The civilizational character of change

Image: Mike


Never has a vote decided such relevance as the one that will be deposited in the electronic ballot boxes in this year's elections

the demarche authoritarian in Brazil

The next elections will take place in the context of an unprecedented crisis of democracy, in terms of its scope and depth on an international and national scale. A glance at some of the pre-candidates for the presidency, who will fight in the historic division, is enough to understand the advanced degree of deterioration of the democratic regime, among us.

In politics, the champion of continuity (Bolsonaro) and the postulant who hides in a fictitious “third way” (Moro) share the same neoliberal credo, therefore, anti-civilization. “Paulo Guedes is the best picture of this government”, says the magistrate who dishonored his toga and, therefore, was condemned by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) as incompetent and suspect. In economics, both share an identical penchant for fascism, by definition also anti-civilizational. The former Minister of Justice (ops), when in the mediocre exercise of the position, intended to legalize the “law of exclusion of illegality”. A license so that the armed authorities could kill in droves, under the allegation of “strong emotion”.

The then employee of the mismanagement of brutality sought legal authorization for the police to shoot first and ask questions later, with total impunity. The “monopoly of legitimate physical violence by the State”, theorized by Max Weber a century ago, should not be monitored by society and not even internal corporis by ostensible policing agents. A conception that extends to the “secret budget” in Congress and to the “parallel ministry” in the basements of the Planalto Palace, in spite of republican incumbencies. The rescue from prison in the second instance aimed to clean up the dark spots in the Lava Jato chief's biography, which did not succeed. At the same time, the mandate based on tailor-made decrees facilitated access to weapons by the militias. Choosing between the bales is like choosing between a Pepsi and a Coke. In doubt of bad or worse, better cross your arms.

“The name of this process is the criminalization of poverty, a true consecration of institutionalized racism”, in the accurate words of Luiz Eduardo Soares, in Bala Perdida: Police Violence in Brazil and the Challenges for Overcoming It (Boitempo & Carta Maior). It is not surprising that sectors of the Centrão, to crown the barbarism proposed to the country, articulate a ticket to run for state administration in São Paulo with the mentor of the request for impeachment, congresswoman Janaína Paschoal and Infrastructure Minister Tarcísio Freitas. Vade Retro. Lula da Silva's possible victory in the first round of presidential voting will throw Bolsonaro and Moro into the garbage can of hoaxes, adding to the Herculean effort to reinvent democracy to stop the gait of obscurantism and authoritarianism. The Brazilian electorate would thus move away from the Weimar Republic syndrome, a period in which people believed in curing illnesses with cheese. cottage (today, chloroquine) and to make gold with common metals (today, CBF shirts). False messiahs manipulate despair.


Suffering, freedom and civil peace

The Polish political scientist, based in the United States, Adam Przeworski, launched in 2019 a book immediately translated into Portuguese, democracy crises (Zahar). It contains a very synthetic concept of democracy. Namely, “a regime in which government occupiers lose elections and leave when they lose” (p. 29). It is a “minimalist and electoral” conceptualization of the formal metabolism of institutional bodies, regardless of the substance of the concrete demands in question. In this case, the procedural efficiency is of interest to the Touraine in the institutionalization of conflicts in society. The ritual of procedurality matters so that disruptive frictions do not impede governance in a systemic environment of freedom, perhaps to express the lack of freedom and civil peace, perhaps to suffer from hunger, unemployment and precariousness – without declaring war on the oppressors. The trick is to isolate the institutions in a bubble, far from the harsh reality.

In any case, the minimalist and electoral definition contemplates the perception of members of the Judiciary and the traditional majority in Parliament, in a liberal-type democracy. That is, capable of making use of repression to ensure “social order” against demonstrators in the streets. Even in situations where those rebel with the intention of denouncing a dynamic, set in motion by economic elites, to violate popular sovereignty and weaken the rule of law. The alert was raised by Puebla Group[I], meeting in Mexico on December 29, 30 and 1. The pretext that “institutions are working” serves as a smokescreen to hide spurious articulations. Not infrequently, to suffocate and shut up militarily the insurgents. A gloomy scenario that Latin America has already suffered and faced with fearlessness.

Przeworski is not surprised by the rise of the far right internationally. “The persistence of inequality is irrefutable proof that representative institutions do not work, at least not as nearly everyone thinks they should” (p. 13). A circumstance that was aggravated after the emblematic 1980s. A “lost” decade under the bias of economic growth and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries that were seduced and/or blackmailed by the ten commandments of the Washington Consensus, in an attempt to obtain loans with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

A “winning” decade in terms of neoliberalism and finance, which had the doors open for a lasting triumphal march. which continues despite the debacle real estate that ruined what seemed solid in the United States, notably the two thousand small banking institutions that closed. The irresponsible liberalist deregulations of the markets resulted in bankruptcies, radiating the chaotic crisis in the North and South hemispheres.


