Where is the utopia?

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By LUIZ MARQUES*

Either it prevails in the popular imagination that democracy can and should guide the economy, in a self-regulated society; or we will sink into a civilizational regression

Social and political problems permeate all eras. Ideas stand out in periods of rapid and confusing events, when they embody a redemptive mobilism. No time altered human beings so much, with fanaticism and blood in their eyes, than the decade of incubation of Nazi fascism. Almost a century later, the scenario is similar, revalidating the stock of concepts that founded modernity. Republic x tyranny, democracy x authoritarianism, left x right, citizen x servant, tolerance x arbitrariness are categories that still serve as rudders for countries.

The issues of yesteryear intertwine those that, in the present, agitate and polarize nations with the colors of hatred, resentment and ignorance. The question that remains is whether the indispensable confrontation between good politics and necropolitics always implies a choice between “freedom” and “obedience”?

Towards self-government

For Étienne de La Boétie, in the Discourse on voluntary servitude, from 1549, the fact that a man willingly accepts the yoke of despots is a distorted expression of the desire to also dominate. The Renaissance spirit highlights the autonomous condition of individualities who, for the first time, assume the consequences of intervening to frame the future as subjects or objects of history, for good or evil. In our time and space, with the burden of 350 years of slavery, the argument for “conscious” and “consented” subservience sounds strange. It does not capture the dynamics of domination in colonial societies, the culture of commodification of people as things and the techniques of martyrdom.

Today, individuals adapt to a reality that replaces “to be or not to be”, in the face of authority, with commodity totalitarianism. Souls and bodies cross themselves to the market. Personal experiences relativize the impersonal paradigms of society (preservation of the environment, road signs, vaccination). Postmoderns make necessity a virtue by accepting the new form of capitalism. Caricatured autonomy confronts the democratic rule of law that protects privacy from invasive surveillance of the Big Tech. Worse: it crowns the “infocracy” that, with artificial intelligence algorithms, controls consumption and voting to convert autonomy into a “destiny”.

Negative freedom sets the tone for the extreme right's attack on state interference to regulate the market flow, under the allegation of “individual rights” to legitimize a laissez-faire. On the other hand, positive freedom is inspired by Kantian moral philosophy (rules of one's own conduct) to pursue self-government, where acquiesce translates into free behavior insofar as each person participates in the elaboration of the collective's legislation. This is what, in part, happens to the multitude of supporters of the Multi-Year Participatory Plan created by the current Lula government. Whoever respects the deliberations he helped to approve overcomes the false contrast between freedom and obedience.

Conception of socialism

On the map of rebellion, the metaphor of “margin” and “center” erupts in a conference by Isaac Deutscher, received with suspicion by American students in the feverish XNUMXs agitation. “You are in effervescent activity on the margins of social life, and the workers are passive at the center of it. This is the tragedy of our society. If you do not face this contrast, you will be defeated.” Despite being promising, the insurgents on the streets did not act at the heart of the wheels; they touched the dialectic of the majestic systemic machine. The alert remains in full force.

The LGBT Pride Parade, in São Paulo, on June 28, 2023, according to the organizers of the grand event, mobilized a formidable cast: four million anti-homophobia enthusiasts. This does not mean that the wall that separates their specific causes from other ongoing struggles has collapsed and, in particular, that of formal unionized workers and those fighting for applications without employment. It is urgent to develop, with the praxis of comrades, the superior synthesis of challenges to the status quo To break down the existing barriers, this is the challenge posed to everyone, everyone.

Nothing to censure in the audience against sexist prejudices. But thinking that “the movement is everything” does not raise the political awareness of fighters to a socialist level. Politicizing means breaking with niches. Sectoral democratization encourages the achievement of many intangible goods, it is true; on the other hand, it reduces the left-wing parties' conception of socialism to the extension of citizens' rights. Moderate discourse puts into effect a reformist interpretation of changes and throws the prospect of profound changes in social structures into the trash. Paraphrasing the title of a work by Emir Sader, The power, where is the power?, one has to ask – utopia, where is utopia?

Democracy and economy

The contradiction between capital and work, the primordial nucleus of the class struggle, has changed direction. According to Ellen Wood, in Democracy against capitalism: The renewal of historical materialism, the emphasis shifted to the “extra-economic”: gender affirmation, racial equality, ecological health. It is a leap from class emancipation to human emancipation. The transition did not arise from reflections at the World Social Forum (WSF), the São Paulo Forum or the Puebla Group. It happened in the vacuum of “grand narratives”. In fact, the anti-systemic vector of identity movements is not evident. Extra-economic identities increase parliamentary representation (blacks, women, Gay Boys). Nevertheless, labor identities diminish, election after election.

What makes capitalist theater unique is the separation, aggravated in the neoliberal phase, between the circuit of economic production and that of politics. The economy was feudalized by “competent wise men”. Politics was confined to straight white salons, thanks to the cost of electoral campaigns that consolidate the ultraconservative profile of the Legislature. The proposal for democracy, which socialism offers to communities, is based on the reintegration of the economy into the role of politics, which begins with its subordination to the self-determination of producers. The people's questioning must support the ideals of solidarity. The unification of a plural front, with slogans about life, work and dignity, would enhance victories and deepen the transformative spirit.

Since the 1980s, the power of shock has been used to impose suffering. The specter of the crisis aims to scare away the Marcusean “great refusal”. The finance program includes wage cuts, precarious labor, the extraction of surplus value, fiscal adjustments resulting from austerity and long-term unemployment – ​​the best indicator of structural collapse. To move forward, we must designate a utopian port for the aspirations of the masses. Either it prevails in the popular imagination that democracy can and should guide the economy, in a self-regulated society; or we will sink into a civilizational regression.

The sunset of capitalism

Eleutério Prado, in Capitalism in the XNUMXst century: Sunset through catastrophic events, says that the aforementioned book “was born to wave a flag: be careful, there is great turbulence ahead, the ship of capitalism has gone astray on its own. Now there are truly many of us and we are on the same journey, we need to come together to change the course of history. There are reasons to think that humanity has entered a new era of catastrophes (global warming, ecological disasters).” The phenomenon affected isolated places. At the very minute, it threatens the entire homo demens. It is not enough to accuse city halls, and remain silent about the person to blame for the chaos – capitalism. There is a lack of radical criticism of the system. “Anthropogenic” (actions of Adamic creatures) is a euphemism for acquitting the defendant.

Capitalism is incapable of guaranteeing well-being in the world. See the rebellions in Africa, the war conflict between NATO-Ukraine and Russia, the colonialist and racist disposition of Israel in the Middle East and the inequality eroded by outsourcing laws in the West. The UN's SOFI 2023 report on urbanization and agri-food developments informs that, every day, 735 million excluded people go hungry on the planet. The climate crisis has reached irreversibility, although environmental care has become a profitable product; like electric cars or solar energy panels. “Creative destruction” can no longer restore what it destroys. The “reaper” stalks our home (Gaia).

The Participatory PPA, an embryonic test of self-government outside a revolutionary situation, has a pedagogical character for the historical bloc of the working classes. Taking advantage of open institutional flanks contributes to the organization of civil society. Time for social movements and progressive parties to shake off the temptation of “statolatry”, which consists of expecting achievements from above. Collective initiatives, from the bottom up, are what consolidate political, cultural and moral unity to go beyond denied rights.

The federal government is an ally, which will do more with a strong and mobilized rearguard. If it were as easy as going to the park on Sunday, we wouldn't be talking about a revolution. “Strive / To create a situation that frees everyone / And also the love of freedom / Make it superfluous!”, announces Bertolt Brecht's prophetic poem.

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


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