EN 40 years – The issue of self-criticism

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By Joao Feres Junior*

a possible mea culpa of the PT would be a bad example for the political education of Brazilians, it would be an endorsement of the mystifying media narrative of the criminalization of politics

This article is the first part of a set of two on the PT. He presents a critique of the idea that the party needs to make a public self-criticism. In the second article, I argue that the criticism to be made is of a different nature and much more complex.

At least since the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the proposal circulates among party cadres, sympathizers and people from other parties, especially from the left, that the PT should go public with self-criticism. This proposal can be summarized by the following reasoning. For having been involved in corruption scandals, the party should come out publicly and declare repentance and thus try to regain part of the lost voters over the years.

Let us assume first that this proposal is not merely instrumental, that is, that the act of mea culpa not be motivated solely by the desire to reverse electoral losses, but by a moral sense of regret. This is certainly its most harmful interpretation, as it reduces politics to common morality. It is not necessary to read Machiavelli to understand that the virtue of honesty can be a strong motivator for individual actions and generate pleasure and peace of mind for those who imagine acting guided by it, but it does not necessarily produce public goods, which are the ultimate goal of virtue. policy.

Only someone blinded by moralism can imagine that the greatest virtue of a politician is to be honest. It is all too easy to conceive of leaders as honest and cruel, incapable of promoting the good of their community. Imagine, for example, if those neoliberal economists who insist on infesting public administration were honest. The tragedy they promote would not be much smaller. Furthermore, it is quite possible that some of them even believe that by promoting the interests of the financial system and capital in general in the first place, they would in fact be looking out for the common good, via some kind of cascading effect or something like that. His honesty, however, would not improve the state of things one bit.

If we descend from this more ideal plane of analysis to the concrete example of our country, we are obliged to consider even more disturbing questions of prudence in relation to this proposal. The PT was the object of a systematic campaign to criminalize politics promoted by the Brazilian mainstream media with the collaboration of sectors of the Judiciary, the Public Ministry and center-right and right-wing parties. Our survey numbers pressure gauge do not lie.

Dilma was buried under overwhelming political coverage, from the first month of her second term, until her removal. Lula was systematically persecuted by the major newspapers and highly rated television programs, the victim of dishonest and highly biased coverage that did not stop even after his conviction and imprisonment, despite all the irregularities involved in the processes that were filed against him, irregularities that almost always ignored by the big vehicles.

Well, in addition to the various injustices committed in the processes of impeachment of Dilma and persecution of Lula, this media campaign resulted in a strong devaluation of representative political institutions in the face of the population – I will not use graphics here to preserve the flow of the text . This anti-political and anti-democratic pedagogy operates precisely through the reduction of politics to morality. Anyone who has ever entered into a conversation with anti-PT garden variety you'll know exactly what I'm saying. Looks like they've been brainwashed. They spew stock phrases that could very well have been plucked from the cover of a The Globe, from editorials of Estadão or the columns of magazines Veja e This is.

Now, when making a mea culpa, the PT would be confirming this narrow view of our collective life, giving credence to narratives that caused damage to the party and, ironically, to the right-wing parties that promoted them, such as the PSDB. It was the dissemination of these narratives that created the necessary conditions for the election of the champion of anti-politics, Jair Bolsonaro.

This proposal of public self-criticism is often coated with a yearning for the regeneration of the party; for the return to their original values, supposedly corrupted by the approximation to power. In fact, for a good period the PT was a very moralist party. There are historical justifications for this. Unlike associations such as the MDB and PDS/PFL/DEM (Arena), which maintained institutional political participation during the period of the Military Dictatorship, the PT came almost exclusively from resistance movements to the dictatorship.

For its militants, state institutions symbolized repression, arbitrariness, opacity and, many times, corruption. The prevalence of utopian, mainly socialist, ideologies among cadres helped to foster the perception that the State, and in practice the government, was something to be fought, boycotted or even avoided. And finally, there is the Catholic component, which was strong in the formation and consolidation of the party. Christianity has, since its foundation, strongly anti-political aspects – see Saint Augustine – and its most fervent followers find it extremely difficult not to submit all human actions to the filter of Christian morality.

