Letter to R.

Image: Colera Alegria


Letter on the current situation and foreign policy of Brazil

R., dear,

V. asked me some time ago to write about the moment we are living. He even suggested my comment on current foreign policy.

I've been reading a lot about the situation. For me, even as a result of these readings, there is only one certainty: only texts that animate what V. has as a motto, utopia in the sense that Galeano gave it, are operationally valid. When I say that, I immediately put myself “out of place and time”. That is, what follows has no operational value. At most, it opens up room for reflection.

For me, R., we are experiencing the articulation of two catastrophes. The one created by the dynamics of the global crisis is intertwined with the Brazilian one, both boosted, from the beginning of this year, by the advent of the pandemic. Neither the world order will sustain itself intact, far from it, nor will the Brazilian crisis remain indefinitely in its repetitive mode. In my opinion, in a maximum of one year, our tragedy will have its Gordian knot severed. The world, impossible to predict its end.

The planetary disaster is old. It reflects the inability of neoliberalism to deliver what it promises as the most pernicious variant of late capitalism. One of its characteristics, the incessant aggression to the socio-environmental dimension, electively akin to the way of thinking that, theoretically constructed in Vienna and Chicago, became, with Pinochet, Thatcher and Reagan, one of the many faces of the system that sanctifies the market. Obvious truth: neoliberalism is terribly effective when it comes to accumulating power, property, wealth and “honor” or “social distinction” in the hands of 1% of humanity. The costs of this ultimately bankrupt hegemony are immense. In fact, for twenty years now we have been living the drawn-out outcome of that unhappy story, which resulted in the current disaster.

But the neoliberal plague, by failing to make the economy grow in a sustained manner, also generated or exacerbated political, geopolitical, social, economic and ideological tensions with remarkable systematicity. Instead of an impossible reassuring, anesthetic hegemony, it established as its “ersatz” chaos precariously controlled by the force exerted in the name of sustaining a world order that is now in tatters. In less than half a century, the world was turned upside down, states and societies starting to skirt precipices or falling into them. To complete, it has become evident, at least since 2008, that the malaise of postmodernity has worsened to such an extent that today there is no internal way out of the system. The way out, if any, will be built using utopia, in case one of its many formulations proves to be more than a pious vote. The crucial thing, in the midst of our and the world's turmoil, is to reaffirm the need to build another type of world-system, however much the paths remain blocked, however much the restructuring projects still belong to the domain of the improbable.

As the world-system is geopolitically dominated by a superpower in decline, challenged by another that is in the ascending phase of the cycle, strategic tensions and the weight of the military factor have grown without pause since the moment that China, in a certain way, took over , albeit with a different style, the role that was played by the USSR until its disintegration. Low-intensity conflicts, hybrid war operations with different amplitudes, increasingly naturalized threats and invasions, asymmetrical responses, military psychological operations – the list is not exhaustive – have been guiding strategists concerned with safeguarding the interests of the great powers. With this, the panorama becomes more and more worrying insofar as the shocks almost always involve, as main actors that instrumentalize states and other clients, the most powerful among the powerful. On the one hand, those of NATO, led by the USA; on the other, Russia and China. In common, all movements in this great game have as their main frame the threat of using tactical nuclear weapons, today being miniaturized in an accelerated way. Furthermore, let us not forget that conventional bombs have already been used in Afghanistan whose destructive power is similar to that of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is clear, therefore, that humanity has entered a time of uncertainties even more bewildering than those of the end of the last century, the greatest of which concerns its own survival.

Chomsky, among others, repeatedly underlines: to the unsustainable dominance of the 1%, it is mandatory to add the aggravated risk that localized conflicts may ultimately degenerate into a nuclear holocaust. This framework, whose validity period is always renewed, places us more and more on the brink of the unthinkable, says the newsletter of the scientists who every so often update the nuclear clock. Midnight is near, a nuclear war could break out sooner than we think.

Added to this teratological dynamic is a disaster of another dimension – being built in a longer term – the “wasteland” resulting from the uninterrupted destruction, resulting from the compulsive accumulation of capital, of the basic relationship of exchange between society and nature. Another century, if that – some say 50 years – and the Earth will be much less habitable. In two more, almost certainly, it will be impossible for humanity to subsist, unless necropolitics adjusts from top to bottom the size and geographic distribution of the population to what the owners of political-economic-technological power in the 22nd century come to consider “reasonable” . What was science fiction and dystopia shapes reality with ever more evident force, extending its tentacles much faster than envisaged by environmentalists in the 80s.

