Peoples' movements and protests




Only mobilizations can contribute to good compromises



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By Jan Wiklund



Politics is governed by compromise, but only compromise between the mobilised. If you don't even try to help yourself, no one will take you into account.

Organising compromises between conflicting interests is the profession of a politician - you could say the content of politics, or what gives governments their legitimacy. If it doesn't succeed, it loses its legitimacy, and in the long run no one obeys.

This is, according to Peter Turchin, what is happening in the US right now. No compromise is possible, therefore no legitimacy.

In Europe, being elected in a general election is enough to gain legitimacy, says Yongshun Cai. At least in the short term - in the long term, the ability to compromise is also required. In Europe, politicians can say "you have elected us, blame yourselves". In China, politicians have to earn legitimacy the hard way, by pursuing popular policies and taking people's opinions into account.

But not just any old way; according to Cai, it takes a lot of mobilisation and a lot of people to get the opinions across at the political level. Moreover, if the mobilisations are large enough (and concrete enough with a focus on issues), even the one-party state cannot suppress them by force.

And the same, of course, is true in Europe (and North America).

Once upon a time - roughly up to about 1975 - this was a given: only majorities and large movements would do. Perhaps it was the welfare state and its reliance on Confucian good officials that subsequently led many people to engage in lobbying to tell those in power "how it is" instead of mobilising.

General elections are only useful if popular mobilisations have first formulated the alternatives between which the election is held. Then they can help shape a good compromise. If not, elections become a show to legitimise politicians who make compromises between proposals that few want.

Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: