The "European Fundamental Rights Agency" published today its report "What do fundamental rights mean for people in the EU?". In spite of the categories and questions, biased to the point of contortion, a general disbelief towards democracy and its supposed ability to represent the interests of the workers, clearly emerges from the study. 60% (58% in Spain) of those asked say that systemic parties do not care about "people like me".
In summary, the petty bourgeois revolt in Europe has -from Le Pen and Orban to the Muslim Brotherhood and "indigenism", from classical independentism to feminism- a growing ideological component that points to the transformation of the political apparatus from a democracy of "citizens" to a "democracy of identities". If this component keeps developing, the petty-bourgeois revolt will soon become the main divide in the European "democratic consensus".
What is democracy about?
In 1796, Babeuf, seeking a political expression for the sans-culottes -the urban proletariat that constituted the left wing of the French Revolution- wrote a letter to his friend Bodson, a letter which is usually considered the first statement of his program.
Robespierrism is democracy and these two words are absolutely identical. If Robespierrism is resurrected, I know for sure that democracy will be resurrected.
Robespierre equals democracy? The head of the Terror? The bourgeois dictator par excellence?
In 1913 Rosa Luxemburg, assessing the previous decade and the effects of the financial crisis of the 1990s, wrote:
Instead of social reforms, we saw laws on sedition, criminal laws on imprisonment; instead of democracy, we saw the powerful industrial concentration of capital in cartels and employers' associations and the international practice of giant lockouts. And instead of the new upward development of democracy in the state, there was a miserable collapse of the last vestiges of bourgeois liberalism and bourgeois democracy.
As you can see, first of all it opposes "democracy" to industrial concentration. She is comparing the accumulation of power among two groups: capital and "democracy"-that is, the classes that live by their labor. And in case it wasn't clear, she contrasts the "upward development of democracy in the state," i.e., the expected growing influence of the working classes on institutions, against the erosion of civil liberties. Nor was this characteristic of revolutionaries. The famous speech of Kerensky before the Soviet on March 29, 1917, began by saying: "On behalf of the provisional government of the country, I salute and bow down to democracy: the workers, soldiers and peasants". This was not a concession to the language of the workers and their organizations. The Duma's Publishing House, the parliament that disputed power to the Soviets until October, published a dictionary of political terms aimed at popular political education. It defined democracy as: "All those classes who live from their own work: workers, peasants, officials and intellectuals".
Democracy, the government of the people, will begin when the working people take political power. (...) The aim is to make the motto of the French bourgeoisie in 1789, "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity", a reality for the first time by abolishing the class domination of the bourgeoisie. And the first step before the whole world and History, is to make clear on our agenda that what until now was claimed to be the basis of equal rights and democracy - Parliament, the National Assembly, even the universal right to vote - was a lie and a deception. All power into the hands of the toiling masses as a revolutionary weapon to extirpate capitalism, that is the only true equality of rights, that is true democracy!
In short, until some time after the Russian Revolution, "democracy" was not a "floating signifier". The conflicting parties were very clear about their definitions. When we read today that between February and October the revolution lived its "democratic phase" in Russia, surely many will understand something very different from what the protagonists themselves understood by that expression. The idea of democracy understood as the government of the interests of labor, as we have seen, went across the border between the supporters of the Soviet power (Bolsheviks, left-wing SRs, anarchists) and the supporters of a regime that would carry out the unfinished bourgeois revolution (Mensheviks, right-wing SRs). Only the right-wing SRs and Mensheviks, the Kadets and the remnants of the autocracy intended that a parliamentary government and division of powers could still be democratic in 1917.
Democracy and socialism
Whatever happens, our only adversary on the day of crisis and the day after, will be the entire collective reaction, which will be grouped around pure democracy, and I believe that we should not lose sight of this.
Democracy and crisis
Such movements could hardly be called "democratic". As we have seen, democracy implies joint interests expressed under common slogans. And there are no common interests with a class that at this point is championing the tendencies towards war and that is fighting for a piece of the over-exploitation that capital drives in order to escape the recession.
The decay of democracy
Politically, the petty bourgeois revolt has been a real show of impotence. It has hampered the ruling classes, it is true, leading in the last years to a stagnation in the parliaments in several countries and to a serious crisis of the political apparatus -generating fractures with and within the state in many cases- from Chile to Spain. But it has not managed to salvage its situation for the most part. What is worse for its goals, the Covid crisis is enabling the bourgeoisie to renew its political apparatus and redefine its roadmap... and the petty bourgeoisie is being left out.
That is, they are discovering that in front of the ruling class "pure democracy" is not enough for them: neither their new parties managed to displace the old ones sufficiently (Salvini, M5S) nor all those claims about "direct democracy", "revolving doors" and so on saved them from the economic crisis and bankruptcy brought about by the Covid. And in front of the workers the universalist democratic discourse -the "right to decide", the "constituent process"- cannot be used as a flag under which to discipline the workers because their economic interests are simply opposed. In the end, it has become clear, for example, that the "cutbacks" in the health and education system led by the governments of the Catalan pro-independence "process" have aggravated the consequences of the pandemic in Catalonia.
Their way out? Sizing down the scale to ensure control of "those at the bottom" and resistance to "those at the top". Redefining democracy in the way that the Anglo-Saxon "identitarian left" and the French "communitarian right" have been doing: ending the short-sighted and hypocritical universalism of the French Revolution in order to... go backwards towards essentialist identities of sex, race, religion, ethnicity, territory and so on... One could hardly think of anything more reactionary. A new sort of chieftain rule is coming over us. A democracy of chieftains of gender, race, nationality... allied with each other in "confluences" on the right and left united through a glue of victimizationist "intersectionality" and being given disciplinary power by virtue of receiving delegated powers from the state and the invocation "of class transversalities".