As 2011 reaches its end, it’s unavoidable to conclude that we had the opportunity to witness, and live, an historic year, particularly in respect to the vigorous statements and actions from active and participatory citizenship; validated by the coming-to-age of “an organized and politically mature – alter and anti-systemic – Social movement” as frontrunner in the current debate and vanguard of contemporary worldwide political system.
As such, we should associate 2011 to 1789 or 1848, in the sense that these moments share the innovative spirit and revolutionary ‘ethos’ displayed in the common struggle against widespread injustice and massive social inequity. 2011 upgraded these claims, denouncing the unacceptable features of the current post-capitalist model (of complete financial control), the lack of democracy in many – if not all – global governance institutions and in the need for political systems to refresh and modernize in order to allow for more inclusive models of participation.
I recall that the year began with the “Arab spring,” continued with the ‘March Movements’ (Portugal and Spain), and hundreds of enraged demonstrations against austerity policies. It was followed by the Greek Referendum threat, ‘Occupy Wall Street’, more demonstrations, the Citizen Audit to the Public Debt initiative and Time magazine’s choice of the ‘activist’ as the year’s personality.
On the other side of the mirror, we saw a swift response by the installed conservative oligarchy that hurried to react against this evident desire for change and to maintain the status quo; with Barroso taking the role of Count Metternich, mediating the interests of the “Holy Alliance” (read Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel) in an attempt to restore order, sustaining the revolution and implementing a new model of systemic control (read replacement of democratically elected government with technocrats not suffragist). Spontaneous!
Of course, that history did not repeat itself. The characteristics of democratic claims of 2011 share little resemblance to those of 1789 or 1848, but in any case, we are facing the same phenomenon. A large number of the population – today educated and cosmopolitan – that rebels against a system that already no longer provides answers to the problems of contemporary society and perpetuates the existence of a selected ‘caste’ with all access to non-shared and exclusive privileges. Moreover, if the French Revolution called for the end of absolutism and the political recognition of the “Third Estate”; if the ‘Peoples Spring’ (in a multinational imperialist context) demanded freedom and democratic access to the oppressed nationalities; today’s protests plea for a systemic renovation of democratic and multi-institutional nature with worldwide range.
2012 may well be, as in many post-revolutionary years, a moment for counter-revolution and subsequently reactionary rule and increased social unrest; however, it also could calmly and discretely provide a new model of global governance (at least European) and a new balance between current social and political forces.
I wish, from my position, that the New Year frees me from the yoke of a totalitarian financial oligarchy and the wills of two European leaders, and allows the refining of a system that, in essence, can work if properly matured within a framework of inclusive democracy, institutional transparency and social equity.
|Jose Reis Santos is a Contemporary History researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History at the New University of Lisbon and a Guest Research Fellow at the History Department at the Central European University in Budapest.You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter or on his blog.|