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The State and the political mediation – The functioning of a control society

The comrades of Grazia Tanta have send us this piece about the state and political mediation.

Submitted to Enough 14. Originally published by Grazia Tanta.

The State and the political mediation

– the functioning of a control society –

1 – The social-democratic model

2 – Parties, unions and employers’ associations


1 –  The social-democratic model

The attribution to each person of an individualized character, a monad type, in the construction of post-war social-democratic peace, was accompanied by the construction of enormous state apparatus; one, military in the aftermath of the war, but also an administrative one, dedicated to the rebuilding of the productive structure and its internal economic relations, but also a strong intervention in the social area, with the creation of Social Security, for example, developed by Beveridge, following Bismark, some decades before.

It was intended a positioning between isolated, atomized people, on the one hand, and a powerful state apparatus as their only representative, on the other; as unique, it was also, for the population, a nation-state, as a reference anchored in a historical narrative, more or less falsified, according to the conveniences of the possessed layers. The very designation of nation-state reveals the fusion between two unique and unquestionable entities imposed on the indigenous people of a territory – the State – as a device, supreme manager of a specific reality, and the Nation, even when in that territory there are several nations, with their specific traditions and cultures.

Naturally, the State would have to find structures to frame natural persons and, the Churches that in the past had almost monopolized this function, lost their attraction, in the context of secular societies, as a consequence of the materialistic logic of capital accumulation; and, with the salvation of souls as a concern, sent to the most believers.

Thus, a so-called democratic model was created through the political and institutional importance attributed to three structures, considered as framing the population – parties, unions and, employers’ associations. Their interests, of course, are not coincidental, but the object of a final confection or made unitary by a decision of the State, through the government’s seal. These structures, being dominant and more mediatized, do not represent the whole society; for example, the military hierarchies, the dominant religious beliefs, the financial system, the big capitalists, the foreign capital, certain embassies, the football world … all contribute to filling the matrix of relations that involve the State. However, they relate to that in a less formal or less mediatized way, if not without any public notoriety.

This model – which was called social-democrat – intended and seeks harmonization between the parties, through a decision-making summit that mediates political unity and the conciliation of economic and social interests. A practical application was defined by Cunhal[1], in Portugal, in the early 1960s, as the “unity of the honorable Portuguese” – a moralistic and not a very… Marxist concept – which left out the great economic and financial groups of the time that naturally dealt their interests directly with the government if, not even with Salazar[2]. Today neither does EDP, Galp, Volkswagen, Lone Star or, the financial system see their interests dealt in the context of the Social Concert but rather, in a higher and more discreet instance, as a minister or a prime minister. A greater and determinant insertion of a small and less influential country on the global level tends to make Social Concert as a showcase for small and medium-sized companies, to give them voice, the right to a formal media coverage, to emptied structures such as unions and employers’ associations.

In the context of a social concert – taken as something more politically comprehensive than the institutional figure with the same name, the role of the government will be the management of the State apparatus to harmonize those political and social interests, to accompany the discussions within the scope of international bodies, especially within the EU – regardless of what lobbies  in Brussels may achieve – fight for EU funds, discuss deficits and public debt levels, etc.

2 – Parties, unions and, employers’ associations

Going back to the social-democratic model, the framing of the population is done through parties, unions and, employers’ associations.

Parties tend to be closed, oligarchic, authoritarian structures, where the hierarchy is heavy and democracy is only propaganda to show abroad; something that does not concern other oligarchic structures, such as companies, the state apparatus or, religious structures. Intestinal struggles are developing to occupy internal positions, such as appointments to institutions that hold power and/or allow diversion of funds, interesting remuneration, state or municipal subsidies and, dispatches that constitute rights; or, simply greater public notoriety, as steps leading to future positions. Appointments of party cadres to government agencies are a common way of promoting to a higher level as regards legal or illegal remuneration; at this point, it should be noted that referring to corruption is synonymous of involvement of party cadres, obviously, with a greater incidence of those belonging to the parties of power – in Portugal, the PS / PSD… a pair of twins. And then, intense intestinal struggles in a very competitive framework within each party, as in the heart of the oligarchy that constitutes the party system.

As they are, in fact, structures of the State, to the parties are given funds, perks and, the guarantee that political decisions are up to them even if their actual representativeness is quite low. As political systems, historically, are oligarchic, it is the norm to have models of representation in which only party members or, tolerated by their autocratic leaderships, can apply for representation. Thus, elections are nothing democratic, at all; the candidates who present themselves are chosen directly by the party directories and their mandates cannot be revoked by those who voted for them; because the votes are on party lists, with no possibility of individualized choices, in most countries. Party castes become, by the relative stability of their presence in state bodies – through elections or not – as well as by their perks and special rights, a true nobility; they replicate the political life of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, constituting, by aristocratic rejection, a new class of sans-coulotes more pacified and brutish than their ancestors.

These are noble varieties, hierarchical one another, occupying all situations of representation and make all decisions within governments – national, regional and local; that occupy the Constitutional Court, the highest levels of public administration, public companies and, the useless figure of President of the Republic. All of this, properly sealed in a Constitution, as sacred as not fulfilled, in proportion to the ridiculous details that are found there and, that makes it one of the longest in the world. And that, it never fulfilled the noble intentions of its preamble placing Portugal with a population forced to emigrate, corresponding to 18.8% of the residents, against only 3.7% in the Spanish state.

