Alckmin and the Leninists

Image: Francesco Ungaro


The mistaken use of Lenin to defend an alliance that is not on the side of the radically democratic sectors of national life

The issue that now dominates discussions in the field of the Brazilian left, namely the Alckmin-vice-de-Lula issue, is occasionally treated in the light of the foundations of Leninism. There are two Leninist issues that are presented here: one that corresponds to modernization and thus to the path of development – ​​generically the opposition “Prussian way” vs. “peasant way” or “democratic way” −, and that which concerns the policy of alliances.

Lenin used the concept of the Prussian way to talk about the defeat of the poor peasants before the landjunkers, an expression of Prussian agrarian capitalism that was modernizing without allowing the emancipation of the peasantry. An unpopular path of capitalist development in which the peasant mass is not only “expropriated on an enormous scale”, but also sees “its economic situation” deteriorate, while “the main mass of large landed property and the pillars of the old superstructure” are preserved. .[1]

The concept was used by different sectors of Brazilian left-wing militancy to think about the ills of our modernization, from João Amazonas to Carlos Nelson Coutinho. A reading key that has always invited political criticism, although the concept also allowed the identification of a process – “from above” and thus subject to radical criticism – of change.

It is true that there are now those who, on behalf of the left, speak with enthusiasm about this type of modernization, even insisting on its “mandatory” character. A kind of bourgeois, positivist and ahistorical vision, which became hegemonic in the context of the organic crisis that capitalism is going through. A crisis not only of representation, disconnecting economic structures and political-ideological visions of the world, well expressed in the weakening of party structures, but also a moral crisis, in the form of a crisis of ideologies.

We would say that its cultural expression appears in the crisis of modern thought and in the simultaneous emergence of the so-called “postmodern feeling”. As a result, we are experiencing a complete disarticulation of relations between concept and historical-social (or socio-spatial) reality, sometimes accepting an immediate and thus rigid identification between both, sometimes proposing a complete laxity between them, only empirical-discursive and no less arbitrary − both cases leading to different forms of “scientific denialism”. And behold, a Marxist attentive to the concrete analysis of the concrete situation, and for that very reason critical of the rigidity of conservative modernizations, we now see Lenin calmly elevated to the enthusiasm of the “latifundian path.”

Knowing that Brazilian agribusiness is no longer the planting of the colonial period, the reader must be wondering if this introduction to the problem “Alckmin-vice-de-Lula” has not already lost its meaning? Not so much. And this for two reasons.

The first and most basic: it is common knowledge that the bases of the PSDB, the party that has been Alckmin's home for 30 years, are in the conservative middle class, and notably in the segment that is geographically concentrated in the South, Southeast and Midwest regions. , politically and ideologically linked to agribusiness.

This is certainly a sector that has largely migrated to Bolsonarism. The choice of Ana Amélia Lemos for vice president in Alckmin's 2018 presidential campaign is a good portrait of this, with the ultraconservative senator from Rio Grande do Sul promising to secure the votes of anti-PT, anti-corruption, rural sector and conservative movements in general. A kind of transculturation within the bloc that organized the 2016 coup.

The second reason is that Brazilian agribusiness, the expression of a bourgeoisie that calmly watched the country's industrial GDP reduce to almost nothing, although it is very modern technically, operates with methods of primitive accumulation. Pay attention to the analyzes that propose a updating of Marx's old concept with the aim of helping to elucidate the neoliberal era, would help a lot.

It is true that this problem has sometimes led to simplistic conclusions, as if criticizing the capitalist reinvention of the methods of primitive accumulation meant shrugging off any and all technical modernization. And that's when it's time to go back to Lenin. It was he who knew how to propose the absorption of the “great modern capitalist technique and planned organization, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism”, which, however, would require putting “the underlined words aside”, in order to be able to speak of “a State of another social type.[2] In other words, to avoid the mechanical, positivist and bourgeois copying of the State junker, because Marxism does not correspond to Oswald Spengler's simplifications.

