fragile memories



August 11, 1992: the impeachment of Fernando Collor

I don't take other people's memories too seriously. I don't even trust mine. I know that our minds are tireless in assigning new meanings to what happened. But that doesn't mean that the memory of what was isn't, in some way, valid, even when a little inaccurate, as long as it's honest. Writing about the past only makes sense, too, if we are willing to accept mistakes. Otherwise, it's pompous and ridiculous.

With the exception of contemporaries on the left, almost nobody knows, but the debate, in December 1991, in the First National Congress of the PT, on the tactic to be adopted in the face of the Collor government has similarities with the current controversies on the left about what to do to the Bolsonaro government. The discussion focused on one point: should we start an impeachment campaign, or wait for the 1994 elections?

Today it may seem incredible, but the PT Congress voted against the proposal to start a campaign for Fora Collor. The tactic of respecting the electoral calendar supported by the majority camp, then known as Articulação, won with 70% of the delegates' votes. The different currents of the PT left together reached 30%. Until August 1992, agitation was maintained in the form of “Enough of Collor” and a Frente Ampla initiative was built in the form of a Committee for Ethics in Politics to wear it down.

The main argument used was simple, powerful and wrong: we shouldn't bet on Collor's displacement, because the government's growing wear and tear opened up the possibility of an electoral victory for Lula, who narrowly lost the 1989 elections. end of the dictatorship, which ended without the Figueiredo government having been overthrown with a transition from above through the Electoral College of the military regime, we would establish a dangerous precedent that could be used to build an impeachment of Lula.

Impeachment was foreseen in the 1988 Constitution, but it was an “atomic bomb”. It shouldn't be used. The challenge that remained for the radical left tendencies was to know whether or not we should comply with the internal discipline of the PT. We don't comply. And the spark of student mobilization ignited the campaign for Fora Collor after his brother Pedro Collor, who suffered from a terminal illness, gave an interview in which he accused the right-hand man and treasurer of the “maharaja hunter” of being a gangster.

The paradox or cruelty of history is that Collor was ousted, but early elections were not called. Itamar was spared, took over, and managed to articulate a broad alliance with the appointment of Fernando Henrique and the stabilization of the Real Plan. It was necessary to wait ten years for the erosion of economic and social adjustments to pave the way for the PT and Lula to win the elections in 2002.

The postman always rings twice, or “the postman always rings twice”, says a popular American saying. I like to remember this moment because I see some veterans on the left preferring to wait for 2022 to measure forces with Bolsonaro. As if there were no danger that 2022 would be more like 1994 than 2002. As if there was neither time nor conditions for Bolsonaro to be able to run for re-election in 2022. History teaches that the possibility of defeating Bolsonarism should not be wasted , and Mourão can be spared. It also reveals that the temptation of a Frente Ampla with dissidents from the ruling class is a trap. Because it can be a ladder that facilitates the way to a third way.

Of course, this is a different national and international situation. The world was going badly in 1992, with the capitalist restoration and the invasion of Iraq, but in Brazil the situation was exciting, and my personal life was improving. While the hammer of history punished the left with the end of the USSR, came the birth of my daughter in 1991, intensely desired; the beginning of the teaching experience at Federal, currently the Federal Institute of São Paulo; and the election to the National Executive of the PT, representing Socialist Convergence.

I started teaching at the decentralized unit of the Federal Technical School in Cubatão. It wasn't easy. I had classes three days a week, divided into morning, afternoon and evening periods, and huge windows, starting at seven in the morning, which forced me to get up at five in the morning, night closed even in the tropics, to arrive at the Jabaquara Terminal. in time not to miss the six o'clock bus. Or you could go down the mountain via Anchieta on a motorcycle, and return via Imigrantes, 150 km a day, round trip.

1992 arrived and with it the national mobilization against Collor, eight years after the Diretas. It was the biggest political struggle of the XNUMXs, and it ended up being the mark of the rupture of my militancy with the PT. My presence in the National Executive placed on my shoulders the weight of responsibility of being one of the spokespersons for the campaign for Fora Collor.

I remember with satisfaction the morning of August 11, 1992. It was a bright winter day in São Paulo, with that blue sky. I woke up early to go teach classes, got on the bike and went along the Tietê waterfront, until, when I reached the access to Avenida Tiradentes, on impulse, I went in and went to Nove de Julho in the direction of MASP. There was scheduled that morning of the students' day, the demonstration called by the UNE.

