The moral dimension of class struggle

Sir David Wilkie, Interior of a Country House, study for The Irish Whiskey Still, 1835
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By LUIZ MARQUES*

Unemployment, informalization, precariousness, outsourcing, income flattening potentiate the fragmentation of workers' identity

On the radio station, the economics journalist exposes procedures to face double-digit inflation. She advises listeners to defend themselves against price increases by: (a) writing down the amount spent on each product purchased in a notebook for comparison purposes and; (b) deleting from consumption the brands that had an exorbitant increase, to protect the ceiling of the domestic budget. The picture presented proclaims itself to be of “public utility”. The economic and moral system in force, which organizes the accepted socio-media behavior of individuals, transfers to the consumer the responsibility for continuously cutting expenses with high prices. To contain impoverishment, take “financial education” (sic).

On the pedagogy applied by the rules of the Washington Consensus, the famous bible of neoliberalism, obsequious silence. The dynamics of finance pushes the people into the deep river of misery, hunger and avoidable deaths from denialism. Then, candidly, he pretexts that the drowned “were warned to keep their heads out of the water”. O establishment it hides immorality converted into politics, mocks necropolitics – and washes its dirty hands.

 

The perversity of economic policy

Not by chance, Lula da Silva, when intervening in the 9th Congress of Força Sindical, recriminated the “perversity” of the current economic policy. She was no figure of speech. The former president's diagnosis – made with a shrewd “programmatic intuition” to evoke Gramsci's expression – unites in a concept with a clear moral connotation the degradation of sociability due to the loss of quality of life in broad social sectors. The event's guest of honor did not intend to give lessons on how to silently endure growing impoverishment, with the water hitting the nose. On the contrary, he opened wide the reasons and named those responsible for the rapid sinking of the economy that sinks into the threatening recession. He showed sincere indignation, applauded the democratic mobilization and asked brave unionists to run for a seat in the Legislative Assemblies and the Chamber of Deputies – so that political representation in the next quadrennium is consistent with the country's diversity.

Brazil has around 14% of the economically active population without formal employment, which is equivalent to almost 15 million people. It is the balance of Bolsonaro / Guedes’ “impolitics”. Failure explains the multitude of begging signs hoisted at traffic lights. But the story does not end with the shocking statistical revelation. Deprived of labor protection, the unemployed plunge into informality to survive. Many become street vendors of industrialized products, such as battery chargers and flashlights for power outages.

Among those who battle the sweaty breadwinner with pre-modern shackles attached to the ankle, a significant contingent swells the huge ranks of app drivers and motorcyclists for home deliveries, amid the raging traffic. In both cases, without a signed portfolio. Industry, and this is not restricted to trinkets that illegally reach the market, relies on the labor of a new class of enslaved people.

The fighters victimized by overexploitation are deprived of the “social recognition” that, since the Protestant Reformation in the XNUMXth century, comes especially from the appreciation provided by work. Nowadays, recognition stems from the formalization of work by the legal framework, with an agreed salary to guarantee the “principle of dignity”. In the absence of the listed requirements, insecurity is injected into subordinates in a game of perversion. Given the context, the malaise molded in reality by the anti-civilizational hegemony is expressed in the indices of loneliness. It should be added that official help for impoverished families is negligible. “The cheapest basic food basket in the capitals costs twice as much as the average installment of Auxílio Brasil”, according to the survey carried out by the magazine Piaui.

Capitalism coexists with immoral economic gears disguised as amoral because, according to the legitimizing ideological discourse, they would be linked to labor relations and economic processes understood as elements with an objectivity that is inimical to the general will. Behind the false objectivism attributed to the mysterious living forces that move the economy, with a pseudo independence from the political-social sphere, lies the cynical dissimulation that covers the indignity of informal labors in society. naturalizes the status quo with the mantra of meritocracy to extinguish the fuse of rebellion with the situation.

 

Active participation and ethical engagement

Marx unveiled the mechanisms that drive the accumulation of wealth under capitalism. He brought up the extraction of surplus value from the proletariat after the First Industrial Revolution, with the replacement of manufacturing by machine-making, the insertion in textile factories of spinning machines, the mechanical loom, the steam engine, and locomotives. In parallel, he launched a moral condemnation of the system based on the dialectic of capital and work. The bourgeoisie, he explained, appropriates the collective labor fruit for its own benefit. “Big modern industry has supplanted manufacturing; the manufacturing middle bourgeoisie gave way to the leaders of veritable industrial armies”, reads the 1848 manifesto.

Allegorically, wealth was the treasure chest found in the solemn promises of industrialization and urbanization, modernization against archaism in production and customs. Today, however, fortunes are raised by speculation, interest, dividends, formation of oligopolies and monopolies. Under financial capital, the speculative casino “returned from 7% to 9% in the last decades”, while “the world GDP grew around 2% to 2,5% a year”. A nonsense that does not benefit the community. “And ethics has a lot to do with challenges”, summarizes Ladislau Dowbor in the article “O Sucesso que Genera Desgraça”, posted on Portal Greater Charter.

