L'expérience prouve que les sociétés à la fois multiethniques et multiconfessionnelles peuvent fonctionner dans le cadre d'une dictature comme l'Union soviétique ou encore dans celui d'un régime autocratique tempéré comme pouvait l'être la double monarchie danubienne.
En revanche, la démocratie est fatale pour ces sociétés. Une fois que les minorités dépassent un certain seuil, le système démocratique se dérègle et le niveau de violence croît.
On vient de s'en rendre compte en France avec l'interdiction de l'apéritif saucisson vin rouge dans le quartier de la Goutte d'or à Paris.
Le journaliste britannique Ed West vient de publier dans son blog du Telegraph une remarquable analyse de la situation en Irlande du nord. Je vous invite à la lire en transposant les termes « protestants » par Français et « catholiques » par ce que vous voulez. L'effet est saisissant.
Can Northern Ireland ever work? History suggests not
Imagine for one moment that the Liberal Democrats had a paramilitary wing, not one made up of vegetarians from north London armed with Fairtrade leaflets, but of brutal killers. And that the Lib Dems had murdered some 20,000 Conservative-voting civilians over the previous 40 years, sometimes by bombing pubs where they drank, or dog shows that were predominantly attended by Tories, or city centres where Tory-owned businesses dominated. Perhaps they had even stopped a bus-load of workers and separated Tories and Liberals, murdering those they identified as being from the other side.
And imagine that the Tories also had their own militia, which in turn had killed 10,000 Liberals, walking into Liberal pubs and opening fire, kidnapping blameless Liberals on their way home and torturing them to death, or stabbing Tory women to death for dating Liberals.
And that both these parties ran the drugs trade in England, controlled extortion rackets, prostitution, illegal gambling and every criminal activity in the land, killing anyone who got in the way of their business.
And that every issue that threatened the Liberal-Conservative coalition – tax credits for families, EU relations, defence – was discussed with the underlining understanding that, if one side didn’t get their way, they would start murdering civilians again.
English people who smugly lecture the world’s feuding tribes that they should follow our peace process in Northern Ireland would not – for a second – tolerate such a situation.
I should point out here that I have no particular dog in this fight, being half-English, half-Irish, and from a mixed Catholic/Protestant background, and the only side I support are the guys in uniforms who, whatever their individual wrongdoings and crimes, have not as a group taken it on themselves to become judge, jury and executioner.
I should also point out that being critical of the situation in Northern Ireland does not mean being unappreciative of peace, an allegation the blind followers of the peace process throw at critics. Nor does it mean being unappreciative of the tireless work of the British and Irish governments in getting people to talk.
But let’s not forget the inconvenient truth – Northern Ireland does not, and cannot, function properly, and eventually it will have to come to an end one way or the other. That’s because bi-ethnic states cannot work.
Perhaps I should amend that – bi-ethnic democracies do not work; multi-culturalism (in its truest sense) works fine in empires and tyrannies, but when modernity and democracy arrive demographics begins to matter. Witness what happened when the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires crumbled, or Yugoslavia. Or witness events in central Asia where, as the BBC reported this morning, the various ethnic groups had lived in harmony for centuries until 20 years ago (yes, under Russian and Soviet dictatorship).
A functioning democracy requires an unquestionably dominant majority ethnic group, and that is what makes Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Lebanon and many other hot-spots a problem.
When Ireland was partitioned Protestants amounted to less than 10 per cent of the population in the South, but Catholics were 30 per cent in the North, and that difference resulted in one state functioning harmoniously and the other eventually caving in. There was nothing wrong with Northern Irish society or its people; indeed its pre-Troubles murder rate was lower than Japan or Singapore’s today – but that 70-30 ratio was untenable.
This might not have mattered were it not for demographics, the death knell of multi-ethnic democracies, at least when the minority group has a higher birth rate. One of the reasons why the Unionists discriminated against Catholics before the Troubles began was to encourage them to emigrate, a fact of Irish life that the Protestants hoped would balance the demographic time bomb. Instead one of the most peaceful societies on earth became one of the most violent.
Demographic change was also at the heart of the Peace Process, at least as far as the English were concerned. Although Catholic birth rates have declined, they are still expected to become a majority at some stage; the English promised Sinn Féin that, if and when this happened, they could vote for a united Ireland (assuming all Catholics voted for it, which is not a certainty at all).
This, the “Brits” (ie English) are hoping, will solve the problem. Protestants would then become a minority within the new 32-county Ireland, perhaps no more than 15 per cent, not that much higher than Protestants in the 26 counties on partition. Indeed, they may well be outnumbered by eastern Europeans.
This obviously raises all sorts of problems for the Republic, which at the moment cannot afford the £6billion annual subsidy to the province (although Britain may offer to continue paying a share). Worse still, it would have inherited a gangsterised political system in which parties still have strong links to paramilitaries that have effectively evolved into criminal gangs.
But the biggest headache is Ulster’s Protestants, who may then decide they have a legitimate case, as a nation, to have their own state. The very reasons Unionists once gave for opposing a united Ireland are now gone, since the Republic is now both secular and wealthier than the North, but their identity as Ulster Protestants (rather than Irish Unionists) has only been strengthened by decades of Republican murders and English indifference. They now vote not for the pro-English Ulster Unionist Party but for the Ulster Protestant-nationalist DUP, while across the political cleavage Catholics have switched from the SDLP to Sinn Féin. The two parties are bribed to run a coalition as absurd as a joining of Likud and Hamas, or white supremicists and Islamists in England.
Democracies where voting patterns are entirely decided by ethnic group, and where parties gravitate away from the centre ground, are not really democracies at all but tribal head-counting competitions. Commentators like to say that Northern Ireland will be normalised when people vote on bread and butter issues rather than sectarian matters – this we all hope, and there are encouraging signs such as the Alliance party’s victory in the General Election, but the problem with this analysis is that nothing in human history suggests it is likely to happen.