The Plaster of “Democracy”

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By FLAVIO MAGALHÃES*

In this election Brazil has its own human comedy, a comic tragedy

Em Lost Illusions, Honoré de Balzac tells the story of Lucien Rubempré, a young poet who leaves a town in the interior of France called Angoulême, where he had formed a partnership with a friend of his, David Séchard , both of whom would manage a typography inherited by David from his father. In order to gather money and experience, Lucien Rubempré leaves the quiet country town, which betrayed his peasant surname, to try his luck in the glorious and dreamed Paris of the 1830s.

In the city where Lucien Rubempré hoped to get money and publish his poems, he discovers a taste for money and also takes up an activity that was born and firmly established at that moment, the newspaper. Both elements will be the catalysts for Lucien Rubempré to progressively lose those dreams and illusions that previously inhabited his literary head and in their place the petty political disputes between the different newspapers and the pleasure that money can buy. It is only at the end of his journey that Lucien Rubempré returns to the countryside, with his dreams shattered, and realizes right there, in the company of his friend and his sister, how poor his incessant pursuit of fame and money actually was.

Honoré de Balzac wrote a series of books in which he tried to capture fundamental elements of French society in the XNUMXth century. Lost Illusions is the center of this vast work by the French writer, which he himself called the “human comedy”. Honoré de Balzac managed to capture the transition from an aristocratic society to the structuring of capitalism and this constitutes his greatest virtue. We are by no means in one of Balzac's novels, but definitely in this election we have our own human comedy, a comic tragedy. It is about her that we must speak.

The first round is over and, contrary to all the polls, Lula was very little ahead of Jair Bolsonaro, totaling 48% of the votes against 43% for the current president. Victory is not as simple as naive and euphoric PT supporters might have expected. However, the question now has to be asked again: what to do? On the one hand, defeating Jair Bolsonaro is the main objective of the election, even if the election is not the only weapon, nor the most important in the political struggle. On the other hand, voting for Lula is also voting for a specific project, even if Lula has not presented any project. Let's look at the thing more closely.

Lula tried to assemble a broad front against “fascism” in the name of democracy. For the PT, there was fascism in the electoral dispute between Dilma Rousseff and Aécio Neves in 2014, but it also existed in the various PSDB governments in São Paulo, including that of Geraldo Alckmin. Alckmin was the one who governed São Paulo for several years, ordered the PM to attack protesters, teachers, MST and MTST occupations. Nevertheless, it was with Alckmin himself that Lula teamed up, with the former governor as his vice-president on the ticket. Now, the petistas believe that everyone on the left is people who have fallen for their rhetorical tricks. The supposed “fascism” is nothing more than a farce, because how to fight democracy when having as vice-president the one who was “fascist”? It cannot be said that Geraldo Alckmin is synonymous with democracy, much less with a defense of it.

By the way, what is democracy? The PT shouts this word from the four winds, a total abstraction of reality, because what is democracy for poor people? If we look at the only formal part of democracy, that is, plurality of parties, electoral disputes, freedom of opinion, then we leave aside everything else, its real content. Democracy in its real content involves an end to the exploitation of capital by work, an end to absolute poverty and hunger, an end to economic dependence, conditions for leisure, transportation, education, health, agrarian reform, among countless other points.

If this is what we mean by democracy, then are the PT members moving in swampy terrain, or were all these points achieved in the long 14 years of the PT administration? The democracy used by the PT is just this abstract form, this alienated concept, without content whose sole objective is to gather as much support as possible and prove impossible to fight, after all who could be against democracy?

But it was precisely the different supporters that Lula wanted to gather for his presidential campaign. Yesterday's "coup plotters" are today's allies. Eunício de Oliveira, formerly regarded as one of the “coup leaders”, supports Lula. Simone Tebet, who supported labor and social security reforms, declared her support for Lula. José Serra, another “fascist” according to the PT dictionary, as well. Economists who perpetuate the overexploitation of work and economic dependence, such as Pedro Malan, Pérsio Arida, Edmar Bacha and Arminio Fraga, declared their support for the PT. And, without the slightest fear, they say that they made this decision in favor of “democracy”.

How beautiful this democracy is! She is a veritable poultice, the one that Brás Cubas would like to produce, against all the evils that have roamed the Earth since the opening of Pandora's box. How green are the fields of tragedy! There is no coherence in what PT members say. One day it's an argument, the next day its exact opposite. But, of course, we must give up everything for democracy, after all, without this existing democracy, we cannot eat, drink, or fight for the Brazilian Revolution.

To gather all this support, Lula has not launched any concrete government program. But of course, neither could. How to defend democracy if we know that it is against the welfare of the people that many of their economic policies will be determined. Economic liberalism never abandoned Lula and it will not be now that the metallurgist from ABC will turn into a Marxist-Leninist. Henrique Meirelles, the minister of the “coup leader” Temer, also declared his support for Lula and he had been president of the Central Bank during his government. Lula did not present a program, as he does not want a concrete struggle, but an abstract one around democracy. For socialists and communists, to determine is to deny. By not determining anything, nothing is denied. And, as if by magic, you can't go against what you don't know.

Of course, we all know that Jair Bolsonaro carries fascist actions and behaviors within himself and his government is, without a doubt, a tragedy and a complete crime against the Brazilian population. But his government is not fascist. The problem for the socialists is what should be done in the second round of the election. In terms of strategy and political principles, the correct thing would be to annul the vote, as the PT's litany of always being the last bastion of hope has long since fallen to the ground. This should be the way of socialists.

On the other hand, Bolsonaro's government can no longer be tolerated and certainly four more years of it will be the nail in the coffin in which we already find ourselves. There remains, therefore, an alternative: vote for Lula and then, if he is elected, criticize and unmask his farces, his deceptions so that the population's conscience is transformed into a revolutionary conscience and not captured by the reactionary right.

Every moment is the moment for criticism and we must not fall into the PT story that criticizing weakens the government. Criticizing is the soul and substance of the revolutionary movement, because in this way the existing thing is destroyed and the new is continually built. But this vow must be performed without any illusion. As Balzac states at a certain point in the novel quoted at the beginning of the text, “illusion is an unbridled faith.” If we are going to lose something in these very troubled, very tight elections, let it be an illusion on the left of the PT and its impotence for transformative revolutionary action.

If it is to vote for Lula, let it be to defeat Jair Bolsonaro, but not to harbor any hopes for Lula himself, nor to fall into the corner of the social-democracy snake. A revolution can only be carried out with class consciousness and this is what the PT and Lula definitely do not want the Brazilian population to have at all. As Marx would say, history repeats itself, the first time as a tragedy, the second as a farce.

* Flavio Magalhães is a master's student in history at USP.

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