Can Democracy Survive? Maybe in Africa and Latin America

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 6 May 2024

David Adams | Transition to a Culture of Peace – TRANSCEND Media Service

1 May 2024 In this blog several months ago, I claimed that we are seeing “the beginning of the end of bourgeois democracy.” I was pessimistic about the possibility of democracy surviving in another form.

But news in this month’s CPNN bulletin gives hope that perhaps democracy can survive in Africa and Latin America, relatively free from the control of the bourgeoisie (i.e. the grand capitalists) that rule in Europe and North America.

Lula da Silva, the former trade unionist and opponent of the capitalist class, continues to remain in power as President of Brazil. As the previous blog pointed out, “Like other countries in Latin America, Brazil is developing a culture of peace which can support a true democracy.” In his recent speech to the African Union, Lula said “We are reviving our democracy and making it increasingly participatory.”

Addressing the African Union, Lula said “I come to reaffirm the partnership and bond between our country and our people and the sister continent.” He pointed out that half of the population of Brazil considers that their ancestors came from Africa, and he concluded by saying “Resuming Brazil’s rapprochement with Africa means recovering historical ties and contributing to the construction of a new, more just and supportive world order. Above all, it allows us to join forces in overcoming the challenges that lie ahead.”

Among the challenges, he addressed the question of democracy , “We must create a new global governance that is capable of facing the challenges of our time. . . . Only an inclusive social project will allow us to establish prosperous, free, democratic, and sovereign societies. There will be no stability or democracy if hunger and unemployment remain.”

A month after Lula’s visit to Africa, Senegal elected a new President, Bassirou Diomaye Faye, whose inaugural speech was similar to the message of Lula: “my role, and I intend to assume it fully, is to reach out to everyone, to bring together, reassure, appease and reconcile, in order to consolidate the peace, security and stability essential to the economic and social development of our dear country.”

Of special importance was Faye’s promise to “remain firmly committed to the construction of African integration and the achievement of the objectives of the Zone of African continental free trade.” and “to consolidate our sovereignty by breaking the chains of economic dependence.”

In fact, the political independence of Latin America and Africa, gained after World War II, was not accompanied by economic independence. As pointed out in an earlier blog, “The facts about neocolonialism,” when one includes secret and illegal transactions, the net flow of resources from Global South to the Global North is 24 times greater than the humanitarian aid furnished from the North.

Over the course of the past year, a number of African countries have seen military coups that overthrow rulers corrupted by the economic ties to the capitalists of Europe and North America. See, for example, an article from Mali. Hence it is significant that President Faye spends much of his inaugural message in praise of the Senegalese military. The future of African democracy, and that of Latin America as well, depends upon the ability of these regions to break free from the economic exploitation of Europe and North America. In this regard, Lula’s remark to the African Union holds promise: “Consolidation of BRICS as the world’s most important arena for the articulation of emerging countries is an undeniable advance.” As maintained in a previous blog, the BRICS offers an economic alternative to countries who wish to escape from dependence on American and European neocolonialism.

Elsewhere in the world, the CPNN bulletin this month also includes speeches from several political candidates in Europe and North America who try to break from the tight control of the capitalist class. The speeches are eloquent by Jean-Luc Melanchon in France and by Jill Stein and Cornel West in the United States, but they have no chance of winning in elections that are controlled by the capitalist class and their mass media.

In the Middle East and Asia, we seem even further from the survival of democracy. The promise of the Arab Spring a few years ago now seems to be in the distant past. India will vote soon in national elections that risk to result in a victory for Hindu nationalists that could turn India into a religious state similar to those in Iran and Israel that have had such disastrous results. In Pakistan, the recent elections saw the defeat of candidates that called for economic and political independence. Elsewhere in Asia, the news for democracy is no more promising.

It is not by accident that the regions that hold some hope for the survival of democracy are those who are in the leadership for the development of a culture of peace, namely Africa and Latin America, as we have stated in previous blogs, as well as in CPNN bulletins, such as that of last June. The development of a true democracy requires not only the development of an economy that serves all of the people, but it also requires a culture of peace.

This is similar to another historical truism that I came to understand 50 years ago when I went to work in the Soviet Union, hoping to see socialism develop as an alternative to the capitalism that I experienced as an American resisting the War in Vietnam. I waited each year for the Soviet publication of their economic figures, expecting to see advances that could outstrip those of the capitalist countries. But when I looked closely at the numbers, I came to realize that they were falsified. Engaged in the arms race with the West on the basis of an economy only half as great, the Soviet Union poured all of its resources into the military. And, of course, eventually its economy crashed, followed by its entire political structure. From this I concluded that capitalism will always win in a culture of war, and that socialism requires a culture of peace.

It seems that the laws of history establish certain priorities, that a culture of peace must precede the survival of democracy and the development of socialism.

Latin America and Africa gives us hope that such another world is possible.

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Dr. David Adams is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment and coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace.  Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence. Send him an email.

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