revolt and hope



Considerations about theory, history, and political decision

Contemporary history suggests that Karl Polanyi is right: the great advances of capitalist internationalization promote great economic and technological leaps, but at the same time they geometrically increase the inequalities in the distribution of wealth between nations and social classes. And as a consequence, at the end of the great “cycles of globalization”, the dissatisfaction of the great masses increases and generalizes, and social revolts and nationalist reactions multiply around the world. What he called exactly the “double movement” of market societies.[1]

But if this seems to be true, it is not true that these “reactive inflections” always have a progressive or revolutionary bias. On the contrary, they have never been homogeneous, and can take radically opposite directions, making it impossible to theoretically deduce and predict in advance the ideological orientation and the concrete development that each of these revolts, and these nationalist explosions, will take.

Just look at what happened in the first decades of the 1920th century, when the great masses took to the streets all over Europe, as a reaction against the increase in inequality and misery that grew in the shadow of the accelerated capitalist internationalization of the last decades of the XNUMXth century, to which were added the social catastrophes caused by the First World War, the Spanish flu, and the financial and economic crisis that began in the late XNUMXs and lasted until the beginning of the Second World War. And it will soon be seen that the social revolt and the nationalist explosion of those years took on very different forms, and sometimes diametrically opposed, in different countries, and sometimes within the same country.

In this period, the polarization of classes and nations and the generalized increase in poverty contributed to the explosion of numerous communist uprisings and/or revolutions in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Spain, Russia and several other countries. countries, inside and outside Europe, including evidently the Soviet Revolution, in 1917. But in this same period, this same misery, and this same polarization between nations, also contributed to the multiplication of many other parallels of a “fascist” or “fascist” type. fascists” that multiplied throughout Europe, reaching their tragic victory in Italy and Germany, but also in Portugal and Spain, where the fascists remained in power for 40 years, even after IIGM.

In all these cases, the fascist rise had the support of the big bourgeoisie, but it also had the support of great masses of the poor and of “socially excluded” of all kinds, revolted against the social failure of capitalist globalization and the colonialist imperialism of the second half of the XNUMXth century. And all these cases culminated in the formation of authoritarian governments moved by the same hatred against minorities, foreigners, and their opponents who were exterminated, as was the notable case of Jews, but also of communists, gypsies, the physically disabled and of all those who opposed the regime and who were killed and exterminated by the thousands until the moment of their defeats in the Second War, in the case of Italy and Germany.

And now again, in this third decade of the 90st century, it can be said that the world is going through a new wave of revolts and social and national ruptures, fueled, once again, by the increase in inequality, unemployment and misery that they have multiplied exponentially since the 2008s, but especially after the financial crisis of XNUMX. Here Polanyi is right again, but now it is also impossible to predict the exact future and the outcome of this new “era of rebellions”.

Even so, from now on, and up until now, what is most surprising about these new revolts are two things that stand out within the Eurocentric space, but also, in a slightly different way, in the case of the United States itself:

(i) the first has been the fragility of leftist forces, and the low participation of progressive forces in leading these revolts, with the exception of the case of Greece, in 2013, and Chile, Ecuador and Colombia, in 2019. in the case of Greece, the revolt was quickly tamed by the European Union, and was finally defeated by the Greek right itself; (ii) the second has been the generalized strength and aggressiveness of the new leaderships and ideas of the extreme right, associated with fundamentalism and religious nationalism, be it Christian, Orthodox, Jewish or Islamic, depending on each country and each social group . In Hungary and Poland, no doubt, but also in Israel and various Islamic countries in the Middle East; in England and Holland, no doubt, but also in the United States and Russia; in Italy and the Czech Republic, no doubt, but now also in Sweden, which was a kind of Vatican of European social democracy throughout the XNUMXth century.

One could speak of some other victories of social democracy in the Iberian and Nordic countries, or even in Germany, but even these electoral victories have been reversed in some cases, or are being trampled and dispersed by the new European war between Russia and NATO. , which is mobilizing the worst nationalist instincts and hatreds of the Old Continent's long warring history, and its protracted dispute of its 'Western powers' with Russia, beginning with the invasion of the Pope's Teutonic Knights in 1240; the invasion of Bonaparte's troops in 1812; and finally, the invasion of Nazi Germany in 1942.

It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines such a long history and such a complex situation. But if it is necessary to hurry the analysis and choose a more important factor to explain the weakening of European socialists and social democrats in the face of new social revolts, we would say that it was their loss of harmony with the hope for the future of Europeans, in particular their large masses of unemployed and socially excluded.

This limitation of social democracy has deeper and more ancient roots, because social democrats have always found it difficult to face and incorporate the “national question” into their project for Europe, and they have never been able to reconcile their internationalism during periods of peace with their nationalism from the hours of war between their own states, and against their colonies. For this very reason, European socialists and social democrats did not participate or support the initial idea, nor did they ever have any popular identification with the project of European unification. But despite this, they unconditionally supported NATO's expansion project inside and outside Europe, after the end of the Cold War.

That is why today, at the time of this great current crisis in the European Union, they are not able to position themselves either, either in favor of merely economic integration, as proposed by liberals, or in favor of the creation of a new European State, as proposed by nationalists. In addition, in the 1990s, they abandoned their own project of deepening the “social welfare state”, by adhering to the new neoliberal economic prescription of austerity and the reduction of the social role of the state, and for this reason today it has nothing to do with it. something new to say about this new wave of unemployment and misery for Europeans.

This is how European socialists and social democrats ended up losing their own ideological and political identity, and what is worse, losing their secular ability to mobilize the “great masses” who are now adhering to the ideas, solutions and dystopias proposed by the new the European extreme right, which is watching the disintegration of the continent, accelerated by the war in Ukraine, from the balcony. It would be very important, but it is not appropriate to analyze in so few lines the parallel and similar process that North American democrats are facing in their own country.

But the European panorama that was outlined is already enough to understand the crucial importance of the battle that is being fought in Brazil, at this moment, between this new global right and the set of local political forces that came together to stop the advance of the old “fascism”. ” of a European type that joined the new right-wing “Christian nationalism”, of North American origin, which has been injected into Brazilian society for many years. A real war between two visions of humanity, absolutely antagonistic and, at the same time, in the Brazilian case, between two opposing conceptions, of state, society, economy, sustainability, culture, civilization and future.

At this moment, it is essential that progressives present to Brazilian society a project for the future that is innovative and differentiated, combining a true strategy of war against inequality, with a simultaneous project of building a nation, popular and democratic, and of a great pacifying power capable of influencing the gigantic world transformations that are in full course.

It is essential at this time to raise awareness and win the support of all Brazilians for a new project for a future that is solidary and shared by all, capable of overcoming the theological and ultraliberal dystopia of the salvation of each one for himself, even if it is against everyone else, with the blessing of God and the invisible hand of the Market. At this time, more than ever, it is necessary to innovate and present, with courage and absolute clarity, ideas and projects, but above all, a “dream of the future” capable of being in tune with the imagination and hope of all Brazilians.

*Jose Luis Fiori He is Professor Emeritus at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Global power and the new geopolitics of nations (Boitempo).


[1] Theory discussed in the article, “The Conquest of Sovereignty”. Available in the earth is round.

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