Our future is right there

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

Lula's passage through Europe and the Brazilian potential for acting in the world field

I go back to my guts to talk about the planetary role that Brazil will soon be called upon to play. Our future is right around the corner, I repeat. I don't want to exaggerate, much less assume the air of a prophet, but I feel like I'm running that risk again, malgré moi même. I will try to hold the wave.

I have already written about our country's planetary role in previous articles in this column, published last July and August on the website the earth is round: “Brazil, country-planet”  and "The Path of Good Hope”. They were somewhat delusional articles, I admit. But this time I have what journalists call a “hook”. And what a “hook”! I'm talking about the resounding success of former President Lula's recent European tour. To the surprise of many here in Brazil, including the left, but not for me, the former president received the treatment of head of state and world leadership in the various European countries he visited.

I will not deal with the trip itself, which was widely talked about on social media, in the European media and even, albeit reluctantly, in the local corporate media. I would just like to emphasize what this European triumph could portend for a future Lula government. I will try to be serene and objective, even though the subjects “Brazil” and “Brazil in the world” necessarily have a strong emotional charge for us Brazilians.

 

The Brazil-Lula Conjunction

As Lula himself pointed out, the reception was not only for him, but for the great country that is Brazil. I know that this great country is unrecognizable, since the 2016 coup and especially with the Bolsonaro government, but Brazil's admirers and interlocutors in Europe are hoping that this is just a bad phase. They know, from their own experience, that bad or even bad times have been part of the history of many great nations. They are giving us some credit, therefore. Evidently, patience has a limit, and if Brazil re-elects the current president, we will have exhausted our credit as a country in Europe and in other parts of the world. But it is natural that Lula, who today comfortably leads all polls of voting intentions for the 2022 elections, has been received with due attention, as a former and possible future president of one of the planet's giants.

I insist on a crucial point: Lula would never have the impact he had and could have, in Europe and the rest of the world, if he were the great leader of a small country. Pepe Mujica, for example, is an extraordinary figure, but Uruguay is not a sufficient basis for world or even regional leadership. Xanana Gusmão is another exceptional leader, a kind of Nelson Mandela in Southeast Asia, but Timor-Leste is a country even smaller than Uruguay. Which makes the big difference. at this moment, it is the conjunction Brazil/Lula.

Frankly, I don't see any exaggeration in what I've just said. It may well be that the reader has serious and legitimate reservations about Lula, and has read the previous paragraphs with astonishment and even disgust. Like many Brazilians, I also had and still have disagreements with Lula. And no one is a hero up close. Unaccustomed as we are to having Lula as a compatriot, we prefer, sometimes, to remember his mistakes and limitations. And yet, the fact is that since Nelson Mandela, a leadership of potentially universal reach has not appeared in a country of medium or large size.

 

Planetary vacuum, Brazil's potential

There is a third element that makes room for the Brazil-Lula conjunction. I am referring to a certain leadership vacuum on the planet. As fate would have it, Brazil was given the opportunity to resume its course at a time when the international scene is dominated by disintegrating tendencies, which prevent countries from acting in a coordinated and cooperative manner.

I am deliberately using strong and ambitious words to underscore the tremendous opportunity that opens up for our country – not to lead anyone, but to serve a greater cause. Brazil will never be an arrogant country. Lula does not sin for this defect either and shows himself, in this point as in others, to be typically Brazilian, with a remarkable capacity to harbor in himself what is best in us as a people. We are not going to present ourselves, therefore, as candidates for leadership that no one has offered us and will not offer us. Let us stop this habit of presenting ourselves as “world leaders” to our friends in the United States who, president in, president out, are always compelled to proclaim themselves leaders, if not of the world, at least of the West.

Europeans are aware of this world vacuum, now aggravated by the departure of Angela Merkel. Thus, they see Lula as an ally in the fight against problems that transcend the national or even European orbit.

With Lula in the Presidency from 2023, Brazil will regain influence and even protagonism in the G-20, in the BRICS, in the WTO, in the UN and in other areas. To anyone who might be doubting this, I remind you of a significant fact. If he does return to the Presidency, Lula will be, along with Putin, the only leader of the BRICS and the G-20 who was present in 2008 – the year of the formation of the BRICS and the transformation of the G-20 into a forum of leaders. He will return to the scene with an experience and experience of all these subjects that almost no one else has.

Due to one of those strange ironies that History is full of, a country today reduced to the condition of a pariah in the world, will soon have a great presence in the issues that concern all peoples, Europeans, North Americans, Latin Americans and Caribbeans, Asians, Africans. Presence in the climate issue, in facing pandemics, in the fight against hunger, misery and inequality, in overcoming the serious problems of Africa, in the fight against tax evasion of the super-rich who send their wealth to tax havens, and so on against. All these problems depend on cooperation between countries, and cannot be solved at a strictly national level, not even by the main powers.

