THE OBSERVER

When anger is the driving force

Assuming that democracy survives without actively working for it is a mistake

ESTHER VERA
ESTHER VERA Directora de l'ARA

Moderation has a bad reputation and anger is mistaken with bravery. Cooperation and understanding the views of others are scorned as a weakness, while wielding words like a knife is seen as a sign of resolve and determination directed at one’s foot soldiers. An appeal to speedy solutions takes the front row. As we have witnessed multiple times throughout history, there is no excuse for acting with ignorance as to the consequences of leaving politics in the hands of anger. This is also our challenge right now, as it has so often been for our ancestors throughout the history of Spain and Europe.

Assuming that democracy survives without actively working for it is a mistake and it is even more dangerous to think that we are immune to anger and violence. Democratic vigilance is an imperative today as it has been throughout history, as we write in our dossier on the First World War and the world it served to create.

Our brand of fascism

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to be appointed US Secretary of State and she is well aware of the risks of totalitarianism. Born in Prague, her family fled from Nazism and later communism. She has recently published a fascinating book, Fascism: A Warning (published by William Collins) which opens with a quote which is impressive thanks to the authority of the individual who penned it, Primo Levi: "Every age has its own fascism".

In many countries, economic, technological and cultural factors lead to growing uncertainty and weaken the credibility of politics, while simultaneously empowering extremist, hard-line leaders. It seems as if we are witnessing the degradation of politics understood as a framework for cooperation and the bringing together of different sensitivities and interests, due to a contempt for facts and the traditional press’ loss of its role in interpreting and rationalising the news and its demonization as "the enemy of the people". The very pillars of liberal democracy are being called into question without seeing that fascism is "less a political ideology than a means of seizing power and keeping control over it", in Albright’s words.

At the international level, multilateralism and cooperation are being degraded thanks to Trump, those who are pro--Brexit and other economic and emotional nationalisms which are committed to autocracy and unilateralism. Never before had the words of an American president been greeted with guffaws of laughter at the United Nations, in a clear demonstration of the growing gulf between the two.

Feeding on fear

Nevertheless, Trump has held onto power in the US and Bolsonaro has appeared on the political scene in Brazil. In the mid--terms, Trump lost his majority in the House of Representatives, but managed to hold on to the Senate. Trump didn’t suffer a fiasco, in spite of the misfortunes and mistrust of those who surround him. According to Bob Woodward (Fear, Simon & Schuster), the section of the White House contingent which considers him to be dangerously impulsive go to great lengths to circumvent the consequences of his outbursts. They smother the policies he intends to implement, even to the extent of making papers and draft documents disappear, to ensure that a definitive version never emerges or that they simply disappear from the folder that the president receives each day with documents for him to sign. Those who are high up in the administration boycott his leadership in a kind of internal resistance.
Woodward reminds us of a quote from Trump which defines how he sees power and why we see authoritarian leadership rise in times of uncertainty: “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word: Fear.”

Trump held his ground and Bolsonaro won the election with his crass military manner, insults to women, blacks and gays, dictatorial rhetoric and a sudden conversion to liberal economics.

Change or a reaction

And what about Spain? The rise of fascism is a worry to the European Parliament, which a few weeks ago passed a resolution calling for all foundations and organisations which exalt Nazism and fascism to be outlawed —mentioning the Francisco Franco Foundation by name— and for the removal of all symbols and monuments which glorify the military coup, the Civil War and Franco's dictatorship.
Within the framework of the European Union, Spain can no longer resort to the degree of violence it has historically used to resolve territorial conflicts, in spite of Zoido and Rajoy’s efforts to the contrary. However, it is unclear whether Spanish politics have abandoned their traditional suicidal tendencies.

An appeal to base passions, feeding the anger of frustration and despising one’s adversary, remain the order of the day, while the Spanish Civil War becomes lost in the mists of time and the reactionary forces, once more, behave like they own the country. Spain and Catalonia are not immune to the effects of time on memory and ought to remain on high alert. Alert to the cavern, alert when Pedro Sánchez’s government privately admits to being terrified by outbursts on the right when it accuses them of being unpatriotic. Alert to when the Catalan parliament is being eroded, while the government waits for events to happen instead of leading the country. Alert to when a moderate columnist prefers not to write anything to avoid "getting into trouble" since "nothing will come of it".

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