Two years of misgovernment – ​​the deconstruction of the State

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By TADEU VALADARES*

How to escape the iron cage that imprisons us all?

“The demand to abandon illusions about your condition is the demand to abandon a condition that needs illusions” (Karl Marx, Introduction to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right)

“And I warn my people of the enemy / And I discipline them against the rising winds / And I punch them in the heart” (Carlos Henrique Escobar, The News of the Bird).

Barely had the Bolsonaro government completed two years of systematic destruction of the state, the economy and liberal-democratic guarantees, the unexpected occurred, the unimaginable monocratic decision of Minister Edson Fachin. On March 8, just over 40 pages transformed the Brazilian political scene in depth, in a kind of non-washable jet. As a result, the political game entered another phase, marked by the strengthening of expectations that, in the event of elections in 2022, a leftist candidate could defeat Bolsonaro and neo-fascism.

Two days after the lightning bolt fired by Jupiter Fachin, Lula returned to political life in a spectacular way, with a speech that immediately became a major reference, as he signaled, with regard to the future presidential election, that nothing will be like before. The speech, presidential in style, speech of a great statesman in content, nailed the moment when the electoral equation, until then unfavorable to the left field, began to expire. Greater proof: the right, both the traditional or oligarchic and the extremist whose paradoxical limit is the lack of limits of Bolsonarian neo-fascism, promptly accused the coup.

If we look at the extremist camp, the monocratic decision, in the midst of the unpleasantness generated in Planalto, at least sent Bolsonaro some comforting news: Moro and the “republic of Curitiba” fade away, bleeding apparently without remedy, and it is up to Bolsonaristas, in the executive , in congress, in the “movement” and in the media, to avoid, with all the resources of hatred, any attempt to recover the image of the ex-partial judge and ex-minister of Justice, today detested by the Planalto, that encourages him to launch himself , with some chance of success, not as a mere supporting actor, in the race for the presidency. Partial cleaning of the reactionary field. Bolsonaro's net profit.

On the other hand, the captain and his fanatics were notified that the emergence of Lula as a candidate, for the time being “in pectoris”, to the leadership of the State materializes the worst possible scenario for neo-fascism under construction. It's one thing to “polarize” against Haddad, Boulos or Dino. Another, having to deal with Lula.

For the traditional or oligarchic right, whose efforts, since the 2018 fiasco, have focused on exploring the trails of an “Operation Lázaro”, a miracle that would allow them to politically and electorally resurrect the illusory “center”, the one made by Fachin, a high-energy earthquake intensity on the Richter scale, multiplier of negative effects. His replicas, which continue to be recorded on the most sensitive seismographs, tend to dismantle the more or less tacked-on plans of that right wing that has much of the discreet elegance of the boys from São Paulo.

This body of luminaries, whose participation in the 2016 coup was stellar, rightly sees Lula’s return to the political scene as a realistically insurmountable obstacle, a kind of “in fieri” death certificate for the presidential ambitions of several parties, most notably the PSDB. Up to now, the obvious exception to the discouragement that has taken center stage is the right, the Panglossian optimism of Jereissatti. In fact, in this set of personalities and parties, there is not even one name with significant weight of its own, capable of standing up to Bolsonaro. Hence the cannibal creature continues to devour its creative intellectuals.

If those from the center, which is a mirage, cannot face crossing the desert imposed on them by the now execrated militiaman, what chances will they have in a clash against Lula? Since March 10 and as far as the eye can see, liberals who claim to be democrats, but who historically turn out to be coup plotters every now and then, seem doomed to another demoralizing electoral defeat, perhaps worse than the one imposed on Alkmin in 2018.

The scenario I am sketching, I am well aware, is brutally simplistic. Even so, and however flawed it may be, it points to the most important thing: the eventual return of the PT to the Planalto Palace is no longer a vote of the militant heart. It became an inescapable part of the real course of the Brazilian political world.

So much so that, after the first moment of the dazzling “Fachinian” surprise, a good part of the leaders who belong to the arch of the left – some with almost PT enthusiasm, others not so much, but duly motivated by the realistic sobriety that it is necessary to recognize that they do not have their parties of potential candidates capable of shadowing the former president – ​​is already starting to prepare for negotiations that, when the decisive moment arrives next year, will allow them to join the project that, if successful, will give Lula his third term in office presidential.

