kaleidoscope of democracy

Image: Denis Zagorodniuc


In Latin American fantastic realism, whoever was supposed to run was stuck in 2018; who should be in prison runs in 2022

The democracy of the ancients was exercised directly; that of the moderns by means of a representation. In the first, the vote deliberated on the direction of society and the State in an assembly, which did not include women, slaves and foreigners; in the second, the vote elects those who will deliberate in the legislative temples. Before, democracy was the power of the demos and it had a commendable sense; nowadays, it refers to power centered on representatives of the people and enjoys a concept in vertiginous decline. Liberals evaluated the change of paradigms in the light of mutations in the conception of freedom. Some practiced it in the public sphere to deal with matters relevant to the destiny of society. polis; others in the private sphere to deal with matters linked to an atomized, if not alienated, existence.

In Athens (XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries BC), democracy did not presuppose voting for the occupation of governmental tasks. An isogenesis (equality of origin), an isonomy (equality before the laws) and an isegoria (competence to express opinions) were recognized in the citizens who were predisposed to carry out the referred activities, provided that there were no obstacles on the part of those who gathered in public square, under the aegis of the word. The choices were made by lot, with the exception of the military commander. Administration was of and for the many, not of and for the free few. The regime that appoints the so-called “best” was considered an aristocracy, rather than an isocracy. Conciliators speculated a synthesis between democracy and elective aristocracy, with the nomination of candidates for positions for further selection by vote. Philosophers, however, distrusted governance based on the protagonism of citizenship. They propounded themselves on the anointed throne of rulers.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, admirer of the agitation in Now yes of antiquity, was an exception. He despised the delegation of authority as he recorded in Letters Écrites de la Montagne (1764), when criticizing contemporaries who sought political legitimacy in peoples of the past: “Not in Romans, Spartans or Athenians. You are merchants, bourgeois, occupied with private interests; people for whom freedom is only the means of acquiring without hindrance and of possessing in security”. Nevertheless, the lone Genevan hiker thought the new democracy unfeasible in large territorial States. After Thermidor, which ended the Jacobin revolution in France (1793-1794), with a balance of 30 heads rolled into the basket (including those of Danton, Robespierre and Guillotin, the doctor who invented the guillotine), the prestige of direct democracy sank because it was associated with aggressiveness, intolerance, fanaticism and blamed for staging the theater of terror.

Christian, secularized egalitarianism boosted the struggles for democracy against oligarchies that interested the rich, just as participatory democracy interests the poor. The secularization of Christianity questioned the prejudice that fell on manual workers who, until the Renaissance, were seen as beasts of burden, unable to command because they were used to serving. It was the belief rooted in the circles of the Ancien Régime. Jusnaturalism, on the other hand, strengthened the postulate about the inalienable and inviolable natural rights of each one. The Paris Commune (1871), the Russian Revolution (1905; 1917) and the Factory Workers’ Councils in Italy (1919-1920), to pick up iconic episodes from universal history, recovered the idea of ​​societies capable of setting themselves in motion to self-instituted, without guardianship or domination. With autonomy overcoming heteronomy.

In the twentieth century, within the kaleidoscope of disparate images, democracy built a reputation that seemed indestructible. The fight against the rotten dictatorial powers (Germany, Italy, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua) revealed the explosive energy of the egalitarian ideology. Democracy dispensed with adjectives and imposed itself as the ideology of the future. No wonder George Burdeau opened the book, Democracy (Seuil), published on the eve of May 1968, with the sentence: “Democracy is today a philosophy, a way of life, a religion and, almost incidentally, a way of governing”. It was imagined, at the time, that democracy exceeded politics, reconfigured the common, horizontalized social relations, reinvented morals, customs and gave a plural color to the socialist utopia. There was plenty of optimism of reason and action for the insubmissive sixties generation, which reeked of the early ages.

The optimism was shared by an eminent thinker, an unavoidable reference on the subject, when he wrote an article on “The democracy of the moderns compared with that of the ancients – and with the later ones” (1987), compiled in Norberto Bobbio: the Philosopher and Politics (FCE). “Today, democracy is a term with a strongly positive connotation”. In sync with time, in Politics and Education (1993), Paulo Freire inserted democracy in the “humanization process of the human being”, the result of a collective journey with dialogue and decision. It is as if, for posterity, all that remained was to make an inventory of the struggles that would introduce democracy in the dining room of the patriarchal family, in the slave quarters where the memory of slaves from the colonial period lives, in the teaching places to readjust the teaching/student bodies / administrative, in city halls to distribute the municipal budget and, of course, in the media to democratize mediations.

The victory of the Workers' Party (PT), with Lula da Silva, in the presidential election of 2002 echoed the movement for democratization that, nationally and internationally, opposed the hegemony of neoliberalism. It also showed a strong resilience to the barbarism embodied in fratricidal neoliberal policies, recommended by the Washington Consensus and propagated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Progressive governments in Latin America (Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela) made the continent “revolutionary, par excellence”, in the expression that honors the Ecuadorian political scientist Agustín Cueva, erecting barriers to counter-civilizing attacks. José Artigas and Simón Bolívar were reborn, sword in hand, in the region.

The dismantling of the emancipatory wave was engineered by the United States, with the “hybrid war” at the heart of nationalities and the use of lawfare and impeachment to bring down legitimately elected officials. It started with the dismissal of President Fernando Lugo, in Paraguay, in 2012. President Dilma Rousseff was not the first victim of prefabricated injustices. Lava Jato was part of the predatory capital strategy. On the economic level, by destroying the largest Brazilian companies and opening wide the doors to imperialist plunder, in a monstrous crime against the country that still goes unpunished. On the political level, by stigmatizing and persecuting opponents with the judge's toga and gavel. The corruption of the judicial function turned into a whip to punish the insurgents.

