permanent state of exception

Image: Elyeser Szturm

State institutions are doing politics, in a sneaky, illegal and illegitimate way, as is the case of Operation Lava Jato, an expression and symbol of selectivity, persecution, public immorality, patrimonialism and proto-fascism

By Francisco Fonseca*

Since the creation of Operation Lava Jato, and particularly since the 2016 coup, largely the result of lavajatismo, the “game of politics” – understood as the party system, alliances and electoral disputes, as a search, even if historically problematic, for representation popular, among other aspects –, in the midst of the relative independence of the institutions, has been eroded before the naked eye.

Such corrosion is expressed in the indisputable fact that “politics”, as we knew it – in the sense above – has been replaced by political groups that have taken institutions by storm, to the point that one of them, the Judiciary, has become a kind of political party, subdivided into others in view of their ramifications. That is, it fulfills representational or even partisan “functions”, understood here in the Gramscian sense of political representation of certain groups, but carried out by “non-formal groupings”.

This is the “partisanization of Justice”, which greatly supplants the well-known “judicialization of politics”, since sectors of the Judiciary (for example, the aforementioned Lava Jato Operation, the 13th third court of Curitiba, the TRF-4 , the STF, in addition to sectors of the Public Prosecutor's Office, among others) base their actions on eminently power-oriented purposes, representing economic interests, class groups and fractions, party and international, which implies interceding in the vote (that is, in the will ) and in popular perception, and especially in political representation without vote scrutiny, as in the case of the institutions above.

Institutions that formally and constitutionally should guarantee the functioning of the State, without getting involved in the game of representation and political disputes, a field in charge of the “political system”. It should be made clear that this is not an idyllic view of politics and institutions, insofar as the latter are also political and the State has never been/is “neutral”, starting with the fact that it is the State in capitalism.

It is about understanding that in the so-called liberal democracy, institutions regulate the “rules of the game”, with greater or lesser independence, but minimally allow – within the limits of capitalism and relations between classes and even the international context – the expression of political currents that compete, on different platforms, for the popular vote. In summary, even with structural insufficiencies, political life has its own rules, logic and relative independence, in what has been called the Democratic Rule of Law within liberal democracies.

But the classic game of politics has increasingly had competition from “institutions”, which should, it should be reiterated – in the light of the principles that govern the aforementioned State of Law –, be above the interests in dispute, since these are historically represented by political parties, which in turn connect, directly and indirectly, with social movements, corporate representations, media segments, non-governmental organizations, and many other forms of representation of more or less explicit interests. This means that the formally state institutions effectively "do" politics, in a sneaky, illegal and illegitimate way, completely usurping their attributions, as is fully known about Operation Lava Jato, an expression and symbol of selectivity, persecution, public immorality, of patrimonialism and proto-fascism.

In other words, the country has been experiencing, especially since 2016, a permanent State of Exception, with the culmination of Bolsonaro’s “election”, resulting from the biggest political fraud in Brazilian history. Such exceptionality is evident from macropolitics to “street-level bureaucrats”, stimulated and encouraged to practice all sorts of arbitrariness based on “private” and “group” interests, fundamentally anti-republican.

Exceptionalism has become the “rule”, as in the Weimar Republic, to the point where an important country like Brazil formally has a militia chief in the presidency of the Republic, with his sons and associates acting as mob bosses of the lower clergy. The case of Flávio Bolsonaro, just to name one, is the synthetic expression of this profile and modus operandi militiaman who is in power in Brazil.

The set of destructions and disruptions perpetrated on institutions, workers and human rights as a whole, which includes citizenship rights, since 2016 and particularly since the rise of Bolsonarist proto-fascism, has not received a sufficient response from institutions. The very figure of Bolsonaro, whose parliamentary mandate infringed for almost three decades the most elementary rule of democracy expressed in the maxim “democracy does not tolerate intolerance”, having not been prevented, exposes the historical fragility of our institutions. This fragility has taken to paroxysm since 2016, although its marks are historical: 1889, 1930, 1946, 1964, and 2016, reiterate, to the present day. Therefore, although the “logic of politics” continues to operate, another logic – essentially dystopian – operates in parallel.

In other words, in the logic of politics, political parties continue to do politics (that is, disputing power) in the light of political/institutional/electoral representation and dynamics; elections remain and develop with their rituals; the institutionality of the democratic regime remains in operation: notably the Parliament as a “place of debate” and the Judiciary as an appellate body; conflicts between groups representing different worldviews and interests remain active; among other examples.

However, this formally democratic institutionality, that is, aimed at guaranteeing the rules of the game, operates more and more in a merely formal way – although there are contradictory spaces for the “defense of politics” as a field of dispute –, since significant parts of the The State and its apparatuses act on the level of exceptionality, the political instrumentalization of State bodies (such as sectors of the Federal Police, the Public Ministry, the STF and others), resuming the most perverse characteristics of the “Old Republic”.

In this sense, the State of Exception acts in an essentially political manner, producing political facts in the name of "justice" and "law", derogating constitutional rights (political, social and labor), disregarding the precepts referring to human rights, acting in disagreement to the secular state and alters “electoral results”. Sometimes, the three powers and the institutions derived from them converge, leading to a paroxysm of the “democratic farce”, which makes the decisions taken increasingly escape the classic purposes of politics, that is, the action guided by the macro-guidelines arising from the Constitution . When there are disputes between institutions, sometimes the defense of constitutional principles resurfaces – which implies the tenuous balance between the derogation of the Democratic Rule of Law or its defense by corporate interests, or specific politicians, or even by political calculation.

