Dialogue with Pedro Nuno Santos | opinion

There’s an old joke that has kept renewing political utility. One day a man who considered himself a kernel of corn was admitted to a hospice because of his pathology. For weeks the doctors struggled to convince him that he was not a kernel of corn, but a person. As soon as you recognize yourself as a person, you are allowed to leave the hospital. However, when opening the front door, he falls back and closes the door quickly: there was a chicken outside and he was afraid to be eaten. “You know very well that it is not a corn kernel, but a person,” said the doctor. “Of course I know,” replies the man, “but does the chicken know?”

It serves this story to take part in the reflection initiated by Pedro Nuno Santos (PNS), in which he examined the results of the presidential elections and the role of the Socialist Party in this process. The thesis put forward by PNS is that the lack of a party candidacy in the presidential election was a compromise for a centrist tactic, the long-term consequence of which is to strengthen the far right.

I’ll start by saying that PNS’s central thesis is not new, it was announced publicly back in 2018 and this time it is only using the presidential election framework to request its confirmation. Hence, it is not possible to be criticized for the chosen timetable, since neither democracy is suspended nor the presidential elections have to take place without analysis. Strange are some voices who, without going into the content, criticize the timing in order to escape the discussion or to deepen arguments.

It also seems to me that the PS’s election of the center did not start with the presidential election. The hidden rhetoric of the absolute majority in the 2019 parliamentary elections was already an answer to the fundamental question that the government has been asking since António Costa: Would the political change initiated in 2015 be a turn to the left of the PS or just a bracket in the centrist one Is it drifting to the point that the PS (and the rest of the PS around the world) have embarked since the “third way”? In the attempt to “govern unhindered” and to free oneself from the parties on the left, this centrism prevailed as a new political program in the face of the “inventions”. This temporal distance makes it clearer that the rejection of a political agreement by the left in the post-legislative period was already a structural part of the proposed new party agreement, a process that was carried out in the state budget for 2021.

To go back to the presidential elections and reaffirm the thesis of this centrist temptation, let’s look at Carlos César’s words: “Thanks to the socialist voters, democracy won in the first round”. Drawing on the rhetoric we have seen in other countries (Macron’s example is the most recent), the analysis leaves out the dichotomy between left and right and reduces the choice to the dispute between democracy and the non-democratic field. The consequence of this thought is well summed up by PNS in the centrality given to the right-wing extremist candidate.

We know that politics cannot just be the art of the possible. Those who accept these brief views might think that if the right is taken hostage by the extreme right to rule or use this blackmail with the parties on the left, they will remain in power. However, this only serves to maintain that which has existed and to reject the reactions and advances that people are demanding for their lives, to reject the fight against inequalities and backwardness in the country that arouses the discouragement and discontent that the extreme right can practice.

Going back to the story with which I started this article, it is important to affirm the centrists’ drift and also to defend a leftist position. But the question remains: will the PS trust that?

So, if the PNS analysis is correct, the question remains what constitutes it. The fact is that the “external and internal blockades” result from the ideological decisions to which the PS resulted. The relationship to public property and the defense of public services, the deficit targets and budget execution, taxation, the response to social inequalities and poverty, the defense of the world of work, the fight against various forms of precariousness or submission to the European Union the unresolved dilemmas. The TAP dossier shows this.

For this reason, it is important to come back to the story with which I started this article, to affirm the centrist drift and also to defend a leftist position. But the question remains: will the PS trust that?

The author writes according to the new orthographic convention