EN: between autophagy and survival

Image: Filipe Coelho
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By LUÍS FERNANDO VITAGLIANO*

Some signs already indicate that the PT is following the exhaustion formula

Normally, in Brazil, political parties, like products, have a “life cycle” mirrored in people's biological notion: they are born, grow, stagnate, age and die. Some leave fruit, others don't care. For the specific case of political parties, the “cycle” can occur in a generational time. In Latin American republics, parties sometimes last 50, 60 or 70 years depending on the political context.

But the cases of Europeans are different, where longevity is secular. O Labour Party English was created at the end of the XNUMXth century. In the US, another example, the Republican and Democratic parties date back to the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. Finally, in origin, the parties intertwine in a concatenated way with the democracy of Western countries. As a characteristic of the Brazilian political system, parties are tools that do not even support democracy; Roughly speaking: here, parties serve politicians, there politicians must serve the democratic system that places parties in a central position.

Some of the New Republic parties unsuccessfully sought to escape the “life cycle” that plagues the Brazilian political system. To gain time and rejuvenate, they tried to change their name or merged with the PMDB, PSDB, PFL or PDS, but they did not emerge unscathed from the pitfalls of history. The supposed exception to these Latin historical regularities was the PT in Brazil. Supposed because there was an expectation that the party would escape the rule of collapse when it appeared on the political scene as a tool of an ideal of transformation.

Forged from the working class, from the new unionism, from the cry of the oppressed and from the return from exile of intellectuals, together they formed a base that rekindled hope for a renewed policy, dedicated and the need for change. Expectations were established earlier, to some extent with the PMDB, but the PT had no institutional link or with representatives of mandates coming from the dictatorship. It meant something new and stood out as a party with ties to social movements and unions and a concern for direct representation and participatory politics. So, it is up to us to clearly problematize whether the PT will be able to escape this fate of collapse?

Some signs already indicate that the PT is following the exhaustion formula, concretely showing signs of raids, even after its suis generis political rise. For example: it is typical of parties that achieve, as a novelty, a strong representation in large cities, generally in capitals. The main Brazilian parties began to exercise more power after they managed to govern the main cities of the country. This allowed them to govern populous states and elect large numbers of parliamentarians. With more or less significant differences, it happened with the PFL, with the PMDB, with the PSDB and, finally, with the PT.

All parties that nationalized and gained space to govern the country. However, after some failures, they lost representation, started to govern smaller cities, first of medium size and later managed to remain governing small cities with faded representation or giving the initials to adventurers who had no political trajectory, but great chances of being elected.

The PT won and governed large cities. He chose robust countertops. In Minas Gerais, for example, see: he governed important cities in the Vale do Aço, then he arrived in the capital Belo Horizonte and, finally, he made the governor. With that came a large bench. State and federal deputies. But, the fall began. Left the government, reduced the bench, was unable to maintain the big cities and now bitter the government of smaller cities with an exception in Juiz de Fora and another in Contagem; without the slightest prospect of returning to govern the capital or the state in the short term. Asynchronously, what is observed in subnational terms also occurs at the national level.

It is important to observe that it is part of the trajectory of the great parties and reveals a certain exhaustion that we tend to perceive as a sociological regularity of the Brazilian party system and acts both within the process and by external pressures. The provocation of this article is to discuss whether the PT follows the exhaustion and autophagy of the parties or if there will be room for improvement?

However, before working on the impasse, it is necessary to review two current myths about the PT that deserve debate:

In the first place, the restless press spreads and encourages part of the common sense the assumption that the PT is a party with insoluble defects, incorrigible vices and incapable of self-criticism. If that were the case, it would be easy to say that PT's days are numbered. But, it is not possible to point this out to the most successful and organized party in the history of Brazilian society and the one that most contributed to the longest period of our democracy without the counterargument being wide open.

