Humanist politics?

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By Juliana Paula Magalhães*

Analysis of Provisional Measure n. 936, of April 1, 2020, which signals the alignment of the federal government with the immediate interests of capital owners

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current conflicts and contradictions that pervade the Brazilian political and economic scenarios, the government of Jair Bolsonaro issues Provisional Measure n. 936, on April 1, 2020. It is at the same time a meager attempt to respond to the working class in the midst of the crisis caused by the new coronavirus and the signaling of the alignment of the federal government with the immediate interests of the owners of capital .

MP 936/2020 is marked by the paradoxes inherent in the Bolsonaro government and reflects the class struggle that characterizes capitalism itself. On the one hand, in her text, she creates the “Emergency Program for the Maintenance of Employment and Income”, including payment of the “Emergency Benefit for the Preservation of Employment and Income”. On the other hand, there is the possibility of reducing the worker's salary, without the guarantee of maintaining the full income earned by him previously. It is, therefore, a provisional measure with a social nature and which brings few benefits to the working class, however, imposing immense sacrifices on it and weighing on it the financial impacts of the already weakened economic situation of our country, aggravated by the arrival of the new coronavirus.

Our scope here is not to scrutinize the provisions of MP 936/2020, in a merely dogmatic analysis, but to shed some light on politics and law in the capitalist mode of production, with a special look at the Brazilian social formation and the situation present in our country. It is no secret that the 2018 elections brought to power an extreme right-wing government in Brazil, with a neoliberal and reactionary nature. However, in the present context, the government was forced to at least wave a few crumbs at the poorest. We can say that the current moment is endowed with a certain peculiarity in the government of Jair Bolsonaro, who, pressed by circumstances, is constrained to slow down his neoliberal agenda and to adopt a policy with some humanist bias, although he is reluctant with all his might to give in to social desires.

Humanism as a discourse and political practice was a typical feature of the Workers' Party governments. The PT, although not totally distanced from the neoliberal playbook, sought to follow it with a certain parsimony, guaranteeing a minimum participation of a significant portion of the population in times of economic prosperity in Brazil. Programs like Bolsa Família, praised worldwide for helping to combat hunger in our country, are an example of this. The fact is that on the PT horizon there was never a plan to break with the bourgeois logic presided over by the commodity. Capitalism was never considered a problem in PT governments. In the words of Fernando Haddad, the problem of the Bolsonaro government would be the “soulless neoliberalism of Paulo Guedes” – as if there could be a “neoliberalism with a soul” –, that is, the PT logic was that of a humanist policy and, therefore, also bourgeois. Jair Bolsonaro, in turn, came to power and earned the nickname of “myth” among his fanatical followers, precisely because he embraced a discourse to combat corruption and welfare by PT governments. The PT's humanist policy bothered sectors of the bourgeoisie and the middle class, which are supporters of the fallacious notion of meritocracy - belonging to the capitalist ideological framework, especially in its post-Fordist phase - and, therefore, seek to combat all kinds of state aid to the poorest part of the population, as well as labor and social security rights.

However, in the midst of the economic and health crisis in which we are immersed, the humanist policy discourse that had been defeated at the polls has returned to the fore. Even mass media, notably spokespersons for the bourgeoisie, began to corroborate the need for emergency aid by the government to the needy population and workers. The political pressure suffered by the federal government culminated in the publication of MP 936/2020, which even regulates the allocation of emergency aid of BRL 600,00 to employees with intermittent employment contracts. This, among other measures, far below the needs of the population and the budgetary capacity of the Brazilian government, is the result of an almost generalized outcry for the resumption of a minimally humanist policy in the midst of the crisis caused, among other factors, by the pandemic.

The left, in general, understands that if we had a government really committed to workers' rights and to real aid to the most needy, our current situation would be very different. Indeed, the possibility of collapse of the Brazilian health system, for example, brought about by COVID-19, is not just the result of the pandemic, but of decades of neglect with public health in our country. Moreover, if the government was effectively interested in helping the working class, more effective measures should have been taken, including making the burden of the crisis shared by the holders of capital. Such a scenario would certainly leave us in a more comfortable position and remove most of the uncertainties and impasses in which we are immersed. However, contrary to what could be superficially concluded, even if the government was guided by a social-democratic vision or if, at least, it assumed its responsibility for the well-being of the population, such, by itself - although it would result in the evident minimization of social and health scourges – would not be enough to resolve the contradictions that structure our society. Humanist politics – undeniably more beneficial than fascist politics, for example – are not capable of breaking with the shackles of capitalist social forms, as they are shaped by the ideological framework that sustains them.

in my book Marxism, humanism and law: Althusser and Garaudy, published by Editora Ideias & Letras, deals with the Marxist debate on humanism between the French Marxist philosophers Roger Garaudy and Louis Althusser and its implications for understanding the role of law in capitalism. The debate intensified within the French Communist Party, especially in the 1960s, but it transcended its borders and dragged on through the 1970s, with echoes that resonate to the present time.

