From Athenian to socialist democracy

Image: Denis Zagorodniuc


Lula da Silva's first election boosted the National Conferences responsible for public policies adopted by the State. In the current term, the president radicalizes

Antiquity is often presented as a chapter in the history of slavery, which led to technological stagnation. Blocking the development of productive forces and reducing the supply of slaves would have caused the decline of the Roman empire. The connection between work and slavery generated prejudice against workers and contempt for work. “Parasite classes” were born.

Even though the production of free peasants and artisans surpassed that of agricultural producers and enslaved industrialists, the societies of yesteryear are cataloged with the common label “slavery mode of production”, given the advantage of forced labor to extract the surplus. Thus, distrust of other modes of production, which are dominant but not prominent in the fields and classical cities, remains. The scourge of racism, however, became a major guarantor of slavery only in Western economies. Long coexistence with evil perfected evil.

“If Athens corresponds to the description of a slave society, at the same time, it is the polis more democratic and in which the majority of citizens had to work to live”, points out the professor of political science at York University, Toronto, Ellen Meiksins Wood, in Democracy against capitalism (Boitempo). Escaping the tacit rule that, at the time, separated the governmental political sphere from the productive circuit, free workers became the legitimate leaders of the city-state. From the alliance of peasant-citizens and artisans emerges what is called demo (people) – the gateway to democracy, in the XNUMXth century BC The alignment of classes in a civic and military unit distinguished Athens among pre-capitalist societies. Its sociopolitical organization was equivalent to the invention of the wheel. It awakened utopia, despite the extra-economic shame that hurts our feelings today.

the value of work

Athenian innovation allowed free workers to deliberate about their destiny, supported by the myth of Prometheus for whom the “practical arts” underlie civilization. The magnificent temple to Hephaestus, the god of the forge, is explained. It is no coincidence that the divinity of Athens, the goddess Athena, is “the patron saint of arts and crafts”. Providers of goods and services received the status of citizens. Isonomy evoked equality, breaking the rules of the social division of labor that stigmatized producers.

Nas now yes, the Greeks postulated in matters relating to a specific knowledge – the construction of a ship or a building – that naval designers and architects would speak out. The reason is that such tasks presuppose teaching-learning. But if the theme involved the act of governing: “The man who stands up to give advice can be a builder, or even a blacksmith or a shoemaker, a merchant or a shipowner, rich or poor, born or not from a good family; after all, the assembly does not consider that political matters can be taught”, highlights Protágoras (apoud Plato). The Western philosophical tradition and liberating praxis are based on the ethical-political recognition of work, which capitalism reduces to the kidnapping of surplus value for greedy accumulation.

The importance of collective autonomy and the revolutionary insertion into the power structures of the memorable city can be seen. To project the future, we must historicize the habitus of the ancients and their attachment to public freedom, without falling into conceptual traps. “The eclipse of the working citizen in democratic Athens has less to do with the realities of Athenian democracy than with the politics of modern Europe,” observes Ellen Meiksins Wood. The haunting of shackles feeds the discourse of fear, with the purpose of perpetuating the idea that the division of labor is an organic part of social life, and preventing revolutions. The ideological scarecrow pasteurized reactionary conservatism.

Citizen participation

Plebeian interference in politics is the problem that has always frightened the enemies of democracy. The condemnation of moral limitations cannot throw the child out with the dirty water, from the basin. The comparison with the regime of planting (latifundia, slave service, monoculture, export), implemented by European nations in the Americas, Africa and Asia. This sad past does not belong to anyone else; it is ours. The trilogy written by Laurentino Gomes, Slavery, resolve any doubts.

Cornelius Castoriadis repudiates anachronistic objections to the segregation of slaves and women. Now, it took 2.400 years to put an end to the exclusionary institution that ended at the end of the 1893th century. However, cases of slave labor are reported every day. The extension of political rights to women only reached New Zealand in 1906; in Finland, in 1934; in Great Britain, after World War I; in Brazil, in the 1945 Constitution; in France, in 1993; in South Africa, in 2011; in Saudi Arabia, in XNUMX. One should not, out of presumption, throw stones at the auspicious governance achieved in ancient times, which continues to inspire dreams and struggles.

Detractors act like lapwings, chirping far from the nest to hide that, in feudalism, legal egalitarianization and the equisonance of prerogatives would change the condition of serfs. But, in capitalism, the universalization of political and civil predicates left the property relations between capital and labor untouched. Formal rights did not affect social inequalities, which were torn apart during the neoliberal phase. Economic elites fear losing the power of expropriation with the empowerment of the people. This is the difference between Athenian democracy and capitalist democracy.

Lula's contribution

As a result of the 30 thousand heads guillotined in the French Revolution, whose protagonists worshiped Antiquity, Europe held assemblies in public squares responsible for the period of Terror. There is no metro station named after Jacobin Robespierre in Paris. Populist referenda to the De Gaulle (1958, 1969) increased hatred towards non-representative democratic forms on the old continent. Circumstances alleviated with the international spread of the Participatory Budget (OP), from Porto Alegre, primary headquarters of the World Social Forum (WSF).

After the victory led by Cleisthenes against a tyranny, Athens becomes the leitmotiv the search for the suppression of inequities in the metropolises, in favor of the distribution of urban equipment in the outskirts – more than the insurrectionary uprisings in Petrograd (1905) or Budapest (1919). Civil society responds with fragmentary mobilizations about “the city we want” (culture, education, mobility, environment, etc.). With the PT seal, the Participatory Budgeting experience expanded across both hemispheres.

Lula da Silva's first election boosted the National Conferences responsible for public policies adopted by the Brazilian State. In the current term, the president is radicalizing. The Participatory Multi-Year Plan, with the Budget Guidelines Law (LDO), guides the Annual Budget Law (LOA). A feat in the face of the backlash formed in the National Congress.

In 2023, the Participatory PPA will be organized into bodies: (i) Inter-council Forum, which articulates the national sectors and the Social Participation Council (CPS); (ii) In-person State Plenary Sessions, which have preparatory meetings and; (iii) Digital Platform, for presenting and voting on proposals. In the plenary sessions, 309 movements and organizations spoke, with a total of 34 thousand participants. The internet totaled 8 thousand proposals, 1,5 million registrations and 4 million internet users with access to the platform. The social welfare project took root. Common people become familiar with the state machine. The gear plays a strategic role in the transition to another civilizational model. Gender and racial equality distinguishes socialist democracy from contemporary Athenian democracy.

Thiago de Mello welcomes the news: “And suddenly the morning – morning is spilled sky, it's brightness, brightness – was transforming the city / into an immense square / and inside the square the people. / This morning / I'm going walking. And I'm leaving / heading towards the morning. / The messenger beauty / of this morning / towering over the city / was given to the people.” The city has a name and voter registration card – Brazil.

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

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