link between the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, through her husband Heiko, and Pfizer) gives us a clue of the huge interests that are at stake. (If I sell vaccines and you have the power to make them mandatory, by all means, we should work together). Never before have the pharmaceutical companies had the opportunity to force vaccinations onto almost the entire world population. This is an unprecedented commercial operation. It would be naïve to believe it was left to chance. Where so much profit can be predicted, some coercion is necessary.
This is what we are witnessing in Europe and in many other countries around the world. For two years, governments have encouraged fear through media and all other possible means. False data have been published. Coercive measures have been imposed, dropped, then imposed again by governments that were blatantly unprepared. The COVID-19 measures also gave the impression of a chaotic emergency, inducing people into blind confidence and submission.
Democratic regimes have shown their totalitarian faces. Buying vaccines with public money will lead to higher inflation, which very few are aware of, since the governments’ resources are likely insufficient to support the expenditure. This leads to either borrowing more money from banks or creating more money out of thin air via more printing. In either case, they will bring about inflation. Who warns against that consequence? If anyone does, such a warning looks unimportant or inappropriate in the context of a global pandemic.
It is clear that governments, over the past two years, have taken advantage of the pandemic to force the population into obedience and thereby significantly increase the intrusive power of the state. Many laws and human rights have been infringed. Authoritarian measures have been imposed and their irrational or contradictory nature have been denounced by very few people. This, at least, shows the masters of the world how far state violence can go and where it starts meeting resistance. But it can also be understood as a more ambitious plan from money powers to turn democracies into puppet political regimes of whose strings they can be in full control.
As an historian, I can now better understand how Nazism was imposed on Germany and Bolshevism on Russia, when I consider the massive acceptance of authoritarian measures by the Western world’s population over the past two years. To save one’s job, or just to stay part of a community and enjoy a normal social life, the vast majority of the Western population is prepared to accept a form of authoritarianism. Never, however, will those people admit they are doing this. They would be shocked at my comparison with Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union—they will typically defend the official version and justify the authoritarian measures, even the most drastic ones.
One can see otherwise educated and intelligent people approving measures that they would strongly condemn in any other context. People are not stupid. They are just too specialised and lack common sense. Outside of their specialisation, most of them lack the tools to think critically and, consequently, tend to adhere to the official version that is delivered by the government or the mainstream media. Modern democracy, with its conformist education and media, has prepared its population to conform. Now, very few people would fight for freedom for they do not see it to be under threat. Security, on the other hand, has become the most cherished value. The average Westerner would readily give up freedom for the sake of security, trusting his government and letting himself be deprived of his rights, wealth, and dignity, until he realises he’s lost security too.
No totalitarian state can firmly establish itself without identifying its enemies, those who are deemed to be dangerous for both state and society. Constantly denouncing those people, in the harshest possible terms, is a necessary part of a totalitarian government’s policy. This time, the scapegoats are the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated are named a danger for public health and deemed responsible for the long duration of the pandemic. The words of Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo from September 2021 are worth quoting:
This pandemic becomes a pandemic of the unvaccinated. It is not acceptable that some people put other people at risk. The unvaccinated are responsible for that.
And again in December 2021:
This little group of people [around 25% of Belgium’s population] has too significant an impact. We cannot allow it.
Encouraged by the prime minister’s stands, the Belgian press became aggressive: the unvaccinated are “irreducible opponents,” “selfish,” “criminals,” and “a real threat for our democracy.” They “pressure the hospitals,” they “should not be given access to the media,” and they “kill people through their uncivil behaviour.”
Apart from being a highly profitable commercial operation for ‘Big Pharma’ companies, the pandemic has served to demonstrate two things: first, that Western political elites are, generally speaking, eager to submit to the money powers, and second, that the majority of the population can willingly be driven into an oppressive system. Thankfully, as this essay was written, Canadian truckers were blocking Ottawa with a massive support of the population. Perhaps the West is more resistant than expected.
Christophe Buffin de Chosal is a Belgian historian. He is the author of The End of Democracy, Tumblar House, 2017.