Historical bloc and class alliances



The proletariat can become the ruling class to the extent that it manages to create a system of alliances that allows it to mobilize the majority of the working class against capitalism and the bourgeois state.

Dialectical processes and construction of hegemony

Production modes are not static. Each one of them generates, as they develop, economic and social forces that tend, at the limit, to overcome them. Such forces are expressed, in capitalism, on the economic level, in the contradiction between the growing socialization of production and the opposite trend towards the concentration of property. On the social level, in the constant growth in the number of workers, wage earners and, increasingly, the self-employed.

At the same time, the public space independent of the State has grown exponentially in recent decades: political parties and mass unions, professional, cultural, feminist, environmental, sports, religious and minority associations, etc. This space is currently called the “public sphere of citizenship”. It also includes participatory democracy bodies in public management, of a hybrid, direct or semi-direct nature, such as rights, management, participatory budgeting and ombudsman councils.

These bodies have no classist bias and boast different degrees of autonomy vis-à-vis the State, giving it, when democracy deepens, increasing porosity. (Lyra: 1999, p. 5). In the words of Carlos Nelson Coutinho: “It would not be difficult to show how the formation of these collective political subjects corresponds to the process of socialization of the productive forces that is accentuated in capitalism and, in particular, in State monopoly capitalism” (1984, p. 73) .

All these changes, dialectically articulated, have the potential to give rise and consolidate institutions, social practices and representations that gradually configure a new ideology whose basic contours emerge within the capitalist system itself. And they fully configure themselves, to the extent that such a system fails to respond satisfactorily to the economic, social and cultural needs of broad popular sectors. Capitalist society thus becomes, with the development of its contradictions, the terrain on which a fierce ideological battle is waged, opposing the old (the dominant ideology, which still is, although it is beginning to cease to be) and the new (the ideology in formation, which, still not being fully, already is, in a way) that embodies the values ​​generated by the rising working class.

As the ideological struggle develops favorably – and with it, the fight against the exploitation of capital – workers are able to identify the productive system as an obstacle to their emancipation and thus build change strategies that progressively break their integration into the values ​​and practices of the ruling class. The notable transformations that took place in advanced capitalist societies undermine the monopoly of intellectual production by the dominant class: “cultural entities are created directly linked to the organizations of subordinate classes (newspapers, cultural magazines, publishing houses, etc.)”. (Coutinho: 1984: p. 67-68).

Furthermore, the ideology of these classes finds diffusion within the traditional “hegemonic apparatuses”, such as the Churches and the school system. It is in this way that “a new hegemony advances, even before the class that expresses it becomes dominant, when it is still in opposition and struggles to conquer power”. This class spreads its own conceptions and puts the hegemonic ideology in crisis. In reality, “revolutions only take effect when the ruling class ceases to be such, when its hegemony enters into crisis”. (Gruppi: 1990. p. 91).

Therefore, it becomes not only possible, but even necessary, that “the class that is a candidate for dominance is already dominant”, on the ideological level. Or, to use Gramsci's terminology, which already holds the “intellectual and moral direction” (Coutinho: 1984, p. 67-68).

the historic block

In order to build hegemony, and thus obtain leadership, at the level of ideas, over the majority of society, the working class must seek common struggle strategies, respecting, however, its growing diversity, and the specificities of the different social organizations with the which have an affinity. Indeed, “the proletariat can become the ruling class to the extent that it manages to create a system of alliances that allows it to mobilize, against capitalism and the bourgeois State, the majority of the working class” (Gruppi: 1990, p.55).

At present, however, the correlation of forces, at world and national level, favorable to neoliberal ideology and projects, does not point to proposals for transition to socialism. On the other hand, thanks to the conquests obtained by workers and progressive sectors of civil society, the objective is no longer to fight, from “outside the bourgeois State” – since it has been “enlarged”, nor to produce strategies for its immediate overthrow, but to seek , within the scope of the State, make alliances against neoliberalism, and the authoritarianism that is inherent to it.

Vladimir Safátle's reflections on “reform” and “revolution” are directly related to our theme. Thus, “one of the signs of intelligence is the ability to know how to make distinctions. Those who only have eyes for revolutions are perhaps very fascinated by their own “geometer spirit” (one that can only quickly apprehend totalities). Lack of finesse in political analysis it can be catastrophic, as they lead to accumulated processes of transformation, to be simply lost” (Safátle: 2012, p.73).

Boaventura dos Santos goes further, stating that “the world lives in a 'dangerous conjuncture' in which, over the years [..] the various imaginaries of social emancipation with their struggles against capitalist, colonial and patriarchal domination have disappeared or lost their character ”. And he concludes: “this leads us to think that it takes courage to critically assess the processes and knowledge that brought us here and to serenely face the possibility of having to start all over again” (Boaventura dos Santos: 2016, p. 22). Ruy Fausto opines about a central aspect of this revision when he states that “the union of the left is not incompatible with the internal discussion. On the contrary. The union can only come on the basis of a deep discussion within the left” (Ruy Fausto: 2017, p. 8).