Based on economic and historical studies, the old Moor pointed to the constitution of a “social humanity” (Thesis X on Feuerbach), based on active participation and ethical engagement to solve a “practical problem” (Thesis II). “The coincidence of changing circumstances and human activity can only be apprehended and rationally understood as a transforming practice” (Thesis III). The eleven theses on Feuerbachian materialism have an ethical-political plot guided by an ethics of action, rather than the ethics of passive contemplation. The “socialist ethics” that emerges from the Marxian legacy opposes the resignation and apathy imposed by the apparatus of alienation under commodity fetishism: in a civil democracy or in a military dictatorship. By the way, see the biopic of Mariguella sensitively directed by Wagner Moura.

The ethics of action is the key for the working classes to achieve self-emancipation, with an alliance “between suffering humanity that thinks and thinking humanity that is oppressed” (Marx's Letter to A. Ruge), which is not confounds with an undesirable future division of labor. It just means that socialism is not a religious dogma or an axiomatic truth, but an alternative possibility to barbarism. And that it will not be the result of a conspiracy or a caesarism. Rather, the emancipatory movement was always guided by the “general interest of workers”. Theoretical foundation, and passant, for the convergence of the left and the center-left in a Party Federation. Initial step towards the consolidation of a Popular Front, beyond sectarianism and party bluster.

Joining efforts is building a magnet of attraction for the set of segments in society that have contradictions with the capitalist paradigm. You don't change what is there just with accusations, however true they may be, but by organizing the multifaceted universe of work around a democratic transition program that imprints the values ​​of another social order. “It's not enough to say no” (Bertrand Brasil), underlines Naomi Klein. It is necessary to experience the values ​​that make the future present in order to turn the page on colonialism (racism) and patriarchy (sexism), which are the guardians par excellence of capitalism.

 

Moral issues motivate revolts

In the context of perversity that surrounds humanity and the planet, political, economic, ecological, ideological and cultural struggles for equal rights are developed in trenches that range from gender equality to race and even free sexual choice. Here, the important thing is to highlight loud and clear the moral dimension embedded in the class struggle, with a watchful eye. Several authors, such as EP Thompson, have already alerted to the fact that the motivation for revolts is usually associated with the feeling that moral notions (dignity, respect, honor, recognition) have been violated by the powerful.

“Florestan Fernandes' investigations and my own concerning marginalized blacks and the 'Brazilian rabble' showed that the everyday feeling of lack of dignity and the feeling of not being treated as 'people' play a central role in understanding the subjective experience of humiliation among the marginalized and excluded", says Jessé Souza, in How Racism Created Brazil (Brazil Station). “There is nothing in this social world that could be referred to as economic pure. We can only refer to something as economic as an autonomous instance when we forget the set of moral evaluations that are behind this label in the first place”, concludes the sociologist.

The ruling classes make morality in the political field an appendage of systemic corruption, in line with the strategy of the US Department of Justice and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act/FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) to undermine foreign companies that compete with U.S. companies. The French energy giant, Alstom, also did not resist the attack when it became the target of the interests of General Electric / GE (USA), which bought it after a tough campaign of public disqualification. In geopolitical and economic disputes, the negative moral theme is made explicit to create occasional consensus. Lava Jato say so. To safeguard the greed of big capital from criticism, the discussion about the moral ingredients involved in the concentration of wealth and power is swept under the rug.

Progressive governments (2003-2016) formatted instruments to stop the immoralities embedded in corruption crimes, such as the Comptroller General of the Union, increasing transparency and giving public access to information. An antipodean trend to what is currently unfolding in the National Congress and the Federal Executive, with the surrealist “secret budget” that institutionalizes the assault on the Treasury in billions of reais, through the “rapporteur’s amendments”. No control of any kind. In absolute obscurity, the infamous physiological “Centrão” acts as the owner of the subtracted nation distributing massive resources. It is not known to whom or for what. Our shameful image as an international pariah is a mere consequence. Those who denounce the billionaire slut are the same ones who postulate social justice and material contributions to ease the pain of the majority.

The metamorphosis of work with technological innovations and the difficulties that affect the precariat and, now, the middle class must pass through the moral scrutiny so that boldness (without fear of being happy) can challenge citizenship. Interpellation in an accessible, colloquial language, with the ability to elucidate and decode the role of rentiness, investors and shareholders of companies such as Petrobras, in the rise of gasoline, diesel and gas. Priority and indispensable task. The same with regard to public debt securities of the State acquired by banks. We must move forward in this taboo agenda. Repoliticize politics. Raise the level of knowledge of the population, with an authentic “financial education”. Mobilizing it in the fight against neoliberalism and anti-fascism. Free when it will be tamen.

 

From technical jargon to moral appeal

Unemployment, informalization, precariousness, outsourcing, income flattening and state negligence aggravated by the extreme right's chaotic de-modernizing mismanagement potentialize the fragmentation of workers' identity. These barely restore energy to face the next day. On the outskirts of the metropolises, the despondency of body and spirit is engulfed by neo-Pentecostalism, the hope offered to the hopeless. The economic and social wound that spreads non-stop is a painful moral wound. That guy recognized it by calling it the forbidden name, which is not austerity but perversity.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

 

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