Where does all this confidence in Brazil's future international action come from? You can ask the reader suspiciously. Distrust is more than justified, I know. But, as I explained in the previous articles cited above, what I have been writing is not based on a pretentious and mysterious ability to anticipate the future, but on experiences. I summarize what I said in these articles in one sentence: I was a witness and participant in the rise of Brazil in the world during the Lula government and, to a lesser extent, in the Dilma government. It was a long period in which our country proved capable, finally, of behaving in line with its dimensions and its potential to act in the world field. And the Brazilian contribution was positive not only for us, but also for other countries.

I would like to add an aspect that I have not mentioned in previous articles. When I went abroad to work as Executive Director at the IMF, in 2007, my nationalism was strong, ingrained, running in my blood, so to speak. But there was something narrow, exclusive, Brazilian, only Brazilian. In the more than ten years that I would spend abroad, I began to realize that Brazil radiated a different and broader message to the rest of the world at that time. It was not just a great country fighting tooth and nail for its interests, but something more – a nation that showed itself, like no other great nation, capable of generously and cooperatively welcoming the interests and aspirations of other countries, large or small. , rich or poor, similar or different, near or far. Little by little, I came to understand, not through reading or studying, but through contacts with countries from all corners of the planet, that the Brazilian national project could not be exclusive, only national, only Brazilian. that would need to be universal.

Just as Dostoyevsky prophesied, in the XNUMXth century, that Russia would bring a New Word to the world, even with capital letters – and in fact it would in the XNUMXth century, as we know, albeit in a controversial and tumultuous way –, Brazil seems to be destined to bring a New Word into the XNUMXst century. A message of cooperation, solidarity, understanding and justice. A message that is needed now, perhaps more than ever, for a humanity that is threatened by the climate crisis, pandemics, wars and threats of war, inequality and the misery in which so many still live.

Lula is visibly aware of the role he could play. See, for example, the opening speech she gave in the European Parliament on November 15th. It is enough to quote the first sentence: “I want to start by speaking not about Latin America, nor about the European Union, nor about any country, continent or economic bloc in particular, but about the vast world in which we all live – Latin Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, human beings of the most different origins.”

 

The far right is not dead

I don't want to get too excited. I ask for your understanding, reader. Brazilians who love our country, after years of intense suffering, are glimpsing a reunion with the future and, as in the verse of Fernando Pessoa, “laughing like someone who has been crying a lot”. I hasten, however, to make a caveat. When I say "fate" maybe I'm not using the right word. It would be better to talk – who knows? – in “opportunity”, or in “historic opportunity”. But these words, a bit overused, do not have the emotional charge of “destiny”, the emotional charge that is up to the challenge, an immense challenge, that opens up to Brazil and that I tried to summarize above.

Anyway, I repeat what I said in one of the previous articles: nothing prevents Brazil from continuing to be unfaithful to its destiny, wallowing in mediocrity, injustice and selfishness. Our choice is between a planetary destiny and the extreme right, with Moro or, what would seem more feasible, re-electing Bolsonaro.

Let's not deceive ourselves. Bolsonarism is part of an international movement, which suffered a major setback with Trump's defeat in 2020, but which is far, far from liquidated. Just look at what is happening, for example, in Chile, or in France and other European countries. Incidentally, another factor that explains Lula's reception in Europe is the perception of many European politicians that he is an important ally against a dangerous extreme right, which has significant support in several developed countries.

 

Deep crisis, quick recovery

I'm finishing. I know that much of what I've written can seem over-the-top, extravagant, and even fanciful. Recent years have been excruciating, no doubt. They corroded our energies, shattered our hopes, perhaps irretrievably. But I don't believe it.

It seems to me important not to feed the negative. A good part of Brazilians, disillusioned with dreaming, now dedicate themselves to cultivating nightmares, with care and affection. It is stated, for example, that the ongoing destruction poses an impossible task for the country, that the dismantling of the state apparatus will make it impossible for the new government to act for a long time, that the international demoralization of Brazil will take many years to overcome.

What, however, does Lula's European tour show? Among other things, the recovery of Brazilian prestige abroad could take weeks, not years. It may seem more like an extravagance on my part. But the deeper the crisis, the faster and more surprising the recovery can be. The dynamics of national crises and their overcoming are not always duly taken into account. When emerging from overwhelming difficulties, a country suddenly finds energies and means it didn't even know existed. The first successes, even if incipient and small, generate a recovery of spirit and, without much delay, the perception is consolidated that the crisis will be overcome and that, with the suffering, much has been learned that will be of use to us in the regeneration phase and expansion.

And we will understand how true Nietzsche's warning is: "From the war school of life - what does not kill us, makes us stronger". Brazil survived and is getting ready to resume its path, its planetary destiny.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS in Shanghai. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard: backstage of the life of a Brazilian economist in the IMF and the BRICS and other texts on nationalism and our mongrel complex (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal Capital letteron November 26, 2021.

 

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