We must not shy away from taking to the streets on September 7th

Image: Joanne Adela Low
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By VALERIO ARCARY*

The “quietist” illusion that it is possible to win without taking risks is a mistake

“Remember to dig the well well before you get thirsty” (Mediterranean popular wisdom).

“Three things will be good for you in small doses and harmful in large ones: yeast, salt and hesitation” (Jewish popular wisdom).

Those who play at a standstill cannot win. Experts say that, alongside Pelé, Coutinho was a “genius” inside the penalty area: he mastered the great art of “playing while standing still”, and could decide the game with a body dribble, opening up space for the kick. But football has changed. The game is much more athletic, fast, intense, cerebral, and the occupation of spaces depends on a collective movement with greater tactical complexity. The time when a game could be decided with a decisive move, with few touches on the ball, betting everything on the opponent's mistake, is behind us.

The same goes for political struggle. The “quietist” illusion that it is possible to win without taking risks is a mistake. The idea that we can wait for the 2022 elections to measure forces with Bolsonarism is a quietist illusion. Time does not necessarily always run in our favor. Tomorrow could be worse. Bolsonaro is not Fernando Henrique, and 2022 will not be 2002, it will be tumultuous.

Staying “quiet” and resigning prematurely from the fight for impeachment is a serious mistake. We have until December to try to push for Bolsonaro Out. We will have to take risks. It seems difficult, but it's not impossible. The coming September 7th, for example, puts the left in front of a dilemma.

A dilemma is a difficult choice, between bad and very bad, because both hypotheses are complicated. Bolsonaro calls for acts in São Paulo and Brasília, but the Fora Bolsonaro campaign had already defined this date as a national day of mobilization. However, Doria decides to ban the act in São Paulo and indicates the 12th of September, knowing full well that the MBL, a right-wing opposition movement, has scheduled its protest for that day in Paulista.

The two fronts, Brasil Popular and Povo sem Medo, together with the Black Coalition for Rights, decided to keep going to the streets for September 7 in São Paulo and Brasília, but changing the place of concentration. In São Paulo, to Anhangabaú. If we retreat, even keeping the call in the rest of the country, we leave Bolsonarism with the leading role in the streets without dispute in the two capitals. This retreat is not impossible, but it is not painless. We must make a calm but firm calculation.

Bolsonaro is not an unburied corpse, he will not fall from maturity, he will not ask for resignation, he will have to be defeated. It is true that the far-right government is experiencing an uninterrupted weakening dynamic, albeit slowly. The calculation that this dynamic will continue indefinitely until the 2022 elections is a form of magical thinking.

No one can predict the outcome of the power struggle this far in advance. The idea that Bolsonaro is the “ideal” electoral enemy in 2022 was already wrong in 2018. Whoever is in the presidency is a very dangerous candidate. He is capable of anything. We fall prey to “magical thinking” when we believe our desires are stronger than anything else. It is an illusion of omnipotence, a “childish” relic.

In the span of the last thirty days, since the 24th of July, the last national day of street demonstrations, Bolsonaro has plunged into a frenetic agitation and opened an institutional crisis: he launched a campaign for the approval of printed votes; insulted the son of a bitch the president of the TSE, Minister Barroso; posed for pictures in front of a military march of tanks in front of the Palace; he organized motociatas across the country; presented an impeachment request against Judge Alexandre de Moraes of the STF; and, finally, after agitation by Military Police officers, he called his social support base to the streets for September 7th. He has to be stopped. The day of September 7th is therefore our challenge. Not to do so would be a mistake. It won't be irreparable, but still, a mistake.

Tactical error cannot fail to be seriously considered. A lost opportunity can only be replaced much later. The biggest driving force for the left to move, once again, hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, if not more, are Bolsonaro's uninterrupted provocations.