Thirty years ago, the dangers of democracy corresponded to: (a) changes in behavior patterns that challenged patriarchy (sexism) and colonialism (racism), and needed to be metabolized by society as a whole; (b) the vulnerability caused by attacks by terrorist groups, with forms of containment that threatened fundamental guarantees; (c) the technocratization of administration, in contradiction with the need for popular control over the governance It is; (d) the monopolization / oligopolization of the media that pasteurized information according to the desire of the economic elites, namely, the rentiers who, indifferent to unemployment, hunger and death, only care about finances. And nothing more / Only one afternoon when you can breathe, as in the song by Silvio Rodríguez.

In the 55st century, the situation worsened with the crisis of constitutional democracy and the rise of the extreme right, which point to the formation of illiberal power structures. This means shooting at the Republic's protective casemates, like the Federal Supreme Court (STF); praise for the violation of individual rights and contempt for the pain and consequences of the suffering of women who fought the dictatorship, for those who boost their careers in the shadow of torturers and militiamen; the militarization of the state apparatus with the allocation of eight thousand creatures from the barracks, symbolized in Gal. Pazuello, the incompetent Minister of Health who took office during the pandemic; the expenses of the Presidency's office with the corporate card in figures to embarrass the bankers; the 732% surcharge, equivalent to R$2000 million, in the purchase of school buses and illicit contributions for the construction of XNUMX schools fake; the billions to Centrão's secret amendments; the privatizations for bananas of the collective strategic assets (Petrobrás, Pre-Salt, Port of Santos, Eletrobrás, Embraer, Correios, Caixa Seguridade, etc.); all of this weakens the immunities of democracy and increases aversion to politics. The common good is confused (bonum commune) with the good of compadres (bonum proprium). Among us, the State of exception dispensed with the camouflage of legality, to show off in the senseless march of assault on democratic sociability towards the grand finale: the coup d'état of the clique, in order to escape the announced and belated arrest.

“No legitimate president has given so many reasons to be rigorously investigated, exonerated by impeachment and prosecuted, nor did he have such protection and tolerance for his criminal evidence. There is no police, there is no judiciary, there is no Congress, there is no Public Ministry, there is no law that subjects Bolsonaro to due. The demonstrations do not cease. They give a measure of the degradation that institutions, the country's operating system and society in general have suffered in recent years. And they accept it”, accuses the journalist Jânio de Freitas. Obviously, the ruling classes are colluding with the uninterrupted series of affronts to minimal decency and minimal decorum – which humiliate the nation. Certainly, those "from above" see themselves in the mirror of the rastaqueras that plunder the nation, but do not touch the pockets of the powerful. On the contrary, they take away labor and social rights (food, health, education, culture) from the people – which they have always disliked – making them work harder and harder for lower wages.

The election of Alberto Fernández in Argentina, Luís Arce in Bolivia, Pedro Castillo in Peru and Gabriel Boriac in Chile, added to the promising prospect of Lula's anointing in October in Brazil, unveils the brave turnaround of antineoconservative, antineoliberal and antineofascist currents in the South Global. The recovery of the left is under way. The articulations of the Foro de São Paulo (the ideological urticaria of Olavo de Carvalho et caterva) that unites the progressive parties of the AL and, of the Puebla Group, which privileges the political exchange of personalities – prove the vitality and diversity of the mobilizations for popular sovereignty. Democracy to “southern” as opposed to “northern” the continental morning, if it is founded on representation, preserves from the ancients the impetus to broaden citizen participation in the continuous elaboration of proposals that reinvigorate efforts “from below” with a view to emancipation, with technologies that provide instantaneous interventions through computers.

Bobbio states that “the foundation of a democratic society is the non-aggression pact of each one with all the others and the obligation to obey collective decisions, based on the rules of the game pre-established in a consensual agreement, the main one being that which allows solving conflicts that arise without resorting to reciprocal violence” (idem). With the pacification pact, individuals abandon the Hobbesian state of nature. With the pact of obedience, the norms of coexistence constitute civil society. However, appeals to pacify spirits and obey constitutionality do not move sociopolitical fascism, which surrounds the conjuncture with uncertainties: either by adapting the homo homini lupus the definition of the German Nazi jurist, Carl Schmitt, on politics tribalized in the exclusionary binomial “friend-enemy”; whether by converting the dogmatization of convictions into the fulcrum of litigation in bad faith, in total disrespect for the Weberian “ethics of responsibility”.

At the international level, as seen in the war in Ukraine, the principle of non-aggression was undermined by reactive Russia and, at the same time, by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which stirs the mango on demand from the USA. The United Nations (UN) and the Security Council failed to bring order to the chaos. The principle of self-defense prevailed, which, justly or unfairly, led to the outbreak of war, moreover, without prior consultation with the population. Contrary to what the saying goes, it is not the elision of the truth that inaugurates wars, but the authoritarian procedures that decorate the insane declarations.

As a result, bombs collapse buildings and bridges (real and figurative) together with the frustration of expectations of happiness of millions of people, even if they are not directly involved in the Eurasian malaise, as a result of reprisals that act like windsocks at the airport. They are interrelated things: the preservation of democratic States and the democratization of the international system.

We have to find Ariadne's thread to get out of the labyrinth that imprisons the democracy we want. Leadership with recognition and credibility in both hemispheres has never been so missed by the world – and Brazil. This gives drama to the forthcoming elections: foreseen, but not guaranteed. I could. In Latin American fantastic realism, whoever was supposed to run was stuck in 2018; who should be in prison runs in 2022.

* 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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