The Brazilian bourgeoisie in action

Robert Rauschenberg, Interval, 1996


Preface of the recently released book, organized by André Flores Penha Valle & Pedro Felipe Narciso

The Brazilian bourgeoisie in action: from Lula to Bolsonaro is a collection that brings together texts by various authors and that makes a very significant contribution to the knowledge of the theme announced in the title of the book. The chapters that compose it analyze the political performance of the Brazilian bourgeoisie and its different fractions during the governments of the 1990s, but, mainly, the governments of the first two decades of the XNUMXst century; analyzes the complex political relations that this social class and its different fractions entertain with the other classes present in contemporary Brazilian society and these chapters also analyze the relations of the bourgeoisie with the national State, more precisely, with the economic, social and foreign policies implemented by the Brazilian state.

The texts in this collection combine, which is no small feat, theoretical rigor with the collection and presentation of new information and empirical data. Theoretical rigor stems from the judicious and creative mobilization of the conceptual device elaborated by the Marxist political scientist Nicos Poulantzas – yes, Marxism has its own political theory and this book proves it once again. The authors obtained new historical information by systematically researching the demands of different fractions of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, research carried out through a systematic survey of the official documentation of dozens of trade union and civil associations that bring together different segments of the capitalist class in Brazil.

These texts summarize the authors' master's and doctoral research, most of them produced within the scope of the Graduate Program in Political Science at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and within the framework of the Research Group entitled “Neoliberalism and class relations in Brazil” linked to the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), a research group in which the authors of the book and also the author of this preface work.

The analysis of the political action of the Brazilian bourgeoisie is not a new topic in the bibliography of Social Sciences and History, but this collection brings news. It mobilizes, among others, the concepts of bourgeois fraction, power bloc and fractional hegemony, concepts that allow analyzes to discover regularities in the political behavior of some and other segments of the Brazilian bourgeoisie; detect the main conflicts that divided the capitalist class in the period; and explain the turbulence of the national political process in recent years, not only as a result of the contradiction between workers and capitalists, but also – and certainly mainly, in the case of Brazil today – as a result of the conflict between different fractions of the same social class – the bourgeois class.

The pioneering studies on the Brazilian bourgeoisie had many merits. They were pioneering studies, concerned with clarifying the main lines of national politics and which did not hide their political commitment. For most of them, it was a matter of knowing whether or not there was a national bourgeoisie in Brazil willing to take on the fight against imperialism. Another merit was the fact that such studies were attentive to changes in dependency ties – basically, the transition from what they called the “agrarian-export model” to “industrialization via import substitution”. This transition required the reformulation of ties with imperialist countries and, therefore, also concerned the interests of different segments of the Brazilian bourgeoisie.

It is our opinion, however, that such studies suffer from limitations. On both sides of the barricade, both those who defended the existence of a national bourgeoisie in Brazil and those who denied it, lacked the concepts of bourgeois fraction, power bloc and, particularly, the concept of internal bourgeoisie. If we consider some classic studies, such as those by Caio Prado Jr, Florestan Fernandes and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, all of them, to a greater or lesser degree, by denying the existence of a national bourgeoisie, tend to commit the symmetrical and opposite error, because they suggest the total subordinate and uniform integration of the entire set of the Brazilian bourgeoisie to foreign capital.

The studies present in The Brazilian bourgeoisie from Lula to Bolsonaro proceed otherwise. They conceive, relying on Nicos Poulantzas, a gradation in the relationship of the bourgeoisie of dependent countries with foreign capital, a gradation that allows thinking, conceptually, at least three positions: the position of national bourgeoisie, that of associated bourgeoisie and, a position intermediate between the two previous ones, which would be the position of internal bourgeoisie.

This book dismisses the existence of a national bourgeoisie in Brazil, but, and following the analyzes that have been carried out in the aforementioned Research Group “Neoliberalism and class relations in Brazil”, highlights the existence of an internal bourgeoisie, a fraction that would have had hegemonic role in the power bloc during PT governments. Such theses are developed based on a wide and careful first-hand documentary survey.

Imperialism, and also the dependency that is its correlate, goes through different phases. The cited classics analyzed the political behavior of the Brazilian bourgeoisie in the phase that Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Enzo Faletto called “the new dependency”. It was the phase in which foreign capital, reacting to an internal impulse provoked by the developmental State built after the Revolution of 1930, decided, not without initial hesitation from US imperialism, to adhere to the process of peripheral industrialization. It was against this backdrop that Caio Prado Jr. he asked in a controversial tone, in his book the brazilian revolution, why would the Brazilian bourgeoisie take on the anti-imperialist struggle if imperialism was providing it with unprecedented and growing investment opportunities and participating in a broad process of capitalist modernization in Brazil.

The argument of Caio Prado Jr. is outdated at the present stage. The book that the reader has in his hands analyzes the political behavior of the different fractions of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, no longer in the phase that was called “new dependency”, but in a phase in which, to resume the analysis elaborated by Samir Amin, imperialism establishes with the periphery a relationship of “suction” without “compensation”, hinders the development of capitalism in the periphery and has nothing else to offer, even if secondarily. The picture is new and different, and the texts in this book take this fact into account.

*Armando Boito is professor of political science at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of State, politics and social classes (Unesp).



André Flores Penha Valle & Pedro Felipe Narciso. The Brazilian bourgeoisie in action: from Lula to Bolsonaro. Florianópolis, Enunciado Publicações, 2021, 320 pages.


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