The party's culture, highly moralistic at its inception, began to change, sometimes dramatically, as a result of the successive victories in municipal elections, something I had the chance to witness personally in Campinas. The biggest change came, however, with the consecutive victories achieved in the presidential elections. The occupation of the federal executive forced the party to face seriously, as never before, the issues pertaining to public administration and the political processes that surround it. Adapting the PT government to coalition presidentialism was a difficult learning experience, which worked well for years, but which did not have a very happy ending. And such learning had as a necessary prerequisite the deconstruction of the original moralism.

Moralism never entirely abandoned the PT, however. Unlike the traditional leftist parties that preceded it, all of them doctrinaire in some way, the PT never constituted a doctrine. However, idealistic residues, often linked to utopian and spontaneous formulations of collective life, still feed moralistic yearnings among his cadres.

Just to cite one example of the highest relevance, the political crisis that befell the Dilma government, in addition to the systematic boycott of the media and conservative political forces, had the collaboration of a good dose of moralism, which seems to have strongly mitigated the government's ability to navigate its troubled waters. The evidence for this is numerous and would take an entire article, if not longer, to develop.

So, if this PT's political odyssey, imperfect and painful as it was, produced some learning in terms of a better understanding of politics as an activity that should not be guided by traditional individual morality, this proposal of mea culpa would lose everything. It would be a bad example for party members and for the political education of Brazilian citizens in general, preferred victims of media mystification. When making a mea culpa public, the PT would be confirming the media narrative of criminalization of politics.

There was no virtue in the party's original moralism, on the contrary. This was based on a naive and mistaken view of politics, understandable in a period immediately after the dictatorship, but unacceptable in the current historical moment. Those who say in a nice way that today's PSOL is yesterday's PT are wrong. The moralism that plagues PSOL politicians and followers, for example, by condemning the PT's adherence to coalition presidentialism, is a much more serious fault than the original PT naivety. We become properly human through the ability to learn from the experiences of others. Were it not so, we would still be inhabiting the tops of trees (pardon the hyperbolic literacy, our primate cousins ​​also learn from each other).

Well, now let's briefly examine the option that such a proposal has a merely instrumental purpose, that is, to rebuild the party's image vis-à-vis voters who have come to reject it. Here we have a problem of collective action, because if the party takes such an attitude without being accompanied by other political associations, also involved in corruption scandals in the recent past, it would be running the risk of confirming the most malicious of all the narratives constructed by the campaign media: that the PT was the great organizer of national political corruption, the most corrupt of all the parties, a gang whose only purpose was to stay in power through corruption, etc. On the other hand, what is the concrete probability that other parties will come to the public to “wash dirty linen”? PSDB, DEM, MDB, PP? What about newbies PSL, PSC, among many others? Close to zero, I dare say.

Finally, another scandalously naive element of such a proposal resides in this concept of “going public”. Despite having remained in the presidency for almost a decade and a half, the party has not ensured any effective means of communication even with its members, let alone with its electorate and the Brazilian population in general. Thus, this “going public” would constitute, in practice, subjection to the frameworks of the major media, which would then report this act of redemption to the population.

You don't need to be very creative to imagine the comments that figures like Miriam Leitão, Carlos Alberto Sardemberg, Josias de Souza, Eliane Cantanhede, and many others would make about the fact, the reports that the Sheet: Estadão and the National Journal would produce, etc. One thing is certain, when we take our country's communicational reality seriously, we find that the idea is exactly absurd.

In short, the proposal for a mea culpa petista seems to be an expression of the Christian perspective that the truth sets you free, a reason already in use by the ideological field that today occupies the federal executive. They at least know that this is pure balela, only for the English to see.

*João Feres Junior is professor of political science at IESP-UERJ. He is coordinator of GEMAA – Group of Multidisciplinary Studies of Affirmative Action (http://gemaa.iesp.uerj.br/) and of LEMEP – Laboratory of Studies of Media and Public Space

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