The final stretch?

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By DANIEL AARÃO REIS*

The current president is above all the Brazilian expression of a social and historical process that has a worldwide scope.

We are in the final stretch, many argue, thinking about the 30th of October.

It is, without a doubt, a decisive day, when Brazilian society will be called upon to decide whether or not it wants to continue with the time of horrors that has been provided to the country by the political and party alliances that have taken power since January 2019.

It is true that the current president is an evil in himself, but he is above all the Brazilian expression of a social and historical process that has a worldwide scope, provoked by a scientific-technological revolution that has subverted in depth – and at breakneck speed – all the dimensions of social life, involving the economy, politics, culture, causing “everything solid to melt into air”.

This process has provoked, as demonstrated by Thomas Piketty, an insane concentration of wealth, dramatically deepening social inequalities and favoring large monopolies on a scale still unknown in the landmarks of the history of capitalism. All of this has generated discomfort, anguish, despair, helplessness among people.

Democratic forces have not been able to offer solutions to these problems, on the contrary, once in power, they reconcile with monopolistic tendencies and the growth of social inequalities, with the limitation of social, cultural and ecological rights, making difficult or preventing the “ democratization of democracy”, that is, its extension to the vast popular layers, thus contributing, even if involuntarily, to the discredit of institutions and to the naturalization of inequalities and violence.

As a result, political leaders and messianic, authoritarian religious proposals are strengthened, which acquire a popular dimension and spread throughout the world. Among others, Trumpism articulated with neo-Pentecostal religions in the United States; Vladimir Putin's autocratic tendencies in communion with the Orthodox Church in Russia; the illiberal democracy of Viktor Orbán, and the appeals of an integralist Christianity in Hungary; the poorly disguised dictatorship of Recep T. Erdogan in Turkey, allied with Islamic fundamentalist currents; political despotism in China, confirmed now by the dictatorial investiture of Xi Jinping; Narendra Modi's institutional racism in India based on Hindu fundamentalism; the theocratic dictatorship in Iran, headed by Ali Khamenei. All these multiple forms of political authoritarianism, very different from each other, have a central point in common: they enshrine contempt for democracy and democratic values. As in the years prior to World War II, authoritarianism is no longer disguised, it asserts itself openly and without complexes.

Jair Bolsonaro and his religious articulations with neo-Pentecostalism express, in Brazil, the reemergence of authoritarian proposals with a popular base. They acquired social and political strength thanks to the erosion of the prestige of the so-called “New Republic”. They ride in disbelief of democratic values. They will do everything to prevent Lula's inauguration and to make his government hell.

Lula's campaign, expanding alliances, considered essential to defeat the common enemy of the democratic regime, lacked clear proposals on how he intends to govern. It is true that, pressed by circumstances and various pressures, he clarified some programmatic points in the context of the second round. But there are still many doubts and uncertainties about the course and meaning of his government.

Now, once elected President of the Republic, Lula will have to formulate options. He will not face a favorable international and national situation as in his first two terms.

Today's world, twenty years later, has become a scenario marked by an unstable multipolarity. In Ukraine, a war is unfolding with uncertain results, with promises of radicalization. Other conflicts loom in Asia and the Middle East. The possibility of a new global economic crisis is also affirmed, with reduced growth and even recession in several countries.

At the national level, Lula will be pressured by an angry extreme right, by the traditional avidity of financial capital and by the interests of his popular bases. He will try to balance himself in his usual style as a master of negotiating and arbitrating conflicts, but it is doubtful that these skills will be enough to keep the emerging tensions and social contradictions under control.

In this picture, it is an illusion to imagine that we are in a “final stretch”. Parodying W. Churchill, Lula's likely victory will not be the beginning of the end, but just the end of the beginning.

The threats from the Bolsonarist extreme right will only be overcome if democracy is expanded and deepened in our country. If income is effectively distributed. Racism, firmly fought. Military guardianship removed. Security provided, not just for the middle classes and elites, but for all people. The police, demilitarized. Environmental devastation, eradicated. Public education and health, guaranteed and improved. Corruption with public money, controlled.

It will be virtually impossible to achieve these goals through state action and charismatic leaders alone. People's mobilization and self-organization will be essential.

We live and will still live in dark times. Waiting for us, great challenges await us. Deciphering and confronting them will be the task of a generation.

*Daniel Aaron Reis is a professor of contemporary history at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF). Author, among other books, of The Revolution that Changed the World – Russia, 1917 (Company of Letters).

 

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