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The impact of the Manifestoes for Democracy in Brazil

On the last 11th of August, through public Manifestos, Brazilian democracy woke up receiving caresses and gestures of solidarity in defense of its maintenance as a mediator of political relations in Brazil. More than that, on the 16th of the same month of August, at the inauguration ceremony of the president of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), the new representative, Minister Alexandre de Morais, gave a tough speech in defense of clean and safe elections for the next election. that approaches. In both situations, the speeches aimed at a certain target, President Jair Bolsonaro and his loose and frivolous language. But the great expectations of day after of acts like those mentioned above is to know what effective consequences they will have in terms of penetration into the social fabric of deep Brazil, that of hunger and unemployment.

Well then, I don't want to be a party pooper at someone else's party, not least because, no matter the conjuncture or circumstance, defending democracy and the rule of law is always a timely and necessary act of courage.

However, I would like to use lines to make a brief reflection on what is at stake in this upcoming election and how much pro-democracy manifestos like FIESP's can mean a great smokescreen for the hidden civil war represented by the class struggle and for the miserable condition of 30 million Brazilians. Effectively, we are moving towards a plebiscitary process in which the choice is between civilization or barbarism. In this case, it will not be a document signed by members of FEBRABAN and FIESP that will define the Brazilian political, social and economic dynamics for the next four years.

I have seen some euphoric comments around the manifesto “In Defense of Democracy and Justice”, this one by FIESP, and the “Letter from USP”, produced by the USP Faculty of Law, seeing them as a moment of progressive “union” between capital and labor. Let's face it, they don't mingle peacefully in any situation.

So let's turn our gaze to the empty part of the glass surrounding these so-called manifestos for democracy. In a book that I recently published, I demonstrated the coup-like and anti-democratic nature of our elite.[1]

As for the “Charter from USP”, which had the support of jurists, politicians, social movements and civil society entities, it has a representativeness that, in a way, reproduces the various political movements historically undertaken by a more progressive portion of the middle class in various moments of the Republic. But to what extent do these manifestos directly affect the base of the social pyramid, where 90% of Brazilians earn less than R$3,5 and 70% earn up to two minimum wages. I'm not even counting those who are unemployed or living below the poverty line.

I know that some readers will call me a pessimist, who only sees the empty side of the glass. Ok, I accept the criticism, but I will not avoid continuing to position myself in the way that I understand to be the most realistic. It is not just defending democracy, but defending another type of democracy that respects human dignity and is radically concerned with social inclusion. Initiatives such as the “Charter from USP” are important, but continue to speak only to a bubble of scholars and converts. But what about the “FIESP Charter”? what bubble is it for?

Let's reflect here on the other documents that were also written in this wave of defense of democracy by representatives of the national bourgeoisie. The first of these is the manifesto “In Defense of Democracy and Justice” produced within the scope of the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP). Certainly, as it is the most iconic entity representing the national GDP, any manifestation on its part tends to gain repercussions. But to what extent should we look at the FIESP manifesto and see in it a symbolic representation of a certain social progressivism on the part of the employer.

Let's not be naive. The numbers are cruel and realistic. Among its 131 affiliated unions, only 18 signed the document. Definitely, the Brazilian GDP doesn't give a damn about our weakened democracy. More than that, what they understand by democracy is not necessarily what we understand. What's more, the Federation of Industries of Rio de Janeiro (Firjan) also did not sign the manifesto. Want more? Ciesp (Center of Industries of the State of São Paulo) also chose to stay out of this “democracy party”.

Therefore, for big capital, defending democracy, the rule of law and the Brazilian electoral system is much more rhetoric than something effective. The democracy that interests these people is not the one that proposes social inclusion, but the one that creates a reasonably stable political space so that they can operate economically with more tranquility in a comfortable environment of legal security. The democracy they support is that of labor and social security reform that takes away historic rights from the working class. It is a case of asking, how many of those who have now signed the FIESP manifesto will press 13 in a possible second round between Lula and Bozo?

Take the case of former STF (Federal Supreme Court) minister Marco Aurélio Mello, who signed and defended the “Letter from USP”, which criticized Bolsonaro’s stance of questioning the fairness of electronic ballot boxes without presenting evidence, but which in an eventual runoff stated that it would vote for the captain. How many of the FIESP manifesto signatories cannot have the same “coherent” stance as the former STF minister? The same question can be asked in relation to the signatories of the “USP Charter”. Why not?

We also have the case of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), which was once chaired by the great democrat Raymundo Faoro, amazingly, decided to disdain the “Charter of USP” and produce its own manifesto. I wonder why? What are our illustrious jurists afraid of? Who do they not want to antagonize?

I repeat, defending democracy is always healthy, but it is necessary to be suspicious of the real “good intentions” of those on “our side”. Capital and labor are adversaries because they were born with different class interests. In a capitalist society like Brazil's, what is called liberal democracy is nothing more than the democracy of the ruling class. In this case, Manifestos like those of FIESP, whose members surely reached 17 in 2018 in defense of “democracy”, are just a way for big capital to set a limit to Captain Corona’s adventures. It's just a way for them to do the work that Paulo Guedes was appointed by them to do. In other words, reining in the “myth”.

On the other hand, documents such as that of USP, having the support of artists, intellectuals and some members of the economic bourgeoisie, are interesting, create a political fact, expose the fascist and coup authoritarianism of the President of the Republic, but tend to fall into the oblivion in the face of the real blow that are the daily anti-people actions undertaken daily by the government (with the indifference of many “democrats”).

The squares must once again belong to the people as the sky belongs to the condor, as the brilliant Bahian Castro Alves wrote. But let's be realistic, these squares will hardly be occupied by citizens of deep Brazil. In the current and cruel conjuncture they are looking for a job or trying to keep what they have. And for those, manifestos for democracy, as important as they are, are words in the wind. It is urgent that we create conditions to reach them.

*Eduardo Borges Professor of History at the State University of Bahia. Author, among other books, of Coup: the coup as a political method of the Brazilian elite (Cutter).



[1] Eduardo Borges. Coup: the coup as a political method of the Brazilian elite. Curitiba: Kotter Editorial, 2022.


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