Cumulative economic inequality, explosive poverty, multiplied tensions and geopolitical conflicts, uninterrupted population growth, a tendency towards irreversible destruction of the environment, an increasingly present nuclear threat and the use of conventional weapons of previously unimaginable power point to a future between the gloomy and the desperate. This, of course, if there is no profound restructuring of the system, which still belongs to the sphere of desire rather than that of power politics and prevailing military strategies.

To such a desolate landscape a new element has been added, the pandemic. Not forgetting itself, as a result of the absurd exploitation that the planetary mode of production makes of its other, the “natural world”.

When will the coronavirus stop being a pandemic? Nobody knows.

When will it become endemic? About that, even less can be said.

Its singular effect, however, goes beyond the brutality of the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, which could reach millions, the death striking disproportionately the most fragile segments of each society. Symptomatically, strict social isolation, imposed as a result of the spread of the virus, is a resource that in itself denotes class privileges. If we think ironically, it works like an unexpected general strike that reminds me of Sorel. A strange and unusual general strike, this one, which has nothing to do with the revolutionary insurrection of the workers, but rather with the response force of nature attacked by the logic of unbridled exploitation, characteristic of capitalism since its origins, today at its maximum level. Hence, the coronavirus also acts as a powerful magnifying glass: the pandemic has exposed all the ills of the planetary order which, in its complexity and failure, since at least the 80s of the last century has ruled in an increasingly deficient what we call globalization.

It is within this framework and its dynamics that we all move, human beings, groups, estates, classes, societies, states, and even the world in a broad sense, this notion that includes as a counterpart the nature that sustains us. It is within this labyrinth, I dare to suggest, that we must understand what is happening in Brazil.

I confess that I am already starting to feel fatigue generated by reading conjuncture analyses, even those with a progressive bias. As much as a few more reflective authors underline their constant perplexity with the disaster that has been asserting itself since June 2013, most journalists, social scientists, critical economists, party leaders and public intellectuals prefer each day to draw hundreds of small maps of the path that most of the time, yes, have a lot of convergent. Even so, divergences immediately emerge, signaling the fragmentation of the left, especially when the analyzes appear as fragments belonging to different projects, at least in part conflicting. The struggle for mastery of the narrative is constant, even when efforts are clearly aimed at overcoming what started with the mobilizations of seven years ago, which has been exponentially aggravated since the 2018 elections.

I remember: the planetary crisis, after the moment of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, deepened without ceasing. With even more strength from 2008; and visibly since Trump won the last presidential elections. Crisis that, by going far beyond its economic dimension and its geopolitical nature, sends out strong signs that capitalism has reached its limits, and that today's impasse has only in part to do with the "crash" that occurred twelve years ago . In fact, we did not leave the 2008 crisis, but despite that we have already entered another one, the one triggered by the coronavirus over a structure that had been faltering for a long time. For several historians and economists, the effects of this new shock will lead us to something old, a kind of return to the great depression of 1929, which was only overcome, it is worth remembering, after the second world war.

If we think of Brazil, our political-institutional tragedy has been outlined since at least June 2013, but it manifests itself undisguised immediately after the alliance led by the PSDB lost the 2014 presidential elections. disgrace that never ceases, an engendering that changes masks on stage, that adds and expels actors, that takes the form of a process in continuous transmutation, whose most salient characteristic has been to always get worse. Each avatar of power derived from the 2016 coup has proved more destructive than the last.

The Brazilian “establishment” erred in the political calculation and in the weight of the repressive hand. Dilma's overthrow, Lula's arrest and conviction, the unsuccessful attempt to irreversibly weaken the PT and the left in general were just the preamble to an operation of much greater scope.

“Los que mandan” in so-called normal times decided, after the 2014 defeat, to do everything necessary to, at least for a generation, assert the absolute hegemony of economic neoliberalism, together with the defense and illustration of its “nice” face. ”, the cultural-libertarian.

