the entrepreneurial lumpen



Considerations on the 2022 elections and the illiberalism of Brazilian liberals

The episode involving the cancellation by the XP brokerage, one of the biggest players of the financial market in Brazil, the publication of an electoral poll that pointed to the consolidation of former President Lula's leadership in this year's elections, makes us return to a theme that has been in the air since the market enthusiastically joined the candidacy in 2018 Jair Bolsonaro, a candidate who was neither democratic nor even liberal. We know today that the old inclinations of the former captain managed to prevail over the supposed representative of liberalism in the government, Minister Paulo Guedes, who is nothing more than a typical Latin American liberal, one who confuses liberalism with privatism and conservatism with authoritarianism.

A part of our press – disappointed not with the president's authoritarian attitudes or with his attacks on democracy, but with his erratic behavior in the economy – adopted a label that is fashionable in Europe and started calling the former captain president illiberal. It is worth listing the set of misconceptions present in this label. The first of these is due to the fact that the concept or pseudo-concept was used for the first time by the Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orban, in a speech at a Hungarian university in the summer of 2014.[1] There he asserted "that the Hungarian nation does not constitute a simple sum of individuals, but a community, strengthened and developed, and in that sense the new state we are building is an illiberal state".[2]

It is rare, but not impossible, for the appropriation of a concept with a meaning opposite to that intended by the author, but that is what happened with the wide appropriation of the concept of illiberal state, or illiberalism, in Latin America. We must ask ourselves why. I have an answer that refers to the censorship of the Ipespe survey by XP, which said it was pressured by large agribusiness investors. Even more questionable acts – such as the generalized support of economic actors in the post-impeachment period for a program that had not been elected at the ballot box and, more recently, the market’s support for a policy of matching oil prices to international prices –, under the argument of maintaining the liberal reforms (sic), they complement the traits of the attitude of the Brazilian business community in the national conjuncture. I will elaborate on each of the elements below.

The appropriation of the concept of illiberal democracy in Brazil aims to hide a fact that is visible, but not theorized by economic commentators in the corporate media: for most of the last decade, it was liberalism that attacked democracy by questioning electoral results, sponsoring impeachments and even even remove a democratically elected government through a classic coup in Bolivia. All these elements suggest that there is an anti-democratic liberalism in South America.

The non-recognition of the result of the Peruvian elections by the leader of liberalism in the region, Mario Vargas Llosa, regardless of the confirmation of the result by all independent sources, was just one more fact to suggest that a part of Latin American liberals has little or no commitment with democracy and elections. The position of these liberals shows that we have had an involution in liberalism in South America. Today, he has little concern for moral autonomy, does not understand the economy from a concept of contractual freedom and derives his principles exclusively from the idea of ​​state-sponsored privatism – and nobody represents this set better than Paulo Guedes.

The recent discussion on oil prices and the privatization of Petrobras point in the same direction. I believe that not even Miriam Leitão would dare to argue that there is a free oil market at the international level. Everyone knows that the price of oil is set by a group of producing countries, one of which, Saudi Arabia, has the capacity to set the price, either because it can increase its production instantly, or because it can decide, in together with other countries and large companies, not to do it, as it decided at that time.

The other countries are situated in two different fields, those that have oil and conditions to make an independent policy and those that do not. Only Brazil is placed in a third field, that of countries that are able to make their own policy but do not do so because the liberals say that it would be against the free market that, as we have seen, does not actually exist with regard to oil .

What explains, then, this attitude of the Brazilian businessman, who defends expensive oil, denies research and applauds a government and a political proposal that denies the most basic principles of economic liberalism around liberalism itself? I have a chance. Formed in Brazil the lump business. marx in the book 18 Brumaire spoke of the “lumpen proletariat” and defined it as follows: people of “… dubious livelihoods and of dubious origin, together with degenerate descendants and adventurers of the bourgeoisie, vagabonds, military graduates, ex-convicts, prison escapees, crooks , jumpers… etc... " Nowadays in Brazil, I would venture to say that this definition portrays the Bolsonarist business community and its leaders well.

There is nothing liberalistic about the conceptual representation of this group of entrepreneurs. There are only short-term economic interests, predation and state rent. The attitude of XP, representative par excellence of this new conception of extractive and predatory capitalism, associated with the warm applause received by Bolsonaro at the Commercial Association of Rio de Janeiro, in a speech full of attacks on the STF and the rule of law, demonstrate the nature of this new business community that is consolidating in Brazil and uses liberalism only as a motto for a process of destruction of the State.

The fact that the brokerage firm, before the electoral process, is prepared not to publish a poll of voting intentions reinforces the suspicions that the instruments of democracy are being questioned by broad sectors at the beginning of the electoral process and that the electoral poll, a legitimate instrument for gauging public opinion, will be attacked in this process.

*Leonardo Avritzer He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Impasses of democracy in Brazil (Brazilian Civilization).



[1] Some advocates of the concept will refer you to a magazine article Foreign Affairs, written by Farreed Zakaria, who questioned the lack of pluralism in some democracies and especially in Eastern Europe. The article remained low in influence until rulers in Hungary and Poland adopted the term.



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