The Labyrinth of Illusions

Image: Paul Basel


Foreword to Anderson Deo's newly released book

The book by Anderson Deo arrives at a good time, which, in a broad, accurate and rigorous panel, analyzes the developmental projects that were leveraged both in the governments of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and in the governments of the “late social-democracy” (PT) of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Based on the differences between the projects proposed by the PSDB and PT governments – late social democracy, in which public policies of a certain positivity stand out –, Deo outlines the elements that will constitute the most complex obstacles to the social advance, exactly when dimensioning the historical form of objectivation of the Brazilian capitalism.

The most relevant aspect of Anderson Deo's book is the unveiling of the trajectory that unfolds from two Marxian concepts of great depth: the first is the one that reveals the morphological element located in its constitutive core of historical particularity; the second, as a consequence of this conformative base, the unequal and combined form, through which Brazil inserts itself in the imperialist economy.

With regard to the first aspect, the particularity, it reveals the historical scope of conformation of the Brazilian national State from an economy founded on the forced-labor/slave form and on the primary activity, based on the export of agricultural products, notably sugar. , but also in gold extraction and also in other regional productions, including livestock, extractivism and fishing activities. This strongly agrarian-exporting form of production, with reduced manufacturing activity, outlines the spectrum of a complementary and subordinate economy in the concert of world economic activities.

As for the second element, Deo emphasizes the character of the economic development of colonial Brazil — and, subsequently, of its status as a United Kingdom with Portugal and the Algarves, from 1808 —, which has been taking place since the XNUMXth century without ruptures with the formal subsumption of work to capital, constitutive of the broad process of original accumulation of capital[I] in which precisely this historical insertion, in the conformation of general economic activities, will affect, from the very process of uneven and combined development, on the character of capitalism that will be structured in Brazil.

With this conceptual instrument, our author deepens the focus on the entification of the sociometabolic form in the Brazilian particularity, which materializes, on the one hand, in an economy in which conservative-modernization prevails carried out “from above”, that is, without the people and against it and, on the other hand, the constitution of a State controlled by an autocratic bourgeoisie, of colonial-slave origin and at times anti-democratic.

It is in this perspective that Deo uses in his work the Italian expression updating, which has an exact meaning — modernization —, that is, it is updated without ceasing to refer to the structural link of the past — a adaptation; it adapts, but does not change in its essentiality. This means that the process of objectifying Brazilian capitalism since its origin has been updated and adapted to continue being integrated within the scope of the concert of central economies in the form called by the author of conservative-modernism, but which could also be defined as Reactionary-Modernism. -subaltern.

This conceptual universe used by the author broadens the spectra of the dynamics of a dependent capitalism, which at its core is underdeveloped, but which also brings elements of development, close and even equal to those existing in central economies, and which, in the dialectic of development uneven and combined, can be understood in the caiopradean perspective of the “meaning of colonization”, in its ontological element, in which “[...] Brazilian history presents, in the course of its development, from the beginnings to the present day, a marked continuity”[ii], in which the new remains subsumed to the old, an element that delimits the contours of the objectification process of the historical-particular sociometabolic form of Brazilian capitalism.

Exactly the particular characteristic of Brazilian capitalism will constitute a complex historical obstacle. In the context of a subaltern economy, the bourgeoisie that emerges from this sociality not only characterizes the late element of industrial capitalism, which had its capital accumulation process based on the cruel slave/forced-labor form that determined the realization of a form-revolution -bourgeoisie effected late and “from above” (Lenin) by a “transformist” (Gramsci) and counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie.

This process, as we said, entails the autocratic character of the national State and, consequently, the formation of an incomplete and “gelatinous” civil society. Initially, excluding the enslaved majority of workers, consisting of blacks, browns and Indians, and later, after the abolition of slavery, on May 13, 1888, with the Golden Law - which in its objective political foundation decrees exclusion and marginalization of black and brown populations in Brazilian social life, which is why the process of abolition and sociopolitical inclusion of blacks, browns and Indians is a political struggle that is still ongoing in Brazilian society –, the national State imposes on all workers, from the countryside and the city, Brazilians and immigrants, an autocratic legislation, through which it keeps the people excluded from the decision-making processes of national political and economic life.

