The counterrevolution in Brazil

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By WOLFGANG LEO MAAR*

The counterrevolution is preventive: it turns against democratic, peaceful and orderly changes, represented by the elected PT governments; and it is more perennial and harmful than a blow

A counterrevolutionary movement is underway in Brazil, against democratic society. It is not a movement against a “revolution”, but a movement along “revolutionary” lines – revolution is not necessarily leftist! – which resorts to rupture and does not exclude the use of violence.

The counterrevolution is preventive: it turns against democratic, peaceful and orderly changes, represented by the elected PT governments, which put oligarchic interests in check. It is more perennial and harmful than a coup, as it leaves in its wake the formation of habits, practices consolidated in the country's culture. And as the former president of Uruguay José Mujica always reminds us, changing the culture is much more difficult than changing reality.

Contrary to a discourse often propagated by the mainstream press, but also by institutions, including some sectors of the judiciary and the police, the dangerous classes and promoters of disorder are not those of popular contingents and workers, their parties and organizations, but precisely those classes present in the oligarchy.

The violence of the class struggle in Brazil installs itself through the dominant class. The oligarchy of Brazilian capitalism is very dangerous, given that, due to its practices, now abundantly demonstrated, it harms health, education, elections, employment, justice, national sovereignty, our physical integrity, our reserves to our future… The Brazilian capitalist class does not hesitate to resort to violence when it believes that its oligarchic power is threatened by democratic and peaceful practices.

A little over a decade ago there was a democratic electoral dispute in Brazil. The election brought to power new social practices that brought about a transformation in Brazilian society and provided a progressive awakening of national awareness about inequality in large sections of the population, and thus made possible a shift in the conditions for the reproduction of oligarchic power.

From the oligarchic point of view, the interests of capitalism in the country were put at risk. Under the mantle of apparent stability in the sociopolitical, economic and, above all, cultural practices of the national and international coalition of forces that sustains it, the oligarchies have a lot of resilience, derived from customs erected in firm roots since the beginning of this country with the name of commodities , established as a colony for commercial exploitation and which evolved based on the longest-lived slave-owning social order on the planet.

The result is a capitalist socialization that can be called “semi-society”: an economic order valid for all, called “market”, which acts as a society endowed with rights and participation, but only for a restricted section of the population. That is, a situation of enormous economic, social and political inequality, supported by cultural intolerance and repressive institutional violence, all together and mixed with a diminished public sense and solidarity living in an extreme individualism.

This situation, very favorable to the consolidation of neoliberalism, shows that what is presented as capitalism in Brazil is incompatible with democratic, participatory and public practices. Precisely these democratic practices are the target of the counterrevolution to stop social behaviors that question the barriers that keep power restricted to the “pot” of oligarchic partners.

For the first and only time in our history, in the PT governments, there was an – unforgivable, whence the hatred aroused and the coup carried out – a real power dispute, in which the oligarchic eye was faced. The new practices are not ideas or projects, conflicts or isolated manifestations, but practices that, because they are social, are also political, economic, cultural, with consequences in the ethos, in the habits that shape the reproduction process of Brazilian society. These practices imply the configuration of new nexuses of social cohesion, contradictory in relation to the traditional ties, which seemed stabilized under the power of capitalist interests, that is, within the national oligarchy and its international ramifications.

They are not, on the one hand, the utopian practices of a rebellious left, lacking a base to threaten power, nor, on the other, the practices of an adapted left, which accepts the power in force by claiming participation in its management. Both would dispense the oligarchy from resorting to counter-revolution.

What has become intolerable are left-wing practices that reach the national macropolitical sphere, through their articulation with micropolitics. These are inclusion through education, the fight against extreme poverty, racial and gender quotas, tolerance for diversity, expansion of health coverage, public service coverage, housing insertion, consultations with popular participation in policy making , appreciation of the minimum wage, reinforcement of the formalization of relations in the world of work, etc.

These new practices, by expanding the public conception of common goods to include the entire population, call into question the interests represented in the oligarchic State. The beneficiaries of this, through their secular social practices, formulated their own private conception of the national common goods, that is, of the rights that Brazilians deserved to enjoy. Now they find themselves frightened by the existence, even if not consolidated and under construction, of inclusive and universalizable practices of common goods, apprehended as public by the majority of the poor and working population.

These new practices, of a democratic nature, denounce that the group excluded due to their unequal conditions is not born unequal, but is built on their inequality in the “market” order, usurper of the society of equals through the action of oligarchic law. Now this oligarchic control is threatened in its continuity by the social contradictions generated by the production of inequality.

The counterrevolution, set in motion to realize the interests of the capitalist oligarchy, needs to counter these democratic practices. This is how the parliamentary oligarchy imposed and the legal oligarchy endorsed the coup, the labor counter-reform, the destruction of public funds for health, education, science, housing, etc.

However, the counterrevolution, through the daily exercise of anti-democratic counterpractices, proposes to convert the latter into habits that generate social cohesion aimed at sustaining the oligarchy – counterpractices that do not exclude resorting to violence, whether material, symbolic or loss of power. of equity in justice. It is a broth of proto-fascist political culture.

