I refer to Roland Guettier’s ‘Democracy Has Had Its Day’. What subsists beneath this exemplar of positivistic rationality- supported by an infallible logic and the ‘facts’ that incarnate its construction- is a tedious banality. Since Guettier is so fond of citing the Greeks, I would like to invoke a Platonic figure that will lead us out of the confusion into which Guettier plunges us. This obscurity, which Plato termed ‘sophistry’, assumes its modern form in what we shall call ‘cynical conservatism’. Now, we know that Plato shared Guettier’s aristocratic dismissal of democracy, but this hardly matters- I would like to recover a thought that will never surrender its sublimity as long as we are capable of thinking it.
This is the thought of Truth and the Idea, a figure of the eternal that subtracts itself from every contingent fact. The name ‘democracy’ does not merely denote a state of affairs, a mode of political administration that has assumed different forms throughout history- in which case we can legislate upon its empirical success or failure- it also connotes a dream, the truth of which retains its inexorable incandescence in the hearts of men and women. This is why the texts of Marx and Robespierre, Paine and Jefferson, even (why not?) the incendiary tracts of Mao retain their comprehensibility in spite of the innumerable compromises and betrayals that blemish their implementation. Lenin’s cleavage between ‘formal’ and ‘real’ democracy remains crucial to those of us who believe in the creative power of people who act in concert. I would like to be clear- every historical manifestation of democracy does not terminate the process of liberation, nor does it diminish the imperative of struggle that democracy imposes upon us. Democracy, like the Love that saturates it, is not a ‘thing’, an object in the world that we can subject to critical evaluation, it is a relation forged between men and women who construct and enact it, it is something we do. Whatever our verdict is on the demands of the anti-Railway groups, one thing is certain- they manifest an implacable spirit that courses through the social body, despite the government’s attempts to occlude it. We are ready for self-determination, whether the State is willing to sanction it or not.
Guettier’s argument stands and falls upon its response to a simple Socratic question: WHICH democracy are we speaking about? Democracy as a mere parliamentary form, or a real, already-existing content that is animated and elaborated upon by the shared desires of struggling people? I must concede that this letter does not share the lofty ambitions of Guettier and the Post-50 Group- I do not presume to speak in the name of universal ‘reason’ nor do I wish to invoke the demiurge of ‘History’ to substantiate my claims. I cast my lot exclusively with those who hope and fight, because I know that, beneath the tumult of time and the failures that comprise it, a dream is immune to the ravages of death.