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Politics and dialogue in light of Dilma Rousseff’s re-election


The re-election of Dilma Rousseff calls for reflection on the various forms of party politics. To engage in politics is to seek or to concretely exercise power. That illuminates what Max Weber wrote in his famous text, Politics as a vocation: «Who engages in politics seeks power: Power as a means to serve other ends or power for its own sake, to enjoy the prestige it brings».

This last type of political power has been exercised throughout most of our history by the elites, for their own benefit, forgetting that the people is the subject of all power. It is about the famous patrimonialism so clearly denounced by Raimundo Faoro in his classic, The Owners of Power.

I see five forms of exercising power.

First, the politics of the fist. This is power exercised from the top, and in an authoritarian form. There is only one political project, that of those who hold power, which can be a dictator or a dominant class. They simply impose their plans and crush the alternatives. This is what has occurred most often in Brazilian history, especially under military dictatorships.

Second, the politics of the little pat on the back. This is a covert form of authoritarian power. But it is different from the previous one, because it is open to all who are out of power, but it seeks to lure them to the dominant plan. They obtain some advantages so long as they do not constitute an alternative. It is the well known paternalistic and assistance politics that undermined the resistance of the working class and corrupted so many artists and intellectuals. It functioned among us, especially since the time of Vargas.

Third, the politics of the out-stretched hands. Here, power is distributed among several carriers, who form alliances under the hegemony of the strongest. The alliance between the winning party and other allied parties guarantees governability. It is the presidentialization of the parliamentary coalition. This type creates favoritism, disputes for important positions in the State and even corruption. It is what has happened in recent years.

Fourth, the politics of the intertwined hands. It starts from the basic fact that power is distributed among all the movements and institutions of civil society, not just those of the political society, political parties and the State. That type of social and political power can converge into something beneficial for all. It is about the present great debate that foresees the participation of the social movements and the councils in order, together with the Parliament and the Executive, to define public policies. A participatory democracy is sought to enrich the representative one. To oppose this form is to oppose democratizing democracy, and to keep the present, low intensity one.

Specifically: the politics of the intertwined hands occurs when the head of State proposes a broad dialogue with everyone, on a minimum common project. The proposal is that; above all the differences and conflicting interests, there exists in society the idea of what kind of country we want, the minimum solidarity, the search for the common good, the observation of agreed-upon rules and respect for the values of sociability, without which we would become a pack of wolves. The extended hands can collectively intertwine. But to achieve that, there must be a dialogue that listens to everyone and searches for agreements that are win-win and not win-lose. It is ethics in politics and good, truly democratic, politics.

Finally there is the politics as seduction, in the best meaning of the word, that underlies the proposal of President Dilma. She proposes an open dialogue with all the political actors, and the popular sector. It is urgent to seduce the 48% that did not vote for her so that they may support a Brazilian Project that benefits all, starting with the inclusion of the most ostracized, the creation of an ecological and socially sustainable development that generates jobs, better salaries, and the redistribution of income, one that creates decent transportation and greater security for the citizenry, besides caring for nature and promoting a horizon of hope, so that the people may find politics enchanting again.

We would have to be our own enemy to be against these goals. The art of that dialogue is to make politics enchanting again, and to seduce people towards that blessed dream.

For that we must look forward. Those who won the elections must be magnanimous, and those who lost them, must show humility and a willingness to cooperate, looking towards the common good.

Idealistic? Yes, but in its deeper meaning. A society cannot live only through structures, bureaucracy, and ideological disputes about power. It must elicit the cooperation of all and nourish the dreams of permanent improvement, one that to the extent possible, includes and benefits as many as possible, in order to overcome our terrifying social inequality.

The ecclesiastical base communities are correct when they sing: «Dream that to dream alone is only pure illusion. Dream that to dream together is a sign of a solution. So, let’s dream together, let’s dream in collaboration».

This is the supra-party convocation that President Dilma is making to the Parliament, to the popular movements and to all the nation. Only in this way can we overcome the talk of division and prejudices against certain regions, and can we heal the wounds produced in the heat of the electoral campaign, with all its excesses by both sides.

Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia,

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