Meeting of the Council of the SI for Latin America and the Caribbean, Buenos Aires
11-12 June 2001
A meeting of SICLAC took place in Buenos Aires on 11-12 June, hosted by the Radical Civic Union, UCR, and the Popular Socialist Party, PSP.
The meeting concentrated on two main themes: ‘Our International in Latin America and the Caribbean – common policies and strategies to ensure economic and social advancement and a society of opportunity for all; and ‘Our commitment for democracy, peace and security throughout Latin America and the Caribbean’.
The co-chairs of the Committee, Raúl Alfonsin, UCR, a former president of Argentina, and Anselmos Sule of the Chilean Social Democratic Party, PSDR, of Chile, chaired the meeting, which was attended by delegates from the Western hemisphere and Europe. From the host country the meeting was also addressed by Rubén Giustiniani, Secretary General of the PSP, and Aníbal Ibarra, the Mayor of the capital.
The two principal items on the agenda concerned common policies for economic advancement and a society of opportunity for all and the International’s commitment to democracy, peace and security throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
After two days of intense discussion, which was opened by a contribution from the SI Secretary General, the delegates agreed on a hard hitting analysis of the region’s situation and ideas for its improvement under the title ‘Towards the Deepening of Democracy’ which were introduced by former President Raul Alfonsin of Argentina.
A central argument of the analysis is that the state is being subverted by sectional interests for their own benefit. After two decades of democratisation in the region many millions of its inhabitants are being pushed into the margins of society. As neoliberalism has started to achieve its aims of reducing the state to minimal proportions, the once obese state structures have been left, the delegates concluded, weak and defenceless.
The remedy should be found in genuinely participative democracy, the ethics of solidarity and the modernisation of social structures. There should, too, be regional integration as a way of countering domination by one power and putting an end to dependency.
The document went to urge that, though it was probable that globalisation without solidarity might increase dependency, the probable should not be accepted as inevitable. Efforts must be made to encourage cooperatives inter alia, and support non-governmental organisations.
“The future”, the document concludes, ”depends on our readiness to fight in all fields, leaving aside, obviously, extremism, violence and demagogy”.
The situations on Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico and Venezuela were all commented upon in separate resolutions. SICLAC backed the idea of a revision of the Plan Colombia given the need to push forward with a strategy of peace in that country within a worldwide solution of the drug trafficking and consumption of narcotics. It went on to propose a World Anti-drug Summit to take place during the forthcoming Colombian presidential term which starts in August 2002.
On Peru, SICLAC expressed satisfaction at the holding of the recent fair, free and transparent election and congratulated Alan Garcia on his part in them while reiterating its confidence in the Peruvian Aprista Party, PAP, a member of the SI.
The Committee expressed its support for the people of Puerto Rico and its continuing opposition to the US Navy’s use of the island of Vieques and support for the return of occupied lands. It also expressed its support for Ruben Berríos, leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP in his fight on the subject.
On Venezuela, it called for the maintenance of democracy and respect for human rights, urging fraternal parties to keep vigilant in international for a on the question of the preservation of human rights in that country.
During the meeting held in Jamaica, the Socialist International Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean adopted two documents, one on the need to promote solidarity within the framework of global change and another one on the social democratic commitment to defend democracy.
During this meeting, SICLAC will consider how we can deepen democracy, by analysing the common policies and strategies which ensure a society where opportunities are open to everyone, where there is peace and security. These issues are very linked to the subjects we will now develop.
To become a State, two basic conditions must be met: self-determination at an international level and a degree of autonomy in the domestic field which allows for decisions to be taken on issues of national priority and where the government is able to implement policies and strategies. This is the contemporary meaning of national sovereignty.
What is of equal importance are the institutions which are the backbone of an Administration and which have the authority to decide on its behalf, as the main players or second line players, as well as the community represented by government, because power and society must go hand in hand.
Historically speaking, it was through consensus that the State gained acceptance; only radical anarchists opposed it, even various Marxists undercurrents accepted the fact that popular claims could be expressed through it. Nevertheless, they condemned the contradiction between the defence of principles such as freedom and justice, while economic theories and practices allowed for inhuman exploitation.
