The Left and Democracy

Image: Messala Ciulla


Democracy needs to be perfected even to materialize the promises of modernity, present in civilizational values. The Lula government leads the crossing, in a situation of adversity

Society lives under the domination of economic capital and its reproduction, regardless of the intentions of social actors. Its tentacles intertwine in a tangle of institutions and everyday relationships. This is Pierre Bourdieu's theoretical starting point in the thought-provoking article on “Modes of domination”, in The production of belief. To evoke a beautiful song from the 1970s, the citizen who fulfills his duty “is contributing to our beautiful social framework”.

Economic power is not found in wealth, but in the institutional articulations and mechanisms used for capitalist accumulation, without depending solely on individual resources. Social being cannot be reduced to the whim of a sovereign or the tournament of atomized wills. Reality is a social and institutional construction, in a labyrinth of contradictions.

Liberalism reduces conflicts to the competition of individuals. Racism and sexism are recycled in positions occupied by white, straight, Christian men, chosen in a mirror. The head of the Collège de France “makes use of the notion of belief to express the dialectical mechanisms of reinforcement between social structures and mental structures that are not easily identifiable”, reads the entry on “Belief”, from Bourdieu vocabulary, organized by Afrânio Mendes Catani et al. Regarding politics, the production of meaning is promoted by the media.

Overcoming obstacles

When covering events that influence society and the State, the concept of corporate media prioritizes executive and legislative representatives, including party spokespersons. Rural and urban movements, unions, community entities, students and NGOs would not engage in politics; they would just put pressure on politicians. A barrier separates “civil society” from “political society”, which is equivalent to the state sphere where deliberations take place. The separation is based on respect for procedural rules. As a result, the Participatory Budget (OP) would not have the legitimacy to interfere in parliamentary jurisdiction, despite participation being included in the Constitution.

Deputies and senators disguise class positions in the season of hunting for votes. The press links the excellences to the BBB benches: armamentist (Bala), evangelical (Bible), ruralist (Boi); in general, in elections for the Presidency of the Legislative Houses. There, the web of support still has a personal character, accumulated in the head-to-head. Disputes for spaces of influence are subjected to ideological scrutiny in the demarcation of territories, with malleable divisions in tactics; however, very rigid in their strategy. In the offices, the game is played by individuals, as long as they do not forget their affiliation with the colors of their original team. Party background is a persuasive factor.

Beliefs are collective in the symbolic universe of the social structure. In the context of conduct, thoughts and dispositions we find the meaning of practices – the compass that guides the dynamism of individual and group actions. For example, in the spurious and illegal purposes of the Lava Jato collusion, guided by the complex campaign of lawfare against the reputation of public agents and engineering companies, to hide foreign interests in the country.

The objective was to eliminate national construction companies from the global market; at the cost of 4,4 million jobs, a 3,6% reduction in GDP and an 85% drop in business revenues. Remove the leader of the polls from the elections, after the impeachment forged, it was essential for the dismantling of labor and social security rights, the pseudo “bridge to the future”. The judicial and media pantomime is proof that the dictates of the free market manipulate fragile democratic freedoms.

The strength of beliefs

Beliefs also drive the rise of the extreme right in the world, with the complicity of leading figures of political liberalism, not to mention the bigwigs of economic liberalism who, between democracy and fascism, repeat the mistakes of the 1920s (Mussolini) and 1930 (Hitler). The leaders of the backwardness opinion fear more the forces that fight for social justice than the sworn enemies of the democratic rule of law. They exchange egalitarian hope for status quo discriminatory, courage through fear, love through hate.

The extreme right is the spearhead of neoliberalism after the systemic crisis of 2008, which began in the United States. “Conservative sociodicy”, in Pierre Bourdieu’s terminology, is intensifying with the postmodern discourse about the end of classes, ideologies and history. “This gospel, or rather the soft vulgate that is proposed to us from all sides under the name of liberalism, is made up of a set of ill-defined words such as 'globalization', 'flexibility', 'deregulation', etc. Its liberal and even libertarian connotations can give the appearance of a message of freedom and liberation for a conservative ideology that thinks of itself as opposed to all ideologies.” Starting with the State, from then on everything becomes merchandise on the shelf.

Traditionally, the State has “a right hand” (the agents linked to financialization), and “a left hand” (the functions of social, educational, environmental policy and so on). The latter is mutilated by right-wing extremism, as witnessed by the fateful four-year period in Brazil and the current one in Argentina. Collective assets cease to belong to the people and become part of the privatized desire for parks and real estate speculation, despite the master plans.

The dikes that the community erected to protect itself from the selfish and antisocial spirit in the past are broken. Plural and multicolored sociability becomes dust. Markets act with contempt in the face of universal political rights, already acquired. The cycle closes with the institutionalized assault on the economic decision-making nucleus on monetary policy, that is, the Central Bank. The Judiciary legalizes the multiple and degrading attacks of hegemonic capitalism.

Challenge in the present

Although inequities compromise democracy, the political advantages of the democratic regime are undeniable, highlights Ellen Meiksins Wood, professor of political theory at York University, in Marx's rebirth, edited by Marcello Musto: “Since Greek antiquity, there has not existed a form of society in which inequalities had less effect on political outcomes than in those with rights associated with liberal democracy.”

Such rights allow for and expand freedom of the press to publicize one's own beliefs. “Never before have working class organizations, exercising ‘bourgeois’ freedoms of expression and association, had such direct and significant consequences in the political domain.” Something that requires constant vigilance for maintenance, without censorship. Neofascism seeks to block public debate, with acts of violence against the left.

It is understandable that the ruling classes, for centuries, have opposed the extension of political rights to the majority of the population – it threatened hierarchies, properties and privileges. Democracy needs to be perfected even to materialize the promises of modernity, present in civilizational values. The Lula government leads the crossing, in a situation of adversity. Barbarism took root in neocolonialist oppression in the period 2016-22.

The villains of this historical narrative are finance and deindustrialization; The heroes are the people and the nation with the project of a mass internal market and income distribution. The challenge of democracy is to reconcile utopian desire and real social transformation, to contain the exploitative power of the appropriating classes. In Brazil, political change and economic change always start from the struggle, organization and creativity of those who defend humanity and the planet.

* 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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