It becomes necessary, therefore, in the current circumstances, that the world of work manages to weld an articulation, as wide as possible, of social and political forces that aims to change the correlation of forces in favor of the left, in particular, and, more usually from the democratic forces. Only in the medium and long term, will it be possible to build a historic bloc, cemented by socialist ideological sources, capable of radiating its hegemony to all who have capital as an opponent.

The viability of this historic bloc will only have a chance of success if it includes, under the hegemony of salaried workers in the city and the countryside, small rural landowners, liberal and self-employed professionals, the unemployed, students and workers in art and culture, in addition to social movements from greater expression. The success of this endeavor will depend on the study and understanding of the multifaceted social reality, in all its complexity. But, above all, like the “historical revolutionary bloc” to which Gramsci alludes, this bloc must have the capacity to build a “popular national” collective will (Coutinho: 1984, p.120).

For the Sardinian revolutionary, the construction of this will is a priority work of the revolutionary political party. This central core of hegemonic power under construction would play the role of catalyst for the aspirations manifested by the various workers' and popular organizations. He considers that, thanks to the mediation of that party, such organizations “become the articulations of the unitary body of the new historical bloc” (Coutinho: 1984, p.120). It would fall to him, by delegation from the proletariat, to rebuild the foundations of the State, placing it at the service of the socialist revolution.

Nowadays, however, theorists of different schools of thought, critics of status quo, tend to emphasize the role of organized and participatory society, notably that located in the world of work, as the main protagonist in the construction of collective wills, capable of creating an alternative project to neoliberal hegemony. In my opinion, “the construction of this transformative political and social project would result from a broad combination of forces, both within the State and civil society, led by those who receive, at the ballot box, the approval of the people for the effectuation of changes”. The “modern Prince, bearer of hegemony, would no longer be a single entity, but the dialectical incarnation of multiple determinations” (Lyra: 2017: p. 106).

Another strategic factor to be taken into account is the recent sharing of State power with society, through the aforementioned participatory democracy procedures. They make the State “porous”, more transparent, which dilutes the borders between both, generating, in this process, a new public spatiality: non-State, hybrid or parastatal.

For the formation of a new historical bloc, the various components of the working class will have to strip themselves of various tics that their political and union practices have accumulated over time. One of them is sectarianism, that is, the “all or nothing” policy, the “hand strokes”, expressed in “maximalist” positions, marked by the “pure and hard” character of a doctrinal line considered the expression of truth, in opposition to “reformist” positions. Another major vice is corporatism, which fragments the working class, preventing it from building a global proposal for society (Lyra: 2017, p. 211). As Gramsci explains: “the proletariat will only be able to develop a rich spirit of sacrifice if it is able to free itself completely from all corporate residue” (In: Gruppi: 1981, p.15).

For this reason, the national-popular project can only materialize when those who make a living from the workforce become protagonists in the claims of other social strata in order to unite them around themselves, making an alliance with them in the fight against the capitalism, and thus isolating capitalism itself” (Coutinho:1984, p. 190).

Counter-hegemony strategies in Brazil

The social and political reality of Brazil does not allow, in the short term, the fight for the immediate overcoming of capitalism, being therefore necessary to build, both in the social and political plane, innovative strategies of counter-hegemony, adequate to face, in unfavorable conditions, to a government with clear fascist inclinations. Boaventura dos Santos draws attention to the consequences of the transformations of capitalism in the formulation of these new strategies: This system “went far beyond conventional production. It became a way of life, a cultural symbolic universe sufficiently hegemonic to permeate the subjectivities and mentality of the victims of its classifications and hierarchies. The anti-capitalist struggle has become more difficult and needs to be cultural and ideological to be effective in the economic sphere (Boaventura dos Santos: 2016, p. 148).

It is obviously not a question of despising the political sphere, whether its traditional or more recent manifestations, such as pots and pans. But we saw, due to the factors already mentioned, that the cultural sphere grew in importance in the struggle for the construction of counter-hegemonic values, extending its field to the body care industry, to lifestyle, to the entertainment and leisure industry and, even even belief systems such as Prosperity Theology.

In Brazil, with even greater emphasis, the fight in the field of customs and the arts, against conservative policies riddled with moralism, racist and discriminatory attitudes towards LGBT communities, blacks, indigenous peoples, artists and the world of culture, gains prominence. Exemplary in this regard was Bolsonaro's refusal to sign the diploma that conferred Chico Buarque the main literary distinction in the Portuguese language, the Camões Prize. It symbolizes the obscurantist nature of a government in which even those who consider slavery in Brazil to be beneficial (Chefe: 2020).

To oppose the ideology of “cultural Marxism” (a mere adaptation of the formula coined by Hitler: “cultural Bolshevism”) (Hofer: 1965, p. 81), there are particularly illustrative examples of the counter-hegemonic struggle, such as recent plots by schools of samba of carioca carnivals. These are artistic-cultural manifestations with a strong social and political connotation, which make them instruments for denouncing injustices and demanding reparations.

