The dispute of ideas in the current situation

Image: James Ensor
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By JOSÉ RAIMUNDO TRINDADE*

Excerpt, selected by the author, from the newly released book

“We only have one way out: a growing mobilization of those who repudiate 'politics by other means', as a ruse for those who are in charge and can! With the usual related objectives – to remove the autocracy and unleash the democratic revolution” (Florestan Fernandes, 1988).

The short-term reading always constitutes a limited way of understanding the cycles or trajectories of capitalist social development, mainly in its periphery. On the other hand, there is no way to build merely abstract analyses, without the ability to deal with the circumstantial elements of material reality.

Conjuncture analysis comprises a set of procedures and social calculations, and we can list seven central procedures: (i) the temporal limits of the analysis, considering that any short-term framework results from a longer temporal trajectory, whose links and actors in the dispute must be delineated; (ii) the indication of the main agents in the conjunctural dispute; (iii) the choice of key variables to be analyzed; (iv) the institutional configuration, environment in which the main actors act and the variables are confronted; (v) the degree of correlation between the established variables; (vi) the framework of interaction and level of hegemony between social classes and; (vii) the relations between the specific peripheral economy and the central capitalist economy.

The apprehension of these elements aims at political action, and historical, economic, political and sociological knowledge intertwine for a better definition of historical specificities.

The understanding of the Brazilian conjuncture that is established from 2016, undoubtedly the deepest crisis in national history since the process of democratic recovery in the 1980s, building the interaction with historical elements that make it possible to visualize its logic inserted in the long trajectory of development of the Brazilian economy of the last decades, constitutes the most interesting exercise that brings together the factors listed above.

The period that begins with the end of the dictatorship and with the so-called New Republic and is interconnected with the neoliberal transition of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC) period constitutes a trajectory of continuous crisis of the dependent Brazilian economy, being only partially interrupted by a temporary trajectory referring to to PT governments, which would be a “social-liberal” model of lesser scope, but which acted by establishing a moderate cycle of growth and mitigating social inequalities, something that was abruptly interrupted in 2016.[I]

The exhaustion of that period replaced the total neoliberal logic and launched a series of critical components on new bases, imposing severe defeats on popular, democratic and socialist social movements, but without any dazzling way out of the deep political and social crisis in which the country found itself. country, even with a composition in which the most conservative and authoritarian sectors of the bourgeoisie have exposed their teeth in the most excruciating way possible.

As much as there has been a recomposition of rentier gains on the part of capitalists, mainly via the redistribution of profits from companies such as Petrobrás and Eletrobrás and exchange gains for the exporting sectors (agribusiness and mineral extraction), however, in the last six years there has been no change in the pattern of low rates of economic growth and, curiously, of modification of the pattern of high rates of profit characteristic of the Brazilian economy, even though the recomposition and increase of the rate of profit of the main capitalist groups took place more strongly in the years of Jair's government Bolsonaro, as shown by the data worked on during the period by Professor Eduardo Pinto (2022).

To deal with this period, we divided this initial article of the book into five sections: the first addresses the relationship between the limits of bourgeois representative democracy and Brazilian dependent capitalism; the second section deals with a brief assessment of the last years of the Lula and Dilma governments and the interposed contradictions; the third section seeks to introduce the factors that lead to what we call the “new culturalism” of the right and the imposture of the post-coup government; the fourth section makes a first analysis of the neo-fascist government started in 2019 and ended in 2022; we close the text with three sections that seek to bring the analysis and perspective of the future, including seeking to enunciate an agenda of democratic, popular and socialist tasks for the conjuncture, integrated to the critical meaning of the current Lula government.

 

The fraying of liberal democracy in dependent capitalism

How to deal with the current situation without thinking about the historical adjustment formats of Brazilian society, let's just stick with the most recent processes. The business and military dictatorship of 1964 transitioned gradually according to a model previously agreed between the main sectors of the Brazilian ruling classes, something that took a long time, ending partially with the promulgation of the Federal Constitution of 1988. The “slow and safe transition” conceived by the military planner of the dictatorship, Mr. Golbery Couto e Silva, had the character of perpetuating the tutelary condition of the military over the civil order established from the Federal Constitution of 1988, as noted by Stepan (1986, p. 19) “the military [supported] the liberalization [of society] [but were] far from accepting the democratization” [of Brazilian society].

The same perception had Florestan Fernandes (2006)[ii] for whom social control and a safe transition ran few risks and in those more credible moments, such as the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), the Brazilian bourgeoisie maintained the necessary unity capable of overcoming the “historical dilemma” of the insufficiency of democratic relations and the access of the “below” to the market minimum: the market has always been for the few in “slave” societies, in addition to the maintenance of the military honor code. Thus, the GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order) was preserved in Article 142, and the Armed Party's ability to intervene was never abandoned.

The price to be paid for this “safe transition” corresponded to the continuous threat that the military factor poses to the performance of bourgeois institutions, constantly establishing institutional limits and configuring a “Bonapartist” force that considers itself a kind of “moderating power”.

The basis of a structural solution has always been based on a more conservative and strictly controlled consensus model, imposing limits on forms, even bourgeois ones, of social intervention, turning classic reforms into imponderable limits for national elites, such as, for example, the various reforms (agrarian , urban, educational, tax), which had their peak in the dispute offered by the democratic and popular movement in the perspective of an “exclusive constituent” and later in the fierce dispute within the constituent congress.

The idea of ​​conservative consensus contaminates the entire Brazilian and regional society, the left would not be left out. Its diverse spectrum also mobilizes around projects that are modalities of consensual conservative forms. The PSDB, as a liberal fraction of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, recently presented the first construction around neoliberal consensus, yielding largely to the social democratic programmatic base and structuring a first form of authoritarian liberalism, as seen in FHC's governments.

