More February, more October

Lucio Fontana, “Spatial Concept”, 1968


Under the hegemony of neoliberalism, left-wing intellectuals took refuge in “utopian socialism”

About common property

In Rio Grande do Sul, a privatist governor sold the State Electric Energy Company (Ceee), the Riograndense Saneamento Company (Corsan), the State Gas Company (Sulgás). By subservience to accumulation, he impoverished the investment capacity of the southern federative unit. Eduardo Leite classifies surrender as a “game changer” in official advertising. Yes, with enormous damage to the people of Rio Grande do Sul. The mayor (MDB) of Porto Alegre, the same, promises to privatize the public transport company (Carris), which under PT management was the best in the country, and approves ambitions that reduce circulation areas with real estate projects for the nouveau riche. Neoliberal privatization advances on what is common (electricity, water, gas, transport, public space). It is no longer a question of the appropriation of work, but of a kidnapping of the conditions of collective life.

The idea of ​​ownership extends to the field of culture, technology and digital equipment (chips) as the state apparatus in whole abdicates the responsibility of supervising even the environment. “Leite, with the support of the Legislature, changed the State's exemplary Environmental Code to make it easier to attack nature. Bolsonaro opened the Amazon to deforestation by agribusiness, unaware that these are lands unsuitable for farming and livestock that will soon be barren”, says journalist and writer Flávio Tavares. Public property ceased to embody the protection of the common and became a form of private property reserved for the ruling class, which can dispose of it as it sees fit – and plunder the population according to its immediate desires and interests. Only the gluttony of capital matters.

The issue is not limited to the defense of common “goods” fundamental for survival, “but to profoundly change the economy and society, overthrowing the system of norms that is directly threatening humanity and nature”, point out Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, in Common: essay on revolution in the XNUMXst century (Boitempo). It is emblematic that, among hundreds of footnotes in the book, the first refers to Michael Löwy, Ecosocialism, l'alternative radicale à la catastrophe écologique capitaliste (Mille et une Nuits). A consistent political ecology can only be radical anti-capitalism.

The common presupposes reciprocity between those who live in the same quadrant and share the same life expectancy. The common is of use to all fellow citizens. To the res communes they are the basis for a society governed by general happiness. It fell to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, in The Crowd: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (Record), the pioneering elaboration of a political theory in which the common designates practices, struggles, institutions that open up to a non-capitalist tomorrow. But watch out for the walker. Dardot and Laval object that "although the way these theorists understand the common seems quite modern, taking into account the advances of the Web, it is nothing more than an illusion". Hard and Negri do not question the “rentier” bias of capitalism under neoliberalism.


Soviets yes, Bolsheviks no

The authors of Ordinary criticize the authors ofThe crowd resorting to Proudhon's model of "collective force". The fact is that, both embrace an autonomism: they abstract the action of social classes and political parties as if they had exhausted their validity. Professors at the University of Paris-Nanterre commit the sin they accuse of American and Italian philosophers. In The October Shadow: The Russian Revolution and the Specter of the Soviets (Perspective), in the chapter “From the February Revolution to the October Insurrection” are in favor of the February uprising (soviets), and against the October one (Bolsheviks).

In the Preface to the Brazilian edition, they warn of “the nightmare oppressing the brain of the living: October 1917”. They do not date the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolutionary process with the rise of Stalinism, like the Trotskyists, but with the seizure of power by “Lenin's coup d'état”. The aseptic autonomist conception, “because it distrusts delegation to parties and representation”, demands an instruction manual that leaves the unwashed dishes intact. But there is no roadmap to follow. The “art of insurrection”, in Marx's expression, is not science.

For Dardot and Laval the “communism of the commons” is not yet a movement in act, nor the embryo of a community being that would be in development given the internal dynamics of capitalism. "But one project which is based on the multiform experimentation of the commons (of information and knowledge, agricultural or forestry) extending its logic beyond current limits (fragmentation, lack of coordination). Motivated by the demand for an egalitarian democracy, for co-participation in deliberation, decision-making and execution. A principle totally incompatible with the logic of sovereignty that was constituted in the West”.

O common it has roots in the political tradition of democracy, which dates back to the ancient Greeks and takes up aspects of associative socialism along the lines of Fourierist phalansteries. Therein lies the understanding that communism is a conceptual construct (for some, inspired byTo Republic, by Plato), while socialism is an empirical historical-social construction. Formulations that, combined, unite the real movement of liberation from the shackles of oppression and exploitation to the humanist values ​​that guide political praxis.

In this sense, the common is not a simple yearning, but an ideological guide assumed from areas of struggle that point to overcoming the establishment capitalist. Its goal is self-government leveraged in mobilizations “against the neoliberal conversions of universities, against the privatization of water, against the dominance of oligopolies and states over the internet, or against the appropriation of public spaces by private and state powers”. Demands that stem from the “practical requirement imposed on movement participants to no longer separate the democratic ideal they pursue from the institutional forms they adopt”. Public services must be institutions of the commons.