In other words, the level of rules of the political game is increasingly conditioned to the situational position of institutional agents vis-à-vis social actors. A major example is the arrest and release of ex-president Lula, since both acts had contradictory movements as moving elements, but exogenous to the democratic game: in the case of imprisonment, the persecutory nature of the PT and Lula, not just to take him out. the electoral dispute, but to stigmatize the left and pave the way for the right (Temer and later Bolsonaro, as it turned out) with their ultraliberal and antisocial agendas that would never be victorious in electoral disputes whose rules were typical of the electoral/democratic game .

Clearly, as is well known, the United States has been/is operating through its representatives in Brazil (Dalagnol, Moro, Temer, Bolsonaro and many others). Even in the case of Lula's release, the reasons for this were the attempt to mitigate lavajatismo/bolsonarismo (Siamese brothers) rather than maintaining constitutional principles. After all, the modus operandi of Lava Jato (“inquisitorial methods”) were not only widely known but, above all, were allowed/covered up by the STF. Examples abound.

In summary, Brazilian political life walks a tightrope between maintaining minimal democratic rules and the State of Exception, with clear preponderance for the latter. The partisanship (in the broadest sense) of State apparatuses, whose actions – with contradictions, it should be reiterated –, when interceding in the field of politics, express the odd coexistence between democracy and authoritarianism, rules and exception, politics and arbitrariness.

Soon, the political/institutional/electoral game is involved in the partisanship of State apparatuses (police, Public Ministry and Judiciary), which in turn branch out into sectors of Parliament (right-wing parties, with PSL at the head) and entirely to the Executive, taken over by a strange combination of militiamen, religious fundamentalists, ultra-liberal rentiers, large national and foreign corporations, savage militarism and all sorts of “elite predators”.

These two logics, or plans, coexist in an unprecedented hybridity that needs to be understood in order to rethink (and remake) the political vocabulary itself. After all, what do concepts such as democracy, representation, human/social/labor rights, secular state, coalition presidentialism, among many others, mean?

The possibility of direct communication with millions of users of social networks in an entirely dishonest way, co-opting vulnerable social groups, without any effective supervisory/punitive means, is another important ingredient of this exceptionality in the midst of increasingly formal democratic rules.

But the dystopian complexity implies considering that there is a third logic, referring to the role of the ultraliberal, rentier, militia, fundamentalist, military and anti-popular kleptocracy, since it acts (this consortium) in the midst of certain economic processes that were developing (cases of deindustrialization and rentism), but which converge with others that began to develop acutely (cases of privatization, denationalization and deconstitutionalization of social rights).

Such a scenario is taken to the limit by the “kleptoelites” who are in power, as their predatory project implies the liquidation of national and popular economic/political sovereignty, the revocation of national science and technology, the destruction of democratic institutions and the derogation of social rights. and labor. This project is one of the fundamental requirements of contemporary capitalism, economically represented by the fourth industrial revolution, politically by the rights in an international perspective and ideologically by the ostensive manipulation of the “minds and hearts” of social groups through social networks and the digital universe (such as as demonstrated by E. Snowden and F. Assange and, in opposition, S. Bannon).

The Constitutional Amendment Projects, the Provisional Measures and the Bills coming from Bolsonarism are, in fact, elaborated by big business interests and rentiers synthesized by the taciturn and cynical figure, in ethical/political terms, of Paulo Guedes (in turn linked to The think tanks international and national ultraliberals). In this sense, Bolsonaro and his rough surroundings, like himself, are just the bizarre instruments of the international elites, notably based in the US, but with great national connections, and deeply articulated to the state apparatus of contemporary imperialism.

Making an important country like Brazil structurally weak, in several senses, taking the processes of denationalization/privatization/deconstitutionalization/deindustrialization/financialization/pauperization to the limit seems to be the objective of these predatory elites so well portrayed by Ladislau Dowbor in A era do capital improvutivo (Ed. Other Words, 2017). It is intended to make the Brazilian workforce essentially competitive with other countries, such as Pakistan, India, Colombia, Mexico and many others spread across almost all continents, in terms of low qualification, low wages and lack of rights.

In other words, an “uberized world” for the great mass of the poor, and life abroad for the elites, also cloistered in high-end condominiums in Brazil. From the point of view of capital, the destruction of what was national (infrastructure linked to civil construction and oil) by Lava Jato represented the beginning of a process carried out by Temer and now by Bolsonaro.

Such processes narrated above compose the tragic logic of contemporary neo-imperialist capitalism (also called “necropolitics”), completely uninterested in political and social democracy, which sees them as obstacles. The PT governments, however moderate they may have been, represented obstacles to ultraliberal cannibalism, and for this reason they were removed, just as, in a violent way, Evo Morales in Bolivia.

In the Brazilian case, none of this would be possible without the active participation (acting and/or omitting) of the institutions that “stole/steal” the vote of Brazilians, notably the poorest, instilling in them the belief that “Brazil's problem was PT corruption”. It is clear that political parties, such as the right-wing PSDB, and the mainstream media, contributed heavily to this, but in a suicidal calculation, as can be seen.

Therefore, thinking and doing politics in contemporary Brazil implies a deep examination of the State of Exception (as pointed out by G. Agamben), its contradictory relationship with what remains of democratic institutions, and the role of international capitalism in Brazil.

The task is arduous and requires the ability to rethink our own way of thinking about politics, as well as its relationship with capitalism. Without this, we will be doomed to be guided by the right, as has been happening in Brazil, with tragic results for the present and for the future of the overwhelming majority of Brazilians and Brazil as a Nation!

Finally, such a movement implies understanding the conceptual subversion that such dystopian processes represent in order to, in this way and in the light of Machiavelli, “understand reality in order to change it”.

*Francisco fonseca he is professor of political science at FGV/Eaesp and at PUC/SP.

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