The first neoliberal wave took place at the end of the dictatorship with the government of Fernando Collor, but it will be in the FHC government that the most complete adjustment of the national economy to the “Order of the Washington consensus” will be promoted.[iii] In line with monetary stabilization, the core principle of neoliberalism, a profound deregulation of the economy is imposed, whose most sinuous aspects are the indiscriminate economic opening, accompanied by the appreciation of the national currency, caused by a policy of fixing the exchange rate.

On the other hand, an ideological discourse was assembled around the alleged “rigidity” of the labor market, conceived as one of the factors impeding the competitiveness of the national industry in the world market, establishing, in practice, an agenda of flexibility of labor relations that remained permanently on the agenda of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, only partially interrupted by PT governments, but returning with all the force of an imposing and authoritarian dogma around which any social rule of minimum protection for workers must be destroyed, a mantra enshrined in the epiphany of LC 13.467/17[iv], whose center is the increase in the exploitation of labor power and absolute surplus value, via the double mechanism of intensifying the use of labor power and expanding the working day, combined with the generalized decline of the real wage rate in the economy , an opposite movement to what was observed in the years of PT governments.

It is worth noting that the center of the neoliberal economic agenda has always been based on macroeconomic adjustment centered on the tripod of fiscal policy that is financially flexible, but rigid for social spending. This established a pattern of fiscal regulation (Fiscal Responsibility Law) based on the control imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in times of debt crises for most of the peripheral economies: control of the State's social expenditures; exchange rate fully adapted to the contingents of external interests and the segments of control of the primary-export pattern, putting an end to the monetary policy centered on speculative interest rates and linked to national and international rentier segments.[v]

 

The limits of the first wave of PT governments

In order to assume a portion of state authority, the PT had to lower its program to the limit acceptable by the forces of national conservative consensus, which, in turn, were pressured to allow some inflection in the social pattern, to the point where the logic of dependency and of underdevelopment was kept unchanged. It should be noted that for the first time in Brazilian history, the historic bloc under partial control of the State, in the form of the national government, was being directed by a faction external to the core of the bourgeois ruling classes. As President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva recently declared[vi], for the first time in Brazilian history an individual from the forces below was at the head of the executive power, something unusual and that happened under enormous social and economic tension.

The PT governments were a partial reaction to the neoliberal shock, with three elements making the Lula/Dilma governments an “anti-neoliberal reaction”: (i) prioritization of social policies rather than fiscal adjustment; (ii) strengthening regional integration; (iii) prioritizes the role of the State as a countercyclical inducer. These governments, in fact, constituted a partial “anti-neoliberal reaction”.

We consider that they make up, in fact, a non-neoliberal interlude, resulting from five conjunctural-structural movements of Brazilian society that made possible, as already stated, the formation of an unprecedented historical block in Brazilian history: (i) resulting from the leadership crisis of the Brazilian bourgeoisie after the neoliberal structural adjustment of the FHC government; (ii) adequacy of the resistance of the social movements organically represented around the PT; (iii) a period of economic growth driven by the commodity export sector; (iv) a peripheral Fordist adjustment unprecedented in Brazilian history (expansion of domestic income with distribution); (v) maintenance of rentier macrostructural conditions.

Sader (2013, p. 138) considers that the governments resulting from the “shared consensus” would constitute post-neoliberal governments. The author lists three elements that would make the Lula/Dilma governments an “anti-neoliberal reaction”: (i) prioritization of social policies rather than fiscal adjustment; (ii) strengthening regional integration; (iii) prioritizes the role of the State as a countercyclical inducer.

The current situation seems to only partially support the author when he thinks of the aforementioned governments as an “anti-neoliberal reaction”, but with a high degree of restriction, which makes it impossible to speak of “post-neoliberalism”, due to three factors: (a) however much the social advances translated mainly in the increase of the real salary and in the distribution of a portion of the public fund, via social programs have been the governmental tone, however the non-institutionalization of these distributive patterns did not guarantee their permanence; (b) the maintenance of the State's management format via fiscal adjustment policy was not broken, curiously it is one of the aspects that weakened the government; (c) the intervening capacity of the State was very partially used in the second Lula administration, having been radically limited in the governments of Dilma Rousseff.

The configuration of a historical bloc of governmental power with the PT as a reference would only be possible in the face of a strong crisis of hegemony, combined with a particular inflection in the historical commitments of that party, we call this a model of shared consensus, conforming a timid, but real change in the patterns of overexploitation of work, characteristic of dependent economies.

It is worth noting that the advances, even if limited, were the result of a long accumulation of forces around the popular opposition movements, and the accumulated capacity in the fight against the dictatorship established a higher level of social regulation, including important concessions on the part of the dominant classes, especially in the aspects of labor rights and social reforms.

Data referring to the period of the two Lula governments and the first Dilma government denote the main progress achieved in recent years. The average real salary grows at a much higher rate than the previous three decades, especially in detachment from the 1990s, markedly by losses for the various segments of workers (formal and informal). This real change in average earnings can be dealt with by comparing minimum wage values ​​in dollars: in 2000, a minimum wage bought approximately eighty dollars; in 2014 it bought approximately three hundred and twenty dollars, check the summary of indicators made by the Inter-union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies (DIEESE, 2022).[vii].

 

The exhaustion of shared consensus

The historic bloc that made the partially non-neoliberal interlude possible, already showed great fragility and strong instability in its birth. Sader (2013, p. 139) reminds us that in the 2002 election victory, the PT did not even have the support of the PMDB, since the “construction of the government's political hegemony was a product of Lula's intuition and pragmatism as president”.

This vision does not seem to us to shed light on that historical period, whether it is an overestimated perception of the historical figure, however significant, of the former president, or because the situation demonstrated the continuing difficulty of governance in the period, and the small advances established were in fact a milestone in national history. It is worth noting that the two Lula governments coincided with some favorable international factors and local economic organization, with capacity for state intervention, even if limited: (i) the evolution of international prices of primary goods, favoring the export sectors, and the policy macroeconomic was managed that allowed exchange rate stability and high profitability; (ii) reestablishment of international capital flows after the broad crisis of the 2000s, with the Brazilian primary production sectors attracting important inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI's); (iii) the institutional capacity accumulated by the PT over many years of social organization enabled, on the one hand, a strong cooling of social struggles and concession and gain arrangements.