Of course, there were those who warned that the State would become stifled by bureaucracy and it was necessary to strengthen Parliament as the vehicle for government. Others pointed out that the bourgeois class should not be allowed to overcome society at large, providing its cultural and economic patterns as prevailing lifestyles, thus distorting the role of the State in order to justify its domination over those who became subordinate to the bourgeoisie and accepted its thesis.
Nowadays, it would seem that the "subordinate groups" are facing a new situation, where the "dominating groups" are no longer interested in providing a certain balance to make their hegemony tolerable. Pursuing the fashions of the day, they are instead trying to weaken the State to the extent of appointing it as the manager of their own interests and forcing it to abandon the fulfilment of its essential missions.
Two decades after Latin America had started back down the road to democracy, we find the region has been weighed down by complex problems, which are becoming worse rather than better. The most serious problems are social exclusion and poverty; millions of men, women and children are living in such impoverishment that they are being pushed even further to the margins of society. There are a huge number of human beings deprived of the most basic rights democracy should be able to provide.
Social advancement had dignified human labour and allowed people to make a living out of their work and this, in turn, had made them feel members of a national project with a foreseeable future. But in various countries throughout the southern hemisphere, this progress has been wiped away under the banner of a "lean state". Thus the State, which before was seen as ineffectual is now also seen as irresponsible. Irresponsible in terms of the poor, the sick, the illiterate, outcasts, the elderly and children. Neo-liberalism has enfeebled the State leaving it to the mercy of de facto powers, who impose self-serving conditions on it and end up devouring it. The State was formerly obese, now it is defenceless.
The ideological basis for neoliberalism is that it is a necessary stage in order to attain economic growth, thereby contributing to the general welfare. As if this was a natural, unchangeable, everlasting economic law.
By submitting present and foreseeable future times to such goals, which are both remote in time and unlikely to be attained, there will be levels of human sacrifice of a cruel degree. Sooner or later there will be no social peace. Society is based on links which include solidarity, integration, ingenuity, pluralism, knowledge and other values which cannot be broken without risking social desintegration. This is another way of explaining the estrangement from one´s society, one´s culture and one’s own time.
Ethics also imply that the State protect individuals against coercive power wielded by economic heavyweights, and society from the coercive action of the masses if they infringe the law. This implies protection against fundamentalists, extremists and populism.
The "lean State" was heralded as the bringer of an increased efficiency, which cut through red tape and fostered progress. But economic fundamentalism did rudely away with these human rights and left millions of people defenceless in their search for a dignified life, with access to food, education, a home and health care. The common good, which is part and parcel of democracy, has been replaced by a pagan god, called the unbridled market, that cares nothing about solving social problems and only by chance finds the right solutions to development problems.
The State must be rebuilt, so that it may fulfil its mandate and respond to the most acute problems afflicting our societies. Once we have restored respect for first generation human rights, we should focus our attention on other rights such as the right to food and health care for all and universal education. Without education, the future is unthinkable, since it plays a crucial role in how we build a democratic, modern and caring society. Education is the key vehicle for the development of a democratic culture, the making of men and women who are able to meet the ever-changing and increasing challenges of the world and who can respond to complex systems of production. We must therefore educate to achieve freedom and educate to master change. We must contribute to the development of free and responsible individuals, capable of undertaking new challenges at work and of leading meaningful lives within their society.
These two goals are intertwined and cannot be tackled separately. Democracy, as a culture and as a constitutional order, must ensure their continuity, using development and progress as their basic pillars. In turn, these pillars can only be built in a free system which provides ample room for innovation and individual creativity.
That is why authoritarian regimes, even those who attempt to lead changes, end up stalling the development of those capacities needed to be in tune with the world´s constant evolution.
Another subject of key importance is governance. It might be interpreted in a narrow and biased way, as a form of controlling economic and social demands, whenever needs become impossible to meet. According to this viewpoint, it is obvious both throughout the political arena and the academic or cultural fields, that dissent is considered a threat. It has to be suppressed. The result of this is a policy of confrontation.
Curiously enough, this narrow perception of the State as the alleged guardian of discipline and a false social harmony, is based on a consensus that has no room for beliefs and ideals. This stance has fostered and contributed to the birth of huge and costly imbalances in our society and in the means of production and has even dented our national unity.
