the half-assed country

Image: Magda Ehlers


With Bolsonaro we have the “crowning” of an anti-Nation-State.

Why does Bolsonaro represent the crowning glory of Brazil? Why, on the contrary, does it not mean his worst nightmare? Initially, it should be noted that these two issues are not mutually exclusive, if we consider our training, the development of our institutionality and its underlying sociability. The future of our formation could not have reserved something different from what we have become, that is, social causality is “path dependent”.

It is important to stress that this is not merely a matter of fate. Rather, it has to do with two large sets of historical mediations and their interrelations: (1) internal (institutionalization of national life); and (2) external (the country's role in the international division of labor). Returning to Caio Prado Júnior, “The 'meaning' of Brazilian evolution, which is what we are asking here, is still affirmed by that initial character of colonization”.

Throughout the XNUMXth century, several theories and models were elaborated both to understand and to transform our (colonial-underdeveloped) condition. Among them, we highlight Latin American critical thinking, both structuralist and Marxist. Important analytical contributions allowed us to systematically understand our social formation and its dynamics.

We highlight the center-periphery conception and the ECLAC theory of the deterioration of the terms of trade, the tendency towards external imbalance, the structuralist approach to inflation, Celso Furtado's theory of underdevelopment, the "School of Campinas" with the thesis of cyclical disproportions and late capitalism, the originality of Francisco de Oliveira's thought, the theory of dependence and overexploitation of work, among others.

Thus, from the logical-historical-formal point of view, we have established a set of knowledge, necessary and sufficient, to give vent to our civilizing process. However, the set of previously mentioned historical conditions (internal and external mediations) exerted a directional force, in the sense of a “dependent trajectory”, much more intense than any political, institutional and sociability action/process that would remove us from the colonial condition. (underdevelopment and dependency). And thus, Caio Prado's sense of colonization still carries enough strength to explain Bolsonaro, not as an accident, but as the culmination of an anti-Nation-State.

Between 1980, the year the PT was created, and 1988, the year the Citizen's Constitution was established, many struggles were fought in the path of democratic ideals. The organization of social movements, the strengthening of trade unions, the process of transition to a democratic regime, everything seemed to converge towards an objective transformation of Brazilian society. Finally, we could leave behind the anathema of the “meaning” of colonization Democracy and the institutionalization of sovereign powers, public policies, political parties and politics, looked promising.

However, we were unable to advance beyond the expansion of citizenship rights, albeit in a rather crude way, as our re-democratization preserved and gave new meaning to a type of political power relationship (within and between the three branches of government) that was extremely harmful to any claim to build a more just and egalitarian society. Full proof of this was the “PC Scheme”, already in the first government elected by the people since 1960, by Fernando Collor de Mello, in 1990. Our redemocratization, the State, the three powers and the party political system, were already reborn impregnated with a nefarious political physiologism, typical of a society with an underdeveloped and dependent colonial national past (the latter in the structuralist and Marxist sense).

Between 1992, Itamar Franco's government, and 2002, Lula's election year, we had one of the most grotesque political constructions possible within a democratic system: the combination of the institution of a neoliberal State with the sophistication of a state-political-party physiologism. to him. We closed our eyes to such a condition, because we had a new hope ahead: the first government of a worker with a socialist orientation. But, in the context of a neoliberal world and state-political-party physiologism, what paths would the PT government take? Coping? To our disappointment, no.

The path taken was that of adequacy. In the economic field, economic orthodoxy prevailed and economic growth was much more the result of a favorable external situation (China effect) than any measure of transformation of the Brazilian productive and technological structure. In the social field, the reduction of poverty and inequality, although important, was more related to welfare and electoral measures than to a change in the occupational profile of the population, for example (poverty is no longer seen as a product of our peripheral capitalism and became a government administrative matter). Finally, in the political field the Mensalão scandal it showed that not even the PT government could disassociate itself from one of the most harmful traits of our colonial heritage. This “upside down hegemony”, as called by our late Francisco de Oliveira, which at least brought about 15 million Brazilians out of hunger, among other feats and misfortunes, lasted only 14 years.

The Brazilian state-political-party physiologism does not forgive. Your modus operandi it is the corruption schemes that serve, among other things, both to elect and to depose presidents. This since Collor de Mello. Corruption is typical of physiologism, when we treat it as an endemic process we often forget its origin. The combination of this physiologism with the financialization of the Brazilian economic system (increase in the importance of the financial sector in the economy and in its governmental institutions), broke the cycle of “inverted hegemony” and made it possible to elect a candidate who is “sculpted and incarnate” the face of the “meaning” of our colonization.

