La democracia a palos / Héctor Silva Michelena

Democracy with a Stick

The French writer Claude Lefort is one of the current political scientists who have thought the most and in the best manner about democracy.

His writings constitute an effort geared toward reestablishing the relation between the idea of human rights and democracy. To begin, says Lefort, one must extricate oneself from the dilemma in which modern thought has locked itself in relation to this topic: the representations that are made of the relations between power and rights. In On The Jewish Question, Marx makes the critique of human rights when he denounces that legal ideology is incapable of seeing rights as an emanation of a socioeconomic power, where the truth can be found. I think this path is blind and that today's diminished Marxism repeats its course.

As an inverse current to this type of critique, a political religion, at least in appearance, with two branches has developed: 1) To resist all powers and always disobey them. 2) To openly assume the desire to perpetuate oneself in power. The practice of the first branch is not viable in the long run because it leads to anarchy. Contrarily, the desire or impulse to remain in power eternally becomes uncontrollable, and history has demonstrated its viability and its weaknesses.

In my view, the Marxist line and both branches of the stated political religion induce a common effect: they only allow one to think of the difference between democracy and totalitarianism as accidental, in one case, or quantitative, in the other; thus, they cloud the root of the problem: power. This surprising affinity between Marxist and political-religious (such as the one now operative in Venezuela) approaches leads to the same negation of the imaginary dimension of power (to oppose, to critique, to denounce). Rights are not an illusory costume of power, nor are they a radical alterity that rejects it, nor are they a perpetual monopoly of a single person and his regime. Power is a constituent dimension, and this is where democracy's opportunity resides.

Power does not have as its only dimension the power of the State and its weight over society. It is also the ability to oppose, to question.

In this sense, the governing majorities must recognize their circumstancial character: tomorrow they will surely be minorities. To recognize this is essential for democracy.

This is not what's happening in the country: the government has identified itself with the State. It is almost the same thing as the party or identical to a single man, whose only imaginary is power itself. All his acolytes are an echo of his fallacies and lies. From the rosary of false pearls he has been stringing together, I offer two for display which have been produced in the Asamblea Nacional, regarding the reforms to the Penal Code and to the BCV Law [Banco Central de Venezuela]. This Law was approved without a previous debate.

Since the minorities protested, Nicolás Maduro [President of the Asamblea Nacional] responded: "When there's sabotage we apply security measures."

The other opinion was seen as sabotage. But the major pearl is this lapidary maxim by legislator Iris Valera: "You won't be able to stop any of the reforms we feel like making (...) that's why we have a majority." Varela never read Gramsci, who said: "Revolution requires men of sober minds (...) who won't reduce the people to desperation and to demential internal slaughter."

Democracy with a stick because they feel like it?

{ Héctor Silva Michelena, TalCual, 4 July 2005 }

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