Our (Scrawny) Behemoth

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By ANDERSON ALVES ESTEVES*

In collusion and with exogenous interests, the 56% of businessmen who support the government want a Behemoth to devour the country itself – its democracy and the lives of its citizens

“The egg, which should make an eagle, does not make a chicken” (Machado de Assis. Polycrates' ring)

The Datafolha survey, carried out on May 25 and 26, 2020, presents entrepreneurs as the only, among the economically active population, who mostly support the Bolsonaro government (56% consider it great or good)[ii]. Made after the April 22, 2020 meeting was publicized, when the ministers and the president were stripped naked and exposed to the public sphere, the survey points to a number that is expressive of the authoritarianism prevailing and characteristic of the Brazilian bourgeoisie: the anti-democratic outbursts of the Executive not only revealed, but ideologically and materially desired by the portrayed group – he longs for a Behemoth.

The elective affinity between capital and authoritarianism was made explicit by Franz Neumann, in Behemoth: Structure and Practice of National Socialism. The Author showed that the structure of business, within the Weimar Republic, eroded it and contributed to raise the Nazi militia to power: monopolies, trusts and cartels, in industry, finance and agriculture, organized chambers of commerce and industry who managed the activities of production, distribution and municipalities in such a way as to orchestrate all branches of the economy – already in 1920, all of them were organized by the Zentralausschuss der Unternehmerverbände; in 1925 and 1926 huge trusts were formed (Vereinigte Stahlwerke, Vereinigte Oberschlesische Hüttenweke and IG Farbenindustrie). Under Hitler, the positive law and institutions, while preserving the centralization movement to exclude the medium and small sectors and provincial organizations, were updated to repress unions, oppositions, minorities and all sorts of devices resulting from previous governments that, by amalgamating social democrats, liberals and conservatives, engendered a glimmer of parliamentary democracy in Germany's anti-democratic tradition.

In addition to the April 22 meeting, the pandemic also revealed the anti-democratic and homicidal trait of the Brazilian bourgeoisie: André Flores Penha Valle and Octávio F. Dell Passo researched the publications of the representative bodies of the social class in question and its fractions and scrutinized, in the earth is round[iii], the “commercial and service bourgeoisie”, the “industrial”, the “agribusiness”, in addition to “small and medium capital” as fractions that aligned with the thesis of “vertical isolation”, defended since the beginning of the crisis, by Bolsonaro, and which, if implemented, would further increase the loss of lives – nothing should stop irrationality and the momentum of capital accumulation, no right, even if constitutionally guaranteed, can put a stop to business. This is what feeds the government's rage against the Legislative, the Judiciary, the Constitution, the States, the municipalities, the republican principles of public administration and civil service, the opposition, the press, the lives of citizens...

Monopolies and democracy repel each other: the huge investments required by production and distribution that defeated/incorporated the former competitors do not dispense with government aid to guarantee the return of the vehement investment that only companies with huge capitalization can carry out, they need subsidies, protection against external difficulties (monopolies from other countries) and internal difficulties (trade unions and all sorts of social protection). In other words, the traditional procedure of liberal democracy and free competition, with the risks of (mythical) self-regulations and their crises, with debates in the public sphere producing majorities, minorities and agreements, with separation and balance between powers, is replaced by administrative acts and by the planning sent by the state sphere. This is what Neumann called “totalitarian monopoly capitalism”.[iv], based on cartel associations that are eminently undemocratic as they are masks of the interests of gigantic monopolies accustomed, in themselves, to conducting decisions based on the criterion of quotas (amount corresponding to the size of production) and not of votes – the largest shareholders devastate minors without the need to convince them. The time and the modus operandi of monopolies are not those of democracy.

These were the big ones, defended by Paulo Guedes at the ministerial meeting (“We are going to make money using public resources to save big companies. Now, we are going to lose money saving small companies”)[v]. For small and vulnerable populations, bureaucratic barriers and the use of commercial banks are imposed so that onlendings (approved by the National Congress and never wanted by the Executive) and loans do not take effect. Here and now, as in Weimar Germany, the Ministry of Economy dominates the others: it is a question of a centralization of power in a cabinet that was taken by storm by big capital and that, strictly speaking, corrodes democracy and it conforms to the particular interests of the business group that controls the actions of a ministry in order to, in an imperative way, outline the policy to be undertaken by others. In Weimar, the procedure of parliamentary democracy degenerated to such an extent that the cabinets – notably the finance and the chancellor – subtracted the power of the parliament by issuing decrees, independently of it, and vetoes on the other portfolios when necessary. Sovereignty – in the Hobbesian sense – had been transferred to a representative office of big capital.

The Behemoth engendered among us, however, is not what was described by Neumann: concomitantly with the morphological similarities of democracy corrosion, there are the physiological differences of the intended ends, also anti-democratic. That one, gestated in Weimar and with the birth certificate registered in 1933, led to the construction of German monopolies that demanded the conquest of new markets to raise the military escalation and the war, started in 1939, as strategies to spread to increase the domination of the Germany. The Behemoth that is engendered in the Brazil of Bolsonaro and Paulo Guedes is directed inwards: it is not necessarily national capital and its target is the residual artifact of the pact signed in 1988 for the construction of the welfare state , mitigating and annihilating the country's forces. In collusion and with exogenous interests, the 56% of businessmen who support the government want a Behemoth to devour the country itself – its democracy and the lives of its citizens – as they are powerless to export capital accumulation. The more this Behemoth grows stronger, the more it dehydrates.

*Anderson Alves Esteves is a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of São Paulo (IFSP).

[ii] NEWSPAPER. Available in: https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/colunas/painelsa/2020/05/mais-da-metade-dos-empresarios-aprovam-governo-bolsonaro.shtml?origin=uol. Accessed on 31/05/2020.

[iii] VALLE, AFP; PASSO, OFD “Bourgeois Fractions in the Current Crisis” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/tag/andre-flores-penha-valle/. Accessed on 31/05/2020.

[iv] “Totalitarian Monopoly Capitalism”. NEUMANN, F. Behemoth: the structure and practice of National Socialism, 1939-1944. Chicago: Inan R. Dee, 2009, p. 261.

[v] UOL. Available in: https://noticias.uol.com.br/politica/ultimas-noticias/2020/05/22/guedes-vamos-usar-recurso-publico-com-grandes-empresas-e-ganhar-dinheiro.htm. Accessed on 31/05/2020.

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