The true subjects of governance are individuals. Without citizens who make full use of their rights, there is no lasting governance. The fundamentalists who defend market policies, and some consultants and technocrats, are unable to understand or accept this fact. Citizens, in their capacity as consumers, workers, businessmen or professionals, cannot remain aloof on matters that are significant in determining the quality of their lives as well as the way society is run and the goals and values it cherishes.
Governance fails when attempts are made to keep large sections of society away from the decision-making centres and when decisions do not take into account the everyday lives of the people. Individuals become "ungovernable" when they feel like passive tools used by others, when any type of leader becomes a closed-off élite for them, and when they are turned into a "mass".
Neo-conservative thinking believes that the system is non-governable when it has to withstand excessive demand. It seeks participation and equal opportunities, clearly two components of democracy in our minds. On the other hand, avant-garde sectors consider that governance is linked to the real possibility of bringing to life programmes where ethics and politics prevail over economics and where at the same time, freedom and equality are attainable.
From another viewpoint, we can see two other problems which are usually very much related in terms of governance. One can be solved if politicians can prevail over pro-business lobby groups and we are capable of containing demands which are impossible to meet in the short run, however legitimate they may be.
The right to individual freedom is no longer a major concern if we cease to worry over equality. Political equality implies prior economic redistribution as well an equal distribution of knowledge. It is impossible to dissociate freedom from equality. Neo-liberals are mistaken when they take it as a given. Not only dothey see no need for providing a right to freedom for all, but they are convinced that one may not cherish both ideals simultaneously because they are mutually destructive. And yet we know well, as reality does not cease to remind us, that individuals’ civil and political rights cannot be secured only through lip service and constitutional and statutory legislation.
Institutional reforms must be promoted to achieve the necessary consensus which will safeguardco-existence. Above all, we have to set the framework for a level of human dignity which is acceptable and where equality is also expressed in terms of political power. This is a political agenda in itself and the pursuit of these ideals is relentless.
The role of the State is crucial in providing adequate enforcement of the rules of the democratic game, as well as acting as a channel promoting citizen´s participation within society, especially during the period of democratic consolidation that our societies have been going through.
For centuries, democrats were faced with the problem of problem the sheer dimension, when it came to putting theories to practice on the scale of a large country. That search led to political representation.
It goes without saying that the system of representation does not impinge upon direct forms of political involvement when problems are not solved through the former or when they are of such magnitude that they produce a public outcry.
The electoral system may entail dangers, particularly if it should become a system of covenants between economic powers and elected representatives. It is also true that under the influence of neo-liberal ideas, some are now promoting the need to vote for individuals, and not for political parties or platforms.
The party system should be able to respond more genuinely and adequately to cultural changes and social demands.
Political parties should be part of a whole and should not become watertight compartments where it becomes impossible to have the sort of dialogue which is the very lifeline of political action. Dialogue is definitely part of politics. When it is not there, we face violence.
The current process of decay has been accompanied by a devaluation of the tools used for representation. Many societies are showing an increased malaise when it comes to politics and political parties, feeling that they are not able to adequately convey their priorities and demands. Mistrust towards politicians has been brought about by the disenchantment caused by prolonged political crises and also by corruption scandals.
Democracy demands an "internal legal morality", which must be enforced universally, publicised and explained clearly, and there must be consistency between official actions and the substance of these rules. Consistency might be affected by kickback payments, prejudice and a tendency to favour personal power. When political organisations and officials, even those elected by the people, use power to prosper and not to serve, when corruption and embezzlement prevail and when special interests overrule institutional affairs, we no longer have a democracy as described above and development is impeded.
Democracy must be a system which is neither self-destructive nor invites its own destruction through making a constant show of its deficiencies or vices, thereby weakening itself and eroding the trust required by its leadership. Moreover, whenever weaknesses or severe distortions in behaviour or procedures are identified, corrective action, as laid down by the rule of law, must follow.
On the other hand, there is an ever growing number of blatantly anti-democratic groups who insist on stating that experts should no longer be simple advisors to politicians. In their minds, experts should take over the agenda and decisions adopted by the State, because they deem inconvenient and even intolerable that the experts should be subject to the authority of those who do not possess enough knowledge about our ever more complex aspects of society.
