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By RICARDO MUSSE*

The demonstrations of Brazilian billionaires about “Bolsonaro Out”

There is an intense public debate within the center-left and even the traditional right – voiced in what is left of Brazilian public opinion – about what to do with Jair M. Bolsonaro. In it, almost no word is heard from the most powerful sector of society, the capitalist class. Entities representing agrarian, industrial and financial capital (CNA, CNI, Fiesp, Fierj, Febraban etc.) maintain a deafening silence, amidst the rapapés with minister Paulo Guedes. A popular saying at the time of the military dictatorship, “who is silent, consents”, thus becomes very current.

Meanwhile, based on comments from political journalism, ideologies aimed at covering up the (ir)responsibility of the Brazilian ruling class are being disseminated. Contrary to logic, they maintain that the genocidal, anti-national, disruptive government remains because: (a) its fall would not interest the PT, Lula and the left in general; (b) the division of the left would prevent joint action; (c) Bolsonaristas, with their industry fake news, would ensure the individual's popularity for the time being president. The most recent product of this “factory of ideologies” is the attribution of blame to the poorest sections of the population, imaginarily converted to Bolsonarism due to the payment of emergency aid – thus releasing the moral discourse that overflows in supposedly refined tones the prejudices of class.

Members of the select club of Brazilian billionaires are beginning, however, to manifest themselves. As is always the case in courts, the first to speak is the buffoon. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in interviews and in a series of posts on social media, explicitly positioned himself against impeachment, recommending historical patience, tolerance and even “respect for the popular vote” (sic) [1]. In your most recent post on Twitter he places himself as an adviser to the president following the movements of Roberto Jefferson and Michel Temer.

The Brazilian capitalist class is and will be eternally grateful to FHC. In the exercise of the presidency, he adopted the parity of the Real, instantly transforming with this magic stroke the local millionaires and billionaires, holders of new cruzeiros, into holders of fortunes in dollars. To this day, the nation pays the trillionaire cost of this in the form of interest on the public debt. Natural, therefore, that FHC, with his stratospheric vanity, positions himself as political leadership and programmatic formulator of the capitalist class. It is, however, an ideological inversion. Its moral decay can be described by means of a slogan – “from prince of sociology to lackey of capital”.

Abílio Diniz – a billionaire who owes his fortune to the competence of the CEOs of the Pão de Açucar group, but poses self-made man –, now a rentier/investor, published an article in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, on June 06, 2020, reaffirming its support for the “bridge to the future” agenda, revamped by Paulo Guedes’ reform program (sic). Ali repeats the economic team's mantra that “there is no lack of resources in the world of negative interest rates nor interested investors”. He calls out to Congress for legal stability and legal norms (in what was promptly heard, see the vote on the Sanitation Framework law) and demands speed, in the path opened by Minister Ricardo Salles.

João Moreira Salles, partner of the financial conglomerate Itaú-Unibanco-BBA, one of the ten richest Brazilians according to data collected by the magazine Forbes [3], published an article in the July issue of the journal Piaui [4]. Maecenas, filmmaker, writer and journalist, João is recognized as the most brilliant member of this generation of billionaire intellectual heirs.

The article – as always very well written and which does not allow itself to be tarnished by pseudo-erudition – outlines an impeccable portrait of the figure of Jair M. Bolsonaro and the acts of his (mis)government. The president's personality is dissected from his public attitude towards mourning, from the observation that his “reaction to the suffering of others takes only two forms: jubilation or indifference”. Bolsonaro’s disregard for those killed by the pandemic, crystallized in his speech “So what?”, is contrasted with ecstasy and voluptuousness in the face of violence against those constituted as “enemies”. Through the cult of weapons, amorality presents itself as “liberating”, and the most primitive drive manifests itself with such intensity that – concludes Moreira Salles – “death excites him”.

