It's the force, stupid!

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By MAURO LUIS IASI*

The big bourgeoisie has not yet decided whether to continue or withdraw its most recent servant, about the opportunity and possibility of replacing him and what to put in his place.

 “Formerly, the good of individuals produced the public treasury; now, however, the public treasury becomes the property of individuals. The Republic is prey; its strength is nothing more than the power of a few citizens and the license of all.”
(Montesquieu)

Modern political theory rests on certain assumptions which the crisis of fully developed bourgeois society undermines. The nascent bourgeois order was concerned with the State – considered as necessary and inevitable for the existence of life in society –, more precisely, with ways to prevent the political form from becoming a power that turns against citizens by controlling them. them instead of them controlling it.

Political theory, since Locke, Montesquieu and others, sought ways to ensure that political power did not distance itself from citizens, preventing despotism. At that time, it was a question of criticizing the Absolute Monarchy. With the development of capitalist society and the bourgeois order, however, such mechanisms move to avoid the “tyranny of the masses”, as this is clearly presented in the ideas defended by the newspaper Or Federalist – notably in the pen of thinkers such as John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, also called the “fathers of the American Constitution”.

Briefly, we can say that the essential mechanism of this supposed control is based on the division of powers. That is, it is the premise according to which those who govern cannot make the law, those who make the law cannot govern and those who judge cannot govern or make laws. In classics like Locke and Montesquieu, this division takes on a functional form. The so-called US federalists and their pragmatism go further and establish checks and balances so that one power can be limited by the other.

The leaders of the newly created United States of America are based, in addition to Montesquieu, on an old maxim by Machiavelli according to which only power can limit power. Unlike the classic political tradition, Americans understood factions (whether they represent the minority or the majority of society, impelled by contrary feelings and interests in relation to other citizens and the social collectivity, as Madison thought) as inevitable phenomena, since they would derive of human nature (competitive, cruel and brutal). In this way, they defend not the control, but the freedom of the factions, so that the struggle between the many wills would be the means by which none of them could impose itself on the others. As Madison himself stated, since the causes cannot be avoided, it is necessary to control the effects.

The fear of the Federalists was not aristocratic usurpation but the risk of popular government, so that a majority faction could impose its will on isolated groups. What lies behind this political engineering is the “right to slavery” of the former southern colonies vis-à-vis the industrialized states of the north.

The way found to do so is a deepening of the division of powers as described above, plus brakes and counter-brakes in order to prevent that the arrival in government of a faction does not give it power to impose its interests on the others. A president elected by a majority would have to govern with the parliamentary representation of the other factions, there will be an upper house – the Senate – with another formation criterion and, in principle, more conservative. Even in the eventual formation of a parliamentary majority, the executive has to stick to the legal order expressed in the Constitution and guaranteed by judges of a supreme court who are not elected, but appointed by other presidents and with a lifetime mandate (in the case of the USA).

To ensure that a popular majority does not even reach the presidency, elections are indirect, through a complex process that filters the popular vote in the formation of a college of delegates who in fact choose the president.

It is undeniable that such engineering gave the US stability, that is, it avoided the slightest chance of the formation of a “popular tyranny”. However, every political form can only be the expression of the materiality on which it rests, so that stability or instability is not produced solely by virtue or coherence of the political formulation, but also and fundamentally as a function of the good progress of the economic forms that form it. sustain.

Faced with the political whirlwind that is plaguing our country, the camera party and its biggest representative insist that the risk of authoritarianism (which they themselves helped to create and give wings to) has no chance of establishing itself because, after all, “our institutions are solid”. If a piece deviates, as is the case of the militiaman who currently occupies the presidential chair, the other powers would impose the limit on them. It is the same argument used when President Dilma Rousseff was illegally removed. However, Bolsonarism seems to present problems with the application of the normal framework for the functioning of institutions.

The disqualified in the Presidency explains a project that clashes with the other powers and points to a dictatorial alternative, by acts, words and convictions. Rede Globo prefers to characterize such behavior as dubious, following the words of the president of the STF. However, the behavior of the captain expelled from the army is anything but dubious. It is evident that he is preparing an institutional rupture and that he does not consider it possible to govern within the limits of the constituted powers, whether parliamentary or judicial.

So why don't the powers that be supposed to limit him act? Let's start with Parliament. The form of operation of the relationship between the Executive and the Legislative stopped working a long time ago. To govern you need a majority, or a support bench and alliances. The way to guarantee this majority is the distribution of positions and other facilities, so to speak. And that goes for anyone – right wing, centre, with or without popular pretensions and even the far right as now – despite Merval Pereira’s optimistic prognosis, according to which Bolsonaro would inaugurate a healthy political practice of not negotiating with parliamentary factions.

