Ideological polarization and mass dispute

Image: Harrison Haines
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By FERNANDO J. PIRES DE SOUSA*

The advance of the ultra-right in the world, alongside the resistance of the left in some countries, is evidence that the social gap between inclusion versus exclusion intensifies political and social conflict.

The world is witnessing increasingly representative polarization. Economic crises, neoliberalism, concentration of assets and wealth, increased social inequalities, hunger, ecological and climate issues, intensification of conflicts in the geopolitical, economic and military struggle for hegemony have contributed to this phenomenon.

The general advance of the ultra-right in the world, especially in developed countries, alongside the resistance of the left in some countries, is evidence that the social gap between inclusion and exclusion, in other words, between the affluence of the few and the misery of the many , intensifies political and social conflict.

The contemporary process of intensifying the concentration and centralization of capital gives large oligopolistic and monopolistic conglomerates strength and power to dominate the world economy and subject States to their interests by “controlling” public budgets and intervening in parliaments through their representatives and even directly.

Political plurality, even in countries with a significant number of parties, such as Brazil, largely loses its power to mobilize itself due to the ideological, programmatic and representative fragility of many of them, which makes them institutions of physiological maneuver. It is no coincidence that in Brazil it could be considered that the political struggle boils down to the clash of, say, three large “associations”: left (reformists and socialists), centrão (physiologist) and right (neoliberal-rentiers and authoritarian -dictatorial).

Society is then “pressured” by these forces. On the one hand, growing social deprivation, the struggle for physical survival and better living conditions, conditions the decisions of a large part of the population in their support for reforms and public policies that make their lives easier. These find refuge in progressive governments, concerned with social policies and income transfers. On the other hand, the wealthy, rich and super rich, strive to accumulate more and more wealth, assets and privileges. These are addressed to those who defend social exclusion, the status quo, whose political spaces that enable their desires and interests are right-wing and even extreme-right governments.

In this clash, which is not restricted to a Brazilian specificity, the polarization of the masses, or rather, of society in general, has assumed unprecedented representation. It should be noted that there is another excessive force that nourishes this polarization, which is the conventional media, generally conservative, dominated by family business groups, whose interests are common to those of large national and international economic conglomerates. Responsible for inducing and even supporting right-wing candidates in elections, whether for presidents of the republic, state and municipal governments and parliamentarians in general.

On the other hand, large media outlets considered alternative media proliferated, on platforms and blogs. It is worth noting that they seek to position themselves analytically and critically against the conservative media, supporting, for the most part, left-wing parties and candidates. However, the presence of conservative platforms is also not negligible. In this context, polarization is still intense in social media groups to the point of bringing together armies of single-minded members.

The presence of ideological plurality is generally not allowed in these groups and resistance and surveillance is intense with respect to new members, contradiction does not exist and the fear of “spies” is considerable. This phenomenon of “modern times” (plagiarizing the title of Charles Chaplin's unmissable film) has invaded homes, indiscriminately. It's difficult to find families that don't have followers and supporters on one side or the other, to the point where they split into separate WhatsApp groups, and even family members become enemies, not greeting each other.

Now, wholesale, a significant polarization of the masses has been forged, which are easily and quickly mobilized for large urban mobilizations, filling streets and avenues, thus serving for “photographs”, as highlighted by the former president of the republic with respect to the recent act public on February 25, 2024, on Avenida Paulista. Everything is valid for this attempt to produce a great “photograph” that can reach a dimension that is difficult to overcome by similar acts from opponents.

In this particular, it could be inferred that what I would call a true “mass dispute” began to be conceived, through parallels and rivalries between demonstrations and mobilizations. Comparisons are immediately made, mainly in terms of memberships, from the perspective of using numerical results of participants (the estimates are soon published, translated into thousands), as if they were summed up in a competition aimed at legitimizing ideological and political positions.

In effect, the former president's assertion was emblematic, eager to get a “photograph” of the avenue full of supporters, thus intensifying polarization and giving visibility and freedom of action to the extreme right. Diverting from justice and placing it under check was all that those who plotted against democracy wanted, as was evidenced by the fateful meeting of the staff Bolsonaro government convened by the former president in the middle of Planalto.

It is important to trivialize the crimes committed, create controversies and doubts among society. Their strategy is to rely on confusion and disorganization to weaken the decision-making power of the institutions responsible for judging and punishing those responsible for the coup. In the face of police investigations and arrests of coup plotters and, on the verge of arrests of generals, military ministers and the former president himself, they place themselves in a situation of victims, of being wronged, blackmailing and appealing to public opinion, through the representation of events with a large contingent of followers aiming to demonstrate political strength with the aim of being amnestied.

Now, the February 25th event was organized and “financed” by none other than Silas L. Malafaia, pastor Neo-Pentecostal Protestant, leader of the Assembly of God Victory in Christ. jusbrasil found nothing less than 143 processes who mention his name in the TJ-RJ, TJ-SP and other courts. At the very least, it is worth asking about the possibility of calling a public demonstration by such a person and even by the former president, also under investigation, as well as other figures in a similar condition.

In the wake of this “mass dispute”, the left is organizing itself to also take its concerns, resistance and demands to the streets. Now, unlike the extreme right-wing demonstrations, the biggest struggle here is to sustain democracy, avoid political setbacks, the (re)dismantling of the State and public policies, privatizations and institutional and social chaos. As incredible as it may be, after the democratic victory of the current president and the various attempts at political destabilization carried out by Bolsonarism in various criminal acts, culminating in the coup of January 8th last year, it seems to us that the efforts of progressive militancy are aimed more at resisting than demanding legal and legal punishment of the coup plotters.

In any case, institutionally, the constituted powers – notably those responsible for preserving democracy and continuing with the investigations in search of the culprits and their punishment – ​​give society in general a certain tranquility, hope that everything will be clarified and, thus, that nothing will happen. threat to cohesion and social peace.

*Fernando J. Pires de Sousa He is a retired professor of economics at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC).


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