In Argentina, the student and labor uprisings flared up shortly after those in Paris or Los Angeles, in 1969, the year in which Bergoglio celebrated his first Mass, and immediately the militias joined the fray, the Montoneros, who in 1970, when he took his vows, kidnapped and executed former president Pedro Aramburu.
Precociously appointed novice master, the then 34-year-old Bergoglio completely espoused the cause of bringing back Juan Domingo Perón, who in those years was in exile in Madrid. He became the spiritual director of of the young Peronists of the Guardia de Hierro, who had a powerful presence at the Jesuit Universidad del Salvador. And he continued this militancy after his surprise appointment as provincial superior of the Jesuits of Argentina in 1973, the same year in which Perón returned to the country and won his triumphant reelection.
Bergoglio was among the writers of the Modelo nacional, the political testament that Perón wanted to leave after his death. And for all of this he drew the ferocious hostility of a good half of the Argentine Jesuits, more leftist than he, especially after he surrendered the Universidad del Salvador, which was put up for sale in order to stabilize the finances of the Society of Jesus, to none other than his friends of the Guardia de Hierro.
It was in those years that the future pope developed the “myth” – his word – of the people as protagonist of history. A word that by its nature is innocent and a bearer of innocence, a people with the innate right to tierra, techo, trabajo and that he sees as overlapping with the “santo pueblo fiel de Dios.”
THE “MYTH” OF THE PEOPLE
But in addition to his experience of life, Bergoglio’s political vision also took shape thanks to the instruction of a teacher, as he confided to the French sociologist Dominique Wolton in a book-length interview that Wolton also edited, entitled “Politique et societé,” released in 2017:
“There is a thinker that you should read: Rodolfo Kusch, a German who lived in northwestern Argentina, an excellent philosopher and anthropologist. He made one thing clear: that the word ‘people’ is not a logical word. It is a mythical word. It is not possible to speak of people logically, because that would mean making only a description. In order to understand a people, to understand what are the values of this people, one must enter into the spirit, into the heart, into the work, into the history, and into the myth of its tradition. This point is truly at the basis of the theology called ‘of the people.’ That is to say, to go with the people, see how it expresses itself. This distinction is important. The people is not a logical category, it is a mythical category.”
An author of both anthropological and theatrical works, Rodolfo Kusch (1922-1979) took his inspiration from Heidegger’s philosophy to distinguish between “being” and “dwelling,” describing with the first category the rationalistic and domineering vision of Western man and with the second the vision of the indigenous Latin American peoples, in peace with nature and animated by none other than a “myth.”
For Kusch, the first of the two visions, the Eurocentric one, is intolerant and incapable of understanding the second, which he instead wanted to accentuate and to which he dedicated his most important studies. For this reason too he found himself at the margins of the culture of the dominant elites and instead found an admirer in Bergoglio.
WITH THE “POPULAR MOVEMENTS”
So according to Bergoglio, “it takes a myth to understand the people.” And he has recounted this myth, as pope, above all when he called around him the “popular movements.” He has done it three times so far: the first time in Rome in 2014, the second in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, in 2015, the third again in Rome, in 2016. Every time he rouses the audience with endless speeches, of around thirty pages each, which when put together now form the political manifesto of this pope.
The movements that Francis calls to himself are not ones that he created, they preexist him. There is nothing overtly Catholic about them. They are in part the heirs of the memorable anti-capitalist and anti-globalization gatherings in Seattle and Porto Alegre. Plus the multitude of rejects from which the pope sees bursting forth “that torrent of moral energy which springs from including the excluded in the building of a common destiny.”
It is to these “discards of society” that Francis entrusts a future made of land, of housing, of work for all. Thanks to a process of their rise to power that “transcends the logical proceedings of formal democracy.” To the “popular movements,” on November 5, the pope said that the time has come to make a leap in politics, in order “to revitalize and recast the democracies, which are experiencing a genuine crisis.” In short, to upend the powerful from their thrones.
The powers against which the people of the excluded are rebelling, in the vision of the pope, are “the economic systems that in order to survive must wage war and thus restore economic balance,” they are “the economy that kills”. This is his key for explaining the “piecemeal world war” and even Islamic terrorism.
It can be added that at the first meeting in Rome and at the one in Santa Cruz there was present, in his capacity as “cocalero” activist, president of Bolivia Evo Morales, a champion of the populist left in Latin America.
Who was again invited to Rome, in April of 2016, as a speaker at the conference organized by the pontifical academy of sciences for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the social encyclical of John Paul II Centesimus Annus, together with fellow populist leader Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, neo-Malthusian economist Jeffrey Sachs, and the far-left Democratic candidate for the American presidency, Bernie Sanders:
Pope Francis received as a gift from him a letter from unspecified representatives of the “popular movements” and three books on the health benefits of coca, of which Morales himself is a fervent cultivator. And the farewell between the two – the agencies reported – was “very affectionate,” just the contrary of the opposition that the bishops of Bolivia have been carrying out against him there, going so far as to accuse him openly of “bringing drug trafficking into the structure of the state.” With the result that, back in Bolivia, Morales advised the bishops to “form openly a pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist party.” While on his side he exhibits the pope. Who “is content with what we have done and has told me: You always stand with the people….”.
The above comes from an article by Italian journalist Sandro Magister, cited in Abyssus abyssum invocat (Deep calls to deep), a blog by retired bishop Henry Gracida of Corpus Christi, Texas.