Winning five presidential elections in the last 35 years and coming second in four others places the PT as a relevant historical subject, as well as a protagonist of the New Republic and disables any interlocutor from pointing out capital flaws. If the criterion for success is victory, he did more things right than wrong, as he was in the second round in all the elections in which that round took place (seven of the last nine elections), he won five of those and in the two elections in which he did not there was a second round was in second place in both cases. Only a strong party, with powerful communication and organizational capacity, can present this performance. Even with all the internal and external debate, the results are unequivocally successful.

And yes! The primary function of a political party is the conquest of political power. This is what they are born for and this is their function. In liberal democracies, this involves winning elections and providing political support for their cadres to govern. Winning elections and forming a government is not the only, but it is the best indicator that the Party has played its part.

Secondly, it is necessary to rule out that the PT is not immune to the characteristic defects of Brazilian society – despite what many militants insist on denying. The fact that there is reflection on social vices and even project efforts and public policies to face them, does not mean that there is internal and external success in combating some barbarities that plague us. As a party, the PT has to face racism, machismo, clientelism, nepotism (just to mention some relevant issues) also internally.

And it has scandalous failures. Characteristics that make Brazilian society difficult to deal with and are rooted in our political culture invade through every pore of any institution. The PT has a direct influence on Brazilian society and also needs to recognize that Brazilian society permeates its practices and is the basis on which it is formed; this has as a direct and inevitable consequence inherent vices that affect their daily practice, such as clientelistic bureaucratization.

Max Weber spoke of the “iron cage” that the rationalization characteristic of modernity provoked and generates the bureaucratization of a society. Bureaucratization is an external element that captures the political system by professional parties as part of a broader process. PT is not immune to this diagnosis. On the contrary, it is intoxicated by a strong Brazilian wing bureaucracy that imprisons part of its structures, swallows strategic positions and distances itself from the spontaneous representation of the social masses. There is no doubt that the PT party bureaucracy imposes itself on a daily basis on spontaneous militancy and causes distortions.

All these analyzes are important only if there is learning in the PT. It exists, but it is not organized or systematic. It occurs, but mainly in defeats. It is a fact that the PT learned and adapted with the defeats, and it is also evident that it has learning difficulties with the victories. Recently, my concern is that even the defeats don't seem to have been pedagogical. This means that the party has repeated vices that make it cringe, with petty decisions; fruit of a constellation of causes that certainly includes the bureaucratization of structures.

The process of impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and the facts that followed this historic event were poorly digested by the party. Victimization (but not only) prevented problems from being exposed and errors from being evaluated. It is understandable that this happens, but at very high costs. In general, when a process like the 2016 coup takes place, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, the party is punished by voters with 15 or 20 years of rejection – which in the electoral count is 3 or 4 cycles. But then came Jair Bolsonaro with his inept way of acting, which allowed Lula to reassume command and put the PT back in government.

Anyway, whether its critics like it or not, history has given the PT a second chance – which usually does not happen. And this opens up possibilities: the historical accident can prevent the announced collapse of the party and prevent the “life cycle” characteristic of the Brazilian party system from reaching it; or, in a second hypothesis: it will only postpone the inevitable and maintaining the presidency for as long as it lasts will not prevent, but only soften the party's downward trajectory in terms of representation.

Which way will the story go? There are many variables to consider to answer this question reasonably. But a fundamental variable for this account is the PT itself: it will depend on the way in which the party absorbs events, learns from successes and mistakes and reacts to the process in its decision-making structure. If the PT maintains its decision-making process, its internal mechanisms and an aging bureaucracy at the forefront, it will also maintain decisions that led to its recent defeats. But if you institutionalize the institutional learning process, you may have the ability to reconnect with the social representation system.

Many public and private institutions have developed an organizational learning system. This is nothing new in the world of organizations. The perception that companies, businesses, governments face a “life cycle” and end is old. After studies that demonstrated that the average “life” of large companies is less than a century and that they could not remain at the top for long, a series of innovations in the organizational process came about that allowed changing the way in which these companies operate. worked and that affected reality. Organizational learning departments aligned with sophisticated analysis of scenarios and planning are developed for executives to make more rational decisions with the objective of giving longevity to their organization.

