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OPINION
Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Symbolic form

State of anxiety amongst the people is growing as democracy languishes

Josep Ramoneda

"When those who hold political authority settle into a situation of social rift in the name of economic necessity, the state shapes up as a mere manager of the national company. The politicians are the first to blame for the loss of symbolic form."

The words are those of the French philosopher Claude Lefort. When symbolic form decays, politics disappears, democracy is simply a soulless ritual, and society unravels amid fear and distrust: a portrait of the present situation. The economic argument drowns all other considerations, and serves the government as an excuse for eluding its responsibilities. "It's what has to be done." "Nothing else can be done." Here the whole message of the PP begins and ends. Finance Minister Montoro set a record for indignity in justifying a tax amnesty on the need to increase revenues. That is, the end justifies all means, such as delicate deference to tax dodgers. With a government that has no other policy than letting itself be dragged, politics and morality shrink to zero. Revenue and cutbacks are all that matters: this is the ideological horizon before us. And don't bother asking what it's all for, because this will be considered an impertinence. You can't make the minister look like a fool.

People who have lately visited the prime minister have emerged with the belief that this man does not really know what is happening to him; that he had thought his arrival would pour oil on the troubled waters of the markets and calm the Spanish economy; and that he is confused by events that are quite beyond him. The reality is that he sweats to satisfy demands that come from outside, shrinks from complicity with the opposition and with society itself, and says he is not at liberty to decide.

How are we to understand this? Does he accept the plan imposed from without in order to tailor a new legal suit to the measure of the financial powers that be, and to substitute democratic politics by authoritarian technocracy because this is part of his own political project; or is he simply a tottering leader who does not feel strong enough to mobilize the citizens on the road to recovery?

The observable fact is that discouragement is growing every day, as well as the number of ordinary people who live in a state of anxiety; that the discredit of politics is growing (already in the air are the fascist slogans that blame politicians for all ills); that the real culprits of the crisis are still laughing; that democracy is languishing; and the feeling is beginning to gel that there is nobody at the helm.

In this debacle, the government is not alone. The opposition hardly measures up to the challenge. In the days of boom the Socialists shared in the gold fever - "what a pleasure it is governing with a surplus," said Zapatero in 2007 - and did not see or want to see the approaching disaster. When they bumped into reality, the flash flood of public irritation carried them away due to their impotence in the face of the markets, and the feeling of deception at a sudden and unexpected knuckling under. All of the "symbolic form" vanished in the air.

Without an alternative, the difference between good and evil is dangerously blurred. This has a name: the culture of indifference, in which exchange value prevails even in moral decisions. And money is the excuse for putting off real political debates, ignoring the public clamor, until a hypothetical time after the crisis. When this happens will there be any democracy left, or will gold and insolence have triumphed? In times of hegemony of financial power, ideology and money are confounded in a single thing: the latter is the holder of the power of laying down the rules. Without an alternative, what remains for politics is only the melancholy role of handmaid to that power.

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