The astonished and stunned left!

RB Kitaj, "The cultural value of fear, mistrust and hypochondria", 1966.


The left cannot leave the challenge of formulating useful keys to understanding the ongoing history in the background, since the 2016 coup is still in full force and is being adjusted for 2022

After the fateful “September 7, 2021”, numerous analyzes, in the most varied senses, have been published. In general, the central point of the discussion is directed to the challenge of knowing whether the President's coup movement was a failure or a success. Some highlighted that the President left with his tail between his legs and others pointed out that the movement would have had the strength to trigger the coup, which, therefore, would be ongoing.

When reading these different divergent analyzes and seeing so many people a little aimless, seeing themselves in the need to join this or that current, it was impossible not to remember what happened in the recent history of Brazil, notably in 2013 and 2016, when the readings of conjuncture tried to dominate the facts and, thus, attract them to the side that favored the interests of those who expressed themselves publicly or of those in whose name they expressed themselves, leaving in the background the challenge of formulating useful keys to the understanding of the ongoing history .

It is evident that the task of formulating understandings of contemporary facts is not at all easy. However, one cannot rule out the evidence that emotional involvement, sometimes driven by the arrogance of constructing the “best version” of the facts, and, above all, the political-partisan bond tend to vitiate the analyses. With this, the narrative dispute overlaps with the facts and the big problem is that misunderstanding makes things easier for those who, in some way, have the best conditions to move the pieces of the board in a certain direction, not even needing to reveal that the do.

When debates run only on the abstract and compromised plane of preconceived ideas, the facts are more easily manipulated by those who have the concrete material possibilities to promote them.

It is not the purpose here to dwell on the past, but to talk about the present. But one can only formulate some proposal for understanding what happened on the last “September 7, 2021” by looking back.

In fact, the last missing pieces to complete the puzzle were only presented in the following days (8, 9, 10 and 11 September).

The fact is that after some time without being able to place myself well in this tangle of apparently contradictory situations, deviating, therefore, repeatedly, from the questions that were formulated to me regarding projections for the future, at this moment I venture to say that the subsequent facts – without new actors entering the scene – tend to be a mere repetition of pieces already fitted or stickers already glued to the album.

First, it is necessary to remember that 2013 opened the doors to an explicit dispute over a project for society and part of the left refused to take the field, considering that with the mere passage of time everything would calm down and return to what it was. It did not join the dispute over the real – although it was avid in the production of narratives, always emptying the potential of the ongoing historical process. The right, on the other hand, continued to articulate itself and allied itself, in political action, to economic power, which made it possible to consecrate the institutional coup of 2016, with an undisclosed objective (since there was only covert talk of cleaning up corruption and morality ) to carry forward the proposals around the legal liberation for a greater exploitation of labor, which had been hindered, above all, by the performance of labor jurisprudence.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that in the aftermath of the coup, the new government, still an interim one, got involved with all possible intensity to approve the labor “reform” (about which there is no need to say more). In fact, carrying out the unpopular reforms was the counterpart that the interim and illegitimate president pledged to deliver to those who raised him to power.
But Temer, although he had promised, was unable to do all the work, since the social security and administrative “reforms” were not completed.

Possessing total control of the situation, it was not on the horizon of the ruling class to have to resume the years of alliances with the Workers' Party, which, even though it was not left-wing (in the most categorical sense of the expression), managed to maintain social programs, even new partnerships with certain sectors of economic power.

It is in this context, by the way, that the legally articulated withdrawal (carried out by Lava Jato) of Lula from the electoral scenario is explained – with the decisive participation of the Federal Supreme Court, it is worth remembering.

The scenario, however, opened the doors for the election of an extreme right candidate. Thus, for it to be possible to continue the economic project started in the 2016 coup, it was necessary to formulate new alliances, since, unlike Temer, Bolsonaro had been regularly elected (unless it is believed – and proven – that virtual voting can be rigged – which could, in a way, even explain why Bolsonaro insists so much on saying that virtual elections can be manipulated).

The concrete fact is that, in order to keep the coup project going, the dominant economic class, no longer having a President, also due to being under the threat of the public announcement that his name he had been mentioned 43 times in Odebrecht's accusations – (which, by the way, was simply forgotten after the approval of the labor “reform”), which he could call his own, now had to be integrated into a new round of negotiations, with very different contents.

