THE EDITOR: The essential issue re: the latest Volney-initiated kuchoor is not about all these pretentious concepts of independence of the judiciary; separation of powers; the judiciary being a “bulwark of democracy” etc.
These constructs are the curtains behind which material conflicts involving class, clique and personal interests are being fought. We always couch the pursuit of our interests in noble, ideological terms, which we assume others have bought into. So when businessmen want taxpayers to provide them with protection and subsidies they speak of the “national interest”. When governments want to spy on and victimise citizens they talk about “national security”.
The most sordid personal vendettas are presented as selfless struggles in defence of philosophical principles and the invocation of the names of past philosophers who the invokers have scarcely read or understood and hardly anybody else has heard of (Montesquieu anyone?), is par for the course.
What is clear is that when fault lines within the economic and political system become yawning chasms it means that the centre can no longer hold. The judiciary is central to the vital task of keeping modern capitalist civilisation from imploding.
The judiciary is an integral part of the structure of repression. Like the political system, it was constructed to facilitate the exploitation of labour for the purpose of accumulating capital. In the eyes of working people and the poor, the judicial system is a monstrous, alien power which utilises strange and macabre rituals to cow and intimidate the ignorant, the financially challenged and those who lack “contact”.
It is not necessarily the criminal who ends up in prison; it is not necessarily the innocent who “win their case”. Working people and the poor are quite aware that the surest route to acquittal is to be able to pay the best and most expensive lawyers.
The judiciary has very little to do with justice, but a lot to do with class. As calypsonian Luta said, “The system works for the rich. It doesn’t work for the poor”. Everybody does not stand equal before the law. The law does not protect the citizen from infringement on his rights etc. Those noble sentiments obscure the real function of the judicial system.
Along with the police and the prisons the judiciary carries out the essential function of the state which is to guarantee the dominance of ruling groups by having the capacity to apply severe sanction to those who cross the line.
But as important in maintaining that dominance is the idea of the judiciary as an impartial referee standing above the day to day fray (the class struggle). Any damage to this image forces the state to resort to repression more so than persuasion and exposes clearly to the masses the hypocrisy and deception at the heart of capitalist civilisation.
The judiciary has been a battle ground over the last few years precisely because the legitimacy of the political, economic, social and cultural dispensation has come under and continues to come under fundamental scrutiny.
It is nothing if not clear that a new social settlement is in the offing. The only questions are who are going to gain what, who are going to lose what, and under what socio-political conditions this new settlement will be imposed, negotiated or emerge. The very emergence of the People’s Partnership government attests to the search for a new modus vivendi.
People are not fooled by formulations about “the separation of powers”. Our crown colony system never had use for such undergraduate textbook constructs, which actually were not intended to describe British-influenced political systems. After all, a restless, rebellious working class had to be kept in its place and, when necessary, put firmly back in its place.
The blinkers are coming off. The institutions of repression and exploitation are quickly losing their mythical value. The factions competing for the economic and political crumbs of the offshore economy are in a desperate struggle to “reform the constitution” which is just a code-phrase for the imposition/negotiation of a new social settlement to advance their factional interests. Of course, they will appeal to the masses for support for their respective positions.
Struggles within ruling classes for reform and, thus, preservation of the neo-colonial capitalist system have a nasty habit of developing into revolutionary struggles for the abolition of the system itself.
All those who think the upheavals in the judiciary have to do with the “defence of democracy” the “upholding of the rule of law”, “the separation of powers” and other such tiresome, time-worn propaganda phrases are in for a nasty surprise. Keep up the good work, gentlemen: your internecine warfare is, objectively, in the interest of the abolition of our colonial/capitalist arrangements. I won’t mourn the system’s passing. What about you?