I am confused as to what theorists of the State (liberals, social-democrats, your sundry right-wingers, etc.) think when they see scenes such as those presently occurring in East Timor. In particular, how do they justify the use of police and heavy militarisation with their notions of the consensual democratic State?

Currently, there are 1,100+ ANZAC troops in East Timor enforcing democracy and guarding the elections – only the second since East Timor gained a formal political independence in 1999. Fighting has been escalating in the run-up to today’s election – understandable when the elections will ensure one of the various East Timorese factions is soon to have the apparatus of the State behind it.

Several lessons are made all-too-clear when I see proto-States like East Timor being developed and democracy imposed. The first is the most obvious and yet neglected fact of any State: its foundation and maintenance through violence. Perhaps it is because the origins of the systems of hegemony that operate in New Zealand and in most of the West are long-forgotton, or perhaps it is because the the myths of necessity or social consensus with regards to the State are so strong that this most obvious point goes unmentioned. But in East Timor we can see it ever so clearly: political and economic hegemony requires the suppression of various interests and practices that operate in opposition to its logic, and when legitimacy isn’t enough to gain this consent/suppression (as with most Western States) then force is required.

It also brings to mind the most recent Fijian coup. To guarantee the success of coup, the army needed only to seize the weapons cache of the still-loyal police force. From this point, the Fijian State ceased to be able to operate effectively at all.

But perhaps what I find should be so baffling to theorists of the State is that in East Timor we have “democracy” being crafted and enforced through the use of military. How on Earth to liberals et. al. entertain notions of the democratic State as some form of consensual social organisation when we see here in the most naked form the latent violence of democracy? In these situations it becomes most clear the role of voting as a means of legitimisation of the political and economic hegemony of the State-to-be. Elections must be guarded at all costs as the bastion of this legitimisation, and all other arenas of political/anti-political action must be shutdown, through violence if necessary.

This is not to suggest that democracy should instead be crafted through some sort of non-violent means. Democracy, even if it really were the rule of the majority over the minority – which it is not – always, in the last instance, relies on the State form in some measure to impose those decisions of the majority and suppress those of the minority that are in opposition to this (and most often the minority over the majority).