The great extra economic move would be the dominance of a postmodern world feeling as the other face of the market that would reign with almost divine legitimacy. Meanwhile, people, individuals, all minorities, the majority (women), identity groups, ultimately the entire population, would finally have a guaranteed space for expressing their differences, their independence from the provider state, of its imaginary autonomy and, above all, of jouissance, on the lived level, of a false general harmony, “panglossian” to the point that even distributive conflict, civilized domesticated, would bring beneficial functional effects at the systemic level. The dream: a “rational” economic policy would be articulated in a sophisticated way with the desires created by the society of the spectacle in various more or less atomized publics. This admirable construction would guarantee that the core of the project, the neoliberal accumulation model taken to the extreme, would not be (?) threatened again.

In this context, Temer and the Bridge to the Future would be the key that would open the doors to the construction of a world completely opposed to that of “populist backwardness”, neoliberalism being imposed in forced march by two years of surgical government. After which, the artifical buffer being successful, there would be a natural replacement of the PMDB candidate by the Toucan candidate in charge of the Executive.

Nothing worked. Fear was what it was, Aécio fell into disgrace, and the new thing that emerged to everyone's surprise was the authoritarian phenomenon that proved to be predominant in the 2018 campaign. Bolsonaro's neo-fascism, allied with important fractions of the business community, led by Guedes , is the variant of authoritarianism supported by most of the groups that make up the Armed Forces, which are understood as much more than the Army, Navy and Air Force. Neofascism, personified by the captain, was the great winner of both the left and the weakened center. For such a madness to occur, a wide arc was set up that included military police, civil police, firefighters, federal police, part of the national justice system, neo-fascist media, right-wing and extreme-right political parties and, “last but not least”, the “traditional” corporate media, as well as almost all of the usual economic and political oligarchy.

The new one that emerged among us, the very strong Bolsonarist virus, continues with us. The aim of the head of state and those around him is unmistakable: to “revolutionarily” break with what remains of the 1988 regime, creating another political and “constitutional” structure somewhat inspired by the “new right” counterthink that has spread from the US. for Europe and the East. So far we are stuck in this dynamic, while Bolsonaro, in his wide open pathology, prepares for the maximum bet, to attempt the self-coup more than announced. Bolsonaro gives every sign that he wants to knock on the door of hell. If we are forced to pass through it, let us abandon all hope of a minimally civilized life.

What seems clear to me, R., also seems to have been clearly perceived by the “establishment”. He, ultimately responsible for the birth of the monster that threatens to devour everyone, now fears losing some rings and, if the worst is worse than imagined, having some fingers cut off. Today, the elite reap what they sowed by breaking the constitutional pact. Moved, in their interested blindness, by the defense “à outrance” of the free play of market forces and by the passion to destroy the “irrationality” called Developmental State, “i grandi” are, in the last analysis, the midwives of this sinister stage of our history, whose outcome risks subjecting us to another long dictatorial experiment.

Realizing the need to correct directions, the business elite and those with power concentrated in parliament and the highest courts relaunched the initial project. This is what has come out in force over the past two months, and even more so over the past two weeks. It is a frantic exercise in the defense of democracy in the liberal-conservative sense, a variant of political thought and constitutional theory whose most seductive “asset” is the emphasis on civil and political rights, on the minimum guarantees of the rights of men and women. The manifesto “We are Together”, the most beautiful flower of this cultured language that goes back to American republicanism and English constitutionalism, a type of rhetoric that generates anti-authoritarian effects that permeate the entire social structure insofar as it is Bolsonaro’s critical discourse, although it leaves in the background or third the social. Critical thinking, yes, the liberal-conservative. Critical thinking, yes, “ma non troppo”. In Brazil, its insufficiency makes it a thought out of place.

The north of the course correction desired by the elite: reviving the center destroyed electorally in 2018, which will allow the “establishment” to launch in 2022 a much more viable candidate than the PSDB representative immortalized by his fiasco in past presidential elections.

Certainly, the center in the process of being relaunched remains scandalously attached to what is politically essential to it: the space that comes to be (re)built is a walking paradox, something in which the parliamentary left, whose top star is the red one of the PT, must be at once kept at a distance and invited to participate in the resurrection show or ceremony. The left must be kept at a distance because it will always be the main adversary, in electoral terms. Simultaneously, marvels of rhetorical art, they must be brought inside because without it the elite quickly slips into its natural bed, to the right that tends to metamorphose into the extreme right, the one where Moro, Wetzel and Bolsonaro punctuate today. Here we are.