The people as subjects of politics

The neoliberal model opposed the values ​​of humanism and tore up the commitment to the Promethean promises of modernity: freedom, equality, solidarity. Freedom to form an autonomous opinion about public affairs, which commercial media do not allow. Equality of citizens before the Constitution, which structural inequalities do not make possible by creating the figure of sub-citizenship in the peripheries, the target of eugenics policies. Institutional solidarity with subordinated classes, which does not exist since poverty is seen as a problem of the poor, not a wound to be fought by the State.

In Europe, the convergence of government policies arising from different party orientations gave the impression, captured by postmodern authors, that ideologies were coming to an end. Right and left (read: social democracy), single-minded thinking celebrated fiscal responsibility, labor market flexibility, the free flow of capital, the collapse of unions, and lowering taxes on the highest earners. It was enough to evaporate the old and hard-earned social and labor rights. What to do?

For the professor at the University of New York, “direct democracy” is part of the shelf of “magic solutions”, given the growing dissatisfaction with the casemates of representation. Populism would have two aspects: (a) the “participatory” with roots in Rousseau, salutary but inconsequential and; (b) the “delegative” with roots in Schumpeter, always dangerous. “In elections, citizens are omnipotent; between them, they have no power… as many theorists of democracy think it should be” (p. 16). The risk is that, in the meantime, mediation (parties, legislatures, courts, etc.) in the established relationship between rulers and ruled will be eliminated. For a broader assessment of the controversial topic, see the article “The Left in the Labyrinth of Populism”, authored by me, available on this site.

Of course, the illustrious intellectual is unaware of the democratizing experiences in the Workers' Party (PT) governments, with the use of dozens of National Conferences born from all states of the federation, for the elaboration of public policies in areas of active interest of the whole of the population. Initiatives, yes, healthy and with productive consequences – even the coup. After all, points out Chantal Mouffe et al, “participatory populism” can coexist and improve the representative system, to make the people subjects of politics.


What's up for grabs

“Democracy works when something is at stake in elections, but not when too much is at stake” (p. 33). If, following Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Wendy Brown, we consider that the Hayek and Mises paradigm implied the emergence of a new standard of sociability, rationality and subjectivity – we will have a dramatic notion of what is in dispute in the future. As well as the dimension of the risk that hangs over the nation, with the specter that exudes neo-fascism. In native grammar, Bolsonarism. the shock of Weltanschauungs will be at the epicenter of the battles. There is no room for the “narcissism of small differences” between opposition parties. “As in the Polish proverb – the pessimist is the well-informed optimist” (p. 233).

The word crisis, in Greek, refers to decision. Never has a vote decided with such urgency as the one that will be deposited in the electronic ballot boxes in the month of revolutions (October). The option will be between autocratic illiberal democracy and the initial steps towards the resumption of humanist ideals, par excellence. It is what President Pedro Sánchez is now signaling in Spain as a “collective achievement”, to revoke the previously approved rules and rehearse the labor reform – from the left. Without forgetting to thank the brilliant world leadership of the partner Squid. Rede Globo struggles to maintain the faux “bridge to the future”, which justified the decorative Temer’s buffer mandate and the disaster of the sinister Bolsonaro. It's understandable, not acceptable. The dogs bark, the post-neoliberal caravan advances.

The dignity of politics depends on the courage of democrats and socialists. The mission of governing is not to be confused with the trick of giving benefits to the markets. The “managers” who privatized strategic companies are servants of capital, without a shred of public awareness. Their crimes against the homeland must be repaired. To govern is to do politics with a clear profile in the class struggle. In Brazil, the complicating factor comes from the unwanted position of the military (more than ten thousand) spread across the countless compartments of the state apparatus.

It is a pity that our uniqueness does not fit into the jubilation of Przeworskian analysis. “The final but important difference between the past and the present, an encouraging difference, is that the military has virtually disappeared from the political scene” (p. 167). “The military shouldn't have any institutional power, but they are the ones with the guns” (p. 184). To evoke the award-winning novel by Chico Buarque, here is the “obstacle” to be removed for the democratization of democracy. Gone are the days of uniformed generals in Health, in the midst of a pandemic. The curtains fall on the extreme right's theater of horror. Chile hoped for the thick Latin American conjuncture, when altering the correlation of forces in favor of changes. The fight against neoliberalism and neofascism will only succeed with the action of transnational movements.

Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.



[I] The “Grupo de Puebla” is an international forum, founded in 2019 in the Mexican city of the same name. It aims to articulate ideas, productive models, development programs and progressive State policies. It brings together presidents, former presidents, political and social references from the socialist movement, and also academics from twelve Spanish-speaking countries. Its motto is: “A new progressive impulse. The change is the progressism”. For observers, it is the successor of the “Foro de São Paulo”.

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