Marco Aurelius Garcia



Observations on the ideas of the intellectual and PT leader, who would be 80 this week

“Hi Marco, how are you? I need to exchange an idea with you”, I began. “It won't be possible,” he replied. “Hey, why not”? “Because I don’t have ideas to trade.” For almost forty years, this was the predominant tone of our dialogues. He never dropped the shuttlecock of humor. Even in difficult moments, of important decisions, it was a subtle and corrosive way of keeping criticism high, including ourselves.

But the blague involved an untruth. Marcus Aurelius had ideas. He thought and analyzed well, which led me to consult him time and again since he returned to Brazil, if I'm not mistaken, in the second half of the 1970s (so much time passed, the facts get mixed up). I don't really know why, I don't remember meeting him in Chile, but as soon as he arrived in São Paulo, Eder Sader told me about him, as part of a group of companions who had taken an autonomist orientation in France.

Since then, even though it was mediated by gaps of silence, every so often I had the pleasure of listening to him, laughing together, remembering Chile and then analyzing the current situation. In a series of dialogues that took place around the 2002 election, Marco Aurélio told me two things that ended up influencing the direction of my thinking after leaving the government in 2007.

The first conversation, I believe, took place at the headquarters of the National Directorate of the Workers' Party, near Praça da Sé, in the first half of 2002. We were talking about the PT's program for the election, which he coordinated countless times. In the midst of reasoning, he turned to me and said, “Listen, there's one thing you need to understand. There is PTism, but nowadays there is something else, independent, which is Lulism”.

Despite the slightly ironic way of enunciating the sentence, I realized that there was exactly an idea there. The projection of Lula's leadership, even if inseparable from the PT, had its own contours, with requirements, possibilities and inflections that needed to be considered for themselves. It was not a question of increasing or decreasing the party, but of giving Caesar what is Caesar's (pass the pun). That's analyzing.

As is known, in the following months the Lula variable, with the victory, would take a leap in importance and it was, perhaps, at the beginning of the mandate that the second key conversation took place. In it, the theme was the plans referring to the Northeast. It is likely that I was trying to fit the subject into the framework of the class struggle, when Marco, again, came up with the unexpected. “Look, there is a Rooseveltian component in the conception of this government”.

Just as I had been surprised by the existence of Lulism, it had never crossed my mind that the current reformist model could pass not through the European socialist experience, but through the North American democrat one. Over time I realized that he was right. A notion of popular capitalism, with roots in the USA, would explain several government initiatives such as, for example, payroll loans.

That's why I used the two strokes in my later work, always warning him and thanking him publicly, as I do here again. Generous, detached, friendly, Marcus Aurelius emphatically recommended the texts to other friends, without ever saying, I believe, that he had inspired them.

The last time we saw each other, I think it was six months before his death, the setting was again that of the National Directorate of the PT in the center of the city. Talking about the painting, we left and walked together with the historian Selma Rocha to the subway station. It was clear to me, and I think to him, that the Rooseveltian dream was shattered. We had already entered this regressive situation that, four years later, still surrounds us. When I said goodbye, I didn't know that we would have to leave without the ideas and humor of Marco Aurélio Garcia.

* André Singer is a professor of political science at USP. Author, among other books, of The senses of lulism (Company of Letters).

Originally published in the magazine Theory and debate.


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