the amputated democracy

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By DENNIS DE OLIVEIRA*

The elections in Brazil were the expression of the territorialization of the class struggle

In 2019, I presented a concept – still under development – ​​that deals with leadership in innovative forms of popular organization. I called these leaders “peripheral intellectuals” taking advantage of the concept brilliantly proposed by Tiaraju Andrea of ​​“peripheral subject” and also returning to Professor Milton Santos' discussion of the role of capital in the territorial organization of urban spaces. For Milton Santos, capital is realized and reproduced by organizing its flows and, for that, it imposes a certain spatial organization.

I return to these reflections as a basis for the analysis of the elections held in Brazil on October 30, in which two distinct projects were opposed, one of the extreme right, of a fascist nature, represented by the acting president (Jair Bolsonaro); and another that represented both a front in defense of democracy as well as social inclusion policies carried out during his previous government (Lula).

The extreme right holds a contradictory situation within itself. At the same time that it represents the constitution of an institutional arrangement even more adequate to the form of reproduction of capital in neoliberalism, as I discussed in a previous article; it collides with certain social sectors that occasionally benefit from capitalism, but that need a social environment marked by bourgeois democracy.

Democracy has been amputated little by little in recent times. Examples: the imposition of a spending ceiling in the constitutional text, taking advantage of a moment in which the majority favored contractionary economic policies; autonomy of the Central Bank transforming the field of macroeconomic policy into an issue exclusively for the segments that affect the country's monetary authority (big capital, mainly rentier capital), among others. Elected representatives – from the Executive and Legislative branches – are subject to rules imposed at a given juncture, transforming an ideological government policy into a State policy.

Neo-fascism in Brazil takes this amputation of democracy to another level, contaminating all institutional apparatuses – not just those directly linked to economic management – ​​generating a form of autocratic exercise subordinating social authoritarianism to a personalist verticalization – this is the displeasure of certain sectors hegemonic in relation to Bolsonarism.

For this reason, the main social support base of Bolsonarism resides precisely in the territorialities in which production relations are expressed in a more autocratic way. And this is not limited to agribusiness territories, but also in subaltern productive circuits formed by certain layers of “entrepreneurs” who establish archaic work relationships and who resist any standardization – this is the meaning of “freedom” proclaimed by Bolsonaristas and by the your leader.

 

Peripheral intellectuals and subversive potentiality

In proposing the idea of ​​peripheral intellectuals, I appropriated the concept of “dissident intellectual” by Julia Kristeva, who defines it as a product of a conjuncture of no direct correspondence between the observable phenomenon and its symbolic expression, and also of a potential for subversion. What is observed in the experiences of peripheral intellectuals is an effort to express a voice silenced by the mechanisms of oppression (as stated by Paulo Freire, the so-called “culture of silence”) which is the potential subversion of brutal inequality (as an observable phenomenon) not expressed symbolically by the institutional narrative of the current democracy.

While certain sectors that benefit or are minimally harmed by the new forms of reproduction of capital oppose Bolsonarism on account of the subordination of social authoritarianism (of which they are beneficiaries) to the personalist verticalization of hierarchies, claiming the slogan of “defense of democracy ”, popular sectors express their subversive potential, evidencing a structural inequality that is always hidden or minimized in the institutional narrative.

This explains, for example, the voting map of São Paulo in which the extreme periphery voted massively for Lula, as well as – to a lesser extent – ​​middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods such as Pinheiros and Butantã, in which the presence of a certain intellectuality Academics are uncomfortable with this capture of social authoritarianism by personalized verticalization. However, many other upper-middle-class neighborhoods in the city of São Paulo voted for the current president, probably more concerned with maintaining their economic privileges, for which they have no concern with subordination to a more authoritarian structure.

Sociologist Alvaro Garcia Linera states that in the current context, due to a growing gap between the reproduction of capital and the institutional arrangement of liberal democracy, the left is led to defend liberal democracy. The fact that in Brazil, the political figure who managed to unite these two major strands to defeat neo-fascism came from the progressive field and who symbolically represents the periphery (worker, migrant from the Northeast and who centered his speech on combating inequalities) is that the subversive potential that is being constituted in the peripheries is a substantive vision of democracy: a democracy not limited to formal institutional arrangements but guaranteeing rights for all.

It is the territorialized class struggle in contemporary times that was expressed in this election. If the precariousness and fragmentation of work hinders the perception of class belonging in the work environment, the consequences of capital exploitation are perceived in territorial hierarchies. As Professor Danilo Benedicto, a specialist in public policy management, said, the conversation on the factory floor now takes place on the corner of the hood.

*Dennis de Oliveira He is a professor in the Journalism course at the School of Communications and Arts at USP. Author, among others, books of Structural racism: a historical-critical perspective (Dandara).

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