Why so much here?

Image: Lara Mantoanelli


Comments from an article by Valerio Arcary.

Valerio Arcary posted on the website the earth is round an article - “Why not here?” – in which he asks: why are there no mass mobilizations in Brazil, unlike what is happening in Colombia, a country that, suffering from the same hardships as Brazil, fearlessly went out for street protests? “Why not here?”.

Immediately, I leave aside our dozens of colonial rebellions (from 1500 to 1822), and jump to the nearest past: 1979, the people take to the streets, driven by the ABCD workers' strike; 1984, the people take to the streets in the struggle for direct elections; 1992, the people take to the streets for “Fora Collor”; 2013, the people take to the streets against the increase in public transport fares; 2019, the people, mobilized by students, take to the streets of the country producing the “tsunami of education”. I ask, then, why so much here? Brazil has already exploded like Colombia; it exploded, moreover, like Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador. But why are we here always asking “the people on the street”?

As Arcary assures, there is no doubt: the current apathy is due to the “peculiarities of the reactionary situation we are suffering in Brazil and its trends of evolution”. The author, with his already known bluntness, points out that there is no lack of reasons for the Brazilian people to take over the cities, and also indicates the reasons that make the Bolsonaro government, at that moment, a little weaker than it was before March of this year. . Indeed, Arcary is correct in declaring that there is always "a delay between the decay of the objective conditions which demand the overthrow of the government, and the awakening in the consciousness of the popular classes". Among the hypotheses listed by the author to explain the emptiness of the streets, the first is the extreme situation in which the working class finds itself, being the only social layer effectively willing to fight for the impeachment of the president. Another possibility is the condition of a pandemic that makes fear, in the more organized left, the increase in the spread of the coronavirus. Arcary also considers other reasonable justifications for the silence even of the pots on the windows: the confusion generated by the accumulation of political defeats since 2016, the idea that only the elections, in 2022, will constitute the ideal scenario to defeat Bolsonarism and, finally , the lack of calling for acts by institutionalized social entities.

For my part, I can only agree with the professor's general analysis and his thoughtful way of ordering facts, possibilities and circumstances, so as to explain the inertia of our inveterate solitude. However, all I can think of are the reasons why Brazilians shouldn't take to the streets, even though we know they will end up going sooner or later. The first reason, of a political nature, is not doing exactly what the government wants, that is, creating an opportunity for chaos to put the troops on the streets and arrest mass demonstrators (as has already been done, from Rafael Braga to Rodrigo Pilha ). The second reason is strategic: with the recent increase in the release of weapons and with the massive adherence of the police-military apparatus to the President of the Republic, it will be necessary to go to the streets with a good operating technique. However, the only ones who have already proved their ability to circumvent the state's repressive apparatus were discriminated against by sectors of the institutional left, and later, having been taken as radicals, they continued to be frowned upon by society. The third reason, also used by Arcary, is sanitary and, because of this, taking to the streets can even be a form of anti-propaganda for the left. It is worth mentioning that anyone who thinks it is possible to occupy streets while maintaining sanitary protocols does not know (or forgets) that the first sign of success for a Brazilian act is the explosion of repression bombs; hence, the rush and agglomeration become inevitable. For those who believe that the acts can be done at a distance, there are actually only two explanations left: either they do not attend acts or, when they attend and the first bombs go off, they are already at home.

When thinking a little more, we remember that, in addition to the reasons why Brazilians do not (or should not) go to the streets, the people are already on the streets to work, and the rest of the population – who work at home – can stop of work. The strike is always a warm weapon... It is also necessary to emphasize that the people are in the streets, and well mobilized. In recent days, the Movement of Homeless Workers (MTST) has carried out explosive acts demanding emergency aid of 600 reais, mass vaccination, and “Fora Bolsonaro”. Where are the vanguards that don't join them? Vanguards, it is true, do not add up to anything, because they are precisely vanguards; but perhaps the time has come for some vanguards to learn from the people. Let us not forget that, already in the years 2013 and 2014, the MTST put 32 thousand people on the streets of the city of São Paulo against the Master Plan then imposed below the citizens' throats.

The people, who in their most radical part are already on the streets, will take to the streets completely sooner or later, we cannot doubt it. As Arcary himself argues, it is necessary to be patient, after all, political movements do not rise when a certain part of society, aware of iniquities, rages and stamps its feet. The temporality proper to every historical process is necessary. But, beforehand, we can consider some things that – because they happen so much – can happen again. It will not be surprising if the first to take to the streets are young people (as in 2013 in the June days or in 2015 and 2016 in the occupation of schools); it will not surprise anyone if, among youth, the first group to be vehemently repressed turns out to be the most radical, that is, the part that defends the self-management of social movements, horizontal decisions and direct collective actions; it will not be new, yet, if after mobilizing the masses, the most radical sectors come to be solemnly ignored by the so-called progressive party vanguards that allow, soon after, the conservative restoration. Isn't that exactly what happened in 2013? In 2013, an originally vigorous and organized revolt was awakened, in which the most radical were said to be rioters and vandals. They were duly punished, while the right-wing media and business sectors refused to pay the price, creating a new wave of protests with loose and perverse agendas.

It is impossible not to think like the Brazilian educator Maurício Tragtenberg: “Every time radicals are repressed in a revolutionary process, the way is opened for conservative restoration. In the French Revolution, Robespierre suppressed the enraged, who represented the most popular, craft layers, and wanted to carry the revolution forward. In doing so, Robespierre creates the conditions to fall to the guillotine, to Thermidor. … We see that these things repeat themselves in cycles. It's time to stop this. If the left really wants to be left, if it really wants social change, it cannot fall into that gelatinous thing of party fetishism, of parliamentary representation for parliamentary representation. History has already proved that these things lead to the failure of the best socialist hopes.”[1].

If instead of asking, as Arcary did, “why not here?” I ask “why so much here?”, it remains to be seen, in short, why so many people keep asking the people on the streets. Let each of us draw the necessary conclusions. Let us know, however, one thing: those who call for the mobilized people will only take to the streets after the streets are already taken.

*Fernando Bonadia de Oliveira Professor of Philosophy of Education at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).


[1] Maurício Tragtenberg. “Rosa Luxemburgo and the critique of bureaucratic phenomena”. Academic Space Magazine, nº14, July 2002.


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