Bolsonaro has been making mistakes, systematically, and we must take advantage of the open gap. Food inflation, the danger of an electrical blackout, the slowness of vaccination and the spread of contagion of the Delta strain, unemployment that does not decrease and the revelations of the Senate CPI, the barbarities of the Minister of Education and the stupidity of the president of the Foundation Palmares, the impunity of Pazzuelo. Bolsonaro underestimates the economic and social crisis. He believes it is possible to remain in power and walk “free, light and loose” towards 2022 supported by the armor of Centrão. Bolsonaro makes mistakes, the left cannot make mistakes.

All the great popular mobilizations in history have opened the door for the shift of the government on duty by exploiting these errors. There are dangers, of course, but we shouldn't fear raising the temperature of social tensions. Bolsonaro's bet on igniting the political fury of his social base also involves many risks and may fail.

There are limits to political obtuseness. The French Revolution of 1789 began because the Bourbons refused to back down from imposing higher taxes at the meeting of the Estates General and open a passage to a constitutional monarchy sooner. Tsarism precipitated the February 1917 revolution because it did not break with London and Paris to accept a separate peace with Berlin. The Weimar Republic collapsed in the face of Nazism because it refused to accelerate social reforms that would guarantee work for all. reveal that tomorrow cannot be like yesterday. There are limits.

When a government demands sacrifices from the masses beyond what they consider reasonable, it exposes itself to maximum vulnerability. When the masses no longer trust that their lives will be able to improve, or even when they are convinced that they will not stop getting worse, the different perceptions of what would be possible become distant.

That a government disregards the signs of popular dissatisfaction is a banal conclusion. Bolsonaro is still working with the hypothesis that economic recovery will come before October 2022. It is not the most likely. But the error, irrelevant under normal circumstances, only occupies a central, irreversible and decisive place when the government's room for maneuver to absorb pressures within the institutions of the regime is reduced, and the sphere of the streets begins to prevail. There is no error immunity. Therefore, a smaller margin of political errors in favor of the government or the left-wing opposition can decide the direction of the fight.

A historic opportunity could be lost. It is difficult to know today the consequences of the upcoming September 7th. But Bolsonaro's coup blackmail is indivisible from the repositioning he seeks for the elections. If you manage to survive and make it to the second round, anything is possible. Current polls cannot be our compass. The danger of a re-election is the threat of a historic defeat.

If it happens, it will take many years, another historical period, for a new opportunity to open up again. Which means that the crisis manifests itself in this urgency for the future. The error consists of blindness in the face of a changing correlation of social forces, because one hesitates and postpones a confrontation that could not be postponed.

There is indecision in our social foundations. The masses are not innocent, but it is not the popular classes that err: it is their leaders. Between classes and their directions there is a subtle but contradictory relationship. Party ideas only become material force when they penetrate, as they say, the “hearts and minds” or “muscles and nerves” of the crowd. That is, leftist parties need to maintain dialogue with the humor of the classes they support, or they are condemned to marginality.

But, paradoxically, if they succumb to the often volatile pressure of the moods of the masses, because they are unstable, they cease to be useful. The masses applaud organizations that reaffirm the conclusions they have already reached, but expect their leaders to look ahead, to indicate a path that they intuit, but doubt.

In the popular classes, the perspective of power historically proves to be an extraordinarily difficult process to build. In situations of stability, that is, defensiveness, the masses always fight on a terrain of resistance. They don't do it with a pre-elaborated plan of a model they want to build, but with the need to overthrow the government they hate.

But they cannot make the journey alone. They need a point of support to overcome all the insecurities that they keep inside: because they arrive at political conclusions at different paces, and they can launch themselves into decisive combat either too soon or too late.

Strictly speaking, therefore, there is, to some extent, a displacement, a mismatch, between classes and their representations that reveals and, at the same time, hides a will and a conflict. This mismatch defines the relative autonomy of the policy.

The energy of popular mobilization can dissipate if it does not find political instruments to express it. To the streets September 7th.

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

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