“Calling oxen by name” – simple and perhaps utopian considerations about democracy in my country’s opinion

I was used to the national language and always heard this sentence, which reflects the authenticity of the rural population: “Calling oxen by name”. I am not repeating it because of the pandemic which serves as the text and pretext for almost all news and opinions. I use this popular saying because I think it fits the topic that I have long wanted to talk about in an unpretentious, simple and direct, but also utopian way: Portuguese democracy (and not just ours) and the names, the truth and the lies of the parties that compose it.

Our democracy is known to have been politically distorted from April 25, 1974 until now, to the point where, when it turned 40 (in the times of the Troika and the neoliberal government of Passos Coelho), it had its association, its hat name published a poster by Júlio Pomar and Henrique Cayatte, which shows a large white question mark on a red background. Fortunately, it remained a formal democracy, but not a clearly defined political and economic-social democracy. Maybe not in any country today. That means: It is not a democracy of the citizens, but mainly of the parties that must and must exist, but with a different character than the schools of “careerism” (a kind of Cursus Honorum) that begins in the parishes (if not parishes) and ends with the government and parliament, going through the various positions that arise along the way. This deficiency makes it possible not to create a new form of fascism – as a historian, I have always thought that “fascism”, unlike Umberto Eco, is not eternal and adapts to a time and even (pardon the term) the ” Ideals ”and ideologies of a time – but also other equally dangerous new forms such as“ populism ”, which so far and fortunately has presented itself as a seemingly strange and generally short-lived reality, although this may not be the case in the present and future.

Aside from the PCP, the Communist Party of Portugal, which has shown itself for better or for worse as a kind of religion in which belief overcomes possible doubts, it is certain that the parties of our political chess have deviated from their supposedly original meaning because now they want to be “left” without being, or “right” without being. I remember here a debate for the Presidency of the Republic between Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and André Ventura. Regarding the “right”, candidate Marcelo, and now our president again, said that one was “social right” which was the other, “security right” and “fear”, which would mean to his opponent. In fact, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, as the ex-president of the PSD, should never consider himself “right”, as a party with that name and profound social traditions could never be understood that way.

What I mean by that is that if the PS has to consider itself “left” and assert itself as the defender of social democracy or democratic socialism, not far from it, at least in the center, in a tradition that is (as is assumed) emerging Sá Carneiro, the PSD – Social Democratic Party, should have been noted – should have been called PPD (Partido Popular… Democrático). Looking at it, and most importantly, seeing yourself as “correct” means completely changing the meaning of the words and their respective acronyms. For this reason I was always amazed at the neoliberal action of the PSD with the governments of Cavaco Silva, Durão Barroso or Passos Coelho, which were also imbued with the government of Socrates of the Socialist Party and were not far from this endless thirst for privatization or their acceptance in the name of free competition. The interests of capitalist liberalism came to the fore, as had happened in England, of course with the conservative Thatcher (influenced by American economists) and already in a spurious way (with the sophistry of the “third way”) with the work of Tony Blair . This neoliberal outbreak – and there are those who say that “neoliberalism never existed …” – made it difficult for me and so many Portuguese to vote for the Socialist Party of which I was honored, at a difficult and early moment our belonging to include democracy.

It is therefore important that some social goals, sometimes realized in the positions of socialist and social democratic leaders (in this case, who have so far deviated from them) become real principles of social democracy. Otherwise we speak of “freedom” as everything that belongs to the “right” parties, a freedom that we cannot lose from a political point of view, as I said in an article by PÚBLICO, José Pacheco Pereira. I and my colleague speak of freedom as a non-individualistic political right, the limit of which is the “common good” in a social democracy – beware of the term “welfare state”, which was one of them the slogans of fascism and thus also of fascism Marcelism – and not an economic freedom, which has always been an ambiguous concept since the beginning of liberalism and used by private forces, which ultimately justified the development of capitalism, which now reaches (un) predictable limits and is difficult to counter.

Even the CDS with its leaders like Portas, Assunção Cristas and now with the young Francisco Rodrigues dos Santos has finally forgotten the meaning of its acronym “Centro Democrático Social”. It is true that the PP, People’s Party, was added, which may precede populism, but this was also the name of the Christian Democratic Party of Italy founded in the 90s and 1919 by Luigi Sturzo, who disagrees with the wanted to identify pure liberalism and spoke out boldly against the rise of fascism. Today the CDS has forgotten its origins as the “center”, social Christian party, which it certainly wanted to be when it was its leader Freitas do Amaral (why did it become PS minister?), And is so populist after all that it is loses ground on true populism.

“Call them ox by name” – parties must follow their principles and acronyms. Go to the right, as long as you are not a neo-fascist and a racist (which many doubt), the populism of Chega, of that André Ventura who is everything and nothing and who should be talked about as little as possible and leave that there too the liberal initiative, albeit with a different meaning, with its many guidelines should be used as a liberal party. And that on the “left”, in addition to the parties mentioned above, where the PCP has to assert and reassert itself in the elections (a special greeting on the 100th birthday!), There is the Bloco de Esquerda, which is ultimately formed by them who always militarize in radical parties or those who have lost hope in the other so-called “left” parties. And … Free and other movements that intend to fulfill a calendar that is or is considered to be “left”. However, these parties should not be multiplied and, as much as possible, unite around their ideals, which should be discussed more. But we are in a time when the critical sense has been lost (not the will to criticize everything, which is ultimately a variant of accepting everything), left, right and right ”.

I only spoke as a citizen or … as a politician (words with the same etymological origin, a Latin and a Greek). If you want, in the “cosmopolitan” sense, which ultimately means “citizenship in the cosmos”, but with a home and its identity. And forgive me if I hadn’t talked about the Covid … If I had, I wouldn’t have said anything about the virus and how we should have escaped it, but about those who are fighting anonymously for the pandemic at all costs not to spread it further to the unfortunate who suffer and the opportunists who take advantage of it. And I would dedicate this text to my brother-in-law Ivo, who was one of his victims.

Retired Full Professor at the University of Coimbra and Citizen

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