The Curse of Aetius



PSOL got entangled in the institutional trap of electoralism and parliamentary cretinism

Adherence to the Frente Ampla led by Lula and Alckmin in the 2022 elections and the decision to seal a Federation with Marina Silva’s Sustainability Network irremediably compromised PSOL’s ability to act as a party that fights for the immediate and historical interests of the working class. The party that emerged as a reaction to the Workers' Party's adaptation to order definitely ceased to be a space for organizing the struggle for socialism and freedom.

Theoretical indigence blocked any possibility of a critical debate about the extraordinarily destructive and uncontrollable character of contemporary capitalism and its particularly devastating effects on Brazilian society. The line of least resistance as a political orientation ensnared the party in the institutional trap of electoralism and parliamentary cretinism.

Unable to go beyond the rigid parameters of bourgeois institutionality, the party that emerged as a hope for the renewal of the socialist left, with the aspiration to avoid both the trap of co-opting the benefits of order and the sterility of dogmatic sectarianism, gradually adapted to the demands of capital and acquiring the tics of traditional politics. The inability to overcome the illusion that the popular democratic program means in an underdeveloped social formation, in a frank neocolonial reversal, ended up leading the PSOL to succumb to “improvementism”. Aetius's curse came true. The PSOL ended up being transformed into a mere “pull from the PT”.

At the decisive hour, when the reactionary offensive against workers' rights reached its climax and the authoritarian escalation endangered the very continuity of the rule of law, the PSOL failed irrevocably as an instrument for elaborating, organizing, mobilizing and raising awareness of the oppressed and exploited. On the pretext of avoiding Bolsonaro's despotic threat, the party gave in to pressure from those in power and sanctioned the agreement whose main objective was to legitimize the attacks that stripped what little remained of the democratic and republican content of the 1988 Constitution.

By renouncing the possibility of presenting itself as a political alternative against order, the PSOL surrendered to the misery of the possible. By discarding the direct mobilization of workers as a central element of the tactic, it accepted as a fait accompli the correlation of forces responsible for the overwhelming offensive of capital over labor.

The emptiness of ideas and the silence of the streets strengthened the reactionary offensive. Without tackling the structural constraints of capitalist barbarism at the root – the cause of the ills that poison Brazilians’ lives – and without accumulating strength for structural changes, it is simple to imagine the effective possibility of improving the living conditions of workers, the end of political violence and the reversal of environmental devastation, whether in a government with a democratic veneer, with Lula and Alckmin, or in an openly dictatorial one, with Bolsonaro and the military.

The capture of PSOL by the neoliberal State definitively closed the political circuit to the participation of the socialist left. The pattern of domination that is intended to be consolidated does not allow for anything that goes beyond a moderate postmodern agenda of claims. Barred from parliamentary representation by the barrier clause and marginalized from the media by the great monopolies that public debate, leftist parties that did not surrender to the pressures of order were, de facto, even if not de jure, banished from national political life. As social classes do not act without the mediation of political agents, workers were left without independent instruments to express themselves in the political sphere.

Circumscribing the political dispute to the misery of the possible, in a particularly adverse historical context, marked by the escalation of capitalist barbarism, is to double the bet on the senseless march of events. Although the neutralization of political opposition to the status quo means, in the very short term, an important victory for the plutocracy that is occupied with the large and small businesses of the liberal-peripheral accumulation pattern, it is, in fact, a Pyrrhic victory. By blocking the channels of expression of the real contradictions that mobilize the class struggle, the bourgeoisie deepens the structural crisis of legitimacy that corrodes institutions and intensifies the social antagonisms that drive the class struggle.

This is not the time for conciliatory evasions. The melancholy trajectory of the PSOL and the extreme weakness and fragmentation of the socialist organizations that did not surrender to order demonstrate the urgency of a profound and radical reorganization of the revolutionary left. The neutralization of the revolutionary potential of the subaltern classes makes any possibility of an authentically democratic solution, from bottom to top, to the civilizing crisis that devastates Brazilian society unfeasible.

In the absence of a Socialist Left Front, which unifies the workers' struggles and gives them political direction outside the chains of bourgeois institutions, the workers are left without political instruments to oppose the reactionary offensive of the bourgeoisie.

* Plinio de Arruda Sampaio Jr. is a retired professor at the Institute of Economics at UNICAMP and editor of the website Contrapoder. Author, among other books, of Between the nation and barbarism: dilemmas of dependent capitalism (Vozes).


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