Lula government – ​​the opportunity for a historic bloc

Image: Rodrigo Souza
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By GERSON ALMEIDA*

The advance in the concentration of wealth makes it increasingly clear that the true beneficiaries of the current social order are basically the very rich

A simple government proposal to start taxing exclusive funds (created for a single investor) and funds offshore e trusts, even though it only affects 2.500 people (0,001% of the population), triggered a heated debate in the media. More intense than global warming and the accelerated increase in climate events on the planet, which affect all of humanity. Why does it happen?

According to the Ministry of Finance, this small group of people accumulates assets worth R$820 billion, a concentration of scandalous wealth that gives them the power to decide the things that will be discussed and, also, the things that will be omitted. Throughout history, the classes that benefit from wealth and power have always tried to transform their private interests into the “interest of society”, or “national interest”.

The very rich in Brazil are a small group of people, but they are owners and/or important investors in the companies that allocate the most money to advertising in the mass media (radio, newspapers, television, internet, etc.) and, even , are very well established in most decision-making bodies, inside and outside the State. A situation that places them in a privileged position to try to shape the formation of opinion in society on a daily basis, as well as construct a legal framework that is broadly adequate to defend and reproduce their interests.

A good example of the power to build standards in your favor is presented to us by the Union of Tax Auditors of the Federal Revenue (Sindifisco) when revealing the decrease in the average income tax rate charged to the very rich, between the years 2019 and 2021 They have a declared annual income greater than R$4,2 million and paid a tax rate of 5,4% in 2021; lower than the 6% rate they had paid in 2019.

The Brazilian tax system is extremely kind to those above and allows them to have many “escape routes” from paying taxes, such as being allowed to transform the most relevant part of their income into profits and dividends paid by their own companies and exempt these gains from any taxation. In 2021 alone, the amount of amounts paid in profits and dividends by companies reached R$555 billion… free of taxes. Meanwhile, there is over-taxation on low wages, to the point where those earning between R$1.903 and R$2.826 pay a rate of 7,5%; and for those who earn up to R$4.664,00, the rate is 22,5%.

Even with this blatant inequality, there are “experts” who advise against any taxation of great fortunes, but omit the existing over-taxation on low wages. Preachers of the neoliberal sect never stop worshiping the minimum state, with strict limitations on public spending and precarious services for society; at the same time that they defend a state strong enough to protect the obscene riches of the very rich and the tangle of laws and regulations in their favor.

Whenever social struggles threaten to break the consensus in favor of the powerful in society, they know they can count on governments and police forces determined to do everything they can to prevent any risk to their privileges. And when a government does not show this willingness to defend them, they spare no effort to destabilize and/or support coups, as we recently saw with Dilma Rousseff's government.

The struggle for hegemony in society

It was precisely to explain the ability to turn the particular interests of a class into a “general interest” that Antonio Gramsci coined the expression hegemony and defined it as the process of “naturalizing the domination of the values ​​and interests of a class over society as a whole.” ”. As the true beneficiaries are numerically small, this group can only exercise hegemony if it attracts other social sectors to form what Antonio Gramsci called a “hegemonic bloc”, whose function is to justify the unjust order and the arrangements that support and legitimize it.

The apex of this domination is to transform the arguments of the elites and the operating logic of the society on which their power is based, into common sense the “conception of the world uncritically absorbed by the various social and cultural environments in which moral individuality develops.” ”.

This is why even very modest proposals, such as taxing funds in which only the super-rich, 2.500 people invest, produce so much resistance and force officials of the existing order to do all kinds of juggling to discredit them.

Privileges need to be exposed

The moments in which this type of discussion appears in the public debate are a great opportunity to expose the set of privileges that benefit the very rich and demonstrate how these immense inequalities were never a design of nature, but the result of an arrangement of power that It serves, above all, the interests of 1% of the population, the super-rich. Its average income is 372 thousand euros (almost R$ 1,2 million), in purchasing power parity and it holds more than a quarter (26,6%) of national earnings, according to the Laboratory of World Inequalities.

If the parameter is wealth, inequality in Brazil is even greater than income inequality. In 2021, the poorest 50% held just 0,4% of Brazilian wealth (financial and non-financial assets such as real estate properties), while the richest 1% held 48,9% of national wealth. That's right, the poorest half of the Brazilian population shares only 10% of the total national income, according to the Laboratory of World Inequalities, directed by French economist Thomas Piketty. If we only consider children up to 6 years of age – considered early childhood, a fundamental period for the development of cognitive and motor functions – almost half (44,7%) of them are in a situation of poverty, which means that the Brazil has 7,8 million children in poverty, and 2,2 in extreme poverty, according to data from PUCRS Social Data. This is the dark future that the continuation of the current model holds for us.

We need to deconstruct the hegemonic bloc

Neoliberal hegemony has aggressively deepened the concentration of wealth and even though there are many disparities within this 1% of the population and these differences are even greater if we consider the group formed by the remaining 99%, the truth is that the concentration of income and equity at the top of the pyramid (1%) continues to grow. To combat this dynamic of hyper-concentration of wealth in the hands of so few people, we need to be able to imagine a democratic political project that deconstructs the current hegemonic bloc, incapable of offering anything other than increasing inequalities even further.

One way is to find identities that can unite the interests of 99% of the population, even if there is immense diversity among the different social groups that make up this immense. The advance in the concentration of wealth, however, makes it increasingly clear that the true beneficiaries of the current social order are basically the very rich (1%).

These, by exponentially appropriating wealth and power, end up distancing themselves from the expectations and interests of the overwhelming majority of society, even those sectors that still recognize and submit to their hegemony. The adherence of the very rich to Bolsonarism and coup arrangements to defend their interests is an expression of the decline of the neoliberal consensus and the loss of its ability to continue to be the bearer of society's expectations.

It is in this gap that the left and the democratic field can articulate a project that can incorporate the interests of all social groups that are doomed to lose with the continuation of the current social dystopia. In the struggles to build this new historical bloc, the point of unity is to give society a new direction and transform the cultural and material expectations of our time to take humanity out of the neoliberal dead end.

*Gerson Almeida, sociologist, former councilor and former secretary of the environment of Porto Alegre.


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