Retornar a la política / Oswaldo Barreto

To Return to Politics

We've talked in TalCual about the "exile of politics" as the great disease of our current society, an ailment that were it to maintain itself could take us calmly and almost imperceptibly to the consolidation of absolute power by
Hugo Chávez. The awareness that this affirmation can be appreciated as a fallacy by one and all or, what would be even more serious, like the pessimistic acknowledgement that we are facing a tragedy that is fatally enveloping us, obliging me to certain considerations regarding the implicitly established link between politics and democracy.

Considerations we will undertake, as I hope will not escape the reader, more with the intention of reliving distant experiences, than with the pretension of immersing ourselves in demanding scientific analyses.

It happens that this relationship between politics and democracy or—what is closer to our matter—between an absence of politics and forceful regimes, the already distant decade of the mid-fifties to the mid-sixties was fixed and sunken into our memory—from last century, of course. It was revealed to me, if there were obviously many differences between them, that all of them had been imposed on those societies and had not been chosen freely. In words used too often but perfectly intelligible: they were surely dictatorships.

These were, undoubtedly, the Spain of Franco; the Iran of the Sha Reza Pahlevi; the Czechoslovakia of Novotny, puppet of the Soviets who claimed to govern representing the Czech Communist Party; and the Soviet Union itself, governed by Brezhnev, a mediocre militant who surely ignored from which dark forces the power he wielded came from, like any one of those other tyrants. It was unnecessary, for the young man I was then, to live in those countries to be updated on the fact that the first two were typical varieties of fascism and the other two of communism. Only that, being a militant of the communist movement who understood the originary sources of those regimes, I found it strange and contradictory that the public life of those societies would reveal itself as so different than what had been Italy and Germany under fascism and the Russia of the Bolsheviks in the Lenin era.

In those countries, the masses obeyed and the government ordered.

But, within the respect of that distribution of roles, everything seemed regular, normal and even fun. People worked or studied, ate, went to the movies or watched soccer, went to bars and even to churches. But what you never saw anywhere in those societies was political gatherings or political proclamations. Definitely not those! Neither from the government nor from civil society. Not one meeting, not one street assembly, not even a public party to celebrate a victory or commemorate a defeat. Nothing.

What a different life was lived in Italy during the eruption of fascism after the ascent to power of Mussolini, or in Germany, between Hitler’s failed military coup in Munich and his designation as chancellor, after his electoral victory! And what to say about the first years of Soviet power, the years lived by Lenin. In those three countries during those years, everyone was concerned with politics and, once the opposition was defeated, the governments continued deploying for a time their own political activity.

And when the dictator is able to exile politics he no longer requires either open terror, or selective repression to maintain himself and operate as he wishes. The passivity of the masses sustains him.

History teaches, regarding what became our experiences in that decade, already a half century ago, that only the return of politics is able to bury dictatorships, that of Franco, of the Sha, or Pinochet’s in America. But regarding the necessity in which we find ourselves once again facing this reversion, where political action comes up against dictatorial power, it's worth remembering another historical lesson, the one formulated in an aphorism by Ranke: “The tendencies of history never act by themselves, great personalities are needed to make them effective.”

Great personalities who, within the concrete circumstances we inhabit, will return us to that passion for political action.

{ Oswaldo Barreto, TalCual, 24 March 2006 }

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