In this chaotic, crazy, violent, uncertain world, where an incredible number of parameters interfere to create a situation, constantly fluid and uncertain, most people have given up on predicting anything. And in particular, it is difficult to predict the final outcome of ongoing demonstrations in countries as different as France, Algeria or Venezuela.
Firstly, the first of those countries, France, is a democracy. Although France has many shortcomings, it is nonetheless a democracy; while the other two countries, Algeria and Venezuela, are not. Hence, this should lead to radically different results: in a democracy, the purpose of a demonstration is not necessarily to overthrow a government.
In France, the solutions to the demonstrations are first of all in the polls, on the dates scheduled for that. And it is up to the French government to create the conditions in order to prepare for the results of the “great debate.” It should be done without the fear of disappointment, because we know in advance what the reactions will be no matter what decisions are announced: some will applaud, others will shout that it is not enough, and there are others who will say that only new presidential elections or a change in the constitution will satisfy their appetite for power. All of this is already written and must not affect the willingness of a legitimate government to implement the policies for which it was elected.
Let me be clear: many aspects of this government’s program do not suit me. In my opinion, its policies lack many social and environmental justice components. But, nevertheless, this government has been legitimately elected; it is entitled to implement its policies. And if it can make adjustments to respond to the justified anger that has been expressed in recent months, it would be even better.
In contrast, in a dictatorship, the streets can and must overthrow the regime and impose a democracy. It must, but very rarely does it succeed.
First of all, it must be remembered that, in many cases, it was not the streets that brought down the dictatorship: it was not the streets that put an end to the Soviet Union, but Gorbachev’s decisions. It was not the streets that put an end to the Hitler dictatorship, but the allied armies of the time.
We must also remember that when the streets, or foreign armies, put an end to a dictatorship, it can lead to worst situations, as was the case in Egypt, Iraq and Libya. And, previously, in Eastern Europe, when Stalin replaced Hitler there.
All in all, whether the demonstrations are in a democracy or a dictatorship, the result are merrier when those who have power, or those who end up taking power, have a clear, realistic, democratic idea of what needs to be done to respond to the anger of their people, while respecting the minority points of view.
And many revolutions have been aborted for having had, as their only ambition, the departure of a tyrant. It is therefore urgent, wherever anger is being built up at the moment (and only a few countries are exempted), to prepare a democratic, coherent and comprehensive response to these angers, without forgetting the long-term challenges, which are all too rarely the subject of demonstrations. We will only seriously address the challenges related to the climate when big demonstrations indict companies that pollute, the trade unions that ignore such pollution and the governments that do not care about it. Furthermore, it will be addressed when those who aspire to govern do so on behalf of future generations. We are still a long way from that.