The perspectives, as far as my weak eyes can reach: we are reaching the tactical convergence of objectives between the parliamentary left, led by the PT, and those who, based on the interests of “good men”, whether feathers or not, are dedicated to the Lázaro operation -centrist. In this game that is just beginning, the objective of the parliamentary left is twofold: 1) to weaken Bolsonaro and the “famiglia” throughout this year, to constitutionally prevent him next year, in coordination with all liberals, including those on occasion ; and 2) in this neo-fascist cancer excision movement, to prevent the three classic armed forces – the captain is creating increasingly obvious links with police, militias and militants trained to “squadristi” – from supporting the chief executive or remaining “neutral”. ”, if the “revolutionary-conservative” self-coup is unleashed, the apogee, in terms of retrograde discourse, of Christo-Fascism.

Despite all the indications that the head of the “famiglia” articulates this crime, “i grandi” remain notoriously divided, and not without good reason. By becoming a dictator, Bolsonaro will be something unimaginably worse than he already is, ruling with unmatched brute force. But the dictator Bolsonaro, depending on the agreements made before the self-coup, could become the ultimate guarantee that Guedes' neoliberalism will remain as the compass of the “schmittian” economy in which the coup leader and the armed forces will reign supreme over the world of work and society. left in general, both seen and treated from the lens that oppose friend to enemy. Who knows, maybe it will be worth taking it to the last consequences, asks a part of the “establishment”, what started in 2018? Paris was worth a mass, said Henrique. Is Bolsonaro worth the leap in the dark?

A proposal for a way out of the crisis by impeachment of the president says that tactical convergence and specific actions by the parliamentary left with the center, and even with right-wing personalities, are essential, a strategy that will involve the liberals or will be involved by them both in congress and in the society. Correct proposal, this one, especially when political action is reduced to parliamentary politics. In the face of this worldview, the left that is not afraid to say its name will continue to be what it is: an acute criticism of the entire process that began before June 2013, which is rooted in the negotiations that resulted in the law of amnesty in 79 and which led to the creation of the regime in 88. In this crossing that has lasted more than 40 years, the caravan of tactical convergences will continue to pass, while the dogs of the extra-parliamentary radical left will continue to bark, announcing that at some point it will break out the “event”, the one that will make us, from the unexpected and the unspeakable, leave all illusions behind, including the democratic-representative ones, so that Brazil finally enters another democracy, of a “Rousseauist” character, the power being exercised directly by the sovereign people. “Easier said than done”.

In the current correlation of forces, the center is more likely to reconstitute itself in a timely manner than the left led by the PT to have a decisive influence on the course of the process that will culminate in the 2022 elections. PMDB member who intends to return to executive power will be the great victor. Yes, for the left there will always be some prize, some space, perhaps, at the end of the renegotiation, to go back to doing something of social policy for the benefit of the immense majority, the 90% of the Brazilian population, especially the poor who live-die in the so many centers and on their peripheries.

For this Lázaro operation to succeed, centrist “i grandi” also need to understand each other with their counterparts on the right, Maia and Dória as current symbols, and on the extreme right, Moro and Witzel exponents of something in decay. It is equally essential to reach an agreement with who today, despite their topically conflicting relationship, holds the “sovereign power” in the last instance: the Armed Forces and the superior courts.

At the conjunctural level, the recreation of the center as designed by the “establishment” will favor democracy “latu sensu”, by greatly weakening Bolsonarist authoritarianism. On the other hand, the eventual return of toucans and PMDB members plus the usual trinkets to head the executive, two years later, will consecrate our entry into a liberal-democratic regime that is necessarily more restricted, more delimited, more conservative and less tolerant, especially in terms of to the incorporation of the poor into full citizenship life. There will be no return to the 1988 regime, even though the Constitution formally remains, cunningly submitted to a few more amendments, which will join the more than one hundred duly incorporated into the text.

Whatever has been done in terms of destruction of the developmentalist state, in the period between Temer and the coming presidential elections, will be maintained almost in its entirety. For the real country, the one where members of the popular and lower middle classes live. The best scenario that realism can elaborate is synonymous with continued adversity, albeit liberal-conservative adversity, a non-trivial difference.