Salles' analysis considers the speech given by Jair M. Bolsonaro at the dinner at the residence of the Brazilian ambassador in Washington, on March 18, 2019, as a government program letter, in front of the “cream” of the North American extreme right [5 ]. In the summary sentence of this brief speech he says: “Brazil is not an open terrain where we intend to build things for our people (…) we have to deconstruct a lot”. Moreira Salles lists the series of actions that turned the country into a “waste land”.

After defining the phenomenon, logic demands the determination of its causes. Salles is not exempt from the demands posed by modern science. After highlighting, with great relevance, the differences between Bolsonaro and the other autocrats on duty – Viktor Orbán, Recep Erdogan, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, etc. "And that. In 1964, power was taken by force. In 2018, 57,7 million Brazilians supported the worst version of an odious regime. Another 11 million voided or voted blank. In the end, perhaps it was inevitable that we would come to this. Bolsonaro is no different from the country that elected him. Not all of Brazil, not even most of Brazil (one hope), but a significant chunk of Brazil is like Bolsonaro. Violent, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, uneducated, indifferent. Wicked”.

The disparity between the space given to the explanation and that dedicated to the report of the phenomenon (48 paragraphs) is astonishing. Added to this is the mismatch between the power of the description and the apparent simplicity of the interpretation. I say apparent because some recurrent topics in the pseudo-scientific interpretation of the country are condensed there, such as the implicit thesis – recurrent justification of the udenista coup d'état – that Brazilians are always wrong in choosing their rulers.

Em History and class consciousness, Georg Lukács elaborated the famous distinction between the class consciousness of the proletariat and that of the bourgeoisie. According to him, the class consciousness of the owners of capital (and their representatives), or as he prefers to call it, their “unconsciousness” – delimited by the practical historical function of this class – prevents them from understanding the origin of social configurations. The class as a whole, as well as the individuals that compose it, are subject to this barrier [6]. The main characteristics of this reflexive lack are the disregard of history with the naturalization of the present and the attachment to immediate data that contribute to the concealment of social relations.

The article by João Moreira Salles does not take into account: (a) nor recent history (from the non-recognition by the PSDB of the legitimacy of the election of Dilma Roussef in 2014, through the 2016 coup, culminating in the arrest and silence to which he was condemned the main leader of the left during the 2018 electoral process); nor the social history of Brazil (the legacy of slavery, the inquisition, patriarchy and patrimonialism), not to mention the recurrent authoritarian configurations during the centuries of predominance of capitalist sociability.

In the pictures of this operation of transmutation of history into nature, João Salles' phrase fits like a glove – “perhaps it was inevitable that we would arrive at this”. This is not just a resigned posture, as it appears at first glance. In this merely contemplative attitude, the diagnosis formulated by Lukács in 1920 still prevails for the Brazilian capitalist class: “The bourgeoisie, cornered in a defensive position, fights only for its subsistence (however aggressive its means of struggle may be), it has lost irretrievably the driving force”[7].

*Ricardo Musse He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at USP.

Notes

[1] See https://twitter.com/FHC; https://radiojornal.ne10.uol.com.br/noticia/2020/06/26/acho-que-tem-que-ter-um-pouco-mais-de-tolerancia-diz-fhc-sobre-impeachment-de-jair-bolsonaro-190740.

[2] https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/opiniao/2020/06/o-obvio-tornou-se-incontornavel.shtml.

[3] https://economia.uol.com.br/noticias/redacao/2019/03/05/bilionarios-forbes-brasil-brasileiros.htm.

[4] https://piaui.folha.uol.com.br/materia/a-morte-no-governo-bolsonaro/.

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm9j0eS5iWY.

[6] Cf. Georg Lukacs. History and class consciousness, P. 383-384. São Paulo, WMF Martins Fontes, 2003. For a commentary on this topic see Ricardo Musse. “Rationalism and Reification in History and class consciousness”. In: magazine Social Time, v. 30, no. 3, p. 5-24. São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, 2018.

[7] Georg Lukacs. History and class consciousness, P. 170.

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