patriot camps

Image: Marcelo Jaboo


The pseudo-patriotic mise-en-scène with the green-yellow flag disguises the vileness, to fool the fools

Democracy was born five centuries before the Christian era, in Athens. At the same time, the Roman transition from the reign to the aristocratic republic began, democratized by pressure from the commoners and their leaders who considered themselves qualified enough to integrate the political circle of power, supported by the strong principle of equality. Then, democracy hibernated for more than a thousand years, to reawaken little by little in the polis from Venice and Florence, already in Medieval and Renaissance Italy.

Robert A. Dahl, in Democracy and its critics, compares the egalitarian and isonomic experiences of two and a half thousand years ago “to the invention of the wheel or the discovery of the New World”. Etymologically, the term “democracy” derives from the Greek, combines demos (people) with kratia (government, authority). Therefore, it is the "government of the people". A revolutionary finding that brought unusual possibilities for the administration of society, never imagined in other forms of government. City-states gave way to nation-states.

Democracy experienced identity problems along the way. There are different so-called democratic ways of governing. In antiquity, direct participation prevailed; in Modernity, representation. Speaking at the Royal Athenaeum in Paris in 1819, Benjamin Constant assessed that the shift from participation to representation was linked to the metamorphosis of the ancients' conception of freedom (dedicated to public life) to the moderns' conception of freedom (dedicated to public life). private), given the historical circumstances. All under the controversial avatars of democracy.

In a thought-provoking work on the subject, Democracy and representation, Luís Felipe Miguel considers that these are disputed territories. “The expression 'representative democracy' contains an internal tension that should not be ignored, but maintained as a permanent challenge. Representation establishes, by its logic, a movement of differentiation opposed to the requirement of equality, which is characteristic of democracy. Fighting this trend, seeking to reduce the power differential between the representatives and the represented, is an ever-renewed task”. (We'll see in 2023).

Today, the passage from participation to representation has a geopolitical character. Political science texts written by South Americans evoke participation; written by European authors mainly emphasize representation. Where the State allows itself to be permeated by social demands, representation is well accepted. Where the State is a mere transmission belt for the ruling classes, participation is a requirement of the working classes to compensate for the handicap. No wonder, the inaugural editions of the World Social Forum (WSF) took place in Latin America, in Porto Alegre, the capital of the Participatory Budget (PB) to improve the management of public finances.


democracy and republic

Demos it is a polysemic notion, sometimes exclusive to segments (nobles, landowners, men, whites); sometimes inclusive of the population (women, immigrants, blacks, illiterates). Deep down, the difficulty is that democracy designates an ideal of governance and, at the same time, empirical descriptions of institutionality in countries that appear incongruous when using the terminology. Polysemy also affects the republican tradition: sometimes aristocratic-conservative with a solution of balance between the rich and the poor; sometimes democratic-progressive with the refusal of the coexistence of institutions with classist points of view. Contrasting the general interest with that of individuals simplified the dilemma; in theory, without the class division embedded in the apparatus of representation.

The road to democracy and the republic is winding and contradictory. See Venezuela, which polarizes emotions across the western political spectrum. Some classify the Venezuelan State as dictatorial, commanded by the hand of a tyrant, and propose breaking off diplomatic relations. Others consider it democratic, in charge of a legitimate exponential of the majority will, anointed by voting in free elections. The contortions on the signifiers empty their (our) intelligibility.

The move from city-states to nation-states led to transnational political associations. UN, EU, NAFTA, NATO, BRICS and COPs are more complex articulations than those recorded in the dawn of democracy. Between classical Greece and the XNUMXth century, it was postulated that democratic and republican states should be tiny, in territory and population, by today's standards. Of the city-states, San Marino and Liechtenstein remain as picturesque legacies of a vanished past. Meetings in assemblies with all citizens, with complicated logistics in now yes, have become chimeras. Population growth made John Stuart Mill discard assemblyism.

The representation seeks to apply the vector of equality to political systems of magnitude. Legislative bodies, which in the Middle Ages guaranteed the predicaments of landowners and traders, were transmuted into bodies to serve the entire (valid) population. The democratization of national states did not start from a tabula rasa. Its discursive unfolding, in essential institutions in large societies, was scrutinized by the concept of “polyarchy” formulated by Robert A. Dahl. Polyarchy (“rule by many”) is nothing more than democracy freed from incumbencies by dissatisfied democrats. It corresponds to a “formal democracy”, without a demiurgic and disruptive power to reorder the world in spite of politics.

Countries with polyarchic governments are characterized by the universalization of individual rights, public servants, direct and inclusive suffrage, the right to run for elected office, freedom of expression, alternative information and associative autonomy. This taxonomy contains the minimum for a nation to deserve the seal of democratic authenticity – and to settle doubts about it.

If small communities entail the oppression of nonconformist individuals (Athens was intolerant of Socrates), populous communities tend to be tolerant of dissent. To this end, it is essential that leaders value political and ideological pluralism, that conflicts remain within bearable limits and that violent coercion (police, military) is not used to conquer and maintain dominance in “closed hegemonies”, through authoritarianism or totalitarianism.


the democratic process

The democratic process allowed humanity to achieve: (a) political freedom under the sieve of individual and collective self-determination; (b) human development with moral autonomy and responsibility for one's own choices and; (c) the protection and promotion of interests and assets that people share with each other. This process, which is far from perfect, is linked to the values ​​of equality. This fact makes it “a necessary means for distributive justice”.