This long-term conciliatory policy made it possible to maintain, even with permanent bumps, the shared consensus between portions of the national and international bourgeoisie and popular sectors; (iv) Petrobras' successful policy of industrial use, both with a view to applying the policy of “acquisition of domestic content”, and the development of oil prospecting in deep waters and the “discovery” of the pre-salt layer. For an economic analysis of the period, see: Santos (2010); Oliveira (2012); Barbosa (2013); Pochmann (2013); Araújo and Mattos (2021).

Even though it was unstable, the transition from the first to the second Lula administration marked the peak of this short cycle: especially the reconstruction of a portion of the state apparatus destined for long-term planning (for example, the Energy Research Company (EPE) and the Energy Planning Company). and Logística SA (EPL),[viii] as well as the intelligent use of the cycle of high prices of mineral and agricultural commodities, as well as the ability to deal with the immediate effects of the 2008 crisis.

The fragility and fragmented formation of the social-party base of this historic bloc are reflected in the low organicity of the established political program, denoted in two key points for the crisis that sets in from 2013. First, the absence of a communication policy of masses and regulation of the private family media system and; second, the inability to establish a social pact around a new progressive tax regime.

The first point is more notable in the unfolding of the crisis process, either because of the concentrated power that the few media groups hold in controlling Brazilian public opinion, or because of the ideological representation that they assume in combating any, even the slightest change in the structural base. Brazilian. The second point is more complex and of great relevance, as it is linked to the objective conditions of State financing and its participation in the “cake” of wealth produced. Over the past twelve years, there have been three failed attempts at tax reform.

In general, the logic of superexploitation of work also involves tax regression, imposing a burden on workers that would compete exclusively with fractions of the bourgeoisie, more specifically in the distribution of the mass of wealth produced by workers and appropriated by the controllers of the means of production, as if average in the central economies of capitalism, a portion of the surplus value produced is destined to the “political form of capital”, in the Brazilian case a portion of the already degraded salary is appropriated by the State, especially in the form of indirect taxes, such as the ICMS and IPI.

During a short period of time, between Lula's first and second terms, the growth of capital profitability rates, strongly influenced by the behavior of international prices of mineral and agricultural "commodities", combined with the still calm rentier cycle of the US economy, it enabled a critical coexistence between the PT and its social representation and the segments of fractions of the bourgeoisie represented in various government base parties, especially PMDB and PP. The worsening of the international economic crisis and the loss of profitability of capital aggravated from 2009 led to the literal shattering of the fragile historical bloc that originated the governance of shared consensus.

Professor Eduardo Pinto (2022) makes a proper analysis of the decline in the rate of profit, he considers the 240 largest financial and non-financial companies by revenues from publicly traded sales, he arrives at enlightening results regarding the support of big capital to the regime Bolsonaro's neo-fascist. Thus, in 2014 the profit rate stabilizes at 9%, falling to 5% in 2015, after the 2016 coup the profit rate rises continuously until it reaches 23% in 2021.

The data give us a short-term view, the author is partially right in realizing the importance of this expansion of the profit rate and the alignment of the bourgeoisie with the neo-fascist regime, but this does not hold, it is worth noting that in 2010, considering data from the UFRJ professor, the profit rate in Lula's last year was 17%, something impressive considering international standards and only lower than the 2021 index, so it is questionable whether the timing of these rates are sufficient to maintain the support of the bourgeoisie to the Bolsonarist regime.

However, the counter-reaction of the Brazilian bourgeoisie was very strong, establishing from 2016, with a coup d'état that broke the institutional texture and the previously agreed political rules, with three strong movements: (i) destruction of basic labor rights with the approval of Law 13.467/17 (Temer Labor Reform Law); (ii) The destruction of the State's fiscal management capacity through EC 95/16, a central component of the logic of reorganization of Brazil's sovereign power of interaction. This condition suffocates the impossibility of any democratic or popular management in smaller governments (states and municipalities), instrumentalizing the national authoritarian and centralized logic. The maintenance of EC 95/16 precludes any exercise of democratic power in the country, its condition is authoritarian and venal; (iii) establishes the regime of force based on the condition of using the GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order) as a sanctioning form of any social intervention.

Before the health crisis (Covid-19), the neoliberal resumption faced some components that seemed central to the new cycle: (a) The resumption by the Brazilian bourgeoisie of the classic mechanisms of superexploitation of work, undoing the mechanisms of salary recomposition and raising the average wage resulting from the PT's wage reforms; on the other hand, the imposition of more intensive and more flexible working hours to the interests of capital, which establishes the increase in the average exploitation rate of the economy with the intention of recovering the profit rate, this constitutes the central objective of the Temer Law ( Labor Reform).

(b) The control by the transnational capital of the oil production sources established in the pre-salt layer and of the prospecting technologies controlled by Petrobras, which could attract a wave of investments that would make the neoliberal cycle viable, but this possibility would depend on of a resumption of growth in the main central economies, enabling a new cycle of growth in the price of oil and mineral commodities in general, something totally frustrated with the health and oil crisis, opening up a huge macroeconomic decision gap for the authoritarian government that was established.

It should be said that not everything went according to the “script” planned by the Brazilian bourgeoisie associated with international capital: already in 2019, the retraction of international markets and uncertainties surrounding the economic expansion of the central OECD nations, especially the USA, Germany and France, also considering the strong aftermath of the public debt crisis in a number of European countries. In January 2020, the first signs of the biggest epidemic since the Spanish flu at the beginning of the 1929th century resound. The economic downturn since then was the biggest since the XNUMX crisis.[ix]

(c) The tightening of fiscal control and the implementation of a Friedemian equilibrium model (Milton Friedman), via Constitutional Amendment 95, linked to two objectives: to provide all the surplus capacity of the State to transfer income to the global financial center and; make the use of the fiscal budget unfeasible as a tool for social agreement and medium-term stabilization of a new popular-reformist government, at any federative level (national, state or municipal).