Some say that agreements between political parties are prone to criticism because they may dilute each party’s fundamentals and lead to ambiguous definitions.
In fact the problem should be stated differently; agreements between parties are becoming necessary in order to achieve the essential efficiency required to defend the democratic components of the institutional system. Parties are overwhelmed by the influence of far more powerful economic sectors and the mass media.
It should be clearly stated that the system of representation does not exclude some forms of direct democracy. Besides it should not seek the sort of consensus that undermines fundamental political projects. There is no democratic society without dissent.
Practical democracy should go beyond the constraints of government decision making and reach out to everyday life, thus jointly pursuing solidarity, rationality and creativity in order to face the many emergencies we have to deal with. Decisions should be adopted as a result of consultations, articulated on all issues from the most basic to the most complex by means of a seamless line of discussions and checks exerted by citizens.
In this way a democratic society will be neither anarchic nor chaotic. On the contrary, it is the sole defender of the basic human values it has implemented and the only counter to the risks entailed by non-governance.
Such a society rejects permanent refusals, condemns destructive opposition, overcomes old enmities in the common ground of "public affairs". It allows private enterprise to develop confidently, while the most impoverished social groups can hope to improve their lot and have access to a better life.
Politics should also reaffirm the principle of inclusion. Democracy is not possible without the checks and balances enforced by political powers, with the same freedom.
Usually social exclusion stems from problems linked to extreme poverty. It is worse than political banishment and total destroys self-esteem.
To avoid it, we need to widen our definition of citizenship by drastically changing the means to promote social justice.
There are other, more subtle, forms of exclusion, which are not brought about by poverty, such as the loss of one’s bearings. This can lead us to extreme disorientation and moral crises. When the political arena becomes increasingly limited or we come to consider it useless, because we want the market to come up with a solution to everything, when the ever-growing complexity of society eliminates public debate and replaces it with technical decisions, democratic freedom is downgraded, because it is no longer able to solve acute social problems.
If politics only entailed administrative matters, instead of having to address current problems and discuss the future, democracy would tend to disappear. There would be no dialogue and nobody would oversee how power is exercised. Complex matters would be tackled by experts without further debate, while citizens would go about their own businesses, deprived of a sense of belonging and of responsibility, alienated from their culture or their history.
We know that no national endeavour can be carried out without the people, and we are also aware that there is no community unless people are certain that their daily lives are part of it.
We should now bring to the forefront the idea of pluralism, understood as one of the founding values of democracy and as a vehicle for effective policy-making. In fact, pluralism is a procedure allowing for decision making, which must include in its fold both dissent and conflict. The acceptance of dissent should not take us to a naive neo-anarchism which considers that permanent and unbridled conflict are a presumed democratic virtue.
Responsible use of divergence and opposition imply a basic consensus among social players, i.e. accepting to share the same rules of the game. Therefore democratic dissent requires as a necessary condition, the implementation of democratic order.
Democratic order should not be interpreted only as a constraint on the initiatives undertaken by social players, either on an individual or a collective basis. Quite the contrary, such an order should define which are the positive and legitimate forms of political participation. Or shall we say that the idea is to foster and implement a mutual relationship among players, who agree to use a joint regulatory system and thereby are entitled and obliged to actively participate in political decision making.
Participatory democracy, the ethos of solidarity and the modernisation of social structures are the basis of a project that can be adopted jointly by diverse political and social groups.
In order to avoid reactionary threats and social divisions, this is the road to follow and the underlying principles to guide us. In this way we will truly modernise our structures and best use our resources, thereby contributing to development, autonomy and integration.
Participation, of course, must take into consideration the daily lives and vital concerns of every individual. It must focus on his or her most important goals and must meet well-defined needs, so that every man and woman, particularly the young, can feel instrumental in their own lives and contribute to the construction of a new society.
Participatory democracy defined as such implies a wider and deeper notion of modern democracy, and in no way does it counter formal democracy. Every democracy is formal insomuch as it requires rules and regulations in order to include, define and organise political activity and the way in which State institutions and society are run. Any and all democracies imply, by definition, that citizens take part in political decisions. What is therefore required is to provide for wider participation structures and adequate means of expression for political parties, social organisations, municipalities, as well as neighbourhood and other groups. We are convinced that the more individuals take part in collective actions, the more aware they become of the purpose of their actions and the more encouragement they feel in reaching their goals.
