The neoliberal 'passive revolution'

Image: Ryanniel Masucol


The hijacking by neoliberalism of the notion of “revolution” allowed the extreme right to assume an anti-systemic position

Neoliberalism hijacked the notion of “revolution”. Thus, a hegemonic fraction of the ruling class could present itself with a discrediting discourse to the state of affairs. The displacement of the revolutionary camp allowed the extreme right to assume an antisystemic position and, in a 180° turn, accuse as reactionaries those who exposed the ruses of the reforms for the reconfiguration of the relations between capital and labor. The avalanche of single thought descended Mont Pèlerin with such violence that the British Iron Lady became a kind of standard bearer in the painting. Liberty leading the people (1830), by Eugène Delacroix. The carbonari now wore green and yellow.

Supported by employers' organizations with the promise of cleaning up Brazil's corrupted bowels, Jair Bolsonaro and the chicago boy they benefited from the willingness to sacrifice on the part of the population that suffered from antisocial policies. The pains of liberating childbirth were compensated by the magical hope for the future, once the “accursed legacy of leftism” had been overcome. The precariousness of existence with the increase in the cost of living, the skyrocketing fuel prices and structural unemployment were thrown on the shoulders of third parties, sometimes in the conflict in Ukraine, sometimes in the National Congress or in the STF. Hard neoliberalism was used to untangle growth and, through a mimetic effect, modernize the nation. In the streets, the Bolsonarist legion shouted with hatred a refusal of the official order.

In statements made to the Civil Police/DF about the putsch frustrated on January 8, and forwarded to the Joint Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPMI) which investigates acts of vandalism in Brasília, the militants declared: “the coup would avoid communism, sexual slavery and would bring spiritual salvation”. What was missing was the fact that they sought to reprimarize the Brazilian territory along the lines of agribusiness, at the expense of the democratic rule of law. The instrumentalization of fear occupies a prominent space in the epic of humanity, whose potency was exploited by colonialism and patriarchy. In Europe and the United States, the fear of Christian (xenophobic), white (racist) and straight (sexist) ultranationalists is stimulated by the nod to the “culture war” represented by immigrants, the black lives matter, the feminist movement and LGBT groups. Many surf the wave.

A Globo and lava Jato orchestrated the assault of the new fascism on the hearts and minds of the commons. On the small screen, scoundrels were glorified and cast as heroes, as hypocritical as they were mediocre; off-screen, they revealed themselves as despicable traitors to their country. A mise-en-scène involved the mystification of the "technique". Scholars embody biblical prophets in the First Testament sense by proposing alternatives to redemption. Underground ties to banks, investors and shareholders don't make the news. The repeated manufacture of false news promotes dissimulating narratives of ideologies and class interests, with the appearance of impartial, apolitical knowledge, neutral as glycerin soap. The plebeian conscience is at stake.

See the media coverage of the boycott of the country's reindustrialization by the Central Bank (Bacen). Extortionate interest rates are announced by decision of a technocracy in the Monetary Policy Committee (Copom), “concerned with the rise in inflation that causes so much harm to families”. The memory of three decades ago is evoked in order to hide profits from public debt securities, maximized by the Selic rate to serve the millionaire vultures of private finance, who earn with absurd interest rates. The State is obliged to pay oversized sums for the Bacen of Roberto Campos Neto. Here is Pandora's Box under lock and key. Who does the Trojan horse serve in meetings?

The officialization of the neoliberal metamorphosis through legal devices opened a clearing for the cool ones to enjoy themselves at the banquet and, at the same time, pose as good Samaritans for vulnerable segments. Inflation is a pretext for fleecing taxpayers. The watchdogs take it upon themselves to write the fable of the empathy of the rich towards the fate of the poor. The pantomime covers the drain to transfer billions of reais to the “elites”. Belief in the rules of the game, the principle of popular sovereignty, democracy in the tropics is undermined. Anti-political prejudice is crowned.


neoliberal statism

Herbert Marcuse explains the survival of the “system” by its ability to absorb “criticisms”, including acid ones, and convert protests into merchandise. In the 1960s, student mobilizations in the US against the invasion of Vietnam gave rise to the commercialization of military jackets, with bloodstains, on the presumption that they belonged to dead US soldiers. The same happened with the cut grunge anarchists who emerged in England at the end of 1970. In one week, hairdressing schools taught the counter-aesthetic from punk on the outskirts of New York and São Paulo.

Neoliberalism, on the other hand, taught the powerful not to be afraid of denouncing the capitalist grammar and using the force of attacks to status quo to shoot down enemies. It began with the disavowal of the collective pastoral work of Liberation Theology. The trigger was given by a book – Church charisma and power, by Friar Leonardo Boff. Summoned to appear at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in mid-1980, the religious was condemned by Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John Paul II to the penalty of “obsequious silence”. Due to Vatican injunctions, Boff left the direction of the magazine. Vozes. The open flank at the base of the social pyramid, for the fundamentalist and hyper-individualist preaching of the theology of prosperity, facilitated the deconstruction of the progressive transmission belt in the communities.

Conservatism put on a different profile to leverage the extermination of rights, commanded by the iron logic of accumulation in a different form of domination and, like classical liberalism, in opposition to State sovereignty. “Change is needed in all domains” became the favorite slogan of the apostles of the ten commandments of the Washington Consensus. There was the desire to go forward, with the compass of greed to land dreams in dystopia.

However, the adventures were less obvious, they did not derive from a “revolution in motion”. The impetus for modernization came from the advanced countries and was incorporated by local intellectuals. Among them, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, when stepping on the privatization accelerator. The project was not linked to an intrinsic demand of the productive forces of the national economy. They were out of place ideas that generated inequalities and sufferings carried out by the State, which still persist.

Do not confuse the anti-statism of revolution without activation with Bakuninian lessons on anarchism. Disassociated from the State and the monopoly of symbolic violence, no anti-humanist program would impose economic rationality on social life, in total. With official decrees, laws in Parliament, support in the Judiciary, friendly reports in the Court of Auditors and messengers in the media, necropolitics turned civilizational retrogression into an enchanted kingdom and, from hungry people, a mere supporting element to satisfy the gluttony of financial rent. In the undertaking, the guarantees for success were provided by Leviathan aligned with right-wing extremism on the rise, at the international level. The moderate right, at first, did not perceive the trap set by the conjuncture.

Neoliberal statism is a market builder. Stripping regulation and interventionism from the state apparatus, relegating the economy to the scrutiny of companies to the detriment of society, was and is fundamental to universalize the business paradigm of profitability and performance in the management of res publica and in formatting the subjectivity of individuals, in the spirit of capitalism. If neoliberalism governs the people with an eye on tomorrow, it is not to preserve constitutionalism, but to manage the tragedies and damage inherent to the concentration of wealth and the destruction of nature.


socialist humanism

Pierre Bourdieu, in the misery of the world (XNUMX copies sold, in conventional format), diagnoses the privatist disease as a “demolition of public services”: a strategic factor for the perpetuation of social torture. In adversity, rebellion recovers reasons to act to maintain the threatened conquests. Those who presume a naive defense of the existing institutional beacons are wrong. The "crooked angels" protect acquired rights from the attacks of the laissez-faire. In the concrete analysis of concrete reality, the Leninist formula for two steps back, one step forward was inverted.

Also wrong are those who assess that, in a reactive way, the swift conservationist or restorative counter-revolution prevailed. Neoliberal policies wave intentions of innovation and rupture. It is an offensive action to suspend republican sociability and institute the totalitarianism of markets, via consensus on the “upstairs”. In a scenario of reflux, the imaginary of changes obeyed subversive dynamics, in the name of the freedom of capital. However, it did not intend to subvert the systemic framework; and yes, social commitments imposed in agreement by the workers' organization.

For Antonio Gramsci, the consolidation of the conception of the world of bourgeoisie begun in 1789, in the case of France, it was a long journey that ended in 1871 with the defeat of the Paris Commune by the “bourgeois man”. Twenty thousand citizens were killed and fifteen thousand arrested, during the bloody May week of the first proletarian and popular self-government in history. The genial Marxist identified the argentine regime's baptism of cowardice in the thunderous convulsion. Proprietary classes that were Enlightenment and Voltaire saw in the alienation and dumbing down of the masses the expedient, from now on, for maintaining themselves in power. The social and economic maturity in society's infrastructure does not walk, passi passu, with political maturity in the superstructure.

We prison notebooks (edited by Carlos Nelson Coutinho, volume 1, p. 280 and following), the Sardinian thinker uses the concept of “passive revolution” to denote the persistent strength of the bourgeoisie in the socio-political rearrangements that ensure power, initiative and hegemony. Hence the gnoseological and political value to understand, conceptually, the permanence of the bourgeois moral-historical cosmovision, even though it is not the revolutionary class. European fascism in 1920-30 and contemporary neoliberalism in Brazil belong to the category of passive revolution. Idem, the Revolution of 1930 and, in the military version, the Revolution of 1964. To paraphrase TS Eliot: “Thus expires the world / Not with an explosion, but with a sigh”. Exhale and be reborn, from above.

The thesis of the redesign of liberalism by Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman et caterva imposed a re-updating of the cognitive alphabet for understanding the past-present. With forceps, when necessary, go to the cult of the market god. The antithesis to curb such an authoritarian inflection is to be found in an autonomization of subordinate classes, through political-ideological praxis. The cementation of a counter-hegemony is the result of struggles barley with patience and stubbornness. Not out of determinism or destiny, but to materialize one possibility, among others. The process requires the unification of social and political fighters around clear programmatic vectors.

Today, the Lula government's firefighting method in combating public unhappiness caused by the fire of egoic unreason in finance is carried out with: (a) social investment; (b) sustainable development and; (c) citizen participation. In this perspective, the “passive” character of the neoliberal revolution then has the chance to give in to the “radical” character (which goes to the root), an unavoidable condition for the left to reappropriate the flag of the emancipatory revolution, stamped in the painting by Eugène Delacroix. Equality, freedom and solidarity point the way to socialist humanism.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

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