We, the sewer divers

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By Joelson Gonçalves de Carvalho*

We don't have the streets, that's for sure. That is why it is essential that we have strong keels to break in half the waves of authoritarianism, barbarism and necropolitics

Act 1 – About the title

I need to start by explaining the title given to this article. Unfortunately, this is not due to my admiration for Chico Buarque, a composer who, after managing to put a resounding “parallelepiped” in one lyric, years later, repeated the feat by inserting a “scuba diving” in another.

I would like it to be Chico's fault, but it was Bolsonaro's fault, the president of a country in which the people, according to him, dive into the sewer and nothing happens.

I confess that I was undecided on how to title these pages. If I had been inspired by Velez Rodrigues, the first minister of education in that government, I would have put “We, the cannibals on a journey”, but, with that belated memory, I would run the risk of discrediting Mr. Weintraub, current member of the MEC. For him, I would call this article “We the Fat Zebras”. But, between us, the most tempting thing was to honor the Minister of the Economy, Mr. Guedes, giving these lines the title: “We, the parasites”, but that last option was quite old fashioned after the success of the South Korean film of the same name compromised the novelty of the possible title.

This unusual and caricatured start to such a serious subject was not random. It serves to show how Bolsonaro and his handpicked team see us. Anyway, that's the title and, in a certain sense, I tend to believe that this one is very faithful to what we are living: we are plunged into the sewer.

Act 2 - ship runaway

Bolsonaro did not need a virus to help him in his necropolitics, but as little misfortune is nonsense, the virus came and, paradoxically, at the same time that it forced many people to wear masks, it managed to remove Bolsonaro's from part of his captive electorate. The others are already hoarse with their “I told you so”.

Eyes wide open were those who jumped out of the boat. Among many others, Janaina Paschoal and Joice Hasselmann had already disembarked. Alexandre Frota and even Lobão. More recently, looking at the next elections, we cannot forget the governors of São Paulo, João Dória, and of Rio, Wilson Witzel.

But it was in recent weeks, sailing in the midst of a pandemic, that the captain-helmsman of the boat showed all his ineptitude, in addition to insisting on a false dichotomy between health and economy, he dismissed the minister of health amid an escalation of contagions and deaths, with a strong tone of mockery the health crisis we are experiencing and the deaths it has caused. After Bolsonaro made Mandetta walk the plank, Sérgio Moro, his now former superminister of justice, jumped ship.

The ship goes aimlessly, adrift, to the despair of those who believed that one day we would sail in calm waters and, perhaps, we would even manage to dock on some island in Lilliput, where we would be great. The phrase attributed to Celso Furtado continues to be startling due to its relevance: “At no other moment in our history was the distance between what we are and what we want to be so great.”

Act 3 – Helliberalism

In the midst of a leftist outburst, I could say that it is obvious that the president is just a cog in the capitalist gear that has, in its functioning, the clear purpose of, in the midst of a crisis of expanded capital reproduction, to carry out reforms to guarantee the maintenance of profitability margins for entrepreneurs, based on adjustments that invariably fall on the working class. But this is insufficient.

The presence of Paulo Guedes, minister of ExxonMobil, disguised as Posto Ipiranga, is not enough to qualify this government as liberal or neoliberal. The agenda of the government and part of the business community is more draconian than the most pessimistic of analysts could have expected. 

It is a neoliberal agenda, but not only! We already knew that there was, in Bolsonaro and his financiers-guarantors, a total contempt for a significant part of Brazilian society. There were attacks of all sorts against black people, indigenous people, women, the LGBTQIA+ population, homeless, landless. But with Covid-19 it became clear: the State is choosing who should live and who should die. This has a name: necropolitics.

We are witnessing a neoliberalism so hideous that it reminds me of Dante's Inferno in the Divine Comedy. I even allow myself a neologism, making use of the sound of the word hell in English: we live in a hellliberalism.

Act 4 – of unity

For Bolsonaro, the people dive into the sewer and nothing happens. It is against this “nothing happens” that we need to mobilize in the coming weeks. It is difficult in the context presented, to know exactly what to do. However, it's easy to know what not to do: hesitate! If the institutional conditions for an impeachment are given or not, this should not, in any way, determine or not the actions of the progressive forces that we have, on the contrary. The tergiversation or immobility of these forces is now what can determine the absence of such institutional conditions for an impeachment.

With Bolsonaro approaching Centrão, increasing the physiology and bargaining already present in his government, it tends to become more difficult for the National Congress to play a role in a process of removal of the president. And according to the laconic notes of the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, every time Bolsonaro commits flagrant acts against democracy, nothing will come of it. The cadaverous silence of the Federal Supreme Court, in its generic public notes, also induces me to think the same of the STF. And even the accusations that Sergio Moro made, when announcing his departure from the government, about possible crimes that Bolsonaro was responsible for in the government, do not make me more optimistic in this regard.

Parties, unions, civil society organizations, class entities, social movements need to understand the historical moment we are in. It is not a stereotypical simplistic struggle between “right versus left”. The fight is against a project of generalized barbarism led by a Boeotian.

No one expects that the progressive forces listed here are the haven of harmony. It will be necessary to overcome the historic autophagy, notably in leftist parties, so that, with a minimum of convergence, we can move forward with a resounding “Bolsonaro out”, mobilizing various sectors of society for the imperative of impeachment.

As Mayakovsky said, the sea of ​​history is rough. We don't have the streets, that's for sure. That is why it is fundamental that we have strong keels to break in half the waves of authoritarianism, barbarism and necropolitics.

* Joelson Gonçalves de Carvalho Professor of Economics at the Department of Social Sciences at UFSCar

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