Anti-Corruption as a Regressive Utopia

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By LEONARDO AVRITZER*

The final balance of the Lava Jato operation

The melancholic end of Operation Lava Jato, in the first week of February, almost went unnoticed. A small note from the Attorney General's Office and some protests from the main Lava Jato widows: Deltan Dellagnol, in a fit of Louis XIV, "I am the fight against corruption in Brazil", pointed out that the fight against corruption in the country would be harmed.

Not a word about how much Lava Jato, in particular the task force under its command, contributed to the corruption of law in Brazil. It is worth remembering that the note on the coercive conduct of former president Lula was written by a journalist from Rede Globo and that Deltan himself tried to unduly appropriate a large part of the resources recovered by the operation to set up a foundation that would increase the earnings of attorneys from the Task force.

In the mainstream press, those journalists who failed miserably to fulfill their investigative duty also came forward to protest. Journalist Carlos Sardenberg wrote in the newspaper O Globo: “There is a sequence of movements that reinvigorate the old politics (here included Executive, Legislative and Judiciary), stifle the fight against corruption and make the Brazilian State increasingly inefficient.” That is, impeachment would not have involved the old policy, nor the benefits that the Judiciary and security corporations gained from it.

The old policy would only be a review of the Lava Jato convictions and the return of the centrão to power. It remains to be seen what the new policy would be: probably a system in which the media would decide who to convict for corruption. After all, Sardenberg tells us that no innocent people were convicted. Therefore, it is assumed that there is a media rule that allows pointing culprits for corruption, regardless of the results of legal proceedings.

Thus, we have a very curious phenomenon in Brazil: a first-instance anti-corruption operation manipulates the STF, conducts politics on its own, allies itself with far-right politicians and leaks information to help them in elections, violating the country's principles of international relations. collaborating directly with authorities from other countries and condemns an ex-president with fragile evidence legalized by the judge, in collusion with the prosecution. When this operation comes to an end, some lament the return of the old policy. It remains to be seen what, in their opinion, the new policy is.

Two questions arise here: namely, what made the country adhere almost entirely (in some moments in 2015, Lava Jato had the support of more than 90% of Brazilians) to a judicial operation that so bluntly violates the state by law and which takes into its hands prerogatives that it does not possess, blackmailing the other republican institutions. The second is how a local and politicized operation was able to determine so many relevant moments in Brazilian politics and place itself above all political and judicial institutions.

My first point is that Lava Jato used mass manipulation technology similar to that used by Nazi-fascism and Stalinism and that it had the support of the mainstream press to achieve this objective. Lava Jato was not an operation against corruption, but an attempt to transform the fight against corruption into a utopia. Today we know that this utopia was regressive, that is, capable of destroying the economy and reorganizing the political system in an anti-democratic way.

All forms of totalitarianism and strong violation of rights that we know in modernity are based on an element that can be pointed out as utopian, but which in the end only has a destructive capacity. The utopian element mobilized by Stalinism is the idea of ​​ending inequality, while the utopian element mobilized by Nazism is the elimination of ethnic impurities. In that sense, there is little different from what Lava Jato accomplished: the idea here is to end corruption by eliminating the impure from the political system. This is the objective of Lava Jato, which must be analyzed in conjunction with the economic and political wreck it produced.

Both Nazism and Stalinism redefined their countries' justice systems to act according to the maxims of their regressive utopias. In the case of Nazism, its main jurist, Carl Schmitt, redefined the maxim of the justice system as follows: “today everyone recognizes that the maxim 'no crime without punishment' takes precedence over the maxim 'no punishment outside the law'” . It is not very difficult to fit Sardenberg's statement published in O Globo on February 06th in the doctrine of the jurist of national socialism. Sardenberg says: “Is there any innocent person put in jail by Lava-Jato? But he has been guilty of being freed by the transverse methods of the old orthodoxy”.

That is, who establishes the innocent-guilty duality is not the justice system. Incidentally, by the way, the phrase fits perfectly with a remark by the Reich Minister of Justice who stated in 1935: the law must renounce its claim to be the sole source of determination about what is legal and what is illegal. .” (see the book Hitler's Justice: the courts of the third Reich, by Ingo Muller).

It is interesting to note that both Nazism and Stalinism mobilized public opinion in high profile trials. These trials aimed to mobilize public opinion in favor of a verdict that was already known in advance. Once again, we see here huge analogies with the way the law operated in Brazil between 2015 and 2018. The objective of legal operators is to show that corruption is not just a crime to be punished according to the law, but a mischaracterization of the condition citizen of the country or member of the national State.

We found several passages about this in articles by the staunch defenders of Lava Jato in the press. The idea here is that corruption is an evil that distorts what the country is and that all our problems are linked to it. Thus, if social security cannot pay full pensions, corruption is to blame. If the price of gasoline or diesel has gone up, the problem is corruption. This is what we read on a news site linked to the XP company, Infomoney, in relation to the increase in diesel prices in 2018: “For Petrobras to manage not to pass on the rises in the international oil price now, the company would have to have surplus of cash (liquidity cushion) to assume a momentary loss. It is evident that after the cursed legacy of the PT governments – the purchase of Pasadena, billionaire corruption schemes, allotment of positions, bad management and the political use of Petrobras to control the IPCA, this cash surplus became impossible” (25/05/ 2018).

That is, a few corrupt people are responsible for all the problems in the country. The increase in oil prices has nothing to do with a price policy, which happens to be supported by the company he writes for, but with corruption. The same is true of the social security deficit or other ills that the country cannot cope with. Thus, the fight against corruption is not an institutional policy of the State, but an ex-post way of purifying the politics of the people who caused the situation in which the country finds itself. It is not possible to think of a clearer analogy with the German anti-Semitic discourse of the 1920s and 1930s or with the Soviet discourse of the 1930s. Hence, imprisonment without rights for these people.

Lava Jato was popular because it offered the country an unrealizable but absolutely comfortable utopia. The utopia of “we are all great and the country has an excellent project in the hands of liberal economists and conservative governments, but corruption gets in the way.” Thus, the most unequal country among the world's major economies, which has an economy that has become disconnected from all the important production chains in the world (see the announced departure of Ford and Mercedes from Brazil); that replaced industrial jobs with rights-free app workers; that does not have a project to integrate itself into the knowledge economy and that has a service sector with very low-skilled labor, for this country that has not yet overcome the impact of slavery on education and society, Lava Jato offered a simple, inconsistent and wrong answer: the country's problem is the corruption of the political system.

Seven years after Lava Jata left a land scorched, it has allies defending its heritage. Which inheritance: the recovery of 4,3 billion reais, a smaller amount than that transferred by Petrobras to some investment funds in New York before the process was finalized in the US court. There are two legacies left by Lava Jato: that a task force with malicious intent in relation to the constituted powers of the Republic can manipulate judges, pressure the STF and blackmail businessmen, and that none of them will be able to resist. Second, that the country needs a project that is not in the field of utopias, but with realistic institutional policies implemented. Combating corruption in Brazil is important and must be done within existing institutions. Even so, it is a utopia to think that those who fight against corruption are altruistic heroes who defend anything resembling a viable project for the country.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).

 

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