(d) The ideological advance of a total individualist-mercantilist culture, something that we could call neoliberal-fascist totalitarianism, whose epicenter focuses on conservative, homophobic, racist and misogyny attitudes, favoring fascist discourse, and further cornering the left and popular-democratic conceptions. This ideological condition was overfed by the media segments of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, unable to realize that they fed fascism and the discourse of conflict at any cost, including the militia logic, as we will see.

 

The motivations of the 2016 coup and the authoritarian and neoliberal resurgence[X]

With the illegal arrest of former President Lula in April 2018, the process initiated in 2016 deepens its character of institutional breakdown, definitively configuring a coup d'état format with clear involvement of a large part of the judiciary and the national media. These points seem to be consensual in most independent and democratic analyses.

It is convenient to deal with the historical significance of the coup and how the conjuncture was potentially processed from the consolidation of the established framework. Thus, this text seeks to attribute four structuring meanings to the institutional rupture: (i) the coup was against work: in the distributive sense and in the organizational sense; (ii) the coup was against national sovereignty, in the sense of strengthening US hegemony and in the sense of increasing the conditions of national dependence; (iii) the coup was against organized movements, in the sense of an agenda of negation of social movements (such as the MST and MTST) and the disorganization of the Brazilian left and; (iv) the blow was caused by the resumption of growth in capital profit rates, within the framework of maintaining the financialized pattern of the economy.

First, the blow was against work, whether in the distributive sense of income, or in the organizational sense of social and workers' movements, which implies that the center of the established conservative and authoritarian logic aims to replace the historical conditions of super-exploitation of the power of work, denying and destroying the regulatory apparatus of labor relations, the social contract established in recent decades and demobilizing workers' organizations (unions and independent movements).

It is worth denoting that the advances, even if limited by the PT governments, were the result of a long accumulation of forces around the popular resistance movements, and the accumulated capacity in the fight against the dictatorship established a higher level of social regulation, including leading to concessions important by the ruling classes, especially in aspects of labor rights and social security, which was recorded in fundamental chapters of the Federal Constitution of 1988, precisely these chapters that have been deeply attacked in recent years.

The average real salary grew in the period from 2003 to 2014 at a rate well above the previous three decades, especially in detachment from the 90s, markedly by losses for the various segments of workers (formal and informal). This real change in average earnings can be seen by comparing minimum wage values ​​in dollars: in 2000, a minimum wage bought approximately eighty dollars; in 2014 it bought approximately three hundred and twenty dollars.

Still regarding the distributive aspect, it is worth noting the positive impacts on the profile of poverty rates and the inclusion of an important portion of the Brazilian population within the limits of access to mass consumer goods. Thus, the recomposition of the minimum wage according to the rule approved in 2004 (monetary correction added to the average GDP growth of the last two years), added to the large-scale compensatory policies of the Bolsa Família program and universal social security policies (rural and other benefits of continuous provision) produced a significant retreat of poverty and social inequality, thus the proportion of poor people drops to less than half in the period from 2003 to 2011, going from 22,6% to 10,1% of the national population and the inequality measured by the Gini coefficient falls for the first time in Brazilian history below 0,53 in 2011.

Thus, one of the first measures taken by the coup government was to destroy labor regulation and seek to demobilize and disorganize the unions. Among the most striking points of the change in labor legislation are: (a) the flexibility of the employee-boss relationship, where decision-making in collective agreements exceeds the provisions defined in the constitution with regard to vacation time (divided into three times) and rest during the working day (from two hours to at least 30 minutes); (b) the extension of the workday from 8 hours to 12 hours per week; (c) the approval of intermittent work, where the worker is paid for the day or daily work; (d) now the termination of employment contracts can be done without union approval; (e) the union tax ceases to be mandatory; (f) end of the obligation to hold companies accountable for paying the worker's transportation; (g) benefits such as allowances, premiums and allowances are no longer included in remuneration, therefore not included in labor charges; plus many other changes.

The coup was against national sovereignty, in the sense of strengthening US hegemony and increasing the conditions of national dependence. In this case, the interaction of the coup takes place in the context of the reorganization of international capitalism. The emergence of West Asian capitalism led to a repositioning of US hegemony, demanding a reoccupation of strategic peripheral spaces, the main one being Brazil.

As a consequence, three movements can be observed: (i) the tone of reprimarization of the economy becomes State discourse, assimilating the primary-export pattern as a long-term development model; (ii) the autonomous or technologically developed industrial segments are sold or reprocessed according to the logic of North American capital, such as the incorporation of Embraer by Boeing and subsequent return as a capital bloodhound,[xi] (iii) the national oil production structure is dismantled, undoing the industrial complementarity of Petrobrás, in order to privatize it and transfer technological control of deep water prospecting to exogenous capital, at the same time that it is undone in a predatory manner of the pre-salt oil fields.

The alleged illogicality of the movements outlined above can only be explained by the complete subordination to the international circuit of capital and the establishment of a new phase in the Brazilian economic dynamics of return to a condition of mining-agrarian-exporting semi-periphery. The coup, therefore, is established as part of an imperialist order that seeks to recompose the hegemonic economic and territorial power of the USA.

The coup was against organized movements, in the sense of an agenda of negation of social movements (as in the case of the MST and MTST) and the weakening of the Brazilian left. These two fronts of attack are political constraints that express themselves very quickly in the undoing of the institutional texture and the rapid establishment of authoritarian fronts.

The military occupation actions in Rio de Janeiro, the murder of PSOL councilwoman Marielle Franco and the arrest of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are elements of this dynamic. Others had already been previously tested, the selective actions of Lava-jato, the outsourcing to Universities of criminalizing procedures learned in the “Republic of Curitiba”, which led to the criminal suicide of the rector of UFSC Luiz Carlos Cancellier. All these events constitute the tip of the iceberg that has in the possible criminalization of the main Brazilian independent movements, in the countryside the MST and in the city the MTST, its liminal objectives. It is worth noting that what we have is a war of position in the medium and long term, and so far the coup movement has been more capable of imposing itself on democratic and popular resistance, which does not mean that this correlation of forces cannot change. .