These anti-democratic practices, however, cannot be imposed directly; require mediation. The best example is the mistaken condemnation of former President Lula. It is part of a semi-democracy that, erected as a “society of the spectacle”, takes to the forefront of public opinion the “justice” of an alleged anti-corruption policy of probity, while, out of sight, the market order continues to operate, with its capitalist partiality.

The oligarchy, despite its consolidated structure of domination in capital-labor relations, was aware of the risk of ceasing to be the ruling class in society, not least because it is not even able to manage national production. His conduct of national politics would be questioned by the new practices of a “peaceful revolution”, democratic and anti-oligarchic, inclusive and participative, endowed with the effect of reviving the country's economy.

Social transformations involving large popular contingents – between a quarter and a fifth of the population – generated new links of mutual recognition and new links with institutions and social processes. This includes the growing awareness of social rights in relation to the effects arising from inequality caused by the privatization of policies linked to the dominant speculative and predatory economy.

Democracy is no longer just an ideal to be conquered, but is built by practices carried out in diversified and comprehensive public policies. It was not only democracy that presented itself in its ideality to society. It was also society, in large numbers, that moved towards rights, towards the idea of ​​democracy. Democracy is no longer just a out of place idea, alien and displaced from real life, as liberal ideas were in the slave order, as Roberto Schwarz explained. New leagues of Brazilians, of a diverse and plural nature, mixed in universities, on social networks, in cultural manifestations, in work environments, etc. they are here to stay, because, thanks to these contexts, rights – and with them the idea of ​​democracy – can be concretely practiced. However, as Antonio Candido pointed out, democracy is a lot of work. In addition to being a constant practice, it demands persevering cultural training to establish its own conception of society. Loss of ground can be quick…

The frightened oligarchy associated itself with international interests contrary to our sovereignty that allowed it to join forces for an anti-democratic counter-revolution of a preventive nature. Its objective is to prevent the contradictions of inequality and exclusion that it itself generates from continuing to become a political force adverse to its continuity. Therefore, it needs to guarantee the continuity of the social and institutional culture.

If until recently Brazil was characterized as a State of law open to democracy, today it is taking large steps towards an oligarchic State of law. This is not a play on words; there is a profound change about what is State, society and social rationality.

On the oligarchic level, the center of sovereign and public power, the State, is limited to having a monopoly on violence. Society is “the market”, just for this observation to follow the zeal with which the big traditional media daily rebuilds this alleged identity between economic order and society. Social practices, such as elections, social inclusion, human rights, public debates, are factors that disrupt the commercial social logic. “Social” means here only a collective of private individuals, not a conception of public totality. There would be no other reason for Margaret Thatcher's famous proclamation, recently recalled by Geraldo Alckmin: “What we call society does not exist; there are only families and individuals”. They fear a society in which the direction of the whole can be different, different and contrary to that consolidated in the current capitalist socialization.

If the media is responsible for building a notion of oligarchic society and its agents, oligarchic justice has a decisive role in producing the power of social direction. It is up to it to prevent universal rights, practiced in an egalitarian society, from contaminating the proper functioning of market agents in the production of inequality. It is at stake to guarantee the operability of socialization according to the rationality imposed in the oligarchic sense.

Law and jurisprudence are, by themselves, a practical embodiment of the universal legal direction to which the entirety of the social context must submit. Strictly speaking, by “judicializing” the political plane, the State is suited to the necessary direction for the continuity of power in the existing oligarchic molds. The non-politics resulting from “judicialization” is politics frozen in the situation in which it finds itself and deprived of its own identity.

The transition from a democratic “State of law”, although with a dominant oligarchy, to a semi-democratic State of “oligarchic law” is very clear. In this reconstruction, the very nature of the “social” undergoes a structural change. The “public commons”, which strictly speaking include public participation and decision-making, become commons endowed with “publicity”. In place of the public character of the social in society, which practically recurs on it, converting it into a living formation, a substitute for this dimension of what is public is installed through “publicity”, now reduced to the public exposition of what exists passively shared. This is what happens in social networks, which seem to replace the social, although they only confirm it in their current format.

But the “Thatcherian horror”, society, exists and is a practical, effective reality. In it, the difference in relation to behaviors derived from the logic of the market is on the agenda for including democracy.

Diversity, for example, prevails over commercial criteria; on the other hand, the intolerance prevailing in the individualism of the neoliberal market needs to permanently hide its affinity with economic privileges. Interactions in the “digital world”, which seemed to be entirely restricted to relationships at the level of individuals and families, only reinforcing certain positions taken in advance and obstructing their real debate in society, more and more become means to be used in effectively social interactions.

Only in society can human beings individualize. In a capitalist mercantile order, at most they are raised to the status of sellers, buyers or goods. Deepening the exposure and democratic public practices in society, in its institutions and organizations, is the only antidote to the anti-democratic counterrevolution and its agents in the market, in parliament, in the big press and in oligarchic justice. Thus, it will be possible to resist its impositions and expand the contradictions they generate.

*Wolfgang Leo Maar Professor of Ethics and Political Philosophy at the Federal University of São Carlos and researcher at Cenedic at FFLCH-USP.

Originally published in the newspaper The Diplomatic World Brazil, year 11, no.128, March 2018.

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