The first day of the rest of our lives



We do not share the static world of neoliberal economists nor the narrow universe of political scientists and journalists trapped in the conjuncture

The title of this article intends to give a fair dimension of the meaning of January 2023, 1960, especially for a fragment of generation that comprises Brazilians born between 1980 and XNUMX. This time horizon can be expanded according to the experiences of each one and their own availability for engagement in the historical process. It is a flexible beacon.

I use here a phrase by Florestan Fernandes – “fragment of a generation”, because a “generation is like a bag of cats, since there are cats of all colors” –, which I appropriated in my most recent book to study a group members of another generation. Born between 1905 and 1925, they were committed to national development, conceiving projects, interpretations and utopias that helped shape the country in the second half of the XNUMXth century.

Such engaged characters disputed the meaning of the nation during developmental Brazil (1945-1964),[I] facing other intellectuals and class segments, but also with the economic, social and political structures on which they acted, until they were expelled from the gears of power in the post-1964 period, and only “officially” from the public debate.

Much water flowed under the bridge in subsequent years. In the period 1964-1985, the levers of capital accumulation worked at full speed, leading to the most unequal society on the planet and what Furtado referred to as a case of “bad underdevelopment”. In practice, underdevelopment was enthroned and assumed new configurations.

During the 1980s, when the economic debate was limited to the conjuncture, the 1988 Constitution was erected, stipulating the bases of the “social contract”. This contract was remodeled during the 1990s, especially during FHC's administration, to deal with his economic agenda. Did not work. We had monetary stabilization without development. The PT governments, which followed, sought to expand the bases of the contract, rolling out the red carpet to the “market” and a wide range of political forces, while activating public policies of social inclusion and recovering, to some extent, the role of State.

We then lived an expansive cycle and at the end of the cycle we fell into a trapdoor, which released all the traumas of Brazilian society. It was not a Pandora's box, but a veritable sewer, resulting from the transmutation of a slave society into a dependent capitalist society.

Beneath the surface of the indicators praised by the PT administrations, there was a social structure built around bossism and class and class domination. status. Capital accumulation in its various forms, from the most primitive to the most modern, advanced with tensions. Then the barbarians invaded the scene.

Do we still need to understand how Brazilian-style domestication policies for capitalism, without structural reforms and without penalizing the dominant strata, or maybe because of that, made the monster roar? With its characteristic truculence, the demo set out to destroy the 1988 contract and the foundations of democratic coexistence – that, it never hurts to remember, in one of the most unequal societies on the planet.

The answer to the above question must be given, from now on, in praxis and in “theory”, one shaping the other, dialectically. After the New Republic (1985-2016) and the non-republican interregnum (2016-2022), a new cycle of history begins and we have no time to waste. Twenty years after Lula's first inauguration, we can make a turning point in Brazilian history, to be completed by those born after 1980.

The “us”, therefore, refers to the fragment of generation born between 1960 and 1980, some of which lived through the twilight of the military dictatorship and the Diretas Já campaign, while the younger ones were already of mature age when Lula took office. power in 2003. Generally located on the left, in its various shades, of the political spectrum, and today incorporating important segments of the center, this “we” operates in universities, social movements, State careers, in the various types of press and in most varied professions, both manual and intellectual, giving density to Brazilian social life.

An intergenerational conflict is not suggested here. Quite the opposite. Those born before and after this milestone can and should show up with their experiences and repertoires in the fight for a fairer country, including assuming leadership positions in their respective areas, both in government and in society. These fragments of generation can be welded, based on their various social positions, strengthened or weakened during the 1985-2022 cycle, thus creating a new historical block.

By way of illustration, if we focus only on the ministers of the new government, more than 2/3 fit into the suggested time frame, a percentage that is even higher in second- and third-level cadres, as well as in strategic positions in civil society .

Through a political, class (race and gender) or counter-elite consciousness, a conception of a historical process took root in this broad fragment of generation. That the past resists and the future is built from projects and disputes fought in the present.

As Marc Bloch teaches us,[ii] the past is not “the science of the past”. The broader concept of “duration” prevents dividing the past and detaching it from the present. In practice, the frontier is constantly shifting, the past always composing with the present – ​​“an instant that dies once given birth” – to give an air of grace or misery. In the irreversibility of its élan, historical time is “the plasma in which phenomena bathe, as well as their intelligibility”.

Therefore, action motivated by historical understanding, and vice versa, is the cultural broth in which we move, transcending immediacy and looking forward to the horizon. In the face of structural constraints of all kinds, the “where” we want to go is what matters. If Lula symbolizes the capacity for renewal, resignifying himself and reconnecting with history, “we” represent the living matter that is capable of pushing him forward, beyond the mere appeasement of conflicts.

