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op-ed by Pacheco Pereira published in "Publico" on 25/07/2015
The Radical Right has found the "End of History" and is calling it "Realism".
The radical sector of the right seems to have recently discovered Philosophy of History. They're more or less the basest of Fukuyama's readers, the kind that only know his name and the title of his book, and believe that along with said "end of history" comes what they call "realism". As if that was a wall against which we inevitably collide when we abandon the path of "austerity" and defy the TINA. A new law of gravity, if you will.
All is amazing in this sort of formulation, beginning with how profoundely intelectually inane it is. It's currently serving as an utalitarian interpretation meant to justify Portugal's governance, potentiate the right wing coalition's electoral success and maintain the current european Status Quo which serves as its context. I'm aware that by treating this very reductive ideas with the dignified epithet of "Philosophy of History" I am doing them a favour, but that's what they seemingly believe them to be. I am also of the opinion that invoking Fukuyama in this context is an insult to his work, not least because what he wrote is much more complex and interesting than the gross simplifications that have become the norm. But thing being what they are, the TINA ideology ends up being really close to said popular, more vulgar interpretation: We've reached the ideal point of society and politics, and to contest it is to go against a reality whose triumph made undisputable. What can, after all, be more powerful and more crushing than reality?
And what is this "reality" against which "There Is No Alternative"?
First of all, it is what it is, supported in the circular notion that "what must be, must be", and is, in that context, self legitimizing. In this TINA doctrine History itself is frozen, it reached its end, and is an inherently European doctrine. It's not prevalent in America, or BRICs, or Asia: it's almost exclusively european and applied to european reality. It focuses on the current european climate of the past few years, manifesting itself since the (real) financial crisis, which was followed by the (politically generated) crisis of sovereign debts. It manifested itself in electoral results that saw massive turns to right wing parties, and radicalized the policies of those parties (not only economically, but also in issues like emmigration, or the rethoric of security, etc), and allowed politics to be ensnared in the financial system, the so called "markets". But the markets are not abstract forces, they are what political power allows them to be. At least, that's how it should be in a democracy.
The EU, increasingly less democratic from top to bottom, has armed this cojecture with an instrument useful both in the unification and implementation of its policies and in exercising control over those more defiant. "europeism" as an ideology, holding in check national democracies and imposing itself, far beyond any treaty, to parliaments and regional sovereignties, was fundamental in submitting traditional center left socialists to that right wing creed, most notably via the budgetary treaty which consigns them to an economic, social and structural view of socitey that is fundamentally different from their historic roots.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the way that even keynesianism is now seemingly seen as a flight of fancy in the light of these budgetary treaties. And thus, center left have been losing autonomy, scoring defeat after defeat, even when they "win", like Hollande did; they're a paltry, unconvincing immitation of the TINA, and when confonted between the immitation and the "real thing", voters will elect "realism". And the consequence of this uniformization which brooks no alternative is a worrisome crisis of representative democracy, growing abstention, the increasing disconnect between politicians and the population, and the growth of anti-system movements both left and right. "Realism" comes at a very real cost.
Secondly, in this reinterpretation of the "End of History", reality is erroneously intercheangeable with power. And let's be clear. The wall against Greece eventually crashed against was not one of "realism" but one of intransigence of power. Power in the weberian sense, the capability to bend and force one to act against their will. One of the greatest outcomes of the recent greek crisis, indeed one of its few boons, was the unambiguous revelation of the brutality of power. In today's context that is an unwelcome outcome to the institutions, who like to cloak their power in discretion and secrecy, here it is greater and more effective. When exposed, their power weakens. Knowing what Germany and its satelites said, what they did, learning the opacity of the Eurogroup, and understanding the recent developments as a purely punitive imposition of policies no one believes in to a government and its people is a point of no return.
The ensuing diversion tactics, whether from Holland or Juncker, are mere smokecreens to cloak the humiliation of the role they performeded in a play of Germany's authorship. Do these champions of "realism" truly believe that to force upon Greece a program in which no one, Schauble first and foremost, believes in, is something that can be described as "realist"? No. They too were bent to that same will to power. And this is why the doctrine of "realism" merely power legimitized through force. This is why TINA is a doctrine of submission, the natural right of the mighty to wield unlimited power? If "There Is No Alternative", how could it be anything else?
Thirdly, in order to coincide "realism" with TINA, one must exclude from that realism any signs of dissension. This works on two levels: Socially and morally.
Let's start with the latter: Was there at any point any sort of genuine protest from the champions of "realism" regarding Greece's capital outflows? No. They were seen as a normal consequence, the entrepeneur economy running into exile in face of the danger of Syriza's "dangerous extremists".
Banking Frauds, corruption, Capital outflows, offshores, fiscal dumping, fraudulent bankrupcies, tax evasion by the rich, etc... all are silenced, minimized, contextualized.
Similarly, "realism" has no place for social issues. Poverty, unemployment, reduced income, social instability, degradation of public services especially to the needym social exclusion, refugees, income inequality, all are colateral damages of those "realist" policies. Within "realism", only the entrepeneurs and the businessmen are a vocal , even fashionable part of a narrative presenting a strange economy without a working class and a silent, unexistent people.
In all this, the "realism" with which the Greek problem was handled reveals tremendous blindess, which would be almost welcome if not for the tremendous cost it has for the greeks and other peoples of Europe. Much rather these "realists" walked hand in hand towards the abyss alone.
Because, contrary to what they think, with the Greek crysis, reality has countered "realism" and moved the wheels of history to the dismay of those who wanted it in just the suitable spot for all their needs. unbeknownst to them, too commited to their punitive agenda, things are changing like they always do in history, as predictably in course as surprisingly in fashion. And "realism" did not drive history to a halt too neatly wrapped up around their social and economic model. History's pendulum is still moving, faster than they can fathom, away from "realism" and into the field of the "alternatives".