The price of neoliberalism

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By MARCUS IANONI*

The demoralization and political selectivity of State institutions have no limits, they indefinitely forgive the crimes of responsibility that Bolsonaro insists on committing, starting with putting people’s lives at risk.

Frequently, the international crises that emerge in the system of capitalist societies, articulated, above all, by the world market, impact politics, whether they are economic, warlike or health. Alliances between actors tend to change, whether in elections held in scenarios of increased uncertainty, or by coups d'état. Capitalism is immersed in the fifth international crisis, triggered by an exogenous variable, the coronavirus. Under these circumstances, the political dispute over national directions tends to intensify, windows of opportunity open up, historical phases can undergo a change in trajectory, winners and losers are redefined inside and outside the countries. What does the past teach us and what is happening in Brazil with the actors (interests and coalitions), public policies and political regime, key variables to understand the State?

In the Long Depression at the end of the 19th century, Bismarck leveraged his leadership as a statesman, unified the free-trade junkers and industrialists into a protectionist coalition that also asserted nationalism and the economic and military imperialism of the Germany. In this same economic crisis, a protectionist coalition, but only in industry, leveraged by the Republicans in the USA, who won the elections, marked the change from the third to the fourth party system, an environment in which that party dominated politics in that country for four decades. . Brazil did not escape this crisis. Facts and processes such as the drop in coffee prices in the 1880s, immigration, the Abolition, the Proclamation of the Republic and the Encilhamento have connections with the critical environment.

The Great Depression marks a change in trajectory for liberal capitalism. It gave rise to the electoral victory of Roosevelt, a politician who made an epoch. His main feat was to sew, due to political decisions circumscribed in the New Deal, a successful reaction to the crisis and a new coalition, with progressive content, which demarcated the fifth party system, dominated by the Democrats until its weakening in the 1960s, with the victory of Nixon.

The process that led to the current sixth party system, undermining the previous one, is also related to disputes between defenders and opponents of civil rights, the Vietnam War and the radical offensive of conservatives within the Republican Party, displacing the moderates, against the liberals (Democrats), which will consolidate with the rise of neoliberalism, from the victory of Ronald Reagan, in the context of the stagflation crisis of the 1970s, the third major international crisis of capitalism, which will mark a new change in trajectory.

A little over a year earlier, the rise of Margaret Thatcher, displacing the Labor Party, gave the political start to this new historical phase, with the resumption of orthodox economic policy, in a context of structural change in the relationship of forces between capital and labor. , to the detriment of workers, with the support of corporations of the business who, until then, had been bearing the costs of certain post-war labor and social rights.

Hitler ascended to government during the Great Depression, from the collapse of the Weimar coalition, which had emerged in the context of the proclamation of the Republic, after the defeat of the German Empire in World War I. It comprised a well-behaved Social Democratic Party, the political center and the moderate right. The führer, on the other hand, instituted a nationalist government, implemented a powerful set of demand-stimulation policies and built a fascist coalition, uniting the various fractions of the bourgeoisie against the workers' organizations and against the Jews.

But, in addition to the USA, democracy also resisted in England, where a surprising national government was organized, bringing together Labor, Liberals and Conservatives around liberal policies peppered with a certain protectionism and some social rights.

In Brazil, the Great Depression influenced the events of the 1930 Revolution, whose consequences rearranged the State's relationship with the coffee bourgeoisie, redefined its relative position in the priorities of public policies, so that industrialization and urbanization would advance. The crisis of the 1970s, especially the two oil shocks and the monetarist policy of Paulo Volcker, reinforced the weakening and decline of the strategy of growth with external debt, whose death toll was the debt crisis in 1980.

The fourth international crisis, the Great Recession of 2007-2008, replaced the State, at least momentarily, as a lifeline for the private sector, especially in the US, where it bailed out banks and industries with billions of dollars from the Treasury. But also in Brazil, then governed by Lula, the State was important. This president led the execution of a series of public policies to respond to the recession, highlighting the State's investments in infrastructure works and projects. The results were collected in the GDP of 2010, which grew by 7,5%. It was then the last year of Lula's second term, who left office with an 87% approval rating, according to Ibope.

However, the unstable socio-political environment of neoliberalism, whose results in terms of growth, employment, inequality and crises are inferior to those of the Glorious Thirty, brought to the fore, in various parts of the world, dissatisfaction with globalization, especially the new party and electoral forces extreme right, among which is trumpism, led by a politician who was not part of the republican party machine, but managed to win the primaries of that party. Its agenda configures an authoritarian neoliberalism, which encompasses a certain nationalism, expressed in the anti-immigration policy, in the protectionism against China, in the foreign policy focused on security, in the deregulation of the markets, tax reductions for the rich, cut of social policies for the poor people and a set of conservative values, including racism, xenophobia and attacks on rights in general.