Finally, the blow was the resumption of growth in capital profit rates and maintenance of the financialized pattern of the economy. However, published data show a rather contradictory picture, the IEDI (Institute of Studies for Industrial Development), a think tank for industrial analysis, shows that the “recovery continues, but at a slower pace than desired”, with that the series of variation in percentage volume of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) presented growth rates much lower than the previous period.

Gross Domestic Product - Variable - GDP - change in volume (%) in the period 2010-2019
                     
2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019  
7,5 4 1,9 3 0,5 -3,5 -3,3   1,8 1,2  
Source: IBGE – Annual National Accounts. Access at: https://sidra.ibge.gov.br/tabela/6784#resultado

 

A point to be analyzed is that models centered on a financialized pattern of economy have low intensity of growth, as shown by international data or even the period of the governments of Fernando Henrique Cardoso,[xii] even though growth leveraged by a new cycle of international expansion is not ruled out, but still not on the horizon.

The overall picture presented takes us to a situation where the fragility of the left remains, within a cycle of great social and economic instability, and it remains for us to strengthen democratic and popular resistance in order to guarantee the holding of elections and force a new anti-neoliberal round, in the perspective that the weight of street demonstrations, the strengthening of popular organizations and the growing militancy in social virtual networks will be vital to revert social setbacks.

The center of intervention in recent years has combined the fight for the release of Lula, the first Brazilian political prisoner in the post-military dictatorship period, to the more organizational aspects of strengthening left-wing party organizations and traditional movements of workers' organization (Unions and Popular Organizations and Students).

At the same time, an attempt was made to define a joint agenda to confront authoritarianism and the State of exception, cultural and ideological flags of social intervention capable of attracting youth were defined, alongside the strengthening of the Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo Fronts. It is worth noting that at the time of publication of this work we are in the midst of the greatest confrontation in Brazilian history, with the undefined situation regarding the future of Brazilian national sovereignty itself.

 

An interpretation of the current capitalist crisis and the covid-19 pandemic

Capitalism sociologically exists for more than six hundred years, its origin is established in the destruction of less inventive forms of the relationship between humanity and nature. Even before capitalism, nature imposed rules of conduct and interaction of humanity with the rest of what was natural, obviously we humans have always been part of this natural condition, but the subordination of the entire planet the central rule that everything is worth surrendering and that profit is the impossible sophistry of existence based on the rational exploitation of the workforce has taken us to another level, whose limits now seem to be grotesquely exposed and questioned.

Two points are worth developing here. First. The competition that capitalism establishes as a basic form of social existence leads us to a growing scale of technological development, obviously this only happens through the condition of exploitation of a part of humanity over the majority of humanity, which Marx, the greatest scientist of all time, called added value, a basic human interaction that makes it possible to extract value from two central elements: the worker and nature.

And, second, the permanence of what we call capitalism is only due to the fact that the flexibility of this form of human existence makes it possible for each acute (structural) crisis that we suffer to be resolved through a magical and tragic solution, which this formidable staying in the same place makes it possible. It was like this after the 20s of the last century and the crisis that led to the ICU of the system (1929) and soon after the second world war, that is, the greatest salvation treatment of the system (its ICU), is the necessary death of an important part of humanity, in terms of Schumpter, a radical defender of the system: “destruction [and death] is creative”.

Another great defender of the system, Lord Keynes, partly execrated by the right, but today partly worshiped by the left, interposed the possible solution of the “State of War”, the same solution that the infamous Mister Hitler interposed. The central difference is that one was more consistent with rationality and the other crumbled into madness. Let it be said, by the way, that two of these irrational figures are now in control of the masses and say of two important nations for humanity.

Such a magical solution comes about through something called the credit system, a formula created in the early days of capitalism. In 1867, that brilliant fellow whom we just remembered and who everyone is really afraid of (Marx) already noted in XNUMX that such credit conditions the turnover of total capital (mainly fixed capital) and accelerates the circulation of goods, just as it determines the average interest rate in the system. and the corresponding interest rate.

Capitalism does not equate its crises through peaceful solutions, credit and public debt were the last non-violent solutions up to a certain limit of the system, and from the bankruptcy of capitalism contracted from the end of the second war and the end of the USSR, the question remains what will result from then on.

The crisis of US imperial power required radical measures and behold, four measures and consequences were observed: (1) The first was the reconstitution of the power envelope around the eternal cordial and subordinate Latin America, the success was total: they established a radical neoliberal and neofascist in Brazil and destroyed the rest of the power relations in Latin America with great success and formidable gain.

(2) Financial control of the global rules for issuing public debt, enabling all peripheral States, in Brazil to apply EC 95/16 and almost all of Europe to be subordinated to the rules established by the US imperialist imperative.

(3) They sought to reestablish the order of power and control of international oil prices, but the strength of Iran and the historic Russian inconvenience created obstacles that made the US power swing its legs, the result was the decline in oil prices, a defeat that reverberates for years to come.

(4) The military front surrounding the war in Ukraine, which will be analyzed later, which tried to corner Russia and guarantee control over the Russia-China bloc. Here, US imperial power found its main front of resistance, establishing itself as the main area of ​​international dispute for the coming years.

 

Now and the future, what do we have ahead?

The conjuncture of 2022 shaped a double crisis: organic, from the political point of view of rupture of the institutionality established with CF/88 and; structural, from the economic, social and health point of view. This political, economic and health crisis is being resolved within a framework of profound institutional fraying, and the electoral dispute and within this institutional framework in tatters ended up being the main option of the social democratic, popular and socialist forces. Making a first critical assessment, not neglecting the threats still on the horizon and the challenges that are posed for the next period, are the audacious objectives set out in this article that closes this first chapter of this essay.