The model of representation in market democracies excludes, outright, those who do not belong to parties and requires that a candidacy be included under the acronym of a party, with the approval of its leadership, as a rule, with very marked powers for that purpose. Paragraph 2 of article 10 of the Constitution states that “political parties compete for the organization and for the expression of popular will”. And, in fact, outside of a party, no one can run for a deputy to the Parliament, so no one there can be appointed as anyone’s representative. On the other hand, the electoral constituencies for the Parliament are based on the districts – which do not exist – as well as the administrative regions that should have replaced them (article 291 of the Constitution), which also did not happen. After… 44 years…

The opportunistic realism of the so-called right-wing parties tends to merge with that of the parties referred as the left; all in comfortable accommodation inside a musty bipolarization in a extended plane of social-democracy, designed to keep ad aeternum the gentleness of the common people and it continues to accept a precariousness as a norm of life.

In this context, sedimented and putrefied of democracy, the current model of representation is taken for granted  that is not discussed. The remaining idea is that the people are deceived but do not know that they are or, who do not want to know, more concerned with the hypothesis of dismissal, of finding something that allows a regular (even low) salary, with the housing payment as well as the car and a mobile phone full of uselessness, the most expendable being the geolocation of its carrier and the serialization of people, their data and opinions.

This creates an environment of alienation, in which everything on the surface is false, precarious, unsatisfactory, a bad theater; as with the dominant financial system that adds its assets, knowing that they represent nothing but the belief in its infinite growth. Life under capitalism is filled with a virtual call to reality by the current coronavirus, knowing that its successor will come soon.

The unions, in their origin, integrated the claiming processes proper to an economic and political conjuncture, in the search for the professional and salary valorization of their members. As their connection to political parties became popular, this led to the integration of claiming processes in political and electoral calendars, under the responsibility of union officials, and the rise of workers, officials, party cadres in office for decades and, inside heavy bureaucracies.

The accelerated precariousness of labor functions, with regular and alternating periods of work and unemployment, was integrated by the State, as a manager of unemployment benefits and social peace, in favor of businessmen and the infinite growth of GDP. The aim is to create a social peace that attracts investors, mainly foreigners, a purpose common to the State as well as union bureaucracies; both need more “growth”, to generate more jobs, for the eternalization of capitalism and wage labor, preferably precarious.

The State, in managing unemployment and replacement income, assumed these functions, collectivizing them, integrating them, naturally, in the capitalist order, at the same time that the unions became bureaucratic institutions, managed, in fact, by employees; although voluntary registration, on the contrary to many orders.

More recently, the number of orders has been inflated, such as a return to medieval corporativism, mandatory integration, control of professionals who, working or not on behalf of others, find expensive, demanding supervision there, favoring those installed, leaving those initiated according to the contingencies of the unavoidable market. Some, despite the order designation, are only associations in which there is no obligation to register.

Under a political point of view, union confederations, even weakened, with a drop in representativeness, due to non-unionization or, the creation of autonomous union members, they are, commonly, part of corporative closed groups. UGT – a creature invented in the 70s, paid in German marks, to rival CGTP – aimed at the institution of a unions “market” that led to the inclusion of both in the Social Concert. This continues to be a media curtain for the fair to favor the most low-level employers, with some concessions to the representation of workers by the government of the moment. In politics, it is common that something has to change so that everything stays the same, after washing the face.

Employers’ associations represented in that Social Concert, belong to industry, trade and the services, agriculture and tourism, including in particular the wide range of small and medium enterprises that have a characteristic, perhaps unique in Europe – the owners have a lower qualification profile than the workers who serve them.

Portugal -2017                                  (%)


                    Portugal – 2009                               (%)


                        Spain – 2009                               (%)


Source – Iberian Peninsula in Numbers

 Data on European countries for 2016 – employed population (%)
 Lower valuesLithuania – 3,6Spain – 24,3Portugal – 25,7Romania 20,5       Portugal – 26,0 
 Higher valuesPortugal – 48,4  Spain – 33,0Slovakia – 72,0     Cyprus – 45,7      Spain – 42,7 
 Employment and Unemployment Statistics, EU-Labour Force Survey (Eurostat)

It is in the Social Concert that the governments, the State power, dialogues with the low entrepreneurs and the structures of the work. The relationship between governments and the large foreign-owned companies present in Portugal proceeds with great discretion, outside of the aforementioned Social Concert. At regard to the financial system, almost all of which was dominated by foreign capital, after the 2013 crisis, the situation is one of government subservience, as seen in the “polynomial” process – BES, Banco Bom (Good Bank), Banco Mau (Bad Bank), Novo Banco, Resolution Fund – where the role of the Portuguese State is to channel funds, previously considered as lost, from the tax mass extorted from the population of the poorest country in Western Europe.

This and other texts in:


[1] Cunhal was the indisputable leader of Portuguese Communist Party, for decades

[2] Salazar, a Portuguese fascist dictator in Portugal for decades was frequently visited by Gulbenkian (a very rich Armenian oil businessman living in Portugal), maintaining both bonds of friendship. And, being both frankly forretas, Gulbenkian on his visits bought eggs from D. Maria (Salazar housekeeper) who managed a poultry farm in S. Bento (at the time the dictator residence). Forreta is a Portuguese popular word to define a very spared person.

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