The election in Sao Paulo



São Paulo mixes the ultramodern and colonial survivals

The results of the 2022 first round once again exposed Brazil's social and regional fracture. Since 2010, candidates in the field of anti-PTism have obtained, in the state of São Paulo, percentages between 40,7% and 53% of valid votes in the first round.

In 2011, I identified a southern issue in Brazil in the book History of the PT. The inspiration was evidently Antonio Gramsci and it wasn't even original. In the 1960s, Otto Maria Carpeaux suggested that we have a southern question in reverse in the country. But his concern was with the northeast of the country. Strictly speaking, it was a northern problem.

What seems to exist in the Southeast is a new pattern of adjustment of the political superstructure to the needs of a deindustrialized, agro-exporting economy dominated by dynamic services, however dependent on technological imports.


Wealth and “backwardness”

This mix of the ultramodern and colonial survivals gives São Paulo the air of a wealthy state, despite its poor population; with state-of-the-art public universities and precarious basic schools; in which everything seems to work (health, roads, transport), but more or less. It is also a middle-class state of the corporate world and high-paying state career officials. In contrast to most of the country, the majority of its population is white and its elite has a power of communication and cultural diffusion capable of destabilizing governments that do not interest them. It is his simulacrum of moderating power.

The southern issue identified at the end of History of the PT it concerned a dissatisfied hegemony of the “paulista” ruling classes (in fact, spread across the center west and south). Their values ​​predominate, but they do not adhere to everyday life. Unable to win elections from 2002 to 2014, they sought support in military sectors, the judiciary and the media to destroy the reputation of opponents. This combination of strength and consensus was insufficient to turn the electoral game around.

The “Paulista” hegemony persisted because at no time did PT governments radically modify the foundations of the economy: relevant social policies and developmental projects existed, but the government was overthrown before its policies reached a higher level.

Unlike European social democracy (which broadened its constituency into the middle class), the PT grew by amalgamating marginalized sectors of the working class with the workers and civil servants who provided its initial base. The reason for this is that industrialized Europe did not have the immense reserves of impoverished labor that Brazil has. But after 13 years of dominance, the PT's social alliances have reached their limits.


Civil society

Antonio Gramsci thought of the southern question from the perspective of a backward capitalist society and a territory that was politically unified, but not socially. In this way, he is much more the thinker of an incomplete West similar to Latin American societies, as proposed by Juan Carlos Portantiero in his famous book The uses of Gramsci. We have a complex civil society, typical of the Gramscian West, but disjointed. The integral state is a juxtaposition of heightened tensions and there is no stable hegemony. Us prison notebooks we find indecisive forms, fields of force, constant arrangements and rearrangements that leave aside the idea of ​​a hegemonic system in favor of a procedural notion of hegemony.

In Brazil, the southern issue manifests precisely the complexity of civil society, but also its disarticulation. It is the Gordian knot of Brazilian democracy. Fascism seeks to compose a false national unity by giving the middle classes and impoverished sectors a new ideological direction, but which aims to eliminate the cultural and political expressions of the majority of the population (those who vote against or abstain from voting for the extreme right).

In phases of economic growth, tensions are accommodated, when the crisis sets in, the political system becomes unstable and pro-cyclical, reducing the capacity of a progressive government to adopt measures to stimulate demand. To change that, it would be necessary to incorporate part of the demands of the middle classes into the progressive program, remove them from the clutches of financial capital, replace the financialized form of their interests with a new political expression based on production. A new development model needs to be linked to an inversion of the taxation model.

A social class that gained nothing from progressive governments and whose prejudices were exacerbated by the loss of status in the face of the rise of the poorest, he will not support leftist agendas. At least not the central ones that concern the working class. It divides between progressive neoliberalism and regressive neoliberalism. Fascism conquered most of this second tendency. But surrendering to the other trend and downgrading the program only matters to the electoral oligarchy of the left parties.[I] In the short term it can save us all, but in the medium term it breeds new monsters.


New form

This does not surprise many of us who said this in the first decade of this century.[ii] Incidentally, we would be surprised if that middle class leaned in favor of the left.[iii] Just as the poor rightly vote for the PT for their material interests, a large part of the middle classes do the same against the left. This struggle between the middle and poor sectors needs to be replaced by the struggle of both against the very rich.

Na History of the PT I tried to address both the forms that the party took over time and its programmatic contents. This is because the form is not external to the content and does not come from outside. It is inseparable from the contradictory development of the content itself. It is likely that we have not yet found a new way to deal with the segmentation of values ​​and new social alliances. But this is a task for the future, now the PT must win with the weapons it has.

* Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of History of the PT (Studio).



[I]The expression is used by Eduardo Bellandi, former PT militant.

[ii]I quote again Eduardo Bellandi with whom I always discussed this issue when I wrote the History of the PT. Breno Altman recently did an excellent analysis in his program “20 Minutes” showing in a didactic and accurate way how to deal with our southern issue. Let us also remember that the middle classes are not homogeneous and that the PT obtains millions of crucial votes in São Paulo.

[iii] It is necessary to consider the GDP growth in the Northeast above the country's average during the Lula governments, as Patrícia Valim pointed out. This explains the majority adherence of the Northeast to the PT.

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