Religion, revolution and state

Image: Steve Johnson


While Bolsonarism is spiritually encouraged for a “holy war”, the left lives lethargically, celebrating results favorable to the elites as if they were popular victories

The Soviet jurist Petr Ivanovich Stucka (1974, p. 188), in his analysis of law, focuses on the relationship between theories of natural law and positive law, that is, the laws created by humanity: “el dualismo entre current law and ideal law, between positive law […] and natural law […] it is like a red hilo that traverses the entire history of the law […]. Only in the great upheavals, in the course of revolutions […], when a new class prevails, a conjunction is noticed or also, for an instant, the unification of the two spheres, put alone in name of the general rights of society A special class can claim general domination for itself.”

Natural law is, therefore, a way of justifying revolutions in the face of the established order. Therefore, natural law was an extremely valuable tool for bourgeois revolutions, especially for the French Revolution. The natural justice of Rousseau's social contract and the defense of property are the elements that legitimize the revolution, which, when completed, declared the union of laws with natural law in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

After the victory of the bourgeoisie, which it celebrated as a victory for the people as a whole, jusnaturalism was eliminated and replaced by positivist and “logical” theories, thus becoming a way of maintaining its achievements; that is, the ideology that previously postulated the right of revolution becomes counter-revolutionary (STUCKA, 1974, p. 190, 193-195, 201).

It is no surprise, therefore, that natural law is no longer supported as the foundation of the State or even its metaphysical foundation is rejected as anti-scientific. This is exactly the point of view of the greatest exponent of legal positivism, Hans Kelsen (1973, p. 99-102 and 108-109), who establishes the connection between natural law and metaphysics with the absolutist monarchy and dictatorship.

Hegel (1984, p. 451-453 and 458-460) already highlighted the intimate connection between the State, religion and natural law, especially in the minds of the people, who consider religion as the foundation of the State. Although religion is a form prior to reason (which the State embodies), both have absolute knowledge as their object, which in religion is God; Furthermore, both are related to freedom: religion as freedom before God in worship, and the State and Law as the earthly realization of freedom.

However, modern theories about the Constitution have made a detachment between religion and the State based on the duality between inner subjectivity (religion) and public objectivity (law), something that would be impossible to sustain, because: (i) the law needs to be applied and, thus, depends on the conviction – that is, the inner dimension – of those who apply it, on the belief that the laws are fair; and (ii) the inner dimension without a right always leads to ruin, as the subjects would not have rights to protect them.

It is this point that demonstrates a mistake on the part of Petr Ivanovich Stucka in identifying natural law only as a tool of the bourgeoisie, as it was this same natural law that motivated the revolts of the peasantry in the Holy Roman Empire (SIRG), today's Germany. Although strongly motivated by the considerable worsening of the lives of this peasantry, who had to bear the weight of the increased need for resources caused by the centralization of the State and mercantile capital, the justifications for the rebellion were based on religion (BLOCH, 1973, p. 44-45 and 51-52).

The first “revolution”, which gave rise to the plundering of the peasantry, was justified by Luther. In addition to its theology allowing the break with the Roman Catholic Church and the appropriation by princes of the Church's assets, it also determined the State as a necessity to contain the sinful nature of all humanity. There is no salvation or good intentions, as humanity is inherently evil; the State punishes sin, hence its indispensability. Anyone who wants to free themselves from their position or turn against oppression does not do so with any good intention, as humanity is sinful and, therefore, needs to be punished by the prince (BLOCH, 1973, p.124-128).

In contrast, the peasants who rose up against the princes adopted the theology of Thomas Münzer, which was based on the possibility of achieving liberation and salvation through an arduous path: the suffering of the faithful, caused by the princes, and their revolt against them; Only in this way could the faithful hear the voice of God and create the Kingdom of God on earth. In other words, it is to achieve divine utopia; this, which, for Thomas Münzer and the rebels, would involve the common ownership of land – that is, the common ownership of the means of production –, as demanded by primitive Christianity (BLOCH, 1973, p. 93, 178-183, 194 -195, 205).

It is therefore demonstrated that natural law and religion can be used – and almost always are – by revolutionary movements. As Bloch (1973, p. 48) highlights: “The situation of the respective economic design is already […] dependent on sets of higher and more complex decisions, mainly of a religious sense, as Max Weber demonstrated […]. Thus represented, a pure economic reflection alone is not enough to explain the conditions and causes of the eruption of a historical event with the violence of the Peasant War […]. Marx himself gives mystical exaltations their due value, at least at the beginning of each revolution.”

Given this, what happened on January 08, 2023 (RICUPERO, 2024) was not a chance, but rather a necessary development of the rhetoric used by Bolsonarism. The religious element, of a holy war, is always present in the speeches of the leaders of this movement; During the 2022 elections, former minister Damares Alves had already stated: “this election is not a political dispute, but a spiritual war” (SOUZA, 2022). In particular, one can see the preaching tone of the speech used by Michelle Bolsonaro during the act held in favor of former president Jair Bolsonaro on February 25, 2024, in which Psalm 24 is used as a theological basis: “[… ] for a long time we were negligent to the point of saying that they could not mix politics with religion. And evil took and evil occupied the space. The time has now come for liberation. […] I believe in a living God. An all-powerful God who is capable of restoring and healing our nation. Don't give up, women, men, young people, children. Don't give up on our country. Keep praying, keep crying out because I know that our God, from above, will give us help.” (Power360).

While the fervor of faith motivates many to a “revolution” on the side of the extreme right, the left sticks to defending institutions, portraying any and all government actions as a victory. This is exactly the case with the recent bill that seeks to regulate work through apps, which is presented as having “the objective of guaranteeing minimum rights for app drivers” (BRASIL, 2024).

However, already in art. 3 of the project, these workers are excluded from the protections and rights given to employees by the Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT), such as allowing them to work twelve hours a day, according to art. 3, §2, of the bill, while arts. 58 and 59 of the CLT limited working hours to up to eight hours per day plus two additional hours. It is no surprise, therefore, that Uber (2024) has positioned itself in favor of the bill. It is a brutal throwback to the 1996th century, where the working day extended beyond ten hours, forcing workers to rise up against this unfeasible exploitation due to all the ills, physical and mental, that these working hours caused (MARX, 353 , p. 391, 405-411, 413-XNUMX).

Faced with the overthrow of the result of years of workers' struggle, nothing is done. A point has been reached where a metaphysician is more useful than any of those who claim to speak on behalf of the workers and represent their interests. While Bolsonarism is spiritually encouraged for a “holy war”, the left lives lethargically, celebrating results favorable to the elites as if they were popular victories. Change is associated with internal transformation, through existing institutions. An aversion to struggle, to rupture, is created, as democracy is supposed to be a peaceful tool to overcome the class struggle (KELSEN, 2000, p. 132-133; STUCKA, 1974, p. 208-209).

The Brazilian left is dead, as Vladimir Safatle (2024) said. She stuck to a model that is no longer sustainable due to its internal contradictions; The measures taken during the 2000s are no longer applicable today, as the concentration of income is so violent that the model of expanding consumption to the lower classes is no longer possible, not at least without more incisive actions, such as strikes. However, “it is clear that some try to impose on us the idea of ​​a kind of forced choice: either capitalism or servitude; either the defense of liberal democracy as we have today or authoritarianism” (ibid.). Meanwhile, the far right is growing stronger…

*Antonio Barsch Gimenez is a law student at the University of São Paulo (USP).


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