In this new moment, the President-elect has done his part: he appointed the Minister of Economy of the dreams of economic power (which, in the adjustment, remains untouchable); abolished the Ministry of Labor; publicly attacked the Labor Court; repeatedly announced the Yellow Green Card (work without CLT), which only did not go ahead because of the pandemic announced from March 2020; promoted social security “reform”; dismantled the mechanisms for protecting the environment; destined a huge portion of the public fund to help large companies and the financial system during the pandemic through the permissives of greater precariousness of labor relations contained in MPs 927 and 936; led to administrative reform, etc.

And, apparently, what the President wants in exchange is the guarantee of his reelection and also that no member of his family and himself are not legally and politically affected – purposes that, moreover, are intertwined in a cause and effect relationship.

What transpires from the facts is that the President has it very clear in mind that this negotiation with the economic power (to which a considerable portion of the political power and also the judiciary power is allied), based on the realization of the ultraneoliberal agenda, is not an absolute guarantee for achieve its objectives, especially with regard to re-election. That is why it does not limit its efforts – and does so in daily performances – to demonstrate its ability to please the extreme right and boost the reaction of reactionary sectors to deepen the democratic rupture initiated in 2016. It seeks to demonstrate, on a daily basis, its possibilities to promote, as if he says, the blow within the blow.

Without a concrete nod from the counterpart, the government does not deliver all the reforms at once and at the same time, through a personal act of the President, it confronts the established order, explaining that it is not willing to simply be discarded after its mandate , as a result of which he has repeatedly attacked the regularity of elections. The President's fears – which many want to use to put him in a situation of full submission, to which the President does not in any way agree – have increased greatly after the STF released Lula – which can also be seen as a form of pressure on Bolsonaro , even though part of the left sees the fact as a redemption of some ministers of the Supreme in the direction of respect for Human Rights and the constitutional order, even starting to consider them “partners” of the same causes.

The power dispute between the President and the dominant economic class is expressed with the President, in his attempt to obtain political, electoral and legal guarantees, slavishing the institutions and making anti-democratic threats, and the economic power positioning itself in defense of democracy – and , in the specific case of the pandemic, in defense of science and against the denialism that the President uses to please his coup-mongering and authoritarian portion, and, deep down, what the ruling class is saying is that the President's frantic performance is blocking the agenda economical.

Everything appears as an attack and a defense of democracy, but, in fact, in this dispute, the democratic order, constitutionally delimited, is what matters least.

The enigmatic thing is that although the situation so often seems to be heading towards complete loss of control, the balance of forces is maintained, as if no tension had occurred. It is not possible to say whether the President has any other assets, but it is something effectively inexplicable that with so many administrative irregularities, which even resulted in a genocidal omission in the pandemic, which also materialized by repeated affronts to the constitutional order, no concrete measures have been taken against the President comes to fruition. In fact, what you see is that everything realigns very quickly when the President, after formulating one of his attacks, apologizes.

This is the game that has been played between the economic ruling class and the President. And the stunned left doesn't even touch the pieces and, with their usual arrogance, thinks they have the situation under control. In his view, it is given that he will win the elections in 2022. He does not need to do anything, even though thousands of people are dying, suffering from increased exploitation or going hungry. Your project is just to wear down the government with criticism and wait!

And if all this could seem somewhat disconnected, the appearance of the figure of Temer, writing Bolsonaro's pardon letter, brought the missing link. The elements of unity and tension are explained in the letter.

First, the character that resurfaces stands out, who is exactly the same person who gave impetus to the 2016 coup and which started the process of “reforms”. Second, there is praise for Alexandre de Moraes, who, moreover, was appointed to the Supreme Court by Temer. Third, it is worth noting the President's reaffirmation of his commitment to the economic agenda when he says: “But in public life, people who exercise power do not have the right to 'tighten the rope' to the point of harming the lives of Brazilians. and its economy”. And fourth, there is the firm position of the President in the sense that the “fake news” inquiry is going too far, leaving the message that he is willing to completely break the established order if it is not attended to, which remains quite explicit. at the end of the letter when he thanks “the extraordinary support of the Brazilian people, with whom I align my principles and values, and lead the destinies of our Brazil” and ends with the allusion to the motto of Ação Integralista: “GOD, HOMELAND, FAMILY”.