For those who want to establish the always postponed or blocked participatory democracy, another strategic defeat is in sight. The general line of the toucan-peemedebista project was not abandoned. Its resumption, if the restoration of the center is successful, will somehow keep us traveling on the bridge for the future disaster, although the engineering of the work incorporates some repairs, props and updates. In the best of scenarios, by 2022 we will have distanced ourselves from the two faces of the complete catastrophe, the Bolsonarist dictatorship and Salvationist Bonapartism, the unshakable vocation of the armed forces. Let us not deceive ourselves, if public order, in the interpretation of military commanders, comes to be threatened by the ghost of anomie, Bolsonaro can be removed, but authoritarianism cannot. Our relative consolation, if a minimum of democracy prevails: instead of the current mismanagement and the threats of dictatorship, we will begin our participation as supporting forces in the cycle of a democracy in something new, but surely mediocre. Potentially short-lived experiment.

V. asked me to talk a little about current foreign policy. Impossible.

Impossible to speak of what does not exist. There is no foreign policy. There is a shameless delivery of everything that has been built since Santiago Dantas, a process marked by ups and downs, by tensions and conflicts, but also by a certain degree of continuity mixed with innovation. This immense heritage, which derives from independent foreign policy and was enriched, in form, action and substance, by the foreign policy directed by Celso Amorim and Samuel Pinheiro Guimarães, is being completely destroyed, with blows of ignorance that border on or exceed the insane. For almost fifty years I served the Itamaraty, and I never saw anything remotely like this gray plague. Current foreign policy is not political, much less foreign. It is an impure and complex crime, perpetrated by disgusting mediocrities, supported by shameless careerists. I cannot speak of this evil personified in the current Chancellor, of whom I am very ashamed. I am appalled at what the ministry has become.

Almost concluding, R.: yesterday was a good Sunday for us. Hopes all rose. In many hearts and minds, perhaps disproportionately to what reality indicates, which in my own way I tried to take into account.

Since June 2013 we have lived our time of strategic defeats, punctuated by small tactical victories. I think that in essence it will continue to be like that. I don't see how we can win the 2022 presidential elections, if they actually take place. I believe we would have a great chance if the only politician of ours capable of being an ocean, capable of receiving water from all streams and rivers, could participate in them. Lula's candidate would be almost certain of success. Therefore, Lula will not be able to run. He will be vetoed again. As in the Chilean flag, “por la razón o la fuerza”. False and base reason; brute and criminal force. Without him, …

In spite of everything, in the short time until 2022, we must do what we can with enthusiasm, without losing our identity, to ward off the two dictatorial threats, which will certainly require punctual convergence with a good part of the “establishment”, or with its "good part". May this effort come, by the end of next year at the latest, to make objective truth what is still only subjective certainty: Bolsonaro out!

After that, a long effort to recreate the left awaits us, along with another, gigantic one, that of avoiding the danger that the neoliberal Bonapartism that animates most colonels and generals becomes heir to the Bolsonarist temptation that rages in the low official ranks of the three all forces and police. Let's not even talk, there's no need, about the militias. These are fundamental pieces of neo-fascism, even the stones know this, even the stones cry on this wall.

I know, this message of mine reflects a certain feeling of the world that is very mine. Very averse to hopes based on reasoning that appeal to the court of transcendence, whether of a religious or historical-philosophical nature. We cannot think in a politically dense way, I suspect, if we voluntarily ignore the terrible planetary reality that, by referring us to the Weberian metaphor of the iron cage, partly illuminates or obscures us, as it affects the course of Brazil. And we must not, it seems obvious to me, think of Brazil based on the blissful optimism of the “lendemains qui chantent”.

On the other hand, I am aware that my style of reasoning does little to help men and women, especially young people, who are multiplying efforts aimed at achieving a great victory this year or in the coming year, and a much bigger one in 2022.

Because I think so, R., this text is for your reading, not for publication in the magazine. Consider it an old-fashioned letter, perhaps. In no way does it intend to be an academic article or journalistic matter.

I know how much V. likes poetry. That is why I remind you that, in a somewhat prophetic way, Bertolt Brecht recorded, in one of his last poems, his reading of Horace:

Reading Horace

Even the flood
did not last forever.
There came a time
when the black waters drunk.
Yes, but how few
have lasted longer.

And Faiz Ahmed Faiz also warned us, in the concluding verses of the beautiful “The Dawn of Freedom (August 1947)”:

The weight of the night hasn't lifted yet
The moment for the emancipation of the eyes
and the heart hasn't come yet
Let's go on, we haven't reached the destination yet

Big hug, R., all of us in the inclemency of the desert,

*Tadeu Valadares is a retired ambassador.

See this link for all articles