The neoliberal war against society

Image: Brett Sayles


Neoliberalism has its praetorian guard of (de)opinion shapers to discredit politics and undo the common basis of understanding things in society

Although the facts insist on showing the opposite, the neoliberal discourse continues to be structured by the idea that private initiative is the source of creativity and fortune; while the State is the breeding ground in which there are only obstacles to development and bad conduct. In this sense, any action by legitimately elected governments to regulate the action of markets and protect society is always condemned as harmful interference to their proper functioning. It is a discourse that serves to amalgamate the tenacious struggle of economic elites to win consciences and shape society in a way that better serves the interests of the very rich.

The voracity in the expropriation of wealth from society into the hands of a few is portrayed in the 2023 Oxfam report: the richest 1% in the world took almost 2/3 of all wealth generated since 2020 – around US$42 trillion. This means that the 1% concentrated six times more money than 90% of the global population (seven billion people) in the same period. In the last decade alone, this same 1% has taken half as much. Yes, half of all the wealth created in the world. The social fracture is such that the five biggest billionaires in the world doubled their wealth in just three years (from 2020 to 2023), while 60% of the world's population – around five billion people – reduced their earnings during this period. This reality leaves no doubt that neoliberalism must be understood as a weapon of war by the very rich (1%) against society.

The disconnect between the promise of neoliberal discourse and reality is sustained, to a large extent, by the control of traditional media outlets and the main social media platforms by the same people who concentrate income in the world, the 1%, which prohibits the possibility of a true and democratic public debate in society. An example of this was the hysteria of criticism of the Petrobrás Board of Directors' decision not to pay additional dividends to the R$ 14,2 billion that were royally paid.

The decision was taken to allow better conditions for the company to obtain the necessary financing to fulfill its strategic plan, committed to the resumption of refining and heavy investments in the transition to renewable energy, initiatives of high relevance for society. However, the infantry behind the dissemination of the single discourse spared no ammunition and aimed their entire arsenal at the heart of the government, without any inhibition in treating the majority shareholder as if he were a foreign entity to Petrobrás and completely forgetting that it is a company that is a symbol of Petrobrás. fight for national sovereignty.

A scorched earth picture was painted, in which it was carefully hidden from the public that the defenestrated company is the second most profitable among the largest in the world oil market and, amazingly, that in recent years it was paying amounts above net profit in dividends. An unsustainable practice from any angle, except for rapine without commitment to the company and against the very idea of ​​national interest.

At the center of this war is the need for neoliberalism and its praetorian guard of (de)opinion shapers to discredit politics and undo the common basis for understanding things in society, which prevents understanding between different social actors and makes it impossible to democratic debate. Once this is done, the way is open for the affirmation of a sectarian discourse without commitment to the values ​​that founded modern society, leaving only the imposition of the interests of the very rich, whether through persuasion or force. The attempted coup against Lula's election and the coup against Dilma Rousseff leaves no doubt about the neoliberal authoritarian nature.

Society and democracy need to defend themselves and we cannot lose sight of the fact that “everyone has the right to have their own opinions, but not their own facts”, as former US senator Daniel Moynihan warned. Democracy cannot surrender to neoliberal grammar and we must always highlight that shareholder is not synonymous with citizen and private initiative cannot become an end in itself, to the point of turning its back on the well-being of society.

Disputing words, concepts and not letting reality be fragmented by the reign of private opinion, is to practice politics in favor of the majority and avoid the neoliberal path of increasing poverty and climate collapse. Our commitment continues to be to act to build new possibilities for the present and future.

*Gerson Almeida, sociologist, former councilor and former secretary of the environment of Porto Alegre, he was national secretary of social articulation in the Lula 2 government.

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