The democratic vision goes beyond the construction of the real by focusing on the perspective of changing the status quo, peacefully. Otherwise, democracy would not have overcome the institutions and beliefs that supported feudalism, or fascism and Nazism in Europe, or the bloody civil-military dictatorships in our continent. Democracy reinvents itself in struggles for rights, in the direction of possible egalitarianism to build a society without discrimination, welcoming and plural.

The attack on democracy was reinvigorated in the 1980s, with the increasing dominance of neoliberalism at the international level ever since. The neoliberal prescription is not only an economic model, but “the new raison du monde” as shown by Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, in a book with the same title. The world's new reason separates democratic aspirations from the principle of equality. Defends inequality as a priority goal of government officials, faithful to the Washington Consensus. The civilizational setback destroyed the ethical imperatives coming from the French Revolution, through the triad liberté, egalité et solidarité for the consolidation of a democratic rule of law.

“Freedom”, in the sense that one can live without being subjected to anyone's arbitrariness. “Equality”, in the positive sense of equanimity so that everyone has access to the resources of an autonomous life. “Equality”, in the negative sense against social and political exclusion, as well as against poverty, humiliation and invisibility. “Solidarity”, in the sense of the double realization of freedom and equality to transcend particularisms, access fair opportunities for self-development and share the common good with the right to dignified treatment for all. Social structures and conscience go hand in hand with full citizenship.

Some cite Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, when arguing about the supposed dynamics that uniting democracy and equality would trigger a self-destructive tendency in the long run. The collapse of democratic institutions in Italy, Germany and Spain, between 1923 and 1936, would confirm the thinker's conjecture. However, the storm was short-lived.

It is not the expansion of egalitarianism in habits, customs and ideas, but the inconclusive introjection of the values ​​of equality that intensifies conflicts, in defense of class privileges. Egalitarian policies need time to form a new common sense in society. In countries where democratic institutions have existed for more than a generation, and there has been a transparent reckoning with the past, the replacement of democracy by an exceptional regime is rare.


the patriot camps

“Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels”, the phrase of the English literary critic Samuel Johnson dates from 1775. He referred to those who hypocritically hide their personal ambitions behind their vows of love for their country and freedom. The pantomime is not an invention of the Bolsonarist extreme right. But it was perfected by the maneuvering mass that landed in front of the barracks and even in front of a Havan store, in Santa Catarina. As if they were sending an encrypted message to the “lame duck” who still mourns defeat at the polls, despite the electoral rapes committed during the campaign with public and private money. Or as if they were charging Véio a late fee.

Anti-democratic states work like coins to those who sell their support and vote, in exchange for spurious proceeds with the hyper-exploitation of workers and the withdrawal of labor and social security rights from the most vulnerable. This is what mobilized fractions of the financial, industrial and commercial bourgeoisie in favor of the re-election of the genocidal man who has 400 preventable deaths on his resume in the coronavirus pandemic. A mise-en-scène pseudo-patriotic with the green-yellow flag, it disguises its vileness, to deceive the fools with an aesthetic that reeks of Nazi-fascist manifestations.

External actions after the events of 2013 and 2015 re-signified, with the motto of corruption, the period in which President Lula and the Workers' Party (PT) governed Brazil (2003-2016). The questioning about the result of the 2014 elections, won by Dilma Rousseff, and the programmatic shift that made the elected president, pressured by the economic crisis, “let go of hope”, on the one hand; on the other hand, the lese-patria guidelines introduced by the unspeakable scoundrel who ruled the Chamber of Deputies resulted in the impeachment, capitalized on by populist right-wing extremism that has eclipsed the traditional center-right. With the pieces in motion on the chessboard, a sociopathic clown climbed the presidential ramp and supplied criminal organizations.

In Brasilia, the patriot camp had ten thousand members; now counts less than 800 zombies. Arsenals of heavy weapons (rifles, submachine guns) were seized. The burning of cars, buses, attacks and intimidation went beyond legality. Imploded the sociability of the we gave, with the connivance of authorities corrupted by Bolsonarism. As the lights went out of the sinister spectacle that was mismanagement, official decrees released the devastation of indigenous lands and appointed a military man to occupy the Secretariat of Culture in recent weeks, with the aim of stoking the death instincts. The terrorists, with the bomb armed in the fuel truck for airplanes, at the airport of the Federal District, intended to provoke chaos – for a change. They deserve to be punished with exemplarity, “within the four lines of the Constitution”. It's not the circus, it's terror.

The new government needs to show that it knows how to take care of the people and, the organized people, of the reconstruction government. The failed coup goes to the trash of history. Evil financiers and fanatics deny the electorate participatory and representative isonomy, and political egalitarianism to elect the president of Brazil. They believe themselves superior to popular sovereignty, in a parallel reality. But the strength of the democratic ideology is such that even the despot of Qatar surrendered: “This was the Cup of equality”. Disregarding cynicism, what matters is the surreptitious recognition of democracy. Hear the drum roll: The Patigiano portami via / O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao, ciao, ciao...

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.


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