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The Failure of a Model: Towards Direct Democracy

quinta-feira 11 de julho de 2013, por Florismar Oliveira Thomaz, Florismar Oliveira Thomaz

Todas as versões desta matéria: [English] [Português do Brasil]

In the ongoing movements, there is a rejection, still somewhat diffuse, conscious or not, of the dominant forms of exercising power. I think that we are experiencing the beginning of the failure of a model, which calls into question the structure of the State itself.

“Afasta de mim esse cale-se: Please remove this command of silence”

Translated by Diane Garceau

The protests that we are witnessing on different continents, also involving Brazil, occur through the initiatives of people who interconnect, spontaneously, from various territorial points, giving rise to huge manifestations, without the necessity of a vanguard. This calls into question concepts and sociological models that up to now have been considered scientifically unquestionable. One thing is certain, in the ongoing movements, there is a rejection, still somewhat diffuse, conscious or not, of the dominant forms of exercising power. I think that we are experiencing the beginning of the failure of a model, which calls into question the structure of the State itself.

The practices which up until now have been considered democratic by traditional social movements, based on large assemblies and public conferences, and focussed on majority decisions, are now being superseded by a model that comes from every person who no longer accepts being represented. I see this as the reclaiming of individuality that until now had not been allowed or tolerated by the current hegemonic model. But this does not mean that we are acting as isolated individuals in the social networks. The novelty is that interactions are not only taking place on the internet. People are going out onto the street, united by affinity and identity to certain cultural collectives, with very different and at times even antagonistic ideas.
We are living a historical moment of turbulence, in terms of the growing contrast between the accelerated and consistent advancement of technology, and the collapse of the foundation and principles of the paradigms that are dominant in the management of society. In this situation, the present is unsustainable and the future is ambiguous!

The results obtained by modern information and communication technology enable the elaboration and spread of knowledge, produced independently by each person in their moment and space of isolation, moving beyond submission to leaders, commanders, social delegates, the heads of all orders, and finally to forms of job-related decision-making, whether solitary or in small groups. Also, there is a rejection of the avenues that had been previously determined and legitimized for the performance of these roles, like trade unions, political parties, and even governments, parliaments and other state apparatus.

The demonstrations of the people scorn governments and parliament. They refute traditional politicians as representatives of the population. Already, a large portion of the population no longer accepts the law, because they no longer believe in the political judicial security of citizens, promoted by institutions. The decline of the dominant hegemony can be perceived in the oral demonstrations and texts found on social networks.

In these new social movements, based in information technologies, each person can show his image and identity, with a self-portrait, in real time. They can submit opinions in public without payment, without asking for permission, nor for a majority decision. Many people can be seen without the need of a platform when they attend mass demonstrations. Each scenario is individually constructed and socially legitimized.

In current conditions, the concentration of knowledge, the elaboration of ideas and action proposals, is no longer guaranteed by formal merit, much less so by institutional authority, by ownership of the means of producing materials, nor by positions of privilege. Each is an owner of his own means of production, which can be easily and rapidly distributed in social networks, without the need for delegation or authorization.

This provides conditions for dialogue between different languages, extending the self-organized public participatory processes, with appropriations and autonomous systemizations of knowledge for popular culture, for free and stimulating creative intellectual activity.
Official media, corporate or idealogical political organizations, and the State apparatus are no longer able to brainwash the public, manipulating, whitewashing or distorting information. New technology may soon provide each citizen, including popular communities, the opportunity to expand their horizons, providing a better speed of production and circulation of their formulations and information, reaching other areas of society, with greater or lesser impact, previously completely unattainable.

Cultures, in establishing relationships within social movements of this new type, both reinforce and alienate each other, considering all their particularities and diversities. For these same reasons, they become simultaneously subject to modifications by influence from both sides. In this way, cultures influence and are influenced by the habits and customs of each locality in which they were produced.

Different cultures, particularly identified in popular demonstrations, in interacting, penetrate each other, in this way they are interconnected in the culture of the masses, adopting and forcing modifications, as much in their homeland as in universal day-to-day perceptions and interventions. This is not dependent on the will or intention of the individually related subjects. Literally, people are involved and assume for themselves cultural aspects that were not originally practiced in their way of living.

