Rio Grande do Sul — dialectic of place and space

Image: Mevlütcan Rüzgar


The citizen struggle is not fought in an ideal arena, but under the weight of decades of monetarism on the subjectivation and worldview of the people

Italo Calvino, in the invisible cities, based on a real character, explores the intricacies of self-knowledge. What we were or were not in the past is found in cities we have been to , either we knew it through stories told or they even ceased to exist. The Mongol emperor, who asks Marco Polo to describe where he went in his kingdom, recovers the conquered cities through the memory and words of the Venetian traveler. “It’s not the voice that controls the narration: it’s the ear.” To the poles and people relive in the narratives that forge their existence in the world.

In this fluid context, “There are two ways not to suffer. The first is easy for most people: accept hell and become part of it to the point of no longer noticing it. The second is risky and requires attention and learning: trying to know who and what, in the middle of hell, is not hell, and preserving it.” The extreme right adopts the chameleon alternative with the promotion of profit above the needs of the community. Progressives protect the ideals of coexistence, in the dialectic of place and space that encompasses the local, the regional and the global. The totalizing analyzes of what affects the city enhance the practical-critical effectiveness of possible course corrections, in addition to allowing the planning of reconstruction efforts open to participation and social intelligence.

The place carries an element of identity for workers, more than for capital holders. The internationalization of the economy and the deindustrialization process reveal the obvious: the bourgeoisie does not need a habitat to call yours. Belonging has connotations in the affection of work. Suddenly, however, what was solid crumbles in drought or flood and, to the demand for social and human diversity, democracy adds a demand for ecological diversity. If Gaia's temperature continues to increase, the Anthropocene will be a melancholic farewell to a vast number of biomes with fauna and flora; and even the deluded homo demens, formersapiens.

The moment requires a broad examination of an anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal nature, to raise the level of awareness about the mastermind behind the environmental hecatomb. The traditional neglect of nature by the “elites” now demands the price of insanity with forced deterritorialization. The crosses in cemeteries report the vulnerable pushed to the sides of hills, on the edge of lakes, rivers and streams; not to mention the countless luxury developments on landfills, with panoramic views.

Denialism & mimicry

In the seventies and eighties, a rejection of industrialism made green thinking autonomous. The nineties echo the “young Marx” reflection on the environment. In a third stage, historical materialism is understood as the theoretical basis of ecological criticism. In 2001, in the political sphere, the International Ecosocialist Manifesto, by Michael Löwy and Joel Kovel, expresses the acceptance of the theme by the “mature Marx”. By the way, we read in book II of The capital: “The development of civilization and industry in general has always been so energetic in the destruction of forests that everything that this same development has done for the conservation and production of trees is absolutely insignificant.” Karl Marx, therefore, is a precursor of environmentalism. The fight against climate change locally is intertwined with the fight for pressing changes in space.

Among us, destruction reached paroxysm in the fascist's rise to the presidency. In Rio Grande do Sul, without listening to environmental entities and universities, governor Eduardo Leite changes 480 environmental standards in state legislation and weakens supervision to adapt to the dictates of Bolsonarism. In an interview with the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, alleges the urgency of another agenda at the time of the accident, the tax issue. Between taking the appropriate measures and accepting the adjustments that prevent investments to guarantee the future of generations, he boasts of the option that made his fellow countrymen miserable.

The mayor of Porto Alegre Sebastião Melo has been ignoring the cataclysm for six months in the Taquari Valley and neglecting the maintenance of the gates of the Muro da Mauá, dikes and pump houses. After denying the preventive failures in the evolution of the disaster, the mayor contradicts himself and sighs: “I'm going to have to change all the containment gates”. Self-criticism is insufficient to understand the climate phenomenon. The City Hall did not put a single cent in the municipality's budget for “improving the flood system”, although the DMAE (Municipal Department of Water and Sewage) indicated R$ 428,9 million in cash; certainly the dowry for privatization. For geologist Rualdo Menegat (UFRGS), “A city that has been flooded its entire life cannot be caught by surprise in a flood. Even if there is a catastrophe, some things have to work, like hospitals.”

The governor (PSDB) and the mayor (MDB) act like a fool when they hire Alvarez & Marsal's financial consultancy to rebuild the place, with an eye on the monetization and gentrification of territories to meet real estate and speculative greed. The result is the scourge: the denial of convenience to avoid the conflict of loyalty with the privatist political field, associated with the mimicry of the colonized. In both circumstances, space determines the rules as if urban sociability were a mere accounting fraction, subject to the principle of deregulation. The “crime of responsibility”, which did not exist in impeachment of the honest president, it remains in the incompetences of the delay that pray for the free market playbook at the expense of general well-being.

The ecosocialist society

The denialist and mimetic cunning of transnational power centers becomes the defense of predators, finance and agribusiness. The place is trapped in the web of interests that colonize it. A intelligentsia of society with research and suggestions is removed from political decisions. It's not surprising. Countries with calamities in Europe, Asia and Africa also prefer promises of sustainability, instead of delivering the mastermind of socio-environmental crimes: capitalism in the neoliberal phase, like a new Titanic. The intellectual and moral cowardice of leaders submissive to the empiricism of immediacy, without strategy, perpetuates torture. Spreading the news is not terrorism, but realism with the imminent shock in the iceberg that floods our hope. Let us benefit from revolutionary reformism.

The federal administration, whose polyclassist composition expresses the union of sociopolitical currents for democracy and against fascism, has managed to avoid the trap in which rentism leveraged by the Central Bank and the majority conservatism of Congress try to put it. Although the corporate media presses for the continuation of high interest rates and to block solidarity actions by the participatory State, the Lula government implements policies committed to the nation.

Its strong presence in the southern tragedy signals a leadership engaged in the transition from nationalist demonstrations, with a carnival bias, to nationalism with a humanitarian content that praises science and heals the suffering of humble people. Without this, the questioning of the systemic paradigm of the hegemonic mode of production and consumption, based on pillars of extractive competition and accumulation, becomes a doctrinal and maximalist discourse that corrodes the political-ideological credibility of the left.

The citizen struggle is not fought in an ideal arena, but under the weight of decades of monetarism on the subjectivation and worldview of the people. In Brazil, on the day of rest, the unviable program on civilized TV “Domingão com Hulk” occupies the peripheral imagination along the neo-Pentecostal lines, with magical and individualistic solutions. With one hand he takes millions from the poor for four weeks and, by lot, returns one million with the other hand at the beginning of each month, in a demagogic and hypocritical way. While the “Dance of the Celebrities” presents caricatured lessons on meritocracy to justify inequalities, console the defeated and reward the winners. A premeditated pedagogy of alienation and subordination propagates the values ​​of status quo to feed the apathy of subordinates.

Michael Löwy, in the issue dedicated to the “Ecological Crisis”, of the magazine Left margin (1st semester 2024), highlights: “The ecosocialist society will not occur naturally, it must be developed from deep roots in concrete reality and also from the wings of utopia, conductor of the desire for another society. The construction involves the participation of its activists in struggles for better living conditions. Partial victories are fundamental here, but it is important that they are in tune with a project from another society, one that is socially fair, environmentally responsible and supportive”.

In short, only in this way – from the dialectic of place and space – will the superior synthesis of freedom and equality emerge. It is up to youth and workers to carry out the task of breaking the shackles of domination. The organization of active solidarity by transformative parties and popular movements is crucial to what we can call the “great refusal”.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

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