Discussing these issues today obviously does not mean that one is ignoring the exceptionalism of the Soviet experience and, once again, the criticism that Lenin himself addressed to the “intellectual supermen who allow themselves to be carried away” by the idea of ​​the triumphal march against "international imperialism"[3]. Well, but it is precisely here that the problem of alliances against fascism, which the last Lenin focused on, arises and which are so often mentioned today in the Brazilian debate.

The idea that Lenin's “broad alliances” meant an indistinct and uncritical opening to different sectors of the ruling class, supposedly willing to fight fascism, is strictly false. The international imperialism that Lenin knew at the beginning of the 1920s was quite strong, was itself the expression of the big bourgeoisie that had led Europe to the First World War, and from which, therefore, it was prudent for social democracy to keep its due distance.

Hence, the “broad front” or “united front” policy, which Lenin guided Karl Radek to put into practice in Germany territorially occupied by the Treaty of Versailles, was a policy of alliances with the middle sectors, and not with big capital, responsible for the terrible booty imposed on the Germans.[4]

Keeping the due differences in time and space, would we not be facing a very similar situation in Brazil, which is now discussing, within the left, alliances with a view to the 2022 elections?

There is no doubt that the agrarian big bourgeoisie, or even the big bourgeoisie in general, strongly tied to the financialized logic that now dominates capitalism, is up to its neck engaged in the re-edition of the primitive forms of accumulation (land grabbing, environmental destruction, savage outsourcing, privatization of state assets), itself Alckmin's uncontested base in national politics until very recently.

The same bourgeoisie that was not only a first-time ally of the 2016 coup, but also behaved in an engaged manner or at least as a serene “spectator” in the face of the rise of Bolsonarist neo-fascism.

The time when this same bourgeoisie – much less financialized than today – was able to organize the so-called group of eight, in order to thus raise, in the middle of the military dictatorship, a business manifesto in favor of democracy and public investments.

Indeed, the dilemma before us today is, mutatis mutandis, much closer to the one before Lenin in the 1920s, little resembling either the post-World War II situation – which made Togliatti think of a peaceful path to socialism – or that of the death throes of the Brazilian dictatorship in 1964.

Thus, opening up to layers that are not part of the working class stricto sensu, as Lenin was able to assess it in the 1920s, is an imperative necessity, but this is in no way equivalent to opening oneself up to big capital that filled the asses of and with (neo)fascism. The sector that is the object of a policy of hegemony is the middle class sector − especially its most popular groups, little identified with Alckmin, but in any case the object of (neo)fascism's ideological assaults.

Trying to convince us otherwise in Lenin's name is nothing more than a clumsy intellectual operation. And, even worse, inclined to compromise with very conservative ideas. Or, as Lenin put it in his critique of Plekhanov's illusions with the Prussian way − actually recovering Heine's words quoted by Marx −, an operation capable of sowing “dragons”, but certainly destined to reap “fleas”.

All is perhaps not lost. Things will be decided between February and March and not without consulting the PT bases, as Lula himself said. Perhaps by then the “Leninists forgotten by Lenin” will be able to “acknowledge the error”, “shake off the dust” and “turn around”, in order to finally reposition themselves alongside the radically democratic sectors of national life.

* Marcos Aurélio da Silva Professor at the Department of Geosciences at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC).



[1] Lenin, VI Preface to the second edition of The development of capitalism in Russia. Formation process of the internal market for the big industry. Translation José Paulo Netto; review by Paulo Bezerra. São Paulo: Abri Cultural, 1982, pp. 9 et seq.

[2] Lenin, VI On left-wing infantilism and the petty-bourgeois spirit. Selected Works, vol. 2. Moscow: Progresso Editions; Lisboa: Edições Avante!, p. 602.

[3] Lenin, VI Seventh Extraordinary Congress of the RCP (b). Selected Works, vol, 2. Moscow: Progress Editions; Lisboa: Edições Avante!, p. 501.

[4] Azzara, GS Comunisti, fasciti e questione nazionale. Germania 1923: rossobruno front or war of egemony? Milan: Mimesis, 2018, pp. 28 et seq.

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