So that the permanence of the “old” that subsumes the new in Brazilian society characterizes the Brazilian “way” of objectifying capitalism, from the perspective of the Prussian-colonial way[iii] and which oscillates between Bonapartism, once colonial – colonial-Bonapartism – and bourgeois legality, which results from the articulation built by the historical skill of bourgeois politicians. Objectively, bourgeois legality is nothing more than Brazilian-style liberalism, built by the ruling class, with its origins in colonial society; logically and historically reworked, but without losing its autocratic genetic element, typical of a weak bourgeoisie that was born, grew and multiplied in the wake of the permanent counterrevolution.

As Deo rightly pointed out, the Brazilian societal conformation generates an internal bourgeoisie without a nation project, which articulates and connects economic and social programs to business advantages that subordinate national policies to their class interests. These constitutive structural components of bourgeois autocracy are the impeding obstacles to the expansion of democracy in Brazilian civil society.

For no other reason, the entire class struggle waged in Brazil, mainly by the urban and rural proletariat, had and has been, as a decisive point, the struggle for the democratization of Brazilian sociability, seen here from the Lukacsian perspective, developed in his “The Process of Democratization”[iv]. It is not by chance that, throughout its history, the labor movement, be it the anarcho-syndicalist movement of the end of the 1th century and the beginning of the 1964th century, or the current one, which waged decisive struggles against military-Bonapartism, installed on April 1922, XNUMX, had in the democratic question the element that demarcated the fields of political struggles. The PCB itself, the first Brazilian workers' party since its organization in March XNUMX, as a result of workers' struggles and strikes carried out in the first two decades of the XNUMXth century, focused its struggle on expanding democracy in Brazil.

At first, based on the proposal of a “democratic-petty-bourgeois revolution”, which would encompass the petty-bourgeoisie in revolt, through the Tenentismo, until 1929 and afterwards, within the scope of a reformist alliance with sectors of a presumed “national bourgeoisie”; since 1992, in the context of deep self-criticism of its political line, the PCB laid the foundations for the construction of a proposal for political action centered on the construction of Popular Power, towards socialism, highlighting the expansion of a process of democratization from the perspective of workers and exploited sectors of society. In turn, the PT, a party that was born out of the workers' strikes in the ABC region of São Paulo in the late 1970s, initially centering the fight against the wage squeeze imposed by the economic "model" of the military-Bonapartist dictatorship and, later, expanding to the notion of positive articulation of struggles for the democratization of society's spaces for broad groups of workers, at least until the mid-1980s, when, already in the field of class conciliation, it rearticulated its political line in the perspective of formal democracy of bourgeois society, leaving aside the question of the struggle for socialism.

The struggle for democracy in Brazil, however, given the historical element present in its sociability that the author demonstrates, will be possible if the social movement as a whole, especially the workers, manages to build the conditions for the defeat of bourgeois autocracy. For this reason, no social policy will be victorious if it is not placed within the scope of the struggle against bourgeois autocracy and its Prussian-colonial path of sociability; and in a political project that links the democratic struggle with the struggle for socialism.

The book that we have the honor of presenting is the result of a mature reflection by Anderson Deo, which will contribute not only to the understanding of the historical conditions in Brazil, but fundamentally so that the possibility of overcoming the obstacles to Brazilians can live fully other societal experiences, which allow us to break with the labyrinth of illusions, in which consciences are lost in circular routes that lead to dead ends. Therefore, the break must be from a praxis that has human emancipation as its north.

*Antonio Carlos Mazzeo, retired professor at Unesp, currently integrates the graduate programs in Economic History at FFLCH-USP and in Social Work at PUC-SP.



Anderson Deo. The labyrinth of illusions: consolidation and crisis of late Brazilian social democracy. Curitiba, Appris, 2021, 312 pages.



[I] See MARX, K. The Capital. Book I. Unpublished Chapter. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 1974, p. 54 and later and O Capital. Critique of Political Economy. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2013, Book I, section VII, chap. 24, p. 785 to 844.

[ii] See PRADO JR., C. History and Development. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1972, p. 28.

[iii] See MAZZEO, AC State and Bourgeoisie in Brazil: origins of bourgeois autocracy in Brazil. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2015.

[iv] LUKÁCS, G. The Democratization Process. Socialism and Democratization: Political Writings, 1956-1971. Rio de Janeiro: Editora UFRJ, 2008, p. 82 and later.

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