In the second round, as projected by the most recent electoral polls, everything seems to indicate that Lula will face Bolsonaro. Due to what today is still nothing more than a larval tendency, not to converge with the PT, playing Ciro Gomes, risks allowing neoliberal neo-fascism, by continuing to command the executive, to have optimal conditions to conclude the corrosive work started by Temer, that forgotten pontiff of the future.

From the perspective of the left, which in practice – if not also in theory – focuses on the political-electoral game and on its party schedules the essence of politics, the immediate future, which extends until the conclusion of the dispute for the presidential succession, starts to present a profile favorable. Indeed, what seemed impossible a year ago has become realistically feasible. But the success of the operation against Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism depends on the ability of the parliamentary left to avoid excesses of cretinism that end up leading to the savage division and autophagy that currently characterize the right as a whole.

What was left-wing utopia, that of the horizon shifting as we illusory advance for it, now manifests itself as something relatively stabilized. Instead of a perpetually mobile horizon, we perceive the electoral tree well planted in the soil of 2022, except for the outbreak of a military or civic-military coup. The fruit of that tree, the reconquest of the head of the executive, an apple almost within reach of the left hand.

It is in this larger framework that Lula's speech at the Metallurgists Union, absolutely superior to any improvised script or any merely portulan indicative, emerged as a sophisticated map of the journey that, yes, will be dramatic, but which may, in its conclusive moment, make epic win. Not without reason, the general climate prevailing on the left became one of celebration, of hope, of “Freirian” hope. This new atmosphere, the exact opposite of the manifest and prolonged melancholy prevailing until then. But precisely because this is the climate installed from Lula's titanic speech, perhaps it becomes advisable to reflect on the dangerous impulse that threatens to revive old illusions.

The defeat of Bolsonaro and neo-fascism – this daily hell that he, the “famiglia” and his government incarnate with refinements of perversity – is outlined with strong lines. But this electoral victory, if it materializes, in fact, minimally assures us of the viability of the proclaimed restorative strategy whose goal is to take us back to the golden years of Lulism, our version of “back to the future“? Certainly, the promise is that this time Lula and the PT, although they are willing to basically repeat what they did before, will add to this effort the novelty of the way of doing things, doing things that are much more structured. True, both the PT and the most important popular leader in Brazilian history, seasoned by the terrible weather of crossing the desert and by all the suffering. Even so, the accumulated experience since the 2016 coup does not necessarily guarantee a robust and effective political construction.

For this, will the party reformulate itself internally, in order to live up to the old challenges, whose failure to overcome ultimately led to the 2016 coup? And it is still worth asking: are the party and its much-loved leader in a position to face and overcome the new challenges shaped by the most recent Brazilian decadence, portrayed in the destruction of the state and the economy, and in the weakening of social ties that borders on anomie, all astutely articulated to the neo-authoritarian government's constant incitement to the most complete social darwinism? Finally, how can we simultaneously decipher the enigmas created by the worsening planetary crisis of capitalism, and protect ourselves from its effects?

This phenomenon and process, remember, continue with us and with the world since twelve years ago. Such is the multifaceted internal-external reality that affects both the Brazilian economic, ideological, political and social spheres and the tense global geopolitics. And never forget: the general crisis since a year ago has been fueled by the pestilential situation created by the pandemic, whose overcoming is not even remotely visible. In Brazil, it has become everyday necropolitics.

Proclamations of the good news that the good times are almost back are evident, and go far beyond the PT. They cover a wide spectrum of left-wing forces and include initiatives that range from the most sublime, the recovery of the spirit of 1988 and the so-called citizen constitution, to the most practical, the reinvention of social policies that were the hallmark of governments petistas and the leftist view in general. Both, PT and Lula or vice versa, continue to (re)affirm, with the strength of tradition that thinks it knows how to renew itself, the paths of weak reformism to which, as an obvious novelty, the restorative dimension is added.

Because the current moment appears at first glance to be so favourable, a portentous herald of beautiful mornings, perhaps it is a case of going against the grain of the labyrinth and drawing attention to what does not depend on pure voluntarism or on good holy intentions. Recent history, from the amnesty law to the 2016 coup and beyond, tells us screaming that redemocratization was built on unbearably weak foundations. We, or the absolute majority of us, have somehow built ourselves on an absent column. The organized people, the people as the main actor and guarantor of overcoming decades of authoritarianism, never took on this role. Far from it. There was not, so easy to see in hindsight, the memorable fusion between people and democracy. The meeting was not even tentatively arranged.