Still returning to the center of the 2016 coup, it is observed that the formation of a precarious power bloc that sought to strengthen international dependency relations with a view to repositioning itself as a privileged peripheral center, using natural bases (raw material, land and commodities in general) and low wage costs (overexploitation) as a platform for complete international subordination, but its economic limitations and the health crisis posed, strained the conditions of power and interaction between social groups: part of the bourgeoisie conflicted with the basic authoritarian sectors, which is evident in the crisis between media power groups (Globe, State, Sheet) and the military and militia segments (Jair Bolsonaro), something that was quite evident during the second round of the presidential elections, we have to analyze the meaning and significance of these shocks and their depth.

We have already dealt elsewhere with the character of the government of Jair Bolsonaro and the relative conditionality of his victory in 2018, specifically the agreement between sectors of the national and international big bourgeoisie, even considering that the most representative candidate for these segments was at that time the name of the today fragmented PSDB (Geraldo Alkimin). The arrangement that led Jair Bolsonaro to the government involved, in addition to these segments of the high bourgeoisie, the high command of the armed forces and religious conservative ideological segments.

The presence of Alkimin himself on Luiz Inácio's winning ticket gives us the dimension of the deepening loss of control that the core of the Brazilian monopoly bourgeoisie manifested over its large and medium segments identified with Jair Bolsonaro's project, as well as signals the degree of the crisis organic in which we find ourselves. The escalation of conflicts within the Brazilian bourgeoisie seems to establish increasing levels of a “tour de force” between segments of the national and international bourgeoisie organized around a conservative programmatic logic, but maintaining the partially institutional “status quo” (maintenance of the legal order formal and some organization of the electoral system) and the most determined portion of the financial bourgeoisie and the commercial bourgeoisie linked to agribusiness that agreed to drag the country into a dictatorial adventure, including fascist and very unprepared military segments.

We arrived at the end of 2022 with a critical picture, even if defined electorally, with the central victory of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the definition of the broad front established by Lula, which included a considerable portion of the Brazilian left and conservative sectors , closer to the classic conformation of a national project, constituted an important step to stop the advance of a neo-fascist regime in the country, however, curiously, it takes us to a point before the conquests of rights and social organization that we had achieved, something that also resonates on the program and meaning of the future broad front government.

The dispute for Brazil will continue: the democratic and radical left can only wave the project of national sovereignty. We do not really know if we will move towards a democratic, sovereign society with the freedom to live or if we will move towards the continuity of historical uncertainty, including the possibility of re-establishment in the near future of a government with the same authoritarian characteristics as the one that was defeated , I write this in early November 2022 and historical time will unfold.

Here, it is worth making some observations necessary for the meaning of social intervention that we think: (i) The Lula government will be a government of crises and permanent social disputes. It will be a crisis because the macroeconomic aspects that led to the current scenario have not been resolved, and have even worsened. On the one hand, we have the continuity of an economic pattern that is dependent and centered on the export of primary goods, these characteristics cannot be changed easily, but it will be necessary to seek means for a productive transition and change in the national economic reproductive base. On the other hand, the maintenance of the current fiscal regime, based on the withholding of EC 95/16 (Expenditure Ceiling Amendment), makes government management an almost impossible chimera, so there is no way to live with the referred regime, even if it is made more flexible in the format the so-called “fiscal framework”.

(ii) The dispute around the partnership project will only get worse in the coming years, and the partial victory in these elections will be continuously and permanently put in check. The neo-fascist right is here to stay and its learning in recent years places it as the main political enemy, but not the only one. Thus, we have two vital exercises to be developed: the daily dispute, including recreating past instruments, for example, the Popular Culture Centers, existing in the 1960s and operated by the National Union of Students (UNE), this within a new format and totally autonomous from the government, exercise of popular action; on the other hand, we have to improve our ability to use and implement new technologies, including perfecting and creating popular education social networks.

(iii) Social organization and mobilization continues, it will have to be the norm in the coming years, something learned from the right itself. The mobilization agenda cannot be occasional, it will have to be defined, from the concrete reality, but from national organizations. In this sense we have advanced, today we have, in addition to trade union organizations and national movements, two Fronts of common organization of popular struggles (Frente Brasil Popular and Frente Povo Sem Medo), they must be strengthened and convene National Congresses, whose guidelines will be the public debate and the lines of collective intervention, this should already be exercised from the beginning of next year.

(iv) We cannot renounce a minimum agenda for national economic and social reconstruction.

 

The necessary defense of a minimum national reconstruction agenda

The conjunctural reality that has imposed itself in Brazil in the current period, will only be broken from the construction and social conviction of a political, economic and social program centered on some key points: (a) total break with the fiscal-dependent regime of the last thirty years; (b) comprehensive progressive tax reform; (c) renationalization of the main companies in the energy and mineral sector; (d) reconstruction of the National Innovation System; (e) productive sovereignty project; (f) technological completeness project; (g) federative renegotiation.

It is worth noting the main elements of conjunctural change, so as not to have tactical illusions, given the degree of organizational and social mobilization problems posed, as well as not to establish leftist fantasies, nor reformist illusions. The proposed program remains fully valid and it will be based on it that we will deal with our perception of tactical and strategic intervention.

The national situation has evolved in recent years from five vectors of influence that conditioned it. The first is the economic vector. In general, the neoliberal agenda is incapable of establishing cycles of growth, which has been visible over the last 40 years in any capitalist country. The reasons for the low growth relate both to the rentier logic, the center of rentism, and also to the characteristics of the new technological standard established since the 1980s. The Kondratief cycle that begins with neoliberalism in the 1980s presents an important aspect, the technologies are much cheaper and much less employing than the technologies of the Keynesian cycle (1930/1980).

Ernst Mandel (1985) had already observed that planned obsolescence was a key component of the new accumulation regime of “late capitalism”, but in addition, new technologies were and are much less intensive in fixed capital, something that establishes a new temporal configuration for capital gains (profitability) and deepens its crisis of declining rate of profit.[xiii]

The backward perception of Brazilian economist ideologues who remain subordinated to the alleged possibility of accelerating economic growth based on the logic that the expansion of markets would be enough to impose increasing rates of profitability for the various capitals, national and international. The inability of these ideologues to read reality and see how much robotics and artificial intelligence are non-Schumpterian technologies and part of this macroeconomic impossibility of the current cycle of capital.

