before the revolution

Clara Figueiredo, open_Digital Photography_2017
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By VALERIO ARCARY*

No society plunges into the precipice of historical decay without reaction, without struggle, without social upheaval.

Bernardo Bertolucci directed a film in the sixties, in his early twenties, which was called Cousin la revolutionzione, or Before the Revolution, an updated adaptation of a book by Stendhal on the dilemmas of political engagement[I]. The central character lives the disappointment of the imminence of the revolution. Not a few on the Brazilian left have plunged into this anguish of disappointment, disenchantment and even frustration with the possibilities for transforming society in the last two years. But they breathed with relief, some with emotional joy, Fachin's surprising decision to annul Lula's convictions by Sergio Moro. The possibility of Lula being a presidential candidate in 2022 has changed the political balance of forces in Brazil. It was the biggest democratic political victory of the last five years.

Lava-Jato experienced a fatal defeat. The narrative that the PT government was a corrupt gang was seriously wounded and is dying. The irony of the story was that the need to preserve LavaJato explains Fachin's decision to transfer the processes that convicted Lula in Curitiba to the TRF-1 in Brasília, and the annulment of the convictions. Moro's suspicion, which could still happen, even with the request for views made by Bolsonaro's nominee, would bury his possible candidacy. Moro is still today the most popular name of the liberal opposition. But it looks more and more like an unburied corpse. Without it, the “turn to the centre”, that is, the possibility of a liberal right-wing candidacy, like Doria, winning the opposition leadership, displacing a left-wing candidacy in the second round is more doubtful. The scenario of a confrontation between Bolsonaro and Lula in 2022, maintaining the current conditions, became the most likely hypothesis.

There is a grain of reason in those who remind us that 2020 is not over. History teaches that the past does not 'end' either. When we consider the dimension of what transforms, slowly, and only over long periods of time, everything is in process. There are permanencies, archaisms that torture us, and are a form of 'revenge' of history. Bolsonaro's rise and the last two years oblige us to reflect on a higher degree of abstraction than the vicissitudes of the political struggle. Because we live under the centripetal force of a terrible 'presentism', especially cruel, in Brazil, in the face of the humanitarian and social tragedy.

A Brazilian dies every minute in this terrible month of March 2021. The failure of plague management led to a cataclysm that collapsed the health system, and sums up the balance sheet disaster of the last two years. But it is undeniable that we are facing a paradox at the beginning of 2021. There are incontrovertible data that signal a slow, however, unequivocal trend of erosion of support for the government. However, Bolsonaro achieved two political victories by electing both presidents in the National Congress, both in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, and blocking investigations against his son Senator Flavio in the STJ. This outcome in the institutional superstructure is at odds with the dynamic of a weakening of government in society. It is not uncommon for this to happen. There is never complete synchrony or alignment between the variation in the social balance of forces between classes and the political balance of forces between parties and institutions.

There are always immediate pressures in any conjuncture. But 'presentism' encourages impressionistic or even catastrophic visions. Over the past two years, at one time a self-coup was imminent, or the prospect of Bolsonaro's re-election in 2022 was predicted to be probable. At another, impeachment was just around the corner, or the victory of whoever managed to reach the second round was anticipated as a representation of the oppositions. This 'roller coaster' of oscillating prognoses had little correspondence with the variations in the social relationship of forces. We can distinguish the plan from the historical evaluation of the level of the political balance sheet and its dynamics. And trying to escape the danger of a 'myopic' national analysis of the phenomenon of the extreme right in power.

On the scale of history a Marxist interpretation can benefit from the lens offered by the law of uneven and combined development, a dialectical method applied to the interpretation of the world situation. Since the world crisis of 2007/08, we are facing two major conflicts and, therefore, powerful trends and counter-trends that condition the place of Brazil. The first is the perspective of the stagnation of capitalist growth in the central countries in the long term. Economic growth was one of the factors that preserved social cohesion within the imperialist powers. It has been, partially, mediated by monetary easing, in the form of QE or quantitative easing's, but not annulled. However, a regressive dynamic of Latin Americanization of social relations in the US and European Union, and Asianization in South America, still not consolidated, prevails. The second is the growing inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and China. It has been mediated by the orientation of the European Union to seek a concertation, pressured by the destructive trauma of the Second World War and by the presence of Russia. But it doesn't seem that Trump's defeat and Biden's election means a change in the US arms race to vie for supremacy in the world state system. South America seems to be the weakest link in the chain of imperialist world domination in this third decade of the new century. It was the Middle East for twenty-five years, but it's not like that anymore due to the stabilization after the defeat of the last decade's wave of democratic revolutions. No nation in the contemporary world has plunged into the vertigo of national decay without reacting. The examples of Algeria, Chile, and Ecuador in 2019, Peru in 2020, and Myanmar this year confirm that, while there is no historic defeat that demoralizes a generation, there are social reserves in societies for an energetic, powerful, and even enraged.