Even so, in several ways we try to explore the window of social improvement and political democratization – the praised and always postponed participatory democracy – that the Constitution left ajar. But the unanticipated result of all these attempts, which, it should be noted, deserved strong popular support, was the blow struck five years ago. At the other end, mini-reforms with a neoliberal tendency multiplied, implemented via constitutional amendments sponsored by forces then considered simply conservative liberals.

Since the coup, we have experienced the programmed deconstruction of the State as a practical expression of the interests that drive the actions of extremist neoliberalism. What originated with Vargas, the means, instruments and institutions that allowed the PT governments to timidly redesign the manorial relations between political society, civil society and the world of work from the (neo)developmentalist key, is significantly eroded. In some cases, let's think of Petrobras, a ruin without return.

In my view and in what matters most, this failed drift can be reflexively read as an unexpected encounter with ourselves. We, or at least a large part of the left that thought the 1988 democracy was reasonably consolidated, were surprised by the ease with which the coup broke the pact that sustained the constitution, an assault that in practice reduced the regime to a shadow of its former self. We, stunned year after year by the disastrous operational results of the strategies devised by the neoliberal right in alliance with neo-fascists, militiamen, military of tutelary vocation and religious reactionaries of all kinds, the big media acting as refined, “ma non trope”, conductor.

Even so, these years of infamous navigation allowed us to reach, in the midst of so many defeats, some islands of clarity: that the country remains trapped in the barbarism that has submerged us since the constitution of the slave-owning colonial society as the basis of Portuguese power in Brazilis land; the evident continuity of racism as a structure of domination with its own perverse dynamics, a monster always capable of updating itself in the form of successive colonial, imperial, republican, modern and postmodern avatars; the overwhelming reality of the weight – so much greater than what Enlightenment lenses perceived – of religious conservatism and reactionaryism that still predominate today in all churches and in most of the population, whether from the Catholic or the Protestant side. The exceptions all, they all exist. But they all confirm the logical rule: being exceptions, they are minorities.

The hope that the middle class could assume a decent role, in the neo-enlightenment limit, went down the drain, just as, long before, the belief in the arrival of an imaginary actor, the Godot whose nickname is the national bourgeoisie, was exhausted. The middle class, presumably well-educated and well-informed, is actually – I am referring to the absolute majority of those who belong to it – a constant nightmare, a scandal founded on a mixture of widespread ignorance and abysmal prejudices. More and more obscurantist, more and more tending to the wholesale condemnation of politics, more and more centered in the navel of their own mediocre interests. Or, worse still, always willing to slip into neo-fascism or another equally reactionary extremism, the one that presents itself, an emblematic case of monotonous ideological repetition, as republicanism with an udenist approach.

Big business, unrecoverable. Just like the industrialization that became its opposite. Since 1954, with each major crisis, more and more bourgeoisie "comprador” becomes the set of owners of wealth, the “aristocracies of permanent interests”. Its fractions, irrevocably subordinated to finance capital, to the casino of unproductive capital. This plot, in which increasingly gigantic wealth – privately hoarded by a few, but which on the social level only produces abject poverty for the great masses –, is the long historical farewell of industrial capital that was once the center of the productive system.

Of course, in this drama too, some try to escape the horde, yes, especially when thinking about political dialogue. But exceptions ultimately do not count, or count very little. Not even remotely the set of these "tycoons” Moved by liberal democratic political values, they constitute a 'business mass' capable of decisively weighing in the balance of power within the class. Those who approach the progressive field with a view to exploring ambiguous elective affinities, well counted are little more than dripping cats.

The high bureaucracy and the high technocracy, they too – even because their space, their social lived world, is a field reserved, in each generation, for the formation and reproduction of the upper middle class – share a specific vision of the world that oscillates, depending on the circumstances and the ability of the mainstream media to manufacture false consensuses, between a neoliberalism assumed to be the epitome of instrumental rationality and a vaguely social-democratic aspiration, generally somewhat embarrassed even because it is known to be unrealizable.

Minorities exist in the pores of these two great bodies, just as Jews survived in the pores of Polish society. One, left wing or even left nationalist. Another, if we think of the current moment, Bolsonarist or Republican-Udenist. And, completing the scene, all the shades of gray of pragmatic adherents, specialists in swimming with armfuls in the swamp of bureaucracy.

