it's not performance



The left needs to recover for itself the ownership of the actions of rebellion, the control over this undoubted force that a multitude possesses

On January 8, 2023, a group of people, who had already been camping in the Federal District since October, advanced on the buildings and buildings of the three powers of the Brazilian Republic. The constitutionalists commented that the attempted coup was a crime, as it was not foreseen in the constitution. Such functionalist myopia did not allow intellectuals to understand that, for a coup to take shape, its constitutional provision is an impossibility.

Even so, even with the repeal of the National Security Law in 2022, the counterinsurgency policy – ​​this attempt to regulate what is outside the rule – advanced even further, when the attempt to abolish the democratic State of law was expressly typified as crime against order.

Since 2013, in Brazil, the right has occupied a traditional place on the left, in terms of its collection of direct actions and demonstrations. Among them, occupations of public buildings, overthrowing of symbols such as statues and monuments to marches and demonstrations. Thus, the right repeats the repertoire of the left. But the latter does so on principle and out of necessity. Aware of the pedagogical character of collective work, social movements and political organizations have collective action as their means and end. It is not, therefore, the means of direct action, nor the action of the crowd that qualifies the subjects and actions of Sunday. It is the end, its purpose. Even if the end determines the form that the means takes.

In the case of Sunday, occupying the buildings was not enough. It was necessary to destroy the patrimony as much as possible, since, in this way, the general act would play not only a tactical role, but also a strategic one, of dismantling the public machine, destroying national memory and culture, making public services unfeasible and demoralizing the symbols of sovereignty . It is necessary to pay attention to the role of Bolsonarism as a kind of stabilizer of democracy, the latter restricted to governance, to that degree of participation that does not include direct action and that cannot advance, as it is a structural obstacle to the very survival of capitalism, in the periphery.


Bolsonarist effectiveness

It is in this sense that we believe that Sunday's acts were not performative. According to their determining characteristics, the Bolsonarists' invasions are neither isolated, nor ephemeral, nor extraordinary actions. These are actions that had been taking place for three months, in an accumulation, and which had as a mirror what happened in the Capitol, in the USA, in 2021, having been, repeatedly, announced that they would be, repeated. As with any occupation, the biggest challenge for those who camped in front of barracks and military commands was not getting in, it was getting out. She had to be honorable and successful. For this reason, his perseverance aimed and aims – due to its nature as a war of movement and position, with movements and occupations of concrete spaces and power – the maintenance and expansion of a power already conquered by Jair Bolsonaro.

In this sense, Bolsonarist acts, so far, are performative. When they are carried out, they already obtain an intended result, given that the suspension of the law and the reaffirmation of direct force, via, for example, a federal intervention, already corresponds to what those who only recognize the most violent forces of the State seek. In other words, it is necessary to pay attention to the effectiveness of Bolsonaristas: the statements they emit produce immediate effects, their speech acts are clearly understandable.

In the field of linguistics, some might suggest that these are illocutionary acts. The people and circumstances that make up the actions present conventions, shared rules of conduct, are appropriate for the invocation of the action. The action is performed mutually, with people actually sharing a thought and a feeling, having the intention to carry out the action subsequently. Philosopher John Austin's Six Rules. Rules that, in turn, are no longer observed in many collective actions of the left. Even in the preventive self-defense action itself, which, without dimension of the risks it runs, reveals how much the Lula government is not aware of what it represents and the real risks it could pose to conservatives.

Karl Marx was a strong critic of the form of the coup as a political action to conquer power. This, incidentally, was the most immediate criticism he directed, right at the beginning of the Paris Commune experience. Following this tradition, Lenin and Gramsci dedicated themselves to articulating political struggle and economic struggle. They were aware of the need to build a hegemony capable of experimenting with different forms of organization in civil society. That is, the Marxist field starts from the premise of a dialectical relationship between political consciousness and the struggle for rights, as well as the struggle in the name of desire – with roots in Hegel – and the relationship between State and civil society. Thus, the conjugation between organized and spontaneous action becomes relevant, with the concept of performative action also serving us as a conceptual tool to understand organized actions that simulate spontaneity, such as those on Sunday.