Since the time of slavery, the masters of Casa Grande have always tried to put limits on Momo celebrations. Gil and Caetano fully understood its libertarian dimension, by exalting, in their compositions, “samba, father of pleasure, son of pain, the great transforming power”. This is precisely the case of the samba plot by Mangueira, champion of the 2019 Rio carnival. Paying homage to Marielle, murdered by far-right assassins, its lyrics remind us that “there is black blood trampled behind the framed portrait” (Lyra: 2020, p. 34).

Choosing as the theme of his presentation the denunciation of false heroes of nationality, Mangueira provided a magnificent demonstration of counter-hegemony, translated into the intimate relationship between protest, carnival and democracy. Along the same lines, in 2020, the plot of this school told the story of a Jesus “with a black face, Indian blood and a woman’s body”. Criticizing Bolsonaro, without naming him, this plot concludes that “there is no future without sharing, nor is there a Messiah with a gun in his hand”.

It is seen that carnivals, in times of crisis, give rise to protests that are similar to acts of civil disobedience, insubordination and resistance. The greater the mismatch between the dominant values ​​and the needs and desires of the common man, the more citizens – in this case revelers and their blocks – find in popular festivities spaces for the exercise of freedom of criticism, without the censorship of authoritarian rulers and of his minions.

Another “counter-hegemonic” popular manifestation is the Gay Pride Parade. Its 23rd edition, held on June 22, 2019, which brought together three million people, configured, nolens volens, a powerful act of resistance. It served as a counterpoint to the homophobic views of the far-right government, headed by Bolsonaro, which cultivates deep-rooted prejudice against the LGBT community. Let us remember that he was elected “with a discourse based on conservatism, as antagonistic to the discourse focused on egalitarian and diversity agendas, until then hegemonic” (Schulz: 2019).

The final objective to be achieved – the construction of hegemony – will aim at the advent, in the medium or long term, of a new society, whose pillars are the values ​​of equality and respect for difference, in the perspective of achieving democratic socialism. The question that arises in advance is that of the nature of the alliances to be signed for the reconstruction of democracy in Brazil, an issue that already raises, within the scope of the left, an important controversy.

A manifesto in defense of democracy, signed by a wide spectrum of people with opposing political convictions – including PSOL leaders – but who are willing to work together to put an end to the neo-fascist threat in Brazil, encounters firm opposition from PT sectors and leaders, including these the ex-President Lula. It appears from his statements that he would only sign a similar document if there was explicit mention of the need to preserve workers' rights, and provided that he did not include among his subscribers those who supported the impeachment (Squid: 2020).

Aguirre, on the website the earth is round, follows the same line as Lula. It denies validity to a document that defends a “common project” and that has only an institutional character, pointing out the construction of a “Popular Front” (2020) as a way out. It can be seen that the reservations presented by Lula and Aguirre are not compatible with the formation of a broad front that would necessarily incorporate broad social and political sectors that do not make up the leftist bloc.

It remains to be seen whether, in isolation, this Popular Front, with the left as its core, will alone have the strength to contain Bolsonarism and what would be the consequences of this strategy for the survival of democracy, if by chance it fails. That is the question.

The controversy is installed and has everything to do with the authoritarian and leftist antics that populate the political fauna of the Brazilian left. It is a harbinger of the difficulties they will have to build their unity and to adopt more comprehensive strategies to fight against Brazilian proto-fascism.

Boaventura dos Santos, had already, in 2016, ruled that the left “when they are in power, they divide internally to define who will be the leader in the next elections and their analyzes are linked to this objective. This unavailability for reflection, if it has always been pernicious, will now be suicidal”. And all the more serious because they “are devoid of instruments of reflection open to non-militants while, internally, reflection follows the internal line of the factions” (Boaventura dos Santos: 2016, p.176).

For him, only the combination of representative democracy with participatory democracy will be able to rescue the credibility of leftist political parties, with openness to their militants and supporters, assuring them “participation in the definition of party political agendas and in the choice of candidates for representatives in Parliament” (p.163).

It is evident that the strategy proposed by Boaventura dos Santos faces the authoritarian tradition of the Brazilian left, already mentioned, from which even the PT, which still suffers the influence of Leninism, does not escape. Fausto observes that “before Stalinism, there was Leninism. Stalinism would not have come to light if Leninism had not existed” (Fausto: 2017, p.20). The strength of the authoritarian tradition explains the unconditional support of this party – but also of others that claim to be socialist – to authoritarian regimes of various stripes, such as Cuba and Venezuela.

The self-criticism that the PT never made, supposedly, in order not to provide ammunition to the right – but leaving millions who voted for it unanswered – could stimulate the group of lefts to also open themselves up to dialogue, without preconditions, between the parties that support it. make up, and with everyone who identifies with their proposals.

This would be the starting point, in Brazil, for a long road towards the construction of a new society “in which life will not lack any justification given by success or anything else, in which the individual will not be subordinated or manipulated by any alien force, which is the State, the economic system and spurious material interests and in which man's ideals are not limited to the internalization of external demands, but which really come from him and express the objectives arising from his own ego” (Fromm:1970 , p. 214).

* Rubens Pinto Lyra, PhD in Political Science, is Professor Emeritus at UFPB.


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