We therefore need political parties that are loyal to the principles of democracy, whether they are in power or members of the opposition. They must seek counsel from experts in the subjects brought to their attention, but they must never allow the latter to replace them. That means, as it is often said "the buck stops here" and even difficult decisions cannot be passed on to others. Doing so would imply cowardice, which in no way contributes to the cause of democracy.
We must assume that the globalisation process is irreversible and that we must introduce it in an intelligent manner to our nations. Globalisation will become a tool for progress only to the extent that it transforms itself into a means for providing solidarity, by making our economies, our politics, our social, legal and cultural affairs more international, and when its main goal is to improve the lot of the needier sectors of society. Only then will we refer truthfully to the sort of globalisation that brings about interdependence among nations, shared responsibility in governing with social equity, the creation of a front to oppose injustice, enhanced value for politics and political parties as a means to use citizens’ power to counter the arrogance of the markets and the technocrats. In the face of a hegemonic globalisation we could have a fair, all-encompassing and responsible globalisation, respectful of national identities and cultures as well as of their political and economic interests.
Yet, if we were now to witness changes which are not conducive to freedom and dignity, which promote greed and instil injustice, then the world will be subjected once again to pain and blood.
The logic of power in tomorrow´s world will not spare those who choose to cast aside self-determination. Dependency will bring about all the evils that chastise the damned of the earth: famine, illiteracy and authoritarianism.
The challenge of simultaneously achieving economic growth and social welfare is faced by all Latin American and Caribbean governments. If these goals are met at the same time, and this is quite possible in spite of what sceptics might think, no financial power must be allowed to stop them. The main axes for a common strategy are strengthening democracy, revamping politics, signing alliances among nations to promote our Latin American identity.
Each one of our countries must show a new national cohesion coupled with a strong will to integrate the region, thereby consolidating blocks sharing a common interests in promoting a Latin American integration, sub-regional and regional, in the fields of politics, culture and economics, Such cohesion would enable our nations to meet the challenges of current globalisation. In this way we will give new life to a totally different type of globalisation, where solidarity can prevail.
We must of course recognise that to a large extent this will depend on the course of events worldwide. Various divergent views on the subject are to be found. Let us discuss just a few of them. On the one hand, we have a unipolar world, which stems from the so called realist school of international affairs. It states that "peace, understood as the absence of war, can only be guaranteed by a hegemonic State". It compares the "pax Americana" with the Roman Empire. On the other hand, institutionalists, whose theory is the only one compatible with globalisation in solidarity, believe cooperation models are viable, that it is necessary to rethink international organisations, they consider isolationism as impractical, they foster the need to safeguard the planet as a place to live, the promotion of international security, the beneficial effects of helping others to develop their economies and the desire to expand democracy throughout the world. There are other, grimmer theories, which are not to be ruled out entirely. They forecast progress towards a world with no centre, devoid of authority and order, a world ruled by mafias and a time when societies will be tinted in grey, they will be official and unofficial at the same time. Yet others foresee a world without systems or structures, where unruliness will prevail. Capitalism will no longer have the challenge to reform itself. Some criteria point out that the idea is no longer to justify inequality, but rather to defend it. And finally, conservatives consider that any action which seeks equality, goes against freedom.
Democracy must be supported by culture. Culture gives meaning and content to institutions and to development, understood as economic growth, together with the strengthening of social justice. Culture defines the ethical orientation of society, according to its own value judgements.
Culture and with it ethics, come together in the recently coined term of social capital, which is now considered as a factor of development. It will define it, destroy it or promote it, depending on whether it generates or not, attitudes of trust, understanding of public matters, altruistic behaviour, respect for legal norms, rejection of disproportionate income and wealth levels, promotion of equal opportunities, social cohesion as evidenced in private and public behaviour, both individual and collective, and the extent to which it stimulates solidarity, among other indicators. In order to increase social capital, joint efforts on behalf of the State and society at large are required.
It is culture, therefore, which gives meaning to institutions and to development and which is also defined as economic growth and an affirmation of social justice, that we must build democracy.