The problem is that if such engineering, called “coalition presidentialism” worked well in so-called normal times, it ended up becoming a constant threat to the rulers since it emancipated itself from legality and constitutionality to remove a representative. Who should intervene here to ensure such supposed constitutionality did not, on the contrary entered into the agreement, with the Supreme, with everything, directed and anointed casuistry with supposed legality.

As those who were removed from the party formed a center-left government (to be generous in the classification) committed to a social pact that disarmed the working class of its necessary autonomy, preferring to rely on the same institutionality that moved to overthrow them, they fell without any reaction. . All this gave the order's spokesmen the secure impression that the institutions were functioning. And they were, for what they were created: to avoid the slightest possibility of a popular government (even if that government that fell was no longer one).

But, then, what explains that this mechanism does not seem to work now, in an extreme right-wing government? Neutralized parliament, at least for now, thanks to the impeccable work of the Republic's gelatin, the man without a skeleton Rodrigo Maia and the good old practice of forming majorities in the market for positions, funds and devices through which corruption and the electoral favoritism, the judicial path would remain. Considering the amount and nature of the committed crimes of responsibility and even the evidence of common crimes, any other would have already fallen. What, after all, keeps the nameless militiaman in his position?

It is not the power he has as chief executive, because as he himself snarled, it seems that the Presidency gives less power than it seems to those who dispute it. It is here that bourgeois political theory finds its sunset. When we see the impasse between the powers, the mask falls and it is revealed that there are powers that do not submit to weights or counterweights and that move without brakes.

The Judiciary says it will investigate schemes that may reach the president. The president and his ministers say they do not recognize and have not accepted the outcome of such a trial. First, it is necessary to clarify that this crisis has only been established because one of the powers has prevaricated: Parliament. It is he who, by right, should supervise and, if necessary, as it is evident, judge the president. If there was an impasse, it would be up to the Judiciary to step in to say about competences and procedures. As Parliament was for sale and was bought, there remained another power that, in the face of the impasse, could only appeal to itself.

What does the fallen mask reveal? If it is not the executive power itself, who is this power that creates the impasse before the Judiciary? It is the one that modern political theory, in a certain sense without having really heard the foundations of classical theory, decided to leave outside the political phenomenon: force.

The interesting thing is that the modern political theory inaugurated with Machiavelli is the one that exactly draws attention to this factor. This aspect, however, was refined until we arrived at Hannah Arendt and Jürgen Habermas, who consider force as an extra-political resource, so that where there is politics there is no force and where force enters politics ceases, in a clear retreat towards Aristotle.

It turns out that a force, even if disregarded, exists. The military are not, except formally, subject to the Constitution, as force can impose a new legal order, in the old dilemma already described by Machiavelli between the armed and the unarmed prophet. Bolsonaro remains because he claims to have support from the military and his generals in the government seem not to contradict him.

According to recent statements by the manufacturer of fake news in power, we would be close to the time of reckoning. Was it another bluff? It may be, and it may not be. The bluff is part of the political game, but the deadlock is not resolved by bluffs, but when the cards are placed on the table. The PT and its allies promised to stop the country or set it on fire, but nothing stopped and the overthrown people themselves committed themselves to the role of firefighters.

The Judiciary is putting its cards on the table and is starting to close the circle, especially with the arrest of Queiróz and what could come from there to the president's family. All this fueling ongoing investigations could culminate in the impeachment of the ticket, which does not go through Congress. The ruling military (we don't know whether they have the support or not of the active military) say they did not accept a "political judgment" (as if the latter were not).

The problem is that Bolsonaro may or may not have the support of the Armed Forces, but he certainly has the support of military corporations and the militia, and can therefore react in some way. The Supreme cannot impose its decision except by the force of law, which in the face of the force of arms is worth as much as someone's character against the ammunition of a rifle or innocence in the face of the conviction of a corrupt judge.

The doubt that persists is the following: if Bolsonaro is not bluffing and has military support, why doesn't he launch his coup? In my view, this impasse is resolved outside the visible field and refers to another power, this determinant: the big capital. The division that shakes the political form is an expression of another, the big bourgeoisie has not yet decided whether to continue or withdraw its most recent servant, about the opportunity and possibility of replacing him and what to put in his place.

For the first time, I agree with Bolsonaro. The time is approaching when the cards will be placed on the table. At this time, the possibility of bluffing ends and whoever has the biggest hand takes it all.

* Mauro Luis Iasi He is a professor at the Department of Social Policy and Applied Social Service at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of The metamorphoses of class consciousness (Popular Expression).

Originally published on Boitempo's blog [https://blogdaboitempo.com.br/2020/06/22/bolsonaro-eo-ocaso-da-teoria-politica-moderna/]

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