The court system is what it is. A good number of lawyers, judges, prosecutors and public defenders show themselves, in many cases in an admirable, even heroic way, deeply aware of the real country to which they belong, Brazil with the second highest concentration of income in planetary terms, and one of the champions from all other injustices. The vast majority of their peers, however, are aware, even – when they are… – of something very different and opposite, a kind of cultivated deformation that becomes an existential compass. These, this disastrous majority, completely convinced of their “right” to live in the country, of extracting resources from the contributing people, and even from the non-taxpayers, instead of, following the republican values ​​so proclaimed from the mouth out, served it. That the “republic of Curitiba” was possible speaks well of what real justice is in Brazil, ironically real in the colonial sense of the term.

About the big oligopolized media, in general there is not much to say. Every day she condemns herself to her abject double role as courtesan and queen. Sordid, both everyday enactments. Exceptions, yes, there are. But they can be counted on the fingers.

And the armed forces and police, what can you expect from them? No matter how much you want, no matter how much you look, nothing good, in political, strategic and transformational terms, is possible to find in these institutions and their leaders. They combine full and shallow corporatism with a conception of the country and the world that, when well deciphered, proclaims, under different formulations, its unique 'raison d'être“: the defense of anti-values ​​similar to a lowly authoritarianism, imprecisely oscillating between the Bonapartist, the patriotic and the conservative reactionary. The fancy name? moderating power.

The intellectual level of the high officials is amazing. Each time one of its luminaries speaks or writes, a feeling of alien shame takes over. So, what can be expected of these forces, these men and women, in the event of a return of the hyper-moderate left to the Planalto? At the very least, meticulous preparations, successive approaches as a favorite method, aimed at opportunely delivering another blow, whose style and content, I imagine, the great strategists are yet to determine.

If this leap in the dark of faith that animates the Salvationist moderating power takes place, the dictatorial regime that will be installed will be infinitely more violent than the one created by AI 5, and much less hypocritical than the one resulting from the successful conspiracy that transformed the armed forces, in particular the army, into the indisputable base of support for the worst government in republican history.

And, finally, the congress… Of it, what can be said with certainty? That with each election little is renewed, but a lot of it rots, this degeneration reflecting the reality of modern-archaic, archaic-modern Brazil, without direction and without remedy. Therefore, it is not necessary to talk too much about the congress; and much less anything truly progressive to expect from him. The “centrão” is his greatest vocation, perhaps his only one. With that, I believe, all has been said.

If this singular confluence takes shape, if our hopes and the factual reality converge, the return of the left to the executive branch will be an important turning point, yes, but by no means decisive. This is because the restorative project also necessarily has to include, in the list of its democratic recoveries and its effort to survive, the bitter bundle of insoluble contradictions. Insoluble but indispensable for the “proper functioning” of Brazilian-style democracy: the return to incessant negotiation, in the only possible and already well-known modality, with the big business community, the media oligopoly and the congress.

Moreover, the restoring project will also be intimated with the infinite and opaque dialogue with the national justice system, a stronghold of the most vile conservatism, even if it is adorned with legal filigrees that spread, with a glitter of sequins, from the first instance to the STJ and the STF. Not to mention the predictive interaction with all police forces, from civil to federal and military forces; and without forgetting, please, the fire department. Dialogues with staunch opponents, at best. Dialogues with enemies, in the most realistic hypothesis. Dialogues with reasonable partners, companions on the road? Probability tending to zero.

In any case, amidst the prevailing contradictions, and despite those that await us in case of victory, the splendor of the simple manifests itself: from March 2021 until the second round of the forthcoming presidential election, it is perfectly possible to build the turn of the left to the chief executive. What seemed to be a point outside the line of reality, a dream of “quarantine-huitards” nostalgic, became, thanks to Fachin and Lula, the most important unknown in the realistic political-electoral equation.

For all this, if we put in parentheses the cathartic moment that we began to experience from this March onwards – a moment, always good to underline, created by Fachin as an incarnation of the unthinkable, of what cannot be foreseen –, the joy and enthusiasm created by the perspective of victory in almost two years but can be seen from another perspective.