We believe that this ethical value system can bring about the idea of social capital and the so-called third sector of the economy, particularly at a time when technology is taking work away from people. Let us mention cooperatives, mutual benefit societies and beyond them, non-governmental organisations which try to attain certain goals, usually by combining their efforts and the true vocation to serve, by supplementing policies instigated by the State or other political parties.
Capital and natural wealth have always been considered as major contributions to development. We must add yet another factor which entails deep ethical connotations, and which is often overlooked by those who only take into account economic growth. I mean the so-called human capital. In non-economic terms this means the need to have a population which enjoys the dignity brought about by adequate food, health care and education.
Social capital has recently joined the equation, and it is now measured in econometric terms. Politics has the task of building it. Clearly this idea is resisted by those who would prefer politics to have a limited scope, such as occasionally competing for the popular vote. For those of us who believe that this is above all a deliberate action, this objection can only be considered absurd. A non political society is for some, a valuable objective to be attained and not a mere distortion resulting from selfish and nameless attitudes. Even the basic idea of public order could be wiped away. Should some have their way and education, healthcare and communications become divorced from politics, some vested interests will fill in the void. The same is true for planning, and this causes so much fuss among those who wish to separate the State entirely from the economy, in order to plan for their own benefit. This leads to the disappearance of society and consensus either goes too or it is only used for minor temporary agreements in a society which only enjoys childlike satisfactions, which has become resigned, deprived of new frontiers, any grand ideas or projects.
If democracy wishes to be open, it must produce ethically acceptable results in the midst of a society which is structured around an idea of what is just, as defined by consensus, and which makes it easier for the people to oversee the administration´s platform, because it can judge on its own criteria and limitations. If we were to say the opposite, we would in fact say that many subjects should remain beyond the reach of the people, and therefore they must delegate their power at all times. In the end, development must be the consequence of involvement.
This does not mean that dissent is not increased by growing diversity. Nevertheless, consensus on substance, which is essential to overcome deeply entrenched antagonisms, can be reached and solidarity in search of the common good can prevail.
The fundamental ethics of the state does not preclude some functional hierarchies, although it must always try to serve mankind in its struggle against its very nature. The aim is to achieve constant improvement through time and to seek universal equality, so that each individual, wherever he or she is, at whatever point in their lives, will manage to get whatever they consider to be a missing component, essential to their human dignity.
Since the interest of every person is related to everybody else’s and in the end, we all depend on the common interest, people must have equal access to the matters open to discussion. The principle of equality rejects the trend towards disinformation and manipulation, because they always weigh lopsidedly on decisions to be taken.
We need to secure the rule of law and to provide significant content to the idea of equality of opportunities. This means we have to foster a progressive society, where the growth of the whole is felt as a condition for each individual´s own growth.
We must endeavour to achieve equitable and fair distribution of the capacity to influence public decision-making. Economic powerhouses, the opening up of the economy to foreigners, the foreign debt, current account deficits, the uneven distribution of education and training, as well as the growing vulnerability before the rest of the world and all sorts of corruption, conspire against our goals.
We have to solve these challenges in an honest, consistent and progressive manner, in accordance with democratic goals without impairment or spurious restrictions. We have to do so by looking after an economy that must grow and be orderly so as to ensure the minimum level of sustainability founded on harmony, justice and efficiency.
In order to achieve the deepening of democracy, there is no doubt that, in the face of stagnation and failure, we must choose the road of modernisation. But we cannot follow this road by giving up on lasting ethical values.
Achieving modernisation with ethical principles, within the process of building a stable democracy, implies combining a set of values that are redefined in their context with other ideas, because modernisation is judged on the basis of its ethical content and ethics are judged according to the process of modernisation.
The probable should not be accepted as the unavoidable
Several years ago, Erich Fromm said that the confusion between the notions of "probability" and "possibility" defined, in the personal sphere, a paranoid attitude. He also remarked that this anomaly was also a political illness that he qualified in the same terms.
Without trying to come up with a definition - which we all know to be dangerous - our thinking is, and every progressive politician should uphold this, is never to consider probable scenarios as unavoidable.
In other words, we should never suppose that the bad things "which seem to be about to happen" are unavoidable. We must shy away from the self-blaming pessimism that wonders what is the whole purpose of our struggles.
Nowadays, we face problems which bind us to the notion of the "single discourse".
