the promiscuous peace

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By ALEXANDRE DE FREITAS BARBOSA*

The middle classes do not behave in unison, as they are split between the middle class of the market and the middle class that defends citizenship.

In December 1984, Celso Furtado wrote a lucid entry in his diaries. After highlighting the historic role that the Constituent Assembly would play, he states that “in addition, we will have a time of accommodation, of illusionism, advances and retreats”. Its unfolding depends on the emergence of a new generation and how it will face the “imposture of authoritarianism introjected, albeit unconsciously, by a large part of the middle class”[I].

This statement allows us to analyze with historical distance the New Republic that ended in 2016 and the chaos that followed. Furtado puts his finger on the wound that was always open during this period, accumulating pus and resentment, awaiting the imminent necrosis. But we didn't see it or didn't want to see it.

Florestan Fernandes, in turn, refers to the middle classes, in the plural, as “the puritans of dependent capitalism”. They have a “contradictory social destiny”: they defend “in theory” modernization in all spheres of collective life, but are favored by monopolizing the possibilities of “self-valorization in the market” [ii]. They easily give up an agenda of social transformation in favor of their private benefits disguised as meritocratic.

Therefore, we need to go back in time to understand one of the main beams of our underdeveloped and dependent capitalism, which emerges as a decisive fact during the industrialization process, especially when the rupture occurred in the post-1964 period.

A short story by Luis Fernando Verissimo [iii] lends body and soul to the new structures that the authoritarian regime left us as a heavy legacy. By exposing our “stain” with his literary scalpel, Veríssimo describes the intricacies that shape the sociability of a significant portion of the Brazilian middle class.

Rogério is a former leftist militant tortured by the dictatorship. After some time, he meets old colleagues who casually ask him: “how is life going?”. His answer: “I got rich”. Rogério finds it amusing, as if referring to a “biological fatality”, like “I gained weight” or “I lost my hair”. Anyway, "it wasn't your fault".

Its business is buying and selling real estate. He buys cheaply, sometimes tearing down old buildings and houses to sell at high prices. Rogério's father-in-law is wealthy. He calls him “the demolisher”, as he lives off of “our garbage”. At parties in the condominium for the rich, Rogério meets his brother-in-law and his right-wing friends. One of the guests comments: “but now the communists are on top”. The businessman replies: “that's what they think”, “they can come back, but we're still here too”.

As if by chance, Rogério recognizes the room in which he was tortured in a building offered for sale. The stain on the wall, with its blood, resists time. Obsessive, he goes after his militancy companion, who is also in another. Rogério cannot forget, “something had happened, and left a mark” in the country, in an entire generation. Forgetting would be a form of betrayal.

I spare the reader the rest of the plot to get straight to the point. Rogério is elated with the indifference of the former “comrade” and proclaims: “at the end of the war no territory had been conquered or ceded and vanquished and victors took their dead and their resentments and returned to their respective countries, which is the same country !”. What disturbs him the most is “this promiscuous peace of ours, winners and losers living together without ever really knowing who is what” [iv].

The gaucho writer solved the riddle in this small masterpiece. It vividly reveals the “stain” that Furtado and Florestan – both celebrating their respective centenary years in this terrible 2020 – had dissected in their interpretations rooted in history and in their respective political experiences.

We lived the promiscuous peace between winners and losers until the year 2016. Despite the advances of the 1988 Constitution, it was always there, the stain, often hidden. But indelible. In this new context, the position of the middle classes proved to be decisive, as they are located in strategic places of sociability in the market, society and the State. These classes do not behave in unison, as they are divided between the middle class of the market and the middle class that defends citizenship.

Nevertheless, the sociability of the market invaded a good part of the territories of society and the State, displacing the middle classes that made the junction between the demands of society and the projects of the State. This displacement advanced during the FHC government, suffered a short circuit in the PT governments, to be consummated in an accelerated way after the coup, when the authoritarian automatisms of the market were imposed.

The formerly vanquished joined the victors, without even making self-criticism. After all, the world had changed. Vibrant capitalism was just around the corner, just modernizing the economy, joining the international system and “burying the Vargas Era”. This was how it was in the 1990s, when the former sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso and some of his former militancy companions were bullfighted, with the support of the “market” and new friends of the PFL, the usual winners.

With the arrival of Lula and the PT to power, the losers roll out the red carpet to the winners. Another wave of former militants re-socialized with capital and party oligarchies. It is true that part of the vanquished agenda was implemented. But the promiscuous peace, and its stain, was there. The Truth Commission, the law of quotas for blacks in universities and the rights granted to domestic servants were an attempt to whitewash the stain without demolishing the building.

The former winners reacted with their “Stop there”! inflamed, in defense of market privileges, dismantling the tense and provisional balance maintained within the bipartite middle classes. In a rhythmic movement, commanded from above, the middle classes unified and entrenched themselves, uniting with the powerful to preserve the stain of the past. The coup came, the general's twitter, Lula's arrest, the captain's rigged election, the vigilante's dismissal, the attacks on the STF, and the winners reappeared, under new ideological uniforms, with their yellow-green troops belching "freedom ” under the protective mantle of armed militias.

The promiscuous peace ended and the once defeated quasi-winners were purged from power, media and rights. They were kidnapped from political society by a strange coalition where there is room for winners with different agendas, calibers and creeds, as they have the endorsement of big capital and the new elite of marching lumpenentrepreneurs.

Today, violent promiscuity takes advantage of the coalition armed by the ruling family that fires in all directions, imploding the democracy that previously allowed coexistence between winners and losers.

In time: some winners are already jumping ship and allying themselves with the losers in search of a return to promiscuous peace. There are several initiatives: “We are Together”, “Enough!”, “We are 70%” and so on. Meanwhile, the once again vanquished contended with each other, exchanging accusations. The theme of the week is Lula's positioning. “Hegemonist!”, say some. “Workers' representative!” say others.

Did Lula take a wrong step, or was it history, with its new coalition of ruling classes, that took him out of the picture? The promiscuous peace proposed today has its main foundation in Lula's exclusion. After all, he was, in power, the architect of the most venerable chapter of our promiscuous peace. They want peace back, but now with the permanent submission of the vanquished. Lula does not know how to move in the new scenario, as the costumes of the popular leader and the statesman are no longer available. His dilemma is anti-Hamletian: there were several in Brazil who quickly fell behind.

Promiscuous peace is healthy, I am sorry to displease you, readers. Or rather, we've been living in it for a long time without realizing it. At this moment, it is necessary, first of all, to recognize our current position of losers. It was they who started the war again and took us prisoner. But before we raise the white flag, running the risk of having it shattered, it is important to know where we want to go.

Never before in the history of Brazil has it been so important to adopt the “war of position” and the “war of movement” in a conjugated and sequenced way, to use Gramsci's terms updated for our situation.

War of position to occupy all available spaces in society, even those proposed by them. And movement warfare, to create new spaces of organization and forms of resistance – bringing together the various losers and promoting division in the field of winners. The moment will come when, having understood the terms of the game, we will be able to define the new conditions of the armistice. Only then will the usual winners realize that we are not here to play around.

[I] FURTADO, Celso. Intermittent diaries 1937-2002, organization, presentation and notes by Rosa Freire D'Aguiar. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2019, p. 304.

[ii] FERNANDES, Florestan. Class society and underdevelopment. 3rd. edition. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar Editores, 1975, p. 63.

[iii] VERY VERY, Luis Fernando. the stain, In: “Vozes do Coup”. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2004.

[iv] Same, p. 50-51.

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