Forget the past?

Image: Matej


The repressed does not disappear, one day it returns. The right to memory, truth and justice is a sacred right of transitional justice

“There is no consciousness without memory”
(Henri Bergson).

Time, in politics, is an important category. The moment to do something can be as important as what you do or don't do. The failed coup attempt on January 8, 2023 opened a situation that favored the steady advance of democracy and the immediate punishment of many military personnel and financiers. They were withdrawn and, in some cases, even embarrassed, either by the attempted coup or by its failure.

But Lula made concessions to the right to guarantee, in the short term, governability. With a reactionary Congress, with a right-wing majority, the Lula government negotiated political positions and the release of funds to be able to approve government agendas in the Chamber and Senate.

From the beginning, it was also clear that Lula made concessions to the military to avoid crises and coup attempts. The appointment of the Minister of Defense, José Múcio Monteiro, is a confirmation of this. He just didn't see who didn't want to. Therefore, it is not surprising that Lula is now saying “Let's not dwell on the past” regarding the 60 years of military dictatorship that began with the 1964 coup. He does not want friction with the military.

The problem is that this attitude brings with it a series of conflicts and contradictions. If the Lula government has gains in the short term, in the medium and long term it may be strengthening the right. Anyone who ignores the past contributes to its return and is condemned to repeat its mistakes.

When the enemy retreats, we advance, said Mao Tse Tung, who understood military strategy like few others. Here, the extreme right retreated and the government did not move forward, or made very little progress, compromising and making alliances. It is true that the government banned celebrations of the 1964 coup in the barracks, and the STF moved forward and, for the first time in history, ordered the arrest of some military personnel, although the generals who supported the coup camp in front of the Army HQ in Brasília, and their development of the January 8 insurrection, remain at large, along with many financiers.

But the short-term gains could be dissolved in the long term with the recomposition of far-right forces that, in fact, are advancing in Europe, the USA and elsewhere. If those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it, those who ignore the present can contribute to future defeats. The appointment of right-wing politicians to high positions in the State apparatus, including Ministers, and the untouchability of high-ranking military personnel are strong signs that the advance of the right in the future could surpass the gains of the present.

Reality is always complex and multifaceted. The right tends to reduce everything to a single element, for example, fighting corruption, real or imaginary. Or to a few elements, such as the reductionist slogans “God, Country and Family”. This political Manichaeism has now been strengthened by the neo-Pentecostal movement. If God is with us, whoever disagrees is against God. An illuminating symptom is the fact that the faithful are moving from New Testament, where Jesus preached peace and love, to the Old testment, where God is the Lord of hosts.

This is one of the reasons why evangelicals support Israel, considered a holy land. It is now not just the “theology of prosperity”, but the “theology of dominion”, it is necessary to dominate the adversaries, seen as enemies of God. With these radical Bolsonarists, there is little or no point in dialogue. Two thoughts should be mentioned here. The first, by Goya, says that “the sleep of reason produces monsters”. The second, by Marcel Proust, states that “facts do not penetrate the world where our beliefs live”.

Unfortunately, reductionist political Manichaeism is not a monopoly of the right. It is not uncommon to find resounding statements on the left that ignore the complexity of political reality in favor of a strong and impactful argument. An example is the article by the brilliant professor Vladimir Safatle defending the thesis that “the left is dead and the extreme right is the only real force in the country”. Strong as a complaint, weak as an analysis.

The Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances, established by law and canceled in the last government, awaits decisive support from the current Government, which has not yet come, nor do we know if it will come. Judging by President Lula's recent statements in an interview with journalist Kennedy Alencar, the crimes of torture and murder of political prisoners committed by the military during the military dictatorship will not be investigated. Family members will continue to demand, in vain, access to the bodies of their murdered and missing relatives.

But the repressed does not disappear, one day it returns. The right to memory, truth and justice is a sacred right of transitional justice. And without memory, there is no history. And, without history, there is no worthy future on the horizon.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). []

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