The letter, therefore, does not represent any kind of retreat, on the contrary. And, at the same time, it makes explicit the tensions that surround the tenuous limits of this alliance that runs on a razor's edge, literally.

It is interesting to note that the letter was quickly answered via the “journalistic” news (here in quotation marks because it is not exactly journalism, but the use of a mass communication vehicle for the transmission of messages that reinforce ties through threats ).

It was in this way that everything Bolsonaro said and did on the 7th of September left the scene and replaced by lines giving credibility to Bolsonaro’s “application for pardon”, while reinforcing the message around the essentiality of the economic agenda. Thus, we seek to make it clear that without meeting this agenda, impeachment is not ruled out.

Incidentally, it is very interesting to see in the content of the last “news” mentioned all the problems and limits of an economy dictated by neoliberal ideas are completely left out of the question and the harmful consequences – already verified, but not even recognized, since they present themselves only as a future possibility – are transferred to the exclusive responsibility of the President's speeches. The “news”, moreover, also serves to, as said, make it clear that the market is not willing to keep up with this uncertainty. It is worth remembering that on September 1st, perhaps due to the radicalization that Bolsonaro advocated for September 07th, the Federal Senate overturned a matter of great interest from the neoliberal economic agenda that had already obtained the approval of the Chamber of Deputies.

Therefore, it remains quite unrealistic to propose the debate whether the coup projected by Bolsonaro on September 07th was defeated or if it was just the starting point for the democratic rupture.

What was expressed there was just the Bolsonarist part of a tension that involves another issue of much greater reach. And what seems to have happened is that, in the clash of forces, interests adjusted, triggering an alliance towards re-election in 2022, not least because what remains of 2021 may not be enough to implement new legislative assaults of an ultraneoliberal nature. and 2022, being an election year, does not lend itself to promoting social setbacks (which can be seen in all presidential election years since redemocratization).

In fact, there was no new coup on September 07th. However, the coup that started in 2016 is still ongoing.

The interesting thing is that the liberal right, perhaps because it is closer to the direct interlocutors of the alliance in question, understood well what was going on and decided to come out in explicit defense of the impeachment of the President, and it did so mainly because it does not have a candidate who has conditions to beat Bolsonaro at the polls. The initiative, however, seems to have little chance of success, since it carries with it the insurmountable contradiction of promoting a movement against a subject, but, at the same time, in favor of the project that sustains it. It would be dark to see the left supporting this movement, under the fallacious argument (considering the Brazilian reality outlined above) that all unity is forgiven when fascism is the common enemy.

The politically organized left – or most of it – seems to have another aspiration because it has a strong candidate. Lula, whose election will no longer be possible, has total conditions to defeat Bolsonaro electorally. Based on this, both the party and the candidate were not concretely involved in the President's impeachment initiatives.

It turns out that this bet is increasingly risky. First, because Lula is no longer able to offer economic power – as he has always done – the advantage over his opponents of serving economic interests without allowing popular reactions of opposition. Even so, Lula could win the elections as long as he assumes social commitments in a more forceful way (which he seems not to be willing to do) and also if formal democratic regularities are maintained, which would only be minimally guaranteed if the economic, financial, political and media did not close in favor of Bolsonaro's candidacy - which seems to be already consolidating - at least this is the trend that is announced. And one cannot forget that unusual facts during election periods tend to occur. See the exhibition of businessman Abílio Diniz's kidnappers wearing shirts with the PT symbol, in 1989, the day before the second round of the election, in which Collor and Lula were running. And see, too, the stabbing of Bolsonaro, in the course of the 2018 electoral process.

In short, the picture with all the pieces in place is this: the 2016 coup is in full force and is adjusting to a new cycle in 2022. Meanwhile, the politically organized left, without formulating and presenting an effective, objective and complete project of nation, allied with the popular forces, remaining, therefore, in the plane of subjectivism and fictional conjectures, remains astonished and stunned!

And in this tangle of compromising omissions, almost 600 lives have passed!

*Jorge Luiz Souto Maior is a professor of labor law at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of Moral damage in employment relationships (Studio editors).


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