The seizure of power is not like a great night, even if it involves great deeds. The latter, above all, need to be repeated, that is, they need to be instituted in their most everyday sense, of liberating insistence. Throughout the week, in a conservative insistence, more than one hundred buses circulated in the Federal District, mobilizing thousands of people, with the support of the military police and the local government.

We heard many say that we had never witnessed, in Brazil, actions like these, which allow us a better approximation of what would be an insurrectionary act. Actions that were common in times when the seat of the national government was in the State of Guanabara, and that update the perspective of disobedience as a dimension of political action, very restricted today to demonstration actions. Marches and petitions fit better into the functionalist aesthetics of current times, in which each political force fulfills its function: the right accumulates and the left protests.

The contesting action of the institutions of order is, however, part of the revolutionary grammar, whether in its conservative sense, or in its transforming sense, of changing the form of social organization. Occupation and depredation are not substantive, they are means. The method of occupation and destruction is adopted in every revolutionary process, in any of its many moments.

This is how it happened, for example, in the French Revolution, the bourgeois revolution, with the famous fall of the Bastille, in which the great leaders like Danton remained distant from the front, reserved for the common people, for the plebs. Similar means were adopted in the Haitian Revolution, the latter, however, as a repetition of the new, as a denial of what the French revolutionaries did, in the colonization of Haiti, by the affirmation of French values.


The Root of the Radicals

This Sunday, the action of breaking order was repeated as a farce, in its faithful condition, of inversion: with an almost dreamlike aesthetic, that of someone who dares to do anything, a mass repeated, in reverse, great historical events that marked the process of independence and self-determination of nations around the world and that make up, until today, the imagination of many militants.

Many liberating and transforming, socialist and nationalist revolutions serve as a reference when it comes to taking power. The Russian Revolution is the most magnificent example. In Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, the insurrectionary processes implied overcoming something that produced an ultimate, resulting from the radical effort – to go to the root – of concepts such as freedom, equality and fraternity, in the substance of what independence is.

More than one Acting Out, as an imaginary realization of invisible people such as indigenous people, workers, seeking to be heard, the Sunday acts in the Federal District are Passages to the Act, actions without mediation and unproductive elimination – in the style of a speculative oligarchy – that make use of of revolutionary methods with conservative ends. The end served by this means is social fraying, lawlessness and the politics of the strongest. In response, it is up to President Lula to demand order and not deepen the suspension of the rule. In the style of the Haitians, it is necessary to go to the root of the concepts of order itself: security and control, in its radical sense, of clear demarcation and containment of those who effectively threaten the self-determination of the Brazilian people.

Contrary to a performative characterization of Sunday's acts, some analysts suggest that Bolsonaristas' actions did not have any consequences. It was done in a weekend, with the institutions emptied. However, it is necessary to pay attention to the aspects that allow the duration, boldness and authenticity of the actions that began in October and that, at best, culminated in this Sunday of the three powers.

For these elements to exist, verisimilitude is necessary, which, in more consequential terms, involves: (i) history – great deeds to be repeated – that serves as a libidinal bonding of a certain crowd, which, thus, feels alive and imbued with meaning of living; (ii) ideological adherence – self-recognition in that representation, through symbolic heritage built over years, through various institutions such as family, church, school, work; e) structure – material support with money and resources involving some level of power.

The government of the Federal District, part of the Federal Police, militias, businessmen, landowners, agribusiness staff make up these necessary elements for the maintenance and advancement of actions. This sense of sacrifice is only possible due to the strong presence of a clear sense that justifies acts on behalf of these institutions, which are recognized and hold authority today.

The left needs to regain ownership of the actions of rebellion, control over this undoubted force that a crowd possesses, when it wants and fights for what it wants. But for this to happen, it is necessary to combine the instituted and the instituting, the ability to collapse and the responsibility to build up, fighting those symbolic legacies that still entangle conservatives, building new structures of power that are more and more democratic. That is the only way any Brazilian revolution will have fraternity among men as its direction, going to the root of what it means to be radically human.

*Clarisse Gurgel is a political scientist, professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at UNIRIO.


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