the big trouble

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Perplexity and political inaction are, today, a typical phenomenon in Brazil.

Brazil's dead end seems to get narrower every day, as if its walls were moving towards the center, making the space tighter and the air more unbreathable. On the one hand, there are the horrors of Bolsonarism and its current expression: mockery in the face of the pandemic. On the other, the neoliberal agenda. The R$600 ran out almost three months ago and its end multiplies the misery and economic devastation; the government seems certain that if the benefit returns, it will be reduced to less than half - and it will come in exchange for further dismantling of public services.

Financial markets and media criticize the president for… not being as privatizing as they would like. Hopes close in on all sides. Miguel Nicolellis left for days the scientific committee of the Consortium of the Northeast, because the governors did not dare to accept the recommendations of lockdown effective. Unable to dialogue with the current dramas of the majorities, the institutional left is trying a blind leap until 2022, which makes it seem even more electoral and intensifies its internal divisions. How did we get into this trap?

Until some time ago, it seemed just one more echo of what was going on in the world; there was a general shift to the right. But this scenario has changed. The big wave of 2019 riots – who did not formulate a common program, but had a clear anti-neoliberal meaning. Then came the electoral defeats of the right in Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia and Ecuador, and the spectacular turnaround, still ongoing, in Chile. Black Lives Matter shook America amid the pandemic and Trump was beaten next.

The global conjuncture has become complex and nuanced. Neoliberalism still has enormous firepower, but it is no longer the only course. In the US, Joe Biden walled off the Republicans by proposing against the crisis, with huge popular approval, mass vaccination and a package of 1,9 trillion dollars aimed at helping the majority, the recovery of the public (States and municipalities) and relief for small and medium-sized companies. (At the same time, the White House attacks Syria and provokes Russia and China…).

In Europe, which responded to the 2008 crisis with crazy “austerity”, the EU distributes funds for health, the digital economy, and the fight against technological unemployment. (It also allies with pharmaceutical corporations to produce a colonialism of vaccines.) Even in India, where an ultra-right president is proposing neoliberal agricultural counter-reforms, a powerful peasant movement is rising that undermines its popularity.

Perplexity and political inaction are, today, a typical phenomenon in Brazil. It is necessary to find its causes, instead of launching bitter (and impotent…) vociferations against the supposed “meekness” of society. Here are two hypotheses.


the false dualism Bolsonaro X Markets it remains because, although thin, it interests both parties. On the one hand, it gives each one a supposed “enemy”, capable of generating solidarity. It is very useful for neoliberals to blame the crisis on the rough captain. It allows them to hide that the government fundamentally embraces the agenda it they dictate. And it is very functional, for Bolsonaro, to assert to his audience that he opposes powerful interests. Guarantees you keep the narrative anti-establishment – certainly the mother and of all her fake news. On the other hand, this game gives each party the certainty that it will not face real opposition. Except in the case of a political earthquake, neoliberals will never actually invest against Bolsonaro, as they know that there is no other political agent capable of imposing, like him, the agenda they defend. It is enough to note the inappetence of Congress for the impeachment, despite the numerous crimes of responsibility and common committed. The president, though he sometimes snarls against the “system,” is, on his leash, a pitbull effective and faithful.


However, this dualism only works because of the absence of an alternative political field. The institutional left gave up playing that role a long time ago. That is why it is totally absent from crucial debates, such as the fight against covid, the social crisis or economic collapse. He is content to make speeches in the parliamentary tribunes. It does not produce a single mobilization initiative – which would be possible, in alternative ways, even in the midst of the pandemic. It remains immobile even in the face of spontaneous protest actions, such as the “panelaços”. It is not, in fact, interested in understanding the Brazilian drama in order to raise an alternative project from it. He just wants to win in 2022 – and adopts the worst strategy to achieve such objective.

Compare Brazil to the United States, which experienced a similar drama in many ways. The election of Trump, in 2016, corresponded, in parallel, to the emergence of a new left. Figures like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not appear out of nowhere. They are the expression of a larger, grassroots movement that produced Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Socialists of America and a young generation that see with more sympathy the notion of “socialism” than that of “capitalism”. But this movement exists – and grows – also because it recognizes itself in figures of national expression, willing to intervene in the crucial themes of the conjuncture and, in particular, of propose new agendas. Green New Deal was, until crucial intervention by Alejandria Ocasio-Cortez, in 2018, a theme restricted to the theoretical debate of small circles. It has become part of the US political agenda. It was central to Bernie Sanders' campaign. It lives on, as an engine of political imagination and the production of concrete facts. Part of its elements, by the way, are present in Biden's $ 1,9 trillion package.

The political energy of the same direction, existing in Brazil, is real and is dammed up. It manifests itself repeatedly: from gigantic national acts, such as the “#EleNão”, to the multiplication, in important sectors of society, of daily attitudes of opposition to racism and patriarchy or the support manifested by millions for the postures assumed by “influencers” such as Felipe Neto. It triggered, during the previous peak of the pandemic, courageous and innovative protests, such as the union of football fans for democracy and the stoppages of couriers. Guilherme Boulos campaign to the city of São Paulo. But it will fade due to exhaustion if it does not find, on the national scene, expressions that represent it.

Who can fulfill this role? Who will open the gap necessary for the vast feeling of uneasiness before the dismantle material and moral of the country emerge and gradually constitute a alternative political field? The constellation of social movements and civil society organizations that marked Brazilian life in the 1990s and 2000s – acting slightly to the left of the PT and promoting remarkable movements, such as the campaign against the FTAA? The collectives that see themselves as heirs of 2013 and recognize themselves in Occupy Politics? Boulos himself, who joined PSOL but seems to see beyond? Some outsider – Dráuzio Varella, Gregório Duvivier, Felipe Neto or another – maybe welcomed by an institutional party capable of understanding the new times? A combination of these characters? All of them have powers and limits – exactly for this reason, none has been able to place themselves in the position until now.

But the space remains open, it is immense and needs to be filled – otherwise the setback will continue. Crises are often good midwives. May the immense pain caused by the pandemic, and its criminal management, bring more clues on how to get out of the labyrinth.

* Antonio Martins is a journalist, editor of the site Other words.

Originally published on the website Other words.


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