Faced with this characteristic of low structural growth, foreign or imperialist capital imposes a growing need for effort on the main peripheral centers, establishing an accumulation regime for the peripheries, even and especially those with great wealth such as Brazil, in which transfers of value (in Marxian terms, value added as surplus value) are accentuated, creating the need to annul any limit of sovereignty in order to comply with the logic of dependence and transfer of surplus value. This logic leads to a growing change in the Brazilian economy and society, either by de-industrializing, or by subordinating to increasing transfers of values, via public debt or plundering the productive base, such as the privatization of the electricity and oil sectors.

Capitalism in the current cycle has enormous difficulty breaking this inertial force. However, in peripheral and incomplete capitalist economies like the Brazilian one, curiously the technological forces of the third industrial revolution can dynamize it, the problem is the degree of subordination or dependence.

A second vector is the oligarchic, or how the Brazilian State is conditioned by the power relations of the regional bourgeoisies. In a very general way, only the forces around the left (PT, PSOL and PCdoB) and Fascism (Bolsonaro and company) are of a national character, and most of the political forces are localized, regional or even municipal associations. This form of social and political existence ends up weakening any type of national decision.

The third vector is that of social struggles, something that is projected from 2020 onwards and establishes our ability to exert pressure on the current regime. The class struggle has always been a central component in the conjuncture and, in the Brazilian case, the organization and movements of society have always been fundamental in the decisions and directions of our society, something that is even established around a leadership of the size of Lula, something that is not trivial, because, if on the one hand this actor represents a merely reformist and strongly conciliatory condition, on the other hand, the current crisis puts left-wing actors at the center of the dispute, even after an intense campaign of attrition and political destruction moved by several sectors of the bourgeoisie.

Institutional disorder and military power constitute the fourth vector. The Brazilian bourgeoisie has always been fragile, due to the characteristics of dependence and the logic of imperialist accumulation. Its social interaction has always required a moderation of military or judicial institutional powers, forms or levels of bureaucratic power that assume enormous decision-making capacity and political and social belligerence. Since the PT's exercise of fragile reformism in government, as is also observed in countries like Chile and Argentina, these institutions deepen the inability of US imperialism to exist autonomously and become, more and more, forces of intervention contrary to any sovereign capacity. national. We are facing two forces (military and judiciary) that do not conceive of Brazil as an autonomous society.

Finally, the fifth vector is the state's inability to act, either by coordinating investments or regulating price standards. It is worth noting that the suicidal fiscal regime established since 2016, but which deepened something already established much earlier in the format of the Fiscal Responsibility Law (LRF)[xiv], has become one of the main elements of social disorganization, not only by the logic of the socially minimal State, but also by imposing the financialization of the whole society, literally everything that is done, work, collection, payments, everything is destined to transfer value to others. rentier sectors, EC 95/16 being one more step towards subordinating this society to rentier gains and maintenance of imperialist power. The logic of the car wash is a deep logic of dependency, and the military governments of Temer and Bolsonaro deepen this and do so through the imposed tax regime.

Faced with the conjunctural vectors exposed and, mainly, knowing that this logic is in deep crisis, whether due to the limits of the expansion of accumulation in the current period, or due to the structural crisis of US capitalism. From this set of vectors, their complexities and how they act, we must establish a minimum program, knowing that this government agenda is part of the reasons for social intervention and class struggle in Brazil.

(1) Total break with the fiscal-dependent regime. The destruction of the State's fiscal management capacity through EC 95/16, a central component of the logic of reorganization of Brazil's sovereign power of interaction. This condition suffocates the impossibility of any democratic or popular management in smaller governments (states and municipalities), instrumentalizing the national authoritarian and centralized logic.

The logic of freezing the primary budget, that is, spending on education, health, public policies in general, and even investments, for twenty years, until 2036, dismantles the power of state intervention and weakens any possible way out of this iron circle; finally, due to the neoliberal logic itself, there are no government policies that stabilize the system, and any planning scenario that would make it possible to break the recessive cycle is absent, with only fallacy, empty speech and the permanent litany of each new reform.

The maintenance of EC 95/16 and in attenuated forms, makes any exercise of democratic power in the country impossible, its condition is authoritarian and venal. The austericide fiscal regime is related both to the dismantling of social policies, as well as to the greater transfer of values, via public debt, to the international controllers of the Brazilian State. Breaking with this is fundamental.

(2) comprehensive progressive tax reform. The tax reform to be debated and established in Brazil is related to three mechanisms to be implemented: firstly, the regulation of the IGF (Imposto sobre Grande Fortuna), something that has been going on in several countries and that has not been regulated in Brazil since 1988. This tax would reach only 0,1% of Brazilians and would make it possible to reduce indirect taxes, improving tax neutrality and reducing regressivity. Second: organization and regulation of VAT (Value Added Tax) from ICMS/IPI/Confins, establishing a federative equalization chamber. Finally, the adoption of the Progressive Income Tax, with a band of increasing rates and greater exemptions for lower incomes; as well as the effective corporate income tax.

(3) Renationalization of the main national strategic companies: Companhia Vale and Petrobras. These two companies account for almost a third of Brazil's investment capacity over the last fifty years, in addition to the control they have over Brazilian soil and subsoil. Renationalizing Vale and Petrobras is a fundamental point for Brazilian development and the establishment of strategic policies for the country.

(4) Rupture, revocation and social reorganization of the labor and social security reform. These two measures taken by the neo-fascist and anti-democratic governments established in the last six years, make any degree of civility in the country impossible, deteriorate social relations. As a form of action, these measures constitute the rescue of a considerable portion of the Brazilian people, and should be the first measures to be taken by a social reformist government.