It is quite probable that anti-politics may defeat, limit or weaken politics and the democratic representative system itself. It would thus form concentrated groups with economic power who would permanently impose their criteria on defenceless governments lacking the necessary tools and supports to oppose them.
It is also probable that the world may suffer a retreat from democracy where the positive freedoms enshrined by social rights central to human dignity, are exchanged for the negative freedoms of the Republic on which it has been built.
It is probable that the old phrase "civil society", distorted in its use by neo-liberalism, may try to go beyond the formation of networks that supplement governmental action and politics through different forms of social economy and association - such as co-operatives, mutual benefit societies and non-governmental organisations and will express the need for a minimum government with the absurd expansion of "preserved" areas of political action.
It is probable that we may lose the cultural battle to those who, in the name of freedom or the defence of privacy, state that the search for equality impinges on these two concepts and foster a selfish society and the appearance of demagogues and messianic movements.
It is probable that in the face of insurmountable situations all the wrongs that assail a society - which are an expression of that very society - may be generally attributed to politics (with a level of discredit close to 80 per cent) and to politicians who sometimes are guilty of unacceptable conduct.
It is probable that in the face of these facts, and the exclusion of vast social sectors together with media tampering may dangerously diminish the will to participate which is central to the good functioning of both formal and substantial democracy, thus opening the way for those who insist in equating them with the free market.
It is probable that we may continue to suffer from the negative effects of an unfair organisation while its positive effects grow pale in comparison, thus giving rise to the increase of dependency on the one hand and short-sighted nationalism and outmoded localism on the other.
It is further probable that we may continue to lose social capital together with the loss of mutual trust, solidarity, a correct notion of the public wealth, commitment, equity, thus strengthening social contrasts and the disappearance of the rule of law.
Can progressive politics accept these probable scenarios - and many others - as unavoidable? Definitely not. That is why we must understand that our duties do not end in strong answers in the face of the different specific items which are part of an agenda which we usually do not determine. The need is much greater and cannot be limited to taking correct positions on isolated facts. We must strengthen our convictions - perhaps through a philosophical effort to clearly define guidelines to overcome each occasion and which will differentiate us from the "compassionate" right wing that must finally be brought to a defensive position by using arguments that overcome its positions instead of resorting to inadvisable lamentations or lukewarm opposition.
We must win the cultural battle, that is to say, the ethical battle. We must defeat anti-politics. There is a concerted effort to make us believe that politics are unnecessary and even inconvenient; that everyone, without the interference of the government in the market, can achieve their due through their own personal effort. We have to put to one side those who take advantage of the effort of successful people through different programmes of social assistance which usually protect the indolent who fail to accept their personal responsibility for their own fate. We must strongly protest that to go down this road would imply social disintegration and, therefore, an incurable injustice.
But furthermore, we must accept the intellectual challenge. We must agree when an indiscriminate subsidy goes against the necessary culture of effort. But we should always distinguish between circumstances that are not under our control such as race, gender, home, talent, social condition from those that are a direct result of choice. People's lives cannot depend on consequences in which they did not have a say. This is where the arguments of the right-wing turn against them, because if they say that everyone should be responsible for his or her own choices, they cannot, in all fairness, rule out any action that may try to redress inequalities which are not the result of personal decision.
If we work on these subjects, if we are ready to defend our principles with greater energy, we shall see that right-wing thinking will reveal its weaknesses and progressive attitudes will come to bear in both ethical and argumentative spheres.
In order to achieve this, we must help the advance of what has been named "the third sector of the economy" or the "social economy". This is not only a tool for living together and an obvious ethical position but it is also an essential weapon to combat unemployment. We must foster it enthusiastically. We must increase co-operatives and mutual benefit societies and we must help non-governmental organisations which should not be looked askance by political parties. We must foster them in the belief that many people consider that party membership is too big a commitment and who prefer to channel their altruism through associations that try to solve distinctive problems such as women's rights or the environment. It is essential to support social work, which, when well organised, can be much more efficient than unemployment benefit, at least as far as the self-esteem of the unemployed person is concerned
We therefore stress that we have no right to consider probable scenarios as unavoidable.
Finally the future will depend on our willingness to fight in every sphere without having recourse, obviously, to extremism, violence and demagogy.