Finally, it is necessary to remember that, contrary to what the unwary see, at various times in its history the PT also made changes typical of organizational learning, when it reviewed actions that led to mistakes and reformulated its positions, it was able to overcome pitfalls, but this occurred spontaneously and was driven by the voluntarism of many of its cadres who were greater than the bureaucracy, due to their historical relevance.

However, today the PT is in a critical period and the bureaucracy exercises greater leadership than potential cadres and, for organizational learning to take place, it will be necessary to incorporate action into the party decision-making process and face the immobilization of cadres, which does not it's absurdly easy.

Furthermore, by supplying cadres to the government, it becomes even more vulnerable. But if the government is directly linked to the party and the challenges that the party will face go through its own political articulation and support of governability. As we know, PT has already done this a few times, but if it continues without learning, it should have less and less chances.

The need to expand the government framework by incorporating allies, or supposed allies. Part of them just wants to benefit from power ties. It was like this at the beginning of the century with the victory of the first Lula government: the phenomenon of neo-PTism or neo-PTism emerged: a movement of new affiliates that included authorities such as mayors and deputies and even candidates for STF ministers, as well as professionals and militants hunting for roles and resources.

These were cloudy times, a wave that was difficult to understand. However, it was only realized that too much space was given to opportunists and saboteurs years later. Many were not allies, friends or close ones, but just freeloaders. It was a late diagnosis and already innocuous. But this diagnosis and learning from experience are important for today, so as not to repeat mistakes. In Lula III, the neo-pestist returns with the nickname of the “broad front”.

In this salad there are good news and cheap pitfalls, with past experience it is important to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Without great filters that determine and dialogue about which space each new and occasional ally will occupy, the government suffers. Based on the concern with learning, after the first fall a contingency plan is made that places rubber mats on the path with banana peel.

Another fragile link in our governance is the economy. In the second Dilma government, the presence of contractionist extraterrestrials and reforms that suffocated the popular classes led to rapidly growing social discontent. The formula of tightening the grip at the beginning of the government to loosen it later is typical of the XNUMXth century, where TV was a vehicle that regulated expectations. Specialists in political marketing spoke of the accumulated fat of popularity with the beginning of the government that was allowed to be burned with unpopular but necessary actions. Today, two poorly written twitters and a gaffe that has consequences for the worker's pocket makes a lot of noise on social networks and takes away political capital at an unrecognizable speed, which could lead to the point of no return of support for the government and create an irreversible political crisis.

In politics, time management is the most important resource one can make use of. Pressing at the wrong time or correcting after the damage has already been done has brought down more governments than the bayonet. And times change: the time of analogue mechanisms is not the time of digital communication.

Finally, it is necessary to talk about the reforms. There was always a commitment on the part of the PT not to reform the reforms. Very Brazilian thing. We are not going to reform the labor reform, nor the education reform or the privatization of strategic elements of development. When recovering programs that were important 20 years ago, the Party and the government show signs of lack of organizational learning, that the analyzes and, therefore, the party institution lacks preparation and scope. It is a sign that the gears are blocked and it reveals that the most important decision-making structures are hijacked by sterile bureaucracy that prevent the development of new practices.

It is not advisable to underestimate the PT. But, the indications run in relief. There are consistent facts that support the hypothesis that the party, by not systematically incorporating organizational learning, can be sucked into the death process. The result will be demonstrated through the aging of PT structures, unable to provide satisfactory answers to contemporary challenges, in a continuum of electoral defeats in relevant squares.

It will thus follow the trail of political parties in Brazil through the curve of collapse on the way to irrelevance. The PT has time and opportunity renewed, but time runs like a boy and the party moves with dementia. If it succeeds in reversing the inertia frame, it will be an unprecedented surprise.

*Luis Fernando Vitagliano political scientist and university professor.


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