Oposición política y oposición social / Oswaldo Barreto

Political Opposition and Social Opposition

It was in relation to those revolutionary days that shook France in May of 1968, that J. P. Sartre revived, in all his heuristic value—his capacity for helping us understand things—, the contrast between social discontent and political opposition.

In a conversation he sustained with the editors of the German magazine Der Spiegel, in those days when he gave himself to politics in body and soul, the French philosopher, when he attended to the role this gap between the social and the political had played in France's history, used words whose echo can still be heard in any place where a situation of a crisis of democracy is experienced, like the one that exists among us today. First, he evoked a recurring history: "Since the middle of the previous century—the XIX, obviously—there exists a gap in France between the social reality and its political expression. Two images of the country coexist, without superimposing themselves on each other: one, which is revealed by the results of scrutinies; the other, more profound, which takes the shape of lightning bolts, only appears when spontaneous popular movements arise." And, later, in response to the German journalists who asked for an explanation of the dramatically contradictory fact that general De Gaulle's power, who found himself crushed by the massive and diversified street protests, seemed to have consolidated, he gave an answer which seems to us to have a universal reach: "It happens," he said, "that the workers or members of the middle class can't assume radical positions unless this is done through action; if the mistake is made—or if one has the shrewdness—of reducing the joint actions of these classes to a choice between formations or political parties, one can lead them toward condemning, with the vote which is, in absolute isolation, deposited in the ballot boxes, what they had gained in the streets."

The same people who with their protest marches, their various meetings, strikes and company and public institution take-overs formed a single communion, which as it imposed changes on the companies and institutions, seemed to impose on De Gaulle his resignation, well they kept him in power when that communion was dissolved by the individual vote.

What is universal in Sartre's lesson is that there are things which cannot be achieved with the vote, among others, the guarantee that the vote itself will be emitted legally and will be respected.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, TalCual, 25 July 2005 }

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