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por Sérgio de Almeida Correia, em 19.03.20



"Under Mao or Kim, mocking the leader's name was enough to warrant assignment to a labour camp. (...) Under Mussolini or Ceaucescu, editors received daily instructions on what should be mentioned and what was prescribed. Writers , poets and painters, under Stalin trembled as the thought that their praise might not appear sufficiently sincere.   (...)

In the wake of the Cultural Revolution the communist party in China amended its constitution explicitly to 'forbid all forms of personality cult', making slow but inexorable progress towards greater accountability. But the regime has been turning back towards dictatorship. After Xi Jinping was elected General Secretary of the party in 2012 his first act was to humiliate and imprison some of his most powerful rivals. Then he disciplined or purged hundreds of thousands of party members, all in the name of a campaign against corruption. As the regime makes a concerted effort to obliterate a fledging civil society, lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and religious leaders are confined , exiled, and imprisoned in the thousands.

The propaganda machine has consistently idolised Xi. In the capital of Hebei province allone some 4.500 loudspeakers were installed in November 2017, before a major party congress, calling on all people to 'unite tightly around President Xi'. The party organ gave him seven titles, from Creative Leader, Core of the Party and Servant Pursuing Happiness for the People, to Leader of a Great Country and Architect of Modernisation in the New Era. 'To follow you is to follow the sun' went a new song launched in Beijing. Trinkers, badges and posters with his portrait are ubiquitous. His toughts became compulsory reading for schoolchildren the same year. Fear goes hand in hand with praise, as even mocking the Chairman of Everything in a private message online can be treated as a heinous crime punishable by two years in prison. In March 2018 he became Chairman for life, as The National People's Congress voted to abolish limits on his term.

Nonetheless, dictators today, wth the excedpetion of Kim Jong-un, are a long way from instilling the fear their predecessors inflicted on their populations at the height of the twentieth century. Yet hardly a month goes without a new book announcing 'The Death of Democracy" or 'The End of Liberalism'. Undeniably, for more than a decade democracy has been degraded in many places around the world, while levels of freedom have receded even in some of the most entrenched parliamentary democracies. Eternal vigilance, as the saying goes, is the price of liberty, as power can easily be stolen.

Vigilance, however, is not the same as gloom. Even a modicum of historical perspective indicates that today dictatorship is on the decline when compared to the twentieth century. Most of all, dictators who surround themselves with a cult of personality tend to drift off into a world of their own, confirmed in their delusions by the followers who surround them. They end up making all major decisions on their own. They see enemies everywhere, at home and abroad. As hubris and paranoia take over, they seek more power to protect the power they already have. But since so much hinges on the judgements they make, even a minor miscalculation can cause the regime to falter, with devastating consequences. In the end, the biggest threat to dictators comes not just from the people, but from themselves." (pp. 204-206)


O livro foi editado no segundo semestre do ano passado pela Bloomsbury. Frank Dikötter é Chair Professor de Humanidades na Universidade de Hong Kong e Senior Fellow da Hoover Institution. 

Barbara Kiser considerou-o a "salutary reading at a time of persistent attacks on democracy". Eu também.

E lembrei-me disto a propósito do que aconteceu em Wuhan em Dezembro e Janeiro passados. Também por causa das comunicações que alguns jornalistas receberam nos últimos dias.

A campanha em curso prosseguirá num quiosque perto de si.

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