(5) Industrial policy and reorganization of the national productive base. A society of more than two hundred million inhabitants cannot live under the aegis of a system of limited agricultural jobs and the continuous export of natural resources, something not only impossible, but a level of grotesque relationship with the population and with nature. The need for a broad industrial policy is necessary, (6) a broad policy for the use, protection and innovation of social and natural public goods.

Observing four axes that seem key to me: establishing a broad and creative railway policy; establishment of the Petrobras reorganization system with a broad base of nationalization of inputs purchased for the company; broad civil construction policy (my house and reconstruction of national highways, as well as proposing a plan for the reorganization of large cities); and, renewable energy policy and reorganization. Setting a target of 10% for renewable energy base in the coming years. The points made are part of an urgent and necessary agenda for the reconstruction of Brazilian sovereignty.

The alternative to the imperialist barbarism expressed in the models of neoliberal continuity is the establishment of a national development agenda that breaks with dependence, approaches the technological frontier and defines new rules of geopolitical power, this perspective will only open with a growing social radicalism and Brazilian democracy. The movements close to Brazilian society, organized and disorganized, will show our future or our non-future.

The next chapter develops the approximation with the Marxist dependency theory and our understanding of how the conditions of social development and the organization of Latin American societies are so close to the Brazilian conjunctural aspects as treated in the previous sections.

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at UFPA. Author, among other books, of Agenda for debates and theoretical challenges: the trajectory of dependency and the limits of Brazilian peripheral capitalism and its regional constraints (paka armadillo).

Reference


Jose Raimundo Trinidad. The dispute of ideas in the current situation: neoliberalism, resistance and social networks. Belém, ICSA, 2023, 316 pages. Available here [https://drive.google.com/file/d/1KoDU_mnZ8SIYsZrL7RzT20ELDuqcMxG6/view?pli=1]

Notes


[I] The character of PT governments is not the center of the analysis, even though the treatment of internal aspects, both contradictions and limits of these governments are relevant aspects for overcoming or proposing long-term historical alternatives. It is worth reading the work by Borón and Klachko (2020), published in a collection on Latin American dilemmas.

[ii] FERNANDES, F. Thought and action: the PT and the paths of Socialism. São Paulo: Editora Globo, 2006.

[iii] FIORI, JL The Flight of the Owl. São Paulo: Editora Record, 2003.

[iv] Complementary Law 13.467/17, agreed on Labor Reform, modified the legal statutes of the CLT (Consolidation of Labor Laws) in more than one hundred articles. The points that are more serious and that make the Brazilian labor market even more precarious are related to the intensification of the conditions of fragility and vulnerability of workers. It is worth pointing out in the legislation the strengthening of the figure of autonomous, intermittent, partial, temporary work and the strengthening of outsourcing, factors that lead to an increasingly precarious labor market, notable in the numbers referring to underutilization, self-employment and informality data recorded in the data released in the National Household Sampling Survey (PNAD) of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), see Trindade (2019).

[v] TRINDADE, José Raimundo Barreto (Org.). Agenda of debates and theoretical challenges. Bethlehem: Paka-Tatu, 2020.

[vi] Interview for Carta Capital, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dezrn_BluJE.

[vii]Available: https://www.dieese.org.br/sintesedeindicadores/2022/indicadoresSocioeconomicosoSeriesHistoricas.html.

[viii] The purpose of the Energy Research Company (EPE) is to provide services to the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in the area of ​​studies and research aimed at subsidizing the planning of the energy sector, created by Law 10.847, of March 15, 2004. Empresa de Plano e Logística SA (EPL) is a state-owned company whose purpose is to structure and qualify, through studies and research, the process of integrated logistics planning in the country, interconnecting highways, railways, ports, airports and waterways, created by Law 12.743, of December 19, 2012. Check: https://www.epe.gov.br/pt/a-epe/quem-somos e https://www.epl.gov.br/quem-somos.

[ix] According to an analysis by ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America), the economy of Latin American countries had in 2020 the biggest decline of the last hundred years, even higher than what happened during the 1929 crisis and during the wars. In the institution’s report, which consolidated all the critical conditions of the pandemic, it warned that “the worst economic, social and productive crisis that the region has experienced in the last 120 years and a 7,7% drop in regional GDP.” surpassed the “Great Depression of 1930 (-5%) or even more to 1914 (-4,9%)”. In the Brazilian case, the retraction was 4% in 2020, compared to the previous year. Check: https://www.cepal.org/pt-br/publicaciones/46606-balanco-preliminar-economias-america-latina-caribe-2020-resumo-executivo e https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/radioagencia-nacional/economia/audio/2021-02/economia-brasileira-teve-queda-de-4-em-2020.

[X] Article originally published on the Carta Maior website.

[xi] The acquisition and then rupture of the business between the American multinational Boeing and Embraer was one of the most controversial and still little analyzed cases of business dismantling and loss of technological capacity, probably, in a few years, the full dimension of this process will be able to be revealed , check for a very partial clarification of the question: https://aeromagazine.uol.com.br/artigo/conhecimentos-exclusivos-da-situacao-da-embraer-apos-cisao-com-boeing_6052.html

[xii] Economic growth rates, measured as a variation in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are very modest over the two FHC governments, with the greatest variation being in 2000 (4,5%), but a positive variation that is not repeated in the final years of his government, which ended in a major exchange rate and balance of payments crisis, requiring recourse to international funds from the International Monetary Fund, which was done in 2002. On the other hand, data from the labor market and employment and income conditions are very precarious, with high unemployment rates, reaching 9,2% in 2001, alongside the deterioration of the purchasing power of the working population (the inflation rate reaches 2002% ​​in 12,5), check ARAUJO and MATTOS (2021); BELLUZZO (2009).

[xiii]Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/o-futuro-da-economia-capitalista-no-brasil/?doing_wp_cron=1642291299.7636399269104003906250.

[xiv] Complementary Law n° 101 of 2000, establishes the regulation of article 165 of the Federal Constitution of 1988 and the disciplining of public expenses, for a critical and evaluative analysis of the same see Lopreato (2013) and Oliveira (2012).


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