THE BLOG

A World Where People Count

23/11/2014 19:27 GMT | Updated 23/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Just after the results of the Brazilian presidential elections were made public a few days ago, giving current President Dilma Rouseff of the leftist Workers Party a small margin of victory over her opponent Aécio Neves, the British weekly magazine The Economist did what it always does, and came up with one of their worst ever statements.

Unlike in other past occasions when they have got in hot water for championing the principles of the most brutal type of Neo-Liberal Capitalism in bogus articles written by nameless authors, this time they used one of those wonders of modern technology, Tweeter.

In what at first glance did not seem to many as anything more than a factual statement, The Economist tweeted: "If GDP counted, not people, Neves would be Brazil's president, not Rouseff" and then followed up by presenting a pie chart showing what the results would have looked like if, as they suggested, people did not count.

Now, The Economist has a long history of siding with the most reactionary forces across the world. It would take several pages to list most of their dubious moral and ethical choices through almost two centuries, but just for the sake of reminding us who they are, here go two or three of the most appalling ones.

During the Irish famine of the 1840s, The Economist sided with the British and laid the blame for the crisis squarely on, yes, you guessed right, those same Irish peasants who were literally starving to death, giving yet more public backing to Westminster policies that led to yet more Irish deaths.

During the American Civil War in the 1860s, The Economist sided with the Pro-Slavery South against the Union. And since we are on the topic of slavery, more than once recently they have been caught discharging their bile against historians who have written books criticizing the evils associated with the institution of slavery in the US Antebellum South and in other parts of the Americas. As a matter of fact, last time around they messed up so badly, that they were forced to withdraw an anonymous review of Edward Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, because the author dared to question the sacrosanct idea that America was built on "individualistic culture, Puritanism, the lure of open land and high wages, Yankee ingenuity and government policies" and instead put forward the quasi-terrorist idea that in reality most of that wealth was related to the private ownership of men and women. Oh, the horror!

Not only did the anonymous writer call this approach to the business of slavery "grim", but he or she ended the piece stating that "Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains". No wonder they were forced to take the review down, apologize profusely, and run and hide until the storm had passed.

But here is the deal with The Economist: when they are almost over one storm, one of their editors almost always has a neo-liberal epiphany and comes up with something even worse; which brings me again to their tweet about the Brazilian presidential elections.

The tweet in question, as I said before, seems harmless at first sight, and maybe that's what The Economist writers wanted us to think. However, a second look at it would cause despair to anyone who knows a little bit about the long, bloody and protracted history of the struggle for universal suffrage, not just in Brazil but across the world.

Let me translate what The Economist faceless writers really said with their surreptitious and shameless tweet. To them GDP, and for GDP read Wealth, is so important, so vital, that they can't keep their nineteenth century views to themselves and need to share them with the rest of us. To them, perhaps a presidential election based on GDP, not people, would have had a much more positive outcome for the interests they represent. After all, who wants another left-leaning Latin American president with public backing, right?

To them, universal suffrage is so twentieth-century that they feel the need to lecture us, albeit in the sneakiest possible manner, about the implicit dangers of giving the right to vote to the poor, the women, the indigenous populations, the descendants of slaves, etc. Perhaps, they want to propose a regression to Brazilian coronelismo and to the politics of Café com Leite. Who knows, perhaps they even want to return Brazil to being an Empire, where people won't count and where all kind of murky deals can be cut, without the consent of those peasants, women, indigenous populations and descendants of slaves.

And here is why this short statement is so malicious, immoral and full of venom. By even remotely suggesting that wealth and not the people should count, The Economist writers are very aware -unless they have purposely erased their memories- that it was thanks to universal suffrage that we have a much more tolerant, democratic, enlightened and egalitarian world today. It was only thanks to universal suffrage that nowadays we have women's rights, children's rights, a forty-hour working week, a minimum wage, public schools, environmental laws, abortion rights, health insurance, and many, many other feats that would have never been possible in a world where GDP or wealth counted instead of people. They can fantasise all they want, but their anguish, that is not, and it will not be the case.