Garaudy postulated the identification of Marxism with a new and peculiar humanism and envisioned in socialism the possibility of raising man to the condition of subject and builder of his own history. A socialist society, in this perspective, would be the materialization of a kind of “kingdom of God on Earth”. Although the philosopher had the merit of seeking a fruitful dialogue between Marxists and Christians, notably with the supporters of liberation theology, he did not advance in a scientific understanding of Marxism.

Louis Althusser, in turn, understood that Marxism presents itself eminently as a science. Karl Marx would thus be the discoverer of a new continent of scientific thought, such as Thales of Miletus, Galileo Galilei or Sigmund Freud, for example. The science of history unveiled by Marx would have the power to unravel the intricacies of capitalist society, as well as its possibilities of overcoming it. The key that allowed Althusser to achieve such an understanding lies in his peculiar reading of Marx's work, dividing it into works of youth (1840-1844), of the court (1845), of maturation (1845-1857) and of maturity (1857). -1883). Thus, unlike humanist Marxists who, like Garaudy, saw in Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts the founding work of Marxism, Althusser pointed out The capital as the fundamental work of Marx. In the Althusserian reading, Marx, in his path of theoretical maturation, left behind the epistemological obstacles that prevented him from a scientific understanding of history, such as, for example, the notions of man, subject, alienation and human essence, and started to work with categories scientific aspects such as: mode of production, productive forces, relations of production, merchandise, among others.

Althusser also undertakes an in-depth study of ideology, based on a combination of Marxism and psychoanalysis. Differently from commonly established conceptions, for Althusser, ideology is not the result of a free choice of the individual, but is the result of reiterated material practices that end up constituting their own subjectivities. Therefore, the very fact that we are immersed in a capitalist materiality is the foundation on which our own perspectives on life are built.

For Althusser, legal ideology is the core of the capitalist ideological framework, as it is only in this form of social organization that individuals become subjects of law, free and equal, able to transact goods. As Marx teaches, capitalism is structured around the exploitation of the workforce of salaried workers, who are constrained to sell themselves on the market to the owners of the means of production – since the workforce is inseparable from the worker’s own corporeality – to guarantee their livelihood. In this context, the ideals of freedom and equality typical of bourgeois revolutions are the ideological materialization of a situation that already appeared in practice, insofar as, unlike previous modes of production, it is only in capitalism that the notion of contract is universalized. of work.

Thus, under the aegis of capitalism and its ideological framework, all aspirations for emancipation become co-opted by the legal sphere. Workers' struggles become struggles for more rights and not for the break with the capitalist mode of production, which engenders the legal form itself, as pointed out by the Russian jurist Evguiéni Pachukanis. Friedrich Engels, in his work legal socialism, warned of the impossibility of a legal socialism, given the structural imbrication between law and capitalism.

In the current scenario of our country, the importance of rescuing the debate about humanism is fundamental. Faced with the picture that presents itself, there are, in a superficial analysis, only two possible paths: an extreme fascist right in favor of a wide open necropolitics or a humanist policy, with possible shades to the right, center and left. However, if we really want to break out of this vicious circle that constrains us, alternating between extreme right, right, center and reformist left, it is essential that we follow a path different from the previous ones, towards the horizon of socialist struggles. Humanist policies can be beneficial in the immediate plan, but they are not sustainable in the long term. In moments of acute crises, they are the first to be rejected. Moreover, they are always superficial and do not attack the causes of oppression, exploitation of inequality, which reside in the capitalist mode of production itself.

The moment we are experiencing in world history, and especially in the Brazilian case, is unprecedented and very serious. As Althusser teaches, history is a process without subject or purpose, there is no teleology, but there is always the possibility of an event, an event able to trigger a structural change in society. We are currently experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, which finds a peripheral capitalist society governed by an extreme right-wing political group, at the service of capital, which domesticates its followers with digital militias, in a kind of underworld of the ideological apparatuses of the State. Add to this the existing disputes between sectors of the bourgeoisie itself, the interests of the petty bourgeoisie and, obviously, the class struggle that structures capitalism itself.

Unlike the humanist readings of Marxism, Althusser demonstrates that there is no subject of history, therefore, one cannot think of the proletariat as a revolutionary subject, since such a figure does not exist. The historical process is an unfolding of events and, for us to be able to structurally transform our society, concrete action by the masses is necessary.

My book Marxism, humanism and law: Althusser and Garaudy has a beautiful and emblematic cover engraving entitled supplication and struggle, made by Alysson Leandro Mascaro, who is also the author of the preface to the work. Unfortunately, in the current scenario, the path taken by the immense majority of the exploited in the world and, in particular, in our country, is that of begging for crumbs from the capital's banquets. This, in part, is reflected in the text of MP 936/2020. However, it is necessary that there be a resumption of the horizon of the struggle, in order to bring together all those who, regardless of their position in society, perceive the need for an effective social transformation. A humanist policy is not enough to bury fascism and barbarism, it can only leave them hidden in a kind of Pandora's box always ready to be opened.

*Juliana Paula Magalhães holds a PhD in Philosophy and General Theory of Law from the Faculty of Law of USP. Author of Marxism, humanism and law: Althusser and Garaudy (Ideas & Letters).

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