From this perspective, it is necessary to understand cultures in their many centres, whose nuclei are everywhere. Cultures always interact whenever there is complicity between subjects, even though these do not know that they are culturally subjected or that they are exercising sensus and consensus with other cultures. Each and everyone of us is a social agent who creates culture in his own time and place, and in all scenarios where his thoughts are reflected and his claims are written or spoken. Each and everyone of us exercises social practices, consciously or unconciously, the moment that we show ourselves, when we express ourselves and see ourselves in public. In this conception of social pedagogy there is no longer a need for majority decision nor for representatives. Each person or collective can respond for themself. In this way, there is no possiblity for heirarchical divisions between one or other cultures and there are no longer conditions for delegation of command or a vanguard.

The coexistence of different cultures creates fields of action conducive to the emergence of practices and attitudes of resistance to positions of power apparent in every moment and place, for different people and for various groups that are demonstrating, not always coordinating, giving rise to new, emerging spaces for the exercise of power.

In this context, there is a growing sense that everyone of us is a political subject. There are objective conditions and the subjective conditions are rapidly evolving, so that there is no longer a need for representatives of the people. There are structures and tools available, and if they were publicly appropriated for free individual and collective global demonstrations, it would create the opportunity for permanent dialogue, with respect to the construction of a new State model, no longer founded in formal administrative law strongly susceptible to ideological pressures and corporate and class interests, but instead founded in a law based on direct expanded democracy, with free popular participation.

New and diverse information technologies are being used by social movements, expressing ideas of distinct natures, often times contrary to one another, allowing for instant transterritorial and linguistic information, allowing for the exchange or clash of experiences between people near or far. In this new, evolving reality, the same technologies that have always been used by dominant systems in search of stability and the maintenance of the ’status quo’, are now universally available tools and methodologies with enormous potential for the reconstruction of society, even though they are still not accessible nor appropriate for the entire population for challenging injustice and privilege.

The crisis of paradigms is irreversible. It can be characterized as a new era of global revolution. A new State with popular legitimacy in the field is only possible if public mechanisms for reading and hearing the voices of the streets are created, with effective universal channels of direct participation and decision-making that addresses the wants and needs of the people.

According to Kosik, in The Dialectics of the Concrete, 8th ed. Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Earth, 2010, p.22:

Reality can be changed in a revolutionary way only because and only to the extent that we ourselves produce reality, and to the extent that it is known that reality is produced by us.

In order to respond to the range of demands that are being circulated on the Social Networks and presented in large public demonstrations in Brazil and in the world, a movement of those who aspire to structural changes is necessary and urgent for the elaboration of unified local and global agendas which take into consideration:

1. Ample Political Reforms, like:

a) Exclusive public financing of electoral campaigns, without the participation of private initiatives;

b) Budgetary and financial transparency of all powers of State – Executive, Legislative and Judicial – in all levels, with direct participation of the people, through:

  • Public Consultations, in order to define the Plans and Annual and Multi-year Budget Guidelines
  • Public Portal with immediate online dissemination of financial actions, of all revenues and expenditures, involving the powers on every level

c) Redefinition of parliamentary function, including the direct participation of the people, when treating controversial issues through Popular Referendum, preceded by an extensive debate live and online with free internet access, via public networks of universal quality.

2. Reforms in Social Security, which for coherence, can only be unique, 100% public and of excellent quality, guaranteeing:

a) Social rights to education, health, social security, transportation, leisure, security, housing, communication, and social assistance;

b) Free Public Internet Networks of Excellent Quality, also as a social right. In spite of the proliferation of Social Networks, not all of them have physical access, the capacity to use the tools and express one’s ideas, by means of the Private Sector. There is still much to invest in free public broadband internet networks, in training and in the organizational empowerment of peripheral communities. The most disadvantaged sections of the population are not considered in the ongoing movements. No one is representing them!

c) Disclosure and Transparency of Private Equity Investments, but prohibiting any type of public tax waiver.

3. Ample Fiscal Reforms, based on principles of progressivity and solidarity contribution, where those who earn more must contribute more and those who earn less should contribute less, complementarily taxing large fortunes and raising the ceiling Waiver of those who earn less.

Florismar Oliveira Thomaz is a Retired Professor of the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel), Full Degree Graduate in Physical Education from UFPel – Br, Masters in Biomedical Basis of Physical Education from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Was President of the Association of Teachers at UFPel (ADUFPel), Founder and President of CUT RS – Br – Unified Workers’ Central of Rio Grande do Sul, Regional Vice President - RS of ANDES – National Union of Teachers of Higher Education - Br, Director of the School of Higher Physical Education of UFPel – Br and Director of the Department of Sports of the State Government of RS – Br. Currently the Coordinator of the NGO, University of the Periphery – UNIPERIFERIA – Pelotas, RS – Br, member of Network Health UFPel – Br and member of EmComun Network – Open WSF – a Network for the Empowerment of Popular Communities.