Neither private nor state

“There can be no institution of the common on the scale of society if the right to property, the domain absolute property of the owner over the land, capital or patent is not subject to the right of common use, which implies the loss of its absolute character”. The right of use over the right of property (private or state) requires activities of care, entertainment and preservation. Unlike other animals, humans are not content to live in society, but produce societies to live. Thus, common institutions need servants who do not see their actions as a way to earn a living, but as a formidable opportunity to implement social values ​​of justice, signs of the new morning.

On the achievements of the commons, see Boaventura de Sousa Santos, in The Future Begins Now: From Pandemic to Utopia (Boitempo). In particular, Chapter 7, “Community resistance and self-organization”, which addresses community organizations in confrontation with the State (Bolivia, Turkey); organizations in cooperation with the State (Mozambique); rural and urban popular organizations facing the abandonment of the State (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia); indigenous peoples (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru); good practices of subnational or autonomous political-administrative units (Kerala / India, Niterói / Brazil), highlighting the ethnic groups of Northern and Eastern Syria that formatted pluralist, anarchist and ecological self-governments, with respect for gender equality. Achievements that, occurring before, would have been recorded in the famous 1848 manifesto under the rubric “socialism and critical-utopian communism”, which complements the three well-known classical sources of Marxism, namely, English economics, German philosophy and French politics.

However, there is a gap between tactics and strategy. “Italy is one of the countries where diverse experiences have given rise to self-government policies and very interesting legal elaborations. We refer to the communal government of water resources in Naples and the construction of the Teatro Valle in Rome”, write Dardot and Laval. True, but that did not mean that Italy saw the birth of a post-capitalist society. With which the Marxian critique remains current. “The founders of these systems (socialists and communists) perceive the antagonism of classes, as well as the action of dissolving elements in society. But they do not perceive in the proletariat any historical initiative, any political movement that is its own... Hardt and Negri, Dardot and Laval toast the utopian bunkers that smell like those of Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen. Sketch the world in miniature.

Under the adversity provoked by the hegemony of the “new reason of the world” (neoliberalism), many left-wing intellectuals took refuge in the warmth of utopianism to keep the flame of rebellion lit and the hope of overcoming socioeconomic inequalities alive. They fulfilled a role to be praised, not belittled and decontextualized. They illuminated with points of hope the labyrinth that put the militant struggles for emancipation on the defensive.


People's Struggle Committees

Disunionization, precarious work and hyper-individualism made the pro-common discourse ethereal, in the context of massive unemployment and an economic recession. To make the social drama worse, Brazil is back on the UN hunger map. It will be difficult to bring changes to the current configuration of work back to the center of struggles, today under broad and, at the same time, vigilant domination by capital. However, as we always work with others, it is possible to encourage resistance in a spirit of collaboration.

Moral, cultural, and political incentives do not solve the equation by themselves, in effect. Not even the universalization of basic income is a passport to paradise. Surveys in Europe reveal that the majority of wage earners are not happy with their work, when they have it. Dissatisfaction is repeated in Latin America. Not even the escape from unemployment and atrocious informality lead to Eden. Even in dismay, for many, existence and giving up rhyme with the situation today embittered by millions of people expelled from the productive sector.

In this toxic environment, palliative measures cannot be dismissed with maximalist arrogance, based on the slogan “revolution or death”. The labor counter-reform proposed in Spain, likewise, tends to empower workers against neoliberal harassment. But themes from the “realm of needs” cross far from the Dardot/Laval strategyless agenda.

The luminaries of the “common” lack attention to the passage of values ​​of solidarity and cooperation, from the abstract to the concrete level, which requires the mediation of social movements, community organizations, professional associations, labor unions, in short, civil society and of progressive parties. In defining the subject of transformations, the theory about the subversive framework of the common stumbles on the stones of principledism. If a “new International” is remembered and passant, the reinvention of the World Social Forum (WSF) is not ventilated – so that it expresses, along with an intercontinental exchange of experiences, the will to become an active platform for the articulation of conscience at a planetary level.

We must take the Leninist question of organization seriously, as Gabriel Boric did in the campaign in Chile and Lula da Silva intends to propose “Popular Struggle Committees” in the country during the current year's presidential race. Committees that, being “of struggle” and not just set up with “electoral objectives”, must be maintained and encouraged to constitute themselves in trenches for discussion and mobilization in the peripheries to ensure the changes represented by the progressive government, with effective popular participation.

The dilemma is not to opt for February or October, a priori. But in organizing clashes that do not end with voting at the ballot box, in the symbolic month of ventura in sight, against Bolsonarism and neoliberalism. Always with more democracy, and never less. Not to say we're not talking about flowers: armed with a transition program.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.


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