We do not share the static world of neoliberal economists, with their binary analyses, nor the narrow universe of political scientists and journalists trapped in the conjuncture, where everything turns into maneuvers to ensure “governability”. We know that the Rastaquera redemptionism of the reactionary extreme right is here to stay and that overcoming it requires, in addition to the coordinated actions of the new government, a lot of political and citizen training, especially for those disinherited from the system.

Therefore, if the oldest and youngest are part of this story, the meaning of their lives goes beyond the cycle that begins, as we are talking about a trajectory that transcends the short time. What will become of Brazil and the world in the next twenty years – if the contradictions of our society have reached another level – depends on what is being managed from January 2023, XNUMX, the first day of the rest of our lives.

Either this fragment of a generation dedicates itself body and soul to national refoundation, reconciling development, democracy and the reduction of inequalities, or what we create as teachers, students, social movement activists, representatives of professional and class entities, State officials, artists and intellectuals, runs the risk of making our existences meaningless.

When Getúlio Vargas returned to the presidency, after his “exile” in the South between 1945 and 1950, he asked his daughter Alzira to find out about the young people who were in the State machine, endowed with information about the country and with new ideas. In the same way, Lula, after his illegal imprisonment and the presidential campaign, is faced with a different country from the one he left in 2010. But now knowledge is no longer restricted to the “State”, such is the diversity of narratives, proposals and concepts formulated in the various pores of our society.

One of the characteristics of our very unequal society is that, despite inequality, or perhaps because of it, we are equipped with competent and committed staff, whose main challenge is precisely to combat it in all its dimensions and manifestations, including more recently incorporating segments important people who suffered it directly on the skin.

During the non-republican interregnum, we learned the following lesson: only “we” are able to govern Brazil – which is not done just by acting in the “government” –, thus lending new meaning to our lives and to those who inspired us and not more here they are. Our trajectories – founded on the struggle for solidarity and the full use of creativity and the diversity of Brazilian culture – are tied to this new historical cycle.

Therefore, the first of January is the first day of the rest of our lives, which also applies to those whose professional activities transcend the space of politics itself. His role is strategic, as politics needs to find new anchorages in this society, which is not the same as that of Florestan Fernandes, Celso Furtado and Darcy Ribeiro.

Understanding what kind of society this is in order to transform it means going up the ramp with Lula, Raoni and the other representatives of this neo-Latin, mestizo and black civilization. I was there, on the lawn of the esplanade, in my hometown, surrounded by people of all colors, social origins and territories that give meaning to our nationality made up of multiple faces. The mongrel bitch Resistencia roamed back and forth, without any complexes, carrying with her a new promise of country. Further back came the president and vice president, their wives, and the representatives of the people, passing the banner to Lula, the “warrior of the Brazilian people”, as we sang in a chorus full of tears.

The following day, after the president's speeches, blunt as the moment called for, we had the speeches of several of the new ministers. Brasilia was a party! — which began before the first day, and extended beyond.

A week after the inauguration, something that nobody expected, but many feared, the wandering hordes of rioters destroyed the palaces of the three powers, the same ones that together hurt democracy on April 17, 2016.

As the lights went out of the non-republican interregnum, the colors green and yellow advanced like a hideous monster destroying the national heritage. Meanwhile, the captain was walking around Disney, repeating his catchphrase “our flag will never be red!”, hugging Uncle Scrooge. His hatred, distilled for six years, since the belch with which he pronounced his vote against Dilma, only involves destruction.

When a new historical cycle begins, it builds on the rubble of the one that ended. The signals get mixed up. Three days after the march on the esplanade, Anielle Franco and Sônia Guajajara took over their portfolios. We resume the narrative. The turban and headdress took over.

It is difficult to delineate at the time of the wave its trajectory. The only thing we can say is that we cannot sit idly by. The first weeks of 2023 should be seen as a kaleidoscope of our history, bringing together past and future, which, as in a game of various combinations, comprise the possibilities of our present.

The ball is in our hands and we have the best team by far, despite being behind in the table. But there is no easy game. The game needs to be played, Commander Lula. We're ready. We have our hearts in our boots and will not hesitate to propose changes to lineups and tactics. After all, we win together. It's our turn. Your government inaugurates the first day of the rest of our lives.

*Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa is professor of economics at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo (IEB-USP). Author, among other books, of Developmentalist Brazil and the trajectory of Rômulo Almeida (Mall).


[I] BARBOSA, Alexandre de Freitas. Developmental Brazil and the trajectory of Rômulo Almeida: project, interpretation and utopia. Sao Paulo: Alameda, 2021.

[ii] BLOCH, Marc. Apologie pour l'histoire ou métier d'historien. Paris: Dunod, 2020, p. 69, 74-75, 83-84.

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