At this point, I am obliged to disagree, just in terms, with the late Celso Furtado regarding the definition of Brazil as an interrupted construction. In fact, we never stopped the kind of nation building that was started in our colonization. On the contrary, we preserved and sophisticated, between periods of empire, republic, dictatorship and republic, the sociability and institutionality of the country that we are today. We certainly had important structural transformations, such as our industrialization, for which Furtado reserves the term interrupted construction. However, an industrialization with a permanent imbalance at the level of factors (capital and labor), as the author himself analyzes, concentrating income, inhibiting national technical progress and with wages based on the subsistence level and not on labor productivity, could not really result in a civilizatorally transforming process. The great favela-Brazil and our regional imbalances leave no room for doubt.

Thus, we became this half-assed country. We have education, health, housing, sanitation, infrastructure. But, it's all half-assed, done in a hurry, without care, incomplete, badly done; according to electoral and/or capital interests. We stubbornly continue to think everything is normal; children asking at traffic lights, people waiting six months for an urgent exam, teenagers in school but who cannot read or write, blatant economic and social inequality, etc. On the other hand, there are those who profit a lot from all this: the big businesses of education, health, housing, etc. The postmodern condition still has a beautiful surprise in store for us: social hatred.

Now we hate each other mortally either for being left or right, a condition that greatly weakens our struggle. Not that the debate is not relevant, even though right-wing thinking is something humanly and environmentally unsustainable. However, because the debate left the field of ideas and entered the field of pure hatred, prejudice, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, denialism, etc, etc, etc.

There is no doubt that the Bolsonaro government is a true civilizing disaster in the face of the fundamental principles of the democratic State of social law. Thus, it is also the culmination of a colonial, patriarchal, racist, prejudiced, denialist, violent, oppressive, exploitative, nepotist, clientelistic, patrimonialist, income and wealth concentrating society and of a political physiologism that permeates the three powers and underlies the system party-political.

His election may even have been an accident along the way, as many believe. However, it seems much more likely that it is the result of the evolution of the state-political-party physiologism, explicitly initiated in the democratic period by the Collor de Mello government. In a way, we cannot attribute all this blame to the PT, as it both benefited and was a victim of such a process (the political use of Lava Jato, for example). The fault of the PT governments lies in not having fought and transformed the State and the Brazilian political-party system from the inside out.

We are entering a year of presidential elections and again we have hope for the return of a “progressive” government with Lula again as a candidate. But, how progressive can we be in the context of state-political-party physiologism and under the command of the combination of real estate, financial and agribusiness capital? Lula, without a doubt, is still our best option. However, within the framework of what Brazilian physiologism allows, as his previous mandates remind us.

José Raimundo Trindade, in an article published on the website the earth is round, dated 16/01/2022, deals with “the possibility of Brazilian society being able to establish a certain 'necessary social rupture'”, by establishing a program with the following elements: “(a) total rupture with the tax-dependent regime of last thirty years (…); (b) comprehensive progressive tax reform (…); (c) renationalization of the main companies in the energy and mineral sector (...); (d) reconstruction of the National Innovation System (…); (e) productive sovereignty project (…); (f) technological completeness project (…); (g) exclusive constituent assembly with gender parity criteria; (h) federative renegotiation”. As an “urgent and necessary agenda” for the reconstruction of Brazilian sovereignty, he highlights: a complete break with the fiscal-dependent regime (repeal of EC 95/16 that “prevents any exercise of democratic power in the country”); comprehensive progressive tax reform; renationalization of the main national strategic companies (Companhia Vale and Petrobras); and “rupture, revocation and social reorganization of the labor and social security reform”.

The validity of the minimum agenda for national reconstruction proposed by Professor José Trindade is unquestionable. However, in Brazil's institutional-political-party context, as described above, it is simply impractical. Structural and civilizing advances will be practically impossible as long as ministries are treated as a political bargaining chip (and their services as favors to capital), while political seats represent lucrative business for parties, while state-owned companies are used as instruments of political parties.

How to modify a party system in which the electoral fund is worth R$ 5,7 billion? Which political party will be interested? How to establish a government with a national project when ministries and state-owned companies are pawned by party-political interests? When we have a National Congress that legislates for the exchange of electoral favors (R$ 15,9 billion in parliamentary amendments alone, in 2021) and operates through a political system aimed at protecting the elites. Anyway, when we have an executive who defines the members of the highest instance of the Brazilian judiciary.

The question that immediately arises is: do we really want to be a different country? Then: and if we want, do we have enough strength to break this trajectory dependence? And, still: does our economic and political elite (which has never been able to understand the meaning of nation) have an interest in a different country? Is this the Brazil we have and will always have? There is no other path but that of revolution. Revolution in our State (at all levels of government and powers) and our political-party system so that a new institutionality can be established that will free us once and for all from our colonial heritage (underdevelopment and dependence) and its evil physiologism. But, honestly, I don't see social movements, trade unions or any political party with enough vision or organization to wake up and raise our people. The most likely thing is that we will remain what we always were: a Tupiniquim Frankenstein. For the sake of future generations, I hope not!

*José Micaelson Lacerda Morais is a professor in the Department of Economics at URCA. Author, among other books, of Capitalism and the revolution of value: apogee and annihilation.


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