Biden and the Democratic Party would not have won the elections if the participation of the black electorate had not been, qualitatively, higher, and this leap occurred due to the mobilization of Black Lives Matter. The victory of the Democratic Biden/Harris ticket in the US elections will qualitatively deepen the international isolation of the Bolsonaro government. Even if we consider that Trump obtained a large vote, and even won in some pendulum states, confirming that an extreme right political current in the US is consolidating within the republican party, the outcome of the process weakens the Bolsonaro government. Bolsonaro’s temptation for a Bonapartist adventure was greatly weakened after the fiasco of the insane assault on the Capitol in January.

We are facing the most serious economic and social situation since the end of the military dictatorship during the Figueiredo government. The last ten years were a lost decade, signaling the decline of Brazilian peripheral capitalism. The sacrifice of lives and the destruction of destinations generated by a drifting pandemic is terrifying. The danger of a historical regression is on the horizon. The data released by the IBGE on GDP growth in 2020 indicate the biggest contraction in the last thirty years. The degradation of the life of the masses by the combination of unemployment above fourteen million and inflationary pressure of food products above ten percent can only be compared with the first two years of the Collor government.

No society plunges into the precipice of historical decay without reaction, without struggle, without social upheaval. In the last thirty-five years, moments of social and political rupture have occurred three times due to the intervention of the masses, in 1984, in 1992, and in 2013. million in ninety days on the streets by Diretas Já in 1984. The management of the Collor and Zélia Cardoso de Melo government provoked the explosion of youth in 1992 that infected at least two million to take to the streets in 1992. But everything is much more devastating in 2020 for the impact of the disastrous, monstrous and sinister management of the plague by Bolsonaro and Guedes. We are attracted by the 'aesthetic beauty' that there can be a synchrony between economic downturn and social explosion, but correlation is not causality. The June 2013 days were also an authentic popular explosion, even if it was a brainless one, but they cannot be explained by the volcanic pressure of an economic recession. Other factors need to be gathered and ripe. Even more so when we consider that the approval of the war budget and emergency aid qualitatively diminished the impact of the recession and limited the social crisis.

No government 'falls from maturity'. Governments must be socially and politically defeated before they can be overthrown in the streets or at the ballot box. Social explosions are essentially spontaneous mobilizations. But they are not a historical accident. When a society sinks into historic decay, and the younger generation comes to the conclusion that it will be inescapable, by their individual efforts, at least to maintain their parents' standard of living, it will set itself in motion. We do not know when, but until a historic defeat occurs, it is inexorable. If the ruling class is not able to resolve its crises through political negotiation processes, the masses will burst into political life with a revolutionary disposition to fight. In this context, we must ask ourselves why Bolsonaro maintains positions. The irreconcilable differences within the left-wing opposition, and between it and the liberal opposition to the far-right government, are not the only, and probably not even the main, key to contain the current situation. Oppositions to the Figueiredo and Collor governments were also deeply and even dramatically divided.

At least five other factors deserve attention. First of all, we have to consider that the mass of the bourgeoisie supports the government, and that counts for a lot. Even the hard core of the ruling class, which has growing dissatisfaction, still considers that Bolsonaro must fulfill his mandate and may even be instrumental, because he trusts the institutions of the regime, such as Congress and the Courts, to establish limits to the Bonapartist drive. Secondly, the government maintains the support of a third of the population, especially in the middle classes that have turned to the extreme right, but also, after the emergency aid, in sectors of the most impoverished popular classes. Thirdly, the demoralizing effects of the accumulated defeats still weigh heavily on the conscience of the working class. Fourth, but not least, the fragility of alternatives to Bolsonaro. The PT had an appeal between the end of the dictatorship and the election of Lula in 2002, but it lost its charm. After thirteen years, the wear and distrust in the PT was vertiginous. The PT is still the biggest leftist party, but it has lost authority. It is true that we must consider that the last five years have been bitter and, in comparison, much worse. But it is also true that we are witnessing a generational transition on the left that is expressed in the vigor of new movements among youth, blacks and women, and in the strengthening of the PSol. The left will have to fight hard to gain the leadership of the opposition. The PT and Lula-lá are no longer attractive, and the PSol still seems immature for the exercise of power. Finally, another factor is the pandemic itself. It scares and affects, at the same time, as a reason for growing discontent and social discomfort, but it imposes a sanitary limitation on popular social mobilization due to the danger of contagion.

Summary of the opera; the objective conditions for defeating the far-right government are maturing, slowly but faster than the subjective ones. The government could be challenged by mass mobilizations as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are eased. Maintaining the current trends of evolution Bolsonaro should get a place in the second round. It is not possible to predict whether or not he lost the condition of favorite for re-election. It is not ruled out that the vaccination process undergoes some acceleration, that economic normalization occurs at the same time, or that the new emergency aid offers some degree of social protection, and that a sense of relief arises at the end of the year. It is therefore not possible to make any projections about the outcome of the 2022 elections. So far, so close. Everything is up for grabs.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).

 

Note


[I] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXGTraY-0rI

 

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