What mobilizes us also means, after all, assembling and reassembling delicate understandings, the results of which will always be insufficient, always unreliable, always achieved at the risk of imminent annulment. Understandings with actors and institutions that are part of the hard core of those who traditionally command and command: the high technocracy, the high bureaucracy of state careers, the high military echelons. In this context, the interlocution with the high command of the army, something mysterious, a sphinx in the form of a centaur, a Pavlovian body always capable of exercising its 'penchant' for the great art of moderating tweeting.

Well-considered everything, one arrives at the conclusion that the greatest challenge to the great restoration project can be reduced to a single question: how to recover the good side of the return to the progressive past – a somewhat problematic notion –, which began in 2002 to be submerged in 2016, without falling back into the death drive? In other words, without falling back into schemes of understanding from the top between the executive and each of his opponents, all of them more than well entrenched in the other powers, in the corporate leadership of civil society and within the executive itself.

In today's Brazil, the optimism of the will and the pessimism of reason do not seem to form a constant pair. Perhaps because the will's optimism has reigned for a little while now with such intensity that, in its eagerness to live 'tomorrows who sing' threatens to sever ties with actual reality. Perhaps, also, because in the present era, the pessimism of reason can always be rejected as a symptom of defeatism, of discouragement that “objectively” favors neo-fascism, or as a symptom of an irresponsible tendency to demobilize. Pessimism, therefore, lacks political, strategic and conjunctural sense. Lacking reason.

But without the people organizing themselves – and how can they organize themselves autonomously, how can they avoid being organized? – the future of our possible return will become even more uncertain. The eventual new cycle to be inaugurated in January 2023 risks having a much shorter life than the previous one, which ended with the coup against Dilma.

Without building something whose own dynamics ineluctably breaks with any and all simple, well-intentioned, but essentially restorative strategies, what starts at the peak of joy can metamorphose, in the short term of a few years, into drama, tragedy and catastrophe. And let's not forget, this other building, the power of the people built by the people, is a generational task. Moreover, without having any precise map of the way. Therefore, invention required.

Every generation, I sometimes think so, tries to assault heaven. In general, he fails, even when he momentarily believes himself to be victorious. But each time failure appears, another generation assumes the role of Sisyphus. I write this thinking about my generation, which with a lot of optimism thought they were in a position to change the world. This same impulse, intuited, runs through all the hurried generations that succeed each other since the beginning of modernity. Mine was certain that it would completely overcome the “Brazilian backwardness”. Yeah, way back in the 1960s.

The result of the second round of the 2022 presidential election promises something important for all Democrats: irreversibly weakening neo-fascism. This will be one of the initial consequences of the left's electoral victory. But there is something more important, something very important, and in this case the superlative is imposed, something that goes far beyond, in my view, imposing a decisive defeat on Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism, making them return to the sewer that is their own.

Defeating Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism depends on the result of the election that will oppose Lula to the captain and, in the immediate aftermath, on the competence that allows to assemble and implement a strategy – pardon the language of the Cold War – that is effective”rollback“. But another struggle, much longer, much more important in terms of the long span of history, and with much more uncertain results, seems to me to be a task for which we are not yet ready: with what remains of the state, how to push back the neoliberalism that after all, since the launch of Ponte para o Futuro, he has become absolute master of “res publica“, hegemonic project of the tiny society of the immensely rich, but still a very strong ideology in all social strata? How to escape the iron cage that imprisons us all?

It is unlikely that a left-wing government that will be guided by weak reformism – and that for this very reason will often opt for important concessions to big capital, justifying them as indispensable to the materialization of at least certain basic aspects of its restorative, socially progressive project – will succeed, as far as dismantling the neoliberal bolt is concerned, it will be successful. Restorations, I am tempted to think, have a compulsion to fail. Will we escape this fate?

I began these reflections, which were somewhat strange in terms of form and content, because they deliberately escaped what was produced either by the academic world or by professional political analysts, with the words of others. At the moment of concluding, I prefer to let a philosopher and a poet speak:

“In world history, through the actions of men, something other than what they aim at and achieve, what they immediately know and want is produced in general. They realize their interests, but with it something else is produced that remains inside, something not present in their consciousness and in their intention”. (Hegel, Lessons on the Philosophy of History).

"And the warnings against deep and stormy waters
And the warnings against a drought above the ground,
And memorial tombstones everywhere, are weights
To keep the history of the country from flying off
Like papers in the wind. "
(Yehuda Amichai)

*Tadeu Valadares is a retired ambassador.

 

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