When I approached the truck, Lindbergh Farias was alone up there. We had never been together. To my surprise, he recognized me and invited me upstairs. Lindbergh rocked, relentless, like a “force of nature”. But he couldn't stand talking to himself anymore. It was not yet eight o'clock in the morning. No deputy present, in fact, no one over forty of us got on the truck that day.

In two hours we were tens of thousands, possibly more than fifty thousand. We go down Brigadeiro towards the center and, suddenly, at Bixiga, Fafá de Belém appears to sing the national anthem. Why the anthem? Her idea, possibly, but her youthful youth, rocked by the repercussions of the miniseries Rebel years on television depicting 1968, he loved it.

There is always something jovial, laughing and happy in street demonstrations when people, hitherto politically inactive, discover the potency of their collective action. And there was not even a shadow of repression. The São Paulo Military Police, the same that would invade Carandiru, led by Fleury, two months later in October, did not threaten. We were many, but at the same time we were one will. Lindbergh was brimming with enthusiasm. The avenue exploded in an overwhelming way. It was clear that the Fora Collor campaign had changed levels. From that day on, it was a short, quick, fulminating process. On the 25th of August, the entire Anhangabaú, perhaps half a million people, heard Chico Buarque sing the water drop, and Lula was applauded.

Within weeks a few million had taken to the streets. On September 29, the Chamber of Deputies opened the process and impeachment by 441 votes in favor and 33 against. On the 29th of December, when the Senate was being judged, Collor resigned.

It was a key moment for my generation. In particular, for those with whom he shared his militancy in the Socialist Convergence. We had a great tactical success and two serious strategic mistakes, irreparable in the consequences. We agreed that it was possible to overthrow the first elected president after three decades. But: (a) we were wrong to underestimate the possibility of liberal-democratic stabilization in a country on the periphery; (b) we were even more wrong in betting on the possibility of disputing the mass influence of the PT on the left; (c) we made a mistake in not being able to avoid the explosion of the revolutionary current, essentially Latin American, in which we were inserted.

At the root of these errors was an objectivist interpretation of Marxism. Objectivism is a methodological error, an excess of determinism, a type of doctrinalism. It consists in the marginalization or devaluation of subjective conditions. The overestimation of the objective maturity of the crisis for the precipitation of revolutionary situations is fed by a catastrophic view of capitalism. But intellectual errors in analysis and perspectives are also always conditioned by social pressures.

Of course, everything that happens in the story for the first time is very difficult to understand. In assessing the historical dynamics of liberal democratic regimes, the unexpected, unusual and unforeseen aspects of what became the long stability of liberal-democratic regimes in Latin America weighed heavily, until the second decade of the XNUMXst century opened, with the coups d'état institutional.

Leon Trotsky had predicted in the XNUMXs, in a conversation with the Argentine trade unionist Mateo Fossa, that it was unlikely that long-lasting liberal democratic regimes would be possible in peripheral countries, such as those that Europe knew before the First World War. That was our strategic perspective. We were betting on the imminence of a revolutionary situation in Brazil and Argentina. The proletarian social explosion led to the anticipation of Menem's inauguration in Argentina, before Alfonsín had completed his mandate, and the trigger of the explosion of the student movement in Brazil, dragging hundreds of thousands into the streets and imposing Collor's impeachment, rocked us. We were impressed and we were wrong.

The second mistake was the underestimation of the PT's strength and support for Lula's leadership. We believed that, given the extreme gravity of the economic and social crisis inflamed by superinflation, and the quietist line that emerged victorious at the First Congress of the PT, it was unreasonable to accept the conditions required by the Articulação to remain an “invisible” internal current in the face of social movements. of pasta. What happened next proved us wrong. The majority leadership of the PT was relocated in August 1992, it arrived late, after the UNE lit the spark, but it supported the mobilizations by Fora Collor. Lula was the main speaker at Candelária and Vale do Anhangabaú.

The summary of the opera is that we overthrew Collor, a tactical victory, but suffered a strategic defeat. We had to wait ten years for Lula to be elected in 2002. Needless to say, none of this was easy. Ten years is a long time. When people of my generation say, lightly, that something wasn't easy, it doesn't just mean that it was difficult. I mean it was really bad. Or really shit.

Valerio Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).


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