His tropical imitation is Bolsonaro. It emerged in the anti-PT wave, in the midst of a great wave of economic crisis, faced with pro-cyclical measures, anchored in austerity, which only aggravated it. As if that were not enough, the economic crisis was linked to a political crisis fueled by growing hatred against the president and her party, which in 2014 won the presidential elections for the fourth consecutive time. The tragic scenario took shape in the 2016 coup d'état, which unveiled a structural environment characterized by the lukewarm economy, a certain ideological deformation of State institutions and political instability, all of this largely due to the narrowing of the public agenda, diminished in the ultraliberal prescription and in a fight against corruption carried out in a politicized, sensationalist and inconsequential way, aiming, above all, to defeat and weaken the PT and the left in general.

Among the political-structural components of the tragedy, I would highlight, on the one hand, the alignment of the bourgeoisies with Bolsonaro's candidacy, in the second round of 2018, for lack of a better option to the then markedly pragmatic preference of those customers who lacked a priori attachment to the Democratic State of Law, an opportunist tendency, which is, in fact, very much in vogue in the international context where, on the one hand, democracy hinders capital, on the other hand, it still cannot fail to be, for the group of liberals in the market, “the worst of all”. governments except all others”. On the other hand, right-wing protests, including the extreme right, emerge in the streets, providing middle-class popular support for the aforementioned petty agenda.

But, since last year, and especially in this pandemic, which made explicit the president's disregard for the health and lives of thousands of Brazilians, and with the resignation of Minister Moro, the two locomotives of the neoliberal right-wing train broke. Divorced, on the one hand, the card-carrying authoritarians – among which, in addition to civil sectors, the military and other actors in the security area, whether public (PMs, Municipal Guards) or private, licit or illicit; on the other hand, moderate liberal-conservatives, who, at least since 2016, have been paying a selective bow to the constitutional order. In 2017, for example, the same Chamber of Deputies that authorized the prosecution of Dilma Rousseff for a crime of responsibility twice spared Temer from being prosecuted by the STF based on complaints made by the PGR. There was pressure from the market for the “bridge to the future” to continue to be built, instead of collapsing.

Anyway, what can we rescue from this information? In a few words, I will prioritize the aspect of the relationship between class coalitions, authoritarianism and the public policy program. By unifying the bourgeoisies, Bismarck, through the Prussian-authoritarian path, boosted industrialization and German imperialist nationalism, retaken by Hitler, also supported by the bourgeois united front and the middle classes. Referring to Barrington Moore Jr., one might think that, in the USA and the United Kingdom, the subordination of agrarian conservatism and the large landowners to the urban-industrial business classes, which related to the State without giving up civil rights ( except for blacks in the US until the 1960s), served as a protective barrier against authoritarianism, a limit that Trump has been trying to undermine, with proto-fascist speeches, values ​​and practices, strongly supported by the lower middle class and small businessmen. Furthermore, Trump has gifted the rich with tax cuts. However, the division of the country in relation to this president and the democratic tradition of the USA are factors that curb authoritarianism, although even there democracy is losing support.

In Brazil in 1964, the unification of the bourgeoisies withstood the coup. Already in the stagflation crisis at the end of the 1970s, important sectors of the industrial business community were breaking with the military dictatorship and supported the Tancredo-Sarney ticket to the Electoral College, in 1985. In the recent period, as said, they supported the 2016 coup and bet on Bolsonaro in the second round of 2018.

Follow the Money! This phrase has guided the fight to reveal corruption, but I evoke it to enlighten the owners of money. What do the rich, the big national and international businessmen who work here want? For much less than what is happening today, in legal terms and national chaos, Dilma was deposed. There was no threat to democracy, as recognized by an editorial by O Globo, published yesterday, May 31, proposing that the democrats talk. Isn't the cost of supporting Temer's and Guedes' ultraliberal platform too high? Isn't respect for democracy more efficient economically and politically? Wouldn't it be less costly to rid the country of genocide, chaos and a governing strategy that daily produces political instability?

While in Dilma Rousseff's situation there was no clear crime of responsibility, there was no undoubted legal reason, today they abound. However, the political union to overthrow Dilma was very strong, including among the business community. Starting at the end of 2015, it became an avalanche in March 2016, when Fiesp led the publication, in the main newspapers of the country, of a manifesto that occupied 14 pages, signed by hundreds of federations, unions and business associations from several states . Content? Impeachment now! Today the Chamber of Deputies did not take the initiative to remove the numerous requests for impeachment of the president, who aligned himself with Centrão parliamentarians to protect himself from possible deposition. Anyway, what does big business have to say?

Globe proposes a great deal for democracy, in principle, including Bolsonaro. But Cavalão is not tameable, he dreams of re-election and is getting involved in several inquiries. If the STF, the TSE and Congress give Bolsonaro more chances, even so, the question is: how would he try to rebuild his worn image before the majority of voters, if not by radicalizing in the usual methods, Fake News, provocations, threats, ideological warfare, attacks on the press? Is a major agreement feasible and desirable? The demoralization and political selectivity of State institutions have no limits, they indefinitely forgive the crimes of responsibility that he insists on committing, starting with putting people's lives at risk and what remains of democracy in this weakened regime?

Civil society is emerging against Bolsonaro. The Somos#JUNTOS manifesto is an important initiative. But the big absentee is the business community. Where is the money and where does it go?

*Marcus Ianoni Professor at the Department of Political Science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF)

 

 

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