A global demand: reclaiming democracy

Editorial. From Santiago to Beirut via Algiers or Hong Kong, a wave of popular protests is shaking the world. These movements must be supported to bring about a rebalancing in favor of the political, the social and the environmental.

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A demonstration in Santiago, November 4, 2019. Esteban Felix / AP

Editorial of the "World". Algeria, Chile, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Haiti, Ecuador, Hong Kong … In all latitudes, people have gone into revolt against their rulers with a concomitance that raises questions. "Clear! " order their leaders without offering a clear alternative. The contexts are obviously very different. Authoritarian regimes, but also neoliberal democracies, are targeted, not to mention France, old Republic challenged by the "yellow vests".

In Algiers and Cairo, the challenge is aimed at a state confiscated by the army, while the specific oppression of China has detonated Hong Kong. In Santiago, Beirut and Baghdad, collusion between political power and the forces of money is rejected, as is the community assignment in the latter two cases.

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But the commonalities between all these popular boils are obvious: not only slogans and methods – peaceful street rallies, use of social networks – but especially the rage against the seizure of power and wealth by a class, a caste or mafia. The trigger element often appears as an economic decision that is a priori innocuous, but deemed unbearable. In Chile, the increase in the price of the metro ticket served as a "drop of water"; in Ecuador and France, it is the increase of fuels; in Lebanon, billing WhatsApp communications has spilled over.

Claims of dignity and equality

Without leaders, unguided by an ideology, these uprisings all put forward claims of dignity and equality, calling for a "change of system". Apparent paradox: the protesters denounce the inequalities linked to globalization while benefiting from the momentum and the global echo that give to their revolt the exchanges without borders and the perception of the world village.

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In fact, like the political scientist Bertrand Badie, it is tempting to analyze many of the social tremors in progress in an "act II of globalization" and a questioning of neoliberalism. The domination of economic dogmas has imposed the "less state" and the triumph of the market has resulted in abysmal inequalities, the weakening of social safety nets and the collusion of political and economic elites. No political promotion without money; no social mobility without proximity to political power. This "connivance capitalism" privatized, reduced the taxes of the rich and increased the burden of the poor. The financial crisis and the economic slowdown, but also the all-round visibility offered by the Internet, made this situation unbearable, accelerating the malaise of representative democracies, while destabilizing authoritarian regimes.

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Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which may have emerged as the triumph of a market-driven conception of the world, the wind of revolt seems to announce a backlash. We must welcome this change of era and help current movements to avoid the pitfalls of nationalism, to lead to a rebalancing in favor of the political, social and environmental, but also to tax reforms to offset inequalities income, renewed solidarity mechanisms, the construction of intermediary bodies that are truly associated with power, and states that are more concerned with the well-being of the poor than with the rents of their leaders. The path is narrow and the ambition immense, since it is nothing less than reinventing democracy. But it is the one that shows vigorously the ongoing rebellions.

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