The Babel Syndrome and the Global Power Struggle

Regina Silveira, "Encuentro", 1991.


Commentary on the book by José Luís Fiori

The Babel Syndrome and the Global Power Struggle brings to the table of the Brazilian intelligentsia and to the political circles of the democratic field – progressive centrists, socialist left and social democrat – a contribution that will certainly be among the great works that “at the same time (is of) theory-history-conjuncture” . It is a dramatic, grandiose and realistic book, in which the spectacle of the heroic history of the formation of modern citizenship in the rule of law capitalism is narrated – at the same time – with the moderate expectation of the difficult regeneration of the modern democratic utopia, with the prevention that the worst can still happen: for that, Bolsonaro is there.

In the book, Fiori combines reflections on structural changes in the history of modern capitalism with everyday politics, the search for “key changes” and silent in the process of global accumulation, with its integration – always – with the great State policies in the formation of national states. The book contains 19 essay-articles on the transformations in the capitalist world, and 23 on Latin America and Brazil, plus a Preface and a “Postscript”. This, in its closing, formalizes the following conclusion; “The most important thing is the ability to extract the consequences and appropriate strategic implications of the thesis formulated by Max Weber that, “ultimately, the processes of economic development are struggles for domination.”

It is impossible to say which are the most important articles-essays in the book, considering the richness and thematic depth of its texts, but, as a suggested script for an immediately comprehensive reading, I would indicate “The place of Russia in the global strategy of the United States” , on the one hand, and, on the other, the two essays that refer to the title of the book: the texts “The Babel syndrome” (1 and 2), in the part related to world transformations, and “The impotence of liberal economists”, in the part where the author discusses “Brazil and Latin America.”

The whole book is valuable and essential and my indication concerns a more immediate understanding of its strategic meaning: the myth of Babel, which the book brings in its title, is the metaphor of human misunderstanding that human beings, even with a divine mandate, , were unable to overcome, but the Greek mythology of “Theseus and the Minotaur”, guided by the Ariadne thread, became linked – according to Borges’ imagination – to a destiny of emotions more connected to everyday emotions. Fiori's method, in fact, seeks to live in these two spaces of History.

The great narratives of “class x class” in the old industrial capitalism showed that these struggles for domination had a strong material-military content, within the colonial and semi-colonial countries, which intended to constitute themselves as free nations; Today, however, internal aggressions – even between the dominant and dominated in the same country – are changing, from the direct annihilation of armies in confrontation, to a control of hearts and minds, fundamentalist messages like religions of money, dissolution and annihilation of identities specific human rights, reduction of freedom rates by mystifying sermons and by networked psychic domination techniques.

The rudeness and psychoses of the most mythomaniac political leaders start to compose an apparently disconnected agenda, but which has, in each covertly apolitical act, a clear political meaning. Of recovery from patriarchy, exploitation of women, racism, homophobia and attacks on original populations, but – in the totality of the neoliberal project – there is always the destruction of social programs and the concentration of income. The financial economy of global rentism crushes the memory of conquests and spreads misery, which awakens among human beings the most brutal instincts of struggle for life, with the natural suppression of others.

The video that circulates on the networks showing President Bolsonaro committing a rudeness against the Governor of Rio Grande do Sul alongside his Minister of Agriculture, in his sexist terms – sick and disrespectful – in addition to being the obvious expression of a sociopathic personality in his most delirious moment, is also a testament to the mental and cultural state of a good part of his followers from Rio Grande do Sul. And equally from all those who despise the protocols of political representation, which even in our worst moments of Government, characterized Rio Grande.

Bolsonaro does not mind deceiving with brutality, because this is his way of sending a message to the bandits who surround him and of promoting an embarrassment, to “warn” that he remains the same, to those who also surround him, but are not crooks already configured. The democratic rationality of the lights is replaced by fascist irrationality, which imposes its “reason as an exception”: Bolsonaro’s movements, in action, make their own “legal” norms and republican protocol, on whose altar human dignity and any sign of the greatness of the politics of liberal democracy.

The short times – even snapshots of each conjuncture – (this “conjunctural fact” tomorrow will be replaced by another more brutal one!) add up to meaningless daily life: policies without structural content, passive and perplexed ways of life surrounded by hatred – particularly among the poor – while disuniting, by informalizing politics and replacing it with the expressions of a continuum of symbols. These symbols, however, only apparently do not communicate, because their sequence is an inverse face of reason, since instead of freeing, it enslaves, instead of raising individual and collective doubts, it standardizes through bestiality; instead of cohesive society as a community, it transforms it into hordes. However, reason is not dead and it reacts.

But how big and strong is this defense? At the end of his short story “A casa de Asterión”, Borges fictionalizes the dialogue between Ariadne and Theseus, who received from her – Ariadne – the sword to kill the Minotaur and also gives her the “thread”, which, after completing the task, mission would bring him back through the paths of the labyrinth. And he does it like this: “The morning sun reverberated on the bronze sword. There was no trace of blood left. Do you believe it, Ariadne? - said Theseus -, the Minotaur defended little. The “conjuncture”, which required Theseus’ decision to resist and Ariadne’s loving complicity, in Borges’ tale, had completely changed its skin and the “Hero” had won, since at this moment in history mythology was just a vulgar link between sensible daily life.

As we are saturated with conjuncture analyses, both made by competent press analysts and by analytical beadles who only replicate the voices of the owners of this same press, I dare to suggest a reading to better understand the long conjuncture we are living, rooted in these two last centuries.

Former Minister Celso Mello, in my opinion among the great figures of democratic-republican conservatism, uses history and fulminates: “Bolsonaro’s letter recalls a pact signed by Hitler.” What Celso Mello said has, at its base, a retrospective of what Nazi-fascism was in the last 100 years, not accepting that opportunist manifestations, in “short” conjunctures, are capable of representing a new political morality and a new public ethics for society. stabilize the democratic ritual. This is because a new morality, based on the words of those who raped the foundations of this same era – gifts of Enlightenment rationality with a democratic character – can only come from within democracy, never from the monstrous caves of fascism and colonial domination.

This comes to us as a conclusion, both in form and method, of Fiori's book, one of the great economic, political and moral documents, of the struggle for a just and humanized Brazil for the greatness of the democratic and social struggle that intelligence helps us to promote. and understand.

*Tarsus in law he was Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil.


Jose Luis Fiore. The Babel Syndrome and the Global Power Struggle. Petrópolis, Voices, 2020, 200 pages.


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