Global Radar Screen
Thought-provoking revolts against the political class
There are fast-breaking developments in Latin America currently that would have made the well- known Frantz Fanon’s eyes twinkle. It is to that ground-breaking book by the late Algerian psychiatrist and political scientist, whose thought dominated the sixties and seventies titled, ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, that one must repeatedly turn, to understand the realities of the developing world or the global South, and current events in South America are no exception.
Fanon’s work is of seminal importance for the developing world and this columnist, for one, is prone to consider most of the research on socio-political issues of the one-time ‘Third World’ that has come out since his time as owing a lot to the pioneering Algerian thinker and political scientist. Fanon was uniquely perceptive and far-seeing and that is one reason why his thinking cannot be dismissed as dated.
Two countries of the Latin American continent that ought to set us thinking are Bolivia and Brazil. In the former, President Evo Morales of long-standing is finding himself obliged to step down from office in the face of public protests over what are described as polls irregularities. Morales, in power since 2006, was seeking another term in office, but wide sections of the public are crying ‘foul’ over his re-election exercises. In Brazil, an economic power house of South America, former President Lula Da Silva, who was in prison since 2008 on serious corruption charges, has been acquitted by the country’s Supreme Court, to a roar of approval by his supporters and is a free man once again.
It is up to the respective countries’ legal and other relevant authorities to probe the rights and wrongs of these high profile cases and attendant developments, but if one has studied the thought of Fanon with a great degree of perceptiveness, one would not be aghast at what is taking place in these countries which have been found to be standard-bearers of sorts of leftism. One issue that ought to provoke thought is the tendency even among these leftist rulers to be in power for long.
Lula may be innocent of the charges levelled at him but he showed a notable love for office, as was the case with Morales. Lula was in office from 2003 to 2010; quite a long time for those who claim to be working selflessly for the ‘common masses’. It should also be noted that Lula’s successor and protégé, Dilma Rouseff, too was accused of a power abuse-related charge and was eased out of office in a cloud.
It’s up to the citizenries concerned to decide whether their rulers have been in power for far too long or otherwise, but sincere defenders of leftism the world over would not expect their leaders to go the way of authoritarian right wing rulers who overstay their welcome and remain in office for inordinately long periods of time. As history has repeatedly proved, those rulers with an excessive taste for power and office are finally hounded out of office by the very populations that welcomed their coming to power. Present events in Bolivia prove the point.
Unfortunately, Cuba set the trend and other notable states of the South with a socialist bent have tended to follow suit. But if Fanon is read perceptively, these tendencies for long stays by Southern rulers and their kith and kin would not be found to be surprising. Essentially, what transpires is that socialist political leaders and their attendant governing strata, particularly in the post-independence context, go the way of their former rulers. That is, they acquire an overwhelming taste for power and its attractions and inducements and tend to perpetuate their hold on power.
In this process of self-aggrandizement, post-colonial rulers, of a socialist bent and otherwise, soon forget their ideals of governance, including ‘service to the masses’, and ossify into a self-serving political class. Paulo Friere, another well-known political thinker and educator of the South, in fact of Brazilian origin, described this process as one of the ‘oppressed internalizing the value structure of the oppressed’.
It is this perpetuation of power among apparently socialist rulers that the defenders of leftism ought to find disconcerting. If they are true to their ideals, then, these rulers would prefer short stays in office and transfer power to the next rung of rulers who would be charged with taking the cause of socialism into the future. The tendency of leftist rulers the world over to prefer to enjoy power in perpetuity lends credence to the view that they have taken in a big to the ways of their rightist counterparts, many of whom have been found to be of a parasitic kind. Incidentally, Sri Lanka’s ageing ‘left’ leaders may also have taken a leaf from their global counterparts. They too have a tendency to overstay their welcome.
However, as if to stress afresh that some deceived peoples may be getting wise to the wiles of their rulers, come some ground breaking developments from conflict-ridden Lebanon; a land where few would expect a ‘leftist’ revolt of any kind. As this is being written, schoolchildren, and none else, are on the highways of Beirut, calling their rulers to account. In obvious signs that their patience and that of the rest of the public has run out they are demanding of their rulers the satisfaction of their essential needs along with the provision of good governance. What is noteworthy about the Lebanon revolt is that it makes specific reference to the country’s ‘ruling class’ and its parasitic ways.
The above observations are in no way a critical comment on the leftist cause. Far from it. Socialism remains a panacea for most of the world’s ills. It is an essential corrective and counter-weight to unchecked and unregulated capitalism, which has brought in its wake wide-ranging socio-economic distortions and disabilities, particularly over the past 30 years. Socialism is very much needed, we stress, to neutralize the negative spin-off from economic globalization.
However, it is those who rule in the name of socialism who need to guard their ways if socialism is to blossom afresh. They simply cannot go the way of authoritarian rightist rulers who become a law unto themselves and degenerate into a blight on society. Above all, socialists